Apart from the depths of the summer break where tennis and grand prix holds sway, the run in to international weekend has to be the most tedious in football.
Even the end product, the latest set of World Cup qualifiers, doesn’t seem worth the wait. Is anyone really interested in seeing the England game to the extent that they would be prepared to fork out £12 to watch it on a computer or a laptop? Is this the thin end of the wedge? Hopefully not but who, nearly twenty years ago, would have expected to pay above and beyond your bog standard TV licence fee to get their football fix?
As usual, well I say “as usual” but perhaps that should be personally speaking, thoughts during this week turn to the welfare of Liverpool players? This manifests itself in an almost motherly concern that they all return from their travels, and into the “bosom” of the red family, without a scratch or a blemish!
I guess avoiding injures is particularly relevant now as it appears we need all the strength we can get. Although the squad hasn’t changed significantly since last season suddenly, it seems, we have a strength in depth problem? The Fiorentina and Chelsea games were set backs but we can’t dwell on this as we have a tricky week coming up after the internationals, Sunderland, Lyon and The Mancs. Injuries for this slice of the season, albeit a thin one, are not wanted. Thankfully there is hope on the horizon with the imminent return of Daniel Agger and the introduction of Alberto Aquilani. However one expects that we will have to continue to strive to “do without” for these three games?
Deep down I guess Daniel Agger must feel pretty confident about getting back into the first team straight away? Only today Jamie Carragher said he needs to improve but Martin Skrtel in particular must feel the Dane’s growing presence? Of course the added competition might not be a bad thing and inspire the defence to “improve on their improvement” at Stamford Bridge?
Aquilani’s situation is an interesting one. When a player is signed for such a huge sum of money the pressure on him to make an impact is immense. It’s almost expected that he should hit the ground running. This is never the player’s fault and, regardless of who he is, it will take time to settle in. Aquilani has added pressure. He is a foreign import so will have the usual problems associated with getting to grips with the Premiership? He is also recovering from a serious injury which, regardless of what league you play in, Le Liga, The Premiership or the Surrey Research Park 6-a-side Football League in Guildford, always takes a period of adjusting.
There is a plus side. Hopefully Aquilani has used his time on the sidelines productively. Firstly to adjust to living in the UK and also to establish more fully what he is likely to encounter in the Premiership? Of course with the latter there is no substitute for first hand experience but watching the games, and picking the brains of his new team mates, can also help?
The other pressure on Aquilani is also a pressure on Rafa? Having offloaded Xabi Alonso, a key and much admired player, and diving straight in for the Italian Rafa will find his decision making in the transfer market under scrutiny and not for the first time. Expectations will be magnified because we have had to wait for Aquilani to recover from injury and they haven’t been helped by early doubts over our form. Had we been doing better then the “was he worth the wait” debates might be not as intense as they surely will be?
As ever it is a question of patience, trust and hoping that Aquilani finds his feet sooner rather than later and justifies Rafa’s faith. If he does, and we kick on and challenge, then the majority of fan’s continued faith in Rafa will remain justified. In the meantime all we can do is wait