The discussions over our plight seem to be relentless and will no doubt be ramped up if we lose tonight against Lyon in what many see as a do or die Champions League match. The comments have ranged from the silly to bizarre? What next, questions in the house, may be an air raid on Anfield? Perhaps Bob Geldof will organise a concert?
The flack has been so profuse and the debate so wide ranging that it’s very difficult to separate the “wheat” from the “chaff” but at the moment, to me, there are two issues that encapsulate our current plight.
The first is short term, injuries. Count them, eleven of them, a whole football team. All clubs have injuries but eleven, and all at once, is just bad luck. No club, regardless of the strength of resources available to them, would be able to cope with this and continue the same vain as a near full strength side would.
The second is more long term. The injury crisis has not exposed the lack of the depth the squad, we have plenty of bodies to pull on the red shirt but it has raised serious questions about the lack of quality. Players can improve but can any Liverpool fan, hand on heart, say that some (not all) of the players we’ve seen lately are able stand ins for their first team equivalents?
Injuries happen and the number has exposed the squad terribly to doubts that many have been holding about it and its manager for some time, even when we did well last season. Questions will always be asked about Rafa and these aren’t much different from those from three years ago but who would have expected him to have his options limited so severely as they are now?
There is also the “support” the owners have given him. For every top quality player there has also been a make do and mend element. A prime example of this is Kyrgiakos who was bought for £2m last summer because basically that was all Rafa could afford. There was also no money for a top quality second striker, and boy are we reaping the ”rewards” of that now with Torres flagging. Surely it is only a matter of time before he has to go under the knife or packs up totally and is out for longer?
However, now is not the time for picking over such issues? And surely they will only get worse if we don’t qualify from The Champions League Group stage? Although there is a small consoling thought deep in the back of my mind that non qualification might in some way force the issue with our American friends, clearly one won’t want to see this at the expense of the team not doing well.
This is a game that everyone seems to think we need to win however a draw might not be a disaster? Granted we might, depending on how other results go, have qualification taken out of our hands but plenty of teams have qualified with ten points before and or course this assumes that we would win our two remaining games in the group at away to Debrecen and at home to Fiorentina.
Lyon have injury problems at the back and are without a recognized centre half. They have also undergone a dodgy spell since they beat us at Anfield for example they recently lost 4-1 to Nice. However, despite that their quality going forward was there for all to see at Anfield. They were particularly potent on the flanks and one wonders what Rafa will do to combat this with defensive quality he has available to him? Perhaps the best form of defence is to attack pushing Lyon back and not allowing them to get forward and dominate like they did at Anfield where at times they looked like the home side? However, Rafa needs to be careful with Lyon knowing that a win would secure them qualification?
Prediction? Everything points to a loss or at best a draw. However, I’m relying on Rafa’s ability to tweak the nose of adversity once more and pull out a result. Finally whatever the result I leave you his words from yesterday
“Our fans are very clever. Sometimes you have bad moments, but they know we are working very hard to try and change things. We will try to win and we know that when you walk through a storm, hold your head up high – and we will try to hold our heads up high”