A blank weekend so plenty of time to sit back and enjoy the FA Cup.
Much has been said about the competition being devalued and there appeared to be a conscious effort to “big it up” over the weekend with more than one commentator describing the games they were assigned to as “proper cup ties”. John Motson, on Radio Five Live (Stoke v Arsenal) and, then the master of cheap alliteration, Peter Drury on ITV (Scunthorpe v Manchester City) tried to soup up the occasion by adopting the tactic of hysterically screeching down their microphones every time an incident occurred. When Stoke got their third I thought Motson’s head was going to explode, which would have made my, and I suspect many others, weekend!
As for the FA Cup, clearly its status is in the eye of beholder. However, it can’t be ignored that in both these matches Arsene Wenger and Roberto Manchini decided to field weakened sides because their priorities, I suspect, were with forthcoming midweek games.
Back at base and all of a sudden it’s “Belgium Week” at Anfield. Rafa will be eating nice chocs, drinking Stella and humming Plastic Bertrand soon? The latest striker we’ve been liked with is Milan Jovanovic. Although he is Serbian he is currently playing for Standard Liege and has scored around a goal every two games for them. Of all the strikers we’ve been linked this perhaps this one has the most potential. Javanovic is out of contract in the summer so presumably time is something Liege do not have, they will want to get something this month? What are our chances? I’m not holding my breath apparently Birmingham and Everton, are also interested and Jovanovic is thought to want regular first team football. Will he get it under Rafa?
The other Belgium connection appears to be our new found relationship with Genk. The agreement is that we use them so our fringe players can get experience and to act as a clearing house for African and South American players as Belgium is not subject to the employment restrictions that govern UK law. Does this mean Genk is a “feeder club” and is this sort of arrangement legal? Presumably not and presumably so?
On the face of it this seems a positive move especially if younger, fringe players are to get more experience. Opportunities are limited in England which means it is not always easy to judge how good a player is or will become. Even when there are chances Rafa is often cautious about who he fields as, rightly so, there is a balance to be struck between getting results and giving youth a chance. I guess if younger talent is given more opportunity to develop then perhaps we won’t have to dip into the transfer market as much? Given our current financial limitations this seems a sensible move? I also think Liverpool is crying out for a home grown youngster to come through the ranks and nail down a regular first team place. Arrangements such as this can only help?
Which brings us to tonight’s match against Wolves and another chance to gain a stronger foothold. If Spurs foul up at Fulham and we win then we’ll be fourth. More important at this stage is to maintain the momentum generated by last Wednesday’s result. Hopefully confidence should be boosted by it and presumably it can only get better with the news that Steven Gerrard may play tonight. Said Rafa
“He was training on Saturday and on Sunday, and Monday was the same. Normally he’s someone who, if available, can play. We’ll decide on Tuesday but I think he can be available.”
My gut feeling is that Rafa will once more play the cautious card and more or less trust in the side that beat Spurs. If we perform like we did against them then there should be no need to risk Gerrard thus giving him more time to regain fitness. Verdict? Keep him on the bench and only risk him if he’s really needed. Prediction? We beat Wolves 2-0 over Christmas and I take us to do the same again.
Enjoy the game!