There was a predictable response to Sundays game. Basically it was summed by the thought that on the strength of our 0-0 draw, neither Manchester City or us were good enough to command fourth place.
Many will see this is as a case in point as sure enough, Spurs’ victory at Wigan saw both teams drop places in the league. The truth is of course far more complicated than that and it is clearly nonsense for anyone to judge our chances of getting anywhere, be it fourth, higher or lower, on the strength of one game. How quickly our decent run of results since Christmas has been forgotten? It’s not rocket science but, if at the end of the season, we finish fourth then we will have been good enough to be fourth? As it stands, regardless of what one might think of Sunday, we are still in the race in what, let’s be honest, has been an up and down Premiership in terms of quality?
That said, no Liverpool fan will have come away from Sunday’s game ecstatic about our perfromance. However it is not as if we are not the only side to have taken part in a game that was, to be frank, bloody awful nor will we be the last. Everyone wants their side to play well, win, score goals and generally entertain however, it is never ever always like that. Having been priveledged to witness some utterly spellbounding Liverpool performances during my time as a fan it gives me no pleasure to see games like Sunday’s. However, occasionaly that is the way it is in football, as it is any sport. It is sometimes about being pragmatic, playing percentages, making the most of what you have available and, above all, bideing your time? Sometimes the fear of losing takes precidence over all other priorities. Had we lost to City where would be now? As it is we’ve got through what was a potentially difficult game and lived to fight on and to make our move on another day. We play Blackburn at home this weekend whereas Manchester City travel to Stamford Bridge while Spurs play Everton. Opportunity knocks? Perhaps but lets see how the trip ot Romania effects us?
One positive thing from Sunday, and a general indication of how things can turnaround, is in the defence. As I write it’s one goal conceded in ten and a half hours of football or seven games to you and me. Remember at the start of season when all we had to do was to concede a set piece within striking range and, seemingly we were picking the ball out of the net? Remember how we never seemed to hold it together as we perfected an annoyingly consistent knack of conceding in the last few minutes or injury time? All that seems to have gone now and we have something you can rely and build on. Keep a clean sheet and you’ve a sound basis for success all you need to do is score, so perhaps this is why Torres’ return is so timely?
What has made the difference at the back? Perhaps, as I’ve suggested before, it’s the stability of permanent back four, in terms of positions rather than personnel, rather than having over lapping full backs? May be Rafa’s dubious penchant for fielding both Mascherano AND Lucas has given us added protection however, clearly there would be a knock on effect in terms of our ability to go forward and create? Perhaps it is a switch from zonel marking although I must say I haven’t noticed this as this only becomes an issue when we concede from a set piece which we haven’t done for some time. Whatever the case confidence has grown and it can only increase along with our options going forward when players such as Torres and Benayoun return?
Anyway yet another “look in the positive/bright side” blog I hear you say. I often get accused of being an apologist for Rafa and the team even though they could do better. As I read back over some of the stuff I’ve come out with this season I often think that yes, perhaps I am in denial and should call for Rafa to go and generally trash the club (from a footballing point of view rather than behind the scenes) like many others, including some Liverpool fans, do? I’ve often thought hard about it but keep coming back to the same conclusion that we can still turn things around this season and make something out of what will now, at this latish stage and regardless of whatever we do, will be regarded a bad one by our standards. Behind the scenes with our American friends is a different issue but on the pitch, strange or not, I still believe, it IS still there. All we need to do is tap it.