It’s slightly ironic that one of the reasons given for the departure of Tony Mowbray from Celtic was that his style of play was too, for want of a better word, gung ho. In his attempts to get his team to entertain and play expansive football things were left open at the back and, as a consequence, results suffered. Contrast this with Rafa who is constantly being accused of fielding sides that lack creatively and where the emphasis is on caution and defence. Oh for that happy medium?
Meanwhile it appears that Albert Reira is to pay the price for his untimely outburst against Rafa and the team, is there ever a good time? Russia beckons, it reminds me of those stories in the war when if a soldier misbehaved he was sent to the Eastern front as a punishment. Reira will only go on loan and I suspect that this won’t be the last we see of him in the red shirt especially if Rafa goes in the summer. I guess if nothing else it proved one thing, Rafa is not to be messed with and, if the players didn’t know it already, he should not be crossed?
Another red on the move, albeit temporary, is Jay Spearing who goes to Leicester on loan. Good experience for him me suspects especially with Leicester being in the fight of promotion / play off places.
And so to the Sunderland game today and if one thing this week as proved it is what a twisty changey thing the race for fourth place is. Last weekend was a bad for us with Spurs winning and City and Villa picking up points however, without doing anything during the week things moved in our a favour slightly with City and Villa blowing more games in hand during the week – City at home to Everton and ditto Villa with today’s guests. Add to that Villa’s 7-1 thrashing by Chelsea yesterday and things are suddenly looking a bit clearer for us. Of course there is still a along way to go and we need to make the most of these opportunities by winning our games to take advantage, something we haven’t always done this season.
Rafa has issued one of his, to my mind, slightly puzzling, rallying cries by calling on Gerrard and Torres to lead by example. I don’t how these two feel about this as when it happens. Do they feel they are being singled out when Rafa should be encouraging the whole team to up its game or do they see it as a compliment that he regards them as senior players and good enough to lead by example?
Gerrard in particular has been out of sorts since returning from injury and it’s difficult to put ones finger on why this is. Where he is playing? The tactics we’re using or is he just not quite fit enough yet? Both Gerrard and Torres have shown behaviour that is out of character recently. Gerrard at Wigan, although the two fingered gesture was debatable, and then against Pompey with a forearm smash on Brown. Torres, after a sublime goal last Sunday, seemed to lose it completely back chatting the ref and scuffing the penalty spot etc. I guess Torres should realise by now that if players like him can’t be stopped via footballing means other tactics will be used and that he won’t always get the protection he should get from referees.
The issue with Torres is simple he just needs to concentrate on scoring rather than let others distract him or wind him up. Gerrard’s lack of form is a more worrying. Rafa, from Reira and Gerrard himself, has been accused of being distant perhaps now is the time to sit down with Gerrard and thrash out what’s wrong and what can be done? Either way we need players on form for this run in and shouldn’t allow such things to distract them from the football.
Sunderland come to Anfield today after ending a poor run of results. A mid week draw at Villa and two home victories finds them somewhere nearer the form they were in when they played us at the Stadium of Light last October. Of course that game was remembered for the beach ball and no doubt Sky will make some mileage out of this today. Hopefully the Sunderland fans, in a misguided attempt to think they are original and innovative, won’t fall into the trap of thinking it’s funny to throw the said items in our direction today as we more than nipped this in the bud and Mancs game at Anfield by throwing our own balls on to the pitch. However, in a footballing world where we still hear the “sign on” and the “in the Liverpool slums” song one should not expect anything too much and, given the more pressing matters of fourth place, to think that we would be bothered by such trivial issues would be confusing us someone who gives a sh*t!
Team wise it seems Aquilani will return and that Benayoun might also be available. Skrtel and Aurelio are still missing. Prediction? It is a game we must win, I suspect we’ll hear that phrase at lot between now and the end of the season, and I take us to spike the Mackem beach ball by 3 of our goals to their single effort.
By the way this blog now has a full index of match reports since it started in October 2006 so for reports of previous games, against Sunderland since this date click here.