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Liverpool for the League?


Ryan Babel Liverpool Anfield Manchester United

Liverpool, apparent Premiership winners in waiting, face a tricky trip to Marseille tonight, buoyed by their victory over Manchester United at the weekend. If you are to read the papers you will see a ludicrous amount of hype being given to the 2-1 win on Saturday. Yes, it is a big deal that they won. Yes, they did it in unlikely circumstances and showed plenty of heart and commitment. However, they were at this very point last year with 10 points from 4 games and how long have we all been saying how hard Liverpool work as a team?

The truth is, Manchester United don’t always start the season very impressively. Maybe it’s the fact that Ferguson’s growing arthiritis is affecting him. Maybe he’s started using his free bus pass and the traffic  gets him in a rage so he can’t function properly. The fact also remains that Ronaldo scored more than goals this year and is currently sitting on the sidelines. Now, it’s true that Ronaldo is not the most prolific against the big teams. Man Utd fans can argue it all they want, but bar a goal in last year’s 3-0 win over Liverpool,the Portugese has generally been kept relatively quiet, again, due to Liverpool’s hard-working players who tackle back as though they were chasing goals. Still, he is a big loss, and Liverpool will still face problems this year due to a lack of imagination in the final third.

There is plenty to be positive about however for the Anfield faithful. Albert Riera actually ran at defenders. And beat them sometimes. It has been an exceptionally rare occurrence for Liverpool fans of recent years to see a winger jinking his way past a defender. Ryan Babel has done it often but has a languid style whereby he skips past defenders once they have committed themselves to a challenge. Riera didn’t give them time and had an impressive debut in intimidating circumstances against the best right-back of the season last year.
     Liverpool also did it without Torres and Gerrard and that is huge for the confidence of the squad players that Benitezso often champions but that you get the feeling the two lads don’t believe are quite up to it. When Torres scores he tends to have eyes for Gerrard and vice verca perhaps rightly so. They are among the best players in Europe and on a different level to their teammates. Well, at least they were. Pepe Reina, Jamie Carragher, Javier Mascherano and even Martin Skrtel deserve great praise for the way they step up to the mark set by Torres and Gerrard every week. Liverpool fans might now be forgiven for being more concerned when Mascherano isn’t playing, rather than their native captain.
To a lesser extent Keane, Alonso, and even Dirk Kuyt are capable of stepping up to the mark as well. Kuyt divides critics between fans who love his hard work and knack for scoring important goals and those who see him as a striker who can’t cut it and is thus used as a player who’ll ‘always give 100%’. I would be split between both camps. The truth is, Kuyt can score goals, but on the right wing has become an important player for the club. He was superb on Saturday, overlooked by many pundits for praise (except his biggest fan Benitez). Everyone looked to Keane, and he will eventually start getting plenty of goals, but Kuyt was instrumental in victory, with both goals coming from the right wing and Kuyt’s assist the action of a mature, team-minded individual. Kuyt had the chance to blast a shot at goal but thinks of his teammates more than himself and is deserving of his place, most of the time……

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