Liverpool finals are entertaining, as a general rule. The exception, in recent history, being the last time they reached a final at Wembley when their cream suits and Eric Cantona left people smiling, not in a nice way. In a ‘Liverpool are shit’ way.
But now, 16 years later, people no longer expect Liverpool to realistically challenge for titles, so neutrals probably prefer the thought of a cup final with Liverpool, than Chelsea or Manchester United.
With Liverpool, there’s invariably a chance they could lose, and at the very least there’ll be a game that’s evenly-matched with whichever lower league or ‘weaker’ opposition (West Ham, Bolton, Birmingham and Cardiff in the past two decades since the ‘glory days’) they face likely to believe they might have a shot at winning.
Cardiff deserved the win over 90 minutes yesterday. Johnson’s shot off the bar apart, Liverpool created little for their expected dominance in possession. Kenny Miller played well, and is unfortunate to have to remember the final for a missed penalty and chance to win the game in the final minutes of normal time.
For many Liverpool players this should be the end of the road. The situation with Carragher is an interesting one. Having suffered lengthy setbacks when he was younger, he spent a lot of time resting when others were straining themselves to break into Premiership teams.
He could well play for another four years. That may end up being away from Liverpool. While he would be an invaluable squad member, his defensive response to Andy Burton’s question on Sky as to whether this was ‘farewell’ showed a man who is contemplating a future away from Anfield.
Given a regular run of games with the backing of their manager, Skrtel (my man of the match yesterday) and Agger have excelled. Question marks over Agger’s fitness will remain, but the two could be a first choice pairing for years to come, with big things hoped for from Seb Coates leaving little room for Carra.
Her may stay, tempted to move into a part-time coaching capacity. But his eagerness to be second in line to lift the trophy behind Gerrard betrayed the actions of a man who may cause problems should he stay past his sell-by date. Will Skrtel and Agger appreciate being bossed around by Carragher for much longer?
His experience is huge, and he’s a player to admire. But if he’s not first choice it becomes harder for surrounding players to bite their tongue.
He’ll also be a big wage earner. A chance to cut that from the wage bill for a man who would most probably move for lesser wages if it meant a regular game, could be tempting.
Dirk Kuyt should go this summer. Although his goalscoring potential never quite materialised at Merseyside, he has been deployed as a workhorse midfielder rather than a striker for most of his career and should be remembered fondly for that.
Big games often proved his making and winners over Everton and a hat-trick in the 4-1 demolition of Man Utd will ensure he is remembered fondly. But he carries too little threat when it’s 0-0 with 70 minutes gone and Liverpool are trying to break down a stubborn defence.
Wingers and pace are crucial and given that Liverpool’s full-backs are good going forward, but neither particularly pacy, the ball is too often slowed down when Kuyt finds it on the right.
As for the newbies, Henderson was poor, Carroll was average and Downing was bright (albeit once again against lower league opposition). Henderson is young, England U-21 captain and I think will be a good player. A year bedding in with a team of which much is expected in a different style of play has proved difficult. But he is also struggling to find his best position.
Carroll has shown enough in recent weeks to suggest his best has yet to come. He will never be worth £35m. Never. But he may well be worth keeping hold of. Downing remains the most disappointing signing of the season and needs a strong finish to the season now he has no excuse not to be confident.
Bellamy was a sub, but his post-match comments were worth the wait alone. He clearly buys into the ethos Dalglish is trying to set at the club by welcoming a new trophy, but insisting it’s the least Liverpool should aim for. And he’s right. The return of a trophy is important (ask Arsenal would they like one) but the club needs more changes and to finish a rotten season on a positive note.
A win against Arsenal on Saturday is crucial and well within the grasp of this team. And an FA Cup not an impossibility. Could be a decent return from a season that resembled a car crash this time a month ago.
So Fabio Capello has resigned as England manager in a move that might turn out to be the best solution to a sorry saga over (former) captain John Terry.
Many of the main football writers will be happy. Around 50 per cent or more of the fans will be pleased. The Italian divided fans and pundits alike, and presided over an awful World Cup campaign meaning his job was always under threat.
However this may be perfect timing for both Capello and the England team.
The Italian knew he was presiding over a dressing room with serious fractures. Terry and Ferdinand, when fit, are first-choice defenders. One won’t shake the others hand. And he’s not even the difficult one.
Players are either missing through injury (Wilshere) or failing to find form (Gerrard, Lampard, Downing, Carroll, Bent, Defoe etc).
His stance is potentially the admirable and correct one. The FA implied guilt on Terry’s part, and cast aspersions on his character by fretting over the case hanging over him and the implications of him leading a team who may not want to follow him.
Capello: What really hit me and forced me to take this decision was the fact the much-vaunted Anglo-Saxon sense of justice, as they are the first to claim that everyone is innocent until proven guilty.
Will they want to even play with him? Terry shouldn’t have been reinstated in the first place after being stripped of the role first time around. But to keep him in the squad, under a different captain, with a squad that may have helped instigate it, will lead to its own problems.
The silver lining being that a new manager will focus the players to work on getting selected for the squad, rather than picking sides within it.
The FA released this statement:
“The Football Association can confirm that Fabio Capello has today resigned as England manager.
“This follows a meeting involving FA chairman David Bernstein, FA general secretary Alex Horne and Fabio Capello at Wembley Stadium.
“The discussions focused on the FA board’s decision to remove the England team captaincy from John Terry, and Fabio Capello’s response through an Italian broadcast interview.
“In a meeting for over an hour, Fabio’s resignation was accepted and he will leave the post of England manager with immediate effect.”
Capello was quoted as saying on Italpress:
They really insulted me and damaged my authority.
“What really hit me and forced me to take this decision was the fact the much-vaunted Anglo-Saxon sense of justice, as they are the first to claim that everyone is innocent until proven guilty.
“In Terry’s case, they gravely offended me and damaged my authority at the head of the England side, effectively creating a problem for the squad.
“I have never tolerated certain crossing of lines, so it was easy for me to spot it and take my decision to leave.”
*Rather than start this blog again, I will leave it as is. Fabio Capello resigning during the time it took me to write this article is quite funny really. Please replace Capello with (Redknapp).
While Liverpool and Spurs played out a 0-0 draw on Monday most notable for the cameo of a cat, England’s captain-in waiting was reminding Fabio Capello why he is second only to Joe Hart on his teamsheet this summer.
Not Steven Gerrard, alas, but Scott Parker. A superb performance, that showed off plenty of characteristics to the tenacious midfielder that could be vital for an England team wanting to believe it can actually make an impact in a major tournament.
Most impressive was his attitude and commitment, as always, but his possession under pressure from the Liverpool team was equally striking. Neat passing triangles across the Spurs half continually ensured Spurs frustrated the Reds and were able to mount a platform from which to attempt a smash and grab win.
His tussles with Gerrard were intriguing. The Liverpool captain was showing off his superior skills and flicks in the opening 15 minutes like an errant child attempting to gain his father’s approval in the stands. The burst of pace and flick for Carroll was inspired. A lot of the rest was unnecessary.
At one point in the second half Gerrard stood strong and ensured Parker bounced off him onto the floor. The fans cheered. This was Gerrard posturing, showing his rival for the armband there was only one man going to win Capello’s approval.
Later Gerrard crashed into a clean tackle on Parker (who had taken several knocks and carried on when others wouldn’t have) and the ball ran out for a throw. No playacting from Parker, rather an acknowledgement of a tackle he would appreciate with a pat on the back.
He had already won the battle at that stage, Liverpool were running out of ideas and Gerrard’s influence had long since waned. Parker was outstanding in possession and in temperament and is a must for England’s midfield.
What better way to exorcise the demons of captains and their indiscretions than to pick a man you could be proud of and is the closest bet to a sure thing in terms of not letting his country or fellow players down.
Gerrard is certainly a worthy choice, but hasn’t hit anywhere near top form as many pundits would have you believe. He may get there, and would potentially be a perfect partnership with Parker. And he is also probably going to be the captain. In truth Capello is struggling to keep the team together and can’t afford for Gerrard to feel snubbed and losing another senior player’s confidence.
By picking Parker he would also be ostracising Lampard, a key Terry ally.
But politics aside, surely the aim here is to progress through a major tournament. Politics aside, Parker should play and he should be captain.
In his defence…..
Andy Carroll is widely regarded as the biggest flop of the Premiership season to-date. Fernando Torres, pound for pound, perhaps deserves the title, but pundits have grown tired of taking him to task after each 12 minute cameo in the blue of Chelsea.
But every game the Spaniard starts (usually against weaker opposition) you think to yourself, Torres could get a couple today. In fact, he could get a couple any day. But he probably won’t until Roman Abramovich orders Villas Boas to make the Spaniard penalty taker (and even then I’m not sure I’d bet on him finding the net).
Pic: Andy Carroll in training ahead of the clash with Stoke (Pic from www.liverpoolfc.tv)
The problem with Andy Carroll is, you don’t ever start a game thinking, this could be his day. But rather than bash him for his lack of touch, pace, fitness, finesse, whatever the various criticisms are, let’s consider for a minute that he’s lacked the right support to blossom at Anfield.
(1): Stewart Downing/ Liverpool’s lack of width.
Carroll thrives, we hear all the time, on good crosses. He’ll win more than 50 per cent of hopeful balls launched at him in the air, but when he’s really attacking the ball, the percentage rises. In his games so far he’s shown that if you give him a ball to attack rather than hold up, he tends to beat defenders (though his accuracy is also questionable here).
But the one time he got a chance to do that in the recent 3-0 defeat to Man City, was from a cross from Jose Enrique. Carroll peeled away at the back post, easily beat Clichy with a perfect nod-down for Kuyt whose shot was superbly blocked by Vincent Kompany. So where’s the support from the £20m signing from Aston Villa.
When Downing signed, everyone said he would provide the ammunition for Carroll. To-date, Downing has been the biggest flop of the Premiership season.
Kuyt, Maxi and Henderson have all been tried on the right wing, none are any use to Carroll. Bellamy has been superb at driving crosses in from right and left, but tends to get to the penalty area and cut the ball back, something Gerrard is sure to benefit from in the coming weeks and that the likes of Shelvey and Maxi have already benefited from to-date this season.
The midweek game against Man City was exactly the wrong one for Carroll who played a thankless task in Liverpool’s 1-0 grind. His opportunity early in the game was on his weaker foot, however he out-muscled Savic and created space for the chance which was well-saved by Hart, the league’s most in-form keeper.
When Carroll plays, he needs support and space to make more of those opportunities to score.
(2): The Aquilani experience
Have Liverpool not learned from the signing of Aquilani from Roma? The club was arguably taking more of a risk with the Italian, not only was he injured but his move to the Premiership was bound to throw up the usual ‘foreign playmaker cant hack the rough stuff’ questions?
The signing of a half-fit Carroll in January made little sense. His role in the second half of the season was minimal and Liverpool knew signing him he would have little impact on their season.
The argument that Suarez couldn’t play in Europe was fine, but Carroll wouldn’t play for the team till March and it didn’t seem as though Europe was anyone’s priority in the early days of Kenny Dalglish’s second coming.
Another argument went that the more Newcastle demanded for the striker, the more Liverpool asked from Chelsea for Torres.
But that makes little sense from a business point of view either. Carroll had started well in the Premiership, but in the summer, once he had recovered fitness, he would hardly have cost more than the amount Liverpool eventually shelled out for him in January 2011.
There is an argument, in fact, that Carroll would have cost less as Newcastle would have had time to buy a replacement, but maybe the move was to appease Lfc fans who expected a marquee signing to replace their former idol in the number nine shirt.
Carroll has lost weight and looks fit, but seems to have lost confidence and was his touch always that bad? His goal against Oldham showed he can still turn things around at Liverpool, but against a defeated team late in an FA Cup third round?
He has a run of games now to show his worth. The Geordie has found himself in and out of the team all season (unlike Stewart Downing who has been given every chance to prove his worth) and has mostly played without Liverpool’s best players Gerrard and Suarez (more often than not chosen instead of, rather than alongside Carroll).
At home, against so-called ‘weaker’ opposition is the time for Carroll to show he can still bully defences and can score goals like that against Oldham given half a chance. Better strikers than Carroll have been given more time to find their feet and the 23-year-old has barely 100 first team starts to his name.
Stoke at Anfield is time to show an ‘old-fashioned centre forward’ can still prove his worth. However if he fails to impress in the coming month, Andy may go down alongside Aquilani as yet another expensive Liverpool mistake.
One month ago I was one of a chorus of angry Liverpool fans calling for Roy Hodgson to be dismissed as Liverpool manager after a dismal start to the season reached a new low with a spiritless, gutless 2-0 defeat at Merseyside rivals Everton.
Yesterday there was no doubt about the story of the weekend: Liverpool’s impressive 2-0 win over Chelsea at Anfield, where the team performed admirably to a man and players who have failed to impress in recent times including Maxi, Kuyt and most impressively Lucas, were outstanding in their first-half surge and then their second half defence of the two goal lead they had built up.
I was one of the fans who ‘real’ football fans love to hate. Managers need time, they say, look at Ferguson as a classic example. Look at Wenger. Arsenal haven’t won a trophy for years but they’re still challenging. Stability breeds success. Managers can’t perform miracles overnight.
However my point was, and is, that Hodgson inherited a team in disarray off the filed admittedly, but with enough class on the pitch to be guaranteed a top-four spot. A team with a spine of Reina, Carragher, Skrtel, Johnson, Gerrard and Torres with the likes of Kuyt, Lucas and new signings Meireles and Konchesky providing support should never have been in the relegation area after the first two months of competition ceased.
I also defended Benitez during his reign despite awful times and performances. I felt he had the right ideas and the tough of arrogance to believe his team would be up there with the best in time. I don’t see the same belief in Hodgson and I think it makes the players nervous as a result.
The problem with Hodgson finally being offered a ‘big club’ deal at the age of 63 was that perhaps there is a reason why the manager had failed to be offered the big ones in his interesting career progression. That he can inspire mid-level teams is not in question, but too many managers have attempted to take on big clubs in the past and lost. And too often it has been because of the clamour of fans for so-called ‘homegrown’ managers. Sounness and Evans failed to lift Liverpool post-Dalglish in the way that Houllier and Benitez did subsequently.
Hodgson is a good manager. The win yesterday was a very good performance but most importantly, Liverpool’s players showed the type of commitment that had been lacking in the derby defeat. That day even Gerrard, synonymous with crunching tackles and 100% derby day commitment whether his team was winning or losing, looked lost. Yesterday Gerrard sacrificed his penchant for the glorious through ball or rallying goal, instead he gave 100% commitment in a professional performance where everyone knew their job and how to execute it.
That they caught Chelsea on an off day is not in question. Hodgson had spoken before the game of the hope that the opposition would fail to hit their customary heights. And herein lies the problem.
Hodgson has assumed the air of a defeated man. The spell of games that ended in dizzying disappointment seemed to take their toll. And while four wins on the trot have brought a smile back to his face, there is still a question over whether the manager has that inherent belief that his team can make it to the top. There was no question of that this year. Hodgson never believed his team could do it and he still seems unsure over whether they can challenge for a top four spot.
Too often he has made a direct comparison between the so-called first teamers and the lack of talent elsewhere in the squad. He said after the Chelsea game that the squad was looking thin due to injuries and illnesses. That can only be a comedown for the likes of Kelly after a great game at right back and the likes of Danny Wilson, signed from Rangers in pre-season and on the bench yesterday. Shelvey and Spearing are willing and able but don’t seem to hold Hodgson’s faith just yet.
This all points to what new owner John Henry spoke about recently when he said that Liverpool needed to start bringing through younger players to challenge for first team places. Shelve and Spearing are unlucky in that they are challenging for places in the overstocked Liverpool midfield but Kelly and Wilson should be pushing for first team places already and especially with three games to play in six days.
Belief starts at the top and filters down. Gerrard and Torres have shown on the pitch that the lack of belief off it affects their game. It is hard to raise your game when you are 18th and another league title challenge has gone for another year before November. Now though, there will be optimism in the side and rightly so. It is in attack and attempting to break down teams that Liverpool have struggled this year. Having Torres back in goalscoring form will help. Whether Hodgson lets this filter down to the players he has christened as perennial reserves remains to be seen.
I don’t believe Hodgson is the right man to inspire a return to glory for Liverpool, What John Henry and co are doing off the field will help though. The club needs to be run professionally off the field to allow it to blossom on the field. But no matter that Chelsea were put to the sword, away games at Wigan and Stoke look tricky this week. Hodgson’s belief seems to run from game-to-game. John Barnes claimed after Liverpool’s win yesterday that it proved Hodgson was the right man for the job. Let’s see how he fares in rallying the troops for a midweek visit to Wigan before he starts being cheered as Liverpool’s saviour in waiting.
The weekend’s talking points:
(1): Man City are eight points off the leaders Chelsea after Molineux shocker.
Wolves claimed a victory over Manchester City whose manager Roberto Mancini described his teams performance as the worst in his tenure as boss. City went ahead through an Emmanuel Adebayor penalty but were pegged back by Wolves who followed up a good Carling Cup performance at City’s rivals Manchester United in midweek with a deserved victory.
City ‘s mutinous dressing room shows no signs of breaking out in peace with Mancini reproaching first teamers including Joe Hart and Adam Johnson for a midweek drinking session in Scotland, after allegations of a bust-up between James Milner and Yaya Toure at half-time of City’s miserable 3-0 defeat to Arsenal last week. Adebayor and Vincent Kompany became embroiled in a row during Saturday’s defeat while big-money signing Mario Balotelli produced a shocking performance, compounded by a yellow card for dissent in the second half.
Verdict: Wolves get a much-needed win their performance deserved but are still lagging behind in the league. Mancini will be nervous after an awful City display and a non-existent team morale. City look nowhere near good enough to challenge for the title on this evidence.
(2): The goal that was. But shouldn’t have been. But was.
Nani scored a controversial second for Manchester United in their 2-0 win over Spurs in the late kick off on Saturday. The Portugese saw appeals for a penalty waved away before stopping the ball with his hand. Spurs’ keeper Gomes placed the ball down (nowhere near the hand ball it has to be said) as if he was taking a free-kick. Nani stopped rolling around and went to close the free-kick down, took a look at referee Mark Clattenburg who appeared to indicate nothing untoward as Nani rolled the ball into the net. Cue consultation with linesman amidst furious appeals and the goal stood.
United manager Alex Ferguson blamed Gomes, rightly so the keeper should have played to the whistle. Spurs manager Harry Redknapp blasted Clattenburg, rightly so, as not only did Nani take a theatrical tumble but he deliberately hand-balled and the referee should have blown his whistle. The goal took the gloss off a good win for United.
Here’s a better look, albeit without English commentary, at the goal.
Verdict: Good game, farcical end. Spurs should be worried about being a club that seems intent on qualifying from the group stages of the Champions League rather than retaining a place in the competition. They will probably qualify from the group. They will have a hard time qualifying for the competition via the league. A good win for United, who are staying in touch with Chelsea and Arsenal, despite not hitting top gear, or anything like it.
(3): Newcastle 5 Sunderland 1.
What a performance from Newcastle. Occasionally brilliant this season, sometimes woeful, a Kevin Nolan hat-trick and cracking performances all over the pitch, particularly from Andy Carroll and Joey Barton helped the Toon Army celebrate a famous win over their neighbours.
But it could have been a different story had on-loan Danny Welbeck squared to an unmarked Darren Bent with the game tied at 0-0 in the first half. A tap-in would have given Sunderland the lead. Newcastle never looked back. Barton was sublime, superb passing and leaving defenders chasing shadows. Carroll showed impressive movement and link-up play and was unlucky not to register a goal. Shola Ameobi scored a perfect penalty and a cracking second. And while Kevin Nolan’s annoying wind-up-the-goalie routine continues from his days under Sam Allardyce at Bolton, seven league goals already this season is an impressive return.
Verdict: Newcastle were arguably better in this performance than the 6-0 drubbing of Aston Villa earlier in the season. Chris Hughton’s future had been the source of great speculation in recent weeks. Today they sit seventh in the league. A decent run recently comes to an end for Sunderland and with just eight points separating Newcastle from bottom-of-the-league West Ham, Bruce knows it will be tight at the bottom and Sunderland could find themselves in trouble if the allow themselves to be torn apart like they did.
(4): Hodgson’s Maxi delight
They left it late and it wasn’t pretty, but Liverpool have won back-to-back games for the first time under Roy Hodgson and gone to a stadium where it is tough to get wins against a well-organised Bolton team under Owen Coyle. A win for Bolton yesterday would have left them joint-fifth with Spurs. Liverpool’s win now leaves them level with Coyle’s men in mid-table.
That said, Torres and Gerrard, the men Liverpool fans hope will fire them up the table were awful yesterday. Gerrard hardly managed to complete a pass in the first half while Torres was worse, missing a one-on-one in the early stages that he normally found so easy in his first three seasons at Anfield. That Liverpool managed to win will be a mighty tonic for Hodgson with his star men so off-form. Excellent performances from the likes of Kyrgiakos, Lucas and Meireles helped, but David Ngog’s appearance from the bench will give the manager food for thought. The French man opened up the game as Liverpool applied some belated pressure late-on with Torres limping and out of form. It should of course be noted that bad game or not, the Spaniard’s back-heeled through ball for Maxi to score was sublime. Chelsea next for Liverpool after Napoli in the Europa League. The star duo will miss out on Thursday and Hodgson knows that his team are beginning to grow in confidence and if his stars show up on Sunday it could be a big test for the visiting league leaders.
Verdict: For Bolton, Gary Cahill showed once again why he is capable of performing on the biggest stage. Outstanding throughout, he was unfortunate to be nutmegged by a piece of brilliance from Torres but will have caught the eye regardless. Forwards Davies and Elmander played well without truly threatening Pepe Reina in Liverpool’s goal, but Bolton will fancy their chances of a top-half league place on this performance.
I really wanted Rafael Benitez to become Liverpool manager before he took over in 2004. I was away living in Edinburgh for the summer but when his name was linked with the job I thought back to the time his Valencia team had thoroughly dismantled Liverpool in 2002, with Pablo Aimar and company running rings around a shaven headed Gerrard and his teammates.
I was still on the fence about the case for Benitez’ dismissal in the summer, and let’s face it, his time had come to an end and the mutual decision was a case of saving face for the former owners, Hicks and Gillett. I still felt that with proper backing, with the ability to choose the right players to sign for the club, Rafa could have won the title.
When Hodgson signed, I felt nothing. No excitement, nothing. It was a case of Hodgson taking a team who weren’t very good and making them punch above their weight with Fulham. He did a terrific job. But he hadn’t been given the big jobs over more than three decades of management. He presided over an Inter Milan team in a rebuilding phase but as recently as five years ago had been manager of Norwegian team Viking.
This season has been an unmitigated disaster, on and off the pitch. But while fans and commentators are queuing up to criticise the effort of the players, something has to be wrong with the style of management when the likes of Torres and Gerrard don’t even have the usual passion for the game, especially against rivals Everton.
It has become popular to say that Liverpool need massive rebuilding of their squad, but these are the same players who were winning big games with ease two years ago. Rolling out victories as they chased Man Utd, hammering the likes of Real Madrid and the league leaders within a week. Reina, Agger, Skrtel, Carragher, Lucas, Kuyt, Babel, Gerrard, Ngog, Torres. They were all a part of it. Johnson is not a bad signing. Meireles is not a bad signing. Cole is not a bad signing. In replacing the likes of Degen, Mascherano and Benayoun, the fact is the first team should not be considerably weaker.
Mascherano and Alonso were the perfect platform for any team and them leaving has ripped the fulcrum of the team apart. But the first team is still performing well below its ability.
The full backs look up and see no-one on the wings. As Hodgson said recently, “we don’t play with wingers” meaning that Konchesky and Carragher had to pass the ball infield at every opportunity today because Maxi and Cole were invariably nearer the centre circle than the wing. The lack of width is frightening, especially when the opposing team has the ball it means that they can switch play with ease and find themselves with acres of space with which to attack a frightened defence.
The usual criticism applies of Liverpool failing to test the goalkeeper. Any save Howard had to make today was a hopeful shot straight at him, with the exception of a Torres header in the first half that would have taken a Howard howler to give Liverpool the lead. Torres’ running was shocking today. He was heading for the same channels as his teammates. When he laid the ball off to good effect he failed to show the ambition to get into the box.
This points to a lack of belief in the tactics. It seemed he wanted to drop deep and try and work magic on his own because once again he received no service in the box, nothing to trouble Jagielka and Distin. Indeed Everton dropped back with half an hour left because they weren’t afraid of Liverpool attacking. The midfield five passed the ball among themselves with no penetration, no ideas, meaning Everton knew the victory was theirs if they kept their discipline. Which they did.
Hodgson’s dismal start as manager is all the more depressing for his growing tendency towards foot in mouth moments in front of the microphones. Here’s the phenomenal delusion he showed after today’s demoralising defeat:
We suffered at the hands of an early onslaught which you invariably do at Goodison but towards the end of the first half we started to even things out.
From what I saw I thought we dominated the second half totally.
I thought the shape of the team was good, the quality of our passing and movement was good.
We didn’t score goals and Everton did but I refuse to accept that we were in any way outplayed or any way inferior.
Is it a crisis? I don’t think it is a crisis, I thought the way we played today was not the level of a team in the bottom three.
Torres? He got battered during the World Cup and mentally he is probably a bit low and he needs a goal or two to get it back. Certainly today I would have no qualms about his performance.
Before Gerard Houllier was sacked as Liverpool manager, he had become fond for noting statistics like the number of corners his team had won as a way of batting away suggestions that his tactics were negative. Today’s comments from Hodgson beggar belief though. That he could go on to describe the second hand performance as the best of the year so far is nothing short of a disgrace.
If that is Liverpool dominating and performing well, if Hodgson says he can’t ask for anything more from his players, what can Liverpool fans genuinely hope for this season.
I try and maintain this blog impartially as I watch all teams play and love The Premiership as a whole. But when it comes to Liverpool at the moment it is important to show that this is a team I watch week-in, week-out. I hate seeing us exit the Carling Cup because it means another matchday with no Liverpool involvement. But I was almost smiling this afternoon. It was a weary smile of someone who has given up. That I saw Hodgson do the exact same thing on 90 minutes made me angry though.
The team has gone backwards again after a poor season last time out. Decisions to invest in the likes of Konchesky and Poulsen rather than stick with Insua and Lucas in similar roles and failing to bring in a striker are strange, bad judgement maybe.
Investing in Poulsen and Meireles after bringing in Cole is odd, given that it was possibly the one area Liverpool didn’t need strengthening in. Playing Cole and Meireles on the wings, keeping faith in Maxi for 85 minutes today despite his complete lack of imput, risking Ngog only when games are lost, failing to inspire his team despite the roar of the Merseyside Derby and new owners watching from the stands, describing his Northampton team as a “B team”, failing to back Fernando Torres against Alex Ferguson, publicly flirting with the sale of the likes of Babel and Lucas, only to go back to them in times of desperation, signing in Paul Konchesky a likeable man but a decidedly average player, these are no the decisions of a top coach.
I expect Hodgson’s comments to lead to his dismissal shortly. New owners will want to start afresh. They will see some despondent players today and will probably make quiet signals to key players and hierarchy like Gerrard and Dalglish to see what they feel needs changing.
Hodgson admitted the buck stopped with him after Blackpool. He couldn’t do so again today as it would be like a broken record interview. His time is running out. The gamble on Hodgson has backfired. Far from steadying the ship, Liverpool are in their worst-ever position in Premiership history, with a team containing some world-class players. Players who don’t believe in their coach either.