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Carling Cup final (Liverpool V Cardiff) thoughts:

February 27, 2012 Leave a comment

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.

Liverpool players invited Michael Owen back to celebrate the win (pic from http://www.liverpoolfc.tv)

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.

The most batshit crazy face award goes to....

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.