The Season’s Over My A**e

Posted by Rushian on January 12, 2007, 10:32:28 AM

As I get older, I seem to become more objective in my analysis of all things Liverpool F.C. Or so I believed. So after the disappointing night last Saturday when The Reds were so unceremoniously knocked out of the F.A. Cup, I was left questioning that objectivity. The game I had seen was more or less dominated by the home side and all that was missing was the cutting edge or the ability to put the ball in the back of the net. That was partly down to a bit of bad luck, also down to an effective defensive performance from Arsenal and ultimately the result of a decent display from stand in goal keeper Almunia. Having also watched such an abject display from Jerzy Dudek, to then not hear an ounce of criticism levelled against him by the BBC pundits, I began to seriously doubt my perception of the game I had watched.

Unnecessarily yards off his line for the first goal, Dudek followed this with a poor attempt at stopping a second goal which he should have saved. The third goal scored by Henry was laughable. It is fair to say that the Titanic went down faster than the Polish keeper and had he stayed on his feet, I feel sure that Dudek could easily have blasted the ball into row Z. Clearly then the keepers were the real difference between the sides. To hear the aforementioned pundits tell me that on the balance of play the better side won was hard to take. I have read and heard many opinions which reflected my own since the game and my self belief, unlike Dudeks has been restored.

Questions were again asked about the largely unpopular rotation policy employed by Rafa Benitez. Why play the second choice goalie in an F.A. Cup tie that was never going to be easy. The answer was fairly swift with Benitez conceding during interview that his substitute keeper was “promised” he would play the domestic cup games this season. I don’t see the need to rest a goalkeeper, especially for such an important game. Neither is there room for sentiment in football, a fact demonstrated by the capture of Pepe Reina (who played in the Carling Cup game against Reading) by Benitez shortly after the heroics of Istanbul from the then incumbent Dudek.

It is more than clear that the priorities lie with the Premier League and the European Cup and that is a sad fact of the modern era in top flight football, soured just a little more when you consider that Liverpool were defending their title as F.A. Cup holders.

After a minimal amount of time in which to be, to put it mildly, disappointed, a swift revenge could be taken in the League Cup which, after all, has customarily been far kinder to Liverpool Football Club over the years.

Before the game had even started the daggers were being drawn for Benitez who had, as is his way, picked a mixed side drawn from the full squad. Dudek remained in goal and youngsters Peltier, Paletta and Guthrie were employed. What ensued was an embarrassing drubbing from an equally makeshift Arsenal side which also contained a fair smattering of youngsters. The Liverpool youth were found wanting especially at the back and the Arsenal attack ran riot with Baptista and Aliadiere finally turning up to a game for The Gunners.

One thing though, which was certainly not lacking on Tuesday night was the Anfield crowd, especially The Kop. Where else other than Anfield after such a dreadful display, 6-3 down, would you see and hear supporters stood scarves aloft, belting out their most cherished anthem with two minutes to go in the game. Brilliant.

The aftermath has seen Benitez blasted for a deplorable team selection but in fairness to the gaffer, he has, like Ferguson, Wenger, Mourinho and others, always picked an under strength side in this competition. Unlike with the rotation of players, which I confess I dislike immensely, young players need to play somewhere and at sometime and the League Cup is a perfect platform for them. I don’t remember any criticisms coming Rafa’s way when a side of a similar make up took us a good deal of the way to the final of the same competition in 2005.

Another justification for playing the kids is that this competition has been cruel in terms of injuries of late. A fact emphasised by the injured Gonzalez being replaced by Garcia only for the Spaniard to also suffer and see his season ultimately disappear on Tuesday.

Inevitably, the press have rounded on Liverpool saying that the season is over. This obviously implies that they give us no chance at all of beating Barcelona in the first knock-out round of the Champions League. Let them get on with it. The full first team has been playing very well just lately thank you very much. One goal conceded and twenty three points from thirty in the last ten league games have seen Liverpool climb to third in the table. Consolidating this form against Watford on Saturday will rekindle the confidence after the Arsenal debacles and if we can continue our league form through to the Barca game, we have every chance of beating them. This is not going to be easy with visits from Everton, Man United and Chelsea before the two legged affair. But there can be no better time to play the reigning Champions.

The Anfield crowd cannot be under estimated especially on European nights. I had the privilege of standing on the Kop for the Juventus and Chelsea games in the 2005 European campaign, and I know that that intimidating atmosphere had an effect. After the display of Tuesday which I mentioned earlier and the Reclaim the Kop campaign gathering momentum, there can be no question that they can have a similar devastating effect on the Spanish champions, allowing our season to rumble onward. 
 
© Jim Brown 2007

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