State of the (Scouse) Nation: The Internal Spyin' Kop part 1

Posted by RAWK Editor on November 9, 2005, 04:31:38 PM

After the high of winning our fifth European Cup in Istanbul on the 25th of May came the recent low of being knocked out of The Carling Cup by Crystal Palace. This has led to polarised opinion expressed on phone-ins and message boards with some people even suggesting it's time for a new manager.

So, in the cold light of day how are we doing? It's international week so with no opposing fans to quiz we've turned the spotlight on ourselves. Here are the views of RAWK's scribes.

There have certainly been strong opinions voiced by Liverpool fans so far this season. How do you think the season been shaping up and what do you make of all the outcry?

WOOLTONIAN: I think knee-jerk reactions have replaced calm measured responses. Weíre probably all guilty of shooting from the lip at times, but whereas we used to calm down shortly after a defeat and realise it wasnít the end of the world, today we seem to carry the baggage of a defeat into the next fixture, which does no one any good.

I think that Istanbul and the aftermath has had a
hangover effect on the club, the players and the fans. As a consequence, we had a lengthy preseason to qualify for the CL, and things looked quite promising. However our League form has poor, and we only seem to have sobered up in the past couple of weeks. Crystal Palace tested our Resolve, and I was really pissed off after that result.

Pheeny: I think the season is more or less the one that we could have expected really. Bit like the calm after the storm so to speak. As for the outcry that again is something I can take from match going fans but not the rest of us. Hence me keeping my mouth shut 

Victor Meldrew: I just hope that the knee-jerkers don't have metal desks. Of course, it was a horrible feeling when we got beaten by the rent-boys, but the only loss that has surprised me was Fulham. The "Rafa out brigade had a field day", whilst I sat in and watched Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson rip apart Benitez and his tactics bit by bit.

For me, we are improving, "for sure".

AdamS: I donít think the outcry was unexpected, but itís still disappointing. The thing is itís always those with negative views that are first to express them. After the 3-0 win the other night we put a phone-in on the radio and all people could do was moan about Crouch. Itís kind of par for the course now.

There has been a couple of disappointing performances this season. I wonder if we had lost on penalties on May 25th would there be a bit more realism about our situation? I see gradual improvement and I will make a proper judgement much further into the season.

Spartacus: Iíve had my moments myself as far as the moaning and groaning is concerned. Thankfully over the past few weeks Iíve gotten over that and tend to have a much brighter outlook on things. Our form has been a disappointment, I would argue that itís been disappointing in all competitions only in the CL we were still getting the right results which ultimately is all that matters for me.

After the loss to Fulham and Palace the outcry form some quarters was a little embarrassing, it wasnít great and we were all disappointed but to hear people talk about changing manager and the like was unbelievable.

You canít change your manager every eighteen months, the majority of people wanted the previous manager to be sacked so as far as Iím concerned they now have to live with the fact that we have a new manager whoís in his transitional period, how hard can it be to show him your support?

Hinesy: I think inevitably there would be an anti-climax after Istanbul and the team's slow start in the League has heightened the sense of deja-vu and also deepened the mood. The fact is we were never so good nor are we now so bad, but as ever, football is about passion and that passions has been vented.
I think we have be been better than last year, save for a couple of performances and I think provided we donít have our usual awful November, then Iíll think about the season properly come Christmas.

Roper: To be fair, ive been having a few moment of late where im questioning what direction where going in. That said, I wouldnt ever voice them at games, and would leave it until in the ale house after and between matches. Its disappointing to see the players producing brilliantly one minute, and so appallingly bad the next. I think its a good thing for people to voice concerns over certain key issues as long as they have something to back up what they are trying to say. Not just ranting for ranting's sake. Also, internet forums are always going to be worse as its a faceless place to air views and you know yer not gonna take much more than some written abuse for it. I think as fans we have to take some accountability to how stale things are at times, I mean we could have the grounds bouncing before and during the games if we could be arsed - but Pompey at home for example is never gonna be one to get people on the edge of seats [ordinarily] and we have turned into a load of big time charlies in recent years - only arsed for the bigger, more meaningful games.

Olly: The outcry? Itís absolutely pathetic, and to be honest disgusting. People need to take a serious look at themselves.

Obviously the season has started slowly, but I donít think it has started too poorly. It didnít help that very quickly we were playing catch up after having had two games postponed due to our European commitments, and our lack of goals at the start also didnít help. Then again we were never going to set the world alight scoring-wise, and we wonít until some decent wingers are brought in and we play to our strikers strengths.

Personally speaking I struggled with the start of our season. After the incredible high of Istanbul football just didnít seem the same, especially when we had competitive games in July. It was almost as though I struggled to take it seriously, as I was always looking back to that monumentous night in May. Itís slowly coming back, although the huge knee-jerk reactions from some of our fans is really beginning to get to me. I never thought that our own fans would make me think twice about going to games, but recently Iíve looked around at some of the people Iím standing with at away games, and listen to comments from some of those at the homes I get angry. When a player gets jeered off the pitch away at Fulham, just 5 months after helping us win the European Cup a little part of me falls out of love with the game. It doesnít take long for people to forget.

Filler: Last season we struggled to get draws, for months it seemed we'd either lose or win, away and home respectively, so I took some positives out of getting some draws bagged, even tho the performances weren't too pleasing. I remember Nasser Hussain saying at the beginning of his captaincy for England, that the team had to learn how to draw. Some saw that as negative, I didn't. The outcry? What outcry? Just a bunch of girls too quick to press Ctrl Alt Delete. No problem in getting upset, calling for the managers head? Sorry, they live on Mars. Or Northampton.

Rushian: Much of the outcry, as per usual, is hysterical nonsense from fans who'd struggle to recognise a football if you placed one in their hands. It's media-generated and an unfortunate side effect of the "information age". They should ban phone-ins ... and message boards. The season? It's been ok so far, nothing spectacular but nothing to get you reaching for the prozac.

What are your expectations for this season?

WOOLTONIAN: European football for next season, CL would be great, but I do not share peoples disdain for the Uefa Cup. Europe has always been the icing on the cake, and not our main basis of financial income. The difference in added income is only wide if you measure like for like progression. Iím sure this years winner of the Uefa will make more money than everton did this year in the CL.
Iíd also like to see a good cup run in the FA, last years early exit was a big disappointment.
Obviously, Iíd like to see us within thirty points of the winners and I still think thatís possible.

MichaelA: I had hoped to see a more resolute performance in the league. So far that hasn't really happened, so I would say that my expectations haven't been met in that respect. I also expect a couple of decent domestic cup runs, and we've already crashed out of one of them. In terms of the CL, I guess last sixteen will be still be an achievement if we escape such a tough grouping. After that, it's all there to be played for; we could go all the way to Paris. We're currently still better configured for European football, and to a degree, knock out football - which is why the Palace result hurt.

Pheeny: To get into the top 4 and win one trophy. So weíve won the one trophy already?

AdamS: I wanted to see us get closer to the top three. I hoped we could get above Arsenal, Man Utd or both and considering how their seasons are going so far, I still see that as possible. Chelsea are on a different level for now, but with time I think Rafa can make us challenge them. After all he beat Barca and Real 2 years out of 3.

Spartacus: Originally I wanted us to close the gap (points wise) on Chelsea, to be honest Iím not to arsed about that now, rightly or wrongly Iím not even paying any attention to Chelsea, theyíre playing on a different level to the rest of the league and theyíve got a bloody big advantage over us all. I donít mind us competing with the best, Man U and Arsenal have been the best and they spent the money they earned, Chelsea just sicken me.

Iím more interested in how close we get to Man U and Arsenal, theyíre still a decent bench mark and Iím convinced we can take either of them. So a top three finish and a couple of decent cup runs will do me, maybe even a little trip to Paris.
That we should consolidate our strengths and make inroads into the progress of Chelsea, and once again be an automatic top 4 club. Thatís a realistic expectation and I still think it.

Roper: I'm an optimist [no, honestly!] I expect us to challenge seriously for everything we enter, and I honestly expected us to be pushing 1st to 3rd place this year. Unfortunately, things havent started as well as I, and many, had hoped. But although Villa was quite an awful match to watch at the weekend, sometimes you can start a winning sequence with a scrappy, hard fought win...and especially if it gets a bit of a run going, which that did. 3 on the bounce, lets aim for 5 then 10. I think we can definately finish top 4, and maybe even 3rd. Id be relatively happy with that. It'd be nice to be the 1st club to play in the new Wembley FA Cup final, but i can see us going out in the quarters, and if we are to loose our European crown, then i want it to be to one of the best teams about - not some porky side.

Olly: A Champions League qualifying position in the league, a decent run in one of the domestic cups and getting to the knock out stages of the European Cup

Filler: 3rd spot with a 'you never know about 2nd'. Hasn't changed. We need some momentum, and the result against Villa last week could well be seen as the most vital of the season to get it going when we look back. Hope I'm right.

Rushian: A much stronger performance in the league (70 points plus) and a long run in Europe. Though whether we'd achieve both was still debatable.

I've thought for a long time that the whole attitude of the club has been more atuned to Europe than the English League - and by this I include the coaching staff, players and fans. The team has been consistently ranked in the top 8 in Europe for the last few years often belying our league form. And just look at us lot - we have increasingly turned away from anything English, the flags, the national team etc and revelled in our European outlook and style and exotic destinations. Domestic aways? Get up early, pay £40 for a ticket, £30 for travel, £30 on scran and beer to visit another depressing part of the UK before returning home to plan spending another £100 in two weeks time.

Europe's the new bread and butter, or beurre et croissant for the footballing gourmets, though it would be nice to come down one morning and find on the plate a round of Warburton's spread with Devon's finest butter.

Have they changed from day one?

WOOLTONIAN: No, I remember the old saying, Ďonce bitten twice shyí.
I remember coming crashing back to earth after the Treble winning season.
I think we all saw that as the new dawn, only to fall flat on our faces.

Victor Meldrew: No, not really. The League is still in our hands, the FA Cup is a certainty and so is the Champions League. You'll see...

Olly: Not at all. The Russian mercenaries are some way ahead of us, and despite the Corporation and Arsenal not strengthening as well as they may have hoped Iíd be surprised if we were to ease past either of them. Iíd expect to be a lot closer to the leaders this season though.

Filler: No, tho I hoped for a really good run in the League Cup.

Rushian: No, nothing has changed. We're looking stronger defensively in the league which should see us achieve at least 70 points (though a few more goals from the strikers wouldn't go amiss). Europe, as ever, seems to be our natural home.

Who do you think our most important player(s) are at the moment?

WOOLTONIAN: Jamie Carragher. If the lad gets injured I think we will be in deep shit. Steven Gerrard also needs an injury free season if we are to start climbing back up the league, heís so influential.

MichaelA: It's incredibly difficult to see beyond Gerrard. The Carra, undoubtedly. I would pick Garcia for every game as well. I know he has his critics, and the criticisms are too often justifiable. But he is a match winning player, as we saw in Europe last season. And he played out of his skin against the Hammers last week.

Pheeny: Without doubt StevieG Carra & Alonso.

Victor Meldrew: Djimi Traore. He adds the perfect balance to our defence. He pops up with wonder crosses and hopefully - HOPEFULLY - he can find his way into double figures.

But my serious answer would be: Stevie Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Djibril Cisse. The "spine of our team".

AdamS: Carra! Without Carra I think we would struggle horrendously at the back. Hyppia and Traore would probably be the next partnership and that doesnít fill me with confidence. Other players may be better to watch when on form, but none are more important. Finnan has shown once again how much we miss him when he is not there. I have been impressed with Garciaís work rate and now his game seems to be improving too. He is always going to make mistakes, but he is making fewer and fewer in the wrong areas. Alonso & Gerrard go without saying.

Spartacus: Carra without a doubt, I hope to god he doesnít get an injury this season because I really think weíll struggle defensively. Alonso had a great game against West Ham and Iím hoping that continues over the next few months.

Stevie G is a given.

Hinesy: Alonso for his sense of how Liverpool could be, Carragher for his spirit, Gerrard for our perception to the rest of the world and Cisse for his potential.

Roper: Carragher, Gerrard and Alonso. Everything good comes from these 3 players. If we can just branch off them, then we could be quite a side. I dont think there are many better Centre Mid partnerships about that Gerrard and Xabi, and ive been banging Carra's drum for 4 or 5 seasons, long before the bandwagon kicked in. [arent I great!]

Olly: Carra seems to get better with every game. Heís a credit to the team, and an example to every kid playing the game now. And he seems to have earned total respect from the rest of the team. Without him, weíd really struggle.

I think for the Spanish players this season is very important. Having a chat with a mate the other day, if Morientes stays clear of injuries for a while he could be a revelation playing just off a front man. His talent is unquestionable, but as with most foreign players who join this league he needs to toughen up.

Sissoko could be the find of the season, and heís started off superbly. For the first time in years, when Didiís name isnít mentioned in the first 11 I now donít worry. If he improves his passing he could be exceptional.

And if Kewell could just find Ö. oh forget it.

Filler: the spine deffo, though the middle of that spine is playing wide right at the mo, but we don't look like John Merrick thanks to Sissoko and Alonso. Zak Whitbread too if one of our CB's gets injured.

Rushian: Carragher, Hyypia, Gerrard and Alonso. All world class, all playing well, all vitally important to the club.

What player(s) haven't impressed you this season?

WOOLTONIAN: Peter Crouch. Iíd be amazed if anyone has been impressed.
I think he will improve when he gets his first goal, but as things stand right now, the lad seriously looks out of his depth.

MichaelA: Morientes. This guy has had the longest preseason in the history of the club. A goal midweek is hopefully a sign that he has turned a corner. Please.

And Josemi. I fail to see what he has to offer to the club. It really grates on me when I see him grinning next to Stevie on photos from Istanbul.

Pheeny: Crouch just donít see him as a Liverpool player.

Victor Meldrew: Peter Crouch, although I am backing the lad every step of the way.

AdamS: Obviously Josemi has never lived up to his first couple of performances, but to balance things up, he doestake a good photograph. Crouch is clearly struggling for confidence (thanks Sven). He looks all wrong, but providing he can show the mental strength he has all the footballing attributes to make himself a success. To cause a bit of controversy here, I think he has far more chance of becomming a success at Liverpool than Cissť. I see Cissť as far too one dimensional, although I'll galdly be proved wrong!

Spartacus: Hmmmmmm the strikers collectively have been a disappointment, I appreciate that they rely on their team-mates for service and the like but they also have to do a little for themselves. Last night (Anderlacht) I was convinced Crouch would score and him not scoring against weak opposition when weíre playing well isnít good. Iím hoping heís going to bang one in any time soon and then the rest will follow. Great to see FM bag a goal but he has to push on from this and start scoring on a more regular basis.

Hinesy: Iíve enjoyed watching Crouch but he shouldíve settled in now but I want to see sustained good service to him before I judge him. Zenden has only recently started looking like a mini Riise, but overall I still am not that keen on Josemi.

Roper: It's where to start. I honestly dont think that as a starting XI we are any better than 3 years ago. Its lucky for us that the nucleus of the team is solid. I was sat in my seat at the start of the season and turned to the fella next to me and said "Fuckin Morientes, still cant believe we've got him!"....but thats what it is; reputation. I can see the class but the hunger and instintiveness isnt there. Crouch im prepared to give time to - especially when we have two natural wide players to feed off him, and supply him with decent ball. Traore is not a full back - end of....he should be CB cover and thats it. Josemi, well, I just dont get it - and Rafa's blind backing sometimes is a little to Houllier-esque. Zenden is a player ive never been a fan of, dating back though the world cup in 98, and beyond - with Barca, Chelsea and Boro. Just doesnt do enough for me...too many backward balls, and not enough drive.

Olly: Zenden Ė he just hasnít got going yet. He doesnít have the pace or ability to get round a full back, and as a result struggles out wide. Heís looked far more comfortable when he is playing just inside, as he used to do at Middlesbrough, but with the competition in the middle of the park, and our lack of wide men his opportunities in his preferred position have been limited.

Oh, and Riise. At times this season he has been abymisal, and if he knocks the ball round an opponent, and tries to run round the other side of him one more time Iím going to strangle him.

Iíd also mention Cisse, but Iím afraid that the Lord would strike vengeance upon meÖ.

Filler: Cisse, yet he's bagged 13 goals in all games this season, but don't like his screaming and desire to inflict injury to goalkeepers with the ball. Having said that, I like Djib alot. Josemi ... started very brightly, tho I thought he did well at CB against Sofia, but I bet his wife issues instructions from his SatNav in the car. Good to see Finnan back, rather unsung I think. I also haven't been too impressed with Alonso (I'll get slapped for that, ha!), but he set ridiculous standards last year, and even if an average Alonso gets his boots on, he's still class.

Rushian: Riise, who I think is an valuable squad player, has looked off the pace. Traore still inspires more nerves than the dentist in The Marathon Man. And the strikers, as a collective, urgently need to find Billy's Boots.

If you had to highlight one thing that you are disappointed with since winning The Champions League what would it be?

WOOLTONIAN: Our performance in the League Cup. Call it any name you like, but it was an avenue into Europe next year.

MichaelA: Missing out on Owen returning. I know there were all kinds of nonsense involved, but somebody lost their nerve in August.

Pheeny: The price of the ticket for the Anderlecht game.

Victor Meldrew: League Cup defeat and not buying true, proven-class.

AdamS: I think as everybody else I was hoping we would do more in the transfer market, Rafa said we needed a right midfielder/winger and a centre back and not to sign players for these positions was disappointing. On the other hand I am glad we didnít let clubs hold us to ransom over transfer fees. If we has signed Owen, Simao and Figo at the increased prices we would have shelled out £10m more than what we had previously agreed.

Spartacus: Have to admit the lack of transfer activity really disappointed me, in fact Iíd go as far as to say made me feel pretty pissed off and low about the season ahead. Iíve already said that I started the season full of moans and groans, Iím over it now but that was like one major sulk.

Hinesy: The seeming lack of common understanding between the players.

Roper: The we didnt demand respect in the transfer market. We should have picked the players we wanted and got them - no fuckin about.

Olly: That we didnít seem to take advantage of our success. Both in terms of transfers and marketing we should have been much more ruthless. There was money to be made, and players to buy but I felt we were kind of walked over in the summer.

Filler: The lack of new signings, tho I understand the desire to avoid the sharks coming in with their inflamed prices at the last minute, hopefully that strength will help us, and not undermine us. Sissoko and Zenden were excellent signings tho for different reasons. Oh, and Reina, scares the shit out of me at times, but all goalkeepers have trouble these days. Not seeing the Cup being brought out v TNS, tho I understand and applaud the forward thinking, but I was a bit sulky. The League Cup defeat, and using Potter instead of Flo wide right. Still scratching my head about that.

Rushian:The failure to buy a right winger (or two) of quality has left us desperately short of balance. The best teams have always practiced a perfect equilibrium: left balanced by right, attack balanced by defence, pace balanced by an assured reading of the game. Benitez's Valencia so evidently had this when they came to Anfield and you can see what Rafa is working towards with the present squad, but he needs that pacy, natural right midfielder.

What has pleased you the most since the victory in Istanbul?

WOOLTONIAN: Our continuing success in Europe, daft, but we once again look like a side who can progress all the way. While other teams afford us the time and space, we will punish them

MichaelA: Sissoko. He could be the next Tommy Smith/Graham Souness. I first saw him against Kaunas (or CSKA, can't remember) and he scared me. Fuck knows what he does to the opposition. He needs to develop the cultured touch of Didi Hamann, and the Didi can retire in the knowledge that he has a quality successor.

Pheeny: The way Harry has performed up to now.

Victor Meldrew: Anderlecht! They may be near the top of their Sunday-league, but they are a decent side that gave Chelsea a run for their money (no pun intended...) and we made them look ordinary. Also, too many games of this nature had ended a scrappy 1-0, when we should have had it dead and buried a while back.

AdamS: I enjoyed singing Five Times to the mancs & laughing when they sung ďWe are the pride of all EuropeĒ. I suppose that even that match has had a bit of an anti climax. Going to Istanbul and being privileged to watch possibly the greatest cup final of all time is one hell of a high to come down from. I'm sure there are more great moments to come.

Spartacus: Stevie G staying Ė no honest.

Hinesy: Rafaís refusal to pretend we are anything more than we are.

Roper: Gerrard resigning and being relatively honest about things. He could have totally bullshitted us, but as he knew most of it was already out - he came out and was pretty honest about the whole affair. He signed the dotted line and put the constant shite to bed. Fair play. End of.

Olly: Our new, well-informed and patient fan base.

Alright, our European performances and results have been good and as per usual most of the Euro aways so far this season have been ďinterestingĒ.

Filler: That I can wake up each morning and see a picture of SG lifting the cup on my wall and go, 'Fuck me, how did that happen?' Hearing 'Champions of Europe' being sung. Still wells me up something chronic.

Rushian: Hearing the media associate "Champions of Europe" with our name, time after time after time ...

And your feelings on the new 'Spanish flavour' Liverpool. Senor 'Rafa' Benitez and our new latin recruits?

WOOLTONIAN: It seems to be a current trend to heavily lean towards a certain flavour. Iíd rather have the best Polish or the best Greek player than the second best of another nation, just because he speaks the same language as the manager. Weíve done the French route, now we seem to be becoming the Spanish second eleven. Iím an arl arse and I cannot see whatís wrong with wanting British players in a British League. Iím not saying all British, that would be just as bad. If I wanted to support a Spanish side Iíd move to Barcelona or Madrid.

MichaelA: I think that it was inevitable that Rafa would bring in players that he knew, players that he could work with quickly, to effect the kind of changes that he wanted to make. He needs a nucleus that understands what he wants. I suspect that there may be more Spaniards at the club in the near future to complete his er, rafalution...

Thereafter, he will have hopefully created the playing culture that he wants, and will begin to look at adding from other countries from next summer onward.

Pheeny: Not interested in what nationality a player is so long as he gives his all for the Reds.

Victor Meldrew: I like it. People saying that they won't be able to handle the weather conditions etc may be right, but they are professionals. Not too sure about Josemi, but he is good cover and Reina could improve more. The others, though, are superb.

AdamS: Recently itís been great to see the three amigoís coming into form. Alonso and Garcia have already shown quite a lot, but both are improving and I think Moro is so close to hitting a massive amount of goals for us.
Itís been notable how quickly Garcia has picked up English and they seem to have fitted in brilliantly. Who can fail to be impressed when Alonso talks about the pride of wearing the Liverpool shirt?

Spartacus: Iím not arsed really if we have a Spanish flavour or not, would rather judge the players individually, if youíre good enough then youíll do for me. Pisses me off when people use that fact that Nunez or Josemi are Spanish as stick to beat them with, who cares? I never want us to be a team full of Spaniards but talks cheap, if weíre a team full of Alonsoís and weíre kicking ass then who am I to complain?

Hinesy: Well it was likely he would bring in that which he knew, and I think in part it has been excellent, certainly helping in our European Adventures, but conversely adapating to the somewhat frenetic nature of a wet Wednesday evening game has taken a lot longer than I thought. Iíd keep Xabi, Luis, Pepe (Rafaís twin or what ?), Iíd think about Mori and Iíd get shot of Josemi.

Roper: I dont give a fuck where the players are from as long as they fit in the system. Simple. But I feel at times we are guilty of buying the players and then fitting them into a system they wouldnt have otherwise flourished in. As past players and managers have said, Liverpool always had the knack of buying players each year to keep it fresh without losing the balance of the system. Thats what we need to do.

Olly: The talent is obviously present, but a couple of them need to toughen up. Alonso can hurt any team, and at a times his vision is unreal, but both Morientes and Garcia need to improve. Itís pleasing to hear that they both know there are areas of their game that they need to work on, and Iím sure theyíll be a success. At times I think people expect too much from Garcia Ė weíve been crying out for an inventive player for years, but now we need one who never gives the ball away, can out jump Crouch and can tackle like Souness.

IĎm going to reserve judgement on Reina. He has lightening quick reactions, and makes the goal look small, but at times he tends to rush out for a ball when heíd do better to stay put. Time will tell if his signing has improved the team.

There is no need to mention Josemi. Heís the finished article and an example of footballing perfection.

Filler: I'm in a rush, but somewhere between a plate of patatas bravas and a strong San Miguel, and the subtle smell of wee in the Barri Gotic.

Rushian: Benitez is a frustratingly good manager. Frustrating in that you expect us to win the league with him very soon but still see massive hurdles to clear - one being the size of Siberia. The Spanish players have proved to be excellent buys - great technique allied with intelligence. There'll always be the odd duffer such as Josemi (no manager has a perfect record in the transfer market) but in general it has been a positive experiment.

© RAWK 2005

for more RAWK views go to part 2

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