In awe of George Berry

Posted by john_mac on February 13, 2004, 03:10:34 PM

After ciriticism that my piss-taking post on the forum "Are there any Liverpool fans in here?" was simply not good enough, I thought that I would try to explain why I still have an unfaultering belief in the ability of our players and management team to progress and do far, far better than we have been doing.

The first thing is that I have no doubt that we are underachieving, probably have been for years and years. I cannot subscribe to the theory that in 2001 and 2002 the squad over-achieved, perhaps it is my blinkered outlook on life, maybe I’m blind to the truth but it is a honest and truthful opinion.

In 2001 particularly, we played with a defensive solidity only rivalled by Arsenal’s defence in recent years. The ability to soak up pressure and play to the strengths of the team were there for all to see. McAllister, Gerrard and Hamman all added midfield guile to this defensive solidity, Heskey played his best football for Liverpool, while Owen, the jewel in the crown, performed to such a level that he landed the European Footballer of the year crown. Add in to this excellent performances in a team designed to hurt the opposition in smash and grab raids of the likes of Smicer, Barmby and Berger and the nucleus of a very good team, built to play in a certain manner, was there for all to see.

So much was this in evidence that after his absence through serious illness, Houllier was welcomed like a conquering hero by all Liverpool fans, whatever they may claim now. Fitting it should be that that evening provided what could possibly be the best performance of his management era, and most certainly provided the best performance from the biggest enigma of Houllier’s reign, Heskey.

Since then Houllier has tried to expand the system, to have it develop into a style where we can dominate opposition, and there have been signs that this could be the case. Some of the early performances last season as well as long periods against Arsenal, United and Chelsea this have indicated that there is room for such an expansive system within our squad. In attempting to align a midfield with the likes of Deouf, Smicer, Gerrard, Le Tallec, Cheyrou and Kewell, of course he has attempted to take the game to the opposition.

I personally believe that excellent as the squad of 2001 & 2 was, the style in which it played, was probably never going to consistently receive the results to land the championship whilst the current squad is nowhere near consistent enough to do the same. Attacking midfielders are all well and good but attacking midfielders that do not deliver goals are a mystery. Gerrard is less likely to score now than he was in 2001, while Kewell aside Murphy would remain our most likely midfield marksman, given his performances this season, that has to be a mystery. OK, Cheyrou has done quite well and has landed a few goals, but he has failed to last the ninety and look likely to deliver a constant threat, it has been done in fits and starts.

It is an area that we have to look at, and closely. I have long thought that whilst a central midfield partnership of Gerrard and Hamman gives a great platform, there has to be an abundance of goals elsewhere to justify it. Kewell can give it, Cheyrou perhaps but then you start to struggle. I hope that Le Tallec can go on to become the player we all hope that he can if he can then this midfield may start to look a bit more balanced. It is interesting that the best attacking performances of the season have probably been in games devoid of Hamman’s presence.

The onus up front still lays far to heavily on Owen’s shoulders, if he is struggling, the goals dry up, he is pushed back from injury too quickly because of our over-reliance on him. We can only hope that the arrival of Cisse will ease the burden on Michael as Emile has failed to do this consistently over a period of time. Michael will extend his Liverpool contract.

Whilst both Baros & Pongolle provide tremendous potential I am not sure that either is ready at this stage nor that either is a more effective partner for Owen than Emile. That said, Milan was having easily his best spell for us immediately prior to his injury and we can only hope he can return to that level sooner rather than later. The future should provide plenty of competition up front, but the present cannot help but look short.

I am still reserving my opinion on Finnan. Jamie Carragher continues to improve and show commitment unrivalled anywhere even in the player wearing the captain’s armband, his enthusiasm and commitment is unrivalled in any team, his ability is often under-rated. Sami is undoubtedly more at home with Jamie in the defence, as he is with Stephane next to him. This is an area where Gerard is looking to strengthen.

Houllier looked to sign Duff, Cisse and Boumsong last summer so he was aware of where he wanted to improve of what he believed was necessary to transfer the defensive formula that was successful in 2001 to a more expansive, attacking team that could challenge for the title.

It is not because we signed Xavier or that we released Stephen Wright that has prevented us from challenging. It is certainly not a lack of desire in the manager nor his staff, and I do not believe it is his outlook on the game which has inhibited us.

We may have the best player in the country in Gerrard, I really do not know if he is, we may have as good an attacking midfielder as anybody around in Kewell and we certainly have one of the best, most thoughtful, conscientious forwards in the world in Michael Owen but that is only the skeleton of what is needed. I know that it has been said before, by me many times, but the quality of young players at our disposal is enormous, perhaps only Arsenal can compare. The question has to be if the manager can harness this quality and fulfil its potential, and if he can, why has he not done better with it over the last eighteen months.

Of course injuries this season have been unprecedented, worse than any I can remember, and that is not an excuse, it is a fact. Luck is an age old quality that is unrivalled in the careers of football managers, whilst some would claim that Gerard had every ounce of it possible in 2001, I cannot help but feel that everything he has touched this season has been dipped in shite.

We all supported the policy of recruiting youth, indeed Parry and Moores spoke of their unequivocal support of the policy, we now have to put our money where are mouths are and give this policy the opportunity to flourish, I honestly believe it can and that it will under Houllier.

The treatment Houllier has received from some quarters of what are laughingly known as Liverpool fans has been scandalous, a disgrace. The patience shown with some of the players, no better.

I hope and pray that he can deliver, and that his players will deliver for him, but most of all I believe that he will deliver and deliver the title home. Whether some Liverpool fans actually deserve the title is another matter, I don’t believe they do, in fact I think that on this seasons performances surely our fans must be amongst the worst in the country, lower than the Doctor Martin’s league.

The pathetic form of ‘modern fandom’ is most evident in internet forums amongst wankers who have been brought up on Championship manager games, have Carlsberg tops with “I 8 Man U” on the back, yet wouldn’t even know what bunkin' a train or going to Haydock Island was about. Middle class gobshites whose idea of ‘roughing it for the reds’ is a packet of ready salted when they wanted prawn cocktail on the coach watching Soccer AM.

For fucks sake there are teams all over the country who would die to be in our position. It’s not great we want to be doing better but 4th in the league, still in the FA and the UEFA is hardly the nightmare some would have you believe, unless you are some sort of knobhead who is obsessed with Man U, how good Henry is and how much Chelsea have got to spend.

I couldn’t give a fuck, I’m interested in Liverpool, our past, present & future. We have ability, of that there is no doubt, can we progress? We certainly can. Can we progress under Houllier? Undoubtedly so.

Over to you.

© john_mac 2004

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