Sunday, August 17, 2008

Taking the points: Week 1 impressions

An afternoon of mostly agony ended up with all that mattered, the full 3 points. Several chinks were evident in the armor, but the best striker in the world smooths out those bumps. This was not the Liverpool I had waited three months to see, and, worryingly, the near-disaster I listened to on Wednesday against Liege repeated itself for 80 minutes against Sunderland.

For now, Robbie Keane must be given some patience to work out his partnership with Torres, but other than a clever flick to himself that he shot wide left, there was little here to enjoy from him. Plessis, too, did nothing to justify his inclusion ahead of Alonso. That's been chronicled elsewhere, so I'll let it go.

Xabi, though, with his Liverpool future so close to ending during the last few weeks has responded at a level worthy of the supporters who've chanted his name lately. The near-miss from shooting inside his own half would have been the highlight of a scoreless draw – which is how things looked certain to finish – if it weren't for Torres. I just don't see how Rafa can sell him. There is weakness along the left, as there has been for some time, but I don't see any way signing Gareth Barry resolves those problems. Babel is in China, Benayoun is a poor, full-time option along the left (though I maintain he has merit as a sub), and it shouldn't cost the team the services of Alonso to try and fix those issues.

Soon, Babel, Mascherano and Lucas will be back. Keane should figure out the best way to partner Torres, and even on the days like Saturday when the team is not at its best, El Niño is always around to make something from nothing and save the day.

Other Week 1 impressions:

• Arsenal is in mid-season form, fully committed to passing the ball into the net. The Nasri goal was well played, but they should have won by much more, even without Fabregas.
• Spurs and Middlesbrough was difficult to watch. Tottenham were awful, and enduring that while waiting for the Liverpool match was difficult.
• Caught the last half hour of Man U v. Newcastle. Other than Ferdinand, nothing in the end from United looked worthy of them taking more than they did. Kevin Keegan, I'm sure, was thrilled that final free kick was taken by Rooney because Ronaldo was out hurt.

1 comment:

Ian Smith said...

Reports in Saturdays newspapers claimed that Rafa Benitez was ready to walk away from Liverpool football club after the board failed to approve his high profile move for Aston Villa’s talisman Gareth Barry. Mr. Benitez was under the impression that money was available but Alan Parry (Chief Executive) did not trust his judgment in signing a 27 year old central midfielder. Whatever the underlining reasons for the rift one thing is for sure, If Liverpool continue to play like they did against Standard Liege and the first half against Sunderland Rafa will not be able to quit, he will be collecting unemployment before he has the chance!
The 0 – 1 victory did little to paper over the cracks that undermine any realistic title aspirations. We used to claim we had the best midfield in the world but on recent evidence it’s getting harder and harder to justify.
Rafa must have banged his head in the shower prior to selecting his first eleven of the new season as that can be the only explanation for choosing the inexperienced Plessis ahead of the cultured Alonso! The traveling Anfield faithful took less than 10 minutes to realize that the only way we would win this game was to make the change that Benitez failed to act upon until half. You know that things are bad when the match commentator likens Plessis’ distribution to that of Kop flop Momo Sissoko.
Once Alonso took the field that game changed much to the relieve of Torres who had spent most of the first half channeling John Fashanu from the much criticized Wimbledon team of the 90s. Punt after Punt was easily shrugged off by the Sunderland rear guard, leaving an increasingly frustrated Torres wondering what happened to his team while he was on his holidays in Austria.
Liverpool looked like a team of players who had never met each other, a team that didn’t play to their individual or collective strengths. Without a wide player on the pitch (or on the bench) the midfield was congested and devoid of any creativity. New signing Robbie Keane touched the ball all of three times (one of which cleared a certain Torres goal bound effort of the line). The positive for Keane is that he has the rest of the season to prove his class and worth to the team who paid in excess of 19 million for his services, and with any luck the (best) midfield (in the world) will give him a fighter’s chance.
There were some positives to take from the game mainly the 3 points collected but also the return to fitness of Stevie G, the wonder strike from Torres, Hyppia’s aerial dominance and Reina’s clean sheet.
It can only get better.