On February 2nd 2009 there was a massive outcry in the media, from Liverpool fans and football fans in general at the return of one Robbie Keane to Spurs. This move was maybe not a surprise given the apparent unprofessional way that Rafa dealt with Keane. Benching him for key games even when Gerrard or Torres were injured and there was a position he could fulfill.
Even when playing him, he was typically placed up front on his own, a position that Keane is arguably not effective in, previously benefiting as a co-striker in behind the hole. The striker crisis is not a new problem for Liverpool, although this Keane move could arguably have cost Liverpool the title as Rafa shipped Keane out with no adequate replacement for an injured Torres.
This whole issue has been a problem for Liverpool ever since they solved the recent absence of a great striker with Fernando Torres. Since El Nino arrived at the club, Liverpool have been struggling to find him a partner. Perhaps playing Gerrard behind Torres, a partnership which has been so deadly, is the best way to go? Well, in that case it’s important to consider what happens when Gerrard is injured like he has been recently.
It is debatable that Keane would have been ready made for a Gerrard-esque role, although no one can say for sure as he was never given the chance. One possibility that has recently captured the eye of many is the recent form of Yossi Benayoun, the Israeli international has netted important goals for the reds recently alongside some talismanic performances; particularly those against Real Madrid away, Fulham away and at Anfield v Arsenal this past Tuesday.
Benayoun seems a highly underrated player as he was key for West Ham in his tenure there, earning him a move to Liverpool. Yossi is very effective when he comes off the bench, though he was even better on Tuesday when he started.
Maybe Benayoun could be cover for the Gerrard role in future and perhaps, as has been suggested by Barry Glendenning of the Guardian, Liverpool have been suffering due to the lack of playing time Benayoun has garnered this season. In the games which he has played he has been prolific, even chipping in with the occasional hat trick, such as the ones against Besiktas and Havant and Waterlooville last season respectively.
Though maybe this isn’t Liverpool’s key problem as Gerrard has been fit most of the season, most of their trouble this term has been with the fitness of Torres.
Perhaps with more appearances from Torres, Liverpool would have gained a few more points and not have been stuck with a collection of uninspiring draws. Particularly given that due to this, the deadly Torres and Gerrard combination has only played together twelve times this season.
In terms of prolific strikers, it could be argued that given his decent goalscoring record for Pompey and previously at Liverpool, they should have kept Crouch. He scored frequently when given the chance and performances such as his hat trick v Arsenal in the 06/07 season certainly back up this point (although Crouch only left due to not being guranteed first team football) Further it would appear Benitez never gave much of a go with a Torres and Crouch partnership, which may have clicked and been the best front two partnership at Anfield since the days of Owen and Heskey.
What is particularly baffling is why Rafa didn’t acquire adequate cover before selling off Keane. N’Gog is clearly too young and inexperienced to have stepped up to the plate in a title race, maybe Babel should be given more chances to prove himself a striker?
Andriy Voronin has been on good form on loan at Hertha Berlin, however he categorically ruled out any return to Liverpool. He has a better chance than the reds of acquiring a title this season (combined with first team football), so why return to them?
This may seem like a crazy shot, but sometimes moments of unexpected inspiration can prove a masterstroke. Why didn’t Rafa consider taking a chance and bring in Hernan Crespo on loan? Crespo is largely a reserve man at Inter Milan, now wanting to leave due to being snubbed by Mourinho. Why not bring him in as cover for Torres?a Sure he may not be a spring chicken, but with that comes years of experience, I would bet for him scoring rather than N’Gog anyday.
Though I understand maybe he doesn’t want to return to England, it is just a suggestion of what could have been done, I’m sure there’s other loan moves or frees Rafa could could have brought in as cover.
Of course this is all speculation from yours truly, but what is for sure is Liverpool maybe could have and should have done a bit better, in this season where they finally put up a decent title challenge.