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Stay Fit, Keep Xabi, Masch: Liverpool Can Win… part 2

Xabi and Javier Stay Fit, Keep Xabi, Masch: Liverpool Can Win... part 2Click here for Part 1

Last season, Gerrard and Torres missed substantial chunks of play. And Liverpool suffered for it. When they were both fit, Liverpool hit some astounding results: v. Real Madrid: 4-0; v. Chelsea 2-0; v. Villa 5-0; and @ United 4-1!!! They even managed strong results against big sides with one or the other missing from the starting lineup. Prior to the above results, they beat United, Madrid and Chelsea by slimmer, yet equally satisfying, margins. But few Liverpool supporters could cling to sanity with Gerrard or Torres out for too long. The real nausia was when, without one or both, Liverpool crashed upon the wall of smaller teams who were playing for a draw. In those moments the lack of Gerrard and/or Torres were as missed as the empty space left in one’s chest after you’ve been shot… by a bazooka.

At this point, Gerrard might be the easier one to cover. (Yes, it feels blasphemous to say this, but since no red streak of lighting has come from the heavens to strike me dead, I’ll keep typing). Say Stevie G needs time off due to injury or he sees a straight red card after he shows Drogba what it really takes to go down just outside the box. (And yes, I’m still bitter about the Olympic-quality diving in the last Champions League quarter-finals). Rafa can feasibly put Kuyt, Benayoun or even El Zhar behind Torres. If he needs to. Not ideal, but manageable.

The real problem at this point, would be losing Torres for any amount of time again. In the favored (and effective) 4231 formation, who goes up front? Kuyt alone?  N’Gog alone? Bring back Voronin? (Can you smell that? That’s a writer putting on the breaks. Sorry about that). Babel can do it if absolutely needed, but I am almost certain he’ll be sold before the transfer window ends.

Rafa should bring on a talented striker to cover for Torres. But who would come to play off the bench? If Rafa finds someone as good as he needs, that player is already too good to be a squad player. If N’Gog picked this season to really blossom into greatness, that’d be perfect. He’s young enough to be content come off the bench for a season. Willing to live in El Niño’s shadow for a while. Getting the job done as needed. That’s wishful thinking to the extreme. I know.

What Liverpool needs is one more attacking player with proven goalscoring ability. Rafa has always loved versatile attackers. Luis Garcia. Dirk Kuyt. Ryan Babel. Harry Kewell—whoa, hear me out…

A pre-injury-marathon Kewell would be perfect right now. Rafa inherited Kewell from Gerrard Houllier, but Kewell’s fitness and productivity were apparrently relegated along with Leeds United. Kewell stayed up in the Prem. His footballing went down to the Championship and later League One. It was stashed in a locker at Elland Road for years.

But the potential of Kewell was spectacular. If he’d played for Liverpool like he had at Leeds, he would have been devastating in two or three different positions. Liverpool need to find someone along those lines. Only fit. Ryan Babel came with that potential, but since Riera arrived, Babel just can’t get enough pitch time to flourish.

The ideal purchase would be a starting attacking mid (a Maxi Rodriguez, a David Silva) who can start wide right or wide left and make that spot their own. But they’ve got the finishing quality to move to the middle if Torres comes out. A striker-winger almost. But the dude isn’t competing for place because he’s already a starter. If Torres is out, Dirk Kuyt and Player X can work together in a 4411 or 442, depending on the new player’s specific abilities. Notice how vague I’m staying on Player X. Because who knows what Rafa is thinking right now as he scours the market behind closed doors! If Torres is in (hopefully always), Niño’s got Riera-Gerrard-Player X or Player X-Gerrard-Kuyt behind him. God, I miss Luis García.

The ruts Liverpool hit, as I’ve mentioned, were points dropped against the defense-minded sides. Breaking down the ten-men-behind-the-ball types has not been Liverpool’s forté in quite some time. But with Glen Johnson in and Albert Riera looking up for it, Liverpool can break out the True Width™. Against the sides that stay back, Johnson can get forward, shifting the side into more of a 353, with Kuyt (or Silva, or Rodriguez, or ?) cutting in toward the box to help Gerrard and Torres. The width coming from the back will allow the Reds to spread defenses thin while adding more playmaking in the danger area. They had this in mind last season, but Johnson will be far better at this than Arbeloa.

You could see the frame of this in the 3-2 win at Pompey in Feb. Five starting defenders but Arbeloa and Dossena charged down the wings with three defenders hanging back. Pompey took the lead twice, but didn’t really know how to handle the formation. This wouldn’t work all the time, but it has a lot of potential for breaking down the sides who stay back and play for a draw. And Johnson can always shift to a deeper spot when it isn’t working. Versatility, baby.

Last season was about the best season Liverpool have had in 18 years. If you had told me last August that’s how 08/09 was about go to, I might have asked what medications you were mixing and, more importantly, did you have extra. But the season was mostly fantastic and the title was in sight deeper into the campaign than it’s been in almost two decades. The Reds just need little adjustments. Glen Johnson was one adjustment (if we can call £17m little). I think Liverpool are one more from getting it right.

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14 Responses to Stay Fit, Keep Xabi, Masch: Liverpool Can Win… part 2

  1. liverpooltastebud says:

    interesting article but i was thinking that if we just put benayoun there in the hole behind torres and bring in 1 more crucial player it would be effextive and we can win since chelsea are pretty neutral and man u are betting on owen and arsenal…urr lets see if they make ot to the champions league spot then talk eh?

  2. paulie says:

    This was liverpools time to strenghten so i hope there are more players of better quality to arrive. We beat mu/chelsea home and away, chelsea/arsenal had stop start seasons, man city will be strong this season and mu probably dropped more points than previous seasons and still won the league.

    We will need to be a lot stronger – lets not get carried away with how we done last season that’s gone, also what’s the chances of the above happening this season

  3. Sam says:

    It’s Liverpool.

    It’s the Premier League.

    Stupid “articles” come out like this every year.

    When are people going to give up thinking something so lavish or unlikely could ever happen?

  4. Steve Perry says:

    Honestly, this has to be a comedy article, right? N’Gog “blossoming”!? Singing the praises of Gerrard whilst criticizing diving? $tevie Me is like Greg Louganis (in more ways than one) compared to Drogba. Christ, scousers need to stick to petty thievery and bindipping, because writing football articles is not their strong point.

    • CA_backpacker says:

      While I hear what you are saying about N’Gog, are you seriously comparing Gerrard and Drogba in terms of their diving? Get real. Drogba is the worst in the EPL and I wish he went to Inter as the rumours kept implying, he would fit in perfectly in Italy with all the simulation that goes on there.

  5. CA_backpacker says:

    Don’t even get me started on Babel. A season ago we saw some flashes of talent, but this last season when he got time on the pitch I saw NO passion, NO desire to go in for 50-50 balls. A player fighting for playing time has to earn it and show he has the class. I am not sure if we could get much for him, but I’d send him packing immediately.

    And if we needed a striker with proven scoring ability, why did we get rid of Keane? He had the usual tough stretch for a new player fitting in with Rafa’s scheme, but just when he started to come into form in December (1 goal vs Arsenal and 2 vs Bolton), he was then benched for the next 2 EPL games (barcodes, stoke), say limited time in the next couple games, then sent back to the ‘Spurs. And what about Owen? If MU got him for a free transfer and a low salary based on incentives, why couldn’t Liverpool make such a low-risk offer? Maybe he’d get hurt in the first couple weeks, but maybe not…

    But simply put, there aren’t many players out there that can shine in a 4-2-3-1 in my opinion, especially if Masch and Alonso aren’t part of the mix. If Torres gets hurt, I don’t think we should pound square pegs into round holes…switch to a traditional 4-4-2 with the strikers we have now and we should be fine. It usually seems to me that our trouble comes more from Rafa fiddling with the line-up unnecessarily and often sitting players just when they start to really fit in and contribute.

  6. Seb Robert says:

    Really well thought out. I think that’s why Van Der Vaart seems like such a good fit. Until you mentioned that whole Player X thing my thinking was that we should buy him but not that you’ve written it down in black and white that’s why it makes so much sense to me. For 8m he could fit right in to that winger/midfield/attacking striker position you’re on about. He’s played in all of those during his career. He’s like a less mercurial, more explosive Luis Garcia

  7. Spenser says:

    good thinking, we really need some more versatile players! babel and riera are all over the place, and babel doesnt really seem to have the drive to play off the bench…his head is too big for a sketchy dutchman

    i dont get what one comment above said about how this was a “lavish” article! the writer is suggesting little tweaks, thats all we need.

    honestly, i’m going back to what i always have said since the season ended. silva and/or ezequiel lavezzi would be perfect in our attacking formation. silva is losing interest elsewhere and i dont see anyeon going after lavezzi. so let’s get them! maybe trade off crap like voronin and dossena plus cash.

    done and done. good article.

  8. PierLfc says:

    Interesting Article .. But I think Babel should be given a chance at least till next January to maybe mature and start playing as he done in his first season .. Every player has a bad period of games ( Although Ryan’s was long..)But personally I think that we need 2 fit players .. One who can play at both right and left wing and another striker just in case. But in the 08/09 season .. In every match I’ve seen I thought .. What would happen if Kuyt was up ther helping Torres instead of a rather uncomfortable right wing position (In which he still shows his class and scores goals) .. Thats why I think the likes of a player like Forlan (Atletico Madrid) or Lavezzi (Napoli) would suit Liverpool .. Just in case anything happens to Torres or Kuyt .. And the likes of David Silva ( Valencia ) or Arjen Robben ( Real Madrid ) would certainly provide their team-mates with incredible crosses .. And I see no reason why we should sell Voronin .. I mean he played just one season .. And he didn’t do so bad .. So give him another try, again at least till the next transfer season .. And with Real Madrid almost out of the race for Alonso .. I still think we need at least one player in centre midfield just in case anything happens to Alonso; Masch ; or Stevie ..

  9. BC says:

    Great article, but when you think about it, Liverpool have plenty of versatile players that are better out wide than up front. Instead of bringing in another winger to battle with Babel, Riera, Benayoun, and Kuyt, they need to add another quality striker willing to play 15-20 games off the bench and spot start for a championship contender.

    Instead of trying to sign Silva or Maxi why not go after a pure striker with Prem League experience and credibility like Tuncay? Maybe Voronin could even step into that role after regaining some form at Hertha. Yossi is incredibly underrated and was at times Liverpool’s best player so why take minutes away from him by bringing in Silva? I’d be more worried about holiding onto Masch and Alonso while finding a 3rd central midfielder so we don’t have to see Lucas again.

    LFC don’t need another high-priced failure like Robbie Keane to shoehorn into the starting XI and miss sitters from 3 feet in front of the net all season. The missing piece is some quality depth that will help throughout the long season and maybe scrape a couple more wins against the Stoke Citys of the league.

    • CA_backpacker says:

      Totally agree BC on your comment about Benayoun. I think he showed he deserves more pitch time this upcoming season.

      I do think though that Keane could have really helped. Yes, he had problems early on…but by mid-December he really started turning it on, both in terms of finally scoring goals and also setting up his teammates. But right when he started contributing, Rafa sat him and sent him away. I really don’t think he got a fair shake and chance to fit in. And if we stuck with him and he continued his December form through the rest of the season, we’d HAVE that other proven striker in our stable now…

      But then again, maybe I am biased for the Irish lad, lol…

  10. Mark says:

    Agree that Tuncay would be an excellent signing. He’s professional, a tireless worker, and I’ve seen him score some spectacular goals. Also I don’t think ego would be a problem based on what I’ve seen. I also agree that it is essential to hold on to Alonso and Mascherano, BUT only if they want to be there. Xabi I dont think would be that much of a concern. On the other hand, as great as he is, would Mascherano have the maturity and professionalism to perform at a high standard if he is as unhappy as we are being led to believe he is.

  11. Tyson says:

    I find it funny people look at last year as a benchmark for this year.

    We all know how well United started off and how well Chelsea ended up playing.

    If either of those teams had played like the previous few years Liverpool wouldn’t have had much of a chance.

    If Manchester United have a woeful start again or Chelsea end up experiencing a disaster mid season then there is a possibility Liverpool will win but thats a lot to hope for.

    If United and Chelsea show up playing as well as they did the last few years(not including last year) I doubt Liverpool will ever be in the running.

    And thats assuming Xabi and Mascherano do stay and thats extremely unlikely considering their moves are all but certain.

    Mascheranos agent has already said he wants to play for Barcelona and Xabi didn’t even need his manager to relay the decision about where he wants to go.

    Mascherano is almost certainly going to Spain as his wife wants to move there and giving that Xabi is spanish and Real Madrid are building an incredible Spanish side if Rafa gave either one of them permission to leave for even a second both of them wouldn’t think twice.

  12. Napolean says:

    Keep dreaming.. and suddently Glen Johnson becomes one of the best sideback inthe world after signing for Liverpool!! Come on, let’s be realistic, until Liverpool can maintain the top spot challenge to MU, Chelsea or Arsenal in the next few season, they will always be considered the last in the top 4 pack. Just look at Arsenal, they almost win the league last season and now they are the 4th. Liverpool and Arsenal lack the consistency to challenge for the title. Next season, Liverpool will be struggling for the 4th spot next season, while MU, Chelsea and Arsenal will be fighting for the top spot. Arsenal has 2 match winning players returning from injury, i.e. Eduardo & Rosicky, and their backline has been strengthen, and there is no major departure (yet!), if they can keep the current team together, with the return of Edu and Rosicky, plus 1 or 2 defenders, they are up for the top spot!!

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