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No, We Don’t Think Liverpool Are Weak

TorresIt was a statement game.

The Premier League has long been a test of consistency more than quality.  A feature of the last season-plus has been Liverpool’s success against Manchester United, Chelsea, and, to a lesser extent, Arsenal.  Sunday’s 2-0 Anfield win was the third consecutive against the champions in the league.

It was a game with admittedly favorable officiating for the Merseysiders, and yet a game in which they had to make do without their captain, Steven Gerrard.  The availability of Fernando Torres, however, was a bonus over last year’s corresponding fixture.  And in a week where Rafa Benitez’s job was anything but secure, he sounded a challenge to both his detractors and his team.

Fitting, then, that it would be Rafa’s compatriot that would strike brilliantly to reopen Liverpool’s title race, if only for now.  Reminiscent of Thierry Henry in his prime, El Niño received an inch-perfect pass from Yossi Benayoun and controlled while fending off England’s first-choice center-half.  With strength and balance only surpassed by his clinical finishing, he slammed the ball into the roof of the net to send the Kop into ecstasy.

In the end, both Nemanja Vidic (for the third consecutive time against ‘Pool in the league) and Javier Mascherano (the Argentine Robbie Savage) were sent off for two bookable offenses, and David N’Gog had scored in injury time to seal a deserved victory.  But surely those devout fans who have been waiting for a league title for 19 years now would prefer to drop points against United and carry the trophy, rather than last season’s double which accompanied an empty trophy case.  So again, it bears mentioning that Liverpool have consistently shown up for the marquee games, but have disappointed all too frequently against lesser competition.

Liverpool’s title challenge wasn’t ended by their fourth loss of the season.  It was ended in the summer transfer window when fan favorite Xabi Alonso was sold to Madrid.  Perhaps Alberto Aquilani will be the answer, ultimately, but for now, solid performances by Lucas are too hard to come by.  And in a league where the big four looks more like a big eight, every dropped point is crucial.

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  1. Gaz

    October 28, 2009 at 11:31 am

    Yup – and there lies the problem. You can criticize Liverpool for a number of things (depth, two star team, questionable tactics and purchases, etc) but that is what makes Liverpool… well… Liverpool.

    We play up for some teams (see: the top four) and then try to just cruise by the likes of Fulham, Hull, Stoke, etc and end up getting a point or worse.

  2. Richard Zervakos

    October 26, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    @Lyle–it certainly looks like it. And Craven Cottage is quite a challenging place to play. It all depends on if they can approach each game like they approach the United games. If they could do that, then maybe they’ll break that Premiership duck next May.

  3. Lyle

    October 26, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    All I know is Liverpool won’t be beating Fulham this weekend. At best the Pool will get an away draw.

    Thank god the Reds defeated Man Utd to keep the league interesting, but Liverpool is probably the Big Four team most likely to get relegated out of the Big Four.

  4. Eric

    October 26, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    ” …but I’m an Arsenal fan. ”

    Says it all for me. The only good point you’ve made is mentioning our lack of depth compared to the others – you’ve could’ve refrained from the other nonsense.

    • Richard Zervakos

      October 26, 2009 at 10:54 pm

      I say I’m an Arsenal fan to let the Liverpool fans know that I’m an expert on teams that play well in many big games but end up trophyless. And to let everyone know that I would love to see Liverpool win if it meant that United won’t win. You can use my honesty to dismiss everything else I say if you want. But if you’re a ‘Pool fan and you think what I’m saying is totally off the mark, I think you’re deluding yourself.

  5. Richard Zervakos

    October 26, 2009 at 11:25 am

    You all crack me up, you ‘Pool apologists. I didn’t write them off as a bottom of the table club. I said they won’t win the title, which–isn’t that what you want? You aren’t happy with just CL football as United piles up Premiership crowns, are you? Yes, the better team won for sure. The “we’re a better team because we won head-to-head” argument is great. I’ve been making it for years, but I’m an Arsenal fan. And in Manchester, Arsenal “deserved” to win, too. You get my drift? The United fans know that at the end of the day, where you get your points doesn’t matter. It’s how many you have at the end of the year. Come back in May and we’ll see if Liverpool have the most. Of course, I will be thrilled if they do… but I don’t see it happening. And this is not to be a doomsayer–rather, I think their weaknesses, namely lack of strength in depth–will absolutely crucify them in December.

    • Gaz

      October 26, 2009 at 3:02 pm

      I wasn’t actually referring to you when I said “…people that were writing Liverpool off as a bottom of the table club…”. You didn’t say that – that was for some of the readers that commented on other posts. 🙂

      Believe me – I know that Liverpool have weaknesses. Many, many weaknesses. I’m fairly critical of the team on this site – and while you don’t bring up anything I haven’t heard before, it still rings true. Depth is an issue. Without Gerrard and Torres we struggle. Benitez makes questionable substitutions and purchases. The team doesn’t fight against lower teams (say a Bolton) like they do in a top four game.

      My point is that even when we do have a good win against a big team, there’s always those that fight to dismiss it or come up with reasons why it doesn’t matter. Plus, making predictions about the end of the season always seemed silly before January to me. Despite all the issues listed above, we still had a good run of it last season. Manchester United lost 4 before January and won it last season, etc, etc.

      • Richard Zervakos

        October 26, 2009 at 10:52 pm

        Just making sure! People have a tendency to respond to things they think are being implied, rather than what’s being said…

        I would love to bring up things that haven’t been said but in a game like Liverpool-United that’s pretty hard to do. If I could end the season now and have Liverpool be champions, I would, but I feel it’s only fair to highlight the good and bad, especially when Scousers are acting like the season is completely resurrected. It isn’t, but it is certainly reassuring to see them play well, no matter who the opposition.

  6. Gaz

    October 26, 2009 at 10:57 am

    This is strangely similar to a Ferguson tactic.

    You are avoiding the actual talking point here:
    Liverpool beat Manchester United for the third time in a row. And we did it without Gerrard. Our defense even looked semi-decent.

    THAT is the real story. Unlike speculation about title chances (that at this point in the season are just that, speculation), the real story here is that Liverpool have been the better side for over a year now (on two occasions without their best player).

    Those people that were writing Liverpool off as a bottom of the table club (in October for God’s sake) – I hope you were watching.

    • Tyson

      October 26, 2009 at 8:59 pm

      So winning a match for you is more important than winning the Premier League or any other cup?

      Football isn’t a playground battle in the real world football is all about winning trophies.

      When you win trophies you get large sums of money which you invest back into the club to buy better players and further your squad. Also when you are a successful club or can pay players better wages more people want to sign to that club.

      If all Liverpool fans want to accomplish during the season is “We beat Manchester United” I’ll be the first to sign a deal with you stipulating we will lose every single match we ever play against Liverpool as long as we win trophies.

      What youre saying is grasping at straws. Who do you think is happier with the results during their last 5 games? Manchester United who barely have a spec on their record or Liverpool who failed everywhere and then grasped 3 points in a decent performance?

      Big games are hyped up by the media to try and get you to buy newspapers but in the real world it’s not about the big game there is no big game. Each game gives you three points and whether you beat a team composed of Pele, Maradona, Ronaldo and all time greats or whether you beat a team composed of schoolgirls you get the same amount of points.

      Ferguson wants to build a team that is flexible and dynamic enough to handle all comers. He doesn’t want to build a team that can win once a month with a triumphant performance and then not win several games in a row. He wants to build a team that loses here and there but in general wins enough games to accumualte the most points.

      There is nothing more important than intelligence in football and having a squad that can meet the challenges of 17 or 18 different teams is a greater feat than having a team that can beat 1 or 2 teams but can’t produce results against 16 other teams.

      As long as Liverpool are dropping points against other teams and Manchester Untied are only losing to the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea United fans will be happy.

      After this chances are United will go back to winning against practically everybody while Liverpool will be happy they won against United because thats all they did do last season.

      Don’t be so petty minded next time Liverpool fans like seeing Manchester United lose more than they like seeing Liverpool win. At this rate all you’ll have is a team tailor made to beat United and get their ass handed to them by everybody else.

      If we tailor made a team to beat Liverpool and were getting beaten by everybody else I’ll tell you right now we’d take losing to Liverpool and coming out on top.

      • Richard Zervakos

        October 26, 2009 at 10:48 pm

        This is exactly my point. Well stated!

  7. ChelsBlue

    October 26, 2009 at 12:21 am

    i’d just like to add my two bobs… I reckon Richard is the only guy talking sense here. Top article I happen to completely agree with. Also – its his blog. end of story. If you dont like it, b*gger off.

  8. Munish

    October 25, 2009 at 11:46 pm

    Liverpool were better in the game and rightfully won. Bringing on Nani to try and change the games shows how poor United were. But an excellent point made that ‘It was a game with admittedly favorable officiating for the Merseysiders’

  9. Tyson

    October 25, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    It’s stunning how people are attacking you for saying something so obvious.

    Last year Liverpool did the double over United and won nothing. Liverpool fans are now beginning to think they are Premier League winners already.

    Chances are Liverpool won’t win anything this year considering last year they had a similar result and came away with nothing.

    It’s not about showing up at one or two games every now and then its a marathon not a sprint. Liverpool played this one good game while they played a bunch of dreadful ones.

    Does anybody here believe the next 5 or 10 games will be like this for Liverpool?

    It’s all about consistency and that was the undoing of Liverpool last year. It is completely rational to suggest that is a problem that has plagued them this year as well where they have produced good football sometimes and bad football at other times.

  10. ish

    October 25, 2009 at 8:48 pm

    maschareno is probably the best ball winning DM in the world currently. Everytime he plays against chelsea he is always the guy that lets liverpool have a semblence of control.

    that said rio is not the same player he was, i think he isnt fully fit yet and seems to be weaker. torress bossed him around while against chelsea torres was a shadow.

  11. Richard Zervakos

    October 25, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    This is a blog, so this article is *about* my opinion. And my opinion is that Liverpool got worse, not better this summer. They were very close last year and did little to improve their weak spots, in my opinion. I don’t feel like I ranted on them. Yes, they are playing below their potential–but whose fault is that? The manager’s. Whatever it is they had today, and they played well, and they deserved to win–it was lacking in their last four losses. It is not my contention that Xabi Alonso is a cure-all, nor do I think he would have had them win 99-0 in every game. I just think they’re worse without him, and it’s not like they won any trophies last year, now is it?

  12. Matthew N

    October 25, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    This article is good until the author rants about how much Liverpool sucks and injects his own opinion into it. I don’t need some guy I never heard of speculating why my team sucks so much and how if we would have kept Xabi we would have beat every team 99-0. Come on, man… Liverpool is a fine squad who just aren’t playing up to their potential. Lucas gets way too much of the blame. I’m sure Lucas did not ask Rafa to sell Alonso and make him the target off all the pundits’ ire…

  13. Richard Zervakos

    October 25, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    Overall I thought the calls were marginally in Liverpool’s favor–that’s not to say that there weren’t missed calls on both sides. For sure, the call you reference on Kuyt was missed. No argument.

    Rafa’s stubbornness in the transfer market comes from his insistence to get Gareth Barry (sorry, can’t leave out last summer) and that cost him Xabi Alonso’s commitment (at least, admittedly, from an outsider’s perspective).

    And what you say is true about Mascherano–he’s *obviously* an exceptional talent. As an Arsenal fan, I find Eboue to be the same way–constantly trying to cheat the ref. I hate that. Except Eboue is half the player Mascherano is. So if I could swap them, I certainly would. And imagine Arsenal with Mascherano shielding the defense, instead of Alex Song? But even if he were a Gunner, his antics would still infuriate me because I find that manner of play absolutely abhorrent. Note: he’s far from the only one in football, needless to say.

    • thoseredlights

      October 25, 2009 at 9:55 pm

      I guess it was kind of a double-edged blade situation with Alonso: he tried to sell him because he wasn’t producing, with the idea that Barry would add some needed width to Liverpool (again, he was unable to keep Alonso and get Barry, he had to choose one over the other because of lack of funds).

      The failed attempt to sell him revived Alonso, and he put in a fantastic season for Liverpool (good). Unfortunately he was never going to stay for another after his moment with Rafa – and desire to raise his family in Spain (bad). But it did turn him into a 30-35 million player for Liverpool (good). Though I’m not sure how much of that Rafa actually got (bad) =P

  14. thoseredlights

    October 25, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    1. Kuyt and his torn kit would like to have a little word with those that thought the calls were in Liverpool’s favour. As would Reina who must’ve lost his voice organizing all those walls around the box.

    2. Explain to me how Rafa was stubborn in the transfer market please. Alonso wanted to leave, he made that clear. Do you honestly believe that if Alonso didn’t want to leave Rafa would have sold him? (Please stick to this Summer, not the previous one in which Alonso wasn’t on form and no one seemed to mind Rafa trying to sell him) Rafa doesn’t have access to boundless funds (or any funds really), he has to sell to buy. What would you have done?

    3. I don’t really mind what you said about Mascherano, as that’s personal opinion on his character and you aren’t bashing his talent. I myself get a bit frustrated with him at times when he’s arguing or flopping, but he did do a monster of job today tackling and breaking up United’s attack.

  15. Richard Zervakos

    October 25, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    Pretty much any manager would love to have Mascherano in his team. And yes, Roy Keane was a cheat:

    John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, and most notably Wayne Rooney chase the refs around the pitch and I think they should get booked every time they do it. They are far from the only offenders, but they are the most egregious.

  16. corballyred

    October 25, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    In what way is he a cheat because he competes for everything, that is what you need in the team, I remember Roy Keane being exactly the same chasing refs around the pitch. It is called being a top competitor which Mascherano is and Ferguson would give his left testicle to have him in his team.

    • Cam

      October 25, 2009 at 11:43 pm

      I wouldn’t even give half a testicle for Mascherano…he is waaaay overrated!!! Sir Alex would never have this whinging, cheating piece of rubbish…Every big game he plays you can generally find him lying on the ground holding his shin for no reason or chirping in the refs ear!! He’s worse than Roy Keane and Christiano Ronaldo put together…

      • Laurence

        October 26, 2009 at 11:00 am

        A little hysterical at this point…

    • JLay

      October 26, 2009 at 5:23 pm

      Ahhh… so he’s a whiner and a cheat, but he only does it because he really wants to win. OK.

      And no, Fergie would not give his left testicle for Mascherano. Maybe a bag of old toenail clippings…

  17. Bishopville Red

    October 25, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    Richard, they don’t want to read, they just want to slurp Maschearano.

    The ref was scared of the occasion. Last year at Old Trafford (where United never suffer a bad call >wink wink< )Vidic was sent off for exactly the same thing Carragher did to Owen, but somehow tackling a forward through on goal doesn't matter at Anfield. Gerrard steps near a French defender and flops like a fish, gets a peno. Somehow barging through Giggs when it wasn't necessary (but definitely in the box) doesn't even merit a whistle. That's saved for carding Berbatov for weaving his way through a cluster of obstructing and grabbing Liverpool defenders. And how Lucas didn't see a card (let alone 2) is nothing short of shocking.


    • Cam

      October 25, 2009 at 11:33 pm

      I agree!!! I was absolutely livid when the ref showed Vidic his second yellow considering only seconds before had Carragher done EXACTLY the same thing closer to goal…this is going to get slammed but if we want to see “fair” games, we need either more refs or video replays!!

      • Laurence

        October 26, 2009 at 10:59 am

        I’m all for video replays. Would that have changed the card given though? It still meant the same situation.

        Carragher had no yellow card.

        Vidic already had a yellow card.

        B Red – Gerrard didn’t even play.

        Vidic gave the ref no choice but to send him off.

        Lucas deserved a yellow for his persistent fouling.

        Giggs was barged but it was not enough for a penalty because of the situation it happened in. Give penalties like that and you have ridiculous scorelines.

        Man U just didn’t make their quality count yesterday and that is part of being a quality team.

        United have had ‘home advantage’ taken into account many times before, when Vidic was sent off at OT he gave the ref no choice.

  18. Richard Zervakos

    October 25, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Are you Javier Mascherano? In that case, no offense. If not, let me reiterate: for what he does, he’s exceptional. One of the best in the world. But I hate watching players, and I have no respect for players, who are wholly intent on cheating the referee at every opportunity and complain about every call that is made. I find it to be wholly unsportsmanlike, and I don’t believe that’s the way Makelele played.

    In case you haven’t gathered yet, the comparison to Robbie Savage is for his demeanor and not his talent level. Finally, if you concede that he is a defensive player only and his offensive skills aren’t what he should be judged on, then at least you will admit that he should be passing to Torres rather than taking 35 yard shots on his own.

  19. corballyred

    October 25, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    It’s crap what you wrote about Mascherano. He is a sensational player his game is not creating chances but breaking up play and keeping it simple. Defensive midfielder are vital for teams Makele never made defence splitting passes or scored goals I suppose he was the french Robbie Savage. Mascherano is 25 years old he is captain of Argentina and has 50 plus caps that is fairly impressive from a lad you said is the Argentina equvilant of Robbie Savage. Barc seem willing to pay massive money for him which is funny considering I never saw them trying to buy Robbie Savage. Complete rubbish.

  20. Bouncer

    October 25, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    What a pile of cack … crawl back uder ure rock …

  21. Richard Zervakos

    October 25, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    Here’s what I wrote:
    “zero talent with a final ball”
    “He is an exceptional shield of the defenders–a fact which is inarguable”
    It looks to me like you aren’t reading carefully enough. If you’re a Reds fan, or an Argentine, or just like Mascherano, that’s all fine and good. But criticize what I did write, and not what I didn’t write.

  22. corballyred

    October 25, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    If you think Mascherano has zero football talent it says it all to be honest, he was described a couple of months ago as the best defensive midfielder Argentina have had in 40 years by there press. To me he is the best holding midfielder on the planet and why Barc were willing to pay massive money to secure his services. You obviously don’t see the importance of defensive midfielders, go back to playing Football manager.

  23. Richard Zervakos

    October 25, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    I haven’t watched Sky for a minute this season, and I don’t tend to watch or take information from any football pundits since I find the American ones to be lousy and have little access to the European ones. I could, of course, end up being wrong but I do believe that they weakened their side over the summer and didn’t strengthen it. The fans and the team loved Xabi Alonso and no one has any confidence in Lucas–deservedly so. Benitez is at times a brilliant tactician but his stubbornness hurt him in the transfer window. So if you aren’t good enough to be champions, and you weaken your side, I think you lessen your already fleeting chances at the title.

    As for Mascherano, I find him to be a cheat on the field, and I find him to possess zero talent with a final ball. When Fernando Torres is running ahead of you pointing to where he wants the ball, you should place it there, rather than sending speculative shots careening into the Kop. He is an exceptional shield of the defenders–a fact which is inarguable. But he plays up every time anyone is near him, diving and rolling around on the pitch. He is frequently a dirty tackler, and if you see how he slid at van der Sar at the end of the match and you don’t think he’s dirty, well, then, I don’t think you’re very qualified to comment, either.

  24. Mikey

    October 25, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    The ref gave dodgy calls all game for both sides. For heavens sake, how many free kicks outside the 18 yard box did Utd want?? Without Ronaldo they are a shadow of last seasons side.

    The best team won. Simple as that. Utd were awful.

  25. corballyred

    October 25, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    Are you f’cking serious Mascherano is the Argentinan Robbie Savage, you obviously haven’t a clue about football stop reading after that

  26. ST. Chris

    October 25, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    You’re seriously saying Liverpool blew the title in the summer? What a ridiculous thing to say. How long have you been watching football? I think you’ve spent too much time observing idiots on Sky.

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