This season has done my head in.
The lack of European football combined with the aching gaps for internationals has left me feeling like things have never really got going. Liverpool are next playing in a beard, in a yonk, some time after the next ice age we’ll kick off next. “Bri, you going the next home game? I don’t know. My diary doesn’t go that far ahead.” There were 28 days between Bolton and Wolves at home. That’s four weeks. Four weeks! As a man unable to commit firmly to what he’s doing for his dinner (“Situation’s fluid.” “Koff, you bad liquid blert.”), four weeks between home games is practically an eon. There was then 21 days to United at home. Three home games in seven weeks. Christ alive.
So I’m excited by Chelsea. By City. By Chelsea. By Fulham, QPR, Villa. Games coming relatively thick and fast now. Kenny’s got a side to speak up for and I understand his perspective on Chelsea away after City at home but I’m just made up we’re playing. Plus it’s always nice to see Spearing and Maxi. Make sure they are alright. Means you don’t have to send Social Services round.
What this does mean though is that the season in earnest starts here. Everything up to now has been sparring. We’re three off fourth with Arsenal, Stoke, Spurs and The Ev away done. We’re challenging for Carling Cup honours. Chelsea and Man City are big games, but it isn’t overegging the pudding to argue that the seven games between City away 27th November and City home 2nd January could well define this season. Once City and Chelsea are in the bag we’ve played everyone with a genuine interest in fourth and upwards, we’ve played our local rivals in our ground. Once they are out the way we need to be looking at really increasing the points on the board and cup progression.
It starts with that Carling Cup quarter final at Stamford Bridge, a tough game no doubt but one with significant rewards. Then six games which should all be Liverpool wins on paper. Yes, Fulham and Villa can be tough in their own grounds and our record at Wigan is poor, but we’ve got the squad to get through these games – the faster they come the better it should be for us against the mid table sides. Suspensions and injuries increase around now. Good. Good for us. We’ve got the squad and we can take what’s thrown at us better than most.
This is where the good work done in the summer market should come to fruition. There’s not a man in Kenny’s outfield squad as discussed here that I have any issue with seeing in a red shirt starting any of those December league games. Contrast that with the Poulsen/N’Gog/Riise days gone by. But there is a question as to how they are deployed. In what combinations and in what shape? These are all good players. Kenny has good, good players to work with. We’ve now got to get the best out of that collective and we’ve got to do it across a series of games. The side picked at Aston Villa should inform the side picked at Wigan. City, Chelsea and Fulham have to be inter-related selections and have to be intelligent in planning and execution. There’s an argument that we’ve been a little tactically blunt to date this season anyway, certainly in comparison to the rapier intelligence displayed in the second half of last season with fewer good options. We’ve seemed short of ideas if goals don’t come and stuck watching a game go past us too often second half. That has to stop now. Chelsea, City and Chelsea again will demand that we’re better mentally prepared as well as physically, but Swansea showed that we need to be far sharper week in, week out, both on and off the pitch.
In short, it’s time for this to look like a proper football team, to move away from being harum-scarum one minute and lacklustre the next, to have a plan that gets us 16 points plus out of December and a semi-final of a league cup to look forward to. It seems odd to say it on November 18th, but this is the time Liverpool need to really start doing their business. Imagine waking up on New Years Day having won all six league games in December. Those eighteen points would look massive in terms of top four and I really can’t take another season out of the Champions League. Seven weeks between home games? We don’t want that again.
The season starts on Sunday. It’s brilliant news. It’s great that we’re going to be in one. Now let’s conquer it.