by Karl Coppack
If you look hard enough there’s a positive in everything. I left the Arsenal game angered, disappointed, frustrated and sickened but as the vinegar of the sheer injustice washed over me I realised that I wouldn’t have to hear Clive Tyldesley commentating on our games next season. Sometimes the only option is to cling to the thinnest of reeds.
Twelve games left, Europe assured and still in the FA Cup. Seven penalties missed, constant re-painting the posts and a whole host of conundrums over the pitch BUT with a trophy in the bag and that’s the main thing. We do, of course, exist purely to win trophies.
If we’d won sod all and took a lap of honour to celebrate being the fourth best team in the land I would have left the ground before the end of the first verse of YNWA. In any other sport fourth pace doesn’t even put you on the podium.
Ah, the naysayers might say, but it’s only the League Cup – The Worthless Cup – won against a lower league side on penalties. Bollocks to that. Waving a trophy about is one of the reasons we’re involved in the club in the first place and you don’t just win one match to win a cup.
For all the sniffy ‘it was only Cardiff’ comments there were practically no references to Chelsea away, a tricky Stoke tie or the City semi. Plus there’s a precedent here.
Mourinho made damned sure he won it in 2005 just so his team could get used to the idea of winning silverware. The 2012 Carling Cup Winners sounds a hell of a lot better than ‘Northampton win 3-2 on penalties’. It’s a trophy in a season where we’re not expected to win anything. As progress goes, that’s a pretty start.
Alas, we won’t be progressing in the Champions League thanks to Saturday’s daylight robbery (of which we were accessories to the crime). Arsenal seem favourites now that Chelsea have imploded (1.6 goals per manager for Torres) which will please Stan Kroenke as those six games in Europe will provide the much needed revenue not to spend on players.
You have to feel a bit sorry for them. Lots of flair, lots of youth, lots of potential, lots of money, lots of thermal gloves and sulky faces when things go wrong. In other words – Liverpool FC 1997. Fourth in a two horse race. That would be something to celebrate these days.
We’re back in Europe so, again, that’s progress. We missed out last year after losing our last two games (although we were suspiciously lethargic during that Spurs game) so it’s nice to have qualification wrapped up before March.
As the League is also over I’d like to see Kenny experiment in the remaining fixtures and address certain questions such as ‘What is Jordan Henderson’s best position?’ ‘Is it actually on the pitch?’ ‘If Charlie Adam were to model for an Action Man figure would it be in a supine position with an armed raised looking expectantly at a ref?’ and ‘If Spearing and Lucas worked so well towards the end of 2010-11, why did we stop playing them?’
There’s also the Maxi question but that would take more than twelve games to answer. Why is arguably the best finisher at the club not playing when we can’t finish?
If this is a transitional season we need to know what progress looks like for next season. Fourth place would be a start even though there’s something humiliating about it but could we try a little higher? Arsenal could be without Van Persie, Chelsea could be with Dennis Wise and Tottenham could be without Redknapp once England or Chelsea come calling.
Those teams are in transition too and there’s the prospect of dark times ahead for all of them but while they’re looking over their shoulders and panicking over contracts we’re slowly gaining momentum. Snail pace but we are gaining.
Somebody on the podcast made an excellent point when they suggested that Kenny must decide what type of side he wants. For me it’s 4-2-3-1 although I’m not sure the ‘1’ would be Andy Carroll.
Does he want wingers? Full backs pushing on? What will he do once the inevitable occurs and Gerrard becomes a bit part player a la Carragher? How do you replace him? That’s probably the biggest question of Kenny’s tenure.
You don’t get much time to experiment in domestic football so this is a rare opportunity for the club. Let’s start now.
“I realised that I wouldn’t have to hear Clive Tyldesley commentating on our games next season.”
I hate to break the news to you, but ITV bought the rights for the Europa League next season.
1,000s of mute buttons will be being replaced during the closed season.
‘If Spearing and Lucas worked so well towards the end of 2010-11, why did we stop playing them?’
that worked so well because in (city excluded) it had meireles, maxi and kuyt who could plays in all positions around them and in front of them and often interchanged throughout a game.
unfortunately Kenny for whatever reason decided in the summer that meireles wasn’t for him, his seemingly unconditional admiration of Charlie Adam and the problem of Andy Carroll meant that it had to be changed.
The Tyldesley factor could well be offset by the fact that the 2013 final is in Amsterdam.
Too early to balls-out experiment IMO. Arsenal have two ‘trickyish’ fixtures next – home to Newcastle, away to Everton, so you never know – their stupid CL exit could affect them mentally as well.
We’ve already qualified for Europe, so I’d expect similar attacking intent as against Arsenal in all our remaining games now.
For me the biggest question of Kenny’s tenure is not about Gerrard, but rather about whether he is willing to go down with the British players he bought in 2011 or win without them.
The limit is 6th place with CHAD players — no speed, no skill, no technique, no goals, no movement, no intelligence. Not enough to claim the ‘fourth prize’, anyway.
Swopping Torres for Carroll has messed things up in so many ways IMO. If Torres had stayed or we had found a replacement that was similar, we could have played 4 2 3 1 with Gerrard behind and Suarez on one side and Dirk or Maxi the other, then in the summer, we would have not had to buy Downing and if Adam played it would be in a three as a direct replacement for Gerrard.
Henderson, Lucas and Spearing would hold down midfield, which would suit Henderson more and you would have an attacking quartet of Torres (or another) Gerrard, Suarez, Bellamy, Dirk or Maxi and with these front players their is loads of intelligence and you would expect bucket loads of goals.
Instead we have spent 20 Mil on Downing to play 4 4 2 with Carroll and not only has this not worked in crosses and goals but it throws the midfield out because Gerrard and Adam are not good in a two and there is no space for Henderson. Our wide players are not wingers but that is irrelavant because there is no fucker in the box to head it anyway. This then leaves Suarez to try and create a goal for himself because Downing and Carroll are too thick to understand what he is going to do, Adam and Gerrard are too far away which leaves Dirk or Bellamy to help him.
In the summer I would like to see a new forward in the mould of Torres (actually if Torres came and brought his form of no goals from Chelsea it would be an improvement on Carroll and Downing because they have no goals either and there are two of them and they get in the way of everyone else) I digress,
A forward in the mould of Torres and a replacement for Maxi (because i think he will be let go) and we could go back to 4 2 3 1 which provides the best position from all our players including Downing and Carroll (the bench). Then if things are going tits up with 5 mins to go you could bring them on as impact subs. There is no disgrace being an impact sub ask David Fairclough but if we have learned anything from this season its that 4 4 2 with Carroll and Downing gets you into the top 7 not top 4
I watched ten minutes of Barca Beyer with sound, the rest mute. Tyldesley and Townsend utterly ruined the game with their drooling inanities.
I agree about 4th – it’s so not LFC. I’ll take the CCup and the FACup and wait with a smile for the CL winnets to join us in the Europa.
Great article. I love the optimism as I myself often try and focus on any positive, no matter how small. The words you used to describe how you felt after the Arsenal game just about summed it up for all the fans I would imagine. I couldn’t bear the thought of not winning, but it never occurred to me that we could actually draw, let alone lose. Not a great afternoon.
But as I’ve said elsewhere, I think one of the reasons the team played so well the second half of last season was that they had nothing to lose. When Kenny came in they were so far down the table, and out of the FA and Carling Cup, that there was nothing really to play for. The team was relaxed, allowed to express themselves, and he gave them a platform to do it. While I don’t like the way we’ve stuttered so terribly in the league this season, I’m hoping we can take the rest of the 12 games as we did this time last season. Playing without pressure might just take the shackles off of players like Downing and Carroll, and perhaps set the team up for next season. Confidence is high on the priority list and hopefully it comes with these last few games.
Adam in the middle, Henderson on the right. Result – bloody awful.
Jesus, that was bad today.
Very good article.I think we’re all looking for answers reasons for our woes.
My take on it is that there are a number reasons for our dis jointed displays.
First of all is Kenny is not a coach and never was.When he took the reins after Joe Fagan he inherited the best team in the country if not Europe.
His backroom staff were all in place so he didn’t have to change much if anything.By the time he left the teams performances had started to slide.
At Blackburn it is acknowledged that the late Ray Harford did most of the coaching and they spent a lot of Jack Walkers money to build a largely British type team.Of course this was at a time when we were starting to see the arrival of Continental players. I think Kenny is still stuck in this mindset because it worked then.
Another factor is his stubborness.I think he knows he has made some mistakes in the transfer market but persists in playing these players when
clearly they’re not worth their place in the team.
I’m reminded of the Robbie Keane situation.Rafa was decisive whether you agree with hi or not.He didn’t think Keane fitted in to his very tactical way of doing things and moved him back to Spurs while their was still some value to be had in the transfer.
I know Maxi is not the future but he is still younger than Bellamy,Gerrard and Carragher and i cant understand why he doesn’t figure more.
We know his stats last season and this and if Im really being cynical i think if you are one of Rafa’s signings it automatically puts you down the pecking order.See also Kuyt’s treatment.