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.