Football - FA Cup - 3rd Round - Everton FC v Blackburn Rovers FC

Football - FA Cup - 3rd Round - Everton FC v Blackburn Rovers FC

3. The Pitch Is A Disgrace

The manager cited this earlier this season at a time when things were a bit more wobbly. It got short shrift in most quarters and I understand why. I never want to have the sense of football managers, gilded football managers, having hiding places.

And yet. And yet.

It’s dreadful. For the level of side we are, for all our gilded resources, how it has got this bad is remarkable. Growing up, I remember my dad waxing lyrical about the Anfield surface in comparison to Old Trafford or Highbury. We’d play on a carpet. It’s rare a flaw is as visible at a leading football club. There is no hiding place on it. The club, internally, should be working out how this has happened and should be doing something about it. The phrase “never again” should be bandied about.

Liverpool were too static, too slow. They didn’t get about their business and it should be a wake up call. This is my concern, dude. Liverpool still look short of goals, of fizz, of goals. The Burnley performance was impressive but too often games in this league are decided by muscle, by power, by having simply too much and Liverpool today didn’t have too much for Blackburn and they should.

It’s no disaster. Liverpool are still in the cup and one day soon we will all get to troupe along to Ewood Park. What a night that will be. Liverpool will play and play and Blackburn will break.

However, we can learn from this. Liverpool need to earn the right to play whatever the rules are. Emre Can looked lost in centre midfield, his performance became a paean for Lucas Leiva and Joe Allen. He isn’t sharp enough, he isn’t appreciative of the angles in and out of possession. The idea is that the only way he’ll learn is by playing and that’s fair. But I’m impatient and want to win. Emre Can in centre midfield is currently inhibitive to that.

Indeed, this wasn’t just a game crying out for Allen or Lucas, it was crying out for Gerrard. Gerrard to clatter someone. Gerrard to get in the referee’s ear. Gerrard to do something unlikely and make his class tell. Footballing arrogance; big characters.

It was noticeable in that context that from the moment Balotelli arrives on the pitch he’s the best player on it. He’s demanding of the ball, his movement good, his touch certain. The ball over his shoulder to Sturridge deserves a finish. It gets a finish, it then deserves our purplest prose evoking the marvellous, much missed Alan Edge.

Johnson did well without eradicating the mistakes that too often just piss you off. That is the problem. Everybody makes mistakes but it feels like his just keep on giving. Regardless it’s a solid performance at the back and some excellent final third passing which makes Emre seem that bit less essential. Johnson shows this year and next what cover in that position will need to look like.

Sterling seems isolated. The idea he and and Coutinho can combine on the left flank better on paper than reality. Henderson wasn’t himself and Liverpool never looked entirely likely.

But it is one more game. One more chance to watch these lads and have them play together. In a sense, good.

A season that had looked too full suddenly became too empty. We’ll get to go to a mill town, sing songs with our friends and see Liverpool hopefully win. With a sudden sense of summer, I’m finding few downsides to that. Frustrated but gratified. I want to know the date now. I’m excited already, despite the magic, despite Wembley.

Nothing should be easy but all of this should always be the most fun you can imagine.

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