Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Liverpool Walk Through a Storm

Rabid Liverpool Fan is one of our favourite local characters. Born and raised in Dun Laoghaire, he nonetheless sings You'll Never Walk Alone in a throaty Scouse howl, pronounces the word 'Shankly' as 'Shan-khlee', is fond, upon the consumption of a few ales, of teary-eyed, wistful remembrances of the 1980s; he espouses militant left-wing politics cribbed from an early 1980s Derek Hatton speech and hates Rupert Murdoch because of "what he's done to football", but really because Liverpool have never won the Premiership.

We talked to him in the aftermath of Liverpool's latest setback, Sunday's defeat against Manchester United....

TSA: Liverpool were rubbish on Sunday, weren't they?

RLF: How can you say that? United were rubbish more like! Anytime we beat them, no-one gives us the credit we deserve, then they beat us and everyone's fawning over them and their poncey players and their stupid big stadium.

TSA: Yeah, but Liverpool were still rubbish.

RLF: Hey, if Kuytey...

TSA: Kuytey?

RLF: Yeah, Kuytey; if he scores that header in the first half, we get organised and battle to a win, then everyone says how we've turned the corner away from home, how Rafa's tactical nous helped us get a battling away result like the ones we got when we won the European Cup for the fifth time.

TSA: Wondered how long it would take for that to come up. Surely you have to accept that Liverpool were poor in pretty much every department on Sunday. The keeper, unusually, wasn't particularly at fault for any of the goals, but the defence was hesitant and the midfield cover non-existent for the first, and for the second, the description is enough: Rio Ferdinand had time to trap the ball in the Liverpool box, bring it down, then sweep a left foot shot into the roof of the net..

RLF: Well Jamie had just taken a knock, otherwise he would have blocked it with one if his trademark last-ditch diving tackles...

TSA: I haven't finished. Looking at the two midfields, you would have imagined that Liverpool would gain a respectable foothold at least, if not outright domination of possession, being both numerically and physically superior and having done so at this venue last season when they were genuinely unfortunate to lose to, ahem, another Rio Ferdinand goal. But United swarmed over their opponents right from the first minutes when Darren Fletcher won about three sliding tackles in a row.

Kuyt was left isolated up front and support for him from the wings and from Stephen Gerrard was non-existent. As for the manager, aside from playing one man up front, his rotation policy is being made to look disruptive and the inability of his team to 'get up' for such a traditionally huge game is a worrying comment on his motivational skills. Quite simply United wanted it more.

RLF: Rafa knows best. That's all you need to know. Anyway Bellamy was injured, so he could only have started Crouch and Kuyt if he wanted to go with a two man attack, a pairing which makes little sense in terms of compatibility. Listen, he did the rotation thing at Valencia and won leagues with it and he had no trouble motivating the players at half-time in the European Cup final.

TSA: Will you stop bringing that up, please? Liverpool fans are, of course, totally right to back the manager, given his record to date. But do you sense that he has what it takes to make Liverpool champions again? Some are suggesting that he is merely an Iberian Houllier: never mind the league, look at those lovely cups!

RLF: Rafa is doing things his way. It took Alex Ferguson six seasons to build a championship-winning team. He is hamstrung at the moment by the amount of money that the likes of Chelsea and United are spending, is slowly building his squad using the money he has and spent much of the summer clearing out unwanted players. The revolution continues!

TSA: But he spent £25 million in the summer, whereas United only spent the £18.6 million on Carrick. Anyway, what about the suggestion that Benitez is struggling to make Liverpool a team that can dominate matches offensively, to transform them from the well-organised, defensively solid side that won the Champions League (damn!) into a more complete outfit that can get squeeze crucial victories at Bolton (the Reebok Stadium being the litmus test of a team's title credentials) or, indeed, Chelsea?

RLF: Admittedly, we seem to be treading water on the face of it. The areas we were strong in until now - defence and midfield - are struggling. But the defence will be sorted out, Carragher, Finnan and co. have not become poor players overnight. And Xabi Alonso will emerge from his current trough also. Himself and Sissoko have the ability to dominate any defence in the league.

TSA: Which brings us to the thorny issue of Steven Gerrard. Some say he should be played in the middle, some say Rafa is right to shove him wide. The player mumbles away about his discontent at not being 'the man', about how Rafa never pats him on the back, yet his displays in the middle for Liverpool and England do nothing to suggest he should be played there as a rule.

RLF: Sometimes I think Stevie G is more trouble than he is worth - but then he goes and does something astonishing like he did in the Olympiakos game, ahem, the Champions League final or the FA Cup final. His awesome talent means we have to accomodate him somewhere though. He doesn't do the bread and butter things a central midfielder needs to do: he can't dictate the pace of a game, hold possession and take the sting out of things.

His ego is such that he can't accept not playing in the middle, but seems to be playing in something of a sulk at the moment because of it. He was anonymous on Sunday, when he should have showed leadership, and when Rafa referred to his team needing to show character after the game, he must have been looking at Stevie.

TSA: Do you think he's annoyed that Alonso appears immovable in the middle despite his poor form, whereas Benitez refuses to give Gerrard a chance.

RLF: Xabi is Rafa's man. He's going through a tough spell, but he'll get through. Once he's sorted and the defence gets its act together, the rest will fall into place.

We're just enduring a spell of wind and rain at the moment....(breaks off into song......)

TSA: So you admit they were rubbish on Sunday then?

RLF: WALK ON, Walk oooooooon, with hooope in your......

TSA: Ah, forget it...


Anonymous Ryaner said...

We're not all that deluded! 11 points behind the leaders before November, we need to send our entire squad out to Lourdes to get anything from this season.

4:55 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, you disappoint me with your caricature of the irish liverpool fan. yes, the reds have started the season off poorly, the new players don't look the part, and the team lack any confidence away from home. however, there is still alot of the season to play and some patience is required.

3:05 p.m.  
Blogger DrCelt said...

get shot of Steve G, wait til you see, you haven't been able to put your finger on it, but he hides too much for a key player. You need to sign someone like, like, Scholesy

8:57 p.m.  
Anonymous paddy said...

Rabid Liverpool Fan is not a caricature, he's a real person! (Names have been changed to protect the scouse). It's true that Liverpool fans are not all as deluded as him, but his polarised views are always entertaining to argue against. A particular favourite of mine is when he uses the opening bars of 'you'll never walk alone' as a means of saying 'game, set and match to me' in a typical argument. Only way to get him to stop is to casually ask him why he's singing a celtic song...

And scholes moving to Liverpool is about as likely as the other neviller being sold to Everton! ("But sir, I hate scousers!")

2:24 p.m.  

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