Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cautious, Cautious Liverpool

English Premiership
Arsenal 1
LIVERPOOL
1


If there is one thing that will stop Liverpool from claiming their first title in 18 years and finally be ‘back on the perch’, it will be the over-cautiousness of Rafa Benitez and a lack of endeavor from the players on the pitch.

Assuming command and control from his hospital bed, Benitez wasn’t there physically but his staunch belief of ‘suffocating the enemy’ was very well manifested by his team in the awkward-looking grey and red jersey.


With Togolese striker, Emmanuel Adebayor, sent off rather harshly after an innocuous body barge with Alvaro Arbeloa, Arsenal were down to 10 with much of the second half to go yet Liverpool held back and didn’t seemed to have an intent of winning the game.

When Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal’s most creative player, joined several other Gunners (is Tomas Rosicky still there?) in the treatment room after half time, Liverpool should’ve sense blood. They controlled the game well and did decently in stopping Arsenal in playing their beautiful, seamless football.

But it just isn’t enough.

To be still at the top of the table with so many draws is probably contributed by the fact that Chelsea and Man Utd. are also at the same time, dropping points. Just as I’m typing this, I realize Everton did their rivals a huge favour by holding on to a 0-0 draw with Chelsea.

With Fernando Torres out for some time, Liverpool’s firepower was severely weakened and the ‘Goals For’ column isn’t looking pretty for the Reds. Yet it shouldn’t be an excuse for Liverpool to be overly cautious in approach to games.

A point for both teams is, let’s just say, a fair result. But it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth for Liverpool fans, knowing that it was there for the taking but the visitors didn’t really seemed interested.

The match went as how Liverpool always did this season, going behind and then score on a lucky break.

Robin van Persie took his goal well when he finished with aplomb on his right foot. An exquisite goal, all in all.

On the other side of the pitch, take nothing away from under-fire (literally and non-literally) striker, Robbie Keane. The former Spurs striker had a point to prove to both Liverpool fans as well as the Gunners as he rifled home after latching onto a long pass from Daniel Agger.

Typical route one football.

Liverpool dictated the game but couldn’t really find the breakthrough. Then Howard Webb turned the game even more in favour of the away side after sending off Emmanuel Adebayor.


Yet there was a lack of urgency in Liverpool. Rafa Benitez made no attempt to rescue Robbie Keane, who was alone upfront. It took him to the 80th minute on before sending David N’Gog to increase the physical presence up top.

The one flaw of Rafa Benitez would be his substitution and the timing of them. This season we saw a fair share of some really puzzling substitutions and on the hindsight, a lot of them made no sense or purpose.

Even though Ryan Babel had a forgettable outing at the Emirates, somehow he still seemed very under-utilised and his speed and power could’ve been exploited further.

But well, it’s Christmas and we’re still top of the table. Seems like Liverpool’s rival are happy to be giving away points just as they did. We still have yet to see the Reds in full gear so far this season and my hope is that it will be soon or all will be in vain.

Oh, and fortune does favour the brave.

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