Monday, November 02, 2009

Nightmare At Craven Cottage

So much promise and yet, Liverpool’s title hopes seemed to have imploded even before the league reaches its quarter mark. It was definitely a depressing view for most fans as the shocking 3-1 lost to Fulham seemed to have marked an end of the road for the Reds and their title ambition.

After a morale boosting 2-0 win over Man Utd last week, it looked as though things could only get better as Liverpool endured through a ‘Black October’ with 4 consecutive losses.

But by the 80th minute, Liverpool and Rafael Benitez seemed to have taken this game so lightly that it all seemed like a pre-season friendly or they’ve already won the title.

Nathan Ecclestone? Philip Degen? Daniel Ayala? In a Premiership match where so much mattered? Is Rafa having a laugh here?

Liverpool’s defence had been undeniably shaky since the start of season and I personally can’t remember the number of times we actually kept a clean sheet. It was the same at Craven Cottage as we saw how Bobby Zamora, albeit not the best striker in the land in any sense, ran rings round a dejected and tired-looking Jamie Carragher.

After his heroics last week, Carragher was back to his early season form and it’s no wonder he was sent off for bringing down Zamora. He was outpaced and outsmarted and he had no options. Neither did the referee.

But the referee did had a questionable decision when he sent off Philip Degen for a awful looking but non-malicious tackle. It was one of those moments where you’ll turn towards your friends and ask ‘what the heck?’

But referee’s decisions aside, it was an awful, awful game from Liverpool’s point of view. Other than Fernando Torres, who has suddenly turned into Steven Gerrard circa pre-Torres era, the rest cannot be spared from any sort of criticism.

What happened to that team that looked so good at Anfield a week ago? Is Liverpool suffering from a post-natal depression of a bipolar disorder. I would go for the latter.

With decision to remove goalscorer, Torres, in the 60 odd minutes, the strange bipolar performances of the team could be attributed to Mr. Rafa Benitez himself. Let me make myself clear, I do love this man.

But I guess it’s time for him to go. Many more would join me in this bandwagon IF we don’t make it through to the Champions League knockout stage this Wednesday. It is not only a do-or-die match for Liverpool and their European ambition but also it’s his job right there, on the guillotine.

Probably things have gone a little stale at Anfield and many are getting impatient. It’s year after year of the same old, except for last season where we finished high up and it smelled like title this season. But the Anfield faithfuls have to endure yet another disappointing and probably, trophy-less season.

The over-achievement of last season could’ve been an added pressure on Benitez, a limestone hung around his neck. Added on to these are the miraculous 2005 Champions league win and the 2006 FA Cup.

Thereafter, it’s years of wilderness and there seemed no stopping of Liverpool walking further into the desert and hypothetically, could’ve turned into a team that is only motivated enough to beat their fierce rivals. Sounds like Man City before Thaksin?

I personally think that there’s no more turning back for Rafael Benitez. Even if Liverpool does triumph over Lyon this coming Wednesday, that probably does not change the fact that there is a huge change needed at Liverpool.

I know the club represents and stands for stability, seeing the number of managers actually ‘sacked’ from the club. But I can’t bear to see the club going down this way. I’m not a doomsday merchant or a knee-jerk reactor. I’m just a little jaded and want to see some changes in the club.

For now, 5 losses in 11 games. We can realistically count ourselves out of the title race and focus on at least getting into the top 4. If Man City are to maintain this sort of form, it could be quite a challenge and it will be pretty embarrassing to say the least.

So what will be Liverpool’s response this Wednesday? I sincerely hope it’s not going to be another limp and half-hearted performance. I really, really hope not…