Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Title blow at ‘classless’ Liverpool

A horrible 2nd half miss by David Silva, a ‘howler’ by our Captain along with some poor & inconsistent refereeing saw us slip-up at Anfield in a game, where, a draw would have been a fair result. But the glaring fact remains that we’re now reliant on other teams to do us (and themselves of course) a favour…

No class

As though it was pre-planned and most-certainly orchestrated for some bizarre reason; every time we had possession – huh…not often for much of the first half I will admit – almost every Liverpool supporter booed their hearts out. This puzzling behaviour continued into the second half but promptly ceased when we scored…and then scored again.

Not content with the peculiar treatment dished out to every Manchester City player, the home crowed then roundly applauded Jordan Henderson as he trudged off the field following a studs-up, red card in injury time. Yeah, that makes sense doesn’t it?.

But it wasn’t just inside the ground where the Liverpool fans displayed inexcusable behaviour on a day, supposedly, packed with emotion for ‘the 96’. On the way to the ground some Manchester City fans were attacked; bricks were thrown and windows smashed as minibuses and coaches made their way to the so-called iconic stadium.

Liverpool fans might point to the fact that they ‘clapped off’ Yaya as he hobbled off the pitch – yeah of course they did, they were glad to see the back of him after just 19 minutes of play!

After displaying perfect silence and having joined in impeccably with the pre-match ‘holding up of remembrance cards’; what DID we do to deserve their obvious aggression?

Game analysis

The beginning of a game fuelled by high emotions was always going to be high octane; we were always going to have to handle a 10-minute or so initial onslaught. But, having conceded IN those first ten minutes, we were slow to react and simply allowed Liverpool to dictate the next 20 minutes too. Having then gone 2-0 down to a fine Skrtel header, we woke up as their adrenalin subsided…but even then they could have gone 3-0 up before the break.

Their energy levels were never going to last into the second half; they were playing above themselves as they were carried by an Anfield crowd high on sentiment and passion, when they weren’t booing us that is…

So I fully expected a reaction from our lads and that’s what we got. Silva, who had largely be waiting for the ball to arrive in the first half as he was being played as a secondary striker, dropped deeper and, thankfully, got more involved. Once he did, he pulled the strings and got us going. BANG!  2 goals in 5 minutes and we were back!

And we were still buzzing as Silva came oh so very close to making it 2-3! IF ONLY!

Just as Liverpool owned the majority of the first half we possessed most of the second. Milner, who for me should have started this predictably high-energy game, made a huge difference. Then, THAT mistake from Kompany.

The Manchester Evening News gave a damning, cruel and unrealistic 5/10 for ‘our Skip’ in my opinion; they sighted his injury for his below-standard performance. I didn’t think his knee problem hindered his general play and the M.E.N.’s assessment that he was at fault for all 3 goals is way off the mark in my opinion.

Having been passed by the in-form Sturridge, Vinny was effectively one-on-one with the England striker (with Hart bizarrely tucked in behind him) and so you have to say ‘well done’ to the Liverpool man there I think. As for the second, there were 3 City men (Vinny included) close to Skrtel who ‘failed to deal’ with the corner for Liverpool to double their lead.

Okay, so Vinny then produced a terrible moment to forget (but he won’t of course – he’ll use that to drive himself on even further) but the error could hardly be blamed on his injury.

The rest of the defence did okay; perhaps Clichy didn’t have a very good game. I’m weary of talking about our left-sided flakiness…

As for ‘up front’, Dzeko just wasn’t in the game at all. Why would he be; just as much as this was a game custom-made for the highly mobile and energetic Milner; those 2 words simply don’t exist in Edin’s world and so this game was just NOT for him. Aguero clearly wasn’t going to be risked too soon and although much more mobile than the Bosnian; I suppose Negredo isn’t exactly ‘Mr nimble’ either. So I have to ask – and was asking on the day – what happened to Jovetic, who didn’t even make the bench? Please don’t tell me he’s injured again.

Of course you can’t pack the bench with forwards – Dzeko to start, Aguero, Negredo and Jovetic wouldn’t have left too much else in reserve. But that's why, if Aguero wasn’t fit to start, there was a good case to play the more-mobile Montenegrin forward just in front of Silva.

But I suppose it’s all ‘if onlys’ and ‘what ifs’…and hindsight is a wonderful thing of course.

Aguero’s contribution? He was on the pitch 27 minutes, had no shots and touched the ball just 5 times. One of those touches did set up Silva but, as I’ve bemoaned, the Spaniard just didn’t finish it.

The ref was poor. Suarez should have walked early on in the game for repeated offences after his early yellow and we had penalty claims (including a replay-clear handball) turned down. But then again so did they…

C’mon the rest!

So, I have to demean myself now – as do we all – and look to Liverpool’s remaining 4 fixtures to see who might take points from them; giving us a chance, once again, to regain our Premier League trophy from Manyoo.

Norwich City (A) – Sunday 20th April 2014:

At first glance, 2 wins in the last 10 games as well as being the lowest scorers in the league doesn’t bode too well for them (nor us) in taking anything from this game. But there are some encouraging signs to [desperately?] cling on to.

1. Norwich dangle just 2 points above the relegation zone and so that alone is motivation to raise their game. Another motivational factor is that a win, depending on results the previous day, could lift them 3 places to 14th – a huge psychological boost!

2. Following the recent and bizarrely-timed dismissal of Chris Hughton, they have a highly motivated, stand-in Manager in the form of former youth-team Coach, Neil Adams; a man who stated that he’s been ‘chomping at the bit’ to take the reigns of the first team for a long time.

His first two games have seen 2 defeats but, I would add, both have been very close one-nil reverse scorelines against relegation-threatened rivals. In fact, the weekend defeat at Craven Cottage saw Norwich get 55% of the possession; they equalled Fulham’s 14 shots and got one more shot on target than the home side.

3. It’s a 12-noon kick off. Although, of course, Liverpool will be staying at a ‘locale’ close to the ground the night before, very early kick-offs don’t often favour the away side. I don’t know what it is but it can often be an upsetting factor (I told you I might sound desperate here).

4. They held us to a draw. Although we enjoyed a whopping 68% of possession and had 15 shots to their 7, they defended like lions [and not canaries]; reducing us to just 2 shots on target of those 15. I recall the frustrating game clearly; not only did they defend very well, they had – and wasted – great chances to take all 3 points! After 90-odd minutes I recall being reasonably happy with the point gained...

It might have been 10 league games ago and under a different Manager but if they can do that to us, surely they can repeat it against the Scousers!

A draw is all we need to get a chink in their armour…

Chelsea (H) – Sunday 27th April:

Manuel Pellegrini doesn’t do mind games. Yeah right. Although he didn’t mention them by name in the Liverpool, pre-match conference; there was certainly an inference that it was Chelsea being referred to when he stated that he hopes it’s an exciting, attacking team who wins the Premier League [and not them].

Over to you Mourinho

This is about the best chance we can hope for of Liverpool dropping points and, at the risk of me repeating myself, we only need them to draw [and not necessarily lose this one].

Crystal Palace (A) – Monday 5th May:

I say the Chelsea game is the biggest chance we can hope for of Liverpool dropping points but this one is CERTAINLY no easy game. Only 1 defeat in 5 league games and having won the last 3 games by scoring 5 and conceding none; certainly at home The Eagles are now a force under Tony Pulis. Just ask Chelsea

AT home – and like Liverpool had - they have their own 12th man in the form of the crowd; they make an awful but brilliantly orchestrated din! The only problem is, we have to go there too…

Newcastle United (H) – Sunday 11th May:
Well something good for us had better happen in the previous 3 fixtures because this one is surly a shoo-in for the home side. I don’t need to say anything else on this game…

Other factors in our favour

Ever-present midfielder Jordan Henderson is now suspended for 3 games; the 3 more-difficult ones too. As for Sturridge, who limped off clutching his hamstring, there’s no firm news as I type this. But ‘hammies’ being as they are; that COULD, indeed, see him miss the remainder of the season.


We’ve got our own injury concerns though. Whether it’s his hamstring or his groin; Toure left the field of play after just 19 minutes. Once again there are no firm reports as this Blog-entry goes out but that could well have been his last kick of a ball this season too.

And although he played out the full 95 minutes, I’m sure Vinny was playing with pain killers on Sunday. We’ll see…

Next up…

So, as fruitless as it might now seem (OF COURSE IT ISN’T!) we take on the first of our two ‘games in hand’ tomorrow night. Whipping boys and relegation-doomed Sunderland come to the Etihad and they just cannot be looking forward to it at all.

Ironically, if we’d gotten some kind of result against Liverpool then I might be waving a flag of warning [of complacency] against these. This, after all, is also THEIR first [of two] games in hand over their relegation-threatened neighbours.

The last time we attempted to play this fixture a terrible storm forced officials to postpone the game an hour or so before kick-off. I think Sunderland can expect a different kind of climatic event on Wednesday night. With no wins in 8 (losing 7 and drawing 1) and with our lads wanting to get that 3-2 out of our system ASAP; I can’t see anything other than a emphatic win for City.

This is how I think he’ll set up to do it…











Subs: Pantilimon, Clichy, Lescott, Garcia, Navas, Jovetic, Dzeko

Back comes the 4-4-2 and back comes Beauty and The Beast! Never will there be a better time to attempt to reignite the forward fire than this game.

Moving backwards then…

With Yaya out for this game at least (I’m sure), surely Milner gets his place. And although our manager could well stick him out on the right wing I’m hoping he sees sense and puts him where he’s best. That would mean Silva would have to move out to his slightly-less-effective wing position but it’ll be a fluid system I’m sure; he and Nasri will 'float around' and will get the support of Kolarov and Zabaleta at home to 'this lot'.

At home, the back 4 and the goalie pick themselves (I’m assuming Vinny is going to be okay of course).

Strong attacking options on the bench if required.

Result? I’ve already stated my predicted outcome. Perhaps we have to be slightly wary of them playing either with a ‘final push’ of determination [to survive] or an almost resigned, ‘free-abandon’ - both are dangerous. But we should be able to take these with enough effort and desire to win ourselves.

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