So, Liverpool are in a bit of a pickle. 3 games, 1 point and bottom of their Champions League group. After the fortuitious victory in the Merseyside derby and before the key game at Anfield against the Arsenal, Liverpool’s away defeat to Besiktas has asked a lot of questions from Rafa Benitez and the Liverpool players.
Except that there shouldn’t be any questions – or any problems with Liverpool. The problem lies squarely on the media, and their manipulation of Liverpool’s condition.
Every summer it’s the same story – Liverpool buy a few players, cut out the deadwood and there are whispers that they will finally challenge for the title. The core problems are not solved but the hype (and the money expended) grows every year, hence the abuse hurled at Rafa and Liverpool at this early stage of the season.
To be honest, Myles Palmer is just a ranting Arsenal fan here, drunk on a 7-0 home win against a pub team. Arsenal have played well this season, no doubt, but this is a big four game, and Rafa always has his men ready for a battle against the big teams (unless you’ve forgotten how Liverpool have played against the top teams at Anfield in the past, both Premier League opposition and those from abroad). Myles is playing to the crowd – the Arsenal faithful have been eager to primp themselves this season, something they pretty much deserve to do considering what they’ve been through in the last two seasons.
So there are 3 questions:
- Can Liverpool qualify for the 2nd round?
- Can Liverpool beat Arsenal on Sunday?
- Can Liverpool win the Premier League?
1. Can Liverpool qualify for the 2nd round?
If you see their remaining fixtures, and the CL standings, here’s the ground reality – They play Besiktas and Porto at Anfield, and Marseille away. Assuming that Liverpool win both home games, that’s 7 points going into the Marseille game.
Marseille travel to Porto and Besiktas in their next two games – not sure if they can more than 2-4 points out of those games, but with Group A a free-for-all, odds are that Marseille will go into that last game having 8 or 9 points.
Porto host Marseille in their 4th game and Besiktas in their 6th game – and 6 points will give them 11 and a way through.
Besiktas may beat or draw with Marseille at home but they will probably lose their other two games, leaving them with a max of 6 points.
So…Liverpool at least have the Uefa Cup to look forward to, and if they can beat Marseille in their last game, they’re through to the 2nd round.
There are many other permutations possible, of course, but Liverpool have to win their last 3 games in any case, and even then they’ll probably end up in 2nd place. The group is wide open now, I wouldn’t be surprised if Besiktas squeezed through somehow into the 2nd round.
2. Can Liverpool beat Arsenal on Sunday?
Can Rafa drop Gerrard to the bench and use him as a super-sub? That might be what’s needed to kick the captain into action. If Gerrard is in a genuine slump then there’s nothing anyone can do, it’ll just take some time for him to work things out. Maybe the missus needs a call?
Liverpool’s first XI plus playing at Anfield – Arsenal are good but rarely 100% certain of keeping a clean sheet and if Torres is fit to play, Liverpool could easily win this one. At any rate it’ll be a tight game, and for Pool’s sake I hope they play Kuyt with Crouch if Torres is still injured.
3. Can Liverpool win the Premier League?
Rafa’s problems have been discussed, but perhaps it’s time to point out that despite the overhaul, Liverpool’s squad still lacks talent in some areas? Apart from Torres, Gerrard, Alonso, Mascherano, Carragher and Reina, this is an average team. Strong in central midfield but take Torres out and they’re toothless. Babel is good but will take time, Pennant has more graft than craft and four of the 6 names mentioned are defensive players.
Compare this to Manchester United and Chelsea, and you’ll see that these teams have several top players in creative positions. United have Ronaldo, Rooney, Tevez, Scholes and at a stretch, Giggs. Chelsea have Drogba, Malouda, SWP, Lampard, Joe Cole. Arsenal may have fewer ‘big’ names (feel free to correct me Arsenal fans) but what they have this season is confidence and a manager who knows what it takes to win the Premier League.
Rafa doesn’t, not yet. Until he learns, Liverpool’s fastest way to the top is by buying better players.