Football FanCast guest columnist Odie
Stanley-Ikhilioju was disappointed to see Liverpool lose to Chelsea, but believes it is a little premature to start writing them off.
I have to say, I am fairly gutted at this loss in and of itself….mostly because I've grown to really hate losing to Chelsea, but I think it's appropriate to start by framing this game against the past.
Last year, we came up against Chelsea at the Bridge, having struggled in the previous European tie, and left London having shattered Chelsea's much-heralded unbeaten streak.
It wasn't apparent at the time – especially considering how well he had Chelsea performing prior to that match – but this loss was widely seen as the beginning of the end for Luis Felipe Scolari (I suppose its symmetry at its best that he was sacked after losing at Anfield a few months later).
So has the shoe been placed on the other foot? Will this loss be as damaging for Liverpool – and Rafa personally – as the corresponding loss was for Chelsea and Scolari?
Only time will tell in the end, but I personally hope not.
In any case, here are my 10 conclusions from the game:
1. Lucas will almost certainly leave this club, probably find success wherever he goes, and if fate lined him up to knock us out of the CL, we as fans would be well deserving of it.
This boy is still young, has come on leaps and bounds, and been one of the most consistent performers in our squad this year, yet he gets all the scorn whenever we lose and none of the (deserved) praise when we win.
His treatment makes me ashamed to be a Red at times, mostly when the lot of those slagging him then start singing You'll Never Walk Alone….
2. Aquilani will surely have to be a strong personality, as in two weeks, when he invariably comes into the side for Lucas, it will be him getting the blame for Gerrard's poor touch or Torres' poverty in front of goal….
3. Glen Johnson vindicated himself considerably against Chelsea. For a player of his quality, it is amazing how summarily he is barracked by the media with no evidence to support claim that he is a horrid defender. His showing at Stamford Bridge should go some way to proving that he is as good defending as most in the league (and surely will get better)….
4. While we're on about vindicating performances, it cannot go without mention that both Skrtel and Mascherano answered a few critics on Sunday as well.
I am amongst the many that have criticized Mascherano's displays this term, even going as far as to accuse him of wishing for pastures new, but his performance against Chelsea was approaching his very best form.
Many have also maligned Skrtel as the source of panic amongst out central defense thus far, but I honestly cannot remember him putting a foot wrong in the 90 minutes played….
5. ….which leads me to wonder, could this game also spell the beginning of the end for Jamie Carragher?
Surprisingly (or maybe not so) Carra has not come in for much criticism amongst the fans, yet he has been more a destabilizing presence in defense than a stabilizing one, along with generally looking off the pace.
He once again was left wanting in this game, being two steps behind Anelka for the first, and getting turned by Drogba for the second.
With Agger due back after the international break, and with the knowledge of his performances this year and the fact that Agger and Skrtel are the future, surely Jamie cannot be looking forward to the conclusion of the next two weeks….
6. Torres will surely be the golden boot winner this year. Even in a game of few chances, and in which he was hardly clinical, he seemed well up for taking on the challenge of attacking the Chelsea rearguard.
The enthusiasm showed by him at Chelsea bodes well for the rest of the season. After all, if he converted the chances he had as normal, he would've had a second hat-trick of the season….
7. Yossi Benayoun is the consummate professional, and he has to be in the side from the start, from here on out, for two reasons:
First, the quality of his play is simply remarkable. His passing and movement in the final half-hour really deserved a goal (quite how he contrived to miss his own opening only the Lord knows…), and there isn't another player in the team that provides the same qualities.
Second, he needs to start as a reward for his professionalism. He's been dropped while Rafa attempted to Work Babel into the team, and when Riera was simply producing more. And without whinging, he's gotten his head down and shown the manager that he is the best option going forward, by putting on some truly scintillating match-winning performances….
8. Steven Gerrard needs a good, long break. He's supposed to be our talisman, but he has left a lot to be desired this season.
I read a rumour that he's been carrying a knock all season, and most of his displays would support that, but nevertheless the team has counted on him to at least contribute to the game and more often than not he has come up with nothing.
Perhaps the weight of not being able to allow United to pass us in league titles is beginning to show?
9. Chelsea are surely the front-runners for the title this year. Of the Big 4, they seem the least likely to be broken down or self-destruct.
But this revelation actually bodes well for us, since two of their most important players thus far – Didier Drogba and Michael Essien – will be gone for a month and two weeks for the ACON tournament.
Chelsea's title surge (and those of the following pack) will surely be determined by how well they cope with those losses….
10. Three losses already….so doom and gloom? Not quite (not for me, anyway). Lost in the shuffle of three losses is the fact that we've won the rest in a rather ruthless fashion.
Even in the loss to Chelsea, we played well for the vast majority of it. In fact, if we play at that level from here on out, we wouldn't lose three more games the rest of the season.
Another way to look at it: we're on course to have dropped points in 14 games. Last year – we dropped points in 13. Granted, most of those were draws, but this highlights the slight margins with which the team are playing. Convert a few of these projected losses into wins, and over the course of the season we have a chance to accrue more points than last year's record tally.
An even better way to look at it? We're currently on 15 points from 8 games. Guess who was also on 15 points after 8 games last year?
You probably guessed it right: 2008/2009 Barclays Premier League Champions Manchester United.
We're on the same number of points, have battered the small clubs, and dropped points to the big clubs – we are essentially taking the same route that Manchester United took last year in winning the whole thing.
And we've not even at the point of the season when we traditionally are near-unbeatable, nor shown the form that we are capable of.
So, here's one Red with a decidedly positive outlook for the rest of the season, despite having apparently just witnessed the beginning of the end of Rafa, the Gerrard-Torres axis, Liverpool's participation in the CL, next year's CL place, and the club's title aspirations for this season….