A few things came out of the Portsmouth last week that should be a concern for any Liverpool fan. Not only was the performance poor, even before going down to ten men, not only was the defending a bit lax but also there was a worrying lack of penetration against a Pompey side who have already let in 26 goals this season. Even with ten men, the Reds should have troubled Portsmouth goalkeeper Asmir Begovic a lot more than they did. Only the staunchest Liverpool fan would have felt that they’d deserved anything from that match, so why was there a lack of creativity? The Reds cause was not helped by the fact that Rafa Benitez decided to start Andrea Dossena on the left wing, but with Gerrard and Torres on the pitch, you still expect a greater threat.
As we are all aware, both Torres and Gerrard have suffered injuries this season, Torres’s injury has been a more recent problem for Benitez but Gerrard has been relatively fit for a number of weeks and Benitez claimed yesterday that the Liverpool captain is over the worst of the groin injury which has hampered his ability to play at 100% over the last few months. The Liverpool manager now firmly believes the captain’s lack of form is down to confidence:
I feel that he wants to give more. I’m 100 per cent sure of that because he’s the captain and he knows that it’s very important for the team and the club. He’s pushing now and he wants to improve. Maybe the main thing now is confidence. We’ve had a lot of conversations. We had some last week and yesterday. Stevie knows he has to improve but for me it was very positive.
The talks between Gerrard and Benitez this week have been headlined as “crisis talks” by the Daily Mail, and although no one would deny there is a crisis at Anfield in general, the talks were no doubt a way of trying to improve Gerrard’s form. Gerrard’s lack of confidence could be down to a number of things, firstly, recovering from a recurring injury such as a groin problem would definitely be difficult as there is always that uncertainty that the injury will come back, secondly, and most importantly, Gerrard’s lack of confidence could be down to a general malaise which has spread throughout the first team. Certain of their abilities to challenge for a Premier League title this season after coming close last time around, they now find themselves in eighth place, 14 points off the pace. You could not blame Gerrard for thinking that he might never win a league title.
It is something however that he needs to push past. Benitez stated that he believes that Gerrard is putting in 100% effort to improve and to get back on form. As captain his form is important and if he does recapture his top displays, he will be a major contributor in turning Liverpool’s season around. Gerrard and Torres are the central axis to which Liverpool’s play revolves and without Liverpool’s captain playing a vital role, Benitez cannot hope to get his side out of the hole they have dug for themselves. Something the Spaniard is all too aware of:
We realise that he [Gerrard] is important for us. If you analyse our team, people always talk about Gerrard and Torres. They are very important for us and would be for any team. One or two players can play well in other positions, but if those two are not playing at the level they can, it will have an effect on the team.
The fact remains in my mind though, that a successful league winning team cannot rely on just two men. Others must step up to the plate and to get that fourth place spot that Benitez has promised, all eleven men will have to perform at a much higher level than they are currently playing at. Improvements are needed to the playing staff and hopefully Benitez can wheel and deal well in January to find the right players. Otherwise, everything will rely on Torres and Gerrard; they can do it, but both will need to be on top form, something which the Liverpool captain is not on at the moment.