Football FanCast columnist Ed Jeffrey hopes Sunday’s win will prove the kick-start that Liverpool need.
What a difference a win makes. The last few weeks have been among the worst I can remember, football-wise. Of course there is an argument to say I shouldn’t care so much, but that’s a debate for another time.
The performance in Sunday’s derby was something of a microcosm of Liverpool’s season to date, complete with defensive frailty, especially in the air, and a total lack of ideas upfront in the absence of Torres. On the positive side, Mascherano is now unburdened by the prospect of Argentina failing to qualify for the World Cup, and his performances are currently going from strength to strength as a result. His goal, much like the win, was not without its share of good fortune, but the fact is that he, probably more so than any other Liverpool player, deserved that luck for his recent efforts.
The “luck” debate has dominated much of the fallout from the game, and while I can’t say that Everton got what they deserved, there is still a part of me that says that if your game plan involves instigating games of head-tennis in the opposition box, you’re relying on luck to score anyway. That Everton didn’t yesterday is testament to the determination of Carragher and Agger, as well of the brilliance of Pepe Reina. The Spaniard is one of those players that often gets taken for granted, but his astonishing double save was a welcome reminder of his talents.
I remember being in this position earlier this season, after a two nil win against our other most hated rivals. At that point, I felt that the true value of the win would only become apparent if we used it as a springboard to go on to better things. Many of our players said similar things, but subsequent results and performances made those words ring hollow.
The prospect of Liverpool not finishing in the top four this season has been thrown into sharp relief by Tottenham’s performances of late. Watching their tea-time game against Villa on Saturday, I was struck as much as anything by the attitude the Spurs players were displaying. For the first time in a long time, Tottenham looked a team who believe in themselves. Presuming they will have more financial backing available in January, they are beginning to resemble a genuine threat, and one we must take seriously.
The significance of our early exit from the Champions League has perhaps – surprise, surprise – been overstated in some quarters. As a certain Gary Neville so helpfully pointed out, we got what we deserved for performances which were indifferent at best. We, and Benitez, can survive playing in the Europa League – as long as it’s for one season only.
Having despatched Everton, we must make sure that we build from here. The same thing was said by a lot of our players after the United game, but their words proved hollow. We’ve not got much time to keep getting things wrong. I still think Liverpool will comfortably finish in the top four this year, but in order to do so we’ve got to start improving now.