Should This Now Be Kenny’s First Choice XI?

The latest Merseyside derby this weekend highlighted a lot of issues. Are our referees really the best in the world, and if not, when are they going to be held accountable? Are we starting to see the ugly side of fans, creeping back into our stadiums, and are clubs doing enough to combat those disgusting individuals who throw missiles directly at players? And is the Liverpool side that finished the game (with the exception of Jordan Henderson) the ideal starting XI for Kenny Dalglish? Let’s take a look.

Little more than 20-minutes had passed on the clock when Martin Atkinson foolishly flashed a red card in Jack Rodwell’s direction after the Everton midfielder committed a tough, but clean challenge, but it took Liverpool until the 71st minute to break the deadlock. Both club Captain Steven Gerrard and Craig Bellamy had been on the pitch barely 4-minutes when the latter was involved in some neat build-up play which saw Andy Carroll break Everton’s resolve. There should be little doubt that the injection of pace and quality that Liverpool introduced at that time, in the sweltering, unseasonable weather, against a tiring 10-men helped change the game once more.

Bellamy replaced the anonymous Stewart Downing and looked instantly more threatening down the left-hand side of the pitch, combining well with left-back Jose Enrique. The former Villa man had a promising start to the season, but in recent weeks has become something of an invisible man. Bellamy on the other hand is the perennial pain in the neck to whatever opposition he faces. His constant harrying and buzzing around the pitch, coupled with his mouthy, moaning ‘charm’ never leaves supporters wondering if he is on the field of play. Charlie Adam had performed bright in spells but has not been as consistently influential on the pitch as he would have liked – or many would have expected. The return of iconic Captain Gerrard will now threaten Adam’s place in the starting line-up. There could be a case to partner both midfielders together and thus replacing the much maligned Lucas, which is what many fans want to see. It would certainly provide a more offensive option, however the balance of the team may suffer as the much improved Brazilian provides an effective shield in-front of the defensive line, and defensively, Liverpool have struggled at times this season.

Injuries have prevented Liverpool from having a consistent back-line this season but there can be little doubt when fit, Agger, Carragher and Jose Enrique should be first choice (alongside keeper Pepe Reina). The only question mark is at right-back with young Martin Kelly forever impressing, injury prone England international Glen Johnson seems to be a forgotten man at Anfield, and many believe his poor defensive positional sense should see young Kelly keep his place.

One option could be to play Johnson further forward and join the midfield unit – he certainly has the attacking quality and composure. However the ever-dependable Dirk Kuyt now seems to have won his place back in the starting line-up after initially losing it to new signing Jordan Henderson at the start of the season. Many were mystified by Dalglish’s preference for youngster Henderson over the experienced Kuyt, but it now seems the Dutchman has worked his way back into the starting line-up at the £20 million man’s expense. Henderson can have little complaint due to his performances thus far, but maybe it is a slight on the management team for rushing the youngster into the first team instead of allowing him to acclimatise slowly – was there pressure from above to play him, with his huge price-tag? Either way Henderson is not yet ready for the starting line-up, especially whilst there are other more experienced, proven options available who have also contributed more on the field of play this season than the former Sunderland man.

That just leaves the front-line which was made up of £58 million pair Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll for the entirety of the derby. The two striker’s were bought together back in January to form a dream ‘little and large’ partnership, but of the two, only Suarez has shone. The Uruguayan has been far and away Liverpool’s best player since pulling on a red shirt and his place in the starting line-up is cemented. Contrast that with Carroll’s very inconsistent, stop-start career at Anfield so far which has seen the Geordie giant’s abilities called into question every time he plays. A severe lack of goals has added to the scrutiny, but Dalglish is standing by his man, publicly defending the youngster from the media’s criticism. Carroll repaid the managers faith with a derby goal, and there is little doubt he is still a huge ‘work in progress’. But both strikers scored on Saturday in a 2-0 win, their jobs done. Will the team that was on the field of play whilst both goals were scored be given a chance from the off?

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