Liverpool progression with inclusion of Crouch
Saturday's win against Man City made for our 4th consecutive one, our 5th out of the past 6 games. Whereas we were languishing in the bottom half of the table for far too long, we now sit in 7th place, fitting for a side who'd began with a win and 4 draws out of our first 5 games. Bringing in new players who needed to adjust to residing nearer to Anfield, adjust to Liverpool Football Club, and then to the Premiership, coming after the Ataturk final win, the team needed time to gel. Expectations were understandably high, considering the European Cup, through a manager successful in Spain, and having eventually kept our captain and high member of the club.
Looking at our current squad, while others see the potential of a team capable of matching, if not surpassing, Man Utd, Arsenal and Chelsea, others are yet to be convinced of any sign of a team prepared to dominate in the same vein as the mentioned three have and continue to do. Slowly but surely, as I felt it would happen, Liverpool have emerged up the table, and so they should. It's still a question whether we will achieve a Champions League spot come May but it's certainly not impractical. Along with the presence of the top three, Spurs, Wigan, West Ham, Charlton, Man City made excellent starts to their seasons, Newcastle felt more vibrant with the inclusion of Michael Owen, a guaranteed scorer on reputation.
Our performances domestically have been superseded by that in Europe. In Europe it is the best out of six matches and if successful after that you do not face the other team from your group. Whether that has significance on the quality faced is debatable, but at home the level of expectation in competing in the Premiership is the same at all the other 19 grounds. Table positions may be a factor but as Chelsea found in 19th place Everton, positions can count for very little. So it is in this sense that Liverpool face stiffer opposition in the Premiership than Europe, with obvious exception to Chelsea.
In our first 6 league games we had scored 4, conceded 6; the past 6 league games we have scored 9, conceded 2. Our first win over Sunderland was not comprehensive, and following two no-score draws, earning a point at St Andrews and playing well to draw Chelsea in the Champions League, we collapsed heavily to them the Sunday after. Managing a win against Blackburn after that, we lapsed to a defeat at Craven Cottage and remained in London to visit Crystal Palace and bowed out of the League Cup, something that would have been nice to remain in and win but not a priority. Not a comfortable run of results for European Champions, but the belief was still there. Questions flew about either Liverpool not scoring, or why it was we were developing well in Europe more than the Premiership. We could have sunk into a difficult period, looking for a change of form to rise up the Premiership table. The main thing, for us fans as well as for Rafael Benitez, is that we were creating chances. If we kept doing that, we were halfway there in improving our scoring.
Four clean sheets and 8 goals later, we're looking more a defensive/attacking Liverpool with room for more improvement. The quality of the squad shouldn't have been questioned. Because we do not run away with results as expected straightaway, many consider our performances overall as stale. Less reported on the chances we create, more on the fact that we hadn't scored enough and often.
But now the media keep on the simmer, seeing Liverpool emerge up the table, and doing so without the goals from Peter Crouch. I had said when he was purchased that he wouldn't have been a buy for me, that Benitez had good plans for him in regard to the progress of the team, that even Harry Redknapp, who is renowned for churning out quiet players into good first-teamers, saw something in him. But because he is 6ft 7in and very slim or 'gangly', reporting on him as a potential striker for Liverpool as well as his chances for England was like taboo. Because he hasn't scored yet, he is scoffed at. 'He doesn't have lean muscles like most players and isn't as pacy as other strikers'. 'He is useful in the air because of his height advantage over most, if not all, players, but that seems all to his game.' Please note the inverted commas.
Yet when he came on for England against Columbia, he impressed enough. Against Austria, he played in Michael Owen on occasion, add good touches, good little headers. The same happened for him against Poland, Peter has always aimed to play well, for he knows the criticism he will get if he doesn't contribute enough into the game. And shortly against Argentina he played England safe defensively, a move that led to Joe Cole being found down the left and his cross scored by Owen, with Crouch there behind him, but he didn't get a mention in the match reports.
He can hold the ball, pass and has shown to have a nice touch skillfully, but the current flavour of the month is to point fingers at him, even though he has played quite well. Against Real Betis at Anfield, he came ever so close to scoring on a number of occasions, but little to nothing is mentioned of any writer's gut feeling that, playing as he did against Betis, Crouch must be nearer to scoring, yet more on the fact that he hadn't scored again. I'd prefer he came close than never at all, and he will score. MOTM awards have gone to players who have never scored before. Gone to players who have never scored but made numerous attempts in trying, as well as playing in other teammates, but Crouch will never get MOTM unless he scores. I would like to see Crouch have an excellent game, like he did against Betis, in the Premiership, without scoring, and see if he receives MOTM.
Another under scrutiny is Djibril Cisse. Mixed reactions around LFC fans, mostly in favour of the Frenchman staying at the club, which I agree with. Others say if he goes, it is likely because Benitez wants to bring in someone sharper, more consistent in scoring. There is less media spiel about his scoring and now more on Benitez wanting to release him. He is not interested in leaving, he has been chosen by France coach Raymond Domenech on his appearances for Liverpool and I do not see his World Cup place under threat when he has enjoyed scoring for France recently. While Liverpool's search continues for a suited right-winger, on occasion Cisse helps out and does good work in that position. I'm not content with it but it will do for the time being. Cisse will play wherever as long as he is effective enough for the team He takes comfort from the words of Thierry Henry, who told him while away with France, that he himself took time to settle with Arsenal at the beginning. I feel Cisse will stay and become better.
Lastly, Fernando Morientes. Perhaps another taking his time to adjust to the pace of the Premiership but he has an eye for goal, without any doubt. He will start scoring plenty when he is ready, as he has done so far in the Champions League, and needless to say played well for Real Madrid and Monaco. It is there for the Spaniard, only a matter of time.
Considering Liverpool's strikers have been noted for lack of scoring and we still manage to go up the table, then consider how we'll be when they do, and they will. Defensively, we are holding well (I still have scepticism over Hyypia but happy the Finn is proving me wrong), we have good attacking players, evident from the chances we create, and are winning. With new players, the task was to form well to add consistency to our game, which we lacked somewhat in our first 6, but during our last 6 that consistency has improved and can get even better.