does the season
for the Reds now?
By Tommy Smith - Liverpool Echo
There's certainly no shortage of topics to discuss at
present if you are a Liverpool fan.
One of them should have been about our chances of winning
the title. But, after Sunday's result, we can forget that
But there are other subjects to chew over - the disastrous
away record, the loss of form of key players, the Steven
Gerrard debate, and what the rest of the season holds, to
name but a few.
First, though, with the Reds' excellent home record, you
can't say the players don't have the ability. It's just that
away from home they look a totally different team.
It's easy to blame the defence - they were certainly at
fault for the third Gunners' goal - but I feel the blame
lies with the midfield.
They are the engine room of the team, supporting the
defence, and not only helping the attack but creating the
The Reds are a lot harder to beat with Gerrard and Momo
Sissoko in the team. If you only have one in the line-up,
it's not so easy, especially when he is a winger.
That is why Gerrard has to be Liverpool's central midfield
general. It's his best position. He is far more dangerous
there. The rest of the midfield should be built around him.
You can imagine Arsenal's reaction when they saw the skipper
given the right-wing berth. They would have been rubbing
When Gerrard operates down the line, you know he is going to
put in some telling crosses. But if he is in the middle he
can add some firepower to the attack. He is less of a threat
Add to that the poor form of Xabi Alonso, the lack of impact
by Jermain Pennant, in particular, and you wonder how the
threat may come from the central positions.
Alonso certainly needs to improve his consistency. That's
part of the midfield problem. When Arsenal scored their
first goal, you needed a reaction from your players, and
Rafa Benitez didn't get it.
Pennant has obviously been told to stay out wide. He does
quite well in the final third of the field, but does nothing
elsewhere. Sometimes, he is even further upfield than Dirk
Kuyt, who is quite prepared to chase back and help out. But
the striker, who hardly got a kick at the Emirates, must
stay up to put pressure on defenders.
Sadly, he was ineffective on Sunday, but that was generally
due to the Reds' inability to respond to going a goal down.
We did not battle hard enough to stem the Arsenal tide and
our back four were often split open by their midfield. The
Gallas goal summed it up.
I'm still not convinced the players are comfort-able with
the zonal marking, either. We have seen on many occasions
that when the Reds concede a goal no-one is picking up the
player. Even the Reading attackers were queuing up unmarked
to score in that 4-3 Carling Cup tie at Anfield.
So what does the future hold?
Good runs in the cups, we hope, and a big improvement to try
and clinch that fourth spot. But that's no foregone
And, in January, a replacement for the injured Sissoko, as
well as another striker to improve our goal tally.
won't give up
By Eivind Haugen & Kent Hedlundh - Sky Sports
John Arne Riise has insisted that Liverpool will not give
up on their dream of winning The Premiership this season.
Sunday's 3-0 defeat at Arsenal left The Reds 11 points
behind champions Chelsea and 14 adrift of leaders Manchester
Liverpool's abysmal away form has left them with a mountain
to climb to get back into the race for the title, and Riise
accepts they have let themselves down on the road.
"I can not understand why we play so bad away from Anfield,
I really can't," the left back told Dagbladet.
"Against Arsenal on Sunday, Rafa was calm in the dressing
room after the match. he knew we knew that this was not good
Riise believes it is too early to write off Liverpool
though, pointing to their good run midway through last
season as an example of how they could come storming back.
"We never give up. Cowards give up," he rallied.
"Of course it will be hard to catch up with Manchester
United, but at one point last season we were 27 points
behind Chelsea, and in May we were only nine points behind."
Riise was left to argue with Steven Gerrard about who was at
fault for Arsenal's third goal at the weekend, as William
Gallas stole in unmarked to head home a corner.
However, Riise has played down the incident, and claimed
that neither he nor Gerrard was to blame for the goal.
He explained: "There was some frustration in the heat of the
moment, but some discussion is good. It shows we care.
"It was neither mine or Steven's fault that Gallas was
unmarked. We saw the episode on TV afterwards, and it was
not our responsibility."
must be able to dig little bit deeper
By Ian Rush - Liverpool Echo
Fingers are starting to point in the direction of Rafa
Benitez again - and after another miserable away performance
But I believe the Reds boss should be applauded for the
line-up he selected at Arsenal on Sunday.
He opted for an adventurous 4-4-2 formation and attempted to
take on Arsenal at their own game.
I believe the Gunners are the best passing team in the
Premiership, but Liverpool didn't just match them for
half-an-hour, they looked the more dangerous side.
West Ham and Everton both achieved results against Arsenal
recently by flooding the midfield and letting the Gunners
Liverpool were braver than that.
Ultimately it was the wrong team to send out - but only
because Arsenal scored first.
Up until Flamini struck I thought that Liverpool were the
better team, passed the ball well, created the better
chances and looked the likelier team to win.
But the first goal is always vital in any match, even more
so against Arsenal with their ability to absorb pressure and
hit teams on the counter with lightning fast ruthlessness
As soon as Arsenal opened the scoring we were always up
The fixture list has ensured that the away games Liverpool
have contested so far have been their hardest of the season.
But that can't be used as an excuse.
Something is clearly wrong with Liverpool's attitude. To go
behind so many times away from home and not even look like
bouncing back is unacceptable for Liverpool Football Club.
Too many players seem to be feeling sorry for themselves
whenever we go a goal behind and that has to change.
It's not rocket science. Players simply have to dig that bit
deeper when we go a goal behind.
Everyone knows that Steven Gerrard prefers to play in the
centre of midfield.
It's also clear that central midfield is also his most
effective place in the team.
But what is equally clear is that he cannot be moved into
that role until Jermaine Pennant starts performing regularly
on the right of midfield.
Until he starts to reproduce the quality which earned him
the move to Anfield, Rafa Benitez can't really consider
switching Stevie inside.
Stevie will play wherever the manager feels he can influence
the game best - and against Newcastle recently he controlled
the game from wide on the right.
But it's undeniably easier to dictate a game from the middle
of the park, and the sooner Pennant starts fulfilling the
potential he showed at St Andrews, the better for Gerrard
Rafa Benitez has said himself it's not good enough and it
has to change.
The one area I would like to see improve quickly is the
team's defending, but that doesn't mean pointing the finger
squarely at the back four.
Defending starts from the front and Liverpool have to start
keeping clean sheets away from home.
If we can start to grind out clean sheets in matches, the
quality we have up front will tell and we will start to pick
up points away from home.
The trip to Middlesbrough this Saturday night is definitely
a winnable game, but not if we concede the first goal in the
It's vital that we get back to the defensive resilience we
were displaying so regularly last season - and we can do
that by changing our attitude in away games.
Title too far away
By Paul Walker - PA Sport
Jose Reina has admitted Liverpool are out of the title
race and are concentrating on securing a Champions League
Sunday's 3-0 defeat against Arsenal left Rafael Benitez's
men 14 points behind leaders Manchester United and their
woeful away record - they have managed just one point and
one goal on their travels - has been the major problem.
But Reina believes the 2005 Champions League winners still
have a good chance of success in Europe
"Fourth place is our target now - we have to fight for
that," said Reina.
"The championship is probably too far away for us because
mathematically Manchester United and Chelsea are very
"But we have a lot of confidence in Europe and that is a
target as well. We are probably a better team in the
Champions League than in the Premiership."
With their pre-season hopes of a title challenge now in
tatters the Anfield club now know they have to re-assess
their expectations as if they fail to reach next season's
Champions League - even the qualifying rounds - it will have
a significant effect on their finances.
The defeat to Arsenal means Liverpool have now lost to all
their main rivals this season and their failure to get
anything out of matches against the Gunners, Chelsea and
Manchester United has left the Reds way off the pace in the
title race even without losses to Everton and Bolton.
Reina, who has suffered his own loss of form this campaign
but could not be blamed for any of the goals conceded in a
disastrous afternoon at the Emirates stadium, said: "The
game was very disappointing. They were the better team and
we haven't played our best game against them.
"We know we've played probably the most difficult away games
now already and we have to get going and improve away than
"It is not a problem at home but games away to top sides
like Arsenal are always difficult.
"We should have been confident [going into the game] after
five successive wins and it seemed a good moment for us to
play them but Arsenal probably played their best home match
of the season."
need to show more character
By Jimmy Rice - LFC Official Website
Jamie Carragher admits he and his teammates must show
more character if the Reds are to get their season back on
The vice-captain believes Liverpool never recovered from
going a goal down against Arsenal on their first visit to
the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
He said: "Obviously, we've got to start to show more
character away from home, particularly when we go a goal
"Showing the right character is one of the qualities I've
always been proud to be associated with most, so it hurts me
to think people don't think we're showing enough of it now.
"In these types of game, the first goal is always so
important because of the quality of the opposition.
"It's the same when we score first. It's a long time since
we lost a game in which we scored first, so we've got to do
more to get ourselves in front in the away games.
"Psychologically it hurt us, and then losing another at the
start of the second half made it even more difficult against
a team of Arsenal's quality."
Carragher refuses to throw in the towel on a title challenge
but reckons getting back into the top four must be the
"It's another disappointing result, but we've got to try and
look ahead now," he said.
"You never want to look beyond the next game, but we've got
to remember what we did this time last season and put
together a long unbeaten run now.
"A lot of the toughest away fixtures have gone and we know
we've got to make sure we improve on our away performances.
"We'll never throw in the towel at Liverpool, but the first
thing we've got to do is to get ourselves into the top four.
"We had big ambitions at the start of the season, which is
only right at a club like Liverpool, but we also know it's
important to make sure we're in the top four as soon as
possible, and then we can start thinking about what's above
"There's still a long way to go, and Arsenal, Manchester
United and Chelsea will all have to come to Anfield during
the second half of the season.
"We did well to win five games on the run after losing to
United, and now we've got to put a longer winning run
Benitez: This is
not good enough
Rafa Benitez today insisted he is well aware that recent
scorelines and performance have not been good enough and has
urged the players on.
"I am not thinking about the title race," said the Spaniard.
"The only thing that matters is the next game and we need to
start winning away if we are going to be closer.
"It is clear this is not good enough. We know we need to
improve. We need to show character and show our quality.
"I have some ideas but I need to work with the players until
the next game.
"Maybe now we are playing against teams away who don't have
the same quality. But we need to stop talking and start
Rafa has laid the blame squarely at the reds inability to
start away games in the correct fashion.
"We need to score first but we are conceding first and we
cannot score and go on to win games.
"I could see two different games on Sunday. In the first
half the team was there and creating chances, we were in the
game and regaining second balls and the tactics were okay.
"But we conceded at the end of first half and early in the
second half and that was a big difference.
"In the second half we did not play well. We conceded the
types of goals to mistakes you wouldn't normally make.
"I'm not looking for excuses. It's clear we need to improve,
and we need to find how we can do that. I'm not talking
about individual players, we need to improve as a team away
"On Sunday the second goal was the key. The first one was
disappointing but we could talk at half-time, but we
conceded too early in the second half. We lost confidence
and against a good team with a lot of quality players if you
leave space they can play on the counter-attack."
Gerrard must be centre of
Anfield recovery plan
By Alan Hansen - Telegraph.co.uk
When you study their record away from Anfield this
season, there are words no Liverpool fan would want you to
use. After one point and one goal in six games, it is no
good saying their form is disappointing and you cannot
possibly argue they have been unlucky. This is a team that
There has been a lot of rhetoric about the role of Steven
Gerrard but now, after a second heavy defeat by one of the
big four, it is time to return to Gerard Houllier's policy
of playing him through the centre where he can have the
influence someone of his talent deserves. At the Emirates
Stadium yesterday he spent the last 20 minutes in his best
position, but by then Arsenal had scored twice.
I am not suggesting the Liverpool captain cannot play on the
right. From there, he has put in some fantastic crosses this
season but he has had so much less influence than in
Especially when they were winning the Champions League and
the FA Cup, Gerrard was an important source of goals to a
side who, since Michael Owen departed, never looked as if
they had a 20-goal-a-season striker. Xabi Alonso and Mohamed
Sissoko may look a formidable pairing to Rafael Benitez, but
you have to question how many goals they have scored between
them. The answer is not many. Under the circumstances,
Gerrard has to play through the middle.
I have said before that Liverpool cannot keep placing their
faith in a single player like Gerrard, especially when he
has not been performing to the very high standards he set in
Benitez's first two seasons at Anfield. By no means is
Gerrard playing badly, but you cannot expect him to keep
performing at the levels he has been doing because every
player, no matter how good, sees his form dip.
They may have had cup successes against Chelsea and
Manchester United, but Liverpool's record against the other
members of the Premiership's big four is abysmal and if they
are ever going to win a championship under Benitez, this is
something he has to rectify.
This was supposed to be the season where they would finally
run Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United close. Some would
have thought Liverpool might actually end their long wait
for the title. But, by November, for Liverpool's supporters
there is nothing to look forward to in the Premiership
except for some substantial rebuilding.
Benitez managed to win the FA Cup and the Champions League
without having pace in the side. When I played, pace was
important — now it is an absolute necessity. By signing Dirk
Kuyt and Craig Bellamy, Liverpool have found some speed in
attack, but they have to find it elsewhere.
Finding pace in defence is not a question of just replacing
the centre-backs; you could bring in some quick full-backs.
And although towards the end yesterday Benitez did replace
Sami Hyypia with Daniel Agger, changing centre-halves is a
dangerous business. If you have played 100 times with
someone in central defence, you develop a kind of telepathy
with your partner which is far more important than in other
areas of the pitch. Agger could come in, but at the risk of
some costly mistakes early on.
After the furore at Upton Park and Arsene Wenger's bust-up
with Alan Pardew, Liverpool might have thought it was a good
time to be playing Arsenal — but it was a better time to be
Arsenal's form at the Emirates Stadium may have been poor,
but it was nothing like as bad as Liverpool's away form. As
soon as Mathieu Flamini scored, you could see the confidence
ebb out of Liverpool, and when they went 2-0 down there was
too much space at the back and not enough going forward.
For Wenger, this marked the end of a long week. He is often
graceless in defeat, but then I agree with the phrase: 'show
me a good loser and I'll show you a loser'. Pardew was
celebrating too close to Wenger, but the West Ham manager
had been under enormous pressure and this was a very big
Half an hour after the final whistle, Wenger should have
come to terms with the situation and accepted Pardew's
apology. It is much easier to apologise when you have won,
but Wenger could at least have phoned afterwards. It would
have taken two minutes, it would not have signified they
were close friends but it would have ended the matter. I had
thought Wenger was bigger than that.
Benitez points to mistakes
By James Pearson - Sky Sports
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez believes mistakes were to
blame for their defeat at Arsenal on Sunday.
Benitez is unhappy with the first two goals his side
conceded and knows they must put things right at the back
for their next fixture.
"We started well and were controlling a lot things, but when
we conceded the first goal it made a big difference," said
Benitez told Sky Sports 1.
"It's clear we made some mistakes. In these games you need
to play 100 percent against a side like this all the time
and don't make mistakes.
"We made a big mistake with the first and second goal and it
made a big difference. We need to work harder if we're to
"We knew they'd be difficult to play against. We're now
thinking about the next game. You must think about winning
the next game."
hails 'massive' win
By James Pearson - Sky Sports
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger believes The Gunners' 3-0
success over Liverpool on Sunday was a "massive" win.
The North Londoners entered the game on the back of last
week's painful late loss to West Ham at Upton Park.
Wenger knew the opening goal at the Emirates Stadium would
be crucial and was delighted it was Mathieu Flamini who
"It was a massive win for us because we lost last week at
West Ham," explained Wenger to Sky Sports 1.
"Of course it was very disappointing to lose the way we lost
and that's why the response from the team was important.
"I felt everyone performed well today. The big players have
responsibility in the team they were strong today.
"Liverpool played well. The first goal was very important.
If they'd scored first it would have been a different game.
"I was confident the players would try. I was worried they
would be too nervous, but I knew they would be up for it.
"We knew that we could score goals."
see off Liverpool
By Phil McNulty - BBC Sport Online
Arsenal brushed aside Liverpool in clinical fashion to
keep in touch with the Premiership pace-setters.
Mathieu Flamini put Arsenal ahead from close range five
minutes before the end of an evenly contested first half.
But Arsenal moved into top gear after the interval, Kolo
Toure racing on to Robin van Persie's clever pass to slide
home a cool finish after 56 minutes.
William Gallas was then left completely unmarked to head in
Van Persie's corner to seal the win with 10 minutes left.
Liverpool's title hopes were slim before kick-off but they
are now surely non-existent as they remain without an away
win in the Premiership this season.
Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann had a throat infection,
which allowed Manuel Almunia to make a rare start.
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez persisted with Steven Gerrard
in a right-wing role, despite the absence of injured Momo
Sissoko, so Bolo Zenden played in central midfield alongside
It was to prove a questionable decision, with Gerrard very
much a peripheral figure as Arsenal ran out comfortable
Arsenal had the ball in the net inside 90 seconds but Van
Persie handled the ball to deflect it past Pepe Reina and
picked up a yellow card.
But Liverpool settled quickly and Dirk Kuyt was just off
target with an ambitious lob.
Liverpool thought they had taken the lead after 13 minutes
when Peter Crouch turned home Alonso's cross, but he had
The visitors had enjoyed more than their fair share of
possession and territory in the first half but just as
frustration was growing inside the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal
took the lead with a trademark goal after 41 minutes.
Alexander Hleb played in Cesc Fabregas and his pass was met
by the onrushing Flamini, who got the vital final touch
ahead of Jamie Carragher.
Liverpool needed to make a statement of intent after the
break but it was Arsenal who doubled their lead.
There was a hint of good fortune about the build-up, with
Van Persie first failing with an attempted flick but then
recovering to play in Toure at the second attempt to finish
Liverpool needed to make a change and it came on the hour
when Jermaine Pennant replaced the ineffective Mark
Gerrard moved into the middle to at least provide a hint of
menace with a deflected shot from 30 yards that dipped just
over the bar.
But Arsenal ended any debate about the destination of the
points when Gallas headed home Van Persie's corner.
It prompted a heated exchange between Gerrard and team-mate
John Arne Riise over the lack of marking, summing up a
desperately disappointing display by Liverpool.