from God delusion
TEAMtalk believes Liverpool players should
be more down to earth instead of seeking divine intervention
to help their faltering cause.
Liverpool have tried countless formations. Tried playing
Steven Gerrard in tandem with Fernando Torres. Discovered
playing two holding midfielders in Lucas and Javier
Mascherano is not conducive to creating chances.
Now, just to prove how moribund of ideas Anfield under
Rafael Benitez is right now, Jamie Carragher has revealed
the latest tactic.
"We have got to stick together, get through it and, as I am
doing every night, pray to God that at the end of the season
there will be something worth what we have gone through.
"I pray to God we win the FA Cup or the Europa League and we
get in the top four."
Just a thought, but with Afghanistan, the world recession,
global warming, child poverty, terrorism, political
corruption and the obsession with the X Factor, it would be
fair to say the man upstairs had enough on His plate right
now, wouldn't you, without worrying about Liverpool's zonal
It is the desperation of Carragher, however, which is so
alarming for Anfield fans.
As if FA Cups and European trophies can be wished for like a
six-year-old child writing out letters for Santa and posting
them up the chimney.
'If I'm a really good boy and do all my homework and wash up
for mummy can I hold the FA Cup in May?'
On the 50th anniversary of Bill Shankly's arrival at Anfield
to build a dynasty which went on to dominate Europe it
suggests one thing.
The core players in the Anfield changing room have lost
faith in Benitez.
Lost faith in the man who has spent getting on for
£250million only to produce a squad which contains
individuals of genuine quality such as Gerrard and Torres
and Jose Reina but is sprinkled far too liberally with
every-day Joes such as Lucas and Aurelio.
It is like putting ketchup on caviare.
It is not just Carragher, you suspect, who is seeking divine
The body language of Gerrard this past month has also told
of a man questioning the direction he took when he stuck by
his home town club after the 2005 Champions League final
triumph rather than join the Chelsea revolution.
Arguably, Gerrard is the finest midfielder ever to have
graced the Premier League. His cleaner's fingers should be
raw with rubbing the silverware in his trophy cabinet.
Yet two FA Cups, two League Cups, a UEFA Cup and a Champions
League medal is his lot. Better than many but not even close
to the Premier League medal which all English footballers
You can see it in his downcast expression as the Liverpool
captain explains defeat after defeat, six in 16 Premier
League matches. Another two at Anfield against Lyon and
Fiorentina in the Champions League.
Gerrard appears to be tired of making excuses. Exasperated
with the weekly grind of carrying the hopes of a club which
is so close to his heart but which has made so many wrong
turns in board room and changing room.
Not least, as was obvious in the latest 2-1 defeat by
Arsenal, the acquisition of a fullback in Glen Johnson who
excites when surging forward but who cannot defend and yet
That is not just Liverpool's problem. It is England's, too.
World Cups are decided by the tightest of margins and
Johnson is an accident waiting to happen in South Africa,
one which must even now be giving Fabio Capello the odd
Yet you would hardly know it as Capello won the Coach of the
Year trophy at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year
Coach of the Year for safely negotiating England through the
World Cup qualifying rounds in one of the easiest groups?
Lots of promise, it's true, but no trophies yet. Nothing
won. In a year when Sir Alex Ferguson once more dealt in
football's hard currency, adding an 11th Premier League
title and a third League Cup to his trophy haul at
Such rewards are not down to chance. They are down to hard
work, clear thought, tactical acumen, powers of motivation
and man-management. Earthly virtues, which Carragher and
Liverpool should heed.
After all, doesn't the Lord helps those who help themselves?
Benitez walks alone and directionless
in the sad shadow of Shankly
The situation with Aquilani is becoming
less a puzzle and more a scandal.
The worrying thing for Liverpool, if we can put it so mildly
in these most desperate of circumstances, is that at last
they found at least some of the best of themselves.
They had Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard streaming on
goal; they found for a little while much of the bite that
has been so elusive for so long.
But there is yet again a withering question to ask Rafa
This one has a potentially terminal ring to it. It wants to
know, if this was indeed the best of Liverpool, if he was
able to field his strongest team, give or take the
mysterious continuing bench-warming of £20m Alberto
Aquilani, where does it leave a club drifting remorselessly
away from its old place among the elite of English and
Not long into the second half of a match which Arsenal,
despite lacking their front-line strikers Robin van Persie
and Nicklas Bendtner, were able to transform with almost
contemptuous ease, there was a cruel answer indeed.
It was that Liverpool are running close to bankruptcy. They
had no response of consequence to the superb reanimation of
Arsenal, after a half-time in which Arsène Wenger's men must
also have been at least glimpsing the possibility that they
were locked into a futility only underlined by the weekend
frailties of Manchester United and Chelsea. Liverpool were
leaden, even surly in their frustration, and if there was
any need to underline the sense of a team which had utterly
lost its way it was provided by the sight of Xabi Alonso
sitting in the stand, and Aquilani sitting on the bench.
Whether or not the Italian will ever provide the kind of
force, the sheer game-gripping panache of Alonso is a
question far too premature, based on the evidence he has
been allowed to provide since we were told he had become
medically fit to play so long after his arrival at Anfield.
But there is a deeper point and it is one that was currently
hovering over the Liverpool manager like a bird of prey.
If you decide to part with Alonso or, to be generous, refuse
to strive publicly and passionately to prevent his
departure, how can the leadership the player provided be
allowed to slide into a kind of vacuum ever since he swopped
the shirt of Liverpool for Real Madrid?
Maybe in time Aquilani will fill something of the need to
give Liverpool some shape and rhythm, especially after they
achieve something of an advantage over a playmaking team
like Arsenal, as they did when the troubling uncertainties
of Manuel Almunia spilt the ball at the feet of Dirk Kuyt.
But football, if you see yourselves as contenders, is not
about tomorrow but today and the situation with Aquilani is
becoming less a puzzle and more a scandal.
Certainly, he has confirmed the reputation he enjoys back
home in Italy. He is neat and sharp with skill and, with
something of a run in the first team, who knows, he may also
be influential. But then, by the time it happens Liverpool
may well have a whole set of new priorities, chiefly the one
of filling holes left by such disenchanted superstars as
Gerrard and Torres.
In the first half, particularly, they played both with
splendid application and much of their old élan. But long
before the end their body language was doing rather more
than murmur the possibility that they were part of a lost
That this was becoming their certain fate no doubt had much
to do with the spectacular upgrading of Arsenal's
performance, especially in the way Cesc Fabregas and Samir
Nasri suddenly saw the need to become much more relevant and
Andrei Arshavin, who spent almost the entire first half
bouncing off the likes of Daniel Agger and Jamie Carragher,
reminded us there is no sweeter finishing touch in all of
Arsenal needed the win quite as much as Liverpool but for
different reasons. They had to persuade themselves that they
could indeed exploit the lost ground of Chelsea and United,
and that the talk of their one day winning a major prize,
rather than merely providing the most dazzling
beautification in English football, had some basis in
This they did, surely, with the assurance that came in the
second half. Arsenal, having looked disconcerted, almost
cowed by the force of Liverpool's opening assault, found a
composure that marks the best of their work. They ran, they
took up space intelligently, and Liverpool could do nothing
but bluster their way into deeper crisis.
That such a denouement should come on the 50th anniversary
of the founding of the Shankly tradition is just one of the
sadder aspects of what is happening at Anfield.
Mostly it is about a breakdown not just in confidence but in
a way of playing. There is no true point of focus, no sense
of a team with options beyond the individual brilliance of
their two leading players. The rest, we have to say again,
is mediocrity. Some of it is worthy and driven, but it is
still mediocre. It was a worry guaranteed to appal Shankly
and plainly it is beginning to have the same effect on many
of the Liverpool fans who sing "You'll Never Walk Alone",
then drift away to the turnstiles before the end in another
statement of dismay and disillusion.
For the greatest winners in the history of English football
it is increasingly hard not to believe that time has already
symptomatic of Reds demise
Comment by Dominic King - Liverpool Echo
Andre Marriner, the fourth official,
strode to the touchline and hoisted aloft the electronic
board which shows how much injury time must be played.
Usually, when Liverpool are trailing in games at such
moments, Anfield’s crowd will fill its lungs, stand together
and scream collectively for one final, desperate push to
salvage what appears a hopeless situation.
On many occasions down the years, it is a tactic that has
worked a treat. Liverpool, you see, were never beaten until
the last whistle and the club’s history is littered with
contests that looked to have slipped from their grasp but
were somehow turned into victories.
How we yearn for a return to those days.
Yesterday, when Marriner indicated there would be a minimum
of four added minutes, the only soundtrack that accompanied
the declaration was that of empty seats clattering back into
No fight, no anger, no bellowing, no bawling, nothing.
Anfield was dead, shocked into silence by a wretched second
half display which enabled the Reds to snatch defeat from
the jaws of victory against an Arsenal side that could
scarcely believe its luck.
How utterly demoralising. Just when you thought that, maybe,
Liverpool had found the perfect point to relaunch a campaign
which has lurched and lumbered from one low to another,
along comes quite possibly the biggest disappointment of
Infuriating, exasperating, call it what you will, Liverpool
had the perfect opportunity to revive their flagging
fortunes but, somehow, contrived to find themselves stuck in
an even bigger hole than they were before.
They could not have wished for a greater incentive to make a
statement; practically every result went their way on
Saturday and victory against Arsene Wenger’s men would have
catapulted them into fifth.
Instead, they remain in seventh but, most significantly,
have suffered another crushing blow to their brittle belief.
They may be just five points off fourth place, but the fact
that numerically they are closer to the relegation zone than
to a title fight speaks volumes.
Now this is not suggesting for one moment that Liverpool are
in the midst of a battle to keep their heads above water in
the Premier League.
But the longer they keep slipping up, the more these
weekends pass with their rivals accruing points and the Reds
frittering them away, the harder it is going to become to
rouse themselves to secure the kind of position that is
imperative for the club’s future.
What puzzles most of all about this latest offering is that
it should have been so, so different; following a thoroughly
encouraging first 45 minutes, everything suggested they were
ready to start moving through the gears again.
With the exception of Alberto Aquilani, who dropped down to
the bench after making his first start against Fiorentina,
the team Rafa Benitez sent into battle was ultimately the
strongest he is able to name at this present moment.
Fitting Aquilani into his first XI is clearly going to be a
head-scratching conundrum for the manager and, now the
Italian is up and running, it is one he is going to have to
solve sooner rather than later.
If he sticks with his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation who misses
out? Does Dirk Kuyt drop out with Steven Gerrard moving to
the right flank to accommodate Aquilani in a central
position in front of Lucas and Javier Mascherano?
Does he slot Aquilani alongside Mascherano, in the role Xabi
Alonso – an interested spectator yesterday –used to fill
with such elegance? On current form, the answer would have
to be ‘no’ as the young Brazilian, whether you like it or
not, has been a real positive.
Decisions, decisions. Until Benitez has to cross that
particular bridge, though, this particular group should be
good enough to start collecting points at a rapid pace –
their first half performance alone would have been good
enough to win most matches.
From the moment Mascherano thundered into Cesc Fabregas with
just seven seconds on the clock, it was clear to see
Liverpool meant business, the energy and tempo much better
than it has been in recent weeks.
Everywhere you looked across the pitch, you could see Red
shirts swarming all over Blue ones.
It was all designed to knock Arsenal out of their stride and
it worked a treat, the first sense this could be Liverpool’s
day coming when Gerrard skipped down the right and fed his
partner in crime but, inexplicably, Torres shot straight at
Manuel Almunia. No matter. Continuing to prod and probe,
even Howard Webb’s failure to award a clear penalty when
Williams Gallas felled Gerrard never rocked them and
Benitez’s players got the reward their efforts deserved just
before half-time when Kuyt poked in.
After so much negativity and frustration, the explosion of
joy that greeted the goal was almost tangible, the elation
on Kuyt’s face clear to see as he slid on his knees in front
of the Main Stand – then it all went so desperately wrong.
Glen Johnson’s own goal five minutes after the re-start was
symptomatic of the way things are going for Liverpool, the
full-back unable to get his feet out of the way as Samir
Nasri’s cross from the right sped across the box. And just
as you could sense the relief that Kuyt’s strike brought, so
you could feel the fear and apprehension swirl around the
Yet this was not a vintage Arsenal side they were facing;
Wenger may have some fine technicians but, with the
exception of Andrey Arshavin and Fabregas, none are in the
class of, say, Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp or Robert
All the more startling, then, that Liverpool could not
summon a riposte after Arshavin – as big a menace as he was
when scoring four times at Anfield in April – crashed a snap
shot past the helpless Pepe Reina.
There were only 58 minutes on the clock at that point but,
effectively, it was game over; Liverpool died a slow death,
one that shocked the hordes to the core, as the final
whistle was greeted with almost near silence.
Only time will tell if the situation can be retrieved but if
it is one thing is absolutely imperative – 50 years ago
today, Bill Shankly marched into Melwood and gave Liverpool
their fight. Now they need his spirit like never before.
Wenger salutes Gunners comeback
By Elliot Ball - Sky Sports
Arsene Wenger was delighted with Arsenal's
second-half response as they came back from behind to beat
Liverpool after the Gunners manager's half-time fury
provoked the perfect result.
The Gunners climbed to third after Andrey Arshavin's
second-half strike sealed the game at Anfield after Glen
Johnson put the ball into his own net.
Wenger leaves Merseyside very much the happier of the two
managers, but he was the complete opposite at half-time as
his side trailed to a Dirk Kuyt opener.
And the Arsenal boss refused to reveal what he said at
half-time interval which provoked his side to comeback and
clinch maximum points.
"I don't like to talk about that," Wenger told Sky Sports.
"It was in the dressing room what I said and I want to keep
it in the dressing room."
Wenger did admit Arsenal were completely outplayed in the
opening period, but insists his side ran out deserved
winners on the day.
"I think the first-half was all Liverpool and we were quite
happy with the 1-0 - it could have been two and the game may
been over," the Frenchman added.
"We needed a second-half performance and we had a great
response - the first half was Liverpool the second half was
Cesc Fabregas revealed that Arsene Wenger was the angriest
he'd ever been in the dressing room and it provoked a
winning response, but Wenger was coy on giving insight into
what was said during the interval.
Wenger did say: "We know it was absolutely needed to win
this game today when you lose all the 50-50s in the big
games you don't win the games and I wanted to make the
players conscious that the commitment of Liverpool was
stronger than ours."
reaction to defeat
By Paul Hassall - LFC Official Website
The result means the Reds have slipped
five points behind the current occupants of the final
Champions League berth, Aston Villa, but the boss is adamant
his side will bounce back, beginning with Wigan on
"The target is still the same," he told his post match press
conference. "Look at the next game and aim for the top four.
It is the same situation. We have to keep going, try to
improve and win our games. If we play at the same level that
we did in the first-half, I am sure we will win more games."
Liverpool had looked on course to take all three points
against the Gunners after Dirk Kuyt capped an impressive
first-half team performance with opener.
However, the visitors produced a stunning second-half
fightback to claim a 2-1 victory, leaving Benitez to rue a
Glen Johnson own goal that sparked the turnaround.
"It is difficult to explain when you play so well in first
half," he said. "We were on top of them. We had the chance
for Torres, the goal and the penalty that was not given.
"Then we started the second half with an own goal and then a
second goal went in and everything changed. You could see
that the confidence went down. We gave the ball away in the
second half which was the opposite to the first when we were
controlling the game.
"We've had too many problems this year and when you have
another one sometimes it is hard to keep the confidence
high. We have to be ready and start training tomorrow. We
need to show character and play at the same level we played
at in the first half, against Wigan.
"The fans and the players are disappointed. We have to start
working with them and do things in the right way. Some
players are coming back and they need to improve their match
fitness. The positive is the first-half, the negative is the
lack of confidence we showed in the second half."
During a one-sided first-half the Reds were denied what
appeared to be a clear-cut penalty when Steven Gerrard was
brought down by William Gallas, and Benitez felt the
referee's decision could have had a big impact on the
outcome of the game.
"It was a penalty. 100 per cent," he said. " A foul is a
foul, it is a penalty. These decisions can make a massive
He added: "We were talking before and we knew that only way
to reduce the gap was to win our games. If you cannot do
that you cannot get closer to the other teams.
Asked if the result meant Liverpool's hopes of winning the
title were over, the boss said: "You always ask me the same,
but for me it is just one game at a time. I cannot say
anything because you never know what can happen in football.
But to be realistic is Wigan and nothing else.
"Today, after the first-half everyone was convinced it was a
different team and one with a winning mentality. Maybe we
need to score the second goal and have this advantage for
some games, then we will see the confidence go higher.
"There was clearly a loss of confidence in the second half
.After the own goal, everything was different. We had no
confidence passing the ball. It's not a question of quality,
The clash with the Gunners also marked the return to the
starting line-up for Fernando Torres, and Benitez felt the
striker gave a good account of himself.
"It was a difficult game at the end because we were not
playing good passes for him," he said. "He had a chance
first-half and he was a threat. We need to play better to
provide the strikers and it will be easier for them."
Quizzed about the fitness of Javier Mascherano, after the
Argentina skipper was seen nursing his knee prior to his
substitution, the boss added: "He is okay. He got a knock on
his knee. He was limping a bit and he also had a yellow card
so I replaced him. I think he will be okay for Wednesday."
outburst inspired us
Cesc Fabregas said a furious tirade by
Arsene Wenger at half-time had inspired Arsenal to come from
behind and beat Liverpool 2-1 on Sunday.
The Reds took the lead through Dirk Kuyt close to half-time
but the north Gunners turned the game around in the second
half with an own goal by Glen Johnson and a stunning shot by
Andrey Arshavin guiding Arsenal to victory.
The victory moved Arsenal up to third place in the Premier
League - within three points of Manchester United with a
game in hand.
Fabregas revealed he had never seen Wenger so angry as he
was at half-time.
The Spaniard told Sky Sports 1: "The boss screamed. I've
never seen him like that before.
"He was really disappointed in the first half and said we
didn't deserve to wear the Arsenal shirt if we played like
"And I think he was right.
"In the second half we turned it round."
The Gunners are now six points behind Chelsea with both the
Blues and United faltering on Saturday, but Fabregas was
"There is still a long way to go," he added. "The Premier
League is more open than ever, you can beat any team and I
like it that way."
Defender Thomas Vermaelen explained the turnaround, saying:
"We just reacted very well. The first half was really bad
but in the second we put pressure on them and saw the
"We closed the gap a little bit now and we are back in the
Arshavin seals Anfield affair
By Elliot Ball - Sky Sports
Andrey Arshavin continued his Anfield
scoring spree as Arsenal came from behind to cast
Liverpool's top-four hopes into serious doubt.
Reds manager Rafael Benitez had insisted the season started
again today after the midweek UEFA Champions League defeat
And the hosts approached the game with vigour and took a
first-half lead into the break when Dirk Kuyt pounced on an
unconvincing palm by Manuel Almunia after Steven Gerrard was
denied a penalty from William Gallas' clumsy challenge.
But Benitez's side surrendered yet another lead when first
Glen Johnson put the ball into his own net before Arshavin,
who scored four goals in the corresponding fixture last
term, smashed in the winner on 58 minutes to send the
Reds legend Bill Shankly's first official day behind the
manager's desk at Liverpool was 50 years ago this Monday,
and Benitez will sit uncomfortably in that same office after
this as his team slumped to their sixth league defeat of the
Liverpool made six changes from the side dumped out of the
Champions League in midweek, with Fernando Torres back in
the starting line-up for the first time since early
November. Fabio Aurelio was brought in at left-back against
the pace of Theo Walcott.
Arsenal were unrecognisable from the side that lost to
Olympiakos in Greece, only Walcott being retained by manager
With Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Spurs
all dropping points 24 hours earlier, both sides were
desperate to take advantage.
And at last Anfield was treated to a pulsating clash after
weeks of insipid displays as the tempo and passion came from
both sides and Liverpool could have had two goals in the
opening 13 minutes.
First Torres broke away, fed Gerrard to his right and then
took the return before failing to lift the ball over Almunia
Two minutes later referee Howard Webb controversially denied
Liverpool a penalty when Gallas felled Gerrard.
The Liverpool skipper may have pushed the ball too far, but
Gallas clearly took Gerrard's legs.
Denilson was booked for a high tackle on Mascherano as
Liverpool poured forward.
Arsenal survived, at times with difficulty, but still sought
to play their intelligent, passing football out of defence.
Samir Nasri fired wide and Cesc Fabregas tested Jose Reina
as the threat on the break from the Gunners became
But four minutes from the break Arsenal finally cracked.
Aurelio lifted a free-kick into the six-yard box, where
Almunia, under intense pressure in the air, managed only a
weak punch and Kuyt fired home from 10 yards.
Arsenal were furious with a supposed aerial assault on their
goalkeeper, Wenger making the point angrily to fourth
official Andre Marriner.
The Gunners' chief was even more upset two minutes later
when it looked like Aurelio stopped Walcott's run with an
arm across his face. Only a booking ensured.
Arsenal came out after the break fired up for the challenge
and were level after 50 minutes.
Nasri tore down the right and fired in a low cross that
Johnson turned past Reina for an own goal with Walcott
lurking behind him.
Mascherano was soon booked for a foul on Fabregas and it was
soon to get worse for Liverpool, and especially Johnson.
Fabregas' cross after 58 minutes eluded Johnson, who then
failed to stop Arshavin turning to fire in off the post from
Benitez finally turned to Aquilani with 25 minutes left,
Mascherano making way, and with the watching Xabi Alonso
applauding from the directors' box as the man bought to
replace him trotted on.
But Aquilani made little impact and finished the game
As much as the first half had been so positive for an
aggressive Liverpool, the second was becoming deeply
Passes started going astray, the Reds were no longer in
Arsenal's faces, rather chasing their heels.
The passion had gone from Liverpool and the accomplished
young Gunners had a measure of control they were not going
Arshavin was booked for one too many late challenges on
defenders clearing the ball, then Fabregas for kicking the
ball away from a free-kick.
David Ngog coming on for Yossi Benayoun and then Philipp
Degen for a flagging, disconsolate Johnson did little to
change the flow of the match and Liverpool now have just
three wins in their last 15 games.