Liverpool FC need
to sort themselves out
Comment by Tommy Smith - Liverpool Echo
It was obvious on Monday night that
Liverpool have got problems. But what worried me most was
that the players didnít act like it.
If Iíd have been out there I would have shouting and
bawling, demanding more from the team, whether I was the
captain or not.
You take things into your own hands when itís not going
well, not just stand there and accept defeat.
But the players looked as baffled by the whole affair as I
was Ė I couldnít believe what I was seeing.
The most puzzling thing was Steven Gerrard being so out of
Every player is allowed a bad game and an off day and there
were many besides him who werenít up to the job.
But we couldnít find a way through midfield at all and
Gerrard didnít seem up to the job of powering through and
threatening in the penalty area.
In fact, the only area he caused trouble in was in his own
when he gave away that penalty.
He is an attacking midfield player so what is he doing in
the box making a tackle?
I remember playing in a game against Newcastle and of all
people Kevin Keegan and came back to give a away a penalty.
I said, ďwhat the hell are you doing down here giving away a
penalty, youíre supposed to be at other end putting them
You canít really shout and moan at Gerrard because of how
good a player he is but when heís doing things like that,
you know itís a bad night.
There werenít many on the field that did deserve praise.
Jamie Carragher was okay apart from letting Curtis Davies in
for his header but overall the defence was awful Ė weíve got
a left-back who is a good left-winger.
In midfield, we were crowded out and couldnít do anything
expect pass sideways or backwards. Lucas was standing there
dong nothing most of the time Ė Iíve got two bad legs so I
could do that!
So plenty of questions. We didnít look to be playing as a
unit and the squad is not as strong as it was last year Ė
and unless Aquilani is as good as Alonso how can it get
At the end of the day, how can we not beat a team that only
last March we beat 5-0?
Martin OíNeill has clearly managed to sort a few tings out
since then. Now the Reds need to sort a few things out of
their own and fast.
already setting in
Liverpool are facing up to a title crisis
just a few days into a season when they were being hailed as
Premier League favourites.
Two disturbing defeats inside the first nine days of the
campaign - by teams with genuine hopes of breaking into the
top four - has seen boss Rafael Benitez turn on his senior
stars and demand more responsibility.
But the defeats at Tottenham and then against Aston Villa at
Anfield have brought to a head a summer of change at Anfield
that has been largely kept very much under wraps.
Not any more. Major changes in staffing at Anfield, the
club's academy and the Melwood training complex has created
a sense of upheaval.
Now the financial problems of American owners Tom Hicks and
George Gillett, which has deprived Benitez of the funds to
buy a much-needed top striker, is taking its toll.
Benitez, unhappy it is believed at the easy access to
dressing-room secrets by TV pundits who are friendly with
his top players, has now called for "greater responsibility"
from his star names.
Liverpool players, predictably, have jumped to the defence
of a side already six points behind the leaders.
Midfielder Yossi Benayoun said: "Of course we are
disappointed. We did not expect to lose to Villa but it was
just one of those nights when everything went against us.
"Now we know we have to improve on Saturday at Bolton.
Against Villa we did not play like we can play, we didn't
move the ball quickly enough as we did to beat Stoke last
"Last season we only lost two league games, so of course we
are not pleased. But we have to show we are still a strong
team with character to recover from this.
"It is all about hard work and effort, working from game to
game and we know we can do better than this.
"Normally a club like Liverpool will lose only two or three
games (a season). Of course everyone will ask if we are
strong enough to win the league, but there is still a long
way to go and everything can change.
"Not only the senior players must do better, everybody needs
to work harder. I am sure we have enough quality, enough
good players to do it (win the title).
"We have a game now against Bolton and maybe then it is a
good time to go on an international break and try to come
Benitez looked to his top men for the right leadership, and
that cannot hide the fact that Steven Gerrard, Fernando
Torres and Javier Mascherano are in the firing line.
Benitez also dismissed criticism of his style of play and
the quality in his squad.
He said: "There is no doubt that senior players must take on
more responsibility while I have no problem with the system
we use. It won us 86 points last season and we only conceded
10 goals from set-pieces.
"But there are things that must be improved. Maybe our
focus, we must now win our next game and then things can
"There were too many people involved with mistakes for the
goals (against Villa), the own goal was unlucky and we maybe
could have done better for their second defending the
"And, as for the penalty, it is better if the player
(Gerrard) can stay on his feet and then the outcome could be
"This is now a test of character. We have to show we have
enough quality for a title challenge and we must win against
Bolton and do the right things in matches.
"The squad is more or less the same one that took 86 points
last season. So we know we can do it, but we must do things
properly from the beginning of games."
New signing Glen Johnson was equally defensive, saying:
"Obviously this is not the start to the season that we
wanted but it was only the third game and there is a long
way to go.
"It is still the early part of the season so we are not
going to beat ourselves up at the moment. Of course, we
would like to have a few more points but it's not to be so
we will just keep going."
He added: "I definitely believe that teams like Aston Villa
and Tottenham and Manchester City will take points off the
so-called big four this season.
"Bolton is a hard place to go next but hopefully we will
start there the way we started the second half tonight by
going at them from the first minute and get the three
Liverpool FC must use
power of positive thinking
Comment by Ian Rush - Liverpool Echo
After losing only two games throughout the
whole of last season, weíve now managed to lose two in the
space of just 10 days.
Which means that Liverpool have to adopt a positive mental
outlook in every game from here on in.
The Reds were held to too many draws last season.
But the margin for error in the modern title race is so slim
that draws are no use any more.
United won the Premier League title last season despite
losing four matches.
And thatís because they drew five fewer than Liverpool
throughout the course of the campaign.
The three points for a win format means that a defeat Ė even
a home defeat as desperately disappointing as last nightís Ė
is not as damaging as it might otherwise have been.
Itís accepted that the games we drew at home last season
against the likes of West Ham, Fulham, Stoke and Hull cost
us the title.
But losing two and winning two of those games would have
given us a better points return than remaining unbeaten in
Thatís why I think itís far too early to be writing
Liverpool off as credible title challengers as some people
already appear to be doing.
And itís a times like this that the supportersí influence
can be vitally important.
They will be feeling low after last night Ė and they pay
their hard earned money so are fully entitled to express
But if they keep the faith they can help the team come
through a difficult spell.
Itís also important that they get behind Lucas and donít
undermine the ladís confidence. He knows he made a mistake
last night and he will be hurting more than anybody.
But the simple fact is we need the Brazilian to play a
significant role for the next few months until Aquilani is
fit to play a part and he will be able to do that far more
effectively with the fans behind him.
Itís unfortunate that he should have been involved in such a
pivotal moment last night, because there were signs before
then that the fans were starting to warm to him.
He has had an excellent pre-season and has been one of our
better players in the first two Premier League games.
I just hope this little setback doesnít knock him back
The finger was pointed at some of the senior players last
night for not accepting enough responsibility, but I also
think itís the players on the bench like Babel, Voronin and
Ngog who have to be doing more.
The squad is not as strong as we would like, everybody
accepts that, but that means players not seen as first
choice regulars have to do more to convince the manager they
are worth a starting berth.
Yossi Benayoun has done it and his example is one that some
of the fringe players should follow.
There will be an undoubted mood of gloom and despondency
after last night.
But it simply means that we have to go to Bolton on Saturday
Itís perhaps a little early to be talking about must-win
matches, but Iím afraid draws really arenít much use any
more Ė even at this early stage.
And that is perhaps the one positive to come out of last
night Ė we now have to be positive every game.
Rafa: We must step up at Bolton
By Jimmy Rice at Anfield - LFC Official Website
Rafa Benitez admits Liverpool have to
improve following the 3-1 home defeat to Aston Villa - but
the boss is refusing to panic amid a mixed start to the
A Lucas OG gave Villa a shock lead at Anfield before Curtis
Davies doubled their advantage on the stroke of half-time.
Torres pulled one back in the second half but it was
rendered meaningless within minutes when Gerrard chopped
Nigel Reo-Coker in the box and Ashley Young converted.
The result means the Reds have now picked up just three
points from their opening three games.
Benitez said: "The first 20 minutes we had our chances, we
didn't take them. Then we made a mistake, scored an own
goal, then conceded in injury time. Afterwards we were
pushing but gave away a penalty - there were too many
mistakes in crucial moments.
"Clearly we did not play well. We gave the ball away against
a team that's good on the counter. We have lost and we have
The Reds had looked set to stage a late escape when Torres
turned home Emiliano Insua's cross and the boss admitted he
was disappointed with the way his side conceded the penalty.
"I thought when Torres scored we could get a point," he
"We were pushing harder and better but the crucial moment
was when we gave the penalty away and that made a
"If we'd have scored early like against Stoke it would have
made a difference. But we were giving the ball away against
a team that is good on the counter-attack.
"It's not easy when the other team is well organised but
their keeper made some great saves. That's part of the game.
If the keeper is playing well you need to create more
Benitez now wants his senior players to step up when
Liverpool visit Bolton at the weekend.
He added: "Our target is to win against Bolton in the next
game and that's it. We're not thinking about anything else.
"With this squad we won a lot of games last year and we have
to do the same this year.
"When you are losing, the only way to change things is to
win - that's the only way.
"You can talk about some names but clearly the team as a
team has to improve. The senior players have more experience
and they have to take responsibility and go forward."
Friedel pleased to make amends
Brad Friedel felt Aston Villa's 3-1 win at
Liverpool on Monday tasted particularly sweet after they
were hammered 5-0 at Anfield last season.
Villa ended Liverpool's 31-match unbeaten home Premier
League record with a deserved victory. They were two ahead
at half-time through a Lucas own goal and a Curtis Davies
header seconds from the break.
Fernando Torres pulled one back from close range, but an
Ashley Young penalty soon after claimed the Midlanders'
first win at Anfield since 2001.
Following an opening-day home defeat by Wigan, Friedel said
on ESPN: "It was the right time for us, we'd been getting a
few bullets in the press lately and didn't have a good
start. But to come here and win, no matter how we did it,
"Liverpool are a great side, we knew we'd be under the cosh.
In the first half we played a bit more, in the second we
were under siege and the penalty came at the perfect time.
"It has got us off the mark and to win at Anfield is
fantastic. With the result last year it does leave a bad
taste in the mouth.
"It's not revenge but it's pleasing to put in a performance
because last year we just didn't turn up."
Goalscorer Davies said: "Sometimes you think it's a bit too
early (to go ahead) because they have got the whole second
half to throw themselves at you but we held out, they got a
goal but we got one straight after. It was perfect timing.
"I'm not renowned for scoring. I wasn't going to go up for
it but luckily it fell onto my head and I was happy to get
"Obviously I would have been happier with a clean sheet but
we'll take it."
Villa boss Martin O'Neill told ESPN: "I'm delighted with the
performance, I couldn't be more pleased.
"We put absolutely everything into the game, not just effort
but skill and ability.
"We had a sluggish start on the opening day and to come and
win here against maybe one of the championship favourites
was a terrific effort.
"At 2-0 we seemed in reasonable command of the game, it goes
to 2-1 and so we had to react pretty quickly. We got a goal
through the penalty - and it was a penalty - and got
ourselves back in again. We deserved to win."
rock Reds at Anfield
Aston Villa put another dent in
Liverpool's title dreams with a hard-fought 3-1 victory at
Lucas Leiva suffered the indignity of putting through his
own net to open the scoring, before Curtis Davies doubled
Villa's lead moments before the break.
Fernando Torres did pull one back for the hosts, but Ashley
Young rounded off the scoring from the penalty spot.
Liverpool dominated much of the opening exchanges, but fell
behind after 34 minutes when an ambitious free-kick from
Young cannoned off Lucas and past a stranded Pepe Reina.
The Reds were then the architects of their own downfall once
again on the stroke of half-time as they failed to pick up
Davies from a corner and he glanced a header in off the
underside of the bar.
Torres then offered Rafa Benitez's side a lifeline on 72
minutes, as he coolly rounded of a well-worked move down the
However, Steven Gerrard felled Nigel Reo-Coker in the box
three minutes later and Young sent Reina the wrong way from
The result ended Liverpool's 31-match unbeaten home league
record stretching back to December 2007, when Manchester
United were the last winners at Anfield.
But the spotlight will now be on Liverpool, who only lost
twice in the league last season and still did not win the
The margin for error is now very fine. You rarely win the
crown by losing more than five games in a season, and
Liverpool's hopes could already have suffered a mortal blow.
Liverpool produced a vibrant start, but found themselves
frustrated by the quick-tackling, quick-thinking Villa
The hosts could have been ahead in the first minute when
Yossi Benayoun's back-header from Torres' chip into the
area, beat Brad Friedel but dropped inches wide.
A taste of what was to follow came from Villa's first chance
came when Davies met a Nicky Shorey cross with a strong
header, but it went straight at Reina.
Torres and Steven Gerrard both saw shots blocked in the
six-yard box, before Young was booked after 12 minutes for
halting a Dirk Kuyt run.
Then Gerrard struck a first-timer from 20-yards just over
from Kuyt's touched pass.
But Liverpool's problems were beginning to mount in a
midfield that they were unable to dominate.
Javier Mascherano and Lucas were both fortunate not to be
cautioned for fouls on Stiliyan Petrov and Gabriel
Agbonlahor in quick succession.
Torres was also coming in for some rough treatment from
Carlos Cuellar, two tackles from behind going unpunished by
referee Martin Atkinson.
By now Reo-Coker and Steve Sidwell were successfully
breaking up Gerrard's flow in midfield, and Villa were soon
to take the lead.
It came after 33 minutes when Lucas gave away a needless
free-kick in midfield.
Young swung the set-piece towards the near post, and it was
the unfortunate Lucas who rose to head the ball past Reina
for an own-goal.
Liverpool's play was sloppy and far too much possession was
being conceded with ill-directed passes.
Further calamity came after Reina was booked in first half
injury time for kicking the ball away in annoyance when
referee Martin Atkinson awarded a disputed corner, Sidwell's
shot looking to have clipped a defender.
And from that disputed corner Villa found themselves two up.
Shorey's corner swung into the near post and was headed home
The hosts have staged some amazing comebacks in this stadium
over the years, and they were going to need another massive
performance to salvage anything from this situation.
Villa defended with organisation and desire. Reo-Coker was
booked for kicking the ball away, and Friedel produced a
fine save from a Kuyt header.
Kuyt then saw another header hit a post from a Gerrard
corner from the left.
But Villa were still showing great resilience, and breaking
quickly to cause Liverpool all sorts of problems at the
back, Reo-Coker being only inches away from a third with one
Liverpool sent on Andriy Voronin for Lucas after 66 minutes,
with Friedel producing another fine stop from a Gerrard
drive soon after.
But after 72 minutes Liverpool finally gave themselves some
hope when Emiliano Insua got down the left and rolled the
ball into the six-yard box for Torres to score.
Two minutes later Liverpool were back in despair and Villa
celebrating. Shorey's pass into the path of Reo-Coker saw
the midfielder surge into the box only to be felled by
Gerrard's desperate tackle.
It was a clear penalty and Young stepped up to restore
Villa's two-goal lead.
Liverpool's frustration was obvious. Torres was booked for
dissent when Young went down injured and asked for
treatment. He was eventually replaced by Heskey.
Ryan Babel came on for Benayoun, with Liverpool still coming
forward. Friedel again made a fine save from a Torres flick,
before Kuyt sent a close range effort wide of the far post.
The outstanding Friedel, against his former club, saved from
Torres and Glen Johnson, with Skrtel booked in the dying
minutes, but Villa held on for a famous victory.