This past week seems to be one of, if not the, lowest points in Liverpool’s season. Forget the deflation in the camp after an unprecedented drop-out in the Champions League group stage. And don’t even mention Reading, I repeat, Reading reducing our silver ware hopes to a lone glimmer when they knocked us out of the FA Cup.
This week has been the deepest, darkest pits for Liverpool’s morale.
Let’s flash back to the weekend when Liverpool drew 1-1 at Birmingham City. That’s a fine result on its own, but in light of their quest for Champions League qualification, it was like a shotgun blast to their knees.
Somehow, the score line wasn’t the must gut-wrenching part of the fixture.
When Mr. Benitez decided to pull Fernando Torres off the pitch in the 60th minute, everyone scratched their head, including Steven Gerrard. No, literally – he did.
Torres was confused, Gerrard was confused, and the Liverpool faithful were confused.
Now, I could dedicate an entire post to that moment and want it meant for the game, but I’ll try to keep it short.
I’ve read arguments that David Ngog coming on provided fresh legs that opened up our game, and we consequently turned up the pressure on Birmingham. But two of his clear cut chances came from him waiting on brilliant balls into the box. His legs had nothing to do with them, and nine times out of 10, you’d fancy Torres to stick them in the back of the ole onion bag.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The boost that comes to the squad when El Niño is on the pitch is something that irreplaceable, and certainly can’t be replicated by Ngog trotting onto the field (Disclaimer: I don’t dislike Ngog. I think he’s a young guy who has shown some very positive things, and I’m eager to see him develop over the next couple of seasons, but El Niño he is not, and never will be). Whether fit or not, playing at the top of his game or whiffing balls, he still raises the confidence of the Reds around him. Hell, I feel more confident about myself watching the game from my couch with Fernando on the pitch.
When you’re in a must-win situation, I just find it hard to justify pulling off who I believe to be one of the top three strikers in the world at the 60th minute mark when he’s showing no signs of injury.
After that decision, I think Rafa should sit down with Bruce Arena, and he can pat that moron on the back for his brilliant decision to come out against Ghana in a 4-5-1 during the 2006 World Cup when they absolutely had to leave the grounds with three points.
As denting as this was to the team psyche, now the articles are popping up with the team admitting their doubts.
Torres is admitting the summer sales of his fellow Spaniards Xavi Alonso and Arbeloa crippled the team mentally. He’s also saying, in a roundabout way, that his team isn’t good enough and new signings are a necessity for success next year.
Now if I haven’t heard two things more boosting to team morale! What fabulous indications of the atmosphere around the training grounds!
Even worse, and much worse, mind you, is Rafa Benitez backing these statements! Yes, Rafa is supporting comments about his squad not being good enough and the summer transfers hurting the team. He’s not only backing Torres in these comments, but he’s admitting his own faults!
This is unheard of, and is either signs of the fall of LFC, or of the Apocalypse. Wait, those are one in the same, aren’t they?
Rafa never let’s his deflector shield down. He’s always shields up. Until last week, he was still guaranteeing fourth spot. He’s always guaranteeing results and sticking to his guns on questionable line-up decisions.
This stubbornness, while annoying at times, is actually comforting, I’ve come to realize. It must be great, as a player, to have a boss like that who, no matter how he really feels, will never show signs of discouragement or lack of faith in his guys.
So for Rafa to pop up this week with this bleak outlook and negative reflection of his own career at Anfield, it’s truly saddening.
It’s particularly sad when he admits to banking on signing talent over the summer, but he also admits the funds aren’t there for such enlistments. Well, that said, I’m glad we decided to turn down a $110 million investment at the beginning of the week.
Maybe Benitez is siding with Torres on these issues to improve their relationship, to be buddy-buddy with the world-class forward in attempts to do anything possible to boost chances of him sticking around at Anfield.
I hope that’s the case, because to see the boys losing confidence at this stage in the season is going to close the door on that tiny glimmer of hope they hold in their hands.
I’m still not conceding fourth spot for them, and I’ll tell you exactly why next week.
Why next week? Because I’m tired of typing, reflecting on the week has depressed me for the moment, and I will have saved myself a lot of work if Clint Dempsey and Fulham find some way to steal a result at Anfield on Sunday.
Until then, you’ll never walk alone.