1. From the highs (back) to the lows for Liverpool…..
The cliché peddled all week is that in derby games like these, the form book goes out the window. Oh how Roy Hodgson must have wished that to be true. Fresh from a famous victory in the courtroom the story book may well have pointed towards a new era for Liverpool starting with a rousing victory against their locals rivals. Despite the new ownership however, on this evidence the legacy of the mess left by the old regime will be enough to dispell any fairytale for the once proud club for a long time to come.
With only one win each so far season, there was justifiable cause for both Merseyside clubs to believe that today’s result could dramatically shape the rest of their campaign, the fact that it was so decisive is worrying for all those connected with the Reds. Until desperation kicked in in the last fifteen minutes, Liverpool were devoid of ideas and simply bossed off the pitch.
After a poor start, Everton now have two wins in two games and very little to worry about except getting as high up the table as their squad and management team deserves.
Liverpool on the otherhand may well end up thanking their lucky stars they avoided the nine point penalty that was perilously close to being handed out if they went into administration as they find themselves second from bottom thanks only to a better goal difference than that of West Ham. Tellingly they also find themselves without a win since August. Words from ex-pool Legend Robbie Fowler that the Leeds side relegated in 2004 “was better than that Liverpool side that played today” strike alarmingly true. It is incidentally their worst start to a season since 1953/54, when they were ultimately relegated.
Things must change at Anfield and there are no points to be won for anyone who can suggest where the first one is most likely to come. The television producer cut a nice story together today. Following Everton’s opener the camera moved from Tim Cahill’s celebration, to that of David Moyes. From here it skipped those of the Everton fans and instead cut to a pensive John Henry until finally resting on a forlorn Roy Hodgson, pulling anxiously at the collar of his shirt. If there was breathing space in there then, there’s substantially less now.
2. More missed chances mean another chance missed.
As summer slowly progressed into autumn, much was made of Chelsea’s “less than challenging” set of fixtures with which they kicked off their season. As Ancelotti’s boys duly steamrolled whoever stood in front of them, there was a belief held by many that once faced by opposition of real quality the Blues would offer a chance to those still within sight of them to draw nearer.
As it transpires, the script went to plan but for one hitch – when presented with the gift horse of Chelsea’s one win, one defeat and one draw in their last three games, their competitors didn’t so much look into it, but instead pry open it’s jaws and ram their heads down its throat. With the exception of Manchester City, Chelsea’s most feared (at least before the season) title challengers have comprehensively failed in their attempts to reel in the already huge point deficit they suffer as the Champions stuttered. While Arsenal may still be rueing their home defeat to West Brom three weeks ago there can be few complaints to the manner of their defeat at Stamford Bridge so it is at Old Trafford where the most anguish will be felt.
While perusing the fixture list in July it is doubtful that Alex Ferguson pencilled in anything other than three points beside each of the names of Bolton, Sunderland and West Brom. To tell him then that he would achieve three points from those games collectively would have been an invitation to be laughed at.
Chelsea have emerged from a tricky set of fixtures with even trickier injury problems still sitting proudly on the top of the table. They have faced two of the three sides nearest them with none of these teams yet having faced each other……. there can be little question as to who is in pole position to snatch top honours this season, who will best challenge them however is very much up for debate.
3. Ferguson’s dream ending Roon-ed?
Its been allueded to before in this column, but something simply isn’t right at Old Trafford. Yesterday’s implosion against the Baggies was the fourth time in a league season only eight games old that United have left a two goal lead slip, managing only once to recover and gain three points. While they are not necessarily playing terribly, there is a distinct lack of confidence within the team when the opposition begins to fight back.
United still have the swagger of old when all is going well, but when the odds turn against them there is little sign of the steel and determination that used ooze from teams with Keane, Pallister, Schmeichel and co featuring. Whereas a lack of form can be rectified, a team with no heart is an altogether more worrying problem.
More worrying for United fans is the apparent realization that the current generation of players just isn’t good enough to recreate the glory days of old. Ferguson’s most recent attempt of an overhaul, seemingly unstoppable just three years ago when the likes of Ronaldo, Vidic, Ferdinand, Hargreaves, Rooney and Evra had the world at their still relatively young feet has been dismantled due to injury, poor form and even poorer economic management.
The latest speculation linking Rooney, a player believed to want to end his career in United red, with a move away from the club following a falling out with Ferguson does little to inspire hope to fans of the club hoping to taste success again soon. With all the trouble’s and trappings that go along with today’s game, will Ferguson decide sooner rather than later that enough is enough and call time on his dream of knocking Liverpool “off their f***ing perch”?
4. Sometimes it’s the ones you least expect….
If the international break is good for anything, it sometimes allows the football community a protracted period to discuss some of the more pressing matters of the game. This time around, the soap opera in Liverpool aside, the issue of tough tackling got brought to the table.
Following the horror tackles of De Jong and Henry, the leniency of Martin Atkinson, the finger pointing of Danny Murphy and the alledged bully boy tactics of Stoke, Wolves and Blackburn eyes were focused almost as much on referees this weekend as on the footballing action.
What a relief then that at 4.47 p.m. on Saturday evening that the day was about to pass peacefully with everyone behaving themselves……… until fifteen seconds later when 5’8” Jack Wilshere lunged over the ball and went in studs up on 6’7” Nikola Zigic. Arsene Wenger, one of the more vociferous opponents of bad tackling in recent years had little choice but to commendably admit the failing of his player to correctly time his tackle. Irony.
5. And the “No Sh*t” commentary moment of the weekend goes to…..
While this may not necessarily count as a talking point since most of you don’t have to depend on internet links of Fox Soccer Network’s coverage in order to avoid listening to arabic based screaming interpretations of goings on at games (some of us do – long story), I feel it’s worth bringing to your attention the wise words of one Steve McManaman. The ex-spice boy with an honours list longer than you’d expect has become a staple of American coverage, where simplistic explanations take precedence over in-depth analysis which may be an excuse as to why he (not once, not twice but) thrice felt the need to inform the listening public that “Chris Brunt’s fine performance at Old Trafford today will do him no harm at all”. Quite so Steve.
Either way, it seems John Henry and NESV must have tuned their TVs to the soccer that day with reports of a £9m Liverpool swoop for the winger in January doing the rounds on t’internet today.