Liverpool Gunning for Perfection
If Rafa Benitez doesn't crack a smile when his team is winning over arch rivals in a make or break fixture, then the Spaniard won't behave like a two-word mouthing zombie in the face of a defeat either.
When you have a perfectionist and a tactician as a manager, who is levelheaded beyond all the minds put together on the field and stadium, then the club does have an advantage of vast proportions.
The gaffer can think and not waste his mounds of precious energies on other wasteful resources.
If Liverpool's first-half performance was nothing short of being a worthy match winner, the second half wasn't a Katrina-esque disaster story.
Certainly, he would have made note of that.
The difference was, which many would so effusively point out as if it were discovering a new world, a lack of an attacking edge.
A killer instinct to finish off the game.
But no one would have predicted that Glen Johnson would put the ball, erroneously, into his own net.
It was an awkward moment—considering the fact that Johnson was in full momentum—for the defender who wanted to make amends after his first calamitous touch of the ball.
But the moment was lost, and he would rather see the ball going over the line.
No one would have foreseen that, and no more importantly than Johnson, until he saw himself place the ball into his own net.
A turning point in the game?
Perhaps a huge one.
While Andrei Arshavin brilliantly scored the winner, many don't seem to realize that the ball could have taken an outward deflection off the post and would have been regarded as an attempt rather a goal in itself.
But then that's football. Unpredictable at its best.
As Andy Gray would try to smartly commentate that with three Reina's at the goal, it wouldn't have been saved—I wouldn't have thought otherwise.
Yes, Andy, I concur on that one.
But if you put 22 Howard Webbs on the pitch last night, they would still turn a blind eye towards William Gallas' challenge on Steven Gerrard that should have been given.
Now, that is what you can expect or predict from the referee.
If it were 2-0 Liverpool at half time, the case could have been closed for Arsenal, but with a game operating on such finer lines—along with a referee making the wrong decisions—it's impossible to judge where the game is headed for the final scoreline.
In effect, to what I saw, the Liverpool side were industrious throughout the match.
A sign of wanting to win the ball was effectively thorough even after Arshavin scored the goal, but once the passing rhythm went into a puff of smoke, defeat with frustration started to seep in,as Gerrard proved it with an unnecessary foul on Aaron Ramsey deep into extra time.
Our last year's escapes and late wins were based on rotating the ball effectively.
Xabi Alonso, it seemed, masterminded in distribution, we lacked that certainly last night.
Even if Alberto Aquilani was trying his best in winning and distribute the ball, it wasn't as effective, as the ball failed to reach the final third.
Probably due to Arsenal were doing a good job closing down, and most importantly Liverpool were looking too nervous to handle the situation. Even Arsene Wenger pointed it out that Liverpool lacked confidence.
Even while maintaining possession we still were rotating the ball inside our own half and giving it away easily, when, ineffectually, it should have been bombarded against the Kop end.
Passing and maintaining possesion helps in such situations, no matter how big deficit your team has gone under because it helps the confidence of playing the ball than chasing it.
And most importantly, it helps in hauling extra men over from your half-line to the attacking end.
But the ball should be at the other end to avoid counterattacks.
Aquilani wasn't given the deserved time in being the passing lynchpin as anyone would have expected.
Nor was given the opportunity to pass, as I noticed, Liverpool were busy in sending air-balls or lofted passes which in turn meant losing possession.
Ambitious it was, but sometimes you need calm nerves and confidence to achieve the impossible.
If Aquilani had been introduced at half time, he would have certainly eased up Liverpool's passing ability even if Glen Johnson would have been putting the ball in his own net for every five minutes.
That has been the problem with two holding midfielders, Lucas Leiva and Javier Mascherano, who are like the apprentice and his master capable of making and winning 50-50s.
One being a monster adept in winning the ball, with the other adept in holding the ball—as it was proved by Lucas' ability to hold the ball when David N'Gog was timing his run to beat the offside trap and scoring the second against Manchester United at Anfieldand—taking potshots at the other end.
If doubts be raised about Lucas' ability of being too defensive, he did score the third goal against Chelsea in the 4-4 all draw at Stamford Bridge last season—for more information ask Michael Essien with his two hands tied behind his back to avoid a hand ball.
With their lack of creativity being compensated by grit and determination, there would be time when that would fail and the question would resurface concerning creativity.
Last night, with the intensity and pace of Liverpool's own game, it did fail in achieving total domination.
Surely, Rafa Benitez would have again made note of that.
But he want also didn't expect was a knock to Mascherano and a Johnson own goal.
It would have been a risk to put Aquilani on the burner at halftime, because one mistimed tackle would have effectively put him on the treatment table for months.
With the prospect of Wigan Athletic at home come midweek, I would be tempted to say that Aquilani should start the match.
However, it would be insanely sane to introduce him in the later parts of the match.
It's that time of the year where we need to spark off a series of wins.
And what better time to start with the next match to make Christmas more merrier.
Being outgunned by the Gunners is not what I had hoped for, especially when my mother was witness to my incredible fist pumping and yells in the air when Dirk Kuyt put us into the lead.
But now is the time when we should be gunning for perfection, like last year.
Ironies apart, it's time to gun for goals and winners.
And Souness get's a tag too from me: An 'Inglourious Basterd'
For the interview (to paper that will not be mentioned) and the meltdown he caused—which even my four-year old black Lab could point out—that has partly caused us the troubles we face now.
And Empire of the Kop's fantastic article: Irfaan's Keep up the Faith.
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