It’s been a long hard slog for Liverpool this season, with no end reward. A season in which they have shown a vast improvement, setting their highest ever points tally, keeping an unbeaten home record and scoring the most goals in the league.Ã‚Â Yet they find themselves in second place, runners-up to Manchester United.
Too many home draws will be cited as one of the main reasons for failure. Their inability to put the smaller teams away has effectively cost them the championship and allowed bitter rivals United to equal their record 18 league titles. Indeed United have rarely struggled to beat the small teams this year, usually picking up maximum points.
Missing out on the title will be a bitter pill to swallow for Rafa Benitez, the Liverpool squad and Liverpool fans. They managed to take a massive 14 points out of a possible 18 from their top four rivals this season. Famously completing the double of Manchester United and Chelsea, while drawing twice with Arsenal, scoring 15 goals in the process.
One would reasonably expect Liverpool to be sitting top of the Premiership after such success against their title rivals. The reality is the smaller teams like Hull City, Stoke City, and Middlesborogh, that have frustrated Liverpool. At Anfield, Benitez’s men have failed to break teams who are content to sit with ten men behind the ball with a sole striker up front.
A season that should have been remembered as a title winning season will be looked upon with pure frustration. This year the Premiership has finally seen the fruits of Rafa Benitez’s labour. He has produced a team that runs like a machine. Effective, tenacious, durable and persistant. Liverpool have at times proved impossible to break down.
The 4-5-1 formation that Benitez loves to employ may seem negative, but away from home, and against the big teams it has produced the right results. A solid back four, as ever marshaled by Carragher. Insurance cover, with Alonso and Mascherano sweeping up in front of the defence.
Width provided by Reira, Babel, Benayoun, and Kuyt. And of course the Gerrard and Torres partnership. Almost unstoppable. Many fans will say that the fact that Gerrard and Torres have only played 13 games together in the league this year and thus a possible reason for Liverpool falling short.
I would dismiss this point. As much as Liverpool have missed those players for long periods, Liverpool shouldn’t depend solely on two players. I’m sure if Rafa Benitez was asked if he had a two-man team, he would laugh at the suggestion. Manchester United can afford to miss the likes of Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand and still win games at a canter.
Benitez certainly needs to add more quality to the squad, allowing himself to turn to quality player on the bench. No matter how you look at it, N’Gog, Lucas, and El Zhar don’t quite match up to the likes of Tevez, Anderson and Giggs.Ã‚Â
The main reason for Liverpool’s failure to win the title is their reluctance to take a risk and go for the win. Whereas in previous seasons Manchester United and Chelsea aim to avoid losing, but refuse to accept draws. Liverpool set out to avoid defeat, even if that means taking a 0-0 at the Britannia Stadium.
Lessons have hopefully been learnt. Benitez deserves credit, he has brought Liverpool to within a few points of the title. A feat not managed by any other Liverpool manager in the Premiership era. But far too often the words Liverpool and progress have been muttered in the same breath. It’s time for the words Liverpool and success to go hand in hand once again.
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