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Thursday, 28 May 2009

Can Liverpool Finally Close The Gap?

Slightly contradictory it may be, but barring the ridiculous Rafa rant and the bare fact that Liverpool ended up trophy less, strangely, it can still be perceived as a good season for the Reds. 

Following nine months that has shown much promise without direct reward, the players now believe they can win the Premiership. Barring the Charity Shield in 06/07 though, Liverpool has now gone three seasons without picking up silverware. 

They played a refreshing style of attacking football this season, something that was alien to Benitez a year ago. They have scored the most goals in the Premier league, have not tasted defeat against a top four side in the league, (having won four from six), and were unbeaten at Anfield in the league. Incredibly, these statistics are not that of Champions. 

Some observe that Liverpool lost this seasons title just as much as Man Utd won it. The home draws against the likes of Hull, Stoke, Man City and West Ham should have been 12 points won rather than eight points dropped. 

The seven consecutive wins notched up by Utd since their back-to-back defeats against Liverpool and Fulham, is the stuff of Champions. They had relentless conviction of a team preserving their crown. The fundamental difference is they have many players who can change the course of a game.

Benitez argues that if both Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres had have been fit for the course, then the title would have been carried back through the Shankly gates. The magnitude of their captain’s presence cannot be undervalued; but if either is out, it can be argued that it is their No 9 that is missed more than their No 8. 

The fact is they need a few more top class players. Primarily they do not have anyone who can even partially fill Torres boots or indeed partner him. Valencia’s David Villa is the obvious choice, but at what cost?

A re-shuffle in midfield means they can temporarily plug any hole left by a Gerrard absence. The hugely impressive Yossi Benayoun has recaptured the form he showed at West Ham, this initially pushed him onto Benitez’ radar.

Unless the latter is willing to tweak his style, or at least have a B plan, finding a player of real quality who is prepared to play understudy to Torres, will be difficult. Robbie Keane was a high profile striker asked to play second fiddle - he lasted until January. 

Murmurings of Carlos Tevez’ move to Anfield, initially, seem to have all the traits of the Keane saga. Tevez paired with Torres though puts a different complexion on it; he could be the missing element in Liverpools assault. This would mean though Benitez would probably have to abandon his 4-2-3-1 formation. 

Bringing in someone to play alongside El Nino would mean redeploying Gerrard and changing the team’s structure. Much though could depend on where Xavi Alonso is playing his football next season, he pulls so many strings.  

At right back, Alvaro Arbeloa without setting the world alight has been steady. But after his nonchalant role in the furore with Jamie Carragher at Hull, his Anfield future does not appear to be painted in the most vibrant colours. Arbeloa’s lazy display goes against Benitez' required team ethic.

Talk of Portsmouth’s player of the year, Glen Johnson, being a Benitez target coincides. The ex-Chelsea full back, from their original school of benchwarmers, has made rapid advancements since being a regular at Fratton Park - he is also more attack minded than Arbeloa. 

Some dead wood needs to be cast aside. Ryan Babel and Andrea Dossena have both failed to prove their worth and Lucas is maligned by most of the Anfield faithful, saying that, Benitez sees more value in the Brazilian than most. Aside from veteran Sami Hyypia, there should be no other squad players leaving this summer. 

Benitez has a strong enough match day squad but moving further through the pecking order, the quality becomes wafer thin. A potential return for Kenny Dalglish overlooking the youth set-up would only aid the homegrown talent. This is another area, where Alex Ferguson trumps his counterpart.

With the World cup in mind Steven Gerrard recently commented that 2010 could be a great year for him both domestically and internationally. With some shrewd transfer activity from Benitez over the summer, maybe, just maybe, next year could really be Liverpool’s. Both Gerrard and Liverpool's longstanding, aching ambition could become a reality. 



If if if, maybe maybe maybe!! If LFC had won more games rather than the woeful draws at home then they would be the Premier League Champions. They have a good enough squad now. They beat MUFC and CFC home & away. I would have prefered if they had lost the away games against Man U and Chelsea and won at home to Hull, Stoke, Man City and West Ham if they did they would now be Champions. The difference between LFC anf Man U is...mentality.

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