There goes the fear (reprise) – Liverpool thoughts

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Latics 1-1 Liverpool
Wednesday 10th November 2010

Which idiot wrote that match preview?  A resurgent Liverpool heading in the right direction, undoubtedly a better team than Latics who will be chasing a European place come May?   I thought I was kidding myself by weakly talking up Latics’ chances but who’d have thought it would turn out I was blowing smoke up the collective backside of the City of Liverpool, and without just cause to.

I’ll stick my neck out and say that I still think I’m right about the Scousers’ chances this season but I can’t believe just how… words fail me … rubbish they were last night, not because Latics outplayed them, but because, tactically, it was like watching a second division training session.  Half hearted attack, jog back to form two banks of four, half hearted attack, get ten men behind the ball (repeat to fade).

No, it’s worse than that, this Liverpool side, who largely are the same guys that were accused of being overly tactical under Rafa have gone completely the opposite direction, on last night’s showing they have two simple objectives 1) defend & 2) get the ball to either Gerrard or Torres.  I’d seen them do it against Chelsea at the weekend and it seemed a reasonable approach for a team who were struggling to get in form when faced with title challengers.

When faced with “relegation threatened Wigan”?  Well, you’d just expect something different, wouldn’t you?  I’m not saying they should have come all guns blazing, but for a club that has prided itself on playing progressive football this was amazingly limited, defensive and fearful.

It could have been very different.  The visitors started the game not quite with purpose but at least looking as if they’d come to stamp some authority on proceedings and when Gerrard took advantage of a hole left by a knock to Thomas, the admiring glances of Gomez and the difficulties faced by Caldwell when asked to run towards his own goal to slot in Torres things looked like they were all-but done for the night. 

Ten minutes later, after taking Perm jnr. to the gents, I returned to a completely different game.  As I passed the TV’s on the concourse, they were showing a plausible handball shout and as I re-entered the ground Latics were visibly growing with confidence.  From that point, somewhere around 20 minutes in, it appeared that either Latics would win the game or we’d go home with a sense of injustice.

Of course you didn’t really expect it to continue after half time, but continue they did, it took about seven minutes for Latics to pull things level through Rodallega and for the next 30 it was pretty much all Latics who really should have done more with their possession and the chances that they did create, this really was dominance and the whole team was superb from front to back and as much as we need to take confidence from the result and the come back we need to take heed that this side really can put together quick, incisive, attacking football.

You want proof that we’ve got the right man for the job?  Then here it is.  Whatever it was that unshackled the players brought on the full Plan B-obby, high pressing, passing through midfield mixed with cross field balls and three forwards bouncing off each other for fun.  Of course we’re left with the conundrum of how they manage this every week, but if you want to call the players or the tactics impotent after last night then you really need your head checking.

Do we want to talk about 2 points lost?  As I sat there for the last fifteen minutes worrying that Latics were over committing in pursuit of the win, I’m not sure I can.  Drawing (or losing) games that we’ve dominated might be a cause for concern, but by any stretch, I don’t think that applies here.  We might not have previously, but against Latics the ball (and players) got into the box, Latics did have genuine chances to score, fine margins rather than toothlessness denied them extra goals.

I’m not saying that everything is perfect, it’s not, but it’s hard not to have the feel-good factor after a performance like that.

Does it matter that the level of Latics performance might have had as much to do with the need for players to sell themselves into an escape route out of town rather than get the team a route out of the relegation places?  Well it might come January, but if they carry on playing like that then I’d guess we won’t be in half as much bother come Christmas and there’s hope for behind.  The stars of the show are first in the exit queue, but the supporting cast didn’t do too shabbily either.

Does it matter why Liverpool were crap?  I don’t think so, they might have been a bit knackered and had a couple of kids on the pitch but there was at least half the team that was tipped to challenge for last season’s title out there as well.  This wasn’t about bad or tired players it was about bad tactics against good ones and one team wanting victory more.

As always, once the final whistle goes, the next game is the most important.  How will this game affect the Baggies’ visit on Saturday?  Will Latics’ exertions have tired them out or will they be buoyed by the confidence they, and the fans, deserve from this?  I’m not worrying about that for now though, I’m sitting back and enjoying the warm feeling until it’s time to write that West Brom preview.

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