Another relegation contender down, how many more to go?
With this year’s Premier League table packed together tighter than our midfield defense, I find myself wondering just how many sides are going to come to Anfield without so much as an inkling of going for all three points.
Here we had WBA, a team known for playing football the right way. To be fair, they gave it an effort for the first 5 minutes while we remained content to spar with them and see just what kind of a threat they had to offer. Following that opening spell though we completely bossed the match. Other than a few defensive miscues they never got so much as a sniff.
Again, even in a more offensive 4-4-2 I found myself in awe of just how dominant we are in the center of the pitch. Moving Gerrard back into his natural position allows him to showcase his defensive prowess as well as get forward into attack. One of the things that makes our captain one of the best players in the world is his rounded set of skills. Think back on some of his miraculous challenges, not to mention some of the more heinous ones. He is a player that possesses a real competitive nature, and I think getting back and dirty when we don’t have the ball gets him into the flow of the game much more effectively as well as giving him more space for his devastating forward runs. With that said, our opposition had zero intentions of trying to penetrate the middle of the pitch. Gerrard and Mascherano forced everything wide as usual, keeping WBA penned in the wide areas with little support.
The only real downside to our performance that I could see was again our usually reliable back four. Communications issues between Agger and Carragher, as well as lacking cover down the flanks at times with our fullbacks getting caught out. All in all though it was a solid job on a day where they didn’t have much to do. We just need to get that little bit of concentration back that we used to have ingrained when we faced a lot more opposing possession than we do now.
The high point of the game though of course, was Robbie Keans finally breaking his EPL cherry for us, netting a brace. Both were superb finishes, and as with Arbeloa’s stoppage time goal came from his left foot. From two players who are often hesitant, and in Arbeloa’s case absolutely defiant, of using their left feet came some truly beautiful touches into the back of the net. I would like to see Rafa encourage them with their lesser feet more often as it adds such a dimension offensively.
To be honest, this is three points in the bag and not much else to mention. These are exactly the types of games we have to win though if we want to be in the running come May. As I mentioned at the start, I think we are going to see more and more of this rearguard action with so many sides scrambling to avoid the bottom and perhaps move into the European places. Anfield is a site where most of them don’t see anything more than a draw as a possibility anyhow and will set out to do everything in their power to leave there with that point. Breaking them down and getting goals on the board is what we did here, hopefully will continue with.
Congratulations to Fernando on returning for a late appearance, it’s excellent to see him well enough to play.