As we say goodbye to 2008 and prepare to welcome 2009 could we be crowning Liverpool champions for the 19th time in May?
The Christmas results suggest yes.
We started with a good win over Bolton. Robbie Keane was excellent all game and deserved his two goals. Albert Riera had another good game and scored the opener. Despite having to re-shuffle our defence due to Arbeloa’s injury, we completely shut down Bolton, who usually make things difficult for us, and convincingly won.
However, that was not what pleased me. I was very pleased that we lined up with two up front. I’ve wanted to see it for weeks and it really worked. Keane and Kuyt both worked extremely hard and combined well.
We also scored from a corner, which is a rarity, when Riera nipped in to score. Out third goal was the type of goal that the really good teams in the league score, but Liverpool hardly ever. Reina snuffed out a ball into the box and quickly set us on the attack. Keane made a good run, which allowed Benayoun to get the ball in space. He then provided a perfectly weighted pass for Keane to lash the ball home. The whole move from one end to the other, must have been about 7 seconds at the most and it was the way we played at a higher tempo than normal that was so gratifying.
Our game against Newcastle was really a sight to behold.
From the first whistle we went for the jugular. We moved the ball around well and created chance after chance against a poor Newcastle defence. Only an unbelievable exhibition of goalkeeping from Shay Given prevented us from being 3 or 4-0 up after twenty minutes. The only surprise about our opener was it took so long to come. A good move ended with Yossi Benayoun squaring the ball and Gerrard finished with aplomb. The second came when Sami Hyypia, who had missed a good opportunity earlier and had one cleared off the line met Gerrard’s corner and hit a bullet of a header for the second.
Newcastle undeservedly got one back just before half time when ex-Red Danny Guthrie’s corner was headed in by Canadian full-back David Edgar for a half-time score of 1-2, which flattered Newcastle.
We came out in the second half with the same purpose as the first and Babel scored after some of the worst defending I’ve ever seen. Despite Babel having about six defenders around him and not being able to see the ball for a moment he still had time to poke it in.
A great 1-2 between Gerrard and Lucas (who had a very good game) led to the latter producing a great through ball and Gerrard made no mistake for the fourth goal, the first time this season Liverpool had scored more than three. Gerrard was then withdrawn for a well-deserved rest and his performance was so good even the home fans applauded him!
The final goal came when Edgar chopped N’gog down in the box and Alonso scored the penalty. We could have had more: A perfectly good goal was disallowed for offside (incorrectly) and once again Given saved superbly from Lucas.
Two wins from two were exactly what we needed. Chelsea were held to a draw by Fulham so we now have a three point lead. United have games in hand but I think they’ll drop some points, especially with Ferdinand out so I think we can hold them off.
It is good to see some of the fringe players in the squad playing well. Benayoun has been much criticised, not least by me, but played well in both games. Lucas was superb against Newcastle and if he can repeat that performance a few times, he will win the fans over. Emiliano Insua was outstanding in both games and hopefully should get a run of games at left-back to prove his worth.
I hope we can hang onto Daniel Agger and Ryan Babel in the transfer window. Agger adds the ability to bring the ball out of defence that Carragher can’t do and has a fierce shot. Babel has that X factor every good team needs and while he is still very raw, his talent is there for all to see.
Keane was brilliant against Bolton and hopefully will get more chances with a striker alongside him. Torres should be back soon and hopefully the two of them can form the fearsome partnership Keane was bought for.
We need in the transfer window:
A striker: We’ve been linked with Owen and Heskey but I wouldn’t really like to see either come back.
A right midfielder: Pennant has been linked with Real Madrid (what are they thinking?) and looks likely to go so we need some cover.
An attacking central midfielder: We only have Gerrard who can play as an attacking midfielder so we need adequate cover.
To hold onto both Agger and Babel is also important.