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Liverpool top, but for how long?

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Phil McNulty | 07:30 GMT, Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Rafael Benitez preferred to see his glass as half-full as Liverpool hit the Premier League summit on a wave of Anfield indifference.

Liverpool achieved the draw needed against West Ham to overhaul Chelsea at the top of the table - but this was two points lost rather than one gained and a combination of jeers and disappointment at the final whistle reflected the mood.

Benitez stated that Liverpool's fans will study the league table on Tuesday and be happy with their position as leaders in what promises to be the tightest title race in years.

But you would have needed an industrial-sized microscope to detect any signs of happiness around a freezing Anfield after another goalless let-down..

Benitez is right to talk up Liverpool's current position. There is never a bad time to go top of the table.

He can even use the time-served argument that the omens are good when Liverpool are in pole position without hitting a consistent sequence of good form this season - a straw clutched at by many leaving Anfield after the final whistle.

Indeed, it is hard to mount any critical case against a team that looks down on all others in the league.

But I have rarely seen or heard Anfield less excited by an ascent to the top of the table. Liverpool's fans will know standards must be raised (and Fernando Torres must be fit) to maintain a consistent challenge to Chelsea, Manchester United and maybe Arsenal.

And beneath Benitez's veneer of satisfaction there must be a realisation that Liverpool cannot afford too many more Anfield stalemates if they are to maintain their current position.

Liverpool started as if they were about to sweep West Ham aside, but in the end - inspired by the superb goalkeeping of Robert Green - the Hammers joined Stoke City and Fulham in leaving Anfield with a point after a goalless draw.

I asked Benitez about the frustrations of seeing Liverpool held, but he was in no mood to be downbeat, saying: "I think we deserved to win. We were trying to win from the beginning to the end and that is why they had chances on the counter-attack.

"But we played much better than we have before. Some people will be disappointed, and we are disappointed, but we are top of the league and that means if we keep winning games the other teams have to win everything."

True enough - except that they did not win this game and did not win their last home league game against Fulham either.

robbiekeane446.jpg

Liverpool's blank meant there were plenty of disappointed souls inside Anfield, and right at the front of the queue was Robbie Keane.


The £20.3m striker has had extra responsibilty thrust upon him in the absence of injured Fernando Torres and it did not sit easily on his shoulders against West Ham.

Keane's march to the touchline - with a trademark pained expression accompanied by the familiar strains of sympathetic applause - has almost become an Anfield ritual.

And so it was again on Monday as he saw his number go up for the 15th time this season.

Keane cannot be faulted for effort, but he barely scratched the surface of this game, and he will not have felt any better when it was the youthful and virtually untried figure of David Ngog who was preferred as Liverpool went in search of the crucial breakthrough with 24 minutes left.

Ryan Babel was the more obvious choice of substitute, but Benitez probably compounded Keane's misery with his choice of replacement.

He is finding it a grim struggle to justify his over-inflated price tag - not his fault it should be stressed - and the expectations that come with wearing Liverpool's number seven shirt.

Keane's class is proven, but he is just the latest to discover that playing for Liverpool carries a unique burden and for some it is almost too much.

And if Keane needed confirmation, he only had to look to West Ham's Craig Bellamy, another who appeared to find the baggage that comes with playing for Liverpool too heavy for him.

Bellamy was at his vibrant, busy best against his old club and came closest to breaking the deadlock with a 25-yard drive in the first half that clattered a post and rebounded to safety.

Keane can still come good at Anfield - even Peter Beardsley took time to get into his stride - but there was some tell-tale frustration and impatience amid the support inside Anfield and he needs a change of fortune desperately.

He has not been helped by being played in an unfamiliar role in his partnership with Torres, and his continuity has been broken by constant substitutions, but he will know the time is coming to justify his expensive fee.

One man who will not arrive to threaten Keane is Michael Owen, with Benitez delivering an emphatic and almost unprompted rejection of suggestions he would return to Anfield in January.

But is it actually such a bad idea when a predator in the Owen mould might have poached a goal against Fulham or West Ham?

West Ham boss Gianfranco Zola talked up Liverpool's title chances before the game, so it was a chance to quiz him on whether he had changed his mind on studying fresh, first hand evidence.

He was diplomacy personified as he said: "They are a team that will be there until the end. They are missing a very important player for them in Torres, a player who gives them something different.

"I think this season is going to be a close title, and Liverpool will be involved."

Liverpool's frustrated fans will hope he is right - but the reaction inside Anfield at the final whistle betrayed the doubts they still have about their side's title pedigree.

Comments

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  • 1. At 07:40am on 02 Dec 2008, baronoscuro wrote:

    good article phil, reckon your right about keane if he doesnt score alot of goals soon even the most ardent liverpool fans will realise he was a total rip-off, i'd rather have crouch any day. however i dont think liverpool will be involved in the title race in the end the squads not big enough itll be between chelsea and man utd. again.

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  • 2. At 07:55am on 02 Dec 2008, Kíllìnghölmê_Clᥠ(aka Charlie Cheesecake) wrote:

    Liverpool are top of the league. They are there because they have achieved better results than any other team in the league.

    I thought I would give you that insight into the blindingly obvious because it seems to be conveniently forgotten by most.

    Now we have a slender one point lead over Chelsea, which none of us dared believe would happen before the start of the season.

    Keane clearly needs an effective strike partner and in my humble opinion it is time to unleash Ryan Babel in that striker's role.

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  • 3. At 08:27am on 02 Dec 2008, Corletto wrote:

    Liverpool have had the easiest fixture list.
    Man U have already played away to the rest of the top 6: Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Villa & City..

    I can see Utd putting a run together and pulling away from both Liverpool and Chelsea. Liverpool just don't have the creativity to consistently break down well organised teams.

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  • 4. At 08:29am on 02 Dec 2008, DinoR123 wrote:

    It is a wierd feeling being top of the league in December and feeling disapointed at the same time.

    It was torture watching us struggle to score - we look like we're trying too hard and when Torres doesn't play Gerrard looks like he thinks he should take everything on himself.

    Kuyt only looks good when we are winning

    Dossena had his best game for us but still looks like "Doing a Traore" everytime he touches it.

    Give Keane longer, get Babel on, trust in the team. Keep hoping!

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  • 5. At 08:38am on 02 Dec 2008, BCChris wrote:

    To be honest with you, i never realy thought Liverpool had it in them to challenege for the title. They are top now, but i just cant see them being there at the end, they're just not convincing enough.

    The problem is, because they have lacked a decent title challenge in a few years, teams dont fear them as much as they fear the big guns such as Utd and Chelsea, maybe even Arsenal.

    As for Keane, he was a waste of money if you ask me, i dont think he's worth more than about 8 - 10 mil tops. he wont be there long, wont be this summer, but maybe off next summer after 2 dissapointing seasons.

    Liverpool is deffinately worth a little flutter if you have it to spare, but i can see this being what has become a routine battle between Man Utd and Chelsea for the title

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  • 6. At 08:41am on 02 Dec 2008, qu1cks8nd wrote:

    Yeah you're right, easiest fixture list, beating Man U and Chelsea! I can't see Man United putting a run together, the only team that will win the league other than Liverpool this season is Chelsea. Man U just think they have a devine right to be up there but this season they have been poor!

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  • 7. At 08:44am on 02 Dec 2008, lfcjasonlfc wrote:

    QUOTE
    "Keane cannot be faulted for effort, but he barely scratched the surface of this game, and he will not have felt any better when it was the youthful and virtually untried figure of David Ngog who was preferred as Liverpool went in search of the crucial breakthrough with 24 minutes left.

    Ryan Babel was the more obvious choice of substitute, but Benitez probably compounded Keane's misery with his choice of replacement."
    A totally inacurate statement, as it was Babel who replaced Keane, Ngog replaced Riera.

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  • 8. At 08:48am on 02 Dec 2008, AndyrobertbradleyGerrard wrote:

    Hi Phil

    Lots of good points made, and you can understand the frustration the Anfield regulars would have been feeling, what an opportunity to go three points clear. But, as you commented yourself, top is top so things need to be kept in perspective.

    Whilst your blog was about Liverpool and I understand that, without a bit of context you leave yourself open to a bit of 'he's Liverpool bashing again'.

    Whilst it's totally true Liverpool have dropped points against the 'lesser' teams they've beaten both Man Utd and Chelsea, and last seasons criticism was they couldn't get results against their nearest rivals.

    I'm still upbeat after last nights result. Here we are with crimbo just around the corner and Liverpool sit on top of the league.

    Using last seasons criticism Chelsea can't win it (losing against their main rivals), Man Utd can't win it (losing against their main rivals)....so who is going to??

    A long long way to go, but I know if you asked all of the top managers at the beginning of the season where they'd like to be sitting in the league right now what their answer would be.

    Life is full of 'if only's'. Journo's, pundits all like to say the table doesn't lie, we'll see what it say's in April, but in December it's saying Liverpool rule the roost (and I'm not counting my chickens!!)

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  • 9. At 08:55am on 02 Dec 2008, manredsox wrote:

    In the same way that when Greece won the Euros, if Liverpool win the league this season playing the brand of football, it would be bad news for The Game as a whole.

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  • 10. At 09:00am on 02 Dec 2008, rl wrote:

    "Benitez delivering an emphatic and almost unprompted rejection of suggestions he would return to Anfield in January"

    I read that article and there was no quote of that at all. What did he say about that?
    Or is it just an assumption based on some off-hand comment that he was happy with the squad he has?
    I didn't hear the interview but it just seems bizzare that if it was such an emphatic response it wasn't quoted, merely mentioned quietly a few paragraphs in.
    Anyone know what he said?

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  • 11. At 09:01am on 02 Dec 2008, brooksy123 wrote:

    The bottom line is that Liverpool dont have the know how to win a title. They have had 2 chances in the last week to pull ahead and they havent.

    pressure might be getting to them. also with torres out and if gerrard doesnt score they have little else to offer.
    Dont mean to completly criticise liverpool but i dont see them stopping united or chelsea. They have had a good start but let see what happens come the new year.

    who going to write off united who now have most of the big teams at home. I hope the title race is exciting one but the scousers are looking at 3rd again

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  • 12. At 09:02am on 02 Dec 2008, BrunoGaillardo wrote:

    I am in agreement, the one simple problem we have is that when gerrard is not 'on it' nothing seems to happen, who will step up and fill his shoes, Alonso never gets in the box, Keane seems to running around in circles. As for the wing which is where the creativity was coming from early season Riera was playing well but seems to have dropped off, Benayoun as full of running but doesn't seem to be able to handle the games, he does nothing. Babel comes on and does it when hes bothered.
    Its simple we need Torres back fit and on form or else we will continue to draw game we should win, and once we start to drop off the pace we will lose these games instead of draw. I dont see the problem with getting owen back, if hes available i think every liverpool fan would welcome him back and he wouldn't cost that much. I just think Benitez doesn't like him and that back up of an out an out striker, that poacher in the box is what liverpool need and may just be what ruins our best chance of winning the league in two decades.

    If we'd have won against stoke, fulham and westham we would be 7 points clear and i think man u and chelsea would be worried, but i think in the position we are and the recent results chelsea and man u are just waiting for their chance.

    But...but liverpool notoriously have bad novembers, maybe this year is our year, cus this year we sit top after november.

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  • 13. At 09:03am on 02 Dec 2008, Nick wrote:

    Andy-Wivit, Arsenal have beaten United and Chelsea but they wont win the league. Its no good Liverpool beating United and Chelsea if they drop 6 points to West Ham, Stoke and Fulham at home. That would be hard to stomach away from home and is not something i expect United to do.

    The fact is Chelsea and United have yet to hit their respective strides.
    United in particular have played all their key opponents away from home along with a couple of bogey sides in Blackburn and Pompey and have taken more points from the fixtures than they did last season.
    If their home form in '09 gets anywhere close tro the home form of last season they will win the league.

    Chelsea have been shorn of key players(Carvalho, Essien, Drogba to name but three) so the fact they are 2nd at the mo says a lot about them. Their problem is they are a bit one dimensional as Arsenal proved at the weekend. If you shut down Bosingwa and Cole you take away their width and they become congested in midfield.

    How United come back from Japan will be key, if we take 6 points from Spurs and Sunderland before we go i wouldnt back against us.

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  • 14. At 09:05am on 02 Dec 2008, Edik wrote:

    Good article. Liverpool just don't look like a team who will win the league and certainly wouldn't have in past seasons. However, the rest of the big 4 is also faltering around them.

    The problem is simply Rafa Benitez, his tactics and the players he buys. Although he sometimes gets his tactics perfect in cup competitions, they are often poor and too conservative in the league.

    A 4-4-2 would have been the obvious selection in that game. Kuyt (who is a good, industrious player, but the exceptional standard that is required to challenge for the league) and Keane just behind him. Babel and Reira out wide, with Gerrard and Masch or Alonso in the centre is a balanced, attacking side.

    Robbie Keane cannot lead the line himself. Liverpool look for a lot of knock-downs to the edge of the area for Gerrard but against Keane centre backs can clear their lines far enough to make this ineffective. Gerrard's one chance from this last night resulted in him missing the ball, when in other games he has scored, most notably against Middlesbrough after another poor performance.

    Furthermore, playing up front alone, Robbie Keane cannot use his greatest strength, which is to link the play with his (now non-existent) strike partner.

    Regarding transfers, Benitez has only made one exceptional purchase. Torres - easily worth 30m. Alonso and Masch were good buys too but play in the same position, albeit, to different effect. The rest of his money has been on players who just cannot compete with the likes of Ronaldo, Essien, Berbatov and Rooney.

    With Benitez as manager I would be very shocked if Liverpool won the Premier League.

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  • 15. At 09:09am on 02 Dec 2008, Samuraimac wrote:

    Rafa Benitez is an absolute melon!

    You at home to Westham, who havent won at Anfield in however many years and have conceeded the most goals this season.

    He plays Keane up front on his own against two big centre backs, with Yossi losing the ball whenever he can behind him.

    He waited for 65 mins to substitute Keane for a 500, 000 unproven french kid in Ngog.

    I mean what kind of message does it send to keane> and Babel who should have played from the start.. up front with Keane behind him.

    I wouldnt blame keane or babel if they left.. id blame rafa

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  • 16. At 09:15am on 02 Dec 2008, Reddeviltunde wrote:

    One of the subtle points proven over the years is that draws can actually be more dangerous than losses for a team challenging for the title; case-in-point Arsenal's title challenge last season crumbled as a result of four draws at a point where the eventual winners - Manchester United had actually lost more games!
    Most big teams have the character to bounce back after a loss with a win as the criticism and outrage that follows a loss may actually end up inspiring the team.
    On the other hand, a draw provokes this half-full; half-empty dichotomy within and the players may go into the next game with this "we played well, we deserved to win mentality".
    The reason why Arsenal can only be 8 points behind the leaders after five losses is that they have managed to keep their draw count to a minimum.
    Even though Liverpool are on top and they absolutely deserve it, three goalless draws at home can do their title contention no good and if history is anything to go by, it's likely to cost them; many a title race has been ended prematurely by 'too many draws at home'. . . .
    No offence intended, but ask the gunners.

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  • 17. At 09:17am on 02 Dec 2008, coolguymanutd wrote:

    I really doubt if Liverpool is going to take the PL this season.

    Twice were they given the opptunity twice they fail to take them.

    Just like the game of Arsenal and Chelesa -were Chelsea have countless opptunities but fail to nail Arsenal-they will loss the league when it matters most.

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  • 18. At 09:18am on 02 Dec 2008, MHUAMYH wrote:

    I think Liverpools biggest problem is that they havent won the title for so long. They therefor lack the belief and mentality of champions. Yes Liverpool is on top of the log right now, but they seem more likely to drop points that any of the other top 4 sides ( the recent draws and they laboured and were lucky to beat Man C, Wigan and Middlesborough). I think Sammy Lee needs to step up and do a bit more work on the players and get them to believe that they can win the title (Benitez is too aloof and is incapable of doing this)

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  • 19. At 09:22am on 02 Dec 2008, philmcnultybbcsport wrote:

    To haines oides...I was in the Benitez press conference when he discussed Michael Owen.

    He said: "I can say clearly we are not going for Michael Owen."

    It was almost unprompted but very definite.

    There is no reason for Liverpool fans to be downbeat this morning. As I said, there is no bad day to be top of the league.

    There has to be a worry, however, that West Ham have followed Fulham in getting a goalless draw at Anfield.

    And sitting at Anfield last night, the fans gave their usual backing, but there was also a sense of nervousness. Maybe this is because Liverpool fans feel this is their best title chance for years.

    Finally, to poster 7, lfcjasonlfc, saying Keane was replaced by Ngog is, in fact, a totally accurate statement.

    Feel free to check the official club website for confirmation.

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  • 20. At 09:24am on 02 Dec 2008, C U Next Tuesday Sam wrote:

    #7

    What game were you watching? Ngog replaced Kean and Babel replaced Riera!

    In a game where West Ham were for the taking I cannot understand why Babel only got 15 mins..!!?? He is one of very few Liverpool players that can make something happen by beating someone or gettting round the back with his pace.

    Come on Rafa, give him more of a chance!

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  • 21. At 09:26am on 02 Dec 2008, zabeih wrote:

    quiet funny when u hear things like we are on top " from liver poor point of view" well sorry to disappoint you as man united supporter all away difficult games are finished now catch us if you can you will see that in end of january... we will be on top it will be like role coaster..

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  • 22. At 09:27am on 02 Dec 2008, rafastie wrote:

    Yes, it was a disappointing night/result. Yes we are not playing well at the moment. However, we must be doing something right. We are top of the table by one point.

    When we do start playing again hopefully that will still be the case.

    As a fan of over 40 years I have witnessed too many false dawns. Now is not the time to make assumptions or judge us. If we are stiil in the same position at the end of May last night will be a distant memory.

    Move on and look forward to the next game...

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  • 23. At 09:27am on 02 Dec 2008, TomMansell82 wrote:

    It disappoints me that in the last two home games, against dug in opposition, Rafa's best attempts to change those games was to bring on Alonso for Mascherano (against Fulham) and Ngog for Keane (against W.Ham). Then last night, that was followed by another like-for-like sub with Babel replacing Riera.

    Is Rafa Benitez lacking a back up plan in these games? Maybe it's just a lack of quality on the bench. Either way it casts doubts over Liverpool's title ambitions.

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  • 24. At 09:29am on 02 Dec 2008, rotex422 wrote:

    lfcjasonlfc,

    You are wrong. Ngog came in for Keane in the 66th minute and 12 minutes after, Babel for Riera. Please get your facts right, before you fault the commentator.

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  • 25. At 09:30am on 02 Dec 2008, Clarence Cash wrote:

    well done west ham on becoming one of three rather average teams to leave anfield with a point!! youre all saying you miss torres but did he not play against stoke and fulham earlier in the season when you couldnt score?? anyway as a utd fan i cant understand the decision to spend 10m+ on babel and to then hardly ever use him,not just this season but he didnt seem to play much last season. i rate babel and i'd swap him for nani any day at the moment!! looks like the wait for the title might just go on and on and on...

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  • 26. At 09:34am on 02 Dec 2008, Itsourstokeep wrote:

    Lads take a step back and think about things for a minute.
    We're top of the league and qualified for the champions league with a game to spare from a tricky group. We've also beaten Utd at home and Chelski away, I think we'd of all taken this position before the season started wouldn't we ?
    Yes its very disappointing to have drawn bankers against Stoke, Fulham and West Ham, but with a bit of luck (Gerrards free kick against Stoke, Yossi's effort last night) things could of been a lot better.
    I know we've got to learn how to break teams down at home and that Rafa needs to realise Keane is better playing off a main striker rather than being the main striker, but WE'RE TOP OF THE LEAGUE and all the clubs below us want to be where we are.
    There's no doubt things could be better and that we all have opinions on who should be in the team (I think Babel should be given a run with Torres out with Keane just behind him), but we need to stick behind Rafa and the team, at the moment you'd think that we'd been beaten in our last five games, don't jump on the band wagon created by the press, get behind the boys and support them all the way to No 19 !!!

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  • 27. At 09:36am on 02 Dec 2008, sweetsmellofsuccess wrote:

    Liverpool have done well this season - if you'd offered Rafa the position of top in early December, he'd have taken it. As would Arsene, Sir Alex and Big Phil. They outplayed Chelsea and, after the first 30 mins, United as well. Their first eleven is a match for most.

    They have two problems. One is that their second eleven is fairly feeble. Any injuries or loss of form (especially Torres and Gerrard) affects them deeply. United won at the weekend without Scholes, Giggs (bar five mins), Tevez, Neville or Hargreaves. Chelski are second despite losing Essien, Carvallho and Drogba for most of the season. Liverpool simply don't have the depth. Over the course of a season, it's your fringe players that win you the title - they needn't be world-beaters, but they have to do the job for you.

    The second problem is lack of width. Liverpool don't stretch teams. Away from home that's fine - they defend solidly and can counter-attack. At home, especially against poorer sides, they are one-dimensional, overly-predictable and thus fail to win games they should.

    As #16 rightly pointed out, defeats don't kill you. Draws do.

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  • 28. At 09:37am on 02 Dec 2008, philmcnultybbcsport wrote:

    Interesting to see the support for Babel here. He has looked more dangerous as a substitute than a starter, but I would have given him half an hour last night.

    He has got real pace and an unpredictable streak that can be a real bonus against tiring teams.

    Does Benitez trust him totally yet?

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  • 29. At 09:41am on 02 Dec 2008, Obaydah Al-Namer wrote:

    What is hapening behind the scenes between Rafa and Babel?

    Yesterdays natural substitution for Keane was Babel, but Rafa introduced N'gog instead is there a kind of rift between the couple?

    Can the unproven N'gog handel the pressure in attack, when the likes of keane, Morientes and Bellamy weren't able to ?

    i know 3 questions but could u please answer one!

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  • 30. At 09:49am on 02 Dec 2008, koolkuts wrote:

    wot a joke loonypool r !!
    the mancs r on there way to the top by feb and normal service will be resumed !!! utd were the victors last weekend,and you can smell the fear of defeat off the other so called big 3 !!!! as 4 city i cant be botherd 2 even go there!!!!

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  • 31. At 09:51am on 02 Dec 2008, Chelsea put me to sleep wrote:

    Aah, this feels so good. I remember Liverpool fans boasting about how they beat Manutd at Anfield without Torres and Gerrard. And now they can't even beat West Ham and Fulham. I guess you guys spoke too early.

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  • 32. At 09:53am on 02 Dec 2008, Ayoade Oluwasanmi wrote:

    Liverpool fans should be happy, they're top of the league- for now and probably it wont be for long. Lets face it based on the eveidence of the past seasons, Liverpool will fall away. And I can bet it wont take too long to find out the truth of this matter.

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  • 33. At 09:53am on 02 Dec 2008, dual nationality is a wondrous thing wrote:

    Not enough match winners on the park at the same time.
    Rafa has built this squad but still too many of his signings are a touch "Negative". i just don't think there's enough goals in us to win the prem, being organised isn't enough to win the leage as Bolton, fulham and Stoke are organised" but they'll never win the prem.
    Other than Torres and Gerrrard we don't have enough "flair" players and until he's brave enough to really go for it, Babel, keane, Riera, Gerrard and Torres on the park I will still have the same opinion as I did when Rafa first came over from Valencia, he is not the man to win us the league title.

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  • 34. At 09:55am on 02 Dec 2008, Obaydah Al-Namer wrote:

    Are Liverpool able to handle the pressure of being top of the tabel?

    They love being underdogs, but when they play as favourites they tend to lose because their players can't handle the pressure!

    e.g. Milan 2007, Barcelona(away),West Ham FA cup 2006, Sau Paulo 2006, (West Ham yesterday)

    Only 4 players from the squad that won the 2005 Ch/L cup have survived, they can handle the pressure and know the meaning of being champions and have tasted it, but can the rest of the squad including Benayoun, Keane, Riera, Dossena, and Arbeloa handle it?


    -To answer your question Phil about Babel:

    I've little doubt that Robbie Keane will weigh in with a good amount, or that Ryan Babel has the ability to score goals whether starting out wide or up front.

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  • 35. At 09:56am on 02 Dec 2008, Sayyid wrote:

    Liverpool will regret these 3 0-0 draws at Anfield. Once the FA Cup begins and they get to the latter stages of the Champions League, they will begin to struggle as they do not have a deep squad.

    Even Man Utd and Chelsea struggled to deal with all 3 competitions in terms of having enough top players fit and available. Benitez is going to have to decide when he plays his star players come the end of the season, Champions League Semi Final or Premier League. And we all know when he rotates, Liverpool struggle

    Man Utd have easy away games after Christmas and play all the top teams at Old Trafford. I think United will be favourites

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  • 36. At 09:59am on 02 Dec 2008, lfckevinlfc wrote:

    lfcjasonlfc, you must have been watching a different game mate. I watched it at 3 a.m in Thailand and even at that time of the morning I could see that Ngog replaced Keane not babel. Riera plays on the left, where Benitez also stupidly deploys the naturally right footed and superb talent of Babel so you will find that 99% of the times Babel comes on, it is as a direct replacement for Riera.

    With regards to last night, people need to keep the faith. We are still top, don't moan and support your team. Come on the reds!!!

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  • 37. At 09:59am on 02 Dec 2008, rosey05 wrote:

    We have got to keep patient and positive as Liverpool fans. The nature of all 3 of our home draws are not great because they are against lesser opposition, who we should really be able to break down, but none the less we are top of the league going into one of the most crucial times of the year. We must be happy with that.

    We must forget about Torres not playing, we can't use it as an excuse, if we can't beat the likes of Fulham and West Ham at home just because Torres isn't playing, then there is something wrong. We have to accept that the Premiership is a little bit tighter this year and points are slightly harder to come by.

    As for last night, my problem was with Rafa's substitutions. As ineffective as Keane was i would rather of had him on for the last 25 minutes than the headless chicken that is, David Ngog. Keane was getting no service, so don't change the striker, change the production line! It was clear Babel should have come on 20 minutes earlier than he did. West Ham had prepared for Riera to hold his width and try and get balls in. He should have got Babel on, who is more direct, pacey and dangerous. Babel is a player who needs a chance in the team to get his confidence up rather than 15 minutes at the end when we are struggling.

    If truth be told im actually quite looking forward to an away game on Saturday as this is, Man United aside, where we have been at our best. Teams open up a bit more at home which gives us opportunities going forward.

    On the whole, we are top of the league and we must be happy with that. It is now up to us to cope with the pressure that comes with being top, starting at Blackburn.

    In Rafa we trust!

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  • 38. At 09:59am on 02 Dec 2008, Andyj247 wrote:

    Well in regards to Babel its clear rafa sees him more as a impact sub rather than a starter, but give him 20-30mins to be an impact rather than the last 15 mins when the team is getting more desperate.

    I personally think Babel needs to be starting we had no pace up front at all, and Keane is struggling badly now. He is a natural replacement for Torres with his pace and exploviseness to do the unexpected. If we are really serious about winning the title, we need to see more bold decisions from Rafa at crucial times.

    As for the rest of the team, we seem to get anxious and the balls get longer and longer, and Gerrard starts shooting from 40 yards!! And this starts of the crowd who are patient, but last night you can feel the sense of frustration, its not often a Liverpool team gets booed off at Anfield.

    This period is crucial for the team, as our title challenge by this time in recent seasons is all but over. Mental strength is the key to winning the title - Man Utd and Chelsea have shown when the going is tough they can battle through, we need to show that we are made of the same stuff.

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  • 39. At 10:01am on 02 Dec 2008, The Answer is NO! wrote:

    I've never known a manager like Benitez.....he buys players then never plays them or just subs them off. He then sells them off in a couple of seasons. I would not trust the bloke with my money! If I was Gilette/Hicks I would show him the door and check his pockets too!

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  • 40. At 10:01am on 02 Dec 2008, SportsSportsSportsBS wrote:

    Phil,

    You are exactly right about Robbie Keane's inability to handle the pressure of playing for Liverpool and the observation that he isn't the first and won't be the last - Bellamy, Kewell, Diouf, Cisse, Morientes.

    However, as this list suggests it is usually attacking players (which made Torres' instant impact last season all the more impressive) that struggle at Liverpool in recent times and this is because under Houllier and Benitez Liverpool haven't always played the most attacking and expansive football, with a lack of width a frequent criticism.

    This season Riera has proven a very effective remedy to this on the left but the reason Liverpool have had these three 0-0 draws at home against teams they should be beating is a selection and formation issue. In home games against teams like Fulham with poor away records Liverpool must start with 2 forwards and 2 wingers, the 4-5-1 with a lone striker has been very effective in Europe, away from home, and against both Man Utd and Chelsea this season - but in these home matches against teams that come to defend the formation must be more attacking (we've seen Chelsea struggling in the same way at home this season).

    Personnel, with Torres injured I'd love to see Babel get a run of starts, either up front or on the right wing - He has incredible pace and an eye for goal.

    Benayoun as well has been under used, he's arguably too much of a luxury against the top teams in tight games but with a few full games against a Stoke or West Ham his creativity could break down teams' stubbon resistance.

    Liverpool are top of the league though and they look better than they have for years with a strong squad including players like Gerrard, Torres and Mascherano that would get in any team in the world. They'll be in the mix at the end of the season.......

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  • 41. At 10:04am on 02 Dec 2008, TomMansell82 wrote:

    I wonder if Babel isn't going to waste at Liverpool.

    I can't help but think that under a manager like Arsene Wenger or Alex Fergusson, he would be a much better player already.

    Benitez doesn't seem to have much faith in him, and as the example of Arsenal and Man Utd show, the best way for young attackers to develop and improve is to play them.

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  • 42. At 10:04am on 02 Dec 2008, Maghulldave wrote:

    We need a striker in January - and not Owen, who stuffed us financially over his threatened Bosman.
    Torres will return in 2009 but after 3 hamstrings it will take several more weeks to get match fitness and the confidence to run full pelt.
    N'Gog should be in the reserves learning his trade and Babel should be on loan playing regular football at a lower level. Kuyt plays well with Torres but rubbish without him and Keane is just desperately sad right now.
    Last night was crying out for Hyppia to go up front. I note the post that said we should have kept Crouch; but he left for regular football - his choice not ours.
    The biggest worry last night was SG's evident frustration and the looks and gestures he made towards his far inferior teammates. In future years, will he settle for being LFC's best ever player or will he regret turning down Chelski? Hmmm.

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  • 43. At 10:08am on 02 Dec 2008, DukeOfSpuds wrote:

    It is great to be top of the table, there's no doubting that, and there's not going to be one Liverpool fan disappointed with it. But, looking to the title you have to question the depth in the squad to cope.

    I have to agree with a lot of the comments no here about Babel. He has the ability to make things happen and should be played more often.

    Also, does anyone know much about El Zhar? Seen him play a couple of times and he looked quite decent. Anyone else?

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  • 44. At 10:10am on 02 Dec 2008, kop_some_moo wrote:

    "True enough - except that they did not win this game and did not win their last home league game against Fulham either."

    Phil...lets look at that in context. Chelsea - a nil nil draw then a loss. Liverpool, 2 nil nil draws. 1 point the difference. Liverpool top of the league.

    What concerns me as a reds fan is the tactical decisions being made by Rafa, Pellegrino and Lee. It seems they rely on some statistical analysis rather than exploiting any weakness in the opposition.

    To anyone watching the game it was obvious that having Babel working with Gerrard and Keane would have given the Hammers nightmares. Putting Ngog on seemed crazy and he spent 15 minutes giving the ball away and not knowing his role.

    For me the loss of Torres should be the perfect opportunity for Babel. He is a versatile, quick and skillful player. It was worthless in the end but the goal he scored at the death in the CL semi against Chelsea was a perfect example of his ability.

    Play Babel with Keane, Kuyt on the right, riera on the left and gerrard in the middle and you have the closest you will get to a worldclass attack without Torres.

    Rafa has to address the goal scoring asap. Goal difference could well decide this in May.




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  • 45. At 10:14am on 02 Dec 2008, Big Match Centre wrote:

    After watching the last two home games, I can say that the problem is one of width. When we were doing well at the start of the season and creating hatfull's of chances, it was because the two wide players were getting to the byline and attacking defenders to put crosses in. Riera seems now to be positioning himself as an inside forward and when he is wide, cuts in on his right foot (weaker foot) and ends up passing backwards. The only outlet for us last night in the wide areas were Dossena and Arbeloa, but they didn't get forward enough. Judging from the way Liverpool setup, Keane was actually the supporting striker with Kuyt up front. Unfortunately, Kuyt is the type of player who drops deep to collect the ball at his feet and has trouble holding the ball up against big defenders. A better bet last night would have been to play Babel upfront, whose pace would have worried WHam's back line enough to have them on the back foot, giving Keane that space he needs to work more effectively. Plus Babel is tall and capable of winning headers against big defenders and he is strong. I have been very disappointed with Benayoun all season and I don't think he is a capable wide midfielder. He had a good season last season, but this season he seems to be looking a bit lost. Perhaps the weight of expectation is a little much for him. Kuyt is a much more effective right-sided midfielder, especially at home and he gets to the byline a damn-sight more often than Benayoun does. The wide players we had last night just wanted to come inside all the time, perhaps because they were afraid of conceding possession.
    Also, I think there is a real fear in the way the team is playing at the moment. Expectation can be a terrible burden. the players should realise that the league is 38 games long and you should forget about it completely. The title is only ever won by taking each game as it comes, nothing else.

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  • 46. At 10:17am on 02 Dec 2008, Milo wrote:

    I'm disappointed by the result last night, but remain hopeful. We are top of the table without having played well for a while now, which in one way is a good thing. Of course, we have to start playing well. We've the Arsenal game on the 21st and then a decent run over the Christmas period. I'f we're still there after that, I think it'll be a good sign.

    Keane isn't worth the money we paid. I've never been a big fan of his. He strikes me as someone who works hard, but is often headless and frequently wasteful in front of goal. He's certainly not someone who can lead the line and get us goals when we're missing Torres. I too quite like Babel and think he should be given more of a chance now that Torres is out. As has been said, I think our first team is a match for any other and can win the league. The problem is that our back-up players are not good enough (Keane included) so we need to hope that we've had our "injury crisis" for the season.

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  • 47. At 10:19am on 02 Dec 2008, therkband wrote:

    Should have left Keane on until the end - he gets a late goal L'pool win the game and with his confidence raised he goes on a run.

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  • 48. At 10:20am on 02 Dec 2008, Mike Swiss Gunner wrote:

    I can't believe the comments on here! Are you truly Liverpool fans? I'm an Arsenal fan. We share the unique experience of beating Manu (at home) and Chelsea (away). How can you complain about your title challenge? You are top of the league. Ask any gunners fan and we would swap, even if it means drawing to West Ham at home from time to time. Now's the time to get behind your team. Back 'em to the hilt. Stay positive and I look forward to playing you on 21st.

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  • 49. At 10:21am on 02 Dec 2008, Manc Royston66 (was a good year) wrote:

    As a big Man Utd fan I'd say that the only time to doubt your team's credetials is when they do actually fall off the top.

    You should enjoy being on top as this indicates you have been the best team so far, whilst not really playing that well on many occasions (this is normally a good sign?).

    Yes of course, I kind of agree that you have things to worry about but I would only worry if you drift off the pace. Fergie has said this will be the closest title race ever and I agree. I think it is normal after a long break without a title to worry and over analyze but also pointless.

    If you can be at the top without really ever hitting top form then maybe, just maybe your best is yet to come?

    I think we're well placed and playing fantastic football at times, allbeit wasting lots of chances. I could worry about that but I somehow feel trust that the goals will come. I'll worry if we start to drop out of contention because of it but not until.

    Conjecture never won or lost a title. The big guns are all in with a shout and it should shape up to be a classic campaign with us hopefully making it a treble of titles but you never know in football. Come on utd - let's focus on piling the agony on Keano's Black Cats!!!!

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  • 50. At 10:22am on 02 Dec 2008, angelthejam wrote:

    -------------------------------------------

    Phil,

    Good points in your comment, and Liverpool is going through a rough patch at the moment, nobody will deny that and the stadistics are there to prove it, however it has to be noted that Liverpool play much better yesterday that they did against Fulham, and against Marseille.

    This time last year Carragher, together with Reina for that matter, was constantly hoofing the ball to the sky hoping a redmen will get it in the rival,s area, now Liverpool is playing decent passing football, even yesterday that was inecfectual, and Alonso, in my opinion the best player of Liverpool this season, was controlling the tempo of the game perfectly.

    What is the your opinion on the extra pressure Anfield is creating, i think this is affecting to certain players, and yesterday was evident in Gerrard, he was so anxious to get a goal that start looking for a shot every single time he touched the ball, it was very fustrating to watch, not only for fans, but i guess from his team mates as well, being the massive figure he is for Liverpool, what do you think?

    Benitez has ruled out making a move for Owen, which agree with, are you aware of any move for Heskey? Liverpool is missing a target man in certain occasions, specially when Torres is not in the pitch, and Heskey has already hinted he would love to move back to Anfield.

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  • 51. At 10:27am on 02 Dec 2008, spiritofbobpaisley wrote:

    Phil, and most others on this (and most other blogs). You are all guilty of using past seasons' results patterns to make judgements on this seaon's likely outcomes. Thus received wisdom is "you can't lose more than 5 games a season and win the title", it is easier to accumulate points at home than away, the top four mini league is a guide o the destiny of the title, etc., etc.

    This approach is wrong on so many counts, but mainly it ignores the growing evidence that this season will buck all kinds of previous trends. As an example, it may well be tactically that Chelsea and Liverpool have styles more suited to accumulating points on the road, whereas Man Utd may be the reverse - this season's record to date for all the three clubls suggests exactly this. Does this mean that only Man Utd are credible title challengers? Of course not.

    Similarly, the idea that Man Utd have played all their 'hardest' fixtures because thay have played many of the stronger sides away from home does not take account of the fact that these teams are often capable of frustrating big four teams on thier own grounds. Utd will drop points at home to at least two out of Villa, Spurs, Man City, Everton, Fulham (this year's model, not previous ones), West Ham, At least one out of Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal will win at Old Trafford, the other two are more than capable of holding Man Utd.

    Thus dated, cliched thinking borne of previous seasons provides no insight whatsoever - it is the laziest and most dangerous form of strategic thinking because it assumes that past patterns are destined to be repeated interminably.

    As for despondent comments by leading club supporters that "we must be beating teams like [Wigan, West Ham, Stoke, Fulham] if we are to have any hope of winning the title - they are so off the mark as to render the authors unfit to call themselves 'supporters'.

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  • 52. At 10:28am on 02 Dec 2008, brooksy123 wrote:

    Rosey05 how can you call Ngog a headless chicken. he done more for you than Keane.
    20 million well spent.

    yes it is very nice being top now but titles arent won now and surely it only going to get tougher for liverpool as the games go on.
    Torres could be another owen in the wings wiv all injuries.

    Liverpool need to be consitent and show people they have got what it take and blackburn away is perfect example. no one will be surprised if a useless blackburn team turn them over.

    Here to another year of misery for the scousers

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  • 53. At 10:31am on 02 Dec 2008, HAYDON wrote:

    How long at the top for? About a week.
    They are a one man team, Torres.

    Keane, what an overrated player he is.

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  • 54. At 10:36am on 02 Dec 2008, Liamjm wrote:

    i was at the game last night as well as the fulham game, ive been disapointed with keane the last two games hes really struggled, along with a few others, watching him you can see he is lacking confidence, its still early days in his liverpool career, two draws at home is not good, ok we are top but we will have to go on a good run now to cement our place at the top of the league.

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  • 55. At 10:37am on 02 Dec 2008, Things were better under Harold Wilson wrote:

    I like Keane, but even at Spurs he was 'carried' a bit by Berbatov. Berba was so damn good - and played with so much freedom - that anyone next to him was going to grab a hatful.

    I don't think I'm wrong when I say most Spurs fans wanted keane - rather than defoe - to leave. The Liverpool bid was an utter bolt from the blue, but, as we recover from the mank start, it looking better and better business for Spurs.

    I hope Robbie Keane turns it around - seix seasons at White Hart Lane and lots of great memories - but I don't think it will be under Benitez at Liverpool.

    I'm not averse to taking him back - if the price is right - but I have a nasty feeling he will go to a Wigan or Hull. Nothing wrong with those clubs, but he would have been better off at Spurs.

    Two goals in the Prem league? For a team that's top of the table.

    Oh dear, oh dear......

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  • 56. At 10:40am on 02 Dec 2008, rosey05 wrote:

    Brooksy you're obviously a rather envious United fan who for the first time in recent years sees Liverpool as a threat and rather than offer some constructive criticism you have just thrown around petit insults which just make you look rather childish. How can you say Liverpool are feeling the pressure? We have had two bad results at home but away from home we look far more manacing, its been the same for Chelsea this season. United still have to go to Japan which is another game back and i would much rather have the points than the game in hand! so lets see...

    Im not sayin we are going to run away with the league but over the course of the opening 15 games we have been the best team but unfortunately the season in 38 games long!

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  • 57. At 10:41am on 02 Dec 2008, boomshakalak wrote:

    well done to Liverpool for being top the league - they are looking a much better bet than in previous years - when often they are way off the pace already... i hope they keep it up.

    However - it is very interesting to see that Man U have played Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Villa, Portsmouth and Everton away thus far (these are the top 8 less Hull) and have also played Man City away. These are probably the hardest games they could of had...

    in comparison - Liverpol have drawn at home with Fulham, Stoke and West Ham....

    I hope all of the top clubs can stay in the chase and make it an exciting season... but i think people will be hard pushed to say that Liverpools games have been harder than Uniteds... and I would back United or Chelsea for the title still... if Man U win their game in hand (against Fulham) they go to 3 points off of Liverpool... i.e. 1 game...

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  • 58. At 10:42am on 02 Dec 2008, jayboot wrote:

    Benitez has built a team in his own image, obstinate and rigid. The team are fit and determined and the players carry out orders or are left out. There are some good players and of course Gerrard and Torres to give the star quality. However something is still missing and for them to win the title i think it will need Man utd and Chelsea to slip up unexpectedly a few more times. Liverpool s passing is too slow and easy to defend against. These latest results are not unusual they are in an established pattern and are likely to continue unless Raffa can come up with a plan B. Liverpool need a player who can run with the ball to pull defenders out of their set positions.You have to question Raffas use of Keane and players who are unproven like Ngog at crucial times in matches. The sale of Crouch doesnt look wise as Liverpool rarely score from set pieces. All in all i still think this is Liverpools best chance to win the title for a decade but in my opinion Benitez needs to be more creative in his thoughts, tactics and signings.

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  • 59. At 10:43am on 02 Dec 2008, jimmyboywalks wrote:

    The problem with Liverpool down the years has been that whenever they have had a positive result and gone top of the table, which has been far too seldom for my liking, they have always managed to back it up with an appalling result the following week! relinquishing the top spot in the process, they never have a sustained run at the top. Hopefully this time they can buck the trend by having a negative result followed by a positive result. Hopefully this will mean a sustained period at the top of at least a couple of weeks!

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  • 60. At 10:44am on 02 Dec 2008, Sayyid wrote:

    Steven Gerrard Gerrard

    He kisses the badge on his chest

    Then puts in a transfer request

    Steven Gerrard Gerrard!

    This guy will never win the PL.

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  • 61. At 10:51am on 02 Dec 2008, eamoirish wrote:

    what did he sell steve finnan for? that right wing has never been the same since he left... Riera off the boil lately. keane was a huge boo boo and waste of cash! we should be 8 points clear at this point... stoke, fulham and west ham should ALL have been beaten at home. eamo

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  • 62. At 10:53am on 02 Dec 2008, Kopclass wrote:

    Reddeviltunde and MarkRoyston66

    Fair play to a pair of Utd fans with class... great responses lads showing a fair and balanced opinion... wish there were more like you.

    As far as I'm concerned we're top of the league without playing anywhere near our best yet, and traditionally (and contrary to the 'falling away' bunkum spoken above) we are very, very strong after Christmas. If you look at 2008 as a calendar year, LFC are clear top and by a decent margin I think, so I'm hoping we continue with gradual improvement and start to address some tactical/creative defficiencies...

    As for last night... I distinctly remember Jose Mourinho talking about teams 'parking the bus'... I think West Ham gave a fine example of that last night with their 8 man defence, and good luck to them, after all, it's our job to break them down.

    Here's to a good title run in with plenty of excitement... may the best team win, and remember that's the team with the most actual points... not points for artistic merit ;-)

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  • 63. At 10:53am on 02 Dec 2008, lfcredred wrote:

    Its a really strange feeling being sat at the top of the league in december (we are usually out of it at this point) and still feel disapointed.

    i think the problem sometimes is not that Benitez get his tatics wrong, its that he applies to much tactics to teams that should be disposed of. Sometime he needs to show a little less respect to these teams and we would start thrashing them like Man U and Chelsea do (and that kills me to say it)

    we will be needing Gerrard and Torres back to the form they showed last season if we have any chance of winning the league.

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  • 64. At 10:55am on 02 Dec 2008, Giles wrote:

    I think Rafa got it wrong last night. Leaving Mascherano on the bench was the biggest mistake - it shackled Gerrard, and his performance dipped as a result. He should have stuck to the team that have got us to the top - left Kuyt on the right and Benayoun on the bench, with Gerrard just behind Keane. Taking Keane off was premature too - he might not have had a good game, but with Torres out he's our main striker and needs to know he has Benitez' confidence. If he knows he's going to be subbed after an hour every time he plays, it can't be good for him.

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  • 65. At 10:57am on 02 Dec 2008, brooksy123 wrote:

    rosey you are forgettin we been to these things before and came back to win the league.

    there is little worry among united fans as by xmas we will be in striking distant.

    full credit to liverpool for bein top at moment. best place to be.

    but simple answer is champions of england and europe.

    been there done it and got t-shirt

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  • 66. At 10:59am on 02 Dec 2008, eurotour07 wrote:

    Interesting to see the support for Babel here. He has looked more dangerous as a substitute than a starter, but I would have given him half an hour last night.
    -----

    I would agree with you to an extent there. But when was the last time Babel started along side our strongest team?

    I can't remember that this season. His 15 minute cameos are draining his confidence, at least give him a run of 2-3 games to see if he starts to find the skill we know he has.

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  • 67. At 10:59am on 02 Dec 2008, Red Marauders wrote:

    Being top of the league this morning means nothing. It's a bad result but we're not the only ones having difficulties otherwise we wouldn't be top clearly. This is just the type of panic that crashes stock markets.

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  • 68. At 11:02am on 02 Dec 2008, Redmatrix wrote:

    I feel for Robbie Keane how can he score a goal from the bench, as West Ham were tiring Keane still looked stronger. Kuyt was way too deep, he should on been higher up the pitch thus creating room for Keane. Benayoun is a complete waste of space, he looks very weak in all respects.

    Ryan Babel must be used on the right, him and Riera should be encourage to swap sides during the game too. This creates confusion for the opposition and is a tried and tested tactic that works.

    In nutshell Babel and Keane must be given a full 90 minutes for all games up until Torress’ return.

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  • 69. At 11:02am on 02 Dec 2008, Derek Fallon wrote:

    This may be clutching at a rather large straw but Liverpool are actually better when they dont have the ball ie they play better against teams which are of a similar standard or better than them. Thats why we have always done well in the champions league under Benitez-and this eason against the bigger teams ie Chelsea and Man Utd. I fully expect us to go to Arsenal later this month and get a result-even a win. But its against the lesser teams who we are expected to beat that we have trouble against. For Stoke, Fulham and West Ham see also Middlesborough (very lucky),Wigan (had man sent off at crucial time) and Portsmouth (needed a penalty to get past). The only time Liverpool have opened teams up this season at home have been against West Brom-who came out and tried to play football-and Man United-who were awful on the day but we know are the best team in the league. So from 8 home league games-Liverpool have played well and won well twice. Its only our away record that has kept us up there. This lets us look at the other side of the coin. Liverpool have still to play Man utd and Arsenal away-plus all the teams that we have played at home. I expect these games to be a bit easier for us because of the way we play. If you look at our away results-Bolton, Sunderland, Everton and dare I say it Chelsea were dispatched with relative ease and in much more convincing fashion. A comfortable draw was garnered at Villa and the defeat at Spurs was against the run of play. Its no coincidenece that Liverpools "slump" (two draws and a champions league win) have coincided with a run of home games. If we can figure out how to beat teams at home I think we'll be right there.

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  • 70. At 11:03am on 02 Dec 2008, idoitforfootball wrote:

    Liverpool had to win today! Thats what tiltle contenders do. I don't think they wil go on to win the title.

    From : http://idoitforfootball.wordpress.com/

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  • 71. At 11:11am on 02 Dec 2008, gunpaul wrote:

    i think the league will remain very tight this season..a lot of the teams outside the top 4 have improved a lot and no longer roll over against the big teams..i must admit i think we (arsenal) have dropped too many points already, but Chelsea and Liverpool look like they could drop more points..i think the danger is that man Utd hit their stride and pull away..i think its great that the league is so competitive, just gutted we lost some silly games!!

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  • 72. At 11:18am on 02 Dec 2008, chafight wrote:

    I firmly agree that Kuyt should stay on the right. I also believe that Riera is about the best we have on the left, and Babel should partner Keane in the middle in the absence of Torres.

    However, we all remember how much we criticised Rafa during the last two seasons for consistently changing the team around in the name of rotation. We should leave him alone if he has finally decided to go with some people whom he believes will do the job for him.

    Us fans must realise that we would rather play poorly and win the league than play the most exciting football like we did against Spurs and end up with nothing like we did in that game.

    As long as we remain top of the table, we should leave the worrying about our performances to those who are paid to do exactly that, while we support them in any way possible.

    What we must make them understand is that we will accept nothing short of the Premiership at the end of this season, but we will not presume to tell them how we want it delivered.

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  • 73. At 11:18am on 02 Dec 2008, Nessy wrote:

    Keane didn't do much, but then there wasn't much he could do since he never got the ball. In fact it rarely came near him.
    Even Pele couldn't score without the ball.
    Top of the league, true, but we still struggle when teams come to Anfield and put eleven men behind the ball.

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  • 74. At 11:22am on 02 Dec 2008, DannyMinj wrote:

    A good, albeit obvious blog Phil. Agree with the points on form and performance. Pointing to the fact we're top is understandable from Benitez but a weak argument. The disappointment and concerns from fans is that we're playing poorly, and are unable to break teams down. Sooner or later, the 'form' won't be temporary and we'll drop too many points.

    Where I disagree is the points on Keane. Regardless of Gerrard or Torres, we lack a cutting edge for a number of reasons. Firstly, we're set up too negatively - a 4-5-1 at home to West Ham? And last night was an attacking formation in comparison to the two holding midfielders we normally play, with Kuyt almost playing as a 3rd on the right. The other top 4 teams would have put out an attacking team and formation last night, confident they could take apart West Ham at home - Benitez needs to relax his rigid tactics against weaker teams and just let our quality come through.

    Secondly, we have the wrong players in the wrong positions. Keane has never been a lone striker, and needs to play off a main striker which he doesn't for Liverpool. Playing him up front on his own is utterly pointless. And substituting him FIFTEEN times won't help him pinch goals late on or build an understanding of playing that position. I don't think the price tag is a problem for him, it's how he's used by Benitez.

    Thirdly, playing Benayoun ahead of Babel beggars belief. Benayoun has his qualities but is never a top 4 player whereas young Babel must be wondering what he's done wrong to not get a look in. Clearly Babel is out of favour but I can't see why and he's exactly the sort of player who deserves a run up front or on the right - as much as Liverpool fans love Dirk Kuyt's workrate, he'll never beat his man or offer genuine pace and skill out wide.

    For me, last night proved why we're not good enough to win the league yet; I expect United to come through strongly. The irony is, we could be good enough - if only Benitez would put out our best players with a simple brief: attack!

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  • 75. At 11:24am on 02 Dec 2008, ronwhelan wrote:

    Liverpool, on current form will not win the league.

    Yes they have beaten Chelsea and ManU, but they cannot break down lesser teams. They have not played like champions against any team except possibly Chelsea and ManU.

    Unfortunately for liverpool are there are more LESSER teams that BIG teams, so yes they may beat Arsenal, Chelsea and Manu again, but will they beat the others who come to defend???

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  • 76. At 11:27am on 02 Dec 2008, Ruairi wrote:

    I've watched Liverpool 5 times in this last 6 weeks. I've not been impressed once by them. The only game they dominated in all the games I've seen them play in this season was the Man United game, and United had been playing away in Europe the Wednesdya night and the game was a midday fixture on the Saturday.
    I can't see Liverpool winning the league - too many second rate players.
    United are behind with a game in hand and have been everywhere.
    United will go on a massive run with all those home games and the lad who thinks they will not either hasn't had a look at the fixture list or doesn't know what he's talking about.
    You cant drop points at home to teams like Stoke or West Ham and expect to win the title.
    The lack of quality at Liverpool is clear for all to see.

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  • 77. At 11:27am on 02 Dec 2008, macca1283 wrote:

    The game was very disappointing, to say the least.
    There was no pace or aggression from Liverpool from the start and the movement in the top half of the pitch was non existant at times.
    Having said that, we're sitting at the top, 1 point clear of Chelsea, 6 of Man Utd and 8 in front of Arsenal.
    We will have the usual talk of, when other teams hit their strides and easier fixture lists but this is all theoretical.
    As we are told year in year out, the table never lies and at the moment we're perched at the top.

    NB. the "fans" booing at the end of the match should be disgusted with themselves. I've always been brought up to support the team, through thick and thin, (and there's been a lot of thin over the past 15 years..), the only thing they have succeeded in doing is supplying the media with a story to Liverpool bash with.

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  • 78. At 11:34am on 02 Dec 2008, Neil Skehel wrote:

    I was excited at the prospect of yesterday's match. I fancied a 4-0 home victory. But as I watched successive and I might add relentless attacks on the West Ham goal in a match in which Liverpool must have had 60% possession - I couldnt help scratch my head. The pace was at times torrid. Kuyt and indeed Gerrard and Arbeloa and Dossena ran around like greased lightning. And there in, I thought might lie the problem. Could it be that Liverpool's game is just too fast? So fast and furious, that its difficult to control anything? There were a number of passes that went the wrong way, there always are in any match, but wasn't the same true against Fulham. Then I began to wonder why, where is this coming from? THe chief exponent of industry, and perhaps rather cruelly, industry without effect is Mr Kuyt. Is too much emphasis being placed on effort and not enough on precision and calm by the current regime? It might be interesting to rest Kuyt, who after all, doesnt get on the score sheet as much as he should and give a more starts to Babel and indeed Robbie Keane.

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  • 79. At 11:35am on 02 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    I've said it before and I'll say it again. Based on their performances so far, all the top 4 English sides are mediocre this season. There is no going around that fact.

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  • 80. At 11:40am on 02 Dec 2008, liverbird59 wrote:

    I agree with the posts calling for babel to be played when torres is out. He's big, strong and quick and will be more of a handfull then keane, who should only be played as a second striker - looking for knock downs etc.

    However, despite being a little disappointed after the result last night, today I see the bigger picture. This time last year we were out of the title race but went on to have a strong second half to the season, even though the CL was our only realistic chance of a trophy. We have been without undoubtly our 2 best players in gerrard and torres for half our games and we're still top of the league.

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  • 81. At 11:40am on 02 Dec 2008, collie21 wrote:

    I think Keane on the stats was good value. Looking over the last few years he was in the top 5 scorers and certainly outshone the likes of over rated Rooney. But no one would buy Peter chech and play him as a defender or on the left wing. Keane while playing a strikers role for Liverpool has never been a 1 up front type of player. He trives on partnership, and mixing positions with his partner. What is clear as many have said is A) Benitez although on top doesn't know how to get the best out of what he has, and b) he went and bought a good car and parked it

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  • 82. At 11:42am on 02 Dec 2008, I love a heated debate wrote:

    The myth seems to be that it is the results when the top four play each other that'll decide the PL title - which is almost total bunkem. Usually, these games cancel each other out (draws or one win a piece).

    The title will be decided by which side drops the fewest points in games they really should win - i.e. LFC v WHU, CFC v NUFC, AFC v Hull, MUFC v NUFC. It is these kind of games that any winner of the PL should not be dropping points against.

    I have always said that it's who drawers the least number of games (outside those v the other top four) that decides the title.

    CFC slipped up v NUFC (and others?!!). LFC, whether they like it or not, slipped up last night.

    For what it's worth, I agree with one of the other posters - LFC will not be there come the end of the season; they do not have enough quality in their squad and they seem to be relying on a couple of players who, if absent or just not on form, mean the difference between 3 points and 1 point.

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  • 83. At 11:42am on 02 Dec 2008, MorlaisRocket wrote:

    As ardent Liverpool fans I think it's time for us to stop commenting via the 'red' tinted glasses we always do and be totally honest with the current situation. The truth of the matter is clear, as long as Benitez is at the helm we will never win the title, an obvious trail of thought shared by our American owners hence why they are so reluctant to offer a new contract. You don't pay £20 million for a Striker and substitute him 15 times, a ridiculous move which is obviously affecting Keane's confidence week in week out. You don't pay £19 million for a young winger / striker such as Babel and give him 10 minutes at the end of each game. What on earth does Benitez see in Ngog? Lucas? El Zhar? Dossena? Du Plessis? The list is endless. Would any of those players get in the match day squad at any other so called top four clubs? NO. Benitez has been given an absolute absurd amount of money by the owners in all fairness, the guy is sadly totally out of his depth. He raised concerns about player confidence in his post match interview last night, as Manager he should be the one installing the confidence. Real Madrid will be looking for a new head coach soon, might be just the opportunity for us to bring someone in whilst we're in the position we are who will be able to drive us on towards the title instead of throw it away.

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  • 84. At 11:45am on 02 Dec 2008, RugbyFairerThanSoccer wrote:

    It's true, Keane cannot do anything without the ball. The crosses from the flank do not suit his size and he is a player who thrives on balls played through the middle, then he is very creative. Michael Owen is someone who also thrieves on through passes, because of his size and style.
    I would say it is Benitez's job to change the playing style, according to the players he fields. Every time the Liverpool middlefield players got the ball, they played it wide... they never even considered playing the ball through middle. If I were Benitez, I would be looking at varying the style of play against the weaker teams, to avoid draws.

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  • 85. At 11:47am on 02 Dec 2008, collie21 wrote:

    I would add, I think the difference between Benitez and the others is that the others adapted their systems to their players and the strenghts therein, Benetiz while not unsuccessful has imposed his system and it is unchangeable. He should have gone for it at Anfield. It's almost like they were afraid of loosing. A sure receipie for failure.

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  • 86. At 11:48am on 02 Dec 2008, akirkbylad wrote:

    Liverpool have won games this season they should have lost and they have drawn games they need to win if they are to be up there at the end of the season. The frustration at present is if we are to be challengers then maximum points should have been taken against Stoke, Fulham and West Ham...6 points have been dropped. We could have been 7 points clear this morning. Once you take Torres or Gerrard out of the equation and/or either of them as an off game we lack the ability to win games. Liverpool are too dependent on star players turning games rather than 'team performance' beating the opposition.

    But I'd still rather be top of the pile unhappy with performances compared to worrying about Villa pushing us for 4th!

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  • 87. At 11:51am on 02 Dec 2008, Rich N wrote:

    Benitez has stated that he thinks Babel doesn't have the fitness levels yet to manage 90 mins, and that he has shown that he has a great impact from the bench against tiring defenses (from an article amonth or so ago on the official site).

    What he didn't state (but reading between the lines, and from watching Babel you can see this) is that Babel doesn't have the same impact when he starts.

    So it makes sense to use him from the bench, but possibly earlier in the game. Against a West Ham side that was clearly intent on packing a defense, Benayoun seemed to struggle to find any time or space, and Babel could have been a good sub for him with 30 mins to go.

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  • 88. At 11:56am on 02 Dec 2008, Shoots-The Swindlement of the Swindling Swindler wrote:

    Frankly there isn't one team that look like title winners at the moment.

    It seems to be like the Chuckle Brothers at the top - "to you, to me" with no-one making a concerted effort to pull away from the top.

    Chelsea are stuttering, Liverpool are stuttering, Arsenal don't know whether they're a top team or just a decent side at the moment and Man Utd are supposedly going to 'go on a run', but we're 15 games in already and I've seen no sign of a run yet.

    I'm not sure whether the teams outside of the so called 'big four' have got stronger or just that those four teams have plateaued, but either way it is apparent that any team can take points off of anyone.

    I think this season will see the eventual winners have quite a low points total.

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  • 89. At 12:07pm on 02 Dec 2008, birdseyeview wrote:

    If you can beat the big teams around you that are competing for the top of the table, it is not that much of a problem that all the games against teams 'parking the bus' don't turn out to be victories.
    Liverpool had an excellent run of nabbing games at the beginning of the season, which goes a long way to fulfilling the quota needed to be near the top come May.
    They are ahead of everyone this season regardless. All the Big 4 have had suprise results this season and that is sure not to have finished.

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  • 90. At 12:11pm on 02 Dec 2008, makithecat wrote:

    OK, maybe Robbie (Keane) doesn't have an X-Factor voice at the moment, but given time and a smiley scouser vote, he would still beat OWEN (the Irish one) in a sing-off. And I've heard Keanie sing!!!!
    C'mon, guys, get real!!!
    Who's perched proudly on TOP of the greatest league in the world? Liverpool, FC!!
    I follow Leeds - imagine my mood today. Q: Where am I on Saturday? A: Tranmere!!!!
    You do the math!!

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  • 91. At 12:13pm on 02 Dec 2008, Nabster85 wrote:

    A frustrated Liverpool fan here. Of course many have said that we are top of the table so stop winging.....yes ok..BUT...DROPPING crucial points at HOME to teams like Fulham, Stoke and now West Ham ( no disrespect ) is at the end of the day, in my opinion going to be crucial come end of the season. Man Utd seem to be worryingly in good form so I can see us needing a result at Old Trafford by the way our home form is going. Just another frustrating thing to say to Benitez......WHY ON EARTH DONT YOU PLAY BABEL FROM THE START!?....He came on last night and was fantastic for the few minutes....really really..frustrated..

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  • 92. At 12:18pm on 02 Dec 2008, disturbingmonk wrote:

    lfc jason lfc
    wrong sir!
    Ngog replaced keane
    babel replaced riera
    Dont know what game you were watching, but it wasn't last nights game

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  • 93. At 12:19pm on 02 Dec 2008, Unbiased_Pundit wrote:

    Not sure what people mean when they say Liverpool have had the easiest fixture list of the top 4. In 15 games we've played Man United at home, Chelsea, Everton, Villa, Spurs and Man City away. Certainly an easier fixture list than United but no harder than Arsenal or Chelsea's.

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  • 94. At 12:21pm on 02 Dec 2008, magweebrown wrote:

    Gooooooners! We'll certainly see what Liverpool are made of when they come up against The Arsenal 21st Dec - Cant wait!

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  • 95. At 12:23pm on 02 Dec 2008, El Jeficito Possible Hat-Trick Hero wrote:

    "Rafael Benitez preferred to see his glass as half-full as Liverpool hit the Premier League summit on a wave of Anfield indifference."

    I have to be honest Phillip, I stopped reading after this bit. Are you a professional journalist? Do you get paid to get it wrong in the opening paragraph?

    Should Benitez be regarding the glass as half-empty instead? What's wrong with positivity? You wont win anything by conceding before you try. The typical British media response.

    You could have said something like:
    Rafa Benitez will probably have a word with his players after last night but he must secretly at least, be pleased his misfiring Liverpool team are sitting top of the PL despite a frustrating period for Reds fans. Already they have shown a resilience that has been missing but whether they can still top the table come May remains to be seen.

    Instead you went for the "I don't know what Benitez has got to be so cheery about" approach.
    Honestly, you should either
    A: Try harder to write articles that are worthy of their association with the BBC the blueprint for international media,

    Or

    B: Sack whoever said: "Yes Phil, that's anice piece, we'll go with that as your main article concerning last night's game at Anfield.

    Terrible.
    Bring back National Service.

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  • 96. At 12:24pm on 02 Dec 2008, Sayyid wrote:

    Remember that Man Utd have only played 6 home games, and have another one postponed vs Wigan in December

    United may end up playing 4 straight home games, and if they play anything like they did last season, that should make the difference to whether they or Chelsea/L'pool win the league

    Remember, Chelsea are no longer invincible, Arsenal are vulnerable, L'pool have a weak squad and Man Utd have a hectic fixture list. All this plus the rest of the Prem becoming stronger means that the PL this season is wide open and and team that puts in 7 straight victories will probably win the title

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  • 97. At 12:26pm on 02 Dec 2008, diavolorosso wrote:

    After the weekend's results, the race for the title is in United's hands - if they win all their remaining games, they will be champions.

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  • 98. At 12:26pm on 02 Dec 2008, hendero wrote:

    So at a time when goals are at a premium, Torres is injured and looks like he will be for some time, Keane can't score, Babel apparently can't last 90 minutes, etc. Rafa comes out and publically rules out a move for Owen. Why? When fit, Owen is as good a finisher as there is in the Premiership. OK, so he's not a 90 minute a match player anymore, but surely he could contribute to the Reds' title challenge by coming off the bench, starting some cup matches, gives Torres and Keane a rest now and then. He'd be familiar with the ground, the club, etc. still knows a decent number of players, and might just revel in a return home.

    I generally like Rafa, but his decision making sometimes baffles me - e.g. trying to sell Alonso to make way for the older and less talented Barry in the summer. And he must have made a pact with the devil for all the close and undeserved wins, particularly in Europe, the Reds have clocked up during his tenure.

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  • 99. At 12:27pm on 02 Dec 2008, BestSpam1979 wrote:

    Didn't see the game...but even if the result IS a lost opportunity for Liverpool, if you'd offered their fans the chance to be top of the table by just 1 point at the start of December, they'd have taken it with open arms.

    Disappointing, yes. Disastrous, hardly. At least the star goalscorer (Torres) still has his heart in playing for the club, which is more than can be said (I suspect) for Drogba, Ronaldo, maybe even Adebayor.

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  • 100. At 12:37pm on 02 Dec 2008, rastafairy wrote:

    Phil- when you say you've "rarely seen or heard Anfield less excited by an ascent to the top of the table" - could you tell me when those rare occasions were, please?

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  • 101. At 12:53pm on 02 Dec 2008, sanusicisse wrote:

    THOUGH AS EVERY ONE OF US KNOW THAT PREMIER LEAGUE IS A STRONG LUAGUE THREE POINT IS NOT GARUTED TO ENY TEAM WHAT SO EVER SO THERE FOR I CAN'T BLAME THE PLAYER OR THE MENEGAR EVEN THE LOWER TEAM TOO ARE EQUALY LOOKING FOR A WAY OUT OF THE DROUP ZONE. IS GOING TO BE A TIGHT RACE THIS SESON. BUT I HOPE IN THE END CHEALSE WILL WIN THE AND POSSIBLE CHAMPIONS LUEAGUE.

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  • 102. At 12:53pm on 02 Dec 2008, OptimisticScouse wrote:

    How can journalists like yourself critisise us you said we couldnt compete and now were top of the league were still critisised. I dont think iv ever known the Premier League leaders to be heavily critisised. Top of the best league in the world not good enough? wake up people

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  • 103. At 12:58pm on 02 Dec 2008, fancyjignesh wrote:

    People call rafa the mastermind but at times I beg to differ!....especially with two stalemates against Fulham and West Ham! we should be sitting at the top of the Table with a daylight of at least 3points!

    I agree with some people's views on playing Ryan Babel in times like this, I've always said he could be the next Thierry Henry but he is far from that unless Rafa realises that there is potential in Ryan Babel!

    I must admit Kuyt has improved this season but he seems to play well only when we are winning!...whats the point in that!...we need consistancy week in week out! and with torres out and with the current squad we got I just cant see that happening for us.

    Finally with torres out I think the best team to play is the following:

    Reina
    Arbeloa
    Agger
    Carragher
    Auerilio
    Mascherano
    Alonso
    Gerrard
    Kuyt
    Keane
    Babel

    Formation should be 4 - 1 - 3 - 2

    with Ryan Babel upfront with Keane!


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  • 104. At 12:59pm on 02 Dec 2008, woodsy1977 wrote:

    I agree with all of that, and we might have a one point lead over Chelsea and effectively a 3 point lead over United but it should and could have been more. I fear that this is the beginning of the now regular Liverpool pre Christmas collapse. It will seem so much more painful this season because we promised a lot for longer than usual and actually dared to believe we might be on the verge of success. Sadly, if we do not improve, we will be several points down on the other side of Christmas, and we will not recover.

    On a separate point about Owen, would be happy to have him back but only for a small (realistic) fee and a reasonable weekly wage. Since I suspect there is more chance of me playing for Liverpool than Michael Owen accepting a pay cut to come back, it will never happen.

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  • 105. At 1:02pm on 02 Dec 2008, Worst_Firm_In_The_World wrote:

    Booing your team when earning the points to reach the top of the league is shocking. Do you lot not realise you haven't even come close to a title for nigh on twenty years? You should be grateful to be where are you are.

    Liverpool's players, manager and staff deserve to be top as they have all helped the team to collect more points than their rivals.

    Given the attitude of the delusional Liverpool supporters they certainly do not deserve to enjoy the clubs current success.

    Perhaps they are concerned that Manchester United and Chelsea are not even out of the blocks yet and they are still unable to pull away at the top.

    I'll eat my hat if Liverpool are still in with a shout when it comes to the final five games of the season.

    And it's a big hat.


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  • 106. At 1:06pm on 02 Dec 2008, Mind the windows Timo wrote:

    Have to agree with bestspam1979 if someone had offered being one point clear at the top, at the end of November, before the season started we would have snatched there hands off.

    But rather than be happy, the Liverpool fan mindset is still stuck somewhere in the mid 80’s …we have to beat these sides, its all wrong, when I was a boy it was all better. By the way, review those videos there’s some fairly shody 0 – 0 draws in that lot too

    Why don’t you try getting behind the team? The confidence may return, players may not feel such a burden of expectation and the youngster may be able to handle the pressure. I’d be well scared playing in-front of 44,000 people unhappy that your top of the league.

    It doesn't take a "True Fan" to slate your own team, its not a badge of honour.

    As for the Man Utd fans, how in anyway have you played better than us this season? We’re just as likely to put a run together as you are, and I for one am looking forward to the run in.

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  • 107. At 1:06pm on 02 Dec 2008, karim1981 wrote:

    Phil

    I love reading your columns on here.

    Its a strange feeling, we are top of the pile yet everyone criticises us.

    Some points about Fulham, Stoke and West Ham

    a) they all came to defend
    b) they are all going to finish in the bottom half of the table
    c) We lacked pace and confidence

    The amount of times players were running into each other was astounding. There is too much pressure on Gerrard and Torres to find the first goal. no one else is prepared to take responsibility.. Alonso has been amazing this season but his best work is in the first 2/3rds of the pitch, i dont think he has scored a goal this season, bar Chelsea but even that was a massive deflection. Riera still hasnt scored, Kuyt has got a couple, our defence really doesnt chip in with enough and up front Robbie Keane just looks like he wants to dig a hole and bury himself in it.

    I think RK is a good player but i think its time for Babel to play up front. Perhaps you can ask Rafa next time you see him why he doesnt pick Babel from the start.. If he says its because he is only young, point out that Owen was only 17 when he made his debut, C Ronaldo was 17, Rooney was 16 so young players can do it, just need to be given the chance.

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  • 108. At 1:07pm on 02 Dec 2008, Andrew Garlick wrote:

    I am not a Man Utd Fan or Chelsea or Liverpool or Arsenal.

    However I would find it refreshing if Liverpool did win the League...but I am having my doubts with some drab Home performances.

    I think the only upside is that the other 3 teams around them are all having in different seasons so far so...actually I think this may even come down to the last day of the season again.

    Liverpool do have some good players...only 2 world class players...you need more depth - just my opinion.

    Good luck to you

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  • 109. At 1:10pm on 02 Dec 2008, The_Master wrote:

    Rightly so in the first few weeks of the campaign, specially after the (not so convincing) win over UTD and the one over chelsea, all the pundits and Liverpool fans were dreaming and backing Liverpool for the title this year. But every season is the same. They start pretty well and come Nov/Dec they start to fade...As they are doing now. They don't have a creative player, no decent replacement for Torres, no good wingers, poor defence with carragher....etc.
    A team cannot win the league with only two so-called star players like Torres and well Gerrard. Look over the years when UTD, Chelsea and Arsenal won the league. They had loads of star players in their first 11....Liverpool simply don't. Rafa is a good manager, but not someone who will win you the league. And stop pointing fingers to Keane. He is an awesome player, just not being used as he should....

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  • 110. At 1:12pm on 02 Dec 2008, Redinthehead wrote:

    Chelsea away Man City away Villa away Everton away, Man U have played them all.

    .... and so have Liverpool. Liverpool will play Arsenal away in a couple of weeks which will be the litmus test. Of course Torres will be back for that match.

    I agree with the post that none of the top teams have impressed over 15 games this season (14 for United). It is going to be tight, but then look at the rest of the table, its getting tight right across. In fact, there are going to be quite a few games this season that will be billed as 6 pointers.

    Liverpool are top, and with Liverpool gaining more points in the latter half of the season based on the last two seasons, who's to say they won't be there come the end?

    Before the season started, Liverpool were 12/1 to win the league. Bookies have rehashed their prices to 3/1. Running scared I think.

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  • 111. At 1:12pm on 02 Dec 2008, afterthegoalrush wrote:

    rafa has to cyhange the formation for home matches. his negative approach is killing us and making us look a far worse team than we really are! what is the point in playing keane on his own, he needs a partner, last night as aainst fulham & stoke proved how incapable he is at changing the game. his substitutions don't make any sense, rather than change the tactics when the game is not going our way. i know for many reds fans won't criticise rafa but get real he ain't gonna win us the league

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  • 112. At 1:14pm on 02 Dec 2008, Paella & Mash wrote:

    How can people say it will be between Utd and Chelsea? Have you seen Chelsea's form lately? If Liverpool beat Blackburn on Saturday it will be Utd who knocks them off the top eventually, if anyone does, Arsenal are too inconsistent and Chelsea don't look great at the minute.

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  • 113. At 1:17pm on 02 Dec 2008, daveypnw wrote:

    Has no one realised that Keane wasn't the only mis-firing striker in all these home games (stoke, fulham, west ham)? Keane is a class act and its Benitez's who is making him look bad with his team selections!
    Just look at his teams over the past few seasons.. what have we been missing?..
    Width!
    Strikers need space, widemen create space.. Yossi and Riera spent the entire match coming inside, which is fine if you have full backs over lapping and stretching play, but we are stuck with Arbeloa (too casual-no pace-no decent final ball) and Dossena who has to be the worst offensive full back i have ever seen! Bring back Warnock!
    Benitez replaced a stiker doing nothing for another striker who done nothing! He's making his summer signing a scapegoat! Why not replace Kuyt who was awful, rather than staying in the box he was drifting all over the pitch, even dribbling the ball out play at one point he was that bad.
    Rather than blaming strikers did Benitez not feel it necessary at his half time team talk to tell the two wide men to stay wide and hug the touchline to create space for the stikers? He didn't replace Yossi cus he has no-one else to play that position.. apparently! What's wrong with Pennant, he might not be the best but at least he is disciplined enough to stay out wide, cross the ball, beat a man. And what about Gerrard.. play him out wide, his few crosses last night caused problems, Alonso is in the form of his life, i'm sure he could play with Mascherano and hold the midfield while Stevie swung some quality crosses in! Plus he has played that role before and scored 23 goals in the process!
    Benitez looking for strikers in January is admitting that Kuyt (£11m), Babel (£13m), and Keane (£20m) are not good enough, his buys i might add!. He is looking for answers in the wrong place.
    Let's play a more balanced team rather that expecting stikers to fill wide roles that they are clueless about. We need 2 good full backs and a good right wideman. Not strikers.
    I none its wrong to consider it, but i'd would have taken Beckham on loan in Jan, at least you can expect quality crosses that Keane and Torres would thrive off!
    Lay of Keane and start asking Benitez some questions - alright we're top of the league with a point, but if we'd have won these 3 home matches we'd be top by 7 points. How can he be happy with that performance cus every pundit, commentator and fan thought it stank!

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  • 114. At 1:18pm on 02 Dec 2008, danny chips wrote:

    I remember in recent seasons Arsenal getting great results against the rest of the 'Big 4', but a failure to beat the mediocre sides meant they got nowhere near the title. I think the same will happen with Liverpool this season, although they have definitely made strides to close the gap between them and the rest in the last couple of seasons

    An over-reliance on Torres and Gerrard is the main issue IMO, but i'm not sure that Benitez understands what it takes to win the Premiership either and may remain a 'cup specialist', all be it a fantastically successfull one

    I am by no means a Liverpool fan, i would even go so far as to say i dislike them (they were the dominant team in the 1980's when i first took an interest in football and everyone loves to hate the big boys) and their fan base is as spread across the UK as Man Utd's, but it would be great to see 4+ teams competeing for the title on an even footing every season. For that reason i hope that they secure the players they need to take that half step up to the very top level, either in January or summer 2009

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  • 115. At 1:24pm on 02 Dec 2008, MrT wrote:

    In reply to number 95, who's picked holes in what Phil has written, some of your own liverpool supporters have done that, e.g. 83 who makes some quality points.

    In reply to Kentspur, I'm also a Spurs fan and in no way wanted Keane to leave.

    I didn't watch the liverpool match last night, but I've got to ask the question as to why you would possibly sub a player 15 times (often around the 60 - 70 minute period) especially when you need to score, when firstly he's the most experienced striker available, who is a proven premiership player, who had scored 46 goals in the previous 2 seasons, who you yourself chased for months in the summer and paid £20 million for, and replace him with a young unproven raw (at best) player unfamiliar with the premiership?? Why???

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  • 116. At 1:28pm on 02 Dec 2008, Jaykop30 wrote:

    Point number 7 on the blog, lfcjason, just to confirm, Ngog replaced Keane mate.

    Good blog, but one thing that it fails to highlight is the inconsistency if Benitez in certain areas. Typical example of this is last week mid week game, Keane is left of the bench for the entire game whilst it is quite clear that Torres is having a shocker. Had Benitez been consistent, Torres would have been taken off after 65 minutes and replaced by Keane, as a result of persisting to play Torres for the full game, we now lose him for a month. It's almost like Benitez is trying to dent Keane's confidence in any possible way, Ngog on for him last bight??? Please, he is like Bambi on ice at the best of times, not sure why Benitez is so vehement in his denial of approach for Owen, could be exactly what we need.

    Take the point that Keane is firing blanks at the moment and it is frustrating, I still say he is a proven goal scorer in the league with over a ton to his name, not many out there that can claim the same. Benitez constantly playing him as a second rate player is not going to make him any better.

    Finally, this isssue of 20m price tag, we all know he is not worth it but it's not his fault the nature of the English game has dictated that all home grown players come with an inflated price tag examples of messrs Downing, Carrick and Bent should be proof enough of that

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  • 117. At 1:29pm on 02 Dec 2008, flicksdontwork wrote:

    Yes I tend to agree with optimisticscouse.I'm not too sure whether this article would have been written about Man u if they had just drawn their last home game.

    Surely top of the league is top of the league.

    Regarding the Babel debate I would leave Keane on the bench for a couple of games and stick Babel up the top through the middle.

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  • 118. At 1:29pm on 02 Dec 2008, LondonsFinestClub wrote:

    Fair play to Zola! He has managed to stabilise West Ham and more importantly from a Chelsea point of view, deny Liverpool the opportunity to pull away. Despite Chelsea's problems at home, their goal difference is still considerably better and it is likely their form will improve with the re-introduction of Carvalho, Joe Cole, and Drogba not to mention Essien. These are four top class players and fully fit they will add to Chelsea's potency. Scolari hit the nail on the head when he stated that If Chelsea are there abouts at the end of December they will probably win it. United must also fancy their chances and I think this combined pressure will weigh heavily on Liverpools shoulders. This is based on previous experience and Liverpools inability to grasp an opportunity when it's there for the taking. However, it is hard to say what could happen in the coming weeks based on the inadequacy of the officials decisions since the beginning of this season not to mention last season...Video evidence is required for contentious goals or penalty decisions, it wouldn't take long and would provide a fair and level playing fielf for all concerned. Refs. can't be everywhere, therefore they need an eye in the sky. I don't mind an extra five minutes or so in every match provided the decisions are fair and awarded correctly. Fair play!!!

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  • 119. At 1:29pm on 02 Dec 2008, WordsofWisdom wrote:

    Firstly, do the BBC find it acceptable that their supposed leading football journalist is a completely transparent Liverpool fan and writes more articles on Liverpool than any other subject?

    Secondly, let me spell it out clearly for you Phil. Liverpool never were and still are not realistic contenders for the title this year. That was the common wisdom at the start of the season and it is now. Its not hard these days. You look at the players who came and went at Liverpool in the summer and there is only a marginal increase in potential (if Keane produces 20+ goals this season, now looking unlikely.)

    Compared to Utd and Chelsea, Liverpool lack quality in a number of positions and have nowhere near the strength in depth of their rivals. They have totally over achieved in terms of points v performance so far this season but you can't do it over 38 games.

    Why not write on how tragic Rafa's record is in the transfer market? The reason Liverpool fans, who, in fairness, have never gotten carried away this season, were so negative after last nights game is because they know that the game is up.

    Utd and Chelsea have managed through a lot of injuries and disruption so far and Utd have had by far the most difficult fixtue list.

    I could go on but take it from me Phil, Liverpool will be nowhere in the race come March/April and please remove the rose tinted glasses.

    Why not save this and get back to me in March. God knows how much more Liverpool drivel we will have to endure in the meantime.

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  • 120. At 1:32pm on 02 Dec 2008, herc69 wrote:

    owen is not the answer to our problems, benitez would never consider him as he hasn't the right "mentality", ie he won't give up personal gain for the benefit of the team. i think robbie keane is doing the opposite right now and needs to be a bit more selfish

    now, there's no liverpool fans i know of who are saying "we're gonna win the league", all seem to be of the same opinion that it's a good position to be in and we'll see where we can go from here. so how is it that every manure and chelski fan KNOWS that we won't and they will? a bit over confident or scared? terrified i think!

    the fact that we can be disapointed at going top of the league shows how we have now set our standards.

    in rafa we trust.

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  • 121. At 1:32pm on 02 Dec 2008, Storm of Swords wrote:

    Liverpool's luck has finally run out and now that it has they are exposed for being what they really are - average. Ok they beat Chelsea away and Utd at home but apart from that they've been lucky with decisions and last minute goals. The tougher games will come and they will struggle even Gerrard diving around in penalty areas won't win them the Premiership.

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  • 122. At 1:34pm on 02 Dec 2008, Jayson Gabler wrote:

    If we can't beat teams like Stoke, Fulham and West Ham AT HOME, then we've got no chance. These type of teams have figured us out, and just come to Anfield to defend. Until Benitez can find a way of breaking such teams down, we're stuffed. When teams actually come to play against us, we can cope, but when they stack the defence, we've got no idea how to deal with it.

    Unless of course Chelsea and Man United, (and maybe Arsenal) don't hand us the title by losing too many games themselves

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  • 123. At 1:39pm on 02 Dec 2008, Kapnag wrote:

    Another blog entry in the BBC Liverpool fanzine

    Does Phil McNulty discuss anything other than "are united finished" or "have Liverpool turned the corner?"

    Oh yeah, "Fabio Capello puts reputation on line by not playing Owen" - that didn't quite work out that way did it?

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  • 124. At 1:39pm on 02 Dec 2008, Storm of Swords wrote:

    Teams Utd have played away so far this season:

    Liverpool
    Chelsea
    Arsenal
    Aston Villa
    Everton
    Portsmouth
    Man City
    Blackburn
    Tottenham this weekend

    I would say it's definitely advantage Utd.

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  • 125. At 1:40pm on 02 Dec 2008, Bonera87 wrote:

    Maybe Liverpool have had a few too many goaless draws, but it could be worse. We could have lost like Chelsea couldn't we?

    This isn't a dig at Chelsea, just frustration at the scrutiny constantly upon Liverpool.

    Lets just keep backing our team as best we can and not get sucked in to all this negativity coming from outside the Anfield faithful.

    Rafa always says the next game is most important, last nights' game was the last game. Chin up lads!

    YNWA

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  • 126. At 1:45pm on 02 Dec 2008, herc69 wrote:

    to karim1981

    riera has scored, kuyt has 5 league goals, 7 total, which include match winners at wigan and man city, saving us 6points where we deserved 0.

    this is the difference and why we are up there. we are doing what manure and chelski have been doin for the last few years - getting points where we don't deserve them. only when its liverpool its "lucky" and when its t'others they are " being winners" or " handling the pressure"

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  • 127. At 1:57pm on 02 Dec 2008, Chris Stanley wrote:

    It's pretty obvious where Liverpool are getting at wrong at Anfield at the moment: they need to let their opponents take the lead at some point! I give you Manchester United and Wigan Athletic as cases in point: Liverpool seem to play better when they have to chase a game.

    This draw is particularly worrying for Liverpool because it shows teams that they can get a point against Liverpool by a) nullifying Torres if he's playing and b) settling for the point.

    Selling Crouch - a mistake? Just maybe?
    Keane's more than welcome to come back to the Lane in January by the way :)

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  • 128. At 1:59pm on 02 Dec 2008, SA_Jo wrote:

    I think the ariticle rings a lot of true notes!
    I am delighted that we are top of the table and even more so that we have the best record against teams in the top 7 having beaten Chelsea and Everton away, Man Utd at home and drawing to Villa away.

    But that doesn't take away the fact that in the last three games we haven't looked like scoring.. and that is a real concern. I have no doubt that when we play Arsenal (home and away), Chelsea and Man Utd that we will play well and may come away with more points than not.. but that won't do us any good if we keep on struggling to put low table teams to the sword...

    I was interested to read the comment from some people about Babel up front with Keane. I think that it would be worth a go, especially against lower sides. Why can't we drop Mascherano for those games and play Alonso and Gerrard in the middle supporting those two up front... that's the kind of attitude going into a game that I would like to see....

    Now my rant... I cannot stand Lucas Leiva.. his passing and first touch have been far too often frustratingly bad!! .. and I agree about Dossena.. he isn't good enough for a top four premiership team defence...

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  • 129. At 2:00pm on 02 Dec 2008, kevthered83 wrote:

    It does make me laugh these scousers boo'ing Liverpools draw.

    Top of the league, through from the champions league, beaten Chelsea & United, and have as good a starting 11 as they have had in the last 15 years or so.

    Liverpool wont be there at the end, simply because (as has been stated numerous times already) they have no strength in depth. Liverpool fans should enjoy it whilst they can. I honestly believe as long as Liverpool are managed by Benitez, who seems to adapt his gameplans more for Champions league football than Premiership, they will never win the league.

    Chelsea and Man Utd ill pull away in January and normal service will be resumed.

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  • 130. At 2:05pm on 02 Dec 2008, always_united wrote:

    "Yeah you're right, easiest fixture list, beating Man U and Chelsea! I can't see Man United putting a run together, the only team that will win the league other than Liverpool this season is Chelsea. Man U just think they have a devine right to be up there but this season they have been poor!"

    Your right Man United haven't been great until the last few weeks when they have started playing better as on Sunday, yet they are potentially only 3 points off the top having played Chelsea, Arsenal, L'pool, Pompey, Everton, Villa and City away. With all these teams to come to OT and United traditionally a better team after Christmas, it's looking good.

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  • 131. At 2:06pm on 02 Dec 2008, matchboxmaster wrote:

    Question - Liverpool top, but for how long?

    Answer - Not very long.

    Very simple really.

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  • 132. At 2:07pm on 02 Dec 2008, welshsteve wrote:

    It says a lot about the general feeling about the team this season, that we are all disappointed despite being top of the Premiership.

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  • 133. At 2:07pm on 02 Dec 2008, philmcnultybbcsport wrote:

    The Babel situation is clearly one that is preying on the minds of Liverpool fans.

    The vibes from Anfield are that Benitez still feels Babel needs to work harder and get his fitness levels higher.

    I would be tempted to start him in Torres' absence. Babel's unpredictability is always worth a shot.

    As for fitness and work-rate...

    He has been at Liverpool for well over a season now. If he is not working hard enough or is not fit enough, this is a problem Benitez and his staff should have cured by now.

    Benitez felt Ngog did well after he came on last night. My view was that he put himself about and worked hard - but Babel would have been the better substitution for the last 25 minutes.

    What about the midfield, why do you feel Mascherano was left out and did it work?

    I felt the midfield set-up at least showed some positive intent and Alonso was, in my opinion, Liverpool's best player.

    And to a couple of recent posters.

    Your allegations about me being a "transparent" Liverpool fan fall into the same bracket as the earlier poster who said Keane was actually replaced by Ngog.

    Factually incorrect, but don't let that stop you getting involved some more in this debate. I forgive you.

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  • 134. At 2:08pm on 02 Dec 2008, Chris Stanley wrote:

    Also, at the risk of upsetting Manchester United and Chelsea fans everywhere, I don't really mind Liverpool being the centre of bloggers' attention for once. After four years of one of you two winning the league and doing well in cup competitions, yet having the nerve to whinge when you don't win something, it's quite refreshing to see a team that hasn't won the league in years at the top for once.

    Manchester United and Chelsea have already underestimated Liverpool once this season and paid the price. Not entirely sure you should be writing off the team at the top when you've lost to the team just below you...

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  • 135. At 2:09pm on 02 Dec 2008, LFCLEE5 wrote:

    i totally agree with rafa!! we gained a valuable point last night against a tricky team. The booing and jeering was ridiculous - i only assume that there were alot of liverpool 'fans' at the game last night that dont normally go and so when they do go they demand their team wins 10-0 in return for the £34.00 ticket!!!.....we are top of the league, have beaten united, have beaten chelsea - away, our best start for several years, have managed vicitories with star players missing - yet you still boo when we gain a point??? people are now saying were hitting bad form but both fulham and west ham have had good results this season against tough opposition. It is always going to be tough for us when teams come to anfiled and stick 11 hard working players behind the ball - just as massive european teams have fell victims to us over recent years when we deploy the same tactics in europe!!
    its embarassing to hear us boo a team and manager who we allegedly love at any time but when were sitting top of the table in the toughest league in the world is ridiculous - and we are supposed to be some of the coutnries most clued up supporters!?!?
    some fans seem to think we have a god given right to be at the top of the table every year just because of our history, comparing us to our teams of the past is pointless and radio hosts and previous players comments dont help matters - several ex players of championshiop winning lpool teams seem to forget that they struggled to win away from home for several seasons - as far as i can see every player on that pitch is giving 100% at the moment and the players all have pride to play for liverpool and are doing their utmost to get the results but things dont alwys go your way in football. Nearly every other day we are reading about how much our foreign lads appreciate the anfield crowd and how great a club/place it is, so lets not start getting on their backs as soon as we draw 0-0 and make ourselves look as shallow as chelsea fans!
    2 draws is no 'black november' and if sitting top of the table isn't good enough for some fnas maybe they should find another team better placed in the country to spend their money at!!!!!
    get behind the team!!!!

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  • 136. At 2:11pm on 02 Dec 2008, SaintOne wrote:

    Can someone explain to me why Rafa spent £30 million on Keane? He had a great season last year but with £30 million I would rather have Robinho or anyone else valued around that mark!

    Peace

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  • 137. At 2:11pm on 02 Dec 2008, cpeskett wrote:

    There seems to be a pervading theme in the PL this season, where teams playing against the top four have decided, for the most part, to limit damage. All four teams have come up against a number of opponents whose sole aim was to prevent a loss. It seems to be working in quite a number of cases. The big four are either restricted to draws, or are squeaking a win.

    I hate to think that this might ultimately be the way to finally break the monopoly at the top, but it is certainly leaving more teams in with the shout of CL qualification. What it is doing, though, is demonstrating that the top four have perhaps forgotten how to get a result despite the opposition. A rush to try and abandon ugly seems to be backfiring to some extent.

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  • 138. At 2:15pm on 02 Dec 2008, ManUsack wrote:

    One question Phil...

    From the way they are playing, Keno and berba are they worth their price their respective teams paid for?

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  • 139. At 2:18pm on 02 Dec 2008, philmcnultybbcsport wrote:

    I was interested to see at close quarters the vehemence with which Benitez announced there is no chance of him moving for Michael Owen in January.

    My belief is that Owen would happily walk back to Anfield and take a pay cut in the process to rejoin Liverpool - but Benitez dismissed the idea of a move completely in front of the media last night.

    It will come as no surprise to anyone to hear me say I think he should move for Owen. I think it would be perfect for Liverpool and Owen.

    What do Liverpool fans think? Would Owen boost your chances of winning the title or would that be a retrograde step?

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  • 140. At 2:18pm on 02 Dec 2008, hendero wrote:

    At 1:29pm on 02 Dec 2008, WordsofWisdom wrote:

    Secondly, let me spell it out clearly for you Phil. Liverpool never were and still are not realistic contenders for the title this year. That was the common wisdom at the start of the season and it is now.
    ------------------------------------------

    Er, they're top of the league, with a third of the season gone, having beaten the teams in second and third place, one away from home. They've played Villa, Everton and an improving Spurs away. They are third favourites with the bookies, in some cases priced as short as 10-3.

    So that means they "never were and still are not realistic contenders for the title"? Ridiculous.

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  • 141. At 2:20pm on 02 Dec 2008, herc69 wrote:

    to kevthered83, no 129

    just b'cos its been "stated numerous times" does not make it a fact - its still just your ridiculous opinion.
    unless of course it was Mystic Meg what told you then what must been said must be fact innit?!?!

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  • 142. At 2:21pm on 02 Dec 2008, SA_Jo wrote:

    I think this season is going to be the tightest for a long while at the top. Man Utd aren't playing as well as last year where Ronaldo was at time untouchable... Chelsea..just like Liverpool, have not looked their best of late... Liverpool have the best record versus the top 5 but can't beat lower table teams consistently and Arsenal blow hot and cold. I think it actually makes for a great 2nd half of the season.. i take some people's comments about Utd having played all their games away and as such, I think they are probably favourates to win the title... it will also be interesting to see what additions the top four make in January..

    All in all.. I am quite excited about the league this year... We are at the top at the moment which at least puts us in the fight.. which is better than for a while at least

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  • 143. At 2:24pm on 02 Dec 2008, Andyj247 wrote:

    Wordsof wisdom -

    For someone who clearly hates the 'Liverpool drivel' you sure like responding to it - judging by your past posts on them!!

    Realistic title contenders ? YES of course they are, they are a stronger team than last year and while they are not ripping up trees' they have still only been beaten once in the prem this season, by a Spurs side under a new manager and they were dominated for 90 mins, until they came up with those two late winners.

    The three 0-0's are a concern, particluary at home, the team seemed over anxious and the more it went on, the more desperate they became.

    The problem is the confidence in front of goal, we seem to try play that final pass that Arsenal and United perfect, but for some reason it just doesnt have that conviction at the moment. We are battering teams in the middle of the park, and that includes Man U and Chelsea, and our defence has been solid. I cannot think of a Premier League game we have been dominated totally.

    Overachieved - Thats rubbish, i dont believe in that phrase, you get what you deserve and right now Liverpool are top on merit.

    You and a lot of Man U, Chelsea and Arsenal fans take great joy when Liverpool fail to get a result. Thats ok because to me I look at that as respect and a little bit of fear. Like Liverpool fans in the 80's and all that success they had, the fear was what happens Man U get it right. And our worst fears came true!

    It does amaze me that as much as people claim to hate Liverpool, it is the first result they look for, perhaps thats a little bit of fear coming up from them..... I wonder how many United fans will admit their worse fear is if Liverpool get it right and win the title?

    While im disappointed and frustrated at last night, i look at in context, we are top by a point, and we havent even hit top form yet, that normally comes 2nd half of the season!

    Remember... last week it was Arsenal in crisis, this week its Liverpool and to a lesser extent, Chelsea, start of the season it was United in crisis.

    Plenty of twists to go in this season people!

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  • 144. At 2:28pm on 02 Dec 2008, gay fish wrote:

    Mascherano was left out because he kept giving the ball away in the CL game on Wednesday. Most teams we would have played last night would not have had a goalkeeper in Robert Green who could have saved that shot from Benayoun. I thought Benny and Dossena were two of the better performances from us last night. I agree with all the other posters about the substitutions. This was old Benitez and I thought that Sammy Lee and Pellegrino were going to stop these odd decisions being made. We should have gone with alonso gerrard Riera and Kuyt in midfield with Robby and Babel up front...Kuyt kept dropping back too deep last night so Keano had no support. Our defence was immaculate all night and the Bellamy shot, the one blip, was very good this bodes well for the rest of the season. Just need to sort out the balance up front and actually use Riera more...he can deliver amazing crosses but doesn't get the ball in the right position as everyone plays the ball to Stevie G to try and get the wonder goal. Could be that we are playing like a team that read the papers too much!!!

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  • 145. At 2:28pm on 02 Dec 2008, jakebrother wrote:

    I wonder how much disquiet (or is it still just "quiet"!) comes from the standard of performance, rather than just the loss of points at home.

    I'm a Celtic fan and we have a very split support regarding a manager who has delivered silverware, but has overseen standards falling alarmingly. Where does one section become daft to ignore the trophies and where does the other become too blind to see anything but?

    Having grown up during the "Liverpool-age" and having always checked for the Liverpool result "second!", I have to say that Benitez inspires confidence as a no-nonsense tactician in Europe - possibly THE best manager out there at that particular competition, stats over the last 4 seasons seem to agree about that as well - but he lacks the "bottle" to go for 3 points when 1 can be achieved "safely without risk", which is deadly to a title challenge.

    If he can keep Torres fit for more than 3 consecutive league games, then Benitez and Liverpool can win this title; possibly surprisingly early IF Torres gets fit.
    Without Torres (or a serious buy in January) they can kiss it goodbye and blame the lack of two first choice GOALSCORERS in the squad.

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  • 146. At 2:28pm on 02 Dec 2008, Andyj247 wrote:

    Owen at Liverpool - for the right price Yes of course, he made a mistake leaving in the first place. He would have been back if it wasnt for Madrid's ridiculous transfer fee (that newcastle paid lol)

    At least he has proven goalscoring pedigree and if match fit, can play a vital role. But he has to accept he wont play every game under Rafa - can he handle that, I dont know?

    Personally i would be very surprised to see him back, I dont think it fits in with Rafa's plan -but i was surprised at Fowler's return too, so who knows!

    Will Liverpool fans accept him back though, as their is a definate mixed opinion.

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  • 147. At 2:29pm on 02 Dec 2008, jakebrother wrote:

    BTW, Liverpool can forget Owen, he is past it for them.

    But Celtic..................................hmmmm!

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  • 148. At 2:30pm on 02 Dec 2008, mythicword wrote:

    #20 million + for Robbie Keane, where on earth did that come from? Class proven? History records is more appropriate. Something is going wrong here. OK, top of the table but more through luck than good management. Even SG is misfiring. We are relying on one player? Torres? We are Liverpool Football TEAM for gawds sake. 11 players plus subs plus reserves and from what I/we are seeing THE Team [whole] is not functioning nor performing. Liverpool are famous for playing good football, CONSISTENTLY but during the past few years consistency is and has been what is missing. I'm sure it can be worked on but please Raffa, use the talent you have and stop being emotional. Babel should have been on, drop Keane until he regains confidence.

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  • 149. At 2:38pm on 02 Dec 2008, dandolinho wrote:

    i for 1 am quietly happy, (as opposed to loadly happy if we'd have won) that liverpool are top, yup, we have dropped 6 easy points... n well clearly so have the others, only they have lost to the other members of the big '4' which i think makes it somehow seem better

    we are top... looks great, chelsea have currently got 1 more point than they did at the same point last season, n they came very close to united by the end of the season.. n if im honeslt thats all i expected this season.. to b close.. just push the leaders, make em sweat... seems to me that people are lookin at liverpool like they have been challenging for the title year in year out for the last 19 years... n we kno thats not true.. so why are we talkin like the 1st real push for the title in donkeys years should have us running away already.. u dont HAVE to b miles ahead of the pack to win the title... just have to b there or there abouts come the end of the season, n thats wot liverpool are doing. as some of the poster have mentioned, thre is no fear factor about liverpool, so teams will come n play sometimes.. u get fear when winning titles n proving urself, but at some point all the teams mentioned have had to work, had to push n had to come from behind, had to put up with teams stickin men behind the ball.. we cant all go season loosing 1 game or in arsenals case no games.. but they wer established as title holders/contenders by that point so they had an aura about them... if we won the league this season n then the following season wer following the same pattern, i would b worried coz u should b building upon success

    on a side note, i have a love hate relationship with babel.. i still dont think he is a starter, but i wanna c more of him, n not on the wing but up front, especially in the absence of torres, let keane n kuyt run defenders into the ground n then bring babel on who has pace to burn.. the problem is his finnishing isnt great so yeah he can run past pretty much any1 but he has a 'baros' streak in him... as in head down n run.. no looking up for options... i think benitez thinks he's still a little.. green, if ur winning, maybe u can afford him going clean thru n missing...

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  • 150. At 2:42pm on 02 Dec 2008, matchboxmaster wrote:

    Chelsea Away
    Arsenal Away
    Liverpool Away
    Villa Away
    Man City Away
    Everton Away
    Blackburn Away
    Pompey Away
    Spurs Away very soon

    United have a far better squad than Liverpool and will handle the fixture congestion far better. United have an easier run in than Liverpool. United almost ALWAYS play better in the second half on the season and when it really matters.

    The only team that will stop United from retaining their crown is Chelsea.

    Most Liverpool fans I know are realistic and think they will not sustain challenges in all compeitions. The only way Liverpool will win the league is if they get knocked out of all the cup competitions, have no injuries to any key players, and improve their standard of football by about 10-15%. Trust me - there is more chance of Spurs going down than there is of Liverpool winning the league. It won't happen. I believe that strongly.

    In 15 years of watching football Liverpool have never had a team good enough to win the title - this year is no different.

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  • 151. At 2:43pm on 02 Dec 2008, Things were better under Harold Wilson wrote:

    Dear comment 115

    I didn't want Keane to leave, but if one was going, I wanted it to be him rather than Defoe.

    As I said, I'd have him back !

    The 'top four' have all been under-performing this term, which makes live a bit more interesting. As Spurs splash to the shores of safety after the Ramos debacle - and are no longer top four material this season - I keep hoping that Aston Villa will upset the applecart, but they keep messing it up as well.

    I do not agree that it would be 'refreshing' if Liverpool win the league. I am old enough to remember going to School in West Sussex and have all the kids sporting 'Liverpool' bags because they won all the time. I'm happy for the barren time to go on and on and on and on for Liverpool.

    (Before anyone takes me to task for rank hypocrisy, my family comes from Kitchener Road, N17. My Mum and Dad moved me away, which I corrected when I left college. Now, of course, I'm in Kent. Ho hum.....)

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  • 152. At 2:44pm on 02 Dec 2008, low_lie_the_fields wrote:

    Big Picture: We're top of the League. We've improved from last season.

    Good Things: Benitez has added belief to many players. He's a good tactician and strategist.

    Areas for improvement: More flare, speed and skill to get past defenses. Benitez has been poor in developing good flare players, e.g. Babel. Its not his style.

    Conclusion: If we can add more flare players and Benitez can improve on developing them, we've a chance this year.

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  • 153. At 2:45pm on 02 Dec 2008, aka_bluepeter wrote:

    A fit Torres is the key to Liverpool's fortunes. When he plays he is always threatening to score even against the best defenders.
    Although Keane is not quite in the Torres class you would have expected him to have contributed more goals.
    If Torres returns quickly and gets into his goal scoring stride equally quickly Liverpool will be a threat. If Keane and Gerard get into their stride as well they could well pull it off.
    At the moment they are not scoring enough goals consistently to get to the finishing line ahead of Chelsea, Man Utd or Arsenal.

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  • 154. At 2:48pm on 02 Dec 2008, Guns wrote:

    Hi Phil

    You've managed to upset both of the top two teams witn accurate assesment of the state of their title challenges. What does it say about the premiership that in December we have 3 of the top 4 teams in contention to win the title. At last there is some real competition with a chance of 3 if not 4 teams making it all the way down to the wire.

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  • 155. At 2:50pm on 02 Dec 2008, littlejklc wrote:

    Somtimes I don't understand why ppl keep saying Greece winning the Euro Cup was a bad thing. In contrast, I think it was good to have an underdog to win something.
    Why Liverpool winning the league will be bad to the game? I don't understand. Please look back the past season, Man United won many game with just 1-0 themselves. Chelsea did the same before. Why Can't Liverpool do that?

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  • 156. At 2:54pm on 02 Dec 2008, Clint wrote:

    Robbie Keane did not cost 30 million!!

    I think he needs Torres there to take the limelight off of him at the moment. Once he hits form, all of this chat will be forgotten about. For many seasons, Robbie Keane has proved he's top quality and his record is the reason I'm so sure he'll come good.

    I also agree with the comments that Babel should be up front with Keane. He cost a lot also, and has real pace and a direct attitude. If he's fit, he should be getting a game ahead of Ngog.

    Really though, it's very short-sighted to write off Robbie Keane after four months when we've all seen what he's capable of.

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  • 157. At 3:05pm on 02 Dec 2008, sportszombie wrote:

    liverpool fans should be pleased...at least this yr the signs are they will be in the title race...that has to be a massive improvement over the last few yrs...the biggest threat is Utd...they have a habit of winning 9-10 straight games in 2nd half and pulling away...moreover this yr their 2nd half schedule is a joke...i don't think liverpool have been winning when playing poorly....this is how they play...in a footballing sense they play poorly 70% of time at least

    BTW I am an arsenal fan and we are having an awful season despite beating Utd and Chelsea

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  • 158. At 3:09pm on 02 Dec 2008, Liverpooljam87 wrote:

    Totally agree that we could use a striker like Michael Owen at the moment, provided he was fully fit. He has that ability to poach a goal from nowhere, just like Torres, and that's what we are currently missing.

    Don't get me wrong, I think Keane is a great player and a great professional. And his time will come, don't worry about that. You don't become a bad player overnight. However, Benitez needs to keep faith in him and realize that replacing him with a substitute every game will ruin his self-confidence. And lets face it, strikers thrive on confidence.

    I wouldn't like to think we were going to buy Emile Heskey in January now because he is not the solution. We need people who will get us goals and, although he can do an effective job at times, he will not get us 15-20 goals a season. Keane does have the ability to do this and that's why we need to keep faith, and so does Benitez.

    For me personally, if he stays fully fit until January, why not take a gamble on Michael Owen for £5 million pounds? It's not a huge fee; we paid more for players such as Jermaine Pennant, Fernando Morientes and Craig Bellamy, and they never really shined. Owen is a proven goalscorer and that is exactly what we need right now.

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  • 159. At 3:10pm on 02 Dec 2008, ExforReal wrote:

    Xmas is constantly approaching and Livepool will be there on top.They always talking about Man U,Chelsea and Arsenal and that Liverpool are not titlle challenger-I dont know why?.But U know what?You can relegated o win tittle by only one point.

    Liverpool are really doing well this season though sometimes you need lucky player within the box.Not all goals in the league are superb.We have seen load of controvesial goals- decision,and still we are things are movng on.These is the beaty of football,nobody can dominate this game-is for all team!

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  • 160. At 3:22pm on 02 Dec 2008, Scottishscouser wrote:

    To be honest, I'm not too disappointed with the result last night. Yes it was a chance to go 3 points clear but we are top; a position many mancs and chavs thought would be beyond Liverpool in December.

    We clearly need to improve but historically November is a poor month for Liverpool.

    I also wish the boo boys would stay away from Anfield! You are not welcome! Are they thick? Getting on the team's back at home will be counter-productive. Stay away please and watch on telly if you're going to grumble about going to the top of the league.

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  • 161. At 3:27pm on 02 Dec 2008, koftinho wrote:

    I too am fairly happy with the fact that we are top of the league, even tho it is by the skin of our teeth.
    The concerning thing is that we seem to throw away opportunities all the time which has been the trend for seasons past.
    Any time we have had the opportunity to close a gap or stretch a lead we seem to blow it.
    I wasn`t particularly happy with the way we started the game yesterday, we looked slow and far to often the ball got pumped long to keano and kuyt who are not renowned for their aerial ability.
    Keane is struggling because he is not playing in his position off a front man and the frustration he is feeling at the moment was written over his face all night. He is a quality player and he will come good when he has chance to play with a real forward. There has been a lot of talk about bringing Heskey back to anfield and if we can pay next to nothing for him then it might not be the worst idea, at least if Torres gets injured Keano will have someone to play off.
    All said and done its great to be at the top, but can we really afford to give Man U the chance to catch us?
    I don`t think so.

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  • 162. At 3:37pm on 02 Dec 2008, Chezdon wrote:

    Liverpool can't win the league. Only Man United and Chelsea can lose it. They can slip up (hopefully) but I can't see Liverpool dominating the 2nd half of the season. You can't draw to Fulham, Stoke and WH and expect to win the league. We could be NINE points clear!

    It could be a blessing in disguise - we could have gone nine points clear and taken our foot off the gas.

    The 2nd half will be interesting no doubt.

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  • 163. At 3:57pm on 02 Dec 2008, SaintOne wrote:

    "Really though, it's very short-sighted to write off Robbie Keane after four months when we've all seen what he's capable of."

    Four months is quite a long time for someone to settle into a squad. Torres had scored a hat-trick by the end of september last season. For 20 million pounds I'd be pretty distraught if a striker had only scored two league goals in four months. Fair enough if he was bought in to get assists etc, by I was under the impression he was bought to get goals, especially in the absence of Torres. No doubt he proved he could score with a fantastic season at Tottenham....but you cannot justify the price paid for him with his current performances.

    Peace

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  • 164. At 4:05pm on 02 Dec 2008, kevthered83 wrote:

    to herc69 comment 141

    Not once did I state it was a fact, indeed it is my opinion, an opinion shared by many others, including Liverpool fans. Please be my guest to offer a counter opinion to why you feel my opinion is "ridiculous". Please feel free to offer an explanation of why yoy feel Liverpool do have great strength in depth in comparison to Man Utd & Chelsea.

    I look forward to seeing a more thought out and comprehensive reply this time.

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  • 165. At 4:06pm on 02 Dec 2008, neova2 wrote:

    consistency wins you the league. I cannot foresee the same implosion that happened at Arsenal so I think Liverpool should be able to win their first title in 18 years.

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  • 166. At 4:06pm on 02 Dec 2008, redmanred wrote:

    hi phil,
    Cant agree about owen at all, he is not the man for us and rafa was right to dismiss it. Who i think you should be asking him about is another soon to be out of contract ex liverpool player:
    Emile Heskey
    For me he offers far more than owen in all round play and will be significantly different from what we have already got, I dont think we need an out and out goalscorer to solve our home scoring problems, we just need a different kind of option. I have heard Rafa is interested, given our financial standing he is the clear choice fo me.

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  • 167. At 4:14pm on 02 Dec 2008, SaintOne wrote:

    "Xmas is constantly approaching and Livepool will be there on top.They always talking about Man U,Chelsea and Arsenal and that Liverpool are not titlle challenger-I dont know why?.But U know what?You can relegated o win tittle by only one point."


    Unfortunately being top at x-mas does not win you the league. I'm not saying Liverpool aren't going to win it, but I think they certianly have an uphill struggle when you look at the fixtures facing them, and the depth of their squad. And I don't think anyone in their right mind wouol write Liverpool off as you suggest. Maybe in previous seasons when they were trailing, but not currently. They have done only half the battle though, many things can change by the final fixtures! Hull could win the league!

    All in all this is a very close and exciting title race! And I really hope Villa or someone break the top 4!

    Peace

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  • 168. At 4:19pm on 02 Dec 2008, theluckylfcrabbit wrote:

    Never in my wildest dreams would i believe we would be sat top of the premier league in december, yet i would feel angry, disappointed and slightly annoyed at the same time. In my humble opinion, rafa for all his good points, and his understanding of european football, just doesnt seem to know what to do when it comes to the grind of the premier league. Playing keane upfront on his own, then subbing him for ngogh!!, and only playing babel for 10 mins, at home, when an attacking mentality is required is just not right. If your not going to play babel upfront which i believe he should be given a chance, then in games like last night you need to play him wide right. I can count on 1 finger the amount of times kuyt beat his man and got to the byline. With babel and riera wide you would open up the spaces for keane, kuyt and gerrard to exploit. For away games last nights formation is good for containig and breaking but not for when you need to open up the pitch and create space. I'm no manager but that seems like the right answer to me!!

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  • 169. At 4:19pm on 02 Dec 2008, Armchair Dave wrote:

    Too many average players at Liverpool. You don't win anything at Christmas. Roll call for mediocrity...

    Babel
    Kuyt
    Keane
    Voronin
    Benayoun
    Pennant
    Arbeloa

    Only Torres and Gerrard would get into the Manu or Chelsea team.

    Good luck next year chaps.

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  • 170. At 4:35pm on 02 Dec 2008, sackrafa wrote:

    So Rafa is yet again proving he isnt up to the job. To all his acyolites who claim we are making progress your right. We got to November before the title was gone.

    Top of the league the glass half fullers will tell you. We beat Man U and Chelsea. 6 points. West Ham Stoke and Fulham. Also 6 points dropped.

    And why are we top of the league? Inspiter of Rafa not because of him. Can any team who fails to beat relegation fodder like the afore mentioned at home really expect to win the title? Not a cat in hells chance.

    Rafa is deluded if he thinks rubbish like Dossena deserve a place on the bench never mind a place on the pitch.

    If we finish 3rd it will only be cause of Arsenal's poor season not because of any prigress being made.

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  • 171. At 4:42pm on 02 Dec 2008, steveyg101 wrote:

    Someone said Liverpool have had the easiest fixture list?

    The first nine games of our season included Man U at home, Chelsea away (statistically the hardest game of the year, considering they were not beaten at home for over four years until we arrived there), and Manchester City, Aston Villa and Everton all away (all the teams vying for fifth place, and one of them the derby game of our season, which is always difficult).

    So far, we have only lost to Tottenham in a game that was so one-sided (in our favour) that even the newly appointed Redknapp acknoledged the absolute luck they had in getting all three points, let alone a draw.

    Get. Your. Facts. Straight.

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  • 172. At 4:47pm on 02 Dec 2008, dandolinho wrote:

    i dont thik owen should be back at anfield... the guy is too injury prone.. dont get me wrong, he was a crackin servant to the club.. n gave me a few great memories that ill always remember... but i honestly dont think he's the solution... as much as i hate to say it.. emile is the man.. n keane would then b the player uwe all want him to b.. he needs a foil.. n so does owen too, even more so i would say... but we aint got that right now.. so we'd still b stuck in the same position... look at it.. keane has always had a stong player with him to win things, he mops up.. ie berba, but i could go on... owen is the same.. giv him obafimi martins or hesky n he'll score goals for fun.

    i like keane, think he is a class player but i dont n never saw the point of buying him ata time when we need wingers.. u coulda got quersma for around that, as much as i hate c. ronaldo.. he is a class player n his flair, arrogance n unpredictability is wot makes the chances flow for united... queresma fits that build perfectly and woulda been ideal on the wings for liverpool, he likes to stay out there, he likes to cross, i just would have been happy to get him all summer

    liverpool stumbled across a formation that worked well last season, 4-5-1, gerard supportin torres as a striker or second striker.. n it worked wonderfully well with the current squad... to then add keane, who aint gonna want to stay on the bech to replace torres was beyond me, so he bought him to change a winning formula.. keanes introduction to the team distabalised that.. n benitez feels he has to play both (when fit) most of the time coz how can u justify payin that much for a man u gonna keep on the bench so much.. he has a perfect sub in babel.. just stop playin him on the wings, he rates himself as a striker n his confidence is gettin dented.

    the wingers need to b getting outside n crossing.. not trying to pass thru teams.. its not workin most of the time, n if ur askin dosena.. who has looked dodgey but was puttin in the few great crosses last night.. riera should b doing that... yossi on the right, kuyt, babel all want to cut in.. i think there is the biggest problem.. 20 million on another striker was a pointless bit of business.. n when u look at sw phillips goin down the lancs for 8 million around the same time u can understand my frustrations, there are players that will just run at full backs n try n beat em n cross.. liverpool just now dont have that, or rather dont have the players willing to do that

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  • 173. At 4:55pm on 02 Dec 2008, dandolinho wrote:

    h oh and come on...

    to sackrafa...

    i take it u have some1 in mind better suited to the job eh!!! please lemme kno who would b able to take liverpool further forward? i just cant help but laugh at the post m8.. 5 years in n we have to get rid of him already.. i wonder wer united would have been if they had got rid of fergie on his 5th year.. FA cup or not lol

    i dont kno how being top is telling u we are out of the title race m8, 10 points adrift at this stage (as last year, n many more b4 it) n i may agree with ya.. but until its mathematically impossible to win the league my optimism is still there

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  • 174. At 4:56pm on 02 Dec 2008, stillbritishchamps wrote:

    Liverpool are doing very well to be top of the league at this stage and i'm sure any team would swap places with them given the opportunity. the problem is recently it is becoming clear how to stop them - sit back and play for the draw. man utd and chelsea both went to win the game and it gave liverpool the opportunity to attack. initially they were able to score with torres burying a half chance, rather than their opponent being broken down (once the first goal goes in all bets are off). every team has a weakness - for chelsea its a case of stop the wingbacks, as arsenal, liverpool and united (well for 80 minutes, until ronaldo came on) demonstrated.

    With torres out it leaves the attack fairly blunt - keane was not worth £20m- generally if noone else is remotely interested, its because they don't rate him.

    more and more teams are going to turn up at anfield and effectively "park the bus" - and why shouldn't they? its the tactic liverpool have employed successfully away in europe for the last few seasons.

    As a man utd fan, im happy enough - i do think getting the tricky away games out of the way early is an advantage for the runin. liverpool need width. it was definately 2 points lost last night, every united and chelsea in the country were very pleased with that result- because it showed liverpools weaknesses, every team outside the "big 4" will show up and frustrate liverpool until the end of the season, or there adopt new tactics.

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  • 175. At 4:56pm on 02 Dec 2008, winterpeach wrote:

    Im a great believer in fate, and as a Man Utd supporter it pains me to think it might just be Liverpools year. Not that they are by any stretch of the imagination a good exciting memorable team, more they are maybe fated to win it this year. Against Man Utd major Cock-up between Brown and Van der Sar resulting in goal, Giggs 99.9% of the time would have put ball out for a corner instead another cock-up results in second goal and win. Again against Chelsea needed a fluke of a deflection off a Chelsea defender to score past Cech, resulting in another win. I hope i'm wrong but it may already be written in the stars that Liverpool win the League, so its best just to let be what will be.

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  • 176. At 4:56pm on 02 Dec 2008, Liverpooljam87 wrote:

    Dandolinho and Redmanred:

    I can't say I agree with the comment about us signing Heskey guys. Although he does a decent job for Wigan at times, he just doesn't produce enough goals. And he too appears to be slightly injury prone.

    I think with Owen you've got a proven striker with a proven record of scoring goals in good and bad sides. Newcastle have struggled ever since he's been there and yet he still manages to score. Goals are what we need right now.

    And if Torres does happen to be out, he could be a perfect foil for Keane by leading the line because Keane prefers to play in and behind a main striker (e.g. Defoe, Viduka in the past) and function as a second striker.

    I think if Heskey has a bad game, he's not the type of player who can poach a goal whereas we've seen Owen have poor games and yet still produce the goods.

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  • 177. At 5:11pm on 02 Dec 2008, Eewires wrote:

    Stubborness can be a strength or a weakness depending on how it is used. Benitez' attitude with Michael Owen is a strange one, but goes back to when he arrived and Owen chose to leave. I think that he thinks Owen lacks loyalty and is not going to give him another chance in any circumstances. This is OK, but does leave the possibility of 'cutting your nose to spite your face' syndrome.

    Owen may or may not be passed his best, but certainly is not currently at his best. Nevertheless he has scored consistently for the Magpies even when not at his best, or fully fit, in a misfiring team. And from talking to St James Park season ticket holders he does a great job in pulling defences all over the place and drifting away from markers even while not at his best. He will never get his pace back, but Owen at full match fitness will always be a handful for any defence at any level and would do a job for Liverpool as cover for the injury prone Torres. It seems that Capello and Benitez do not appreciate that...

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  • 178. At 5:24pm on 02 Dec 2008, liberalbedwetter wrote:

    Liverpool fan writes...

    Now if you'd offered us this at the beginning of the season we'd have bitten your hand off,

    However the warning signs are there, the fact is what we are experiencing is simply the longer term reality of an inferior squad.

    Our best eleven, on their day, are a match for Chelsea and United - they could win the league.

    Sadly, as we all know, it isn't your best eleven that count - its the squad - its how good the replacements are, and where we have 1 top player United, for eg, have 2 or 3 replacements.

    What do we do if our top player gets injured, and our other players lose form or get tired?

    Well, we stop scoring and sooner or later the averages will bear out, we stop grinding out results against inferior opposition.

    Our top players will return, form will recover and we will beat sides again - but only after we have lost ground.

    Whats to be done? Nothing. We can't afford to compete with Chelsea, and as far as United are concerned more of the top players would rather play at Old trafford and we can't afford the premium to tempt them away - success breeds success.

    This is the reason they are above us, and the converse is pretty much the reason the rest of the league are below us.

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  • 179. At 5:41pm on 02 Dec 2008, philmcnultybbcsport wrote:

    The earlier poster who suggested Liverpool were never going to be title contenders needs to look at the table.

    I would suggest the fact that they are top means they will be contenders. The trick for Liverpool is now not just to maintain their position but improve their performances.

    I know Emile Heskey has his admirers at Liverpool, and he has won over his doubters with England, but he still does not score enough goals in the Premier League in my opinion.

    If people think Owen's return would be a retrograde step, would it not be the same for Liverpool to sign Heskey?

    Any thoughts on the theory doing the rounds at Anfield last night that Keane's confidence has been sapped by not being played in his favoured position.

    Does he need to be more of a link between midfield and attack than an out-and-out attacker?

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  • 180. At 5:55pm on 02 Dec 2008, La Furia Roja wrote:

    Historically - even when we were winning the league regularly - we are poor in November. Under Rafa we've always had a stronger second half of the season, so to have got through November and be top is a huge positive.

    I look forward to the remaining games and believe it will be a lot closer than some of the opposition fans on here suggest.

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  • 181. At 6:00pm on 02 Dec 2008, redmanred wrote:

    Interesting, But i dont think the people who matter are disregarding owen because its a retrograde step. It's because they believe that he is not the right player.
    It didnt stop folwer being brought in but it was clear he could offer less than both the players being discussed.
    Of course the other question is did rafa's disregarding of owen have anything to do with the fact Gillett was in attendance, maybe there was a message that no new players would be added regardless of the players leaving. Given the financial state of the club. I doubt thats the case as surely Selling a pennant and replacing him with for me a Heskey or an Owen would at worst balance out. And Rafa could always stall over the sale of players if there was nobody coming in in return.

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  • 182. At 6:04pm on 02 Dec 2008, CharlieRedDevil wrote:

    I think comment 2 is an example of single-minded support of ur team, which is fine, but top of the table in December has to be judged against your rivals, as there is a long time to go in the season.
    Basically, Liverpool have done enough (and well done to them for that) to top the table, but sensible fans will note that the top four around them have made numerous slip-ups (some uncharacteristic), which has HELPED to make their position possible.
    Liverpool have to be more ruthless in taking opportunities, or they will not be champions. Good starts dont count for anything in May unless you've kept it up. Keep tallying the two points dropped when there was a chance to pull clear at the top of the table.
    Liverpool wont win the league for me, because they arent ruthless enough, they dont have the champion resilience that they used to have and that is what is needed in crunch games like monday night.

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  • 183. At 6:04pm on 02 Dec 2008, Sevenseaman wrote:

    I guess Liverpool missed a trick there. They should have let Westham go one up. I have been watching LFC for over 5 years now, and I have not seen a better come-from- behind team.
    Phil says Liverpool were not very excited to be top of the table. Its because they didn't want to be up there. They got dragged up the summit and know it is much easier to be dragged down than up. Precisely the reason we see teams knocking off much better teams one day and lose to palookas the next.
    Winning the PL is not as easy as the CL. This year it is too close to call. If a team can keep hovering in the top four or five for another 18-20 games or so it'll be a perfect launching pad. In a close race only top class stayers can hope to survive. The cream alone will rise to the top.

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  • 184. At 6:04pm on 02 Dec 2008, Obaydah Al-Namer wrote:

    Why did rafa spalsh out a whooping 20m on Keane when he doesn't know where to play him!

    About Rafa ruling out the signing of Owen, i don't believe him when it comes to his transfer targets, we all remember in Summer when he told the press that he was very interested in David Villa, while he was negotiating with Tottenham over a transfer for Keane!

    I feel that N'gog is taking an unfair chance ahead of our youngsters (Nemeth+Pacheco), i feel that he will disturb their progress especially when they are playing with the reserves

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  • 185. At 6:13pm on 02 Dec 2008, kEITH wrote:

    Liverpool are top. End of!

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  • 186. At 6:16pm on 02 Dec 2008, watterswatto wrote:

    Keane's confidence is definitely not right but it's probably more to do with the ball not going into the back of the net. I presume if Torres had been fit he would have played both last night and you're probably going to see Keane then at his best with a decent striker leading the line etc... and Keane making clever runs, pulling defenders wide reverse balls and either slipping someone in or getting in himself. Babbel I believe came out and expressed disappointment about his lack of chances. It seemed to me that Benitez was showing him his place by bringing N gog on before him last night. Benitez could and in my opinion should have started with Agger in defence and you could argue Babbel should have started and put the Hammers defenders under pressure straight away with his pace. Keane and Babbel in theory should work. Babbel seems more talented than Kuyt but Kuyt never gives up. Michael Owen is potentially an answer if he can stay fit. Hima and Torres would keep any physio in gainful employment however. We should go with Babbel

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  • 187. At 6:18pm on 02 Dec 2008, 9lives353 wrote:

    I see someone else made the point above but there is a fair argument that Keane thrived with Berbatov. His seasons before then were decent but relatively undistinguished.

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  • 188. At 6:36pm on 02 Dec 2008, Kevin wrote:

    Liverpool finished a 'distant' 11 points behind the Mancs last season - which is 1 point less than the home and away defeat suffered to them. This season Liverpool have won at home against them already- so are half way to overcoming the deficit - and that includes all sorts of 'dodgy' results, such as bore draws and away defeats to bottom of the table clubs who go on to be relegated (Reading last time, maybe Spurs this time??). United have plenty more defeats in them - especially around future suspensions of Ronaldo or injuries caused by the painful kicking to come in Tokyo.....generally the team that wins the league finishes on top of the pile in May - and not before!

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  • 189. At 6:42pm on 02 Dec 2008, dandolinho wrote:

    phil, in regards to hesky and owen... i still think owen would b a backwards step.. n hesky may not score many but tat is not what we would b getting him for.. he would b there as a foil for the other strikers. even torres would benefit from such a partner... n im not suggestin that heskey IS the key, there are probably a few that could play the position, the problem is ur gonna have to look abroad for 1 n then u have no guarantees wether they'll settle to the english game.. heskey u kno would n u kno that he is happy to add the odd goal but doesnt have a problem at all in being the creator... christ, its just as valuable n if the wingers aint creating, then heskey is probably the way to go...

    but in saying that, going back to an earlier post... if u wer going to change the formation to accomodate 2 strikers, leave crouch there, he will always score more goals that heskey n cause as much a nuisence as heskey would. torres was used to leading the line alone.. thats why he is still doing a great job of it now... but keane doesnt play like he needs a partner n crouch woulda been that to him, n its not like we needed the money either coz we didnt get barry

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  • 190. At 6:42pm on 02 Dec 2008, rashdog wrote:

    Personally i am liverpool fan, i live in jamaica, thinkin that this is goin to be our season i brought all need liver gears but it seem as if i totally made a mistake in wasting my hard worked money, nothing has changed over the years we just will start good and come january feburary we will be back to our normally position of fightin for fourth and 5th spot. torres is injuried and we have one decent impact player in the team and that BABEL but yet he hardly plays, it's full time we give the guy a chance he always seem to bring something extra to the game. way better than the over priced keano

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  • 191. At 6:47pm on 02 Dec 2008, dandolinho wrote:

    n the thoughts on keane, i watched the match live, n he knew b4 that board went up that it was him.. now 2 things spring to mind... he satrting to get dissillusioned already OR he knew he had a bad game, n he did, like u sed he did pretty much naff all.

    but his expression told me that it was the former of the 2, and i think it'll only get worse with out that big striker for him to feed off.. but then when torres is bk.. he plays up front on his own n bangs goals in.. u cant argue with benitez leaving him out.. its a shame, n rafa made the mistake in not lookin at that b4 he spent all that money, but like crouch b4 him, how can u justify putting a player in for just 1 slot as it would b when they guy thats in there (when fit) does such a good job?

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  • 192. At 7:03pm on 02 Dec 2008, sackrafa wrote:

    Dandilino

    Should we just keep him there cos you think nobody else is out there? How about Hiddink? Mourhinio would crawl here on his hands and knees to upstage him

    He isnt up to it and i know i will be right. Can you say you will be with 100% confidence?

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  • 193. At 7:10pm on 02 Dec 2008, Shody1976 wrote:

    Whilst you are correct to point out that last night was a disappointment in terms of the result, the facts are as follows:

    1.) We are top of the league by 1 point

    2.) We are putting points on the board without playing well

    3.) We remain unbeaten at home

    4.) We have canterd into the second round of the Champions League with a game to spare

    5.) Utd are 6 points behind, have to go the World club championship this month (potentially missing up to 2 games) and have dropped more points than us this season

    6.) Chelsea, with Ballack, Deco, Anelka, Lampard and Kalou on the field could only muster one shot on target against Arsenal on Sunday

    Whilst i am in no way getting carried away, i would much rather be in our position now than Utd's or Chelseas.

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  • 194. At 7:12pm on 02 Dec 2008, goonergetit wrote:

    INJURIES, Liverpool don't have strength in depth, Man Utd had four players booked against Shaun Wright Phillips so they obviously don't mind losing a few players to bans and injuries. Chelsea will be thereabouts, they cheat better than any other team and can take lots of bookings and bans. Arsenal have the squad but maybe they don't want to cheat as much as the others, young and naive or a team with integrity ? Arsenal should take 4 points from Liverpool this season because you can't be so lucky against the gunners all the time. What was Benitez thinking of when he played Torres against Marseille with a hamstring injury. Why ? Why take the risk and not give him more time to recover, when are enthusiastic players going to learn about hamstring injuries and Benitez should have been much wiser, wet grounds are here and the alert pace of an ageing Keane may be exposed, take Gerrard out of the equation for six games and Liverpool will struggle to stay fourth. For Liverpool it's all about INJURIES.

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  • 195. At 7:56pm on 02 Dec 2008, northlondon01 wrote:

    For the last few years, over the course of a season, Liverpool have been a real level below the top two (whoever that has been at the time) with Gerrard pushing them up from a UEFA/CL cup team to a definite CL qualifying team. With the addition of Torres giving them a lot more attacking edge.

    When Torres is injured or Gerrard doesn't play well, they go back to what they were before.

    Don't get me wrong, they are a good team and have done well this year. But three bad draws and everyone questions their title credentials - I don't realistically think they've had any for some time. Not compared to the various Arsenal, Chelsea and Man U teams of the same time period.

    They don't have the depth, attacking instinct or resilience of Man U/Chelsea and they have a manager who makes some mind boggling decisions. Sometimes I think he is excellent, but often I am just left baffled. Still he is the CL winning manager, not me...

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  • 196. At 8:32pm on 02 Dec 2008, Jicarosenmayo wrote:

    Three brief points.

    1) When Ronaldo starts whining for a transfer to Real Madrid come Easter, what effect will this have on Man U team morale?

    2) What is Chelsea's plan B?

    3) Do poster's think that Man U and Chelsea are any better than Real Madrid and Barcelona were in La Liga 2001/02 & 2003/04 when Benitez took an unfancied and underperforming Valencia to the title???

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  • 197. At 8:43pm on 02 Dec 2008, Whenlutonweregood wrote:

    Im not an expert in these matters but its early December and Liverpool sit proudly at the top of the Premiership...even the much maligned Dossena had a half decent game.

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  • 198. At 8:54pm on 02 Dec 2008, bobdalong wrote:

    is Keane's class proven?

    as a lone striker I'm not so sure, but put him alongside someone else and he does well.

    berbatov made keane look good. torres would probably do the same if he stayed fit.

    liverpools lack of strength in depth will tell come the end of the season.

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  • 199. At 9:02pm on 02 Dec 2008, theCaptain11 wrote:

    Hi all,

    Well I think we can all say what we like about being top not being top. The bottom line and I'm afraid to say it, is that we are not good enough to win the league, not yet, in fact I hate saying this to but the champions will be United they have more about them all over the park and eventually they will push on stride away. Don't bet against another double.

    I am one who thinks Owen might as well come back because we do need a few goals in the Nil Nil affairs and I fear Liverpool may have one to many of them. He wouldn't be to expensive and would certainly offer his outrageous goal scoring ability, hes worth the risk - come on Rafa.

    Lets all remember how much money United and Chelsea can spend and afford to lose its tough to compete with that and remember that no matter what happens this year Rafa is taking us forward year after year and is a top top manager, we might be closer but it wont happen this season I am pretty certain.

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  • 200. At 9:04pm on 02 Dec 2008, jakebrother wrote:

    "Any thoughts on the theory doing the rounds at Anfield last night that Keane's confidence has been sapped by not being played in his favoured position.

    Does he need to be more of a link between midfield and attack than an out-and-out attacker?"

    Yes!

    Robbie Keane is one of two current players in the Premiership who excel in a "Dalglish" role.

    A player who instinctively looks for and finds the holes between defence and midfield; who can dribble and spot a through-ball; who receives the ball into feet as comfortably as he runs on to it; a player who finds being the "workhorse" brings out his natural ability rather than stifles it.

    The only other player I can think of in England's top division that also matches that, particularly the last one, is Wayne Rooney.

    For Benitez to get the best out of Keane for the player AND the team, he needs to alter his instinct to pack midfield and stifle and play Keane with an out and out striker to stretch it instead.
    In short, he's got to play Keane exactly the same way he played Gerrard last year!

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  • 201. At 9:12pm on 02 Dec 2008, gratefulkm wrote:

    the disapointing thing is just the faith the players and the fans have in the present situation, and the fact that we have forgotten how to enjoy it,
    the players play like they are trying to hard, the fans are getting on thier back instead of showing appreaciation
    , have we really forgot the words to
    "we shall not be moved"
    "were gonna win the league now your gonna belive us "
    are you watching chelsea, manchester and so on ,
    i mean come on liverpool fans enjoy it , for god sake , love every second of winding those lot up , we are top , and they are playing catch up we are not,
    watching my chelsea mate , pray that west ham score, so he would not hace to watch me gloat over the fact , that we are on top , and its not goal difference drove him mad.
    perhaps if we remember how to enjoy where we are , the players might relax as well, and start to play a bit calmer.
    same situatuion at the end of the year,
    we need to draw to win the league,
    how different everything would feel.
    and we have beat them both once and we will do it again lol

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  • 202. At 9:47pm on 02 Dec 2008, KiorHassan wrote:

    I got it now. Benites boght Keane, because he needed the best player of type to play alongside Tores. Keane had a proven record in a similar role with Berbatov, and so Benites thought he would do great with Tores. And he will, no doubt.
    It's just that Berbatov and Tores are different players. Tores is an exceptional goal scorer, and a reasonable passer, while Berbatov is a very good scorer, but an exceptional passer. Berbatov is unselfish as well, wile Tores is selfish. So yeh, Keane will come good eventually, once Tores is back. But, it will not get as good as his Totenham days with Berbatov.

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  • 203. At 9:50pm on 02 Dec 2008, magic rat wrote:

    Sure , Phil .... maybe you are right .. and in any case it makes good copy. But it feels good to be up there after fifteen games instead of in fourth place, twelve points behind the leaders, doesnt it ? It even inspires you and the rest of the cliche merchants write something original about Liverpool ... ?

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  • 204. At 10:02pm on 02 Dec 2008, dandolinho wrote:

    sackrafa

    i can with honesty say that i think rafa is the man... with wot he started with n wot he has to compete against, the man deserves his time this season n next atleast m8, his record speaks for its self... c;mon, jose may wanna b bk ere, think we can pay for him, think inter are gonna let him go.. hiddinck is good at makin unfashinable teams get to semis!!!! he aint a winner, he's just an improver.. then goes.. thats it for me m8

    so ur left with no manager really.. or struggling to get 1, make a rash descion n get the wrong man.. rafa deserves to stay where he is for me.. he never fails to get champions league qualification, has an FA cup under his belt too, league cup final, 2 champions league finals with 1 winners medal.. thin u can trawl thru wikipedia m8 n find it hard to get a better 4 year record in probably the toughest league in the world... all that with a handicap too, in that united, chelsea n arsenal have much more might about them n we are still goin toe to toe with em

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  • 205. At 10:06pm on 02 Dec 2008, razzee92 wrote:

    Can anyone give me one good reason why rafa doesn't use Babel from the beginning?

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  • 206. At 10:15pm on 02 Dec 2008, redbeeb wrote:

    LFC will last the pace if only because they're getting points when they're playing badly and when their strikers are not able to hit a barn door from three paces...

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  • 207. At 10:19pm on 02 Dec 2008, G_is_God wrote:

    Phil, how is enjoying being top clutching at straws exactly? I can only imagine the size of a straw that Man Utd supporters are clutching at, having lost to both Liverpool and Arsenal, and drawn with Chelsea this year. I dont understand why Liverpool drawing at home, when they clearly dominated the game and were unlucky not to win, is any cause for discussion.

    Why dont we talk about the fact that Liverpool do not look like conceding whilst always looking to create? Has there been a game this season (except the cup game against Spurs) that we thought:'Uh-uh, we are gonna lose this one'?

    Someone previously suggested that the key to Liverpool's season will be not having injuries. Not different to any other team. What do you think Arsenal would do without Fabregas, Adebayor or Van Persie? Or United without Ronaldo, Rooney and Ferdinand? Every team has its best players or players that inspire, and Liverpool is no different. However, I do recall Torres and Gerrard watching proudly from the stands as their team came back from one down to deservedly beat United.

    Someone mentioned lack of strenght in depth. That is such a lazy argument and it usually comes from supporters of other teams that do not follow Liverpool closely. Whos United's back up for Ronaldo, Fletcher? But again, I dont like to make these comments as I do not follow United closely myself.

    It is clear that we need another striker, and that this is not Owen. We need a big and strong striker who will intimidate defences and who can other strikers play off of. Short term - this may well be Heskey.

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  • 208. At 10:21pm on 02 Dec 2008, TheRealPrawns wrote:

    What on earth is all this about? So we didn't play brilliantly last night but we still went top!!

    The commentator last night told us that Chelsea and Man U "dismiss" sides at home! Apparently Liverpool don't because they're not "championship material".

    Really? Now where exactly did he see these games where Chelsea were "dismissing" teams at home this season? Spurs under Ramos during their worst ever start to a season perhaps? Oh no that was a draw wasn't it?!

    Maybe it was Man U playing at home to Newcastle during their worst start to a season? Oh no that was a draw too wasn't it?!

    After those two games we were told, (quite rightly) but in no uncertain terms, that we can't right either off. Yet here we are 15 games in with Liverpool sitting clear at the top of the league having played a couple of resurgent teams and been held to draws that it is now safe to right Liverpool off!!

    That makes perfect sense.

    The facts are - no team has won more home games this season than Liverpool - Chelsea have a far worse record having the same number of draws (3) and 2 defeats.

    Man U haven't played as many home games and probably have had the toughest fixture list but Liverpool's is not far behind. Arsenal have had by far the easiest fixture list of the top4 - well at least the first 10 games at least.

    Liverpool have played most of their games without Torres - yet are still top. They have not been playing well most of the season but they're still top!

    For what its worth I still think its Chelsea's season but the time to right Liverpool off is when they're 12 points behind not 1 point ahead!!

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  • 209. At 10:46pm on 02 Dec 2008, will wrote:

    Blah Blah Blah.

    Perhaps he most amusing aspect of all this talk was the revelation, from various quarters, that Arsenal are back in the race for the title.

    No league title for a while, and a consistent soft underbelly. Arsenal have lost badly a few times this season, yet according to media sources they could quite easily get back amongst it.

    According to Alan Greene and his moribund tones Liverpool seem unlikely to win the league ever again after the draw with West Ham.

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  • 210. At 10:46pm on 02 Dec 2008, L4reds wrote:

    Liverpool are top of the league without really playing well yet, we have beaten Chelsea in their own backyard and beaten Man United.

    By any stretch this is a good start to the season and suggests that we are going to be realistically competing for the premier league this year.

    We can play better, sure, but what does it say about the rest, and I'm not havin this 'we've had easier fixtures' Any team is capable of taking points off any other.

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  • 211. At 11:30pm on 02 Dec 2008, RedWristband wrote:

    Don't really see what the issue is really =/

    Admittedly we've dropped some points this year like we have done the last few years, but instead, this year the two big games we've had (United and Chelsea) we've outplayed both and deserved to win both games.

    And remembering that Liverpool for the last few seasons have had good form like the other 3 after the New Year I'm not particularly worried.

    I don't even expect that this is our year or anything like it but I'd be happy with a title challenge to at least signal our intent and highlight the improvements we have made.

    And oh to sackrafa quite a few comments up.... you're comment would be more apt for a Tottenham supporter. Rafa is doing his job the best he can, he can frustrate the life out of the fans as he has done in the past, but I like the cut of his jib and remember he is having to go against United and Chelsea, who can spend 20 odd million on someone warming the bench (Tevez) or give someone £60000 a week to sit and watch his teammates play (Wayne Bridge) so cut him some slack, as he does not have that luxury.

    As much as I'm dissapointed with dropped points at home I think if we can beat Chelsea and Arsenal at Anfield and avoid defeat at Old Trafford then we'll be in with a good shout really, those games have always been the ones that have let us down in the past.

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  • 212. At 11:52pm on 02 Dec 2008, Fluidnevada wrote:

    i can't help it its the fashion to overreact to results like this, if the premier league was so cut and dry then the top four would win every game, thank god we have the quality in this league where eleven highly trained premier league footballers can hold another eleven for ninety minutes... look at Englands inabilty to break down Andorra for 50 minuites, who were playing a 10-0 formation, yet these players were plumbers and teachers... i expect the likes of upson and co to be able to replicate these tactics with further success especially on a narrow pitch at Anfield... if Benayoun scores his chance it i called grinding out a victory, and if he misses its liverpool in crisis, true we need to find a resolution to the striking problem, and Liverpool look more confident away from home where teams are looking for three points rather than one, thankfully though and it what people forget, a world class player can make an ordinary team champions, Maradonna of 86 for example... however Liverpool are a very good team with two such examples, Messrs Torres and Gerrard, and despite nearing halfway in the league without Torres we are top... Arsenal away in December is looking a massive fixture, but not lets forget chelsea's toil at home also where teams play defenive football.. fact is it works and we shouldn't be outraged when defensive football wins the day....

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  • 213. At 00:04am on 03 Dec 2008, boz0413 wrote:

    Some decent discussion here, even some opposition fans humble enough to admit Liverpool deserve to be where they are.

    I think post #208 is a good one however, if nothing else to highlight the bias displayed by the media. Liverpool have only lost one game in the league so far this season and that itself was very one-sided - just ask Harry Redknapp. Although we are currently struggling to kill teams off, we rarely look like conceding goals. Our defence is as solid as any other team, we just need to put things right at the other end.

    It still baffles me when some so-called Liverpool fans call for Rafa to be sacked. I would love them to watch some of our games in the latter part of Houllier's reign when we never competed for the league title or in Europe. We had a shocking squad when Rafa took over and although he has made some bad purchases, we now have a decent squad and a starting 11 to match any of the others.

    The second half of the season will be very interesting with plenty more ups and downs before May.

    YNWA

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  • 214. At 01:13am on 03 Dec 2008, fatesmessenger wrote:

    Liverpool will win the league this year.

    Simple as that.

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  • 215. At 02:11am on 03 Dec 2008, dandolinho wrote:

    post 207 hit the nail right on the head

    he is right about the players... the constant whine about liverpool not being able to last the pace without torres and/or gerrard is daft.. i have never understood it.. these guys are ur superstars... its wot u pay the inflated fees for, pay them their fat wage packets... to do the spectacular, the clever flicks.. and of course any team in the world would miss them.. united with out ronalodo at the start of the season looked flat.. was that to say they couldnt win the league without him, no, no denying it would b harder.. but its possible, same for chelsea n arsenal too

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  • 216. At 05:05am on 03 Dec 2008, yapyw00 wrote:

    I understand the media generally needs to run somebody down to generate interest and/or attention. Chelsea failed to beat Arsenal when they were expected to do so. Chelsea and Man Utd lost to Liverpool. And when you're top of the League, that means you collected more points than any other people. Just ask Hamilton of F1 and confirm the rule of the game.

    Specifically on the match vs West Ham, Liverpool did look wanting on scoring goals. Keane wasn't in the match and was rightly substituted. I do agree Benitez should give Ryan Babel a chance to play in a centre-forward role to see if he could create havoc for the opponents directly from there.

    Other than the lack of goals, Liverpool is as solid as any other team in the EPL this season; previous seasons less so. Hence, Liverpool should be amongst the front-runners till the end of the season.

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  • 217. At 05:48am on 03 Dec 2008, sonofanfield wrote:

    Why is Liverpool drawing against Fulham or West Ham suddenly being so big to you lot? I can still recall Man United failing to take maximum points against Everton while Chelsea spent whole 90 minutes bombarding the toons but wasn't able to draw any blood. How can people say these 2 always beat the teams "which should have been beaten"?

    The table doesn't lie and we are at the top of it when there have been half of the games without Torres says it all (and yeah, we beat Man United without him too).

    And for those United fans who claimed that we have got a easy fixture so far. Note that we have played United, Chelsea, Everton, Vila, Man City, Middlesbough, Spurs and Portsmouth already. And we made it 34 points from 15 games.

    So let me say this politely: shut up and mind your own teams business cause i am sure your team, being lower at the table than the reds, have more for you to worry about than us!

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  • 218. At 06:06am on 03 Dec 2008, DoubleDragBack wrote:

    Not a disaster for Liverpool at all. Ages to go yet.

    The top 4 English teams are becoming like the old Italian teams circa 2000 to 2005. Strong, full of huge stars, but predictable and satisfied, and there for the taking in Europe or against determined sides looking for draws. As a couple have pointed out there may be a subtle change in the new order. They must adapt or fade away.

    As a neutral, it looks like Man U have the best all roud team, certainly the most attractive to watch, and as European Champions this is confirmed. However...the overall strength of the EPL means teams can drop points at any time...to anyone be it Stoke or whoever. I would suggest the league will be bumpy for all concerned but ultimately won by the team with the most bottle as opposed to the most skillfull. That said, if I was a betting man my bucks would be on Man U.

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  • 219. At 06:07am on 03 Dec 2008, Haruki wrote:

    Im not so sure that the title race will actually be that close this year, as everyone seems to be saying at every opportunity. The league as a whole will be close, with the middle to low end teams having improved greatly from previous years. However, I can only really see United or Chelsea winning it, and here is why:

    Arsenal - I think they're already too far back with the squad they have. I feel they're just too young and light-weight to sustain a real challenge and I see them coming 4th or maybe even 5th

    Liverpool - There's just not enough genuine quality there to go all the way, and that includes the boss. They have a good central midfield, with Gerrard, Alonso, and Masch, but right now thats about it. Reina is good, Carragher is good, but thats only one out of the back 4 thats real class. They lack creativity, and Benitez has not addressed this. Also, his substitutions and tactics are rubbish, especially in games they are favourites in. The last couple of games I've seen his subs in particular are baffling. Against WH, Benayoun and Riera were useless, but stayed on far too long, with Babel waiting on the bench. The Anfield support and Stevie G will haul them into 3rd.

    Chelsea - Depth right the way through the squad, and quality depth as well. The performance against Arsenal will be very worrying though. They dominated, but couldnt create enough real chances, and didn't respond after Arsenals quickfire double. Scolari is obviously a class man and a class manager, but I wonder if his inexperience in the Premier League, and his long hiatus from club management will hurt them.

    Man Utd - I am a United fan, and I should say that, but I don't feel I'm being overly biased in my observations. United have quality veterans coming into their prime in nearly every position. They seem to be improving all the time individually, and Fergie is the best club manager in the world. They have played the hardest schedule so far and are only 3 points back if they win their game in hand. I had them joint favourites with Chelsea until I saw the Che-Ars game, which I thought was really worrying for Chelsea as they werent playing badly, but just didn't have enough against an Arsenal team that really shouldn't scare many. I would be shocked if we didn't win the league this year.

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  • 220. At 06:45am on 03 Dec 2008, faruqm7 wrote:

    As a Liverpool supporter i have always believed that nobody is above the Club and it seems to me that there is an exception and that is the Manager Benitez. I am stating this because all supporters know the problem this season has been lack of goals and persistent injury to Torres. The solution is obvious get one of our old sons back who knows what it means to pull the red shirt and who would give it all and he is Michael Owen and he would cost 1/10th of what we paid for Keane and he would gurantee goals that we have been lacking and i would say the Premiership would definitely come to Anfield if he is in the side. If Benitez says he loves the club and the supporters and wants the best then for once he should listen to the fans who he should remember pays his salary and if we have forgiven Owen then then he should stop behaving like a child and in the interest of the Club he should go and get Owen in January. I would say this to any potential new owners to appoint like in Europe but in our case a former player like Alan Hansen or Mark Lawrenson to be responsible for players transfers and let the Manager get on with the Coaching. If this was in place now guaranteed Owen would have signed now to join in January.

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  • 221. At 07:24am on 03 Dec 2008, BeanoMasch wrote:

    You can sense the pressure of expectation on the players and around Anfield. Stress can be productive, but this is not the positive version and it's draining the energy and psyche of the players. They want it too much. They would be in a far better frame of mind if they were 2-3 points adrift until early-March. Gerrard especially is a never-say-die "come-from-behind" force. Note his comment yesterday when he talked about the need to learn how to handle a different kind of pressure.

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  • 222. At 08:14am on 03 Dec 2008, Pogmonthion wrote:

    To some extent Benitez has made errors. And Phil McNulty you equally to blame for not including the below.

    His major error was and still is not going for Owen. How can he justify such deniel of his ability. He clearly would have scored at least 1 or 2 goals in such games against Stoke e.c.t....Owen should never have left Liverpool and Benitez does'nt forget this. Everyone makes mistakes he should be forgiven and forgotton.

    Although Torres has clear talents Owen clearly has as well. His pouching abilities would be ideal for this team especially in barren spells.
    His second error is changing the team to frequently. He should know his team and only make subtle changes.

    But lets get realistic yes Iam Owen fan but facts speak for themselves-he has it and still will for 4/5 years.
    I would clearly have him at my club Everton.

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  • 223. At 08:19am on 03 Dec 2008, DeftFunk wrote:

    qu1cks8nd wrote:

    "Man U just think they have a devine right to be up there but this season they have been poor!"

    I trust this is tongue in cheek. Even when Liverpool are top, their fans can't stop talking about Manchester United. We haven't got as many points as you, therefore don't deserve to be top.

    Perhaps, if you'd won 10 Premierships we'd be saying exactly the same thing about your team.

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  • 224. At 08:32am on 03 Dec 2008, ManeGarrincha wrote:

    Liverpool are 6 points clear of a United side with (a) a game-in-hand, against a very ordinary Fulham side at home and (b) who've already played all the tough AWAY games having travelled to the sides seated in 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 7th and 8th ... as well as a Manchester derby to boot.

    Conversely Liverpool have played three fewer of those away fixtures and one great win away to Chelsea doesn't mask some otherwise ordinary results.

    I think the Liverpool fans should be worried by that performance. Being top at the beginning of December is one thing, but with their paper thin squad and an unenviable fixture list coming up, I'd rather be in United's position - especially with the advantage of the home tie against Liverpool when they next meet.

    It's all about context and Liverpool may be top ... but only in context of the kind fixtures they've played.

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  • 225. At 08:50am on 03 Dec 2008, Maghulldave wrote:

    Yet another sensible contribution from a United fan - WestcoastUTD.

    There is no fun in life these days :-(

    Let's get back to irrational slagging off and unrealistic expectations from our teams, please.
    We are English football fans, not French philosophers.

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  • 226. At 09:00am on 03 Dec 2008, MurphyE wrote:

    Well some stuff on here makes me laugh, comparing this fixture with that fixture, which can not be done, Chelsea drew at home to Newcastle, what does that mean? Nothing, the truth is we are top after 15 Games nearly half way through the season so that deserves some credit, everyone was writing Liverpool off at the start of the year, then when we do deliver, i.e. being top of the league everyone says they wont last, well we dont know that, why are no one highlighting Man U, Chelsea and their short comings so far this season? Liverpool are an easy target and I think you can honestly say that if we are top and we have not been playing well, that is a real achievement, I dont think you can look down on that as a statement, imagine if we had beaten, Stoke, Fulham and West Ham at home we would be 7 points clear! But it didnt and we are still top. Everyone says Liverpool will die off. Last year in the last 10 games of the season we were the best performing side out of the top 4. Our unbeaten home record goes well into last season. Someone find the stats for how many points we have in 2008 including last year compare it to all the other top four and there will be some real suprises in there

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  • 227. At 09:11am on 03 Dec 2008, happy_red wrote:

    Funny how people keep quoting that ManU have played the other teams from the top 6 away on the assumption that Liverpool have had the easier run in. So far Liverpool have played Villa, Everton and Chelsea away and ManU at home. We are a team that seems to suit away matches at the moment so to have the mancs and Arsenal still to play away would give us as much of an advantage as ManU with their home games.

    As much as we've had a bad couple of weeks, we're a point clear at the top of the Premiership and we've already qualified for the Champions League knock-out stages.

    Liverpool traditionally have the strongest second half of the season and we are likely to have a fresh Torres return after Xmas. We also don't have to disappear off to Japan for the club championship as ManU have to.

    All in all, I'm very satisfied that, having hit our bad patch, we still find ourselves top.

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  • 228. At 09:35am on 03 Dec 2008, kingkenny1109 wrote:

    Good article Phil, I for one will be happy to have patience with Keane he is class and form is temporary as they say. The man has so much passion and this is the club he has always wanted to play for. He's a player who wears his heart on his sleeve for club and country and for the longer he spends on the pitch the more his confidence will grow - get behind you lot!

    I would like to see him play up front with Babel while Torres is injured to see how that pans out!

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  • 229. At 09:36am on 03 Dec 2008, pmcl_777 wrote:

    Robbie keane is been played all wrong by Benitez, subbed every game and has been given zero service in the majority of games he has played bar WBA. Torries played in both the Stoke and Fulham games and we still could not score and if he had played against west ham he would have made little difference. Anyone who thinks Keane is to blame for not winning games we should winning is blind to the zero risk taker that is Rafa Benitez.
    Man U scored against City and I counted 6 Manu players in cities box for there winning goal and that was away from home!, could you ever see that many pool players in the oppositions box?. Thats why they have been winning leagues year in year out, Liverpool only push players forward when they are desperate against the lesser teams while Manu do it from the start, simple.
    And why is anybody moaning about Berbatov?, he too has scored 2 goals in the prem and plays 90 minutes every game and he cost 10 million more!. Not scoring for the pool up front is bad enough with our negitive style of play but not scoring for a team like manu who have the best service along with Chelsea in the league is a tad worse if you ask me, but I still think Berbatov is class even if he has only scored 2 goals...

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  • 230. At 09:48am on 03 Dec 2008, mikeyjkelly wrote:

    Liverpool may need to strengthen up front in January. Its not the title that is bothering me now as we are not good enough to challenge and are a top three side at best. I am worried that if nothing is done to address our weakness up front we could find ourselves in a dog fight for fourth by February or March. Thing is that I don’t know who we could buy and I am not convinced by our set up. Keane has proven himself as a good goal scorer over four years for a worse team than Liverpool and Babel when he plays for Holland looks like one of their best players. Rafa never seems to get the best from players and if we do get a good striker in will we be really set up to help him score. We don’t create enough clear chances unlike Arsenal, Chelsea and especially Utd. Torres is exceptional and create a goal from nothing. Should strikers really have to do that though playing for Liverpool at home to West Ham. The balance is not right.

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  • 231. At 09:58am on 03 Dec 2008, angelthejam wrote:

    Pogmonthoin,


    it,s always refreshing to see an Everton fan posting in a Liverpool forum at 8 am! Your one is a very funny post, first Mr. McNulty has already stated in the same page you posted, that he thinks Owen would be a good addition to the team, it will be good if you could read, at least, the comments from the blogger, before posting.

    Some liverpool fans would like to have him back, don't know if more for sentimental or practical reasons, some others not, i have nothing against Owen, and while he made a mistake when left i will be happy for him to come back, as long as he could improve the team, with the current squad Liverpool needs another type of player rather than Owen. Another thing to question is the real fitness of the player himself, Owen is not the player he was 4-5 years ago, all the harmstring injuries have reduced his pace,
    and there is some concerns that even on his limited current abilities, he could stay fit through the season.

    As for Benitez changing the team everytime, i dont think he is doing it more than Scolari, Ferguson or Wegner, what happens is that all these teams have to play champions league quite often midweek, but i know that being an Everton fan you might understand that.

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  • 232. At 10:25am on 03 Dec 2008, pmatson wrote:

    Rafa is a muppet and probably the most confidence sapping manager in the game. Keane did take a while to get he first goal but when he did, instead of Rafa letting him kick on from there is benched him for the following game. No matter how Keane plays Rafa always substitutes him. He was on for a hatrick against West Brom and still Rafa took him off. He's been substituted 15 times already this season. How is he meant to have any confidence when Rafa keeps doing that?
    Keane is a great player as he proved at Spurs but at the moment he's playing under a manager that instills zero confidence into his players.

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  • 233. At 10:27am on 03 Dec 2008, I like cats wrote:

    Phil, you yourself stated that "Liverpool started as if they were about to sweep West Ham aside, but in the end - inspired by the superb goalkeeping of Robert Green..." we were unlucky not to win comfortably.
    Allied to that, we played without our first choice players in 3 positions in the shape of Mascherano, Torres and Agger.
    I'm not worried about the team, I'm more worried about Benitez tinkering again at a time when we were looking to put a bit of breathing space between us and the other top teams. Simply, if we win these games then it puts less pressure on us to get results against the big clubs which has previously been our undoing.
    This season we have started differently, sweeping aside the big clubs in our head-to-heads and struggling against the mid-table floaters. However, we can't just assume that this trend of beating the big boys will continue in the second half of the season.

    Robbie Keane is coming in for some criticism, though how many goals has Berbatov netted in his equally short United career? Both have scored 2 league goals, and Berba has 4 in europe compared with Keane's 2 goals in europe. While Keane cost £20m, Berba cost £30m. Do those extra two goals in a weak Champions League group REALLY justify a further £10m of transfer fee?
    As we take Keane off after 60 mins of every game, I would also assume his goals-to-minutes ratio is also higher than Berba's.

    Phil, perhaps you should come up with your own theories instead of following the recent trend of Keane-bashing.

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  • 234. At 11:07am on 03 Dec 2008, diavolorosso wrote:

    Poster 207 G is God

    You question United's strength in depth - put it like this, these are some of the players who did not start against City last Sunday:
    Anderson,
    Tevez,
    Nani,
    Scholes,
    Giggs,
    Evans,
    O'Shea,
    Neville,
    Brown,
    Kuzscak,
    Foster,
    Wellbeck,
    Manucho,
    Possebon.

    A new left winger (Tosic) joins in January and the other Da Silva (Fabio) is returning from injury.

    The pressure of a 19-year wait is lready getting to Liverpool, not least the "supporters" . Just wait till it gets to March/April if Liverpool is still in with a chance of the title. In 1992 United should have won the league but the pressure got to them in the final five matches. When United won it in 1993, Liverpool were in rapid decline and there were no outstanding teams competing for it (Villa and Norwich were the biggest challengers). Liverpool not only have to break a long-running duck but also have to overome a United team at its peak and possibly improving, a very strong Chelsea side and an Arsenal tema that might be able to stay in the race until May. Remind me, how many title winners are there in the Liverpool squad?

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  • 235. At 11:08am on 03 Dec 2008, footballandethics wrote:

    keane 4 goals and 4 assists in 22 is amazing.
    liverpool's game is killing keane. he should have stayed at spurs where harry's eye would have taken keane to a whole new level.
    add modric, huddlestone, bentley and lennon around him and he would have been a better player than he is today at 'pool.
    at the moment it looks like amazing business from levy getting 20.4mil for a player who is playing like a 1.5mil player at tops.
    benitez has messed up big time and should have bought true goalscoring cover for torres not some player he plays in midfield.

    good news for liverpool is that keane turns 30 in 2 years and you'll prob get 1 or 2 mil for him then.

    WASTE.

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  • 236. At 11:11am on 03 Dec 2008, chatanlad wrote:

    Hold on lets be impartial here.

    Yes I believe Liverpool have missed 3 good opportunities to go top with 6 extra points, draws at home against Stoke, Fulham and West Ham could have been turned into wins but it wasn’t to be, some teams come and set up camp in your own backyard, and Liverpool will have to learn to break teams down.

    Another way at looking at this is to say 3 draws equals 3 points gained, and valuable they are as Liverpool sit top of the table. To put things into perspective if Liverpool’s main rivals had taken full advantage of their opportunities things might be a little different in the table so let’s not dwell too much on what could have been.

    I feel condemned to bring this last point up. The “£20.3m striker” you talk about, he has had some disappointing moments and some flashes of brilliance, but you keep referring to him with a price tag. Let’s not forget that Tevez has been warming the bench for United with a valuation of £30m. That’s only one of their over-priced superstars so let’s put a cap on that straight away.

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  • 237. At 11:24am on 03 Dec 2008, Red Marauders wrote:

    This blog is hilarious. Now United fans think they've played all the tough fixtures and it's going to be 3 points all the way til May. You've got to laugh sometimes.
    The criticism Rafa gets is as always unfair. His sparing use of Babel will be for two reasons. Firstly, he's no centreforward, no matter what he thinks. Watch the olympics games. Secondly, he's more useful to Liverpool as a sub at this moment in time. He will get his chance and he will be fresh and fit.

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  • 238. At 11:25am on 03 Dec 2008, footballandethics wrote:

    goals win games.
    simple.
    at the moment, keane cannot score.
    simple as that.
    20.3million?? fantastic sharp display of business skills from levy.
    ripped off big time, liverpool were.

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  • 239. At 11:26am on 03 Dec 2008, ste_rigs wrote:

    Why do people always have to see the worst!?! Of course i was dissappointed with the result on monday, but yet again the visiting anfield keeper had an absolute stormer. How he kept out Benayoun i'll never know. But that said, I wouldn't swap positions with any club in the league!! I bet you any other club would swap with us right now! All we have to do now is get at least the same amount of points each week as the team in second place. I know it's not that simple but it put's things in perspective, doesn't it? So we drew at home to Stoke, Fullham & West Ham. We also beat Man Utd at home and Chelsea and Everton, away! Would anyone swap these wins with those home draws? Our points tally would be the same and we'd still be level on points at the top of the league (though 2nd due to Chelsea's goal difference). But it would mean that we won on Monday so would anyone feel better about our season? I know i wouldn't. All we'd be hearing about is how we "can't beat the other teams in the top 4". I don't care how we play as long as we are top. And the fact we haven't hit top form can only be a good thing. Think what's gonna happen when we find our true level (as we always come good in the 2nd half of the season). If we still remain top after the busy christmas period i will for the first time think that we can win the league, rather than just believeing it's a posibility. No one remembers HOW you won the league, just that you WON! Do you think Man Utd fans look back to last season and think, 'God i can't believe we drew at home to Reading'??

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  • 240. At 12:14pm on 03 Dec 2008, happy_red wrote:

    "ripped off big time, liverpool were"

    We'll see.

    As a Spurs fan I'm sure you were balling your eyes out when Keane and Berbatov left. Neither have set their new clubs alight as yet, but I'm sure in the long term both will have great careers (and the chance of real medals) where they are now.

    It is normal for Spurs fans to be jubilant this early in their new manager's tenure but let's wait until the middle of next season when you will all be calling for Harry to be sacked just like Jol and Ramos - both were saviour until 6 months in.

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  • 241. At 12:18pm on 03 Dec 2008, matchboxmaster wrote:

    Phil, if looking at the table now suggests who will be title contenders then surely this must mean the same in other parts of the table? Hull will be challenging for 5th spot and a UEFA cup place right till the end and Spurs will be fighting a relegation battle.

    What has happened has happened. Remaining fixtures and strength of squads will be what contributes to the end points tally - Man Utd and Chelsea are still the two sides most likely to win it. Ok, Liverpool will not be out of the race by Christmas like most seasons - but most neutral fans will still admit they will probably finish 3rd.

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  • 242. At 12:32pm on 03 Dec 2008, footballandethics wrote:

    240. At 12:14pm on 03 Dec 2008, happy_red wrote:

    "ripped off big time, liverpool were"

    We'll see.

    As a Spurs fan I'm sure you were balling your eyes out when Keane and Berbatov left. Neither have set their new clubs alight as yet, but I'm sure in the long term both will have great careers (and the chance of real medals) where they are now.

    It is normal for Spurs fans to be jubilant this early in their new manager's tenure but let's wait until the middle of next season when you will all be calling for Harry to be sacked just like Jol and Ramos - both were saviour until 6 months in.

    -----------------------

    Spurs have more chance winning the fa cup and uefa cup than liverpool have of the premiership or champions league. Liverpool have no depth in squad and torres aside, no real goalscorers apart from gerrard. You have a manager who players well out of position and fans who can't see Keane just doesn't work at Liverpool. Spurs saw more out of Keane in one 90 minute game than they've seen out of all season at liverpool and half the season has already gone.
    Fair enough, you say, give him time. Do you really have any time when you apparently competing with man u and chelsea and now arsenal.

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  • 243. At 1:30pm on 03 Dec 2008, jamelves wrote:

    Why does all media personnel have to report negativity at Anfield and Liverpool.

    Lets look at all the positives.

    This is the best squad we have had for the last 18 years.

    We are top of the table and have beaten Chelsea and Man Utd without Torres.

    Torres current lay off means he will be fresher and fitter in the second half of the season when the title race will really be hotting up. (The other contenders will have their key players tired or suspended at key times)

    We have kept 10 clean sheets already this season out of 15 league games and are finally showing a winning mentality.

    The 3 games mentioned we should have won and would have done if things had gone our way. Against Stoke the goal should have stood. Against Fulham Mark Schwarzer was MOM and Matthew Upson and Rob green were MOM against West Ham. That says it all about those games.

    I am actually surprised nobody is blaming Rafa for his rotation policy or lack of it this season. He rotates just as much as the other so called big 3 but he seems to get slated for it. We need to trust him, as I can not thing of anybody that is available or better equiped to bring home the title.

    As for Robbie Keane you do not become a bad player overnight and I think the fans were expecting the same kind of impact as Torres had. That was an expecption and we will probably never see that again at Anfield. Cut the guy some slack, will it really matter how well he has played as long as he contributes 100% to us winning the title.

    I say get off the players, managers and staffs back and leave them to get on with their jobs and winning our 19th title after 19 years waiting. Sounds quite poetic.

    YNWA

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  • 244. At 1:52pm on 03 Dec 2008, PAINTERCOM wrote:

    So long as they're unconvincing winners at the end of the season, I don't think there'll be anything to complain about.

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  • 245. At 2:22pm on 03 Dec 2008, angelthejam wrote:

    diavolorosso wrote:
    Poster 207 G is God

    You question United's strength in depth - put it like this, these are some of the players who did not start against City last Sunday:
    Anderson, ok, very good player, it seems to have dipped his form this year.
    Tevez, distressed and wants to leave possibly to Real Madrid in the summer, not a good influence for the rest of the season.
    Nani, showboating and innefectual
    Scholes, old, and in clear decline
    Giggs, very old
    Evans, looks ok, but won't play much anyway.
    O'Shea, how this average player has been playing for you such a long time is a mistery for me.
    Neville, he can only be there for sentimental reasons, even his biggest ManU fan will admit that.
    Brown, an slightly better option than O'Shea, nothing else.
    Kuzscak, average keeper
    Foster, same, only overated cause he is english
    Wellbeck,looks ok, but is he really going to play?
    Manucho, same as above.
    Possebon. carling cup player.

    This doesn't look extremetely better than Liverpool.

    Your assesment comparing your league title in 1992 comparing to the situation now is quite correct, and the league is now much more competitive now that it was then, you just have look at how the english teams were performing in Europe then comparing to the current situation, which will only reflect it will be biggest acheivement for Liverpool to win it now.


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  • 246. At 2:32pm on 03 Dec 2008, footballandethics wrote:

    You question United's strength in depth - put it like this, these are some of the players who did not start against City last Sunday:
    Anderson, ok, very good player, it seems to have dipped his form this year.
    Tevez, distressed and wants to leave possibly to Real Madrid in the summer, not a good influence for the rest of the season.
    Nani, showboating and innefectual
    Scholes, old, and in clear decline
    Giggs, very old
    Evans, looks ok, but won't play much anyway.
    O'Shea, how this average player has been playing for you such a long time is a mistery for me.
    Neville, he can only be there for sentimental reasons, even his biggest ManU fan will admit that.
    Brown, an slightly better option than O'Shea, nothing else.
    Kuzscak, average keeper
    Foster, same, only overated cause he is english
    Wellbeck,looks ok, but is he really going to play?
    Manucho, same as above.
    Possebon. carling cup player.

    This doesn't look extremetely better than Liverpool.

    -----------

    you are kidding right? the spurs second team even played you off the park and pool were lucky to only lose that game by a few goals.
    you have no depth of squad and that man u second eleven would swallow liverpools.
    what is fascinating is that come jan, your squad really needs to pull deep and there doesn't seem anything to rely on.
    its only in the latter stages that depth and size and quality of squads really shows. and sadly you don't have any depth.

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  • 247. At 3:04pm on 03 Dec 2008, angelthejam wrote:

    footballandethics

    If we start analyzing Carling cup results during the last 5 years, you could arrive to some shocking conclusions. do you disagree in my ratings of the manchester squad?

    Liverpool has got more points during 2008 (calendar year) than Manchester,or any other team for that matter,and Manchester won the league, over a year surely we should have suffered from our depth of squad, how can you explain that?

    It will be good that instead of repeating what some lazy journalists say, you think a little bit by yourself, based on the facts.

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  • 248. At 3:14pm on 03 Dec 2008, mikeyjkelly wrote:

    The reality is that Liverpool are slightly better than last year and could finish third, perhaps only ten points rather than 11 behind the Champions. Most likely it will be a bit more as Utd have played their most difficult away games. Only the most biased fan would say Liverpool will contend the Premiership, especially on evidence of the last two games or say that we were unlucky not to win them. Drawing at home to one poor team which plays for a draw is bad luck, drawing three is nothing short of incompetent for a team with pretensions of winning the league and which has spent so much. Liverpool should be more than Torres or Gerrard. Our second team should be able to score at will against the poor teams. This is what Utd have done for the past 15 years and which is why they are on the verge of drawing level with us on 18 titles. What drives me mad is that Liverpool are putting up no defence of their claim to be the best club in England and managers like Rafra and Houlier have sneakily lowered the bar so low that three home draws with relegation fodder is seen as being acceptable. Liverpool, are no closer to winning the league than under Evans. The issue is that there is such a leadership vacuum at the club Rafa is under little pressure to deliver. I personally am fed up of us not being contenders, and by that I mean real contenders, not the pretend version that we have become. Liverpool are a top 3 to 4 team and anyone who thinks they are top two is fooling themselves. We will never be better under Rafa as Rafa does not have the guile to make us better.

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  • 249. At 4:11pm on 03 Dec 2008, awesomesuperIrons wrote:

    Really good article, however I'm becoming increasingly annoyed by the lack of credit given to West Ham's defence in this game. Yes we sat back, and yes at times we parked the proverbial bus in front of Rob Green's goal, however by his own admission Benitez said that Liverpool had played better in this game than in previous games, which by definition means that the hammers must have equalled the reds attacks with an equally skillful rearguard. Liverpool are a very good side but I dont think they are quite there as far as challenging for the title goes and I dont think they will get there whilst Benitez refuses to 1. Give Robbie Keane a run of full games and 2. doest play Keane in his preferred position alongside Torres.

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  • 250. At 4:48pm on 03 Dec 2008, yo_people wrote:

    I think liverpool might snatch the PL. majority of people seem to forget that liverpool are a team with excellent centre players. despite not having better wide players (prime example when tottenham beated liverpool in carling cup all attacks began from wing side) they are still managing to push manu and chelsea down the table. providing they get better wide players (wingers, full backs) they can win every season. and phil please be quite. last time u wrote an artcile suggesting that liverpool will struggleto qualify for CL. they are not.

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  • 251. At 5:00pm on 03 Dec 2008, Cheesymunky wrote:

    As a Liverpool fan im still really cautious and sceptical. I still don't think we will win the league, but im gonna enjoy the moment while i can and i can see it being a topsy turvy season.

    I think the draws against Fulham and West Ham shows how toothless we are. Ok, im annoyed at poor Robbie getting subbed nearly every game but lets be honest, he isn't performing is he. Im sure he will come good though. We ain't half missing Torres though and i'd love him to give Babel a run up front, i think he should be given a chance to prove himself. I'm not sure if his comments he made bout not playing much mighta just rattled Benitez a little though, i hope not.

    Chelsea and Liverpool are gonna be neck and neck whatever happens i think and Arsenal are showing inconsistancy yet beating the top teams so theres no sayin they won't get a rythm going but its United that worry me.

    A game in hand, 6 points off us, win there next game and there just 1 win away from us, i can see them getting right in the mix.

    I think the top spot is going to interchange a bit all the way till easter, i just hope at the end of it we manage to nick it. It's gonna be a tough old season, for all teams.

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  • 252. At 5:29pm on 03 Dec 2008, 12_Year_Old_Reds_Fan wrote:

    Do I see Liverpool winning the league? If they can maintain this then yes. But I can't see us doing it. Keane just needs an effective strike partner. Torres is more of a DIY player. He doesn't need a partner, he's fine. I think Robbie Keane has been the Premier League's biggest Rip Off, beating Robinho and Berbatov.

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  • 253. At 6:06pm on 03 Dec 2008, VampiricHoshi wrote:

    People seem to be putting all their focus onto Liverpool's front line and asking the question of who do we need in blah blah blah the simple fact is, with the support (or lack there of) the front line was getting from the midfield agaisnt the Hammers it wouldn't have made an awful lot of difference who you stuck up front.

    In my opinion, the draw came about largely because of two rather simple things:

    1. Benayoun was truly awful, which in my opinion is typical for him. He spent almost the entire game playing completly out of position which not only weekend the right side of midfield which played a BIG part in Bellamy's runs on goal, but it also completly and utterly broke down nearly every single attack Liverpool made from the right. When someone was needed there to cross the ball in, Kuoyt had to drop back to cover for Benayoun who instead drifted into a central position which in turn pushed Gerrard further back into midfield who in turn pushed Alonso almost entirely out of play for large portions of the game.

    One player playing out of position really can completly foul your game plan. Benayoun does it everytime he is played - either play him in the centre of the park or don't play him at all.

    Quite frankly, even though I don't particularly rate him, Pennant would have been a far better choice if it was really needed to push Kuoyt up front.

    2. By the 30th minute Gerrard appeared to have lost all faith in his front line and almost entirely stopped feeding the ball to them when given the chance and instead made continual wasteful long-range shots. As a Liverpool supporter I obviously hold the big man in high regard, but you've had over 6 very taim strikes from outside the box its time to stop trying to score the wonder goal and give the ball to the forwards and let them do the job they are supposed to be on the pitch doing.

    Those two things effectively meant both Kuoyt and Keane rarely had a sniff of the ball and had to take themselves out of position to go hunting for it - which meant on the sparse occasion someone actually crossed the ball into the box, no one was there to pick it up.

    As I said above, Michael Owen nor anyone else would have changed that. Its not good changing the wheels if you've not got an engine turning them.

    The only position Benitez should be looking for in January is a right winger.

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  • 254. At 6:31pm on 03 Dec 2008, G_is_God wrote:


    You question United's strength in depth - put it like this, these are some of the players who did not start against City last Sunday:
    Anderson,
    Tevez,
    Nani,
    Scholes,
    Giggs,
    Evans,
    O'Shea,
    Neville,
    Brown,
    Kuzscak,
    Foster,
    Wellbeck,
    Manucho,
    Possebon.

    A new left winger (Tosic) joins in January and the other Da Silva (Fabio) is returning from injury.
    __________

    and how many mathc winners do you see on that list?

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  • 255. At 7:07pm on 03 Dec 2008, The_Opinion wrote:

    I hope the title race is exciting one but the scousers are looking at 3rd again
    ----------------------------------------------------
    AGAIN???????????????????
    why do people keep forgetting we finished 3rd last season and led for most of the season? liverfool were 4rth.

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  • 256. At 7:32pm on 03 Dec 2008, Edmund wrote:

    The squad's not big enough.

    WHAT?!! Premiership squads are ridiculously over-sized. When players like Babel, Benayoun and the departed Crouch can't get into the team, the squad is too big.

    SUCH A WASTE OF TALENT!

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  • 257. At 11:01pm on 03 Dec 2008, Haruki wrote:

    I cannot believe that anyone would question the quality of depth at united, as was proven by today's destruction of the blackburn first team. I can only assume that you are making biased observations based on the fact that you dont actually watch united that much. since i watch every game, i can provide all you haters out there with an honest evaluation of those who didn't start in the derby.

    Anderson - yes his form has dipped a little from last season, but his performances last year were well above expectations for an 18 year olds first premiership season. add to that he had a busy offseason with the olympics, and the fact that he is starting to get going again. he will be just fine this year

    Tevez - scored 4 against blackburn today, and citing paper talk, especially involving real madrid is a ridiculous argument. He is hungrier than ever

    Nani - struggles with consistency, but on his day is fantastic. I expect him to continue to improve under Fergie. he has the ability to be the spark in a difficult match a la Ronaldo, just ask Middlesbrough fans.

    Scholes - Is most definately not "clearly in decline" his game has changed with age for sure, but I'd still trust him to start any game when fit, he still passes so well and his composure on the ball is priceless. makes those around him better

    Giggs - has declined this year, but can still offer something to the club, although i feel he can only really play as part of a 5 man midfield. still, he can play in games to give others a rest.

    Evans - looks at home in the centre of defence, and agian, I wouldnt be too worried to see hime start any game.

    O'Shea - the kind of player who isnt valued by anyone, except his own fans. Sheasy is extremely versatile, with good physical attributes and deceptively skillful touch. his selflessness is priceless.

    Neville - has gotten a bit old, but is still great to have in the setup as he will make sure everyone is always working for the club.

    Brown - one of the most underated players in the squad in my opinion. he is very pacy, strong, good in the air, and skillful enough to acquit himself well on the flank. When fit, I expect him to force his way back into the starting lineup, although Rafael has been fantastic and may hold on to his spot

    Kuzcsak - a really good keeper and backup that is better than at least 50% of the starters in the league

    Foster - Perhaps is a bit overrated as hes English, but hes third string, so theres time.

    Wellbeck - looks a great talent, but wont probably play much as hes so young. Nevertheless, a fantastic option for the 5th choice or whatever he is.

    Manucho - not ready for the premiership yet, but weve got other strikers so its all good.

    Possebon - really really classy. he, like rafael is young, but has been one of the best every time he plays. you can only play whoever is in front of you, and while so far that has only been Carling Cup teams, he will be fine against anyone he plays against. will be a huge star at united for years to come.

    in conclusion, we have so much good depth and to say otherwise is delusional. at the end of the day, if we started an eleven out of those above every week, we'd still finish in the top 6 at least. add to that Rooney, Ronaldo and the rest and it spells trouble for the rest of the prem. not just this year, but for the next decade.

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  • 258. At 12:20pm on 04 Dec 2008, kopjagger wrote:

    Robbie Keane really looks like a lost boy out there. I really don't know what exact position he likes to play in. He needs to get the dummy out though. 20 million is looking more and more of a joke. He has no pace whatsoever and does not finish well at all.

    Also why will Benitez not start with Babel? What is worrying is that Man Utd, Chelsea etc all seem to have several people who can score. We have one or two. You know who.

    I guess I'll go put my dummy in.

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  • 259. At 1:14pm on 04 Dec 2008, tli8jaguar wrote:

    Ronaldo is not the same player as he was last year, he was the main reason United won the double last year. Chelsea do not have the fight back spirit when they are behind. Arsenal are having one good game and one bad game at the moment. Liverpool are only on top because of all the problems the other teams are having, should they win the title this year it will be all the other good teams fault. Fancy losing the 84 game unbeaten home record: fancy getting beat by a Liverpool side without Gerrard and Torres, well it's all your fault.

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  • 260. At 1:50pm on 04 Dec 2008, Westdrop wrote:

    I'm neither a Liverpool fan, nor a Liverpool hater. So, from an unbiased view I will say this: they are not good enough to win the league. People on here have said it's because their squad is too small. Rubbish. They have the biggest first team squad in the league: Arbeloa, Degn, Hyypia, Agger, Skrtel, Carragher, Dossena, F.Aurelio, Benayoun, Pennant, Mascherano, Plessis, Lucas, Xabi Alonso, Gerrard, Babel, Riera, Keane, Kuyt, F.Torres, Ngog. That is 21 first team outfield players, plus all their youngsters. You cannot tell me this is too small.

    The reason they won't win is that man for man they're just not good enough. They've got lots of quality, but the others just have a little bit more. Examples: Reina - starting to become a top keeper. Is he as good as Cech? No. Carragher and Skrtel - fantastic centre back pairing. Better than Terry and Carvalho, or Ferdinand and Vidic? No. Full backs: Aurelio and Arbeloa. Two very good full backs. Best in the Prem? No way - Clichy, Evra and Cole are better LBs, Sagna and Bosingwa are better RBs. The list goes on. The only area where Liverpool genuinely could say they have the best players is centre midfield (and even then you could make a case for Chelsea and United as well), plus Torres, who is definitely the best striker in the league. All over the pitch though their players don't stand up to comparison as well as their counterparts at the other top 4 teams (especially Chelsea and Man Utd).

    So, it really is that simple: over the course of a 38 game season the best team wins. And the best team over that length of time is (except in rare circumstances) the team with the best players. Fact. Liverpool are not the team with the best players, which makes them not good enough to win the league.

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  • 261. At 1:07pm on 05 Dec 2008, mrkeshy wrote:

    I agree, its a great article, but come on, when you pay £20.3 million for a player you can't expect to wait as long as we have for a return of investment!

    If Liverpool can offload some of the unused, overpaid flops in January (Pennant, Dossena etc) we should use the money to buy a decent striker to solve our problems.

    The difference between Liverpool and Man Utd is, we bought Keane and they bought Berbatov - a difference in class altogether!

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  • 262. At 5:16pm on 05 Dec 2008, mrjohnnice wrote:

    I think we might be better off not winning anything this season. We need change, rafa needs to go. I am sick of his bad decisions and his love for the champions league. I don't know about the rest of you but I want Liverpool to be the best in this country again, like we used to be.

    Nice article by the way

    BTW I love to know what people see in kuyt, all he does is chase dead balls, passes back killing forward play, gets the odd lucky goal when the ball lands at his feet and he plays the full 90 minutes every game, why?

    Next time you watch a liverpool game just watch kuyt, he's in no mans land for 85mins of the game

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  • 263. At 2:36pm on 06 Dec 2008, crazylegscain wrote:

    It is painfully obvious to see. Just take off your rose tinted spectacles and smell the coffee. I think the soft Liverpool fans need to toughen up and give their team they are "supporting" a very big kick up the arse! This team needs to toughen up and show some balls and attack other teams.

    Example:
    Too many, correction, I mean ALL of our midfield players (except Gerard) lack the abilty or willingness to take any body on and then just panic and off load the ball to one man army Gerrard who is the only one who really looks like he wants to win a game.
    The slowest player in the league on the wing who cannot skin anybody (Kuyt) plays ahead of Babel. WHY? I believe if Babs had as long on the pitch as kuyt he would have scored more goals and would not have killed off so many attacks with pathetic back passes.
    As for Torres why do people think he is some sort of Messiah? We could play with two of him up front but if they get absolutely no service or any decent crosses from either of the wings who`s fault is it?
    Sadly the only player who suits benitez`s negative cup style of play style is Kuyt. I feel sorry for him as none of the top 3 (Mancs/Chelski/Arse) would touch him with a bargepole. I hate Kuyt now and have never rated him but it is Benitez`s fault and I shoulder all the blame on this teams UGLY league football and not winning the League this year on him.
    Funny how Liverpool fans seem to have stopped mentioning the "Yanks" now as scapegoats seeing as we are top of the league. Just remember at the end of the season win or lose the "Yanks" have given Benitez all the money he wanted and they don`t pick the team.

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  • 264. At 3:27pm on 10 Dec 2008, RoscoeBovorado wrote:

    As soon as Liverpool get's deep into the Champions league Benitez is gonna go all loopy and start his stupid rotation again. This will definately be liverpools downfall and personally as a Man utd. fan i can't wait.

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