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Stuttering start for Benitez

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Phil McNulty | 22:08 UK time, Sunday, 16 August 2009

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez produced his glasses from their box and polished them with dramatic irony when asked to assess referee Phil Dowd's display in the defeat at Spurs.

As a moment of comedy it went down well - but if Benitez seriously believes officials were to blame for Liverpool starting the Premier League season with a loss at White Hart Lane, then those same spectacles are heavily rose-tinted.

Sure Benoit Assou-Ekotto's late penalty box barge on Andriy Voronin fell into "you've seen them given" territory and the same player was the culprit in a later handball claim, but Benitez's eyes would be better focused on his own team's failings.

And, spectacles or not, Benitez had detected the major flaw that undermined Liverpool's attempt to make a winning start to the season they hope will end a 20-year wait to reclaim English football's top domestic honour.

benitez595.jpgBenitez cut a subdued figure in White Hart Lane's media theatre as he delivered the evidence: "We have to improve in the middle... keep the ball and pass the ball better... as a team we were not comfortable in possession..."

He had the identikit player in his own possession to solve that last season - namely Xabi Alonso. He is now part of Real Madrid's expensive reconstruction and his replacement, Alberto Aquilani, is still some way from full fitness.

Javier Mascherano and Lucas have qualities to recommend them, but playing the killer pass or providing a constant supply line to what will be the main thrust of Liverpool's title challenge this season, Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, are not among them.

Gerrard and Torres were marginalised by a chronic lack of service, and when Liverpool did fashion rare moments of threat, they were snuffed out by Ledley King and the outstanding Sebastien Bassong, who enjoyed just about the perfect debut.

The creative deficit left by Alonso was top of the agenda at the end of day when Liverpool were hot and bothered, irritable, out of sorts and well beaten by a superior Spurs side, who followed manager Harry Redknapp's demands to press their opponents into submission to the letter.

Redknapp was clearly delighted with his team and made no bones about how Alonso's absence reduced Liverpool's threat, saying: "They'll miss him for sure. He is quality. We planned to press Liverpool but it is hard to press Alonso because he can pass the ball around corners, do it first time, and get the ball into Gerrard.

"They will miss him but Aquilani is meant to be top class as well so we'll see."

Again, it is ludicrously premature to proclaim the sale of Alonso as the moment Liverpool's attempt to unseat Manchester United was holed below the waterline. Aquilani's introduction will place the deal in its true context, but on the evidence of this loss, he cannot get fit quick enough.

Benitez, having dealt with Dowd, did not miss 26-year-old fourth official Stuart Attwell with his verbal potshots either, complaining he was too young and needed to "calm down" after his assistant Sammy Lee was sent from the dug-out following a late spat sparked by those penalty claims.

All in all. Not a good day for Liverpool, or indeed those of us who believe they will win the Premier League this season.

No long-term verdict can be delivered after one game - if the same criteria were applied to Liverpool's neighbours Everton after their shocking 6-1 mauling by Arsenal, David Moyes would be told to return to his training ground and start preparing for the Championship.

Liverpool's season will not be railroaded by a single defeat and Torres and Gerrard will find plenty of ways to win games in the season ahead - but there were genuine areas of concern.

Benitez's decision to play Ryan Babel ahead of Yossi Benayoun was, in my opinion, mystifying or, to put it another way, wrong. Benayoun ended last season in outstanding form and it was no coincidence Liverpool's first sustained periods of pressure came after he was introduced for Babel.

Babel did not even flatter to deceive - he simply did not flatter at all. There appears to be a decent player in there trying to get out, but Liverpool and Benitez cannot wait forever.

Liverpool's defence was troubled throughout, with Martin Skrtel and Jamie Carragher seemingly disorientated by a heavy clash of heads, while the threadbare nature of his subsitutes' bench (as in players sitting on it not the actual bench itself) in comparison to Spurs will be another worry for Benitez.

I asked Benitez whether the weight of expectation, as opposed to hope, that Liverpool carry into the new season had created additional pressure on both manager and players, perhaps inflicting subtle changes on the mindset.

It was a theory he swept aside, saying: "We knew we were playing against a good side. It is not the pressure, we were simply not comfortable with the ball."

For Spurs, no such concerns existed after a performance that suggested the good work done by Redknapp in renewal last season will be built upon in this campaign.

Redknapp's trademark tag as a "wheeler dealer" understandably causes him dismay. It damns his managerial ability with faint praise and he has already made some potentially key additions to the Spurs squad.

Bassong was a central figure, literally, at both ends of the pitch in his Premier League debut after an £8m move from Newcastle. He provided power and pace at the back and scored the winner with a towering header, as impressive in its own way as the thumping opener from Assou-Ekotto.

Redknapp also has the chance to polish a real gem in Wilson Palacios. He provides brawn, and a great deal more besides, to compliment the brains of Luka Modric, who is all feints, darts, first time passes and clever contributions.

Modric is what many would call, in a good way, a typical Spurs player. Redknapp hopes Bassong and Palacios can also become typical Spurs players - and combine the two styles to make a winning formula.

Redknapp has competition for places all over the pitch, and in our rush to portray Manchester City and their countless millions as the most serious threat to the top four cartel, we may just have done Spurs and Redknapp a disservice.

Early days yet though. How will Spurs fare on their travels this season? It was a question Redknapp posed himself.

Spurs will hope for more of the same with the season in its infancy. Benitez will simply hope Liverpool suffered an attack of first day lethargy.

And that tip of Liverpool for the title? Firmly sticking with it - but Benitez must hope his faith in the fragile Aquilani is rewarded.

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Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    Granted it is just day 1 of a long season. However 3 points behind the main title rivals, Liverpool have to capitalise on every oppurtunity from here on, or else they can find themselves behind and possibly out of the title race come April/May. But I do think they will and they will be strong contenders come end of the season.

    Spurs on the other hand were amazing. I reckon if they continue playing well and make WHL a fortress and pick up key away points they will be challenging for a top 6 spot. All the best to all the teams!

  • Comment number 2.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]The loss of Alonso is huge, absolutely huge, and it showed in Liverpool's efforts against Spurs. They didn't have control of midfield and to be honest if you didn't know they had finished second in the league last season you would have said Liverpool were mid-table at best. Torres cut a jaded figure - perhaps not surprising given his wife has just had a baby! - but Gerrard didn't do anything apart from score the penalty. Must do better or Benitez will be under serious pressure. Personally, I can see Benitez jacking the job in before the season is out.

  • Comment number 3.

    Ah. The Benitez baiting begins. Didnt take long did it?

    Now if Ferguson had said anything like that it would be "mind games".

  • Comment number 4.

    I agree, the loss of Alonso may be impossible to replace. Even Steven Gerrard has stated "they are massive boots to fill"!

    The Bias towards Liverpool has probably damaged them too, fans are IMO falsely believing they are "favorites" (a certain lawro for instance).

    To be frank, peoples opinions about who are favourites is only that opinions, but I just feel liverpool are more then one man light!

    You have Torres, Gerrard, Reina, Carragher, mascherano (I believe in a dm position he is one of the best, out of it he looks lost) and even Skrtel has showed how important he is too the cause! But aside from that I dont any thing more apart from a top 8 team!

    It is only the first game of the season, but excuses cant count! Every club knows when there first game is, and if they are "unfit" or "ill prepared" its the clubs problem!

    IMO Arsenal are not the "weak" 4th team. I honestly believe they will challenge for all honors, but we are still behind Chelsea and Manchester United on terms of squad depth!

  • Comment number 5.

    Benitez needs to look at the second half and what positives can be taken out of it, Benayoun for Babel (just never fulfilled his potential). Gerrard has to drop back and control the midfield at least until Aquilani is fit, if not there is no service. Javier or Lucas can't create that extra yard of space and/or play that pass that gets everything going. But I expect benitez to stick rigidly to Plan A as always.
    Well done spurs, you'll pose a threat to the big sides this season.

  • Comment number 6.

    the title hope is only trully realistic if the middle field /wing play is sorted out.
    lucas is not it yet rafa keeps up the praise. the bench also lacks depth.plus the injury problems at the defence.
    well hope this is sorted out b4 stoke match.

    rafa open yr mind,maybe gerrard shd go to middle field for now till alberto is fit and ready. rafa shd know this

  • Comment number 7.

    Long season ahead... lets not get ahead of ourselves. Maybe its a blessing in disguise for Liverpool. Remember, a few seasons in a row ManUtd languished at the bottom of the table after the first few games, but still ended up winning the league on every occasion (incl

    Every season, Liverpool started well but ended up well short... so you never quite know how it will pan out at the end of the season.

    Wow, i sound like a Liverpool fan, but im actually a ManUtd fan... but it makes you think anyways...

    Regards
    N

  • Comment number 8.

    Its going to be a tricky few games for Liverpool now.. Everyone will expect them to beat Stoke at home if they are serious about the title.. They might struggle against them..

    *Reina was excellent in goal but I was surprised to see him make so many saves because usually he didn't have to.

    *Johnson had a great first touch and ball control and its a shame he didnt get in the Spurs area in the first half

    *Carragher was immense.. Though maybe at fault for the second goal he did brilliantly when another player would have asked to be subbed

    *Skrtel was also really good.. Im worried about our options for CB against Stoke though..

    *Insua.. Didnt offer much in attack and sometimes was caught out of position

    *Mascherano.. Same old.. Rafa can count on him 100%

    *Lucas.. Would rather see him on the bench than on the pitch.. Didnt seem very confident..

    *Kuyt.. Should have stayed on and offered something in attack.. Good performance though he lacks creativity

    *Babel.. Should be sold before the window closes.. Always tries to cut inside and always runs into 3 defenders.. every attacking move that involved him ended due to his involvement..

    *Gerrard.. Anonymous in the first half.. took a couple of good shots from distance.. Good penalty..

    *Torres.. Isolated..

    *Benayoun.. Liverpool had more of the ball when he came on.. Good performance.. Should have started..

    *Voronin.. Showed everyone exactly why he was loaned out to Berlin last season.. Daft runs.. Bad control.. Shame about not getting the pen though..

    *Ayala.. Did really well when he came on.. Playing against either Crouch or Defoe.. Solid debut..

    Liverpool have to think about finding a midfield solution until Aquilani is fit again.. Move Gerrard back to partner Mascherano and get an attacker to play behind Torres...

    ... Robbie Keane perhaps..??

  • Comment number 9.

    "those of us who believe they will win the Premier League this season ..." I've been very sceptical of that view, favouring Chelsea 1, Man U 2. Perhaps Aquilani will prove a worthy successor to Alonso, but by that time the gap to the top two might be too great. You criticise Benitez' selections for the game, there seems to be a lot of evidence that he hasn't quite got the nous to be a top manager, or an EPL-winning one. The "it's-Liverpools-year" crowd are likely to be disappointed for some time yet.

  • Comment number 10.

    Even before this match, I didn't think Liverpool were title contenders. Their squad is too thin. They will fight it out for third place with Arsenal at best, and finish fifth behind City at worst.

  • Comment number 11.

    first game of the season, first game of the season, first game of the season, first game of the season....!

    Tottenham were good, but they didn't get much of the ball in the second half after the 2nd goal, it's just that Liverpool didn't have the end product to finish them off. It's like Usain Bolt losing a race and then someone writing a big article about how he's lost it or doesn't quite cut the mustard. Ok, Liverpool aren't the best in the world, but it is only the first game of the season and they will be up there come the end.

  • Comment number 12.

    I had a prediction fest with a friend of mine and I predicted that Spurs will break the top 4 because I rate Harry very highly because of what he did for a team that was a shambles last year...they seem to have dealt with the background affairs and trimmed their right backs a bit so theyshould be good to go

  • Comment number 13.

    I really don't understand the logic of those claiming Liverpool are favourites to win the league this year.

    The past 5 seasons have seen change in the premier league, that has been talked about by both phil and hansen.

    Strength in depth is key.

    Liverpool have none.

    Basically people are basing the idea of Liverpool winning the league on how well Gerrard and Torres can sometimes play together....nothing else.

    I really think that an aging Chelsea and possibly Arsenal can give United a better run for their money this year than Liverpool. The punched way above their weight last year, can't see them doing it 2 years in a row.

  • Comment number 14.


    Liverpool lost, must be because they were poor...
    Everton destroyed by Arsenal, also because Everton were poor...

    Good thing for Spurs and Arsenal that their opposition just layed down and let the other team walk it.

    Seriously, can one pundit give some praise to Spurs or Arsenal for their performances. Time will tell whether these games resulted from the strengths of the victors or the failings of the losers, or were just random "one off's"

  • Comment number 15.

    Not much lost probably a good time for a wake up call. I only hope Arsenal don't peak earlier then they should.

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    I really hope spurs do well. i love rednapp, he is a quality manager.

  • Comment number 18.

    a good conclusion and summary of the status of both teams following yesterdays display.

    However, if the logic to make Liverpool favourites for the league was based on only losing 2 games and eradicating some of the draws from last term. Then that believe will be eroded if their second loss follows soon after yesterdays game.

    Suspect Benitez might be back in the transfer window before it closes.

  • Comment number 19.

    In reply to Bananazurri - I would disagree totally on Johnson. He was a disaster, failing to control the ball, did not make ONE tackle all afternoon, and his forays up the wing usually ended with him kicking the ball at a defender and he costs 17 millions!! But then we all (except Benetiz) knew he was no better know than when Chelsea sold him.
    Poor Torres. He was battered from pillar to post by the rugged Spurs defenders and looked mighty sick of it all at the end. I wonder how much longer he will go on fighting a lone battle? Why does Benetiz keep playing 5 across the middle? Get Kuyt up alongside Torres to give some help. Mind you I doubt if Liverpool will come up against a team as physical as Spurs. There were some pretty heavy tackles going in which referee Dowd tended to ignore.

  • Comment number 20.

    As long as Liverpool have no back up for Gerrard or Torre they are in trouble.As they showed today with both playing they will struggle to make the top four.Inevitably as the season progresses one or both will be injured and they will be a very average team.

  • Comment number 21.

    Phil,
    I was actually looking forward to ur article through the night, going by the previous week's claim!!! And, surely u have delivered....(u would have wished Liverpool delivered too....ahahahahhha)
    On a serious note now. Here u go against the grains of tested means of success in football again in this article.
    1. "Again, it is ludicrously premature to proclaim the sale of Alonso as the moment Liverpool's attempt to unseat Manchester United was holed below the waterline. Aquilani's introduction will place the deal in its true context, but on the evidence of this loss, he cannot get fit quick enough."
    Reviews have not particular showed aquillani to be capable of consistently delivering to the standards that are being stacked up for him....so, does it not occur to you that Liverpool's success is being undermined by this argument.... As much as I sometimes feel that Fergie goes over board...it's worth noting that i agree that teams would have noted LFC and achieving the same standards as last season would be a tall order...but time will tell!
    .
    .
    2. "Benitez, having dealt with Dowd, did not miss 26-year-old fourth official Stuart Attwell with his verbal potshots either, complaining he was too young and needed to "calm down" after his assistant Sammy Lee was sent from the dug-out following a late spat sparked by those penalty claims.".........That is because ManUtd is in charge of choice of officials for the League...That is because David Gill is on board of Referees' association.....lol..Phil, don't every team suffer this same fate...Imagine what Benitez's reaction would be if what what happened to Crystal palace over the weekend happened to LFC? Another set of FACTS......
    .
    .
    3. "All in all. Not a good day for Liverpool, or indeed those of us who believe they will win the Premier League this season.
    No long-term verdict can be delivered after one game - if the same criteria were applied to Liverpool's neighbours Everton after their shocking 6-1 mauling by Arsenal, David Moyes would be told to return to his training ground and start preparing for the Championship. Liverpool's season will not be railroaded by a single defeat and Torres and Gerrard will find plenty of ways to win games in the season ahead - but there were genuine areas of concern."
    ....Would those genuine concerns remain till October? between u and I, an objective answer is yes...and by then, next year again would be their year as usual in the last 20 years!!!!
    Comparing Everton's fate to Liverpool is a misplaced one, with due respect....Everton squad just didnt get out of the block.... More so, they have got a decent bench and some players coming back from injuries....Not so with LFC....
    HOW CAN A TEAM WITH JUST QUALITY FIRST THIRTEEN WIN THE LEAGUE? What would happen if any of Reina/Mascherano/Carragher/Torres/Gerrard/Aquillani gets injured.....C'mon, be objective...or they will never get injured...
    .
    .
    4. "Benitez's decision to play Ryan Babel ahead of Yossi Benayoun was, in my opinion, mystifying or, to put it another way, wrong. Benayoun ended last season in outstanding form and it was no coincidence Liverpool's first sustained periods of pressure came after he was introduced for Babel."
    ....No doubt, even the best of coaches make mistakes with selection.....I am not going to cast aspersion on a Champions'League winning coach.....but he cant win this league in the same way!!!!
    .
    .
    Just let me know your Option B for the League......

  • Comment number 22.

    Our 1st eleven are capable of competing for the title, but the bench is thin this is where we struggle and struggled last season, if you even compare the tottenham bench they had much more options to change a game and that what we lack, make or break season for ryan babel, id love to see young Nemeth given a chance YNWA

  • Comment number 23.

    8) Bananazurri

    You summed up each player's contribution perfectly.

  • Comment number 24.

    As usual Liverpool have started slowly, as they have done almost every season since Rafa has been in charge, only difference is that our first competitive game was in the League this time and not a Champions league qualifier against some San Marino peasants.
    Liverpool have got to improve, plain and simple, their was not much I saw from any of the players yesterday that gave me confidence that this year will be ours. I don’t think Alonso would have made a blind bit of difference, apart from getting the ball to Gerrard a little further up the field so he didn’t have to drop so deep.
    It is early days yet but already we are 3 points behind our rivals, and the start that Chelsea have got they could be out of site by October.
    I Think Rafa has to drop Gerrard into the Alonso role and let Benayoun play behind Torres until the new guy is fit, Babel can be used as an impact player until he can prove that he is worthy of a place in the team.

  • Comment number 25.

    My friend Phil McNulty
    Will have some real difficulty
    In sticking to his bold claim
    Liverpool will take the title again
    In face of the opening reality.

  • Comment number 26.

    Fair comment Phil.
    I watched the pre season games, and it was obvious midfield is going to be a concern. Even when aquiliani is fit he will have to hit the ground running, not easy after a 6 month lay off.
    most reds felt the same post Athletico. Rieras return will help, benayoun must start, push Kuyt up front to support Torres. Babel looks a liability, but he still being played on the wrong side. He won't be sold as the squad is so thin.
    I said Alonso's abscence will drop us a league place come May, after yesterdays performance that may have been a conservative estimate.

  • Comment number 27.

    hold your horse's, they seem to have done a usain bolt.
    Agianst poor little hull, chelsea, socre a winner with nano seconds to go. man u only score 1 against birmingham,and the season is over lol.
    didnt liverpool get the exact same result at the lane last year, when liverpool came second ?
    sensationalism is all this article is.
    Redknapp and tottenham are a good team, hadnt lost at home since last november, yet liverpool are expected to win ? come on everybody ! lets just wait and see how everybody else does at the lane before we get all excited about this so called terrible result.

  • Comment number 28.

    I heard Arsene Wenger saying that to buy 5 or more players in any transfer window is too much and disrupts a squad.. I'm not saying Arsene is the oracle on the game but he seems to know a bit..

    Rafa, since he came in, has done this and more most years.. His 1st season I can understand as he tries to make his impression but it should be dwindling after this as he starts to get his squad together..

    I personally think Rafa has been given too much money at times at Liverpool and there has been a bit of a ' I want ' mentality to him..

  • Comment number 29.

    It was a lightweight performance from Liverpool but it's the first game of the season and losing away to a much improved Spurs side isn't a massive blow.

    I definitely think there is an argument to play 4-4-2 with a midfield diamond until Aquilani is fit. Maybe Rafa decided it was too attacking for this type of game but I'd really like to see it make an appearance soon. Personally I like to see Gerrard playing slightly deeper, especially now that we are missing Alonso's creativity and ability to keep the ball moving.

  • Comment number 30.

    I have to say that I am a little worried for us this season. Man Utd will be there as they always are. Chelsea also. Arsenal have improved it would seem, and with all that is happening at Man City, it's going to be tough. We haven't strenghtened at all really.

    We've lost a vital part of the team in Alonso, with the supposed replacement injured. Johnson as a areplacement for Arbeloa is pretty decent, but we haven't really strengthened at all.

    After coming so close last season and only losing twice, to start this campaign with Lucas in the first XI and Voronin on the bench is deeply disappointing for me.

  • Comment number 31.

    In my opinion, Benitez complains about the referee everytime Liverpool loses. He doesn't admit the Spurs were the better side on the day.

  • Comment number 32.

    Why on earth Benitez would play Babel ahead of Benayoun beats me. The guy is an idiot and costed Liverpool last season with his negativity.

    The earlier he is sacked, the sooner Liverpool can hope to win anything

  • Comment number 33.

    Not a great day for Liverpool. Spurs away is not an easy start, but I think this highlights how much Alonso will be missed in the bigger games, where liverpool did so well last season.

    Aqualini has quality but is a big gamble. People talk about him providing a new attacking dimension but he has never completed a season for Roma that could be described as succesful. Instead he has been continuously promising but injured. He is also moving to a new league and a new culture so I wouldn't expect him to be an instant success. There are also questions around how a new attacking central midfielder will fit in with Gerrard.

    I think when Liveprool realised Alonso was likely to go, they should have fought harder to get Gareth Barry. Their strength is the Gerrard/Torres partnership and getting the ball to them in the right positions. Without a midfield prompter to do that, they will struggle...

  • Comment number 34.

    As a liverpool fan maybe i'm biased and living in fantasy land. but i think rafa planned to lose for 2 reasons:
    1. It would take the pressure of us as being favorites
    2. It would send a message to our stingy owners that we need to make some signings before the transfer window closes...a creative attacking player eg silva.

  • Comment number 35.

    Ah, Benitez blaming all and sundry for Liverpool's faults - now the season has truly begun!

    And what is it about pundits and their obsession with misusing the word 'irony'? To be ironic is to make a comment where the intended meaning is the opposite of the literal one. So, Benitez polishing his glasses with 'dramatic irony' would be correct only if he thought the ref was seeing clearly. His actions, rather than being ironic, were a direct and critical comment aimed at the ref regarding his inability to see the world through Rafa's eyes.

  • Comment number 36.

    If I recall clearly, there was an even more BRAZEN trip on Berbatov in teh 18-yard box by a Birmingham playerand I didn't hear Fergie make any noise about it!

  • Comment number 37.

    Few comments about how jaded Fernando Torres looked. He has played a lot of football over the last two years but I take the hints at "burn out" with a huge pinch of salt. He had a bad day and received little service - happens to the best and he is world-class.

    I disagree with the suggestions Rafael Benitez should move Steven Gerrard back to a more orthodox midfield role. He is perfect in the space just off Torres - rather than switching Gerrard, Liverpool need to find a way to supply him, and we have to remember this was only one game and Benitez will be working on that area.

    Liverpool's squad depth (or lack of it) is a concern. Spurs had far more options available to them to change the game yesterday, and vastly more experienced ones at that.

    And to TakeMeHome2United...I have no Option B for the title after one game. How fickle do you think I am?? I'm wounded.

    Let's hear more from Spurs fans. Great performance. How far can you go this season? Do you need more players?

    And to sevenseaman (or The Bard as we should call him) - criticism for me in verse. Love that - nice one.

  • Comment number 38.

    34. At 09:25am on 17 Aug 2009, rafalabamba wrote:
    As a liverpool fan maybe i'm biased and living in fantasy land. but i think rafa planned to lose for 2 reasons:
    1. It would take the pressure of us as being favorites
    2. It would send a message to our stingy owners that we need to make some signings before the transfer window closes...a creative attacking player eg silva.

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

    Chelsea are bookmakers favourites. As for taking the pressure off, in the hyped world of the premiership Liverpool are now a home draw with Stoke away from a crisis. Not sure how that takes the pressure off...

  • Comment number 39.

    New season, same difference ?

    Utd get another scruffy 1-0 win BUT the important thing is they beat a team they should beat.

    Liverpool, one game only, yes, and Tottenham away harder yes BUT come on.

    Utd last season picked up only 5 points out of 18 in winning only 1 of 6 games against the other top 4 teams but picked up 85 out of 96 against the "lesser" teams

    The point is this

    If you win the games you should do, you win will the league title

    EASILY - if you also break even on your head to head to against the other top 4 teams.

    LESS COMFORTABLY - if your head to head is like Utd's last season.

    The point I make is that Utd lost just 11 points against the "lesser" teams last season, often winning ugly with 1-0 scorelines.

    That has to be Liverpool's benchmark. Yes, Tottenham away is one of the harder games BUT hey you want to be prospective champions ? What are you ? Mice or Men ? They are not Barcelona !!!!

    Remember last seasons end of season run when a needs must policy of winning was the only object ? Everyone remembers the Howard Webb pen at OT which probably gave them 3 points they were not going to get but remember Middlesbrough v Liverpool, a Boro team that could not win a game before they met Liverpool and couldnt win one after either. Well those 3 points were pretty crucial.

    NOBODY LOSES A TITLE ON THE FIRST DAY BUT IT LESSENS THE ROOM FOR SLIP UPS. LIVERPOOL NOW HAVE 8 POINTS TO PLAY WITH AGAINST THE LESSER TEAMS BASED ON UTDS PERFORMANCE LAST SEASON, 2 defeats and a draw which for a team having title ambitions has to be the target.


    THE CHALLENGE FOR LIVERPOOL IS SIMPLE - IF YOU CANNOT CONSISTENTLY BEAT THE TEAMS YOU SHOULD, HOME AND AWAY, FORGET IT.



  • Comment number 40.

    Most Liverpool fans saw this coming, it was a dismal pre-season and at no time did we perform in a game that replicated Premiership tempo and competetiveness.
    People need to stop talking about Alonso though, he's gone and that's that, the more pressing issue is in defence where Insua looks a little podgy and doesn't offer a lot, and where we have two fit 1st team centre backs who collide with each other and leaves us one, Carragher, who's idea of distribution is to punt it downfield. Last season we were in a position where we not only had Carragher and Skrtel, but Hyypia was always available and Agger turned up from time to time as well. Out wide we didn't have Johnson but we had a very capable Arbeloa, Aurelio was fit for a large part of the season and Dossena sometimes appeared. Fast forward to yesterday and it was a very different story. Benitez needs to sign at least another utility defender who can play all across the back four.
    Outside of defence there isn't a lot wrong apart from we are still very much reliant on Torres staying fit. This obviously bothered Benitez last season because he bought Keane for big money. Yes this season he doesn't seem to be as bothered. Believe me, he should be, we need a top bracket striker to at least put on the bench. Torres gets battered and bruised in EVERY game, it's foolish to think he won't get injured.

  • Comment number 41.

    Liverpool always start off a bit slow, but usually get a bit of luck and decisions going for them. Benitez might want to remember that.

    We'll see properly in another 9 games when the teams have all settled into the new season properly, if they're still struggling to perform their best then, well then it's time to bury their title ambitions for yet another season.

    Which wouldn't surprise me, after all I've heard "next season will be Liverpool's season" every year for the best part of a decade, and it never is.

    Benitez might get them another CL cup, but I can't see him getting them the EPL.

  • Comment number 42.

    Different season, same Liverpool based articles from the unashamedly pro-Scouse BBC. What about the performances of Tottenham and Arsenal? Please can we not have another season based on Liverpool.

  • Comment number 43.

    It would be nice if we use a 4-4-2 against Stoke and Villa. I would like to see Kuyt partner Torres as we are short of strikers and have plenty of cover on the right wing. Gerard should drop back to partner Mascharano as Lucas offers no creativity. Benayoun should definitely start on either the left or right. If Reira is not fit I would Babel on the right and Benayoun on the left. My team for Stoke would be: Reina, Johnson, Carra, Skrtel, Inusa (I can see Dossena starting). Benayoun (right wing), Gerard, Mash, Babel (left wing), Kuyt, Torres.

  • Comment number 44.

    4. At 07:49am on 17 Aug 2009, afcjonwood wrote:

    The Bias towards Liverpool has probably damaged them too, fans are IMO falsely believing they are "favorites" (a certain lawro for instance).

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

    Actually, in his defence, it's pretty much only Lawro who hasn't tipped them for the title this season.

  • Comment number 45.

    "Mind you I doubt if Liverpool will come up against a team as physical as Spurs. There were some pretty heavy tackles going in which referee Dowd tended to ignore."

    hehe.. Sorry mate but if you think Spurs are the most physical team Liverpool will meet this year you're in for a surprise.

  • Comment number 46.

    If I was a Liverpool fan, I wouldn't be overly worried about this one result. Yes, Torres had an off-day but as has been pointed out, he was starved of decent service. This is more surprising for Gerrard as we've come to expect him to generate his own service when the team aren't properly performing.

    Either way, both are world class and that will tell over the course of a season.

    I would be more concerned about Carragher. I realise that I may be slightly alone here, but I think his performances have deteriorated over the last 12 months and this was reflected again in his performance at White Hart Lane. Whereas the front two are almost guaranteed to come good very soon, I think the question marks over JC are more permanent and that we could be seeing the beginning of the decline of one of the great Liverpool defenders.

    Must say that I don't mean to sound overly dramatic and also that I hope I'm wrong, but its just a relection of how I've seen him play for a while.

    Any thoughts from Liverpool fans on this? Have never really heard him criticised before by a red.

  • Comment number 47.

    The loss of Alonso is huge............he got 6 players sent off in premier games last year with his disgraceful antics and Liverpool won those games, usually with late goals against tiring opponents. He will be missed by Liverpool fans, butvery few others

  • Comment number 48.

    it's funny to hear people matter-of-factly talking positively about Spurs' squad depth and quality compared to Liverpool's. everyone bangs on about how Benitez is supposedly hamstrung in the transfer market, and how he had to rebuild the squad from scratch (a European Cup winning squad). but then you look at Spurs and the mess they were in before Redknapp took over and within a year their squad is apparently already better than Liverpools - despite having little or no cash thrown at it in comparison. how much longer will Liverpool let Benitez continue wasting their millions? fail again this season and that'll be that. which would be a shame, because his comedy value will be missed. then again, I suppose we got over Liverpool sacking Houllier fairly quickly.

  • Comment number 49.

    Ah.... the start of a new season and the same old hysterics, snide comments and plain rubbish. As an LFC fan let me start by saying well done to Spurs, you were the better side. Liverpool were woeful and didn't deserve anything from the game. We played better in the second half when that useless lump of lard Babel was taken off and Benayoun came on, he was a breath of fresh air. Rafa should start with him all the time and get shut of Babel quick! It's only one game so I'm not worried yet, plus ManU and Chelsea could easily have dropped points at the weekend. At least I'm not an Everton fan - LOL!

  • Comment number 50.

    All seems a bit reactive Phil.
    You were tipping Lpool for the title last week - and they didn't have ALonso then.

  • Comment number 51.

    In the post match interview Benitez looked shaken, angry and confused and when asked about the penalties he really looked like he was going to explode! I know it's only the first game of the season, but I think it's only a matter of time before he cracks up again and has another massive rant like the one aimed at Ferguson last year. I wonder who his next target will be?

    http://www.loserscomesecond.com/

  • Comment number 52.

    Torres looked tired. Dont forget he has barely had a break this summer !

  • Comment number 53.

    #50 Well last season he wrote an article titled "Liverpool on the road to glory" then one week later was congratulating Man Utd for winning the league before it was official. Very fickle.

  • Comment number 54.

  • Comment number 55.

    liverpool...the most overhyped team in the premiership since its inauguration.

    ONCE AGAIN WE WOULD LIKE TO CROWN LIVERPOOL PRE-SEASON CHAMPIONS OF 2009/10.

  • Comment number 56.

    #49 Utd and Chelsea could have dropped points at the weekend, but they didn't. It pains me to use cliches, but isn't that the sign of a good team? When a side doesn't have the best of game, but they still manage to come through with the points?
    That was Liverpool's downfall last season and the difference between them and Utd and Chelsea.

  • Comment number 57.

    Phil, I can't believe you tipped liverpool for the title last week.
    They had areas of weakness clear for all to see, no alternative quality attacking options, a weak bench and a manager that's too defensively minded.
    They've done little or nothing to rectify these and have lost their best passer. If you believe that Ronaldo leaving Utd is enough to essentially bring them down to Liverpool's level then I am amazed.
    I wish them well but unless Benitez gets his chquebook out in the next 2 weeks then he's done. The only thing that's bigger and better at LFC this year is the pressure to win the title. COYS

  • Comment number 58.

    To akaTommySmith...I have stressed it is one game, we have yet to see what Aquilani will bring and Benitez will, we have to presume, be working on ensuring the midfield serves Torres and Gerrard better.

    Just a further point on Torres, no one would blame Liverpool or Benitez for feeling he needed the Confederations Cup with Spain this summer like a hole in the head after an injury-troubled season last time out, but I don't buy the idea that he is jaded. Not one bit.

    As for Spurs being physical - competitive yes but not overly-physical in any way.

    What did Spurs fans think of Sebastien Bassong? Looked outstanding on that evidence and Redknapp was eulogising about him in his post-match press conference, saying how Alan Shearer and Iain Dowie raved about him during their stint at Newcastle last season.

  • Comment number 59.

    I'm one of those non Liverpool supporters that jumps with joy every season that Benitez is in charge. Even though Liverpool have some of the greatest players in the world in their squed and one of the few genuinely intimidating sets of supporters in the PL and a history and brand that would usually lift a team to outperform, they will never win the league while they have a manager that cannot seem to get the best out of his team on ordinary weekend league ties (vs. emotion filled evening in the Champions League). Granted they came close last season but that was against an average Man U team and a struggling under Scolari Chelsea. Long live Rafa.

  • Comment number 60.

    As a Spurs fan I am obviously well pleased with the win, but our home form has always been pretty good, even against the top four. In my opinion its our game on wed that'll really show whether we are top 6 material this season.
    If we lose to Hull it'll be same old same old until May. Should we get a draw i'll be a lot more confident in the squad.

    On another note, when the teams and subs were read out before the game yesterday, I could not believe the standard of Liverpools bench. I know people knock spurs for spending a load with little return, and that might be why we have millions of pounds worth of subs, but a club the size of Liverpool to have so many unknowns in the wings was pretty shocking. I guess there are a few injury's and such but you wont win the league with a squad so thin on experience and talent.

  • Comment number 61.

    Liverpool are the most physical team in the premiership and won many games last season by bullying other teams...glad to see tehm complain now the glove is on the other hand.

    No more dodgy penalties for Liverpool this season I hope. Last season they got 12 match-winning penalties and still could not win the league!

  • Comment number 62.

    I'm afraid Benitez rants are becoming more than a little boring. He is fat becoming a laughing stock. His ridiculous rants against other clubs in general and Man U in particular, begin to look like a distinct lack of confidence.

    I think they were a possibly little unlucky not to get the one for the Voronin incident but how he could expect one for the handball I don't know.

    The ball was kicked straight at the player who's arm was in front of his chest. It was there when the ball was kicked, he didn't move it there and he did not controll it with use of the arm, it quite simply hit him.

    I think the acid test is to ask how happy would he have been if one like that was given against him.

    The simple ffacts are, that Liverpool were second best for most of the game. The expectations of this club are always higher than is realistic. If not foe Gerard and Alonso they would have struggled to be top four in recent years. Now Alonso is gone and Gerard is becoming a shadow of his former self. Showed little on Sunday and is definitely slowing down. Hype alone, will not carry you through.

  • Comment number 63.

    Benitez's decision to play Ryan Babel ahead of Yossi Benayoun was, in my opinion, mystifying or, to put it another way, wrong.

    Couldn't agree more. I think we should now send him on loan somewhere like Newcastle to see if he can find any form. The main problem with Babel is his chronic lack of matches and on his current form we don't have time for any passengers. Benny is in very good form and we looked much better with him on the pitch. Babel going out on loan would not be a problem as we still have Dossena to cover for Riera and he looked better playing there...I think it was against Utd...last season than he does playing left back.

    Other points from the game: Lucas and Mascherano were mostly anonymous-one of these 2 is going to have to push forward to support our attacks-hopefully this is being sorted out in training today.

    Kuyt and Glen Johnson need to bunk together-if that is still done by football players- so that they can get working in tandem down the right. Too many times GJ would push up to get the overlap to leave Carragher to hit the ball over the top to either Kuyt or GJ. GJ has to bring the ball forward himself and interlink with Kuyt (and someone in midfield) to get the width (diamond shaped passing we were doing so well at the end of last season). He did a good job getting the penalty but that was the only thing he could have done in that situation.

    The only other thing is that Assou-Ekkoto's free kick was a great goal however if his challenge on Voronin had been penalised then he would have been given a straight red on top of a yellow and been banned for (I think) 3 games. Wonder who would have been furious after the match if that had happened today?

    We can't play any worse than we did in the first half so lets hope that the lack of CL qualifying games before the season started are not too important in terms of our early season form and we get things back on track on Wednesday.

    This Alonso story is a non-starter because other teams have lost much more crucial players and they all won at the weekend-Utd and Arsenal just two of them.

  • Comment number 64.

    Liverpool's problems pale into insignificance in comparison to their neighbours.

    Everton are clearly on the verge of total implosion just one match into the season. A 2-1 loss at the lane is a different kettle of fish to a 6-1 drubbing at home.

  • Comment number 65.

    We need to drop Gerrard back into midfield as I don't think Lucas is good enough,play Kuyt or Benayoun behind Torres and I think we badly missed Riera on the left as Babel just aint cutting it and should be sold along with Lucas to raise money to buy David Villa.

  • Comment number 66.

    Great result for Spurs but the test will not be our results against the top four but, as always, how many points we take from the bottom four.

  • Comment number 67.

    Rafa's natural caution will do for Liverpool as usual. 2 holding midfielders and like for like subs as usual.

    Liverpool were happy to sit there and hope for inspiraiton from their world class attacking pair but Spurs closing game executed perfectly didn't allow them any time to do so.

    Spurs will of course give anyone a game but you expect when United and Arsenal face them for example they will go for Spurs with attacking line ups and match their football rather than hoping to absorb it and counter.

    Benitez needs to take the shackles off. Play Benauoun in a central playmaker role rather than Lucas. He was picking up the ball a lot when he came on. Gerrard may have to move a little deeper but he can do so.

    Harry can be very pleased. If Spurs play like that every week they can finish above Villa and Everton

  • Comment number 68.

    I wouldnt be at all suprised after seeing this game, Benitez is quickly looking for an Alonso replacement in the market as i type this message...Alonso i think was the difference yesterday. Tottenham took advantage of a psychologically sucker punched Liverpool - and fair play to them. Modric - as i predicted long ago - is a regular star of a Spurs show he is class.

  • Comment number 69.

    As an Arsenal fan I've fancied our chances far more than Liverpool's, even with our departures far out-weighing recruitment of talent. I just don't see how Liverpool are going to last the season at this rate. The team is good, although not as good as it was last time around in my opinion, but the squad is thin.

    Tottenham on the other hand have surprised me. After spending years being talked up as the team to break the top four, I think their squad this year is far better than any of those assembled under Jol. I think as in the past aspirations of making the Champions League are too hgih this year, but I don't see them being too far off. Their squad and team looks better than Villa's does, and looks like it'll give Everton a good challenge.

    I could easily see them nicking 5th depending on how City hold up throughout the year.

  • Comment number 70.

    A great performance by spurs, they are starting to look very tasty indeed, let's hope they get something out of this season as I agree that Redknapp has long been undervalued as a manager.

    As for Liverpool. Phew. It's spooky. It's as though there hasn't been a summer break, or a transfer market. Nothing significant has changed in the squad sheet. There are a few players getting on, some who just don't have the necessary bite and others who are trading on old performances.

    What we saw from Liverpool yesterday was the same old over-reliance on gerrard and torres, benayoun still not played in favour of babel, a lot of defensive holes, mascherano still being nearly-good-enough.

    I just think Liverpool need new ideas, and Rafa is not the man to deliver them.

    Round of applause to Spurs for at least providing entertaining and attacking football.

  • Comment number 71.

    This was pathetic from Liverpool with normal service being resumed from last season. Spurs deserved the game, but Liverpool should have been up for it from the outset. Benitez starts so many games negatively when he should be looking to attack at every opportunity. It has to be the PL and at least one trophy CL or FAC in order for him to retain his job.

  • Comment number 72.

    If I recall clearly, there was an even more BRAZEN trip on Berbatov in teh 18-yard box by a Birmingham playerand I didn't hear Fergie make any noise about it!

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

    Thats probably because you won the match in the end.
    Had it been Man Utd who were losing 2-1 and were denied two penalty appeals then I think Fergie would have much more to say than Rafa.

  • Comment number 73.

    Even with all the action and talking points on the pitch, Rafa noticed the 4th official's antics.
    How many complaints does the FA have to receive about Stuart Attwell before they admit they've got it wrong and take proper action? He doesn't even seem capable of acting like a 4th official, let alone the main man.
    My problem, as a Brentford supporter, is that when he's punished for his usual idiocy in the Premiership, he's 'demoted' to the lower divisions to spoil our matches instead, something he did in fine style last season by sending off Nathan Elder after 8 minutes for next to nothing.
    Just because teams are in a lower division does not mean their matches are less important. In fact, given the shoestring budget many teams are run on, often the games are more important as 2 points dropped due to a refereeing mistake can mean the difference between survival or oblivion.

    Stuart Attwell - Numerous major well-documented mistakes.
    Darren Deadman - Loves a card and often can't wait to get them out - He's already dished out 8 yellows and 1 red in 3 games this season.
    Trevor Kettle - Must come to games with his eyes put in backwards as he was the main talking point in an otherwise uninspiring match on Saturday (Brentford v Brighton) missing obvious fouls for both teams.
    Gavin Ward - Consistently ignores rough tackles then does the whole Geography teacher bit for innocuous bumps.
    Michael Oliver - The jury is still out as he's young, but the FA are insistent on fast-tracking him as well when he isn't yet experienced enough to referee top flight or important Football League games.

    The best referees are ones that aren't noticed and don't become a talking point. There are lots of them around, so why does it seem to be the controversial ones who are being fast-tracked? I guarantee Attwell will do a Poll and embarrass himself and England at a major championship if he's the man in the middle. There is so much material on Attwell, including in the major press, about this man. Shouldn't the FL play percentages and not let him near anything important?

    The FA and FL would do well to distance themselves from the above characters who do their best to ruin football matches on a regular basis by removing them from the list completely. Video evidence constantly proves the inability of these men to get it right. Why can't the FA and FL see what everyone else can?

  • Comment number 74.

    We should just sell Bentley and get in another experienced midfield enforcer...not sure who though?

    Thought Lennon looked superb on the wing and Corluka was excellent at right back.

    'Arry is showing his quality as a top level coach..

    Spurs forever...

  • Comment number 75.

    "3 points behind the main title rivals, Liverpool have to capitalise on every oppurtunity from here on"

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

    how daft a comment is that?

  • Comment number 76.

    Phil, you've started off this season as you did most of last season by writing blogs on liverpool. You've headlined it and spent the vast majority of your space talking about liverpool and then have written a paragraph or two on spurs, then in your comment (37) have asked spurs fans to comment on your article. I can't see anywhere in your blog where you've said spurs deserved the win, about how they created a large number of chances and how liverpool's only chances were the penalty and other penalty claims.

    I've also got to add that on the subject of penalties spurs could have had a couple themselves, but that's been conveniently forgotten.

    Spurs looked good, but I suspected they would. People seem to forget just how good we were under Redknapp at White Hart Lane. The only queries I had were at centre back - how would Bassong fit in and how fit was Ledley King. Having Ledley fit just adds so much confidence to supporters and the team.

    Liverpool looked poor. Created nothing. Benayoun not playing was bizarre and Gerrard and Torres were virtually anonymous. I do think that yesterday showed how much they are going to miss Alonso.

  • Comment number 77.

    Spurs were great, we were rubbish. Playing Babel ahead of Benayoun was a suprise and yet again Babel had a poor game. I know it's only the first match of the season but i've just had enough of him. He's not going to come good, i've hoped and waited, given him a chance and i just can't see him changing.

    He was hardly ever closing players down and when he had the ball he'd just run into trouble and backs out of 50-50's. Benayoun is twice the player he is.

    Spurs have a good side and although im not suprised we lost i'm really annoyed at our display. Babel and Voronin aren't fit to wear the shirt, they lack commitment and heart and should of been sold in the summer.

  • Comment number 78.

    As a Spurs fan I like to point out that if we continue our current form, we'll have 114 points at the end of the season.

    Well Phil, you did ask.

  • Comment number 79.

    Glen Johnson did show promise for Liverpool as an attacking force, winning a penalty and crossing for Torres to almost head an equaliser.

    I do not think Benitez's decision to pick Mascherano and Lucas in central midfield was a display of natural caution - these were the options open to him.

    The debate over Alonso makes the introduction of Aquilani even more eagerly-awaited. What do Liverpool fans think he will bring? Fill in some gaps for us if any of you have expert knowledge of the Italian.

    Benitez may also ponder one or two re-inforcements before the window closes. Central defence has to be examined, with Daniel Agger injured on a regular basis.

    I watched Michael Turner perform impressively for Hull at Chelsea, while in attack he might pursue an able replacement should Torres be injured/rested. I always felt Benitez should have seriously considered Michael Owen, but that ship has sailed obviously.

    Be interested to hear the views of Liverpool's fans.

  • Comment number 80.

    I don't think United get enough credit for what they did last season. If we had won the final against Barca it would have been one of our greatest seasons ever, that's how close we were.

    Also, people forget how many games we played last year. I'll remind you - 66! How many did Liverpool play? A measley 53. And they didn't have to fly to Japan halfway through the year to go and become World Champions.

    United's massively congested schedule didn't always mean we played the most beautiful flowing football but we got the job done, 1 point off our best total in a 38 game season.

    And we had injuries too. We missed Ronaldo at the start of the season. Rooney did his hamstring against Wigan and missed 6 or 7 games. Rio was in and out. Berbatov got injured with Bulgaria. Rafael, Anderson, Scholes, Evans, Carrick and Evra all had injuries too.

    Liverpool had a great season but as usual Benitez only focused on one competition but this time it wasn't in Europe. We juggled 5 competitions and still came out on top in the league, picking up another 2 of the other trophies.

    Without Ronaldo I still think we are better than Liverpool. Take Alonso out of their team and they don't stand a chance.

  • Comment number 81.

    Ive never considered us favourites, i know that on our day we can beat anyone as we have proven, its consistency thats the issue, we would be much better off playing kuyt in his true position for now in the hole behind torres, then drop gerrard to midfield, play benayoun on the left maybe el zhar on the right, give the kid a chance. we need a right winger and a creative mid. should get toulalan or bodmer or somebody for midfield and then someone like marquinhos or joaquin for the wing.

  • Comment number 82.

    Liverpool have given the other big clubs a 3 point head start but that isn't the biggest talking point. The greater issue is that they were played of the park by Spurs and lacked someone to control the game in the middle (Alonso). I know they lost at the Lane last season but that was bad luck. Yesterday they were outplayed and if Keane had taken his chances it would have been over by half time.

    I do wonder if they can do as well against the big clubs as they did last season - without Alonso the main supply of quality ball to Gerrard and Torres isn't there.

  • Comment number 83.

    It's far too early to be able to say anything about any team yet. Liverpool looked a bit flat, but Spurs played well and deserved the win. I sincerely hope that Liverpool don't challenge for the title, but one match tells us nothing. Chelsea weren't great, and nor were Man Utd. Arsenal were very good - does that mean they are going to be up there at the end of the season? Who knows.

    The transfer window is still open, and I think Chelsea will bring somebody in, as will Man City, and maybe Man Utd.

    Well done to Wigan though, what a result!

  • Comment number 84.

    as a pool fan, it has always puzzled me why benitez is still at anfield.
    we have a very strong youth team with some potentially great players, we aquire their services for the club, then dont give them a first team chance and loan them out to other clubs!
    take jay spearing for example, he gets a chance at anfield against real madrid, he stops the runners coming through the centre, then turns up from deep at the edge of their box, a true sammy lee style player who is very effective - he should be in the middle of the park every week, but is not given the opportunities!

    liverpool football club historically, aquire players, then train them into playing the way we play, what is the use of doing this, then loaning them out for 1 or 2 seasons to other clubs, before selling them on?
    the alonso argument doesnt stack up. good with the ball he maybe, he was also slow and often teams played one-twos around him when at the back, when he was caught in a forward position, others had to cover him if a break came from an opposition with pace.
    im all for giving managers time to mould and shape a squad etc, but barring the european cup win, which was houllier's squad, what has he done?
    its time to bring alan hansen out of tv world, and into the job he was destined to do, return our great club back to its bread and butter - winning the league.

  • Comment number 85.

    Very early days, but it is slightly humourous that the Liverpool contingent have been louder than ever with the usual "this is our year" statement peddled for the last 20 years. (Particularly Hansen and Lawrenson)

    Like most replies on here though, i think this was more a case of Spurs playing very well rather than Liverpool badly.

    I think Spurs will replace Everton in 5th spot this year if they play as solidly as that all season, though City may have something to say about that. (I was shocked when City sold Corluka to Spurs, thought he was a fantastic player, and he played v. well yesterday)

    Both City and Spurs would be looking at the top four for a weak link, before the season started most pundits would say Arsenal were the most vulnerable. I'll be watching Stoke (who against many thought Benitez lost it last season) on Wednesday for signs that maybe this opinion should change.

  • Comment number 86.

    Speaking as a Liverpool fan, Tottenham were the better side to be honest. Also, Benayoun should have been on from the start, because he looked more energetic than Babel. Yes, the penalties were clear-cut and quite simply should have been given, but we can't really blame the officials; Tottenham appeared as if they wanted it more than us.
    But it's not too late. The transfer window's open if Rafa wants to make one more addition if he's not satisfied (although that signing may take time to integrate) and losing the first game is not the end of the world. They just need to look at their faults and improve, and the likes of Lucas and Babel truly need to justify why Rafa brought them to Anfield.

  • Comment number 87.

    I never had Liverpool as more likely to win the title than us (Utd) before this weekend and have them even further behind now. A lot of pundits were stating that if they could convert those shoddy draws against mid and bottom table clubs, they would win the league. However, this is on a presumation (a rather large one too) that they would do as well against the other big sides as they did last. I, for one, will eat my hat if Liverpool take 6 points off us this season. And i'd be surprised if its not reversed this season. SAF is going to want victories against them even more than usual after last season.

  • Comment number 88.

    Firstly - Benitez spent last season saying that
    Only Mr Ferguson can comment on the fixtures without censure or words to that effect... then before his team have kicked a ball in anger he bemoans the fact they are playing Spurs away.... Ermmmm last time i checked you play each team home and away, and thats pretty disrespectful to the likes of "small teams" like Hull and Birmingham.... (i don't think they are small teams but rafa thinks any club from 5th place down are)
    Secondly he fails to realise his team were outplayed and didn't create anything but wants 3 yes 3 penalties on the opening day.. sorry Rafa, lets give you the league now shall we and let the others play for european places...
    Thirdly he goes on about the "Respect" campaign for referees and "mr Ferguson" ignoring this... then intimates that the referee in charge needs glasses... very classy, I am sure all the hacks present loved it.. and also claims that Stuart Atwell is too young and needs to calm down....(Maybe if you got Sammy Lee to calm down and keep his mouth in check there would be no need for the 4th official to intervene)
    Again very respectful. He can't ref cos he's too young???

    Lets see if his team can break down the small team from Stoke on Wednesday like they did last year... and then see his reaction if they can't.

    Liverpools bench looked bereft of class (Benayoun excepted) and the youngsters are way too inexperienced to mount a serious challenge...

  • Comment number 89.

    To mtrenners - can't see where I have said Spurs deserved to win?

    I would respectfully suggest saying "well beaten by a superior Spurs side" covers that surely?.

  • Comment number 90.

    The other problem obvious to me, other than a poor central midfield, was playing Carragher and Skrtel - two slow defenders against Defoe and Keane - two quick strikers. Carragher/Skrtel and Agger is fine but we really need another quick, young centre back (Bassong fits the bill ironically) for games when Agger is not fit because, unless they're marking a target man all afternoon, Carragher and Skrtel will get beaten for pace all the time as was shown by the 2nd free-kick which led to Spurs' goal. All in all, we were poor so at least Tottenham deserved their victory this time.

  • Comment number 91.

    Every time Mascherano makes a dodgy challenge, he throws himself to the floor to deflect attention. Ask him how his ribs are today ... I bet he's fine. Mind you, he's probably in pain a little further down after managing to keep up running backwards, with Lennon running forwards.

    But this game wasn't about Liverpool. They don't deserve their own article at all. The game was about the first time Spurs have won on the opening day of the season in years. And won well, in front of a very appreciative crowd who were vocal all the way through the game - apart from that period of time it took to take the ball out of their net after the pen and restart from the centre spot.

    Nobody's mentioning the revelation that was Huddlestone yesterday. I would like to bet that 'Arry used the pre-season games to give him some defensive responsibilities, and it's made him into a better footballer.

    Liverpool? Why have they got their own blog? They've not won the league in 20 years - and played some boring rubbish on the way. It's Spurs you wanna be looking at.

  • Comment number 92.

    Johnson was the only bright spark on a dull performance by us and he will help us attain a few more points against the more defensive teams where he will have more freedom to push foward.

    On Aquilani i have high hopes for him, i'm not pleased we signed him for £20 though as he has been injured a hell of a lot. He has however said he was mis-diagnosed with an injury which led it to become a more serious injury and i hope that was the case. My only concern is even if he is a fantastic buy and lives up to the standard of Alonso we could of already thrown the title away before he gets back. Then it won't make a blind bit of difference how good he is.

    2 months is a long time to wait and plenty of time to drop points. I just hope the players get their act together and Benitez just cuts out the dead wood now.

  • Comment number 93.

    Truth of the matter is that it is early days yet. So far liverpool are in the same position they were last year with regard to Tottenham away - Tottenham won last year! In December last year we all gave United no hope and yet the league was won. It is far too early to make any predications - other wise we might just decide to give the premership to Wigan or Arsenal or Stoke!

  • Comment number 94.

    Accurate as ever Phil. I'm also one of those in the "this is Liverpools year" camp and think no Reds fan should be disheartened by this result. Dont forget all of the top four failed to win at WHL last year and we haven't lost at home since November - anyone thinking Spurs would get rolled over at home hasn't been paying attention to the good work Harry has done.

    My concern for Liverpool was how quiet Gerrard was for 90 minutes, apart from his well taken pen. The longer the game went on, the deeper and deeper he got, meaning no telling link up play with Torres. Benitez needs to instil in the players just how important Stevie G is and trying to spring him as early as possible in the attack is perhaps the key to releasing Nando. Definately positives though, i thought Johnson looked a threat when running at pace a tour defence, Reina showed glimpses of why he has been officially the best keeper in the last two seasons in the Prem and in Benayoun there is a truly class and elegant footballer, similar to our Luka Modric.

    As for Spurs, the true test awaits in our away fixtures. If we can pick up a good amount of wins on the road we'll be knocking on the door of the top six. It was the main reason for our success under Jol when we nearly broke the top four monopoly - win home games, make yourself hard to beat away from home, this is what is required to join the elite in the prem.

    Great weekend of football though, life is far more worth living when your watching the best league in the world.

  • Comment number 95.

    Another hasty and premature article from Mr. Phil. So quickly has the air of "champions" vanished from Liverpool fans that it almost seems funny especially when u consider the incessant barge of Liverpool-are-the-champions-this-season argument was going on just few days back.
    Cmon, it was just a single game.

  • Comment number 96.

    Liverpool weren't very good but Tottenham were excellent, I can really see them getting a top six spot and maybe push for fourth. Liverpool will need to improve if they are going to challenge for the title.

    http://plfootball.awardspace.info/

  • Comment number 97.

    I think Mastersj #59 has 'hit the nail on the head' with Liverpool -its Rafa's mentality which is their chronic problem. I am sorry about that because although not a Liverpool fan, I quite liked Benitez for (at the time, a couple of years back) resisting the advances of Real Madrid, to become their manager and his attempts to hold on to Alonso.
    However the evidence is becoming almost indisputable - last year because 'needs must' and after the wins over Real Madrid and Man Utd, it was a though Rafa said to himself, " actually we can play some devastating attacking football when we go on the front foot" and Liverpool did for the last part of the season 'look the part'. Everyone (including Phil Mc) thought they would start off this year where they finished last year; especially after he 'broke the bank' to buy an acknowledge attacking full back. Therefore despite Alonso's departure, those pundits desperate for it 'to be Liverpool's Year' (but rarely predicting this) came out of the woodwork.
    But as we have seen this weekend Rafa's selection and approach to the game is still basically negative - I am not taking anything away from Spurs for who this actually could be 'their season' to break in to the top four -certainly their manager is more astute and knows how to fashion an 'attack minded' winning side, when he has the players available.
    Rafa though? don't think he is ever going to change, he seems to battle within himself with his own 'play it safe demons' (that maybe why he rants occasionally?) therefore whats the odds he will be the first 'big name' manager casualty this season? - these must have gone down after Sunday?

  • Comment number 98.

    greenmarkfo, your comments about Alonso are rediculous. Its true that 5 or 6 players got sent off for tackling Alonso last season. Thats not because he dives or cheats - its clear he's a great professional!

    The reason is that he was outstanding at not letting anyone get close to him... first time passes or shielding the ball, making quick turns into space with his awareness. The result is that I expect he is one of the most frustrating players to play against in the league! Frustration results in desperate and dirty challenges - off they go.

    I also disagree with a few comments about Insua. I think he's a very good player who will prove he is a top 4 player.

    Finally, I disagree with Phil... until Aquilani returns, Gerrard needs to move back to the midfield. If anyone can replace Alonso, its him. Put Benayoun in his best position - behind the striker, and we're going to look a lot stronger again.

    Hopefully Riera and Agger will return to fitness soon to improve the standard of available player to us too. Plus another signing or two! Raid Real Madrid for Van Der Vaart & Snejder!

  • Comment number 99.

    I think our squad looks small.When I looked at the bench yesterday I was surprised by the lack of quality.Can't really blame Rafa if he is not being given the funds needed to buy quality players.Time for the owners to give Rafa the funds.I thought as business men they would know you have to speculate to accumulate.Still a bit surprised though with the signing of Aquilani,him being unavailable and his injury history.Hope he proves to be a good signing but we really need players like David Villa and Silva,also a quality centre back and left back would be nice....

  • Comment number 100.

    34. At 09:25am on 17 Aug 2009, rafalabamba wrote:

    As a liverpool fan maybe i'm biased and living in fantasy land. but i think rafa planned to lose for 2 reasons:
    1. It would take the pressure of us as being favorites
    2. It would send a message to our stingy owners that we need to make some signings before the transfer window closes...a creative attacking player eg silva.
    -------------------------------------------------
    This is my favourite comment, it made me laugh out loud

 

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