10 November 2009

“You Have No MAH-BLES”

I probably filled my quota of Major League references with the one about Jobu a few weeks ago. I apologize to international readers and those who aren’t connoisseurs of marvelously cheesy sports movies, but this is too apt. Plus, it’s Major League 2.

Just like weak-hitting, voodoo apostate Pedro Cerrano, right now, Liverpool has no marbles.

I wish there was video of the title quote, but this will have to do.

In the previous match review and comments, I fervently complained about Liverpool settling for crosses and long balls in the last 10 minutes after running at defenders to some success for the first 80. Johnson, Benayoun, and Ngog doing that led Liverpool’s best threats, and led to Ngog’s goal and the penalty. It didn’t help when Benayoun went off injured in the 78th, with Babel unable to fill the same role. Unsurprisingly, chances were harder and harder to come by as the game went on – in complete contrast to the multitude of late winners last season.

The more I think about it, the more I can’t escape the feeling that Liverpool players were simply afraid to give the ball away in the later stages. And fear rarely helps in football. It’s one thing to run at defenders at 0-0 or 1-0 in the first half. It’s another to do it in the dying breaths of the game, where a giveaway could lead to an opposition break when Liverpool’s thoroughly exposed.

So the team, already fragile from this dire, dire streak, settled for the easy way out. It’s easy to pump a cross or over-the-top ball into the box, and it’s less likely that the individual player will be picked out for a mistake or that the opposition could counter. So even though the team needed all three points, no one had the marbles to seek out the winner, in the manner that had led to Liverpool’s best play.

I don’t know whether it’s because of individual weaknesses or Benitez’s innate conservatism. And I probably don’t want to know. It just needs to be remedied. Players other than Gerrard and Torres need to take matters into their own hands. Players other than those two and Benayoun need to stand up and be counted when the game’s on the line. Everyone needs to play with a chip on their shoulder, as if their career depends on it, because Rafa’s stint as Liverpool manager and this club’s fortunes as a whole actually do depend on it.

It’s time to spit upon hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats. This team’s capable of it; we’ve seen the opposition put to the sword before, whether it’s top-half Villa last season or last place Hull in this. Football isn’t the rock of Sisyphus; shit that rolls downhill can shift direction with one good game.

Liverpool needs to find its marbles. And fast.

1 comment :

epiblast said...

"Everyone needs to play with a chip on their shoulder, as if their career depends on it, because Rafa's stint as Liverpool manager and this club's fortunes as a whole actually do depend on it."

Those players' chances of remaining at Liverpool also depend on it. If Benítez goes, there is no guarantee that underperforming squad members might also be tossed aside. And that list is long at this point.