Positives from the Arsenal Game



The late drama in the match between Arsenal and Liverpool was a fitting end to a game which, although not always pleasing on the eye, was a perfect example of passionate football at its best. Although both teams needed a win and a draw was almost as good as a defeat for both sides, Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool would probably be the happier of the two with a point from a vital away game despite three forced substitutions.

The Liverpool performance was an optimum mixture of determination, passion and the willingness to go an extra mile for the team as well as the other players. Regardless of the final result, which no doubt was commendable after the injuries and the late goal from Arsenal, the performance as a whole furnished some significant positives for the future of the club.

Kenny Dalglish has shown us that he is willing to back the youngsters and has enough faith to throw them into the mix without any hesitation. Although the early injury to Aurelio forced his hand, Dalglish was positive enough to replace him with young Jack Robinson rather than take the Kyrgiakos and Carragher shifting to left back route, despite the fact that Theo Walcott was a genuine threat down Arsenal’s right. From that bold move stemmed what, in my opinion, was the most positive thing for Liverpool in Sunday’s match – the youngsters making an effective transition to top level football without major hiccups. Jack Robinson’s performance in the left back position, along with that of John Flanagan at right back, showed the world how hard work behind the scenes pays rich dividends on the field. The people involved with the budding players must be lauded for nurturing talented youngsters like Robinson, Flanagan and Martin Kelly (to name a few) and preparing them for the game at the highest level. With the soaring prices in the football transfer market, it is imperative for the clubs to invest in an excellent youth setup because for each player that makes a successful transition to the first team, millions of dollars are saved. In addition to that, the possible hindrance of the home-grown rule is also bypassed comfortably. Add to that the fact that the youngsters who come through the youth system already share a good chemistry on and off the field and it becomes obvious that a good youth setup is sine qua non for progress of a top club.

In the absence of the injured Steven Gerrard, there was a general feeling of apprehension that the midfield would not be strong enough to take on strong Premier League teams. With Raul Meireles being employed on the left, Dalglish decided to back another young player in the form of Jay Spearing to fill the spot vacated by the talismanic skipper. While it is next to impossible to replace Steven Gerrard for the sheer force he brings to the Liverpool team, Jay Spearing did a commendable job in the middle of the park and his partnership with the ever-improving Lucas Leiva lent a much needed solidarity to the Liverpool team. The tactical genius of Kenny Dalglish must be praised regarding this choice also. While his predecessor had an uncanny fascination for Christian Poulsen, Dalglish decided to back a player with potential and the determination which is the hallmark of great Liverpool players. What Spearing lacks in physical stature, he more than makes up in energy and diligence. Being only 22 years of age, he certainly has the potential to improve and become an even better player with more experience in important matches.

Lucas was probably one of the most criticised players over the past few seasons. Most fans could not understand why he was played at all by Rafa Benitez. However, the persistence has certainly paid off and how! He has been one of the best players for Liverpool this season. His consistency, awareness and the zeal to dash thirty or forty yards to cover the defenders have added another dimension to the Liverpool midfield. As a matter of fact, he has taken over the holding midfielder’s role so comfortably that the sulking Mascherano has hardly been missed. Also, the number of bookings picked up by the Brazilian and consequent suspensions are much less as compared to Mascherano which is a big plus when it comes to team selection, especially for a squad ravaged by injuries to key players.

Dirk Kuyt has always been praised for his relentless efforts and never-say-die attitude. While he has his share of critics, most of them would probably be swinging in his favour given the performances he has put in recently. He was calmness personified as he slotted home the equaliser with the last kick of the match and the quality of his penalty was such that it would be impossible for any goalkeeper to save it. To come up with a shot of that quality in an environment like the Emirates, with the entire tie hanging in balance, requires nerves of steel and the Dutchman showed why he is a favourite of the Liverpool fans. Any club would love to have a player like him – a player who puts the team ahead of personal objectives and preferences! The extension to his contract was certainly well-deserved and augurs well for the club.

Talking of positives in this Liverpool side, one person that cannot be overlooked is Kenny Dalglish, or King Kenny as he is called by the fans. He has brought a spark to the entire squad, a camaraderie that had been missing for quite some time and the willingness to perform collectively for the team. The much needed boost to the youngsters and the effort to build up play rather than hoof the ball up the pitch have been welcome changes for the club. After Flanagan’s inadvertent collision with Jamie Carragher, it was good to see Dalglish speak to the youngster, probably advising him to get the accident out of his head and concentrate on the match. A successful manager is not all about football tactics and ingenious chalkboard analyses; personnel management is also a key prerequisite. Kenny Dalglish has certainly been impeccable from that aspect, be it in his dealings with the squad at his disposal or with the media. His jovial attitude is a welcome relief from the fretful and irate managers predominant nowadays.

The summer break will be a crucial period for the club. The owners have to show their intention to back the club with some useful investments in the transfer department because only quality fresh recruits will convince players like Pepe Reina to commit his future to the club. The arrival of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll in the January transfer window has already added to the attacking potential of the side, so much so that an off-form and irritable Fernando Torres has been not missed at all. In fact, the addition of two lethal strikers in place of a non-performing one has actually improved the attacking department significantly. Liverpool have to ensure that future transfers are of the same quality as the new strike pair because average players will not be enough for a squad hoping to challenge for the title. The squad has to be trimmed as well with non-performing players offloaded to generate funds as well as reduce the wage bill substantially. The first few steps towards a glorious revival have been very positive and if this trend continues, the future is bright for the resurgent Reds.
Graphics courtesy: banoootah_qtr via CC

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