Liverpool Preview

HMS TINF

Ahoy hoy!

It’s been a while. International breaks are normally an absolute nuisance but it’s allowed This Is Not Football some valuable time to find a way around the stringent anti-cussing rules on Newsnow. Some drastic action was required and in the end we bought a tramp steamer down at the docks, had it kitted out and now we are publishing this from the relative freedom of international waters.

Life on the ocean waves isn’t for everyone, but it certainly helps if you have an experienced crew. Just like on Captain Pugwash (don’t bother with an exasperated comment, we know it’s an urban myth, Poindexter) we are ably supported by a cast of salty sea dogs with ever-so-slightly rapey names. There’s Seaman Encrusted of course, Teabag the cabin-boy, and, er, Roy Harper. Which is awkward.

We’re glad to be offshore this week because as everyone knows, the build-up to the derby is always excruciating. Except it isn’t any more, is it, really? ‘Derby week’ essentially comprises of a series of done-to-death memory lane bits in the Echo, some half-hearted opinion bits by a couple of ex-players or managers who conclude that the team that keeps calmest will prevail, and some interviews with the respective managers. And with all the will in the world, these two seem to be decent enough coaches but you are going to struggle to get either to ‘stoke the fires’ ahead of Saturday’s ‘clash’.

Obviously Roberto Martinez is just super-smiley and nice and probably has massive, massive respect for Liverpool as a football club and as an institution when you think about all the great players they have had down the years and all that they have achieved in the past and the outstanding individuals that they have now in their group and what was the question again? And say what you like about Brendan Rodgers – such as the fact that he has a parsnip for a nose, wears a pair of bedraggled fingerless gloves and a piece of rope as a belt and lives in a hedge – say that if you like, but in terms of Liverpool managers he is one of the least offensive. Possibly the weirdest – good lord he is one odd individual in his Charlie Seger suits and Rimmel of London kite – but he doesn’t really go out of his way to court controversy or have digs at opponents.

Incidentally, does no one else chortle when Rimmel adverts promise ladies ‘thick lashes’? As offers go that’s certainly more alluring than a free makeup bag.

Anyway, it’s not just Rodgers who seems a bit low-key though, because in truth is anyone quite as bothered by Liverpool as a whole as they used to be? After the original Yanks shafted them and it became clear to even their worst swivel-eyed Jihadis that they really are just another club like any other, with no divine right to success, they became almost humanised, like when you follow a monstrous school bully home and secretly spy through a knot-hole in a wooden fence and see him being beaten by a cruel, drunken step-dad.

You still think he’s a little shitbag but you kind of understand why. And you certainly don’t fear him any more.

Both clubs seem to be on the up at the moment, in terms of their recent histories anyway, and there’s an air of relative optimism about both of them, but the majority of supporters on either side of the divide have witnessed enough false dawns that they retain a certain degree of perspective.

The two clubs, separated by only three points in the table,  have both produced some excellent performances and played some decent football at times, but a couple of games, such as ours at Manchester City and Liverpool’s trip to Arsenal have served as reminders that there is still a gap to be bridged between the Champions League teams and the rest.

Liverpool’s relative revival seems to be since they adapted from over-playing at the back and started getting the ball quickly into the feet of their two outstanding strikers, Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez. For much of his early career the former struggled to hold down a place at clubs whose massive squads meant he never got the chance to play through an indifferent spell. We’ve said it before but there can be such a thing as too much competition for places – players generally need to get a run of games without constant threat of being axed if you want to see the best of them and that’s what Sturridge has at Anfield, and they are reaping the benefits. When he’s off form though he is one right greedy, blind-alley-shoot-from-anywhere merchant, and hopefully that’s the case on Saturday, as we don’t want to see him turned and running at Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka.

It’s not just the centre-halves who need to be alert though – a lot of the work keeping their front two quiet will fall to Gareth Barry and James McCarthy. At the Emirates Mikel Arteta was brilliant at anticipating the through-balls being tucked into them, stepping out, killing the danger and launching counter-attacks.

Obviously Sturridge is a danger then, but we can’t really discuss Liverpool without at least a few words on his ‘strike partner’ Luis Suarez.

Oh, Luis.

Luis, Luis, Luis, Luis, Luis.

Luis Suarez, with your face like a scrapped piano.

The ludicrously talented Uruguayan could only be more of a scoundrel if he held a cloak across his face and his every speeded-up move was accompanied by frantic piano playing. Love him or hate him, and let’s face it everyone fucking hates him, he is the most morbidly fascinating player in the Premier League. Like post-Buster Douglas Mike Tyson you can’t take your eyes off him because he seems capable of doing just about anything.

The thing is, pundits will constantly tell you, if you take away the nasty edge to his game he wouldn’t be half the player he is. And when you think about it, all the greats: Michel Platini, Lionel Messi, Pele, Johan Cruyff, the list goes on. What did they all have in common?

All racist man-eaters.

He never got the move he wanted, and indeed tried to force in quite undignified fashion in the summer, but you can’t really deny that since returning to the side he has given his all in much the same way as Leighton Baines for Everton since his less public request to move to Old Trafford was knocked back. It will be interesting to see whether both players finish this season where they are, with the press seemingly convinced that Baines will finally be departing. The fact that there seems to be no real effort to sort out a new contract with the lovable left-back as well would indicate that perhaps he has made his position perfectly clear about where he sees his future. As for Suarez, there is talk of Real Madrid being in for him in January, but if Liverpool managed to hang onto him in the summer against the odds you can imagine they would fancy their chances of getting him to stay until the end of the season in order to give them the best chance of securing the Holy Grail of fourth place.

That last bit was complete conjecture in order to round off a point and a paragraph that was really going nowhere at all.

One of the more intriguing aspects of this derby is simply the fact that the Blues will go into it and attempt to out-pass Liverpool, something that almost never happens. Even with decent Everton teams you always feel that the onus is on us to try and nullify them first and foremost, and pressurise them into making mistakes. There have been a few notable exceptions down the years, but overall there’s nearly always a feeling that if we win it will be mainly down to hard graft and a big centre-forward.

On Saturday that won’t be the case. Martinez will send his team out to play the way they play, from the first whistle knocking the ball about as if we are winning 2-0. It will make a refreshing change, although the big fear, clearly, is that they – and let’s face it, we mean Suarez – will be able to pressurise the defenders into making mistakes in dangerous areas.

At the other end though, Liverpool’s defence is nothing to write home about- unless of of course it’s a postcard saying ‘Mum, Martin Skrtl’s shit’. Everton certainly have enough quality players in forward positions to give them problems, especially if the two Belgians, Kevin Mirallas and Romelu Lukaku, have the great 90 minutes that they are overdue.

Again, that was one of those ‘not really got a point here’ moments, to be honest.

Right then, that’s nearly it, the seas are getting a bit choppy here and apparently we have a couple of coastguard frigates off our starboard bow. Apologies if we start to lose the sig…

…kin’ annoying this. I told you to get decent gear. You’ve made us look like right ama…

…Oi! Get off my fuckin…

…Roy and Teabag? They’ve been gone for…

…ollocks…

…me look like like a right cun…

…Mayday! Mayday!…

Hang on, I think we are back on. Mayday. This is Echo Foxtrot Charlie Number Nine. We are being illegally boarded by representatives of Newsn

…rrect. The news aggregation website. Aggreg. AGGREGATION! ALPHA GOLF GOLF ROMEO…

…Roy, Roy. Zip your kecks…

…dcast the final message for Saturday while we jettison all these swear…

-.- — .–. .. – . …  .- .-. .  –. — -… … …. .. – . …

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4 thoughts on “Liverpool Preview

  1. decent but “Everton certainly have enough quality players in forward positions to give them problems” made me laugh quite a bit.

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