ON TO FULHAM

November 10, 2007 |

I watched the Fulham-Reading game and it was like watching two toddlers have at each other with croquet mallets. But what Fulham lacked in finesse, they certainly made up for in enthusiasm. I don’t think that Fulham will pull 11 men behind the ball today in the typical defensive array assumed by most middle-of-the-log squads when they come to Anfield. Sanchez has some nimble strikers that will do damage on a quick counter, and trying to weather a team that took 30 shots might prove dangerous, especially when 8 of them went in.
It’s heartening to note that this is a team that has never won at Anfield. Obviously this fact doesn’t register with Benitez. Rafa, stoic as always, is insistent that there will be no lapse in concentration after their 8-goal glut on Tuesday; something the players reiterate, insisting that it is going to be business as usual.
We’ll see. Perhaps Sisyphus has made it to the top of the hill. But let us not forget that Liverpool has put some big tallies on the score sheet already this season, ordinarily against smaller outfits, only to disappoint in subsequent games.  
Today’s game will be a real test of whether or not Liverpool has turned the corner. It’ll be critical to prove to fans and detractors alike that they are capable of sustaining a string of good form after what has been a sputtering domestic campaign.
Of course the finger immediately gets pointed at the ever-turning lineup wheel as the reason for this inconsistent form. But Lawrie Sanchez, in commenting on Rafa’s rotational policy, offered an insight into another under-explored facet of the policy. As frustrating as it is for those watching and playing, it can also be for his opposite number.
The real question, though, is who suffers more in the system – the players that must contend with it week in and week out or a manager who only has to second guess for two weeks a season?
Rafa will almost undoubtedly switch it up again today and some of Tuesday’s darlings will become Saturday’s reserves. Not that Rafa has not had and squandered the opportunity before, but if he can get his lads to string a brace of solid performances together in the aftermath of this big game, he might be able to prove to his detractors that it doesn’t matter about the level of competition or who strips for kickoff.
And there will be no more exacting eye than that of the Anfield faithful. More so than before, they’ll settle for nothing less than a 3-point testimonial to the fact their lads under Rafa’s system are capable of making this more than another Derby flash-in-the-pan.
            Torres might be fit again. Speculation is rife as to whether or not “The Kid” will see the full ninety or if Rafa will bring him on late as an impact striker. Again, we’ll see ot as Rafa puts it: “You will have to wait and see, I have to assess many things.”
            As their leading scorer, Everton must be ruing the fact that Big Sami’s days might be drawing to a close. Daniel Agger is expected to be back after the international break which means Pepe Reina can rest assured of facing at least three less shots per game.

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