“Revenge is sweet and not fattening” — Alfred Hitchcock
For the first time in quite awhile, I wasn’t the household’s Saturday morning early riser. In fact, it wasn’t even close. Courtesy of Charleston’s Cooper River Bridge Run, a pre-daylight wake-up call was on the cards for my full house (my Special Lady Friend and three house guests). But, thanks to their 6am wake-up, which I didn’t bother to roll over for, this week’s 7:45 kick-off didn’t seem so early. And as an added bonus, there was already coffee waiting when I finally kicked off the covers. Armed with my cup of Joe, a bagel and a crystal-clear English-language internet feed (“Buffering? We don’t need no stinkin’ buffering!“), I settled down on my usual bathtub ledge and was immediately rewarded.
The prospects of notching a win against Arsenal and exacting some measure of ‘revenge’ in the race for 3rd looked bright with Henry and Van Persie on the shelf and Rosicky on the bench. Though this is not a squad to be taken lightly, the fear factor just isn’t there. Plus, Dudek wasn’t in goal. “Things are going to change/I can feel it.”
I absolutely love it when Liverpool starts the game, full of energy and chomping at the bit. It usually bodes well when the Reds come out of the gate that quickly. Intentions were announced seconds in when Mascherano went full-steam into a midfield tackle to spring Gerrard for what would end up being a wasteful shot, but a promising sign nonetheless.
After only few minutes, and a pair of matching back-heels from Arbeloa and Pennant, Liverpool’s pressure was rewarded with a fine goal by Crouchinho. One goal by Crouch is fantastic, and two is twice as nice. But three? If this is the way he’s going to play after coming back from injury, maybe we should consider breaking his nose prior to all the other big games. I’m sure there are some shady Scousers who could be persuaded.
Peter can’t be terribly happy about consistently finding himself on the bench, even after scoring on a regular basis, but he’s responded well. It would be quite easy to let his head down (even at 6’7”), but he’s smart enough to realize how Rafa works, and his workrate surely does not go unnoticed. Crouchie may take some stick; some rightfully so for missing apparent sitters, and unrightfully so for his gangly look, but his commitment and contribution to the team cannot be questioned.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention his third goal. Crouchie recieved a ball in the box, with a defender on his back, and with some fancy footwork, secured his hat trick. For being 6′-fucking-7”, the big man has quite the soft touch. I wonder if he has vaseline on those feet under the socks, so as to keep a soft foot for his lady.
Both the wingers, Gonzalez and Pennant, were wonderfully active today. Gonzo’s progression hasn’t come under as much scrutiny as Pennant’s, but I think the John Legend look-a-like deserves some individual credit. I said it at the beginning of the season; he’s young and needs a chance to develop by playing in top level matches. After today’s performance, it’s obvious Jermaine’s confidence and footballing IQ have both been drasticallly sharpened over the course of this season, and under Rafa’s tutelage, there should be much more to come. While he may not have the pace of Aaron Lennon, Pennant may have an argument for inclusion into the England squad. Should he continue to build his game, whoever takes over for McClaren (upon his inevitable canning) may have a tough choice. Though, Mighty Mac could surprise us. Maybe Jermaine should practice playing on the left.
Mark Gonzalez continues to impress me with his fiery pace and knack for getting in the cross. Plus, I’m constantly amazed at how his faux-hawk never wilts, even after 90 minutes of sweat and toil. It’s always just as spiky as it was at kick-off. Truly impressive.
So, the future looks promising for these two young wingers, which bodes well for the future of Liverpool. If Harry Kewell is ever fortunate enough to come back from his ongoing injury nightmare, he may be hard-pressed to get a game out on the wing.
I also need to take some time to slurp on Mascherano. While I’m a fan of Momo, I think Javier will prove a more well-rounded upgrade. He’s demonstrated the same tenacity, and showed today that he’s not afraid to go in for the hard tackle. I’m amazed at just how willingly he left his feet and how he never mistimed the tackle. It’s been quite awhile since I’ve seen a midfielder freely tackling at midfield. Then again, even Stevie G threw a few down today, so maybe Rafa chose to include a page out of the Bolton scouting report.
The reason Mascherano will ultimately take Momo’s defensive midfield duties is his ability to pass and get positively involed in the attack. I suppose it shouldn’t be shocking since he’s Argentinian, but it’s not a luxury we’ve been afforded with Sissoko. When Sissoko ventures forward, as demonstrated in the United and Barca games, it’s as if they’re trying to pick a finely-tuned precision lock with a hammer. Momo is young, so there still is plenty of time to refine that aspect of his game, but it’s doubtful he’ll ever be as versatile as Mascherano.
Carragher, per usual, was excellent. I try not to take it for granted, but he so rarely puts in a wrong foot. ‘A team full of Carraghers’ may never score, but they’d surely leave everything on the pitch.
Agger got on the scoresheet, but his performance was not up to his recent high standards. Sometimes I have to remind myself he’s only 22. I’m not here to slag him off, as I’m sure he’ll bounce back, but it wasn’t a cracking performance.
Other than giving up a goal to ruin the cleansheet at League Fortress Anfield, the only negative from today’s match was the non-appearance of God. I thought at one point, before Gerrard came off, I saw him receiving touchline instructions from Rafa. But, three substitutions were used, none of them being Robbie. A shame. As much as I love Kuyt, a twinge of disappointment flared up when it wasn’t Fowler jogging out.
I think the clock is quickly counting down on his Liverpool career, which is unfortunate, but also understandable. Maybe, since his real estate dealings has set him up nicely, he’ll take a role coaching up strikers to fill the free time once the final page in his career is written. Then again, that kind of finishing may be instinctual and unteachable. Maybe we’ll find out.