MONDAY night’s calamitous capitulation in the last 10 minutes of an otherwise dominant display can’t be blamed on a lack of luck; I believe that there is a distinct lack of mental toughness in this squad, and this trickles from the top down.
This is unacceptable when the match is comfortably won, unforgivable when it is in the balance.
West Brom were poor, showed very little ambition and were happy to contain for most of the game. With every chance missed and every attack broken down blood pressure rose and frustration was felt from the terraces.
In a previous blog I suggested our need for a general, a shouter, a cage rattler, an experienced player who refuses to let standards drop. Unfortunately there is a dearth of these characters in today’s game. With Jamie Carragher soon to depart we will be down to none.
Coaches, pundits, players and anyone who claims to know the game speaks of bravery on the pitch. I’m not talking about acting the big man, fronting opponents and being unafraid to “mix it”, the type of bravery I am getting at is being unafraid to take the bull by the horns and take individual responsibility for the destiny of the maximum reward at the final whistle.
Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez are the only consistently proactive players at our disposal. They are our X-factor elements and when they are on the pitch too many others hide behind them. We failed to flood the box when attacking from wide positions, when confidence is brittle and nerves are showing avoiding the firing line has been paramount.
Fast forward three days later and it’s the same old story. This time tired legs on a boggy pitch couldn’t find the vital away goal past a solid if unspectacular Zenit side who are in the midst of their off season.
This side are falling into the realms of mediocrity. From a Reds point of view this tie will be remembered for the missed chances of our Uruguayan star Luis Suarez. Our usually prolific ace was brave as we expect him to be, showing for the ball and taking responsibility. Unfortunately his trademark swaggering finishes were poorly absent as he got caught up in the side’s current malaise.
Two goals in the final stages was accompanied with a crescendo of groans from the brave few who made the trip, and the rest of us at home after rushing out of work to catch the action. Consistently high levels of performance have been limited to a stretch of 2 or 3 games on the trot.
Youngsters who have now got games and experience behind them are lacking in maturity; that is not a slight on them. Andre Wisdom has suffered at right-back in recent weeks, Raheem Sterling and Jonjo Shelvey have been dipped in and out of action, failing to recapture their early season promise when call upon. This is inevitable with youth, levels of performance will fluctuate.
It is not unfair for us to expect more from the players and staff. Many of us writers on this site defend the club we love on a weekly basis, but sometimes accountability is needed. We would all willingly sacrifice pretty patterns for hard fought ugly wins which will pull us up the table and win back some self-respect.
Whatever happens in the return leg in this Europa League tie, thoughts are sadly turning to next season as this campaign quickly becomes less about glory days and more about damage limitation. The neutered atmosphere at Anfield has and will, reflect this.
I look forward to reading your comments.