Tuesday 2 December 2008

Can Liverpool take the next step?

As a Liverpool fan, I think I speak for many in saying that if, in August, someone said we'd be a point clear at the top come December 1st I'd had said "yes please". Even so, it is not surprising to see some frustration creeping in following draws at home against Stoke, Fulham and just last night West Ham (no disrespect to any of those teams.

There are three obvious points which I see as recurring themes. I think Rafa has to make decisions on these, if Liverpool are going to be there until the end:

1 - The one up front policy isn't working
Especially at home where teams come and put 11 men behind the ball. Whatever your thoughts on Keane he has been working his socks off with little direct support. Why not play him with Babel in Torres' absence.

2 - The Robbie Keane substitution policy
It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Keane is going out knowing he has 60-65 minutes so he is already under more pressure than he should to perform/ score. (Add to that the previous point re: support up front). If Rafa believes Keane is going to be a key part of the team and a key provider of goals than he needs to start giving him 90 minutes every now and then - especially when Nando is out.

3 - Babel cameo role
Why the hell is N'Gog coming on after 65 and Babel not until 80?!? Babel showed glimpses of his quality again in ten minutes last night and while I don't think he's the finished article, he's close. N'Gog didn't look like the business yet again. I said it at White Hart Lane (Carling Cup R4) - he takes too many touches to control the ball and isn't physically strong enough to battle with centre-backs despite his height.

This isn't a wholesale criticism of Rafa as I think he's got it 90-95% right this year. But these are recurring issues that I believe are costing the team.