After beating Drebecen and Everton in away games, we could only 'manage' to hold Blackburn to a 0-0 draw at their turf. The last fixture was a disappointing game for Liverpool fans because clearly we could have won that game if only lady luck had decided to throw even a wee bit of the Mona Lisa smile towards us. Because in reality, she has shunned us since the start of this season.
There was so many positives from that game that I have decided to focus on. While some fans keep on harping about "Rafa this and Rafa that", I would like to see it as another clean sheet against a formidable opponent (check Blackburn's home record) after the many problems in our back four that have been haunting us since the start of the season look to have finally been overcome. We seem to be back to our best in keeping clean sheets which has been our strength since Rafa took over.
While some fans continue to moan about our midfield, and how Rafa is still to blame for Alonso departure (yeah..right) and how it has cost us the shot at the title, I would like to focus on how Lucas has been transformed into a so much better player from last season. I admit I used to be quite pissed off at Lucas last season and was occasionally guilty of giving the stick to Rafa for keeping his faith on Lucas, but now I happily accept the humble pie. That's why Rafa is the manager of the greatest club on earth.
Of course Lucas was never ready to carry the responsibilities Rafa put on his shoulders (people tend to compare him to a 30M player), but when we needed him to do the job with Aquilani sidelined for much longer than it was thought at first, Lucas has delivered. We don't see him giving away stupid freekicks in dangerous areas anymore. He looks to have much more confidence in him now and outshining half-fit players like Gerrard everytime, doesn't give away the ball that easily and most importantly, and marshalls the midfield when we go forward. He has more composure nowadays and doesn't 'only give sideway passes' as fans used to complain but tries to execute the telling and penetrating passes and gets closer to the opposition goal areas than before. And yes, he is not the finished article yet and needs to continue to learn the trade, especially his shots at goal, but we can see how he has played the man-of-match role in so many games in lots of fans' eyes. And the best thing is he is still young and had never complained about the sticks he has had to endure during his dark-days both from fans and the media and looks to be thankful with the faith Rafa has given him and in keeping his head down to continue to improve on his game. Classy lad I would say. Let's hope he goes on and improves further for years to come.
As for Aquilani, we will at last see him start against Fiorentina tomorrow and I really can't wait to see him play. I have read lots of comments from fans in Italy on how good he is and, as Rafa has said, a fully fit Aquilani is worth much much more than the 20M we paid for him. This is a perfect game for him to start, unlike the previous ones when he was not match-fit and when the stakes were high, not to mention the condition of the pitch not favouring a player that has just come back from injuries like him. I trust Rafa because he knows the actual condition of the player after seeing him in training everyday. I won't make the mistake of expecting Aquilani to immediately play like Maradona or score 6 goals in this game, all from 30 yards away, because a player in his condition will take some time to fit into the jigsaw puzzle. But this game will somewhat prepare him for the cruncher against Arsenal this weekend and that game is one hell of an important game for us.
Another positive so far this season is our young striker who had to endure, just like Lucas has had to, the responsibility of headspearing our attack in the absence on Torres. It is a pity that N'gog had to be thrown into the games in this fashion but with Rafa's hand tied at the back due to lack of quality options upfront, we shouldn't be asking for so many miracles although N'gog has shown enough class to become a great player. His touches are sublime and his ability to hold the ball upfront is remarkable for such a young player. His positioning and his finishing is definitely better than Kuyt's or Voronin's and hence understandably Rafa, given the circumstances, prefers him over the others. N'gog should be applauded for having to do what he had to do so far, mostly for facing the expectations of the fans in brave fashion after what Fowler and Owen (the prick) had done for us at similar age in the past.
It is December and being 12 points off the pace from leaders Chelsea and only 4 points off third place Arsenal is not such a bad thing, given the circumstances. Circumstances in which Lady Luck has not been so kind to us. We have been unlucky to have had the american owners taking over our club in such pitiful manner. I would take the 20M Moores would had thrown to us every season over the lies and promises made by the dreadful cowboys. We have been very very unlucky with the unseen-before injuries, up to 12 players at one time, that we have had so far this season because I always believe had our team been fully fit since day one, our position in the CL and the league would have been better. We have been unlucky that Rafa could not buy players of his choice and favourable covers for our first team players and had to throw in young guns when they got injured. We have been unlucky that we had to play unfit and half-fit players. We have been unlucky that so much pressure has been put on the club by fans (blame Rafa here for creating the expectations amongst us by taking the 2nd spot last season) and the unfriendly media not to mention the beachball and the referees. And the list goes on and on...
So, it is quite mindboggling that some fans choose to go after Rafa's head as if he purposely hexed the team to mediocracy when the writings on the wall is so obvious of his achievements so far at our club. He has shown what we are capable of last season against the odds in which so many other teams spent more money than us. And I believe when all our injured players are fit again, we will again go on our winning ways and the realistic top 4 position at the end of the season is not that far-fetched. I have argued with some fans when they said we should be winning the title this season and not aiming for top 4 and when I asked why we MUST win it this season, most of them hit the wall in their arguments. Granted that not all LFC 'fans' on the net are actually LFC fans (I believe there are many fans of the opposition clubs having a laugh at our expense and probably some are planted as CyberTroopers by certain quarters to achieve their agenda), it saddens me to see some fellow fans continue to read and believe the lies spewed by the media and choose not to listen to blatant arguments, some based on statistics. And in doing so, for some reasons only they know, they go against the traditional view of Liverpool fans being the most knowledgible fans in the world.
We are still in the running for two cups that I hope we lift this season no matter what they say about how unimportant those cups are. And I feel we will at last have a streak of unbeaten run and hopefully when all the injured players are back, we will again strike fear in our opponents when we score goals for fun. It was not such a long time ago that we saw what we are capable of.