By Justin Fitzgerald-Rhoddes
This weekend I actually had the privilege of watching Sunday’s early morning fixture at the NYC Supporter’s club 11th St. Bar, having traveled to visit my cousin in the West Village. We arrived about 10 minutes late as the pints steadily flowed the night before and our cab driver (realizing this) decided to take us for a bit of a spin. On arrival, had it not been for the familiar sea of Red, you would have thought we had arrived at a wake and certainly not an Irish one.
Perhaps the most disheartening aspect of this weekends’ thrashing at White Hart Lane is the fact that there was no smoking gun. No play in particular or even series of events that you can point to as the genesis of Liverpool’s demise. Rather it was a collective dismal performance that made Spurs seem a class apart, and for me it has to start with the decisions made by manager Kenny Dalglish.
Where has the trust gone that was once placed in young John Flanagan? Knowing the pace of Gareth Bale on the outside and the danger his service presents, Dalglish chose to play Martin Skrtel — a center back — at right back in place of the injured Glen Johnson and Martin Kelly. Last year’s player of the year would clearly have been an enormous test for anyone at right back, but, for me, Skrtel does not possess the speed required to have a chance to challenge Bale, and thus was caught out of position numerous times, leading to the reckless tackles that eventually got him sent off.
Why was Dirk Kuyt left out? The indefatigable Dutchman’s relentless work rate and ability to track back and provide cover for the right back was certainly missed. I’m not questioning the effort put forth by Henderson, it’s his positional discipline that comes into question as he continuously strays centrally and chases players in the midfield, leaving the right back isolated and exposed.
First team selections aside, once the match starts it’s ultimately up to the 11 men wearing red to make it happen. Clearly the team wasn’t up to the challenge. It’s easy to make excuses for new players in a new system, but Scott Parker was beating Adam and Lucas like they stole something all afternoon and he’s spent less time at his club than they have. That being said, it is still early in the season and with Steven Gerrard and Kelly approaching fitness the finger is off the panic button… for now.