Apartment hunting can be a pain, so I couldn't get to this until today. Anyway, like most of you, this is probably the most tense I've been while watching a completely meaningless friendly. But the alarm bells had been ringing the past few weeks, with slapstick defending, lethargic attacking if that, and performances that weren't exactly making us drool over the season that starts in five days. But all that was washed away on Saturday, and the team looked more than competent. Not great, not a powerhouse, but one that just about ready to start slipping through the gears. And that's just fine by me. To the notes:
-As has been mentioned on other blogs, Stewart Downing was our best player. While I had my reservations about the signing, it was more about the price than the player. But I didn't realize that Downing had gained this oozing composure over the past couple years. He certainly didn't have it at Boro. But everything seems to slow down when he's on the ball, and he gets to where he wants to with it seemingly effortlessly. What he lacks in pace he makes up for in control and thought, although to be fair it's still preseason. But again, he didn't look out of place in a side trying to pass the ball around. This encourages me.
-Speaking of which, another component we were curious about was how would Andy Carroll fit into a side that wasn't merely lumping it up to him, than lumping it out wide so they could lump it to him again closer to goal. Sadly, Liverpool have been that side far too often when he's played, and especially this preseason. But not on Saturday. Carroll had some nifty lay-offs and flicks, and hooked up the play well. And the option of getting it up to him when nothing else is on is something that shouldn't be totally ignored. And the kid hustles, where his goal came from. Maybe watching Dirk Kuyt is rubbing off on him. Against a pretty disinterested Valencia side, but positive.
-Isn't David Albelda like 75 years old?
-We remarked on it last year, but the Haley's Comet like event where Daniel Agger and Fabio Aurelio both play in the back line make such a difference. Liverpool just play a far smoother game with them. Considering the lack of central reinforcements, Agger playing a majority of the games this year might just be the most important factor in where we end up. If he somehow manages 30 (which would be along the lines of my hair growing back), Top Four may be the least we can dream of.
-Oh, and Lucas too. Charlie Adam was someone else I was lukewarm on, but just the half an hour he got with Lucas playing the encouraging dad behind him looked wonderful. With Spearing, neither he or Adam can figure out who's supposed to be deepest and who goes where. When those questions get answered with Lucas on the field, Adam does his thing much better. I bet they start together Saturday.
-And for once, Alberto Aquilani wasn't the best player on the field. However, with Suarez only returning to training today, Meireles apparently suffering from Brian Worm or something, I sincerely hope Alberto gets a start on Saturday in front of Adam and Lucas. We shall see.