It would be silly of me to try and write a wrap of yesterday's tie against Oldham, because whatever feed I tried didn't work on my quickly aging computer and then work got in the way. If you need one, as always Nate at Oh You Beauty has an excellent one. Sounds like they took a while to get out of second gear, looked choppy, and then sort of eased into letting the class difference shine through. That's fine, fourth round here we come.
One other thing I'm going to avoid writing about at length here is the two fucking morons who racially abused Oldham's Tom Adeyemni's. Despite every drooling hack's best attempt to somehow throw this in with Suarez-Contra Scandal, it's simply two fucking morons who think the shield of being in the stands is an excuse to be fucking morons. It isn't, it doesn't, and they don't represent Liverpool fans in any way. Sadly, we're going to be bombarded with these stories for a while anyway.
Right, on to it. Though it was the Newcastle match that was the actual halfway point of the league season, due to the holiday and City match coming so quickly on the heels I didn't get to this until now. The particulars are that Liverpool are in the Carling Cup semifinal, off to the fourth round of the FA Cup, and sit three points of of fourth in the league in sixth.
How did we get here? The overarching theme of the season has been finishing. Sometimes it seems like it's the only story. Liverpool have been the opposite of ruthless -- merciful, lenient, soft-hearted, pick your adjective. Flaccid, impotent, incapable would be others if our aim is to make the female contingent giggle and the male one cower in fear. Quite simply it's been the difference between sixth and having a choke hold on fourth, or maybe even a longshot title challenge. Yes, the woodwork has been a culprit, but it's only a culprit if you make it. There have been some ridiculous goalkeeping performances, but not as many as shots that have harmed spectators in the stands.
The easy thing to say is that Liverpool just need another striker who can finish. But if you look deeper, that might not be an answer. Because the most profligate striker on the team is Luis Suarez. Whoever comes in is not going to replace him, obviously. While Carroll hasn't been exactly efficient in his brief cameos, as wonderful a player as Suarez is he takes too many chances to score.
But it's not just Suarez. A lot of the misfirings have come from elsewhere. Henderson only has one goal, Downing none, Adam a couple, Gerrard hasn't played, the central defenders haven't chipped in heavily off set-pieces, and on and on. Downing for me is the disappointment, because he's had the chances and isn't unfamiliar with putting it between the posts. For me, the answer is more of a goal-scoring wide man, if such a thing exists. Even with Suarez's absence, when he returns LIverpool's best formation is him up top alone. There isn't room for another striker in the best 11, as far as I can tell.
But really, the answer is that the players already there have to score more. Gerrard's continued presence should help, but Henderson, Downing, and probably Adam have to find the net more. Bellamy will, but how many games can he play?
Because the rest of the team seems to be right where you'd want it. Since Agger and Skrtel have assumed the main defensive roles, the defense has been outstanding. 18 goals conceded, and seven of those in two games. Even with Reina's current case of the yips, there's not much to argue with.
And the build up play at times has been sublime. It's also been awful at times, somewhat due to the up and down nature of everyone in midfield. But it's not a lack of chances that's doing Liverpool in consistently, or that's the way it feels. They're not battering people like City or United or Arsenal when in the mood might, bu they're not completely blunt either.
As for the new boys, only Enrique has consistently impressed. Downing has no goals or no assists, or at least didn't until yesterday, but sometimes his performances have warranted more. Jordan Henderson started slow, but has gotten better as the season has gone along and moved to the middle of the park instead of out wide, where he was kind of Seuss-ical. Charlie Adam kind of confounds, because there have been matches where he's looked outstanding -- composed, creative, determined. And there have been others where he's the town drunk, everywhere he shouldn't be and lashing out passes to prove that he can and uninterested in any responsibility whatsoever. That might just be what he is. Obviously, Bellamy has been a constant threat in the limited matches his musical knees will allow.
Overall, I like where Liverpool sit right now. Sure, they probably should be higher. But a team with this many changes was never going to look like the T-1000 right of the bat. And I feel it's more likely the dam will break in front of net than it will continue to be constipated like it is now. Even if it's just Gerrard being around, who can at least bury a penalty. The four points missed penalties against Sunderland and Wigan would look pretty good right now, as they would have Liverpool in fourth.
The Reds will have to have a pretty prodigious record in the second half to grab 4th, but then again every team they are competing with has warts. Chelsea are old, under immense pressure, and their defense is so easily exposed (and maybe more so if Terry gets anything resembling Suarez'a ban, which of course he won't). Arsenal are Arsenal, meaning they're light between the ears. Newcastle are still there, but will have to come up with something when Demba Ba leaves for the ANC.
But I certainly don't feel that's something beyond Liverpool. They won't have any distractions after the Carling semi. All the tough games except for Old Trafford, and maybe at St. James's Park, are at Anfield. I'm looking forward to it more than dreading it.