Saturday, October 1, 2011

Welcome Back Stevie G!

Steven Gerrard
Photo by hammershaug via Flickr

Apparently, Correspondent Scott enjoys kissing the camera, as well:

When a player comes back after injury, especially from a second successive injury and after a lengthy lay off, you don’t expect too much.  But in the 10 or so minutes that Steven Gerard was on the pitch in Liverpool’s 2-1 win over Wolverhampton at Anfield last Saturday, he made a startling impact.  Still a bit rusty, judging from his volleyed shot that caused one unsuspecting Wolves' fan to fumble his falafel, Gerrard's ability to change a game was evident nonetheless.  Perhaps I was influenced by the red-tinted lens through which I watch, but Liverpool appeared to be a better team with him on the field and the previous two games began to seem more like character-building speed bumps than ominous harbingers.

I applaud Kenny Dalglish’s restraint and patience as he has gently worked Liverpool’s number 8 back into the squad so as not to rush and reinjure.  And the crowd applauded appreciatively not only for his entrance into the game but also for his immediate impact on it.  In fact, the only one not applauding Gerrard was Luis Suarez  who forced an equine smile and slap on the back as he was replaced by the Liverpool legend before petulantly throwing a water bottle.  I understand that the best players never want to come off the pitch and may get angry from time to time, but when you are up 2-1 with only 10 minutes to go, you’ve scored a goal and you are coming off for a legend who is valiantly making a comeback from injury – show some class!

But, as my last column explained, I suppose I will tolerate Suarez’s childish antics as long as he keeps scoring and remains the best signing of the past year.  As opposed to Jordan Henderson whom I view as probably the worst signing and over whom I would have kept Raul Miereles in a heartbeat.  Henderson lacks confidence and seems unusually nervous with the ball until he can get rid of it, often with a neutral pass, as if it were a hand grenade with the pin already pulled.  Maybe Dalglish sees something I don’t but I just don’t get it.

What I do get is the fact that Jose Enrique is a stud, tight sleeves and all.  I would put his ball control and ability to press offensively up against any defender in the game right now, from Ashley Cole to Maicon and Marcelo.  In fact, he’s more dangerous offensively than the aforementioned Henderson who plays in the midfield.  Enrique’s assist in the game may have been his first of the season, but it will definitely not be the last if he continues his serpentine runs down the flank.

Charlie Adam epitomizes the entire Liverpool team right now – brilliant at times, but slipping a gear from time to time such that forward momentum is made only jerkily.  He has improved his set pieces since the beginning of the season when his free kicks were like artillery fire on opponents’ walls.  And his creative, unlock-the-defense passes are becoming more frequent.  He and Gerard in the middle will be a force to fear.

Stewart Downing is explosive down the flanks and dandy in his fluorescent yellow cleats.  What he needs to do, though, is learn to pass in the box.  No fewer than three times have I seen Mr. Glow-stick shoes ignore a wide-open team mate sending up flares in the box while he cripples a defender with a blistering -- yet blocked -- shot from 25 yards out.

Andy Carroll confounds me.  He has already succeeded in the Premier League with a lesser team but can’t seem to consistently score in a red uniform.  He does best when paired with Suarez up front and with Adam beginning.  Perhaps his lack  of scoring is punishment for his teammate’s original sin?  Or perhaps the tabloids are correct that his pub carousing is affecting his play.  But don’t they have pubs in Newcastle?

What I do know is that Norwich have won their last two and are sitting in the top half of the table at the moment with only a bout with the reigning champions this weekend keeping them from staying there.  With Manchester United stumbling a bit in their last two games perhaps the Canaries can provide the first real shock of the season.

This is farlieonfootie for October 1.

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