What is there to worry about? We faced Liverpool four times last season. We won both league games, drew 0-0 there in the fourth round of the FA Cup, and beat them after extra time in the replay at Upton Park. That is 390 minutes of football, plus injury time, and we scored seven goals to their one. And we finished above them in the league. So why do the bookies make them 3/10 favourites, and offer odds of 9/1 on us winning the game? Are they a better team than they were when we last met? Probably, yes. Have our performances this season declined compared to last? Definitely, yes.
The first win in August 2015 was the one that took everyone by surprise. Although we had already beaten Arsenal at the Emirates on the opening day of the season, we lost the next two games at home to Leicester and Bournemouth. Nobody thought we had any realistic chance of victory at Anfield, where we hadn’t won since 1963. But an early goal from Lanzini was followed by a Mark Noble strike on the half hour, and then Sakho wrapped up a comprehensive 3-0 victory in injury time. By the time we met them on 2 January, our impressive season was well underway. We had only lost twice since our early season win at Anfield, and sat in seventh place. Goals from Antonio and Carroll secured a 2-0 win and the double over them. At the end of January we met them in the fourth round of the FA Cup, and a goalless draw at Anfield was followed by a 2-1 victory in the replay with goals from Antonio, and a 121st minute header from Ogbonna.
But this season it has all gone wrong, and we go into this game already embroiled in a relegation dogfight. Nobody realistically expects us to get anything this time, possibly giving us even less chance than last season’s surprise. But Bournemouth showed us last Sunday that the Liverpool defence can be got at, and their keeper looked very vulnerable. I wonder if our training has been more intense following the revelation after the Arsenal game that it hasn’t been what it should have? I read that Bilic has taken specific hands-on coaching of our defence, and not before time. I also read that Dicks has not been involved in coaching the defence, and that the offer from Rio Ferdinand to get involved has been declined. We’ll see on Sunday if there has been any improvement.
I also read rumours that Reece Burke is being recalled from his loan to add to our defensive squad, in particular the problematic right back position, and I welcome that if it is true. Every time he has played at either centre back or right back he has looked a good prospect to me, and definitely a player we should be looking to include. Also, Sam Byram is nearing a return, and hopefully our other injured players will be back soon. And I’d also like to see Reece Oxford given a runout. I’m sure he will turn out to be some player, but we’ll never know if he doesn’t get a chance. Perhaps they are waiting for him to sign a new contract.
Of course, the defence has not been our only problem, and we need to create opportunities and score more goals, by increasing the tempo of our attacking play. I hope that they have worked on this at Rush Green too. Naturally the media has been full of our woes, and rumours abound as to who we are looking to bring into the club in the January transfer window. The latest ones are Defoe, who would be superb alongside an in-form and injury-free Carroll, but would not be popular with some sections of our fans, who are unable to forgive him for the past. He was a young guy who made a mistake, but it was a long time ago. I’ve also read about the interest in Fellaini and I just hope that that this one is way off the mark. Of course you can find links on the internet to hundreds of players that we are supposedly interested in signing. Fortunately, most of them are just rumours with no foundation whatsoever.
Once again, with no real reason to do so, I’ll put my optimistic hat on and say we’ll get a 2-2 draw on Sunday. What are the chances?