11 Nov 2007

Rafa names an unchanged team and Liverpool win. Simple, isn't it?

In my last article, I argued that the Besiktas victory would be worthless if Rafa changed his team against Fulham. Since he had only named an unchanged team 3 times in the previous 199 games, I wasn’t optimistic...To his credit though, Rafa kept the same team and Liverpool deservedly beat Fulham 2-0.

It would have been madness to change a winning team after an 8-0 victory, especially when Liverpool have been struggling for a winning formula. Given Rafa’s reputation for tinkering though, it would not have been surprising if he had changed things around. Having said that, I'm sure Rafa must have known that he would be a laughing stock if he changed the team and Liverpool lost or drew.

Fulham put ten men behind the ball, and for 80 minutes, their tactics paid off; but Liverpool deserved the win long before substitute Fernando Torres made sure of it with a piece of sublime individual skill. Peter Crouch was once again a constant menace, and would have scored again but for the crossbar. In the last two games, Crouch has proved conclusively that he is far more of a goal threat than Dirk Kuyt.

Yossi Benayoun continued to impress with his skill, superb touch and ability to play the killer ball. It’s a real blow that Benayoun was injured, as he was just starting to get a well deserved run in the team. It would be great to see the Israeli play the Peter Beardsley role just behind Fernando Torres. This would be, in my view, a killer combination.

Will Benitez go one better and name an unchanged team for three consecutive games? I highly doubt it. Fernando Torres is fully fit again and will be an almost certain starter against Newcastle, possibly at the expense of Crouch, though Voronin should be the one to make way.

On the subject of Peter Crouch...he must continue to play! You can’t argue with the facts: Liverpool have won the two games started by Crouch and have looked infinitely more cohesive and creative with him in the team. Maybe I’m living in the past, but I subscribe to the philosophy that if you play well, you should stay in the team. Crouch is playing well and his confidence is building as a result, hence he should stay in the team.

The same goes for Alvaro Arbeloa and Fabio Aurelio; both have made a huge difference to the balance of the team, and both add extra creative options, whether it is Arbeloa rampaging down the right flank or Aurelio whipping in left-footed crosses.

The only negative to take out of the game is the fact it came just before yet another international break. I just hope and pray that Fernando Torres is not injured if he plays for Spain. In his 20 minute cameo, he showed exactly the kind of skill and guile Liverpool are crying out for.

Could the last two results herald the start of a long winning streak? I would love to think so, but I have a nagging feeling that Benitez’s obsession with rotation will put a customary spanner in the works.


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