29 Apr 2008

Cometh the hour, cometh the predictable cocky overconfidence

The most important game of the season is upon us, and as per usual with this Liverpool team, the days leading up to an important game have been saturated with the usual pre-match routine of endless public pronouncements proclaiming the team’s apparent superiority.

Self-important overconfidence is not the Liverpool way, and never has been, but of course, none of that matters in the egocentric world of modern football.

It is disappointing to see the current Liverpool team increasingly adopting a "we’re the best so bow down at our altar" attitude, but it's been this way all season, and whilst the build up to today's game is not as bad as some examples earlier in the season, it's a growing trend that I feel needs to stop.

Why can’t Liverpool players and management just keep their heads down and let their football do the talking on the pitch? Why must *every* important game be preceded by tiresome boasting in the press about how Liverpool are the best and are certain to win?

Let’s start with Rafa – surely a humble, low key approach from him? No. After the CL semi at Anfield game, he said:

“It was clear that we had the better chances, had more control and played better than them. You can see we were clearly better than them”.

That may be the case, but why say this in public? Added to this we have Rafa’s blatant antagonism of Chelsea, with his remarks about Drogba diving and obvious Alex Ferguson-like attempts to try and influence the referee.

This is the kind of behaviour I expect from Chelsea (!), not Liverpool; from Jose Mourinho and Alex Ferguson, not Rafa Benitez. Clearly, it's a case of if you can't beat them, join them - a policy, incidentally, that Steven Gerrard has adopted when it comes to Didier Drogba and diving.

On the subject of Gerrard, he clearly agreed with Rafa's view about the first leg: "We were on top for most of the time [in the first leg] and Chelsea scored their equaliser without really producing anything. We know their weaknesses. We know how to beat them”.

Liverpool know how to beat Chelsea? Well, if that’s true, and as Gerrard says, Liverpool know Chelsea’s weaknesses, how come the club hardly ever beats Chelsea?! It’s a conundrum.

Gerrard went on to slam Stamford Bridge: "Stamford Bridge is a big stadium, but it's got nothing of the aura that Anfield has".

Alvaro Arbeloa chimed in with his belief that Liverpool have a ‘psychological edge’, and like Benitez, he was emphatic about the outcome of the game:

“We have confidence. We beat Inter Milan, we beat Arsenal and we will now beat Chelsea”.

Jamie Carragher and Gerrard have also piled the pressure onto the shoulders of Fernando Torres, suggesting that the reason for Liverpool’s long running failure to score at Stamford Bridge is the club's lack of a player like Torres. Gerrard said:

“We may not have scored or won at Chelsea in four years, but we haven't been there with Fernando in the team before”. Carragher added:

“A lot of people are talking about the fact that we haven't scored at Stamford Bridge for a few years but, as Stevie (Gerrard) said after the first leg, we've never been there with Fernando Torres. He has been the stand out striker in world football this season and he is capable of scoring against anyone at any time."

So what happens if Liverpool lose and Torres doesn't score? One of the reasons Torres left Atletico Madrid was the fact the everybody put pressure on him to make sure the team was successful. Is this pressure from Gerrard and Carragher any different?

It’s probably just me, but I do not see the point of any of the above comments or strategies. Indeed, this kind of posturing is unnecessary and counter-productive.

For example, Didier Drogba has publicly defended himself against Benitez’s diving claims, which means he will probably be even more fired up to score in the game tonight.

And Chelsea’s players will be even more motivated to win after all the comments from Liverpool players about being the best. Chelsea already have the advantage, and given Liverpool’s atrocious record at Stamford Bridge, was there any need to rile Chelsea up even more?!

Contrast Liverpool’s comments with those of Chelsea and there is a big difference. There has been no goading or boasting from Chelsea players or Avram Grant, just typical, nondescript comments that do not attract attention or allow tabloid hacks to create hyperbolic headlines.

Once again, it appears that I am living in the past, clinging onto the Liverpool tradition of humility and respect for opponents. At the height of the club’s powers in the 79s and 80s, there was none of this self-congratulatory garbage.

Players were respectful towards other clubs and did not boast about being the best before anything had actually been won.

And even when trophies were won, the club remained humble in victory. This is no longer the case, and the conduct of the club this season has consistently proved that to be true.

The ultimate irony comes from perennial press-whore Dirk Kuyt, with his contention that it is Chelsea who are afflicted by misplaced overconfidence:

“When the final whistle blew I think some of them were thinking they had already reached the final".

Yes, Dirk. And I suppose if Liverpool had scored an away goal in the 95th minute of Champions League Semi-Final you would have been completely calm...

1 comment:

  1. We have every right to be confident 2 finals in 3 years!!! we havent had our 30 goal striker at stamford bridge so of course we have more chance of scoring now that he is playing. Stamford bridge is not a patch on anfield, well thats just stating the obvious!! the whole world knows drogbas a diver rafa is saying it because carra is on a yellow and dosent want drogbas diving mean he could miss the final.