Are Them Green Shoots Yonder In The Distance?

Funny old game this. Before the start of the game, both managers would probably have accepted a 1-1 draw. At half-time, if a draw was on offer, Liverpool would have grabbed it in a blink, while Arsenal would have laughed dismissively like Gabbar Singh at the pitiable offerings of the Rampur-wasis. With a minute to go in regulation time, the roles would have been fully reversed. And finally, they both ended up with what they might have been content with in the beginning. Duniya hai go(a)l!

So, what to make of the first Roy game that I saw?

  • Firstly, one feels sorry for Reina. As my opposite number Anu has pointed out, but for him, we would probably have been a goal or two down even before that moment. Not only earlier in this game, but all of last season, he was consistently brilliant. So, hope he’ll pick himself up and come roaring back for the following games.
  • Could Roy coming to Liverpool be a boon for England? At least, for its right-back position? I’ve never seen Johnson as disciplined as he was yesterday, and that in no small measure contributed to a quiet evening for Arshavin. Though it must be said that the odd occasion he went forward, he was both offensively threatening and defensively out of position.
  • The puzzling thing was the deployment of Agger. The guy’s an elegant centre-half but I’m not sure about him out on the flank. Particularly, when you’ve re-signed Aurelio and are resigned to having Insua with you. Surely, even Aurelio couldn’t have injured himself again at such short notice?!
  • What a performance from Masch. He showed us just what we would miss with a typically tigerish performance. Will Poulsen and/or Lucas be able to measure up? But then again, hopefully we won’t be in such made-for-Mascherano pickles (backs to the wall with a man down) very often.
  • If nothing else, Ngog showed purpose and the importance of confidence and form. To a lesser extent, Torres did the same in his cameo, but in reverse. But the class act that he is, I’m sure he’ll get into his stride soon, particularly since he’ll play the next few league games with the familiar Gerrard in the hole.
  • Which neatly brings me to Cole. Forget the red card, deserved or not. What a disastrous performance and home league debut! He may have been the man-of-the-match against Rabotnicki but I hope he realizes that many opponents in the league would be a far tougher proposition. At least, he can go all out against Trabzonspor secure in the knowledge that he’ll be able to rest for a week after that!
  • The other debutant (Jovanovic) had a decent, if not great, outing. His work rate and willingness was good, with one storming run in particular being brilliant. But a slightly cooler head when through on goal would help!
  • My favourite Liverpudlian enigma, Ryan Babel, continues to remain shrouded in mystery since even Hodgson doesn’t seem to rate him much. Should we sell him and let the lad play somewhere else? Or should we wait for Roy to develop his talents in his own sweet time?

Moving on from the players to the team,  it was by no means a great, or even a good, performance. But it was competent. And it was determined – at the risk of lazy stereotyping, one could even say it had the tenacity of a typical English bull-dog. The defence was nice and solid, and even a man down managed to keep an attacking force like Arsenal (even without Cesc) reasonably under control. That was a big plus, since lack of defensive confidence and coherence was a major problem last season.

But the old problem of getting the ball out of defence and translating it into attacks persisted. There were still too many hopeful balls forward for people to chase rather than playing the ball out of defence. Hope a settled Jovanovic, a relaxed Cole, maybe with a reborn Aquilani and the Gerrard-Torres duo can still do some magic and continue the rebuilding process.

Because, that’s what this is – the first step of a long hard re-building process. And the bigger battle is really being fought off screen where it is not the Roys, Steves and Fernandos who play but the Martins and Christians, along with an assortment of Yahyas and Kennys. Let’s hope that one ends well and soon, while the faint signs of the green shoots hopefully take better root than the other infamous green shoots of financial recovery.

The Rafalution is dead. Long live the Royalution!

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