Liverpool’s Saturday defeat at Fulham has been described as a “big setback” by defender Jamie Carragher. It was Liverpool’s fourth away game of the season, and their first defeat. They are still to record their first away win, and even allowing for games in hand their 13th place is disappointing after the glory of Istanbul. Something is just not clicking in the domestic fixtures for Rafael Benitez, and he needs to find out soon just what it is. Even if Liverpool won their two games in hand on most teams around them, the Reds would still be 12 points off top spot. More worryingly is the fact that the Reds are only six points above bottom-of-the-table Everton, with just one game in hand.
Saturday’s result hurt Carra as much as it hurt any supporter. Standing in again as skipper in the absence of Steven Gerrard, Carra was obviously upset after the game. He said: “It’s a big setback for us, with all due respect to them, where they are in the division we should be beating them.”
For Liverpool to become a top-four team again, they need to show in the English League the spirit they show in the Champions League. There are stats that show Liverpool don’t play well in England after European games as Carra says: “I am sure all the European stuff will get dragged out again about how we never play well the weekend after a Champions League tie. We always seem to have problems after European games. I think it’s something like 15 times on the spin that we haven’t won after a European game.” Liverpool seem to play poorly in the league after international fixtures too, but it’s not as if they win all their other league games. The Reds are struggling in the league, and if they carry on at this rate they’ll not have any Champions League football to worry about next season.
Carra doesn’t buy the idea that the players have less interest and desire in winning domestic honours, saying: “We don’t just want to do well in Europe. We want to do well in all the competitions we are involved in. It’s a good job we are doing well in Europe at the moment because it would be really depressing if we weren’t doing well there, either. In the league, we are not building on our European Cup victory like everyone hoped we would at the moment.”
Jamie pointed out early in the season that he felt Liverpool would not be challenging for the title this season, but in return the headline-writers twisted his words to make it sound like he was giving up before he’d started. He was being realistic, as the start to the season has shown: “Some people expected us to go on and win our own league after last season and I got a bit of stick early on for saying I thought that we might come up a bit short. But I felt that Chelsea were too far ahead in terms of quality for us to catch them this season and I still feel we should be aiming to break into the top three. We need to sort our results out quickly if we are going to do that.”
The chance of a top-three finish is certainly possible for the Reds if they start to perform to their abilities – Arsenal are ahead of Liverpool by six points and have played one game more. Man United are eight ahead and have also played one game more.
Reds boss Rafa Benitez believes that Liverpool did enough to win the game, and they might have done had Fulham not been forced to put former Reds keeper Tony Warner into the nets in the second half. Rafa says that he knows how to deal with this mini-crisis: “I have experience of this kind of situation before, so I know how to change – by working hard and trying to play as hard as possible. We have good players. We created so many chances in the second half and normally you would score, but the goal-keeper was the best.”
Another stat that is often wheeled out is how Liverpool do poorly in London. Well that’s where they’ll be off to again tomorrow when they play Crystal Palace in the League Cup, then there’s a visit from London side West Ham this coming weekend. Rafa says the Reds are thinking of the League Cup match first: “Now is the time to be positive, we cannot change this game and we need now to think about Crystal Palace. How can we think about West Ham if we have a game before? We must think about Crystal Palace first, it’s simple. I am not talking about priorities – we have a game on Tuesday, and then we must think about Saturday.”