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Pros and cons of taking a break

Pros and cons of taking a break

Oct 10 2007

Red Watch

by Andy Proudfoot, Liverpool Daily Post

I’LL never criticise international breaks again.

Whereas we were all bemoaning the unfortunate timing of the last one, as our players were scattered to the four corners of the globe during an exceptional run of form, now we’re glad of a chance to break the recent depressing string of performances and wonder if we’re that bothered if some of them don’t come back.

There’s no shortage of theories as to the reasons behind this collapse in form that has shredded the players’ confidence and supporters’ nerves, so let’s take the opportunity offered by those kind gentlemen at UEFA to reflect on their relative merits.

1. The last international break. According to this theory, the last break interrupted our carefully planned progress and wiped the players’ memories of everything they had absorbed in the previous two months. Laughable. Plausibility Rating (out of ten): 2

2. The R-Word. So far, Liverpool have named 19 different players to start Premier League games. Sounds too many doesn’t it? However, three players have been named only once, with another twice, implying a core squad of 15 – a bit more reasonable. Only three have been ever-present, but you could argue that would have been six if Carragher, Gerrard and Finnan had not suffered injuries.

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Rafa’s pinned his tenure on this policy, and it’s the easiest stick to hit him with. His arguments are persuasive, and that’s what we’ve got a big squad for, but doubts will remain until he’s delivered the Premiership. Tough world eh? Plausibility Rating: 7.

3. Team Selection. Not quite the same thing as the R-word, this is more concerned with which players play in which game. The omission of Torres for the Birmingham game almost saw Benitez sent to Guantanamo Bay by press and pundits alike, and there are those of us (me) who would prefer to see Benayoun to Pennant, but by and large the curious selections have been limited to the Champions League (e.g. Leto picked against Marseille on the basis of some promising performances in the reserves). More baffling have been some of the substitutions, evidenced by Voronin being forced into midfield and then off the pitch altogether despite being our best player on Saturday. Plausibility Rating: 5.

4. Injuries to/loss of form by key players. Losing Carragher and Gerrard didn’t seem to bother us against Derby, or Sunderland for that matter. Yet the loss of Agger and Alonso has perhaps been felt deeper than expected. Tiredness may well have contributed to Hyypia’s errors against Spurs, and Agger is also missed for his accurate distribution.

Alonso’s ability to ‘manage the game’, as Luis Garcia memorably put it, is probably the bigger loss however; Mascherano has many qualities, but he doesn’t have Xabi’s capacity to raise or slow the pace of the game, or vary the point of attack. As for form, well Gerrard’s dip since his injury is well documented, but in truth only Reina, Finnan, Arbeloa and Torres can be totally satisfied with their contributions in my book. Plausibility Rating: 7.

5. The Paco Ayestaran mystery. Difficult to judge on this one, reliant as we are on whispers from the club. The players liked him, the players didn’t like him. Rafa was too autocratic, Paco was too dogmatic. Take your pick All I know is the team don’t look as energetic as they did a few weeks ago… Plausibility Rating: Ask the players.

6. My Fantasy League Team. I tend not to do too well in these sort of things, and Carra and Stevie are bearing the burden of selection for my under-performing XI. Add to that Ronaldo’s suspension, and my two goalies, James and Hahnemann, sharing 11 goals the other week in the same game, and I’m beginning to think I’m disturbing the ether in some way. At least I can do something about this one. Plausibility Rating: 10.

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