Is David Moyes about to have the last laugh in a season where he seems to have been laughed at the most?
You know what they say, he who laughs last, laughs longest.
Manchester City has been beaten by Everton on each of the last four occasions they’ve turned up at Goodison Park. On Saturday evening they arrive again, knowing victory could go a long way to bringing the title back to The Etihad.
But in each of those four matches Everton were managed by David Moyes. So is the irony that now Moyes has left Everton they are unable to beat City and therefore indirectly, Moyes has stopped Liverpool winning the title?
It’s not a pleasant thought for Liverpool supporters everywhere and especially when riding so high on a wave of enthusiasm and belief the good times were back again. But defeat to Chelsea on Sunday may be more of a blessing than perhaps it felt like that evening.
One of my concerns over Brendan Rodgers was how he was going to fare against the tactical minds of European football if we qualify for the Champions League. Yet he has proved himself to be adept in this area when coming up against Manchester United, Arsenal, Everton and Manchester City this season. But on Sunday he was up against one of the best tacticians in Europe, albeit one of the most defensive.
Many Liverpool fans have poured scorn on Mourinho’s tactics, claiming them to be bad for football or killing the game. There is no doubt he is ‘Killjoy extraordinaire’, but what other choice did he have? Did we really expect him to open up the game for the entertainment of the watching public and give Liverpool the opportunity to show off their exciting brand of attacking football?
Now we have made certain of Champions League football for next season, we need a bit of a reality check. There are unlikely to be many teams who come to Anfield playing expansive, flowing football, allowing space for Sterling, Sturridge and Suarez to exploit. What Chelsea did on Sunday was operate in a way synonymous with a side defending a slender first leg advantage in a European tie. Liverpool failed to break them down, failed to keep patient and from this they will have plenty to learn. But if there is one thing I am certain of in just under two years of Rodgers reign at Anfield, is that he is a quick and avid learner.
Sunday’s match may have done us more good than we realise right now.
Of course it hurt. I told myself on Sunday morning if we didn’t win the title then it would be alright because nobody can ever take away the memories of this season. Nobody will ever be able to wipe from my mind the games against Arsenal, Everton, Manchester City and Manchester United. The crowds before home matches, the flags on The Kop, the atmosphere inside the stadium. The sheer feeling of relief we were finally finding our way back towards some sort of perch. Sunday has changed nothing in that respect, other than we now need Everton to try and at least get a draw at Goodison against City on Saturday. Do that, and the title is back in our hands.
But when it came to it after the Chelsea game I was really fed up. I felt we’d missed our chance and when we only needed one goal we just couldn’t break them down. Schwarzer made a couple of really good saves and I thought Ivanovic and Azpilicueta were immense at the back for the visitors. We didn’t really run at them in the box enough, we didn’t utilise our most potent weapon, Suarez, and we were too impatient to try and force a way through when a few cool heads may have waited for the openings. We didn’t really utilise one attacking option through corners.
But we will learn from this. It doesn’t hurt to get a knockback and realise you’re not quite as good as you thought you were. Let’s not forget we have been mixing it with the big boys here, big spenders and players who have won League titles. Only Glen Johnson in the Liverpool team has won a Premier League title.
When we finished second in 2009 it really did feel like the pinnacle for that team, and so it proved to be the end of an era. Xabi Alonso decided he was more wanted at Real Madrid once he discovered his manager has considered him worse than Gareth Barry. Fernando Torres had reached his peak too, and with the in-fighting amongst the owners and also the owners with the manager, it was a club in turmoil. But this time is a million miles from there. This team is only going to get better and Rodgers will need to strengthen the squad to cope with midweek Champions League matches as well as League games where everyone will want Liverpool as a scalp. I’ve said before I feel we’re a year ahead of where we should be and looking back at the table from the beginning of February, we were 4th and 8pts behind Arsenal. At that point many of us were nervous of whether we could stay in the top four, yet now we’re crying because we may have blown our chance of winning the whole thing.
We should think about what we’ve got, not what we haven’t.
On Saturday evening, Everton kick-off against Manchester City knowing a win puts them 1pt behind Arsenal. Of course, a win for Arsenal against West Brom a day later guarantees their Champions League entry for next season at the expense of The Toffees. For Liverpool even a draw for Everton is enough as far as we’re concerned. There are some Everton fans who would rather sacrifice Champions League football just to stop Liverpool winning the title. Whilst this mentality is foreign to me, as I don’t understand why your hate for another club would ever be stronger than your love for your own, it is unlikely to be mirrored by the players or their manager. What a story it would be for Roberto Martinez to get Everton into Europe in his first season.
Can he do it? Well he has already got one small club into Europe when he guided Wigan to FA Cup success last season, so who’s to say he cannot do it again?
If he doesn’t then there may be one man somewhere in England or Scotland, chuckling to himself.