When Liverpool signed Craig Bellamy on the transfer deadline day I told anyone who would listen, and plenty who didn't want to, that I couldn't wait to see a front three of Suarez, Kuyt and Bellamy. A front three who interchange at will, niggle at defenders, recycle second balls quickly and provide a variety of movement that encourages quick and vertical passing from our midfielders. And last night in the 2-1 defeat of Brighton, although it didn't pan out exactly as above, Liverpool fans were treated to the first signs of how this will work.
Bellamy was tremendous, he might be unable to make 20-30 lung-bursting sprints per half anymore due to the problems with his knees, but in his all round play he showed that, technically, he is in the top 5% of this Liverpool side.
His movement is a study in how players should constantly find angled support positions to drag the opposition out of position and create space, his short passing, whether angled five-yarders, clipped into the channels or slide-rule through the defence was exemplary and his positive impact upon Suarez was palpable.
In the White Hart Lane horror show last sunday, Suarez appeared isolated. Asked to play up front on his own against King and Kaboul, he became increasingly frustrated that, when he dropped off to receive the ball, Andy Carroll simply didn't have the speed to get into a forward supporting position. From the moment Adam got sent off, Bellamy should've replaced him and given Spurs something to think about on the counter as the prospect of Bellamy running on past Suarez, even with ten men, is enough to trouble defenders and encourage mistakes and poor decisions. As it was, King and Kaboul had time to knock it around, draw Suarez in and play through the gaps that opened up.
Carroll should be kept in the cooler for the last 20 minutes when he can come on and wreak havoc on a defence that has twisted blood
Witness Bellamy's goal last night. Suarez receives in the hole, gets his head up, sees Bellamy bursting into space with a defence killing diagonal run and the rest was easy. For all the negatives that have been written about Bellamy in the past, his will to win and to play at the maximum level rubs off on other players, he makes the players around him lift their game. It might have been against League One opposition but Spearing had a terrific game, Kuyt was his usual indefatigable self, Lucas found an extra gear that he seemed to have left in an M6 service station and Kelly and Robinson had very good games in the full-back positions.
The one problem that Liverpool now face is Bellamy’s physical position. If he really can’t play two games in a week then we could struggle. Wolves travel to Anfield on Saturday and have shown in two recent losses that they are ok when the ball is pumped in diagonally, but struggle when the ball is zipped around on the deck. I’m not sure what is wrong with Carroll at the moment but he seems to have lost both a yard and his ability to jump, his two main assets.
To show the rest of the league that the Spurs defeat was a blip, Liverpool need to slay Wolves at Anfield, with Downing, Bellamy, Suarez and Kuyt encouraged to constantly switch-hit and get something of a settled team and feelgood factor before the derby the following weekend. On the evidence of last night, Bellamy could be the free-transfer of this year if he can stay fit, and there can be no benefit in starting Carroll ahead of him. Carroll should be kept in the cooler for the last 20 minutes when he can come on, wreak havoc on a defence that has twisted blood and grab the odd goal to boost his confidence which must be at an all-time low.
Craig Bellamy as Liverpool's saviour, who'd have thought it?
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