Liverpool: Judging By Arsenal's Schedule, We Might Just (Maybe) Win The League...
It may just be me but, for Liverpool, the weekend of the 4th round of the FA Cup seemed to be about anything and everything other than the 4th round of the FA cup.
Yes, there was a match that we came through relatively unscathed; a 2-0 victory against a Bournemouth team that plays football in the way that it should be played and is lead by a talented, promising young manager but was ultimately undone by the extra touch of quality that a Sturridge and a Suarez and, yes, even a Victor Moses having his best game in a red shirt could bring but it was everything else round the game that really mattered.
Last season's 4th round tie saw a Liverpool side that Brendan Rodgers thought good enough to deal with inferior opposition dismissed by a determined Oldham performance, sounding the death knell on the career of several of that day's line up. Bournemouth's initial threat was dealt with here by a near full strength starting eleven. We would generally applaud the fact that we take the competition so seriously but....three days before a derby game against a currently impressive Everton side that could alter the shape of the top four? The fact is that we started a strong side not through choice but through necessity; we quite simply have no other players available.
You would hope that our squad would be viewed as strong enough to deal with lower league opposition; that an Aspas, an Alberto, an Ibe might be trusted to show their merit here. You might consider that Brad smith could be called into contention for the left back berth but Brendan's ill advised use of him as an out of position substitute seems to have put this particular youthful potential on the back burner for the moment.
Alberto was at least used as a late sub for Coutinho with the match already settled but with little time to demonstrate his worth. Introducing Sterling for Moses seemed pointless; we all know what Sterling can do, does he really need a five minute run out? Couldn't Ibe or Aspas have taken that time to at least feel part of the team?
Our squad is thin, getting thinner by the day with fresh injury to Joe Allen meaning the Welshman didn't travel South, Sakho still missing, Johnson out apparently 'indefinitely' with rumours of Manchester United interest (one can only imagine that David Moyes hasn't watched Glenn play this season) and our manager seemingly unwilling or unable to trust the understudies or alternatives. There is little chance of these players seeing league action, an FA Cup tie against Bournemouth is the only chance of integration to the first team that they have; there are times when it appears that Rodgers intends to see out the rest of the season with a playing staff of 12 to 13.
Ah yes, our playing staff....seemingly unlikely to be augmented before Jim White beings down the curtain on the transfer window via a late night interview with 'Arry Redknapp through the window of a Land Rover. For a few odd moments on Saturday evening Brendan Rodgers seemed to be indicating that the Mohamad Salah deal was still a possibility. "Hold on" said the world, "didn't he sign for Chelsea on Friday?"
Perhaps not. He certainly had by 4pm on Sunday though. Basel wanted £13m. We offered £8m. Chelsea adopted Spurs' 'see who Liverpool fancy and buy them for a laugh' approach and offered £11m. We didn't raise, we missed out, Salah spends the next couple of years warming the bench at the Bridge. Everybody loses. Except Jose. Obviously.
The other interesting point about Sunday? The absolutely, totally, utterly, made for the telly, BT and ITV must be laughing themselves silly as they count the viewers (but cover it appallingly) fifth round draw.
Chelsea go to City? Hilarious. What do you mean we've got to play Arsenal at their place? Fix.
But - and it's a big but - Arsenal have United in the league (obviously, United aren't in any cups, I've checked. And giggled) immediately before we go there and Bayern immediately after. We may not actually be their priority here. We owe a performance to compensate for not turning up when we visited them in the league and this is a hell of an opportunity. Extending the point - have you seen Arsenal's schedule for February and March? It's horrendous and could well cost them any chance of the Premiership while we have all our major rivals at Anfield.
I'm not saying that we're going to win the league but...
Fourth round of the FA Cup? It came, it went, there were no shocks; it was a sideshow to the real intrigue of an almost stupidly fascinating season.