25 August 2015

Buy the Benz! and other lessons of the Scouser stalemate...

One thing's clear: we absolutely positively mandatory-ly have to buy Benzema. We shouldn't care anymore what it will cost. After all, the market for top-shelf strikers is absurd at the best of times, and these ain't them. We've now scored a measly two goals in three matches, one of them an own-goal. Ironically, then, our only goal-scorer of record is the much-maligned Olivier Giroud, whose wondrous goal against Crystal Palace seems to only highlight how maddeningly inconsistent he is: capable of sudden moments of brilliance, reliable for sustained periods of mediocrity. The solution is as clear as an invisible pane of glass recently wiped clean by hydrochloric acid: we must buy Benzema.

First, give credit where credit's due. Liverpool came out with a game-plan and stuck to it. That game-plan came straight from the play-book of Mourinho, that is, defend deep, dare your opponent to score, and hit on counters—regardless of the talent in your squad. Yes, Coutinho struck woodwork in the early going, but Liverpool's forays were few and far between from then on. Čech did remind a few skeptics of his quality closer to halftime, but Liverpool's plan was already stubbornly set in place. The second half was all one-way traffic, but it crashed up against two walls of defenders, and when we did pierce those walls, Simon Mignolet did his best de Gea impressions to stymie us. Clearly, we need Benzema.

Or do we? Six minutes in, Aaron Ramsey, our nominal right-winger, popped on the left to slot home coolly from a nifty through-ball from Cazorla. Although Ramsey broke forward behind his man Clyne, Škrtel had clearly played him onside and the goal should have stood. It's not even close—it's just as obviously a bad call as Coutinho not being adjudged offside for Benteke's goal against Bournemouth the week before. However, before we digress in that cesspool, let's refocus. Ramsey's goal should have stood, and it would have fundamentally changed the complexion of the game. No longer would Liverpool's game-plan have stood. Instead of going into halftime knowing they were halfway to a miraculous point earned on the road, they would have had to chase the game for 84 minutes. As we well know, chasing a draw on the road can backfire. Witness our 0-2 loss at Stamford Bridge just about ten months ago when we were so determined to equalise that we opened ourselves up to the second goal. Liverpool are not Chelsea. Mignolet, even on a day like today, is not Čech.

In other words, had Ramsey's goal stood, we would have sliced Liverpool open six ways from Sunday. Or Monday, as it were. Instead, we found ourselves locked in a dour draw to the bitter end.

A moment of compassion for the linesman. Making the offside requires him or her to have one eye on the ball and another on the most-forward player, a gap that can sometimes span as many as 50 yards. Then again, in this situation, the decision was not all that hard. Cazorla's pass came from about 15 yards away from Ramsey's run, and the call should not have been all that hard. The entirety of Škrtel's head, I'm sorry, arse (hard to tell the difference, sad to say) keeps Ramsey onside. Sadly, the linesman couldn't tell his own head from his arse and ruled Ramsey offside.

Back to my original point. Some among the hand-wringers and panty-twisters will wring and twist and ask why we haven't signed Benzema yet. That's a brave new world you live in, pets, where transfers are that simple. For as much as we might want him, he has to want to leave and Real Madrid have to want to sell in equal parts. Results like this one, for as desultory as they are, do not change factors #2 and #3 in that equation. We're missing the larger point, though.

It took a terrible offside ruling and a magnificent performance from Mignolet behind a parked bus to deny us. That and a few quid will get you a pint; it was just enough go let Liverpool escape with a point. It's not quite enough, in my opinion to justify breaking the bank for Benzema. That's not the same as saying "don't sign Benzema". He'd be a nice addition—at the right price. However, after a draw, it might be best to play our cards closer to the vest.

'til tomorrow, thanks for reading. Don't be afraid to share your thoughts below the fold!