Coming into their ninth game in twenty-nine days, the last thing that Liverpool would have wanted from this FA Cup fourth round fixture was a replay. But that is exactly what they got, after a goalless draw against West Ham United at Anfield.
Here are a few points I picked up from watching the Reds play tonight.
- These kids can play. Cameron Brannagan, Joao Teixeira and Kevin Stewart were the three best players on show in red tonight. It was a terrific performance from the trio, as they performed their roles to perfection, and nearly took us through to the fifth round which they could have done with a little more luck.
- The more experienced players apparently couldn’t. Jordon Ibe and Christian Benteke had another frustrating game. Ibe makes you want to tear your hair out. He is blessed with pace and decent technique on the ball but you just wish that he had a brain to match. His decision-making is right on the money – just that he makes the wrong decision every single time.
- Christian Benteke. Once again, this was a performance from the Belgian that left fans having expletive-ridden rants. His hold-up play was awful, he stuck to the far post for every cross that came in and when the likes of Teixeira, Allen and Brannagan seemed like they could create something along the ground, he didn’t have the pace to get to the ball. He barely seems to jump when a ball is played from the defence out to him, in the hope that he would hold it up. A very expensive problem to have at the club at this point in time.
- Joe Allen seems a revived man. At the start of the month, it seemed like Allen could be moving to pastures new. At the end of it, he wore the captain’s armband. It has been a strong revival from the little Welshman, and as I wrote here, he definitely warrants more playing time on the back of these performances. I’ll probably remember this game for two things – both related to Allen – obviously for the fact that he was captain, and that he attempted a bicycle kick. Who would’ve thought that with the man who only played sideways and backwards passes?
- Sheyi Ojo should have been brought on earlier. And brought on for Benteke. In all honesty, the Belgian was being more a nuisance to the others than anything else. So, it would have made sense to get Ojo on earlier and let him run at Ogbonna and Reid, as both the West Ham centre-backs seemed uncomfortable when the ball was moved quickly along the ground. Also, with Benteke non-existent as an aerial threat, it might have been worth putting Ojo on a bit earlier.
- The Jose Enrique free kick. It was perplexing why he came on. Even more perplexing why he took the free-kick. And probably even more perplexing is that he is still at the club. Well, at least the fans have something to complement the Iago Aspas Corner now.
- Another fixture. Definitely not what we needed at this point in time. We’ve played nine games in January, and February looks like being no different. With the Europa League resuming, the fixture list is just going to become more cruel on Jurgen Klopp. One can only hope that our German gaffer has things planned with respect to squad rotation.
Ultimately, a night when the youngsters did very well. With a little more help from the more heralded names, the night could have ended with Liverpool into the next round of the FA Cup.