Nearly but not quite. That was the 2008/9 Barclays Premiere League season which made the hope in Red’s hearts rise so very high. Certainly did mine. Saturday 14th March, as I entered the channel tunnel returning from a trip to Rotterdam, I was one happy red. I’d just had a text confirming a 4-1 humilation (to quote the BBC) of our bitterest foes in their own backyard. And was that right? Dossena had applied the coup de grace? Good times!
Ignoring media hyped Rafa ranting, that was the season we never seemed beaten and saw a return to breathless games like 4-4 against the Gunners. Now Arshavin can’t hit the proverbial cows backside with a banjo, but that night he had gold dust on his boots at Anfield.
But now to this season. The King in his rightful place and new faces, including a Uraguayan tormenting all before him and a Toon exile waiting to explode. But we’ve lost 3 times already. Sendings off at Spurs and Fulham have contributed to those losses, but together with losing to Stoke, Liverpool have already exceeded that impressive total of 2 losses for the whole of 2008/09.
But an examination of the current top 6 gives all those in Red heart, and points to what we have known since the latter part of 2005; we have one of the best, most consistent stoppers in the Premiere League: ‘Pepe’ Jose Manuel Reina.
As one of Rafa’s greatest and bravest decisions, bringing Pepe Reina to Anfield has to be right up there with plunging for the often scouted Fernando Torres. To all but abandon a newly crowned hero in Jerzy Dudek, so soon after his coronation, showed amazing foresight and even greater bottle (Editors Note: I believe Jerzy knew he was leaving before Istanbul, but I could be wrong).
But moving onto more recent times, I am sure I was not the only Liverpool supporter who felt physically sick when Pepe was not only rumoured to be leaving last Christmas, but linked with those foes humilated so wonderfully that sunny Saturday 3 years ago.
That’s where Kenny Dalglish stepped in. Dalglish was able to persuade our MVP that the contract he signed that previous summer was not tying him to a sinking ship. This Liverpool vessel wasn’t a submarine on a dive, but a ship with a captain at the helm who knew where Liverpool needed to be and how to get there.
Although the season isnt even halfway over, an encouraging comparison to that ‘almost’ season is how few goals we are conceding. At only conceding a goal every 108.9 minutes of play that is the longest time between conceeding since that 08/09 season.
Pepe Reina is a 3 time Premiere League golden gloves winner. He came mighty close in those years he didn’t make it.
Pepe Reina has been ever present for all 15 Premiere League games in the 11/12 season. He has kept 5 clean sheets second only to the unpronouncable, high scrabble scoring, Wojciech Szczesny. However Pepe has let in 10 less goals than the Arsenal number 1 during the same period. Reina’s goals conceded per game stats (0.87 per game as opposed to Hart’s 1 per game and Friedel’s 1.29 per game) are the best in the top 6 teams. This could be crucial in the battle for that all important champions league spot.
Certainly we need to be getting more goals. In 08/09 we were scoring a goal on average every 46 minutes. At the moment we are managing 1 every 78 minutes of play. But, cliche or not it doesn’t stop it being true – you need to start with a solid defence and build on that. So long as we have the big Spaniard between the sticks, I will be looking forward to us improving in attack, safe in the knowledge that Dalglish’s Liverpool side has the best last line of defence in the Premiere League.
All Opta stats in this article are from the EPLIndex Stats Centre.