While Arsenal and Utd impress, we plod along

WE knew Everton’s reaction would be bad, but they surpassed themselves.

When they move to the outskirts, every Red will need a doctor’s appointment simply to confirm we haven’t gone deaf.

Moyes whined about snubbing an apology Clattenburg had no intention of making, while the poor dears revelled in the belief they’d got him banned from the Premiership — only to discover he had a UEFA Cup match and was due a break!

Since he is apparently in the pay of LFC perhaps he was another victim of Rafa’s rotation? We could have used him in Turkey. A goal down and with little creativity, a pen and a red card would have been useful.

Even via the small screen, the Besiktas atmosphere was unbelievable. The hardy souls who went to the match insisted TV did it little justice.

We flatter ourselves in this country that we’re a passionate bunch. Sure we can turn it up on demand but most English games are played in pin-drop silence by comparison.

Defeat meant more reminders of Houllier. It was a Gerrard substitution and public criticism back then that first raised the eyebrows of Le Boss’ acolytes.

Rafa’s own response to his Goodison bombshell could have been short and sweet: “we won — Lucas provided the key moment,” but his fetish for justification and an overpowering desire to let everyone see his cleverness held sway. The visible puppeteer.

The heart’s passion, the head’s control. In Rafaworld only one can prevail, and it is something he cannot get to grips with: he needs it all. He certainly wasn’t complaining when his captain ran 60 yards for the equalising penalty.

Poor Sami was lax again in Turkey. It looks bad but he wasn’t meant to play so much. The impact of Agger’s injury has been staggering. His and Alonso’s reputations have swelled in their absence.

It looks all over in Europe. Those of us not in thrall to the continental experience can shrug and yawn, Rafa and the new owners clearly cannot.

Newspapers filled pages with ‘concern’ for the manager’s future. The hitherto silent Hicks felt moved to offer verbal support. He also revealed the new ground somehow added €100m to its already eye-watering cost. In 2000, fans were railroaded into the idea of moving from our spiritual home by the original €80m asking price.

It has increased five-fold since then and still no work has begun. Arsenal are dangled as our role model but numerous titles and sublime football played their part and it’s still a case of “so far, so good”.

We’ve admitted that ticket prices will rise, probably steeply. If it’s to watch some of the stodgy rubbish served up in the league this decade, I can envisage a few people declining future invitations.

Chelsea’s weekend demolition put our September euphoria into perspective. United and Arsenal are playing some excellent stuff.

Liverpool? At times we’ve looked like deep-sea divers exploring an ocean of treacle. ‘Laboured’ is underplaying it a tad.

The current form of both sides dictated Sunday’s events. It didn’t need a crystal ball to predict our tactics. Now we’ve got TWO forwards as makeshift wingers! We obviously showed tremendous character, the passion that does have a role in the Rafa masterplan after all. It almost worked.

But the longer it went on, the more ragged we became. No amount of effort could knock Arsenal out of their passing stride. Before long it resembled the night we beat Arsenal’s untouchables in 2004.

Three years later we need a similar policy to thwart a team we’ve pipped to third place twice, allowing them to run the show at a ground they hate.

And we didn’t win. The means weren’t justified by the end, and if rotation was designed to maintain fitness — how come we’re suddenly dropping like flies? Perhaps there is a language where this can all be translated as Progress — but English isn’t it.

Let’s call it Desperanto in our wacky Scouse way.

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Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.

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