Groans aplenty as Swans bring dose of reality back to Anfield

IT never fails. The light at the end of the tunnel was an oncoming train after all.

As soon as I show an ounce of optimism, there’s a trickle of emails inquiring about my health — and the team lets us down immediately. You can grow tired of cynicism and pessimism, they’re such debilitating affectations and one never has any of the rollercoaster fun that the blinkered enjoy.

Whenever I try enthusiasm, I get slapped down hard before the balloons pop and the bunting falls.

Were we really that good at Stoke and Albion anyway? There were glimpses of things coming together, but is overpowering Hodgson a convincing sign of anything? Perhaps it’s evidence of a shallow nature, but it took one Carroll sitter against Swansea for the black dog to bark again.

What followed was almost identical to Norwich; chances missed, crowd unease (we seem to set new records for petulance) and the opposition get a firmer foothold in the game through slick passing.

Not that we ever pressure them. For all the internet claims that Carragher’s absence would mean we’d become less ‘stretched’, it seemed more ragged on Saturday than ever.

From an early stage, we gave the impression of a side playing within itself because it had a game two days previously.

No one has missed the Europa League, that’s for sure, but wasn’t a week’s rest supposed to be one of the advantages of this season? You wouldn’t have thought so as any pass and & move groove was being cheered by gleeful Welsh voices. The rest of Anfield could barely raise a mutter.

We must be the least fit squad in the country, and it isn’t a new phenomenon, by any means. Make no mistake, Swansea and Norwich can drown in plaudits for now but they’ll still be struggling come March.

Suarez had his poorest game. It was clear from the outset there was to be no day of magic. It contributed to a dull, lifeless atmosphere; too many were having their worst fears confirmed and reacted accordingly.

Carroll’s extraordinary miss seemed to bounce him back into lumbering ox mode; did we dream those moments of competence a mere week before? The team played some good football towards the end of last season, all of it from a low centre of gravity. Spearing and Maxi, even Kuyt, have barely featured since, and as for Meireles...

The money has been spent, and Kenny looks like he’s between a rock and a hard place. Henderson especially seems out of his depth, flopping his arms about like a grounded teenager when things go wrong.

Lucas continues to be the Rafa battleground he always was, neither as bad nor as good as extremists claim. Like Hamann and Mascherano, without ever achieving their stature he appears surplus to requirements during games we really need to attack opposition.

We’re already on course to equal last year’s squandering of half our points against the bottom 10, games upon which United build their title winning objective. In fairness it’s a problem we had three years ago when we had similar ambition.

No one with common sense expected an instant all-round cure overnight, and these are the erratic times synonymous with transition. Yet what were once concerns are quietly becoming fears. Chelsea and City are lying in wait. What odds on all that muttering growing louder by the end of the month?

More in this section

Sport
Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up