TERRACE TALK: Reaction from the weekend's top Premier League action

Liverpool: This latest heart murmur just wasn’t necessary

TERRACE TALK: Reaction from the weekend's top Premier League action

Hyperventilation is good for the system. That’s what I tell myself now. The stress of desperately wanting other results, not just the Reds’, to go the correct way is reaching critical levels now. It’s a fine life to lead when you want Cardiff of all people to win just enough points so they’ll have something to fight tooth and nail for on the final day.

Title race statistics can turn the thickest fan into John Nash, though minds will remain distinctly less than beautiful. My own mind harboured some wild design on keeping hold of one final atom of cynicism, but alas it has gone for good. Seeing Steven Gerrard weep after the Man City win was just too much.

I did my best and tried to focus on that post-victory rallying cry (oooo get you Maximus Scousus, the speech that daubed a thousand bed-sheets etc) but it was worse than futile.

As Sunday noon approached even I was at it: “We Go Again”.

It’s all Sunderland’s fault. Not content with spiking City, they’ve pulled the rug from under Mourinho too. Apparently, the name Fabio derives from “bean farmer” and not from Fabulous as it ought to. The breathing space this provided could easily have backfired, though.

To be honest I was getting a bit wary of the “Liverpool Worthy Winners, Chelsea Boring” storyline anyway.

We’re not Gooners. There has been more than one pragmatic Liverpool team in the past, or do you want to start shouting “hoof” at every opposition clearance now?

No zealot like a convert, eh? So, odd as it seems, Norfolk became the centre of the universe for two seemingly endless hours. The opening 10 minutes should have been followed by an oasis of calm, but that’s never how it goes down is it? Defenders standing off our players make all manner of exciting discoveries. First Coutinho v Spurs and now Sterling against Norwich: “oh, so you can do THAT now, can you? That’s good to know”. When Suarez got his obligatory Anglian goal, no one was relaxed. If anything, the general impression was that we were suddenly in all sorts of trouble.

So it proved. I don’t want to see Mignolet and Sakho in possession, what I want is for the ball to be sent immediately to another red shirt. In fact let’s just try and cut them out of the equation altogether shall we?

Lucas filled Henderson’s position without ever really knowing what he was supposed to be doing, and as he tired in the second-half gave away a succession of potentially calamitous set pieces, and Glen Johnson had one of his “I’m far too good for all this” days.

Such defensive frailties give every opponent succour, whatever the score and whatever their position in the table. Norwich would not stop, and it’s not like they’ve ever had Terminator tendencies (Arrrrr’ll be barrrrrck) is it? When it’s dragged back to 2-1, you’re not even surprised any more. Of course that’s what’s happened, what else would? I can’t even summon the energy to shrug any more. Rodgers the coach has had so much smoke blown up his arse that you honestly wonder if he believes this team has any flaws at all. By the way, it would be nice to stop the odd cross from coming in, especially when your goalkeeper has vampire genes.

Look, don’t get me wrong. What we do well we do brilliantly, and is still proving to be enough, but what’s poor has been poor from day one. It’s not even come close to being corrected. Nerves are certainly taking their toll, and whatever it takes to make one small step towards the prize is fine. It’s highly begrudging to pick at faults, but this latest heart murmur wasn’t necessary.

Cocky dallying and flickering focus are going to be the downfall of this team, but I’ve been saying that for months now I suppose.

We go again.

Arsenal: Momentum must not morph into complacency

Considering the meal we’ve made of Champions League qualification in recent seasons and the nail-biting, last-match climaxes, where we’ve needed the fates to favour us to sneak under the wire into fourth place, as we were leapfrogged by Everton last weekend, there was a question of whether our luck was finally about to forsake us.

Nevertheless, in a season that’s been anything but predictable, I kind of fancied that the Toffees might struggle to slam the Champions League door closed in our faces. Albeit that along with everyone else, I certainly didn’t expect this door to come off its hinges for Everton against Palace at Goodison in midweek.

What was less certain in my mind is whether the Gunners would have the wherewithal to maintain the pressure necessary to take advantage of any such slip-ups. Mercifully, the much needed return to fitness of the likes of Ramsey, Ozil and Koscielny has not only resuscitated Arsenal’s flagging form, but it might also prove to be the kiss of life for Arsene’s waning tenure.

We got a taste of quite how much we’ve missed Aaron Ramsey on Wednesday night, with a late cameo substitute appearance against West Ham which demonstrated quite how deprived we’ve been in recent weeks of players willing to take responsibility. Thankfully Ramsey only reiterated this with his display at the KC Stadium yesterday, making those energetic bursting runs into the box against Hull that are the Welshman’s trademark.

It felt somewhat fortunate to find ourselves two goals to the good at half-time and I’ve no doubt that the home side felt hard done by. However, for all Hull’s earnest industry, ultimately the Gunners’ ability to conjure up two clinical strikes from just about our only two meaningful attacks was testament to the gulf in quality between the two teams.

In fact, Santi Cazorla might have set up Ramsey for the opening goal, but I was left thinking that the nearest the diminutive Spaniard came to breaking sweat during the opening 45 was when he helped to retrieve the row of advertising hoardings that blew onto the pitch.

Thankfully, coming within ten minutes of the restart, the third goal killed off this game.

As ably demonstrated by Liverpool in the early kick off, confidence and momentum are paramount when it comes to Premier League success and after having beaten West Ham on Wednesday and then cruising to a comfortable victory against Hull, the Gunners have been transformed.

However with all the Premier League’s principal issues looking as if they’re going down to the wire, it’s that time of the season when one tends to question whether the intensity and the anxiety on the terraces is matched by participants on the pitch.

Assuming the Gunners don’t take our qualification for the Champions League for granted, one would hope that our experience in recent seasons will stand us in good stead over the course of the three remaining league games.

Similarly, after such a masterful performance in yesterday’s dress rehearsal for the FA Cup final, I certainly hope this doesn’t result in the sort of complacency that causes us to fluff our lines come the big day in May.

Chelsea: Excuse my poison pen, this capitulation has hit me hard

It’s the hope that kills you they say — never has that been more true. I have been far from confident in terms of our league ambitions all season and I’ve been banging on for weeks about how our “easy” run-in would do for us, but I had no fear of Sunderland — given that we were playing at home I saw nothing but a home win. I suppose I was complacent — but not half as complacent as the team were in the first half.

By the time they came out for the second half the panic didn’t take long to materialise both amongst the players and the fans and that was swiftly followed by an air of inevitability as we capitulated again to one of the worst teams in the Premier League.

I’m only going to make two points about Saturday’s referee (unlike Jose’s four). Why did the FA deem it inappropriate for Mike Dean to referee Liverpool in the 2006 FA Cup final due to the fact he is from the Wirral yet feel it’s wholly appropriate to have him referee one of Liverpool’s two direct rivals in a pivotal game which could have a huge bearing on the title?

My only other point is that Mike Dean had three key decisions to make and got them all wrong.

But then we can’t blame the referee for a performance so lacking in character — we need to look in the mirror for that. Jose was wrong in his short post match interview — the players did not do everything in their power to win the game — they did not give their all.

Perhaps the apprehension which was so palpable in the stands had communicated itself on the pitch or more likely all the talk of Anfield had made us take our eye off the ball.

But then I think Jose too may have out mind-gamed himself on this occasion. There is no doubt our lack of strikers has cost us dearly this season but rather than lighting a fire under them, Jose’s constant comments seem to have destroyed any little confidence they had.

I enjoyed Rui’s meltdown in the dugout — at least someone was as angry as I was. It took four members of the coaching staff to hold him back. The league is lost, I’d have let him go on the rampage — it would have been quite interesting to see what he would have done to Dean had he got hold of him.

Chased him all the way back to the welcoming arms of Brendan Rodgers for a start.

Anyway that’s the league done as far as we’re concerned and our last shot at glory this season is the Champions League — which will be far from easy.

One thing is for certain, Jose needs to get over this fury with the media and the FA pretty sharpshish as when you are that angry, it’s difficult to think clearly and this cannot be doing the team any good.

Mathematically there are still a number of permutations which could give us a few twists and turns yet — but I think we all know how this story will end. We can only look at ourselves at the missed opportunities, stupid mistakes, the complacency and not playing to our full potential but then we didn’t have divine intervention on our side.

Looks like Suarez really got into the swing of the Easter spirit by showing us his interpretation of the seasonal rising from the dead miracle.

Of course it’s not in the script to discuss his constant diving and cheating, nor his ban for biting an opposition player, nor his racism — in fact I doubt any of these will prevent him claiming the player of the year crown — everlasting recriminations are only for non-Merseyside based players.

Excuse my poison pen, but our capitulation has hit me hard and I’m not in a particularly benevolent mood.

By the time you read this I will be winging my way to Madrid where hopefully a bit of Rioja and tapas will lighten my mood — until next Sunday at least.

Manchester United: Boss edges closer to defining ‘moment’

As yesterday’s boring and embarrassing second half dribbled away to its clearly inevitable conclusion, I was reminded that United hadn’t played in 11 days, whilst Everton were on their third game in a week. It’s always been claimed of the Moyes/Round combination that they at least know how to drill a team physically so that it fully competes in terms of energy and commitment.

Goodison appeared to give the lie to that. United’s players collectively looked like they all just wanted to go to bed for the next three months. In that, at least, they are at one with the fans. Just make it all stop now, please: we’ve seen enough.

Barring a miracle — and, believe me, we’ve been lighting more candles this week than the whole of Britain managed during the three-day-week — Liverpool are going to be champions, and no one reading this needs to have what that will feel like explained to them.

Not that LFC don’t deserve it: they do. They’re also the best Liverpool side to watch I’ve seen since the Barnes/Beardsley side under King Kenny.

But it is Moyes’s typical misfortune that he will have failed in a season that will also have seen ‘them’ succeed. In boxing terminology, that’s a left-right combo which will put many of us Reds on the canvas.

An Irish betting company circulated a picture during the match of a fella dressed up as the Grim Reaper, sat a few seats away from Moyes. Apparently, stewards soon turfed him out but many Reds would have been urging him and his scythe on.!

There’s no escaping the fact that support is draining away from Poor David with every match.

There is a gaping opportunity here for The Moment to arrive — that is, the crowd “turning”, and thereby sending the very message to Ed Woodward & co which they have been suggesting would be required for them to act.

If Moyes fails even to get us into the Europa League, he will be the first United manager to miss out on an available European spot since Dave Sexton in 1981. Deadly Dave was sacked at the end of the season: ahem!

Sexton’s side managed to win the last seven games of that season by “playing for pride”, but it seems that many in this team don’t even find pride a sufficient motivation. Is that their fault or the manager’s, though?

Certainly, there were at least four players on the pitch yesterday whom I know to have been regularly badmouthing Moyes.

This isn’t his team, remember: but does he really deserve a last chance to create one that is?”

More in this section


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

Sign up

Discover the

Install our free app today

Available on


Have the Irish Examiner delivered to your door. No delivery charge. Just pay the cover price.


Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox