Paul Parker

Bore draw indicative of Liverpool demise

Paul Parker

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Liverpool's
performance against Manchester City did not come as a surprise - Rafa Benitez
just isn't an adventurous manager.

The only
time he encouraged his side to play daringly was at the back end of last season
- when he was rewarded with a second-place finish.

Since then
Liverpool have failed to step forward. Benitez has pointed to the injuries his
squad have sustained this campaign, but the only one that has really had an
impact is that of Fernando Torres.

They have
become quite negative under Benitez, to the point where avoiding defeat has
become more important than winning.

Benitez
clearly did not want to allow City to pull four points ahead of his team in the
race for fourth place, but that view has proved horribly short-sighted. In
solely occupying himself with winning a point at Eastlands, Benitez allowed
Tottenham to steal a march on them and Aston Villa to close the gap to the
rear.

Benitez's
guarantee to Liverpool fans a couple of weeks back that he would deliver fourth
place looks increasingly like a promise he will not come good on - that will
only happen if he sends his team out to win their remaining games.

He did not
do that on Sunday, when he put his faith in nicking a goal on the break rather
than trying to create a goal themselves.

That's not
the Liverpool way and certainly not the way I remember them playing when I was
a kid and they were winning titles for fun.

There must
be a lot of disappointed Liverpool fans out there who remember the good old
days and who expect, and deserve, better.

Yet until
Benitez encourages a bit of self-expression and creativity in his side - both
of which are sorely missing at the moment - a return to those days remains a
long way off.

- - -

City
weren't much better, mind, in some part due to the absence of Carlos Tevez, who
City are missing badly at the moment.

Tevez is
worth his weight in gold - good, bad or indifferent his energy always gives
something extra to City.

The
presence of Craig Bellamy in City's starting line-up offers something similar
and, much as it pains me to say it - I'm not a fan of the headaches he gives
his managers - more often than not he causes problems for opposition defences.

But without
those two against Liverpool, City's game was pedestrian. It is a problem I've
noticed on a number of occasions this season and they really need to start
injecting a higher tempo to their play.

At the
moment the ball is passed out from the back far too slowly. That stems from the
quality of the players they have in defence, none of whom are confident enough
in possession to get the ball moving quickly into midfield and then on to the
front players.

There must
be a few players in the ranks at Eastlands, including several defenders, who I
think Roberto Mancini would love to move on in the summer.

Those who
are not going to be productive enough are not the kind of players Mancini needs
if City are to go on and establish themselves as a real top-four contender.

- - -

Everyone
seems to be wading into the Bobby Zamora for England debate, so I will too.

Don't even
go there.

Zamora has
done brilliantly for Fulham this season and he's a decent Premier League
footballer, but he is not international class by a long way.

It seems
that in a World Cup year everyone lives in the moment far more than usual and
all it takes is a run of two or three decent games to suddenly get everyone
talking of a call-up to Fabio Capello's squad.

Admittedly
Zamora has done well for more than just two or three games, but there are
others ahead of him in the pecking order and he should be left to concentrate
on his form for Fulham.

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