Well, I was actually waiting for someone else to post the first entry in this newly-relaunched Chit Chat Bola (in it’s own home too! W00t!), but since Idlan’s probably busy with her academic work, Gunners’ fans are busy gloating after their record-breaking feats, and other EPL fans just chilling, I guess I’ll start the ball (re-)rolling here.
While most other teams have played 4 games or so in the league, Liverpool have only played twice thus far. The one good thing we can say about both games is that we did not lose them. An unbeaten run is important (even at this early stage) for Liverpool, after all, are still a team in transition after the arrival of a new manager and the departure of a top striker.
However, today the Reds go to a ground at which we have not had the best of times in recent years. Bolton, under the very canny Sam Allardyce, have a group of players who, when on song, can play some scintillating football – much of which would be down to the midfield magic of Jay-Jay Okocha. While Liverpool’s players are still getting to grips with Rafa Benitez’s tactics as well as trying to gel with some of our recent acquisitions, Bolton’s players have no such problem, with most of their first-teamers having played together for a couple of seasons now.
By now you can sense where I’m going with this. The Reebok Stadium is a huge banana-skin for us, and unless we click (and I mean really click), we’re coming away with a defeat. Call me a pessimist, or call me a realist, but after our two sub-par performances in the league (plus a terrible performance at home during the CL qualifiers), I’m not sure if we’re ready to take on Bolton just yet – especially with Jay-Jay in really good form right now.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. We might be lining up against Bolton with a couple of new faces on the team-sheet i.e. Luis Garcia and Xabi Alonso. Two highly rated, young Spanish midfield players who could possibly inject some much needed creativity into the team. With Cisse showing hints of his power and pace, Baros showing improvements (although his first touch is still incredibly awful – how come we never noticed this during Euro 2004?) and Captain Stevie G as majestic in midfield as ever (I’d shave my head if he leaves Anfield next season), Alonso’s and Garcia could be just what the club has been lacking in recent games.
But let’s not get too carried away, of course. Our defence, which a few seasons ago was the best in the league (notably during the 2000-01 season), is now very shaky at best. Henchoz looks like he’s out of favour with Rafa, and I won’t be surprised if he moves soon (maybe he’ll join Traore at Goodison Park, eh?). Dudek, who can be brilliant at times, and then really bad at times, needs to shape up or ship out. I really do hope Kirkland takes over at some stage though… I really like the guy. His loyalty to Liverpool to date (despite taking a back seat to Dudek) is a sharp contrast to some other EPL players who’ve been in the spotlight in recent weeks. (No, I’m not referring to Owen.)
Nevertheless, a nervy encounter is expected tonight at the Reebok Stadium. I’m loathe to make predictons (in case they actually come true!), so I’ll just cop-out and hope that we leave Bolton with 3 points in the bag, thank you very much.
And here’s to Jay-Jay suffering cramps after 5 minutes and having to leave the game, only to return in Bolton’s next match and score 10 goals.
You’ll Never Merdeka Alone.
Previously archived at Chit-Chat Bola: An EPL Weblog