Liverpool must beware goal mouth neurosis

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Liverpool must be extra vigilant over the next two weeks or risk eclipsing the good feeling that came from their Carling Cup triumph.


Kenny Dalglish’s side worked up some irresistible momentum on their way to victory at Wembley and they have done something similar to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals this year.


However, the euphoria that emanated from their first trophy win since the 2006 FA Cup has been tempered somewhat by their first defeat of the season at Anfield, when Robin van Persie struck late to give Arsenal a fortunate victory.


It seems to have activated a neurosis in the Reds’ over their home form, which has been dormant for most of the season so far – this was evident in the amount of Liverpool supporters and commentators saying it was typical of Dalglish’s side this season to be so dominant and yet not taste victory.


So far they had managed to avoid throwing away all the points but, with hindsight, it was inevitable that a team may do that to them at some point.


The Liverpool boss must do all he can to supress any danger of his forward players developing a full-blown complex over their apparent inability to convert the numerous chances they are creating.


Especially so in the 11 days from Saturday because that begins a run of games that could define their season as one of successful progression, or one of disappointment relieved only momentarily by an isolated success.


The loss to Arsenal last week meant they dropped ten points behind the Londoners, who currently occupy fourth place in the Premier League and the hallowed last Champions League place.


Bouncing back from that defeat will be difficult as they must travel to face an almost unrecognisable Sunderland side that have so far dispatched league leaders Manchester City and dumped Arsenal out of the FA Cup since Martin O’Neill’s arrival.


It doesn’t get any easier when, just three days later, they host Everton for the rearranged Merseyside derby – we all know that these games can go either way, especially since the Toffees have now gone eight games without tasting defeat.


A trip to London and struggling QPR follows their FA Cup quarter-final with Stoke City at Anfield, with both games far from easy considering the time of the season and their respective situations.


It cannot be denied that Liverpool are close to clicking and giving an opponent a ‘battering’, to use the words of Dalglish from earlier this season, but it has appeared so far that they are just unable to find that one tiny ingredient.


It is far too easy to say they just need to finish their chances because it has gone beyond that; Liverpool have a number of very good players who you would expect to be able to take a respectable percentage of the goal scoring opportunities provided them.


They have the yips and if they do not lose them over the next week or so, the happiness of the Carling Cup win could sour and almost taunt them as the embodiment of a season defined by second tier achievements for a club that is more accustomed to inhabiting the upper echelons of footballing success.


It would be remiss to try and point out what should be done, because if someone of the experience and proven quality as Dalglish has been unable to do so, then neither you nor I have a hope of coming up with the solution to this most confounding of equations.


We will know in a fortnight if the difference Dalglish has made since his return has been significant, or if it has just been a minor change of hue to the days under Roy Hogdson.

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