Was Reading another watershed FA Cup game for Liverpool FC?
LIVERPOOL supporters of a certain vintage may recall two FA Cup games at the back ends of decades which were to define the following 10 years.
Almost 51 years to the day on January 15, 1959, Liverpool, then in the Second Division, were memorably dumped out of the FA Cup at the third round stage by non-League Worcester City, a 2-1 reverse widely seen as the worst in the club's history.
Then, in a sixth round tie on February 21, 1970, the Reds fell 1-0 at Second Division Watford, who, while progressing to the FA Cup semi-finals at our expense, were also on their way into the Third Division at the season's end.
Those two matches have long been held as watershed games in the club's history.
Later in the same year as the Worcester defeat, Bill Shankly arrived at Anfield... and, ah, you know the rest.
And right after the failure at Vicarage Road, Shankly more or less dismantled his team and built a new one which was to go on to achieve even more glory than the decade before.
Last night when Reading deservedly booked their place in round four of the FA Cup could well be seen as this Liverpool team's watershed game.
There were enough 'star' Reds players in the 11 on the pitch at the final whistle to have comfortably won that game, even allowing for the enforced departures of our two talismen Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres and the absence through injury/suspension of two other certain first team starters in Glen Johnson and Javier Mascherano.
No, too many in the team last night simply do not fully understand what it really, really means to wear that Red shirt.
I have a certain amount of sympathy with Alberto Aquilani as he's been thrust into this mess, not of his making, and is looked upon by many fans as our saviour for the much-missed Xabi Alonso. The Italian will come good, I'm certain, but we may not see that until the next season is upon us.
However, Lucas, once again, did little to show me what his worth is to our team. His creativity is on the minus scale and he doesn't know how to tackle - surely two fairly important composites for a midfielder.
Much as I admire Dirk Kuyt's industry and his willing to battle to the end, I fear his career at the club is now at the stage I would call 'treading water'. Everyone has sussed his cutting-in from the right flank with no end product, be it a goal for himself or an assist for a teammate. Why he isn't given a chance to play up top in a two-pronged strike force, I just don't understand.
Yossi Benayoun has always been one of my favourite players but his off-game last night (his fine curling effort over the Road End bar apart) was crowned with that cast-iron spot kick he conceded in added time. Yossi's best position is as a roving attacking midfielder, difficult for defenders to mark, but out on the left wing he was isolated and hardly threatened their backline all night. Surely you set your players to play in their best positions - you get the best out of them that way.
Not for the first time, Ryan Babel wasn't in the mood for the match and the sooner he is shipped out of the club, the better. He's offering us absolutely nothing now so at least we could recoup nearly all the ÃÂ£11m we forked out for him back in 2007. What a tremendous disappointment he's turned out to be.
Emiliano Insua is still learning his game, but he drastically needs to improve his defensive role and was easily exposed for the cross that led to Shane Long's winner.
Up front, David Ngog might be good - in the future - but I'm afraid that's not good enough right now. He looks unsure of himself at times, and when buffetted around by bulky centre-halves, he just seems he's not up for the fight.
If Rafa Benitez is to save his job and save Liverpool's season by finishing in at least fourth place in the Premier League, he MUST make some changes to tactics and personnel. Because his present system is broke and therefore does need fixing.
His 4-2-3-1 system has to be binned. For good!
He must go 4-4-2 with the following starting XI if fit and available: Reina; Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Aurelio; Rodriguez, Gerrard, Mascherano, Benayoun; Kuyt, Torres. With this formation, the rearguard has the ability to go forward on the right while being stronger defensively on the left, the midfield has plenty of attacking options with Gerrard able to direct things from the centre alongside the tireless Argentine workhorse while at the spearhead, Torres finally has a teammate alongside him to worry defenders.
After all, Kuyt knew where the back of the net was when playing in the Dutch league. Options then from the bench would include Aquilani who could replace Mascherano if we needed to attack more, Ngog as another striker, with defensive cover in the shape of Martin Skrtel, Stephen Darby and Martin Kelly.
Things are rank bad now at Anfield, both off and on the pitch. If the manager can't influence the former, at least he can with the latter.
At this rate, I reckon Benitez has until the end of the season to get it right and ensure the Reds finish in a Champions League qualification place - as he famously gave his "guarantee" that they would. If he doesn't, then I believe there will be a vacancy for the manager's position at L4 come the summer.