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The Big "C" at Anfield PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sam Coare   
Wednesday, 30 August 2006
New Views from Sam...
Competition the new big ‘C’ at Anfield

Ironically, talk of the big ‘C’ has cast a shadow on Peter Crouch, despite the striker not being the central figure in most peoples minds. Dirk Kuyt’s much-anticipated arrival on Merseyside may signal the start of a mouth-watering Liverpool offensive on the league, but more importantly, it’s an increasing sign of Benitez’s success in completing the ‘C’ that he desires most: competition.

Benitez has bought shrewdly. Although 6million for a temperamental striker who can boast of a mere 13 goals in his most productive season and a troubled winger respectively may yet prove ineffective and expensive business in the individual cases, it has added a steal and competitiveness to the squad not seen for many a season.

Competition within the squad, as Peter Crouch admitted this week, can only be a positive. "There is a lot of pressure and the competition keeps you on your toes, you know you have to perform and score goals.” he pointed out. The need for four top-class strikers may be the biggest myth in football today, but the added competition of a quartet of capable scorers makes sure the pressure to hit the back of the net is well and truly on.

Such a newfound competition was evidenced just two weeks back, where a crunch Champions League qualifier saw the exclusion of Steven Gerrard. Stomach-upset or not, as reported the evening before, under previous regimes and possibly even under Rafa’s reign in previous seasons, Gerrard would have been plied with Imodium and told to take the field. Now, a confidence and determination of the squad sees any number of top-flight replacements being able to fill in, and determine to show a steel and desire to remain in that starting line up. Benitez may be aiming to implement a rotation system, but he clearly rewards the quality of his player’s performance, evident in Sissoko’s rise from back up to near indispensable midfield enforcer.

It is perhaps in the lack of a competitive squad that this summers World Cup can be justified. The lethargy of David Beckham was widely attributed to his ageing legs and tired mind, although the admittance of viable options in the shape of Shaun Wright Phillips and the seeming scepticism of Sven towards Aaron Lennon was largely overlooked. We might say similar of Frank Lampard, where the riches available at Chelsea keep him on his toes in a way that Owen Hargreaves or Jermaine Jenas could not for England.

The arrival of Dirk Kuyt, as Crouch touched upon, will prove to be a further lift to a squad vying for first-team minutes. If Lucas Neil is to be Benitez’s final piece in this seasons jigsaw, it could prove to his best piece of business all summer. With just three senior centre halves on the books, it’s hardly surprising that Hyypia, Agger and Carragher will be somewhat blasé as they look over their shoulders at Gabriel Paletta’s progress. Similarly, perhaps, for Steve Finnan, who since the arrivals of Josemi and Kromkamp during Benitez’s tenure has been perhaps the clubs most consistent performer. Neil’s potential arrival should move Finnan up to yet another level, given Josemi’s swift departure and Benitez’s reluctance to use Kromkamp.

Chelsea have done more for the Premiership than just bring a host of world-renowned stars to our shores. Their domination of the domestic competition over the past two years, the one thing in London Benitez desires, has emphasised the need for more than just a team, but a collective squad capable of competing on four fronts at the highest level. Where Benitez has maybe failed to match Chelsea’s spending or bring in such high-profile players, he’s most importantly brought Liverpool to the forefront of a side with strength in-depth. Come the busy Christmas period, with the Premiership half-complete, the Champions League entering the crucial knock-out stages and the FA cup getting underway, that could yet prove more valuable than any player in the world.

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