Above Us Only Sky: Liverpool FC's Global Revolution by Paul Tomkins

By Paul Tomkins

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But seeing as it’s difficult to create a team with that much natural ability, pace becomes an issue. It’s just impossible to say how much of an issue; how long is a piece of string? Not every great striker has pace, but would Ian Rush have scored as many goals without it? Almost certainly not. He was a lethal finisher, but so many of his chances relied on getting onto the end of a Dalglish master-pass. The best defenders can often get the better of quick strikers with positioning and reading of the situation; but once Thierry Henry is away from the last man there is nothing that defender can physically do to stop him without the aid of a lasso.

Chelsea, with Drogba managing barely a dozen league goals in each of his first two seasons, was the foil for Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Damien Duff and Arjen Robben, all of whom could finish when in on goal. In 2007, Wayne Rooney and Luis Saha scored only respectable amounts, while Cristiano Ronaldo led the way, with Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes also scoring from midfield. In Steven Gerrard, Liverpool have a midfielder capable of scoring goals from a variety of situations. Getting the captain forward –– either to shoot from 25 yards or to get ahead of the strikers into the box –– has always been Benítez’s priority, and as a result, Gerrard scored 13, 23 and 11 goals between 2004 and 2007.

He started well enough, scoring a crucial goal on his competitive debut on August 9, 2006 against Israeli side Maccabi Haifa, coming off the bench in the 85th minute before coolly slotting the winner three minutes later. In his first league start, against Spurs, he smashed home the rebound after Bellamy had somehow contrived to hit the post from two feet out with the goal gaping. A fine free-kick against Fulham in December was the last of the Chilean’s goals. The one other goalscoring midfielder the Reds possessed was John Arne Riise.

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