Football: Souness' rosy view not convincing

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The Independent Online
Liverpool. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

Arsenal. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

APART from Eddie McGoldrick, who spent most of the match in midfield, there was not a winger on the park, which mostly explains the low entertainment value. With the defences pushing up and no width, this match resembled a muzzle-to-muzzle tank battle, the inspirational talents of Nigel Clough and Paul Davis flitting butterfly-like amid the smoke and fire.

Scousers who claimed that Arsenal were too defensive and had refused to make a proper game of it had clearly not seen the Gunners when they were really bloody- minded, as at Old Trafford, where McGoldrick began behind the back four. There was, too, a need to deflect criticism from Liverpool who, with their new diamond- shaped midfield, had Paul Stewart immediately in front of the back four and were as equally committed to avoiding defeat.

In fact, had not the surface been strangely slippery, Arsenal would have probably won. Their fewer chances were more sharply defined and in the last 10 minutes, with McGoldrick wide on the right, they were pressing hard for one of their traditional late winners; Tony Adams was on his way up for a corner when the whistle went.

We know Arsenal. We know excatly what they can do and how effective they can be. The question is: what about Liverpool?

Graeme Souness, their manager, was insistent that he has got the defence right, that the team are playing well enough and soon they will turn chances into goals. The media looked far from convinced. Where Liverpool once did things with a sweeping assurance there is now a hesitancy, a doubt in every pass. The overall impression remains that although the team have been rebuilt, not all the parts function properly.

Souness had touching faith in an attack who had scored only three goals (all against Fulham) since 28 August. Robbie Fowler, he assured us, 'is a finisher of high standard and he will score goals in the Premier League if he keeps his head down and keeps working. He could be as clinical a finisher as Rush'.

Fowler, an 18-year-old England Youth striker, has good acceleration, can side-step at speed but he has yet to show that ability to command time and space inside the box that all the great scorers possess.

Ian Rush, in this formation, is a shark floundering in the shallows. He had hardly a decent cross all afternoon and there is no one alongside with whom he can exchange space, as in the successful days. Clough, apart from two short passes that set Don Hutchison free, might have been a boy from Sherwood Forest bewildered on city streets. Arsenal will not win any Oscars but they will be there, or thereabouts.

Liverpool (4-1-2-1-2): Grobbelaar; Jones, Wright, Ruddock, Dicks; Stewart; Redpath, Hutchison; Clough; Rush, Fowler. Substitutes not used: Whelan, McManaman, James (gk).

Arsenal (4-4-2): Seaman; Dixon, Linighan, Adams, Winterburn; McGoldrick, Davis, Jensen, Merson; Campbell, Wright. Substitutes not used: Smith, Parlour, Miller (gk).

Referee: G Ashby (Worcester).

(Photograph omitted)