Liverpool Paper View (h)

Last updated : 15 January 2007 By Gary Holmes

Young should move now as Watford sink

Ashley Young, it seems, has yet to ask for a move. If he had, Adrian Boothroyd maintained, it would be a different story entirely. The Watford manager and his board would have to seriously consider the wishes of a player admired by several Premiership clubs.

As it is, the Vicarage Road power-brokers have had plenty to think about, anyway. A £7 million bid from an unknown source was increased to £8 million on Friday. For those decision-makers the weekend must have dragged by, and not just because the team had been whacked 3-0 by Liverpool.

That kind of money is extremely hard to turn down when you are cut adrift at the bottom of the table, with virtually no hope of survival. What do you do? Take the money now, at what is probably the peak of the market, wait until the summer or hang on and hope Young can lead another promotion charge?

On the evidence of Saturday, the striker has to leave now, as much for his own good as for the benefit of Watford's bank balance. Daily Telegraph

Crouch helps restore pride

Battered and bruised, mentally and physically, Liverpool emerged from the week from hell to re-establish their credibility in the Barclays Premiership. Woeful Watford, with one foot in the Coca-Cola Championship, could not have been more accommodating opponents at Vicarage Road on Saturday.

It was just what the doctor had ordered. Mauled twice by Arsenal at Anfield in the space of four days — 3-1 in the FA Cup third round and 6-3 in their Carling Cup quarter-final — Liverpool needed to restore a sense of perspective. As Rafael Benítez, their manager, had said in the bitter aftermath of those defeats, the domestic cups were not priorities, anyway.

Back in the Premiership, in which they have lost only one match and conceded one goal in 11 fixtures, Liverpool were transformed. Back came the big-name players, most of whom had been spared the humiliation at the hands of Arsenal's kindergarten XI, and they ploughed through the gale and rain to secure victory. “People say you need to win every game but you also need to think about the future and the bigger picture,” Benítez said. “It is better to go to Istanbul or Athens than Cardiff (the venue for the Carling Cup final). We need to go for the big trophies, too, you know.”

For Watford, who travel to Aston Villa, the prognosis is grim. Even Ashley Young, perhaps unsettled by the prolonged transfer saga surrounding him, appeared down on power.

Adrian Boothroyd, the manager, will not tolerate a repetition at Villa Park. “I won't accept that sort of performance again,” he said. “But are we giving up? No effin' chance.” The Times

Woeful Watford let Crouch decode Benítez's garbled system

Watford are not so much out of their depth in the Premiership as trying to swim with one foot on the bottom. Such a lot of effort is devoted to keeping heads above water that attempts at progress are slow, painful and, in the case of Saturday's inept display against Liverpool, downright embarrassing. Adrian Boothroyd's team will not drown but they will surely return to the Championship paddling pool.

Not that the performance or the result was typical of Watford's season as a whole. True, it was their 11th defeat in 21 league games of which only one has been won but it was only the fourth time they had lost by more than a single goal. The other exceptions have been a 3-0 defeat at Arsenal, a 4-0 drubbing by Chelsea and a 2-0 loss at Anfield.

"When we play a team from the big four a choke goes on for some of our players," Boothroyd admitted after the match. "They come up against people they are used to seeing on television and some of them cannot cope with it sometimes." Maybe so but another part of the team's problem is that, with the bulk of their attention devoted to damage limitation, they can overlook opportunities to exploit their opponents' frailties.

Saturday's game was a case in point. Liverpool, emerging from their traumatic cup defeats by Arsenal, might in the end have strolled to a 3-0 victory but for the best part of half-an-hour their football was equally disorganised as the players sorted out their manager Rafael Benítez's latest tactical wheeze. This involved playing Peter Crouch, Dirk Kuyt and Craig Bellamy together up front for the first time with four in midfield and three at the back. The Guardian

Benitez's gamble pays rich dividends

Rafael Benitez clearly believes procrastination is the enemy of progress.

His team selection at Watford proved it. Few managers would be brave enough to use an untested and radically different tactical approach immediately after two cup defeats, but the Spaniard had no hesitation about doing so.

His 3-4-3, long-ball system, in which Craig Bellamy, Peter Crouch and Dirk Kuyt started together for the first time, yielded a win for Liverpool that encouraged Benitez to talk again about a title challenge as Chelsea prepare to visit Anfield on Saturday. How different the mood was during the three days preceding this trip to Vicarage Road.

Slipping up against Watford would have had dire consequences, in terms of pressure on players and manager, so Crouch does not underestimate the importance of this result. "A lot has been said," he added. "The boys were up for it."

Bellamy was another player who was clearly "up for it". His tireless running and ability to deliver the right pass or cross shone through. He opened the scoring after tapping in Steve Finnan's cross with Watford nowhere near picking him up.

The home side had shown menace in the 10-minute period leading up to that goal, but, as has been the case so often this season, they conceded against the run of play. That infuriated their manager Aidy Boothroyd, who revealed that today and tomorrow would be uncomfortable days for his players. "There will be some serious questions asked," he said.

Boothroyd will also be mulling over whether he should part with Ashley Young before the transfer deadline. Watford need some bite up front because, once they had fallen a goal behind, their attack appeared utterly toothless. The Independent