Sunday, 20 September 2009
FIRST Dirk Kuyt, then Yossi Benayoun - is Ryan Babel the next to prove the doubters wrong?
I hope so. It's been a good week for the sulky Dutchman who has offered more in two cameo appearances as a substitute than he did for 67 minutes on the opening day at Spurs.
His cross for Fernando Torres' second goal against West Ham yesterday was superb and he looked lively coming off the bench against Debrecen, too.
When he's on form and firing, he looks the part. We just need to see it more often. Perhaps with Rafa Benitez dismissing talk of him going back to Ajax, he has (finally) decided to knuckle down.
As I said in my recent blog about Benayoun, hopefully he will serve as an example to Babel of how to win a place in the team.
Looking at the bigger picture, he's got to start shining soon or he's going to miss out on the World Cup.
Oddly, he's looked more comfortable coming down the right in his last two showings. Go with it I say, starting with the game at Leeds in the Carling Cup. That would be the perfect place for Babel to really show what he's capable of. Here's hoping.
It was good to see Torres back to his old self against the Hammers. His first goal was vintage El Nino with the trademark burst of pace that seems to have been missing back for all to see.
There were shades of his goal against Chelsea at Anfield when he tore Tal Ben Haim apart.
His header was class too, as was his all-round performance. Before the match at Upton Park he was scoring and doing OK but he cut a frustrated figure and his tricks just didn't seem to be coming off.
Hopefully now he is back to his best - handy with the Chelsea game not too far away.
Much has been made already of the goals we conceded at West Ham and there's no getting away from it, Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel looked shaky.
It was a very un-Carragher like display from Jamie, who looks to be struggling for form right now.
I'd back him all day to come out of his sticky patch, though - it's far too early in the day to be writing him off as many, amazingly, are.
The zonal marking debate has emerged again, too, but if you watch Carlton Cole's goal surely it is just a case of a huge beast of a man out-jumping a defender who is smaller than him? You can't win 'em all!
It was the same with one of the goals conceded to Aston Villa - Curtis Davies scored it and he must be at least 6ft 3ins.
Saying all that, I'm looking forward to the return of Daniel Agger. While I like Carra and Skrtel, they are both out and out defenders and don't offer too much going forward.
Agger is the closest thing we have got to Alan Hansen at the club and he can really influence the play on his day. He's good in the air, has got a great shot and is much more comfortable on the ball than his two rivals for a starting spot at centre half.
Hopefully he can do for us what Thomas Vermaelen is doing for Arsenal - what a goal that second one was against Wigan.
Anyway, it's Leeds next up and they will be no mugs in front of a sell-out crowd at Elland Road.
Hopefully Babel will use the game to keep up his recent improvement and other fringe men will seize their chance to shine.