While draws away to Portsmouth and Porto may be fairly respectable results, today's frustrating blank shows we still haven't got the knack of breaking down a ten man defence or fluking a 1-0 win while playing badly, which we'd need to be serious title contenders. Actually though, in the interests of balance, it should be pointed out that: a) Birmingham have always been a bogey team for us (this apart), with only 2 points to show from our previous four Premiership meetings, and even when we beat them in the 2001 League Cup final (when they were first division) it took penalties, b) we've had a better start than last season, and c) we're above both Man Utd and Chelsea, one of whom will drop points tomorrow.
I'm not going to complain about the team really. Aside from leaving out Torres, it was probably our strongest, given the absence of Agger and Alonso (who might have been able to create something). The team should have been good enough to beat Birmingham and had enough shots/chances - the problem being too few on target. Personally, I'd have brought Torres on at half-time, and would also like to have seen Benayoun get a chance, but otherwise wouldn't have done much differently.
The problem isn't really the team but that, since the international break, they've looked a bit flat. It's hard to say what the problem is - one possibility could be the loss of Pako Ayesteran (something the Liverpool website seems to have been suspiciously quiet on, but see here and here). On the other hand, it's easy to forget it takes new players - such as Torres and Babel - time to settle in and, even if they show glimpses of their quality straight away, consistency and fluency can't be expected for a while. It's still early days and hopefully this team can improve as the season goes on.
This week's Carling Cup game with Reading won't be easy, but I'd like to see a few youngsters given a chance - in particular, Lucas Leiva, Leto and Jack Hobbs (who may be required during Aggers' six week lay-off).