Friday, 31 August 2012

Carroll Loaned Out- A Bad Decision?


Liverpool have been very active in the transfer window this year, and the latest player to be part of this is Andy Carroll, who has gone on a season-long loan to West Ham United. West Ham have the option to buy Carroll after this loan spell, but there is no obligation on them to do so.

Firstly, I must start by giving the reasons Rodgers has given for loaning out Carroll. He says that he does not fit into his tiki-taka style of football, and Liverpool cannot afford to have a £35 million striker on the bench. Also, Carroll did not have a good season at LFC last year, which resulted in many people believing he simply does not fit in at the club.

However, I disagree. If you are signed for a prestigious club like Liverpool for a club record fee, and are being bought as a replacement for Fernando Torres, you are bound to feel a lot of pressure. Unfortunately, this pressure got to Carroll at the start of the season, and he simply didn’t perform. Near the end of the season though, there were signs that Carroll was returning to his old form. He put in some great performances, the most notable being the FA cup final against Chelsea. To me, loaning him out at a time when he seems to be returning to form is not a great move.

On the other hand, it is true that with our current squad it is fairly hard for Carroll to get regular first team action. Rodgers is right in saying that Andy will benefit from more playing time, and if Rodgers refuses to give him that at Liverpool then a loan is a good option. If Carroll does return to Liverpool at the end of his loan spell I think he will be a much improved player. In fact, if that happens, I think Rodgers will have done quite a successful deal. However, what bothers me is the fact that West Ham have been given an option to buy. If, like I expect he will, Carroll continues getting better throughout his time at West Ham, they are certain to want to buy him permanently. Although this will aid Liverpool financially, we will have lost a great striker. I think we would have been better off offering West Ham a simple, straightforward loan that meant we automatically got Carroll back for next season.

Now we come to what I believe is the key point. Although the ‘tiki-taka’ style is very good on paper, sometimes it goes wrong. This was demonstrated at Man City, where mostly we played this system very well, but just one slip from Skrtel left us level again and in need of a goal to win the match. Carroll came on as a substitute, and very nearly scored (he was denied only by Jack Rodwell’s off-the-line clearance). I think that by getting rid of Carroll, we lost our plan B. By relying purely on a smooth, passing game, Rodgers is leaving very little room for error.

Overall, I believe loaning out Carroll was a bad idea. It puts a lot more pressure on the team to master Rodgers’ preferred style of play quickly, as now the team have no back-up. Carroll was a good option for Liverpool, as he allowed them to vary their play a little, and occasionally play a long ball up the pitch. Now they have lost this option, and with it lost a player who was just returning to form. I may be wrong, but I think this is a big mistake.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Liverpool vs Man City- Liverpool’s Style of Play

At 16:00 on the 26th August, Liverpool kicked off their first home game of the new season against premier league champions, Manchester City. Despite going ahead twice, Liverpool only managed a 2-2 draw. However, to lead twice against the reigning Premiership champions is no mean feat, and Liverpool played extremely well.

Things weren’t looking too good for LFC at the start of the game. After 20 minutes, they had seen less than 40% of possession, and their only real chance had fallen to Fabio Borini, who narrowly missed. However, things soon started to look up. Liverpool applied a good spell of attacking pressure, which eventually won them a corner. This they took full advantage of. Gerrard whipped a brilliant ball into the box, and Skrtel, charging in from the edge of the area, buried it in the net. I think a key factor in this goal was patience. Liverpool absorbed Man City’s pressure early on, and when they got into their stride were able to attack strongly and grab a goal, something they struggled to do last season.

The pressure did not stop after the goal. On the contrary, it acted as a turning point in the match. The rest of the half was all Liverpool. They piled on attacks when in possession, and were very unlucky not to get one or two more before the break. However, I think the main reason for their success was the pressure they applied off the ball. The Manchester City players were not being given any time on the ball, which caused them to make some uncharacteristic mistakes, meaning that often they conceded possession cheaply. This LFC capitalised on, and though they did not dominate possession, they made a lot out of their attacks.

As the second half began, it looked like Liverpool were set to continue their commanding performance. They were mounting promising attacks, and remained confident in possession. However, Man City were starting to come up with a few attacks of their own, and, though they had posed little goal-scoring threat previously, they managed to equalise in the 63rd minute through Yaya Toure. A cross came in which Reina came for and missed; Kelly, who was expecting Reina to claim the ball, was simply hit by it! The ball fell perfectly into Toure’s stride, who smashed it into the deserted net. Solid as Liverpool had seemed, this was definitely an error from Reina, and Kelly could possibly have reacted quicker.

Fortunately, Liverpool did not dwell on the mistake. They resumed as if nothing had happened, and continued piling massive pressure on City both on and off the ball. Consequently, the scores did not stay level for long. A magical free kick from Suarez in the 66th minute made sure of that. It was from a fairly long way out, and I expected Gerrard to try and get it up and over the wall. Maybe City expected this too, but even if they had known what was coming they couldn’t have stopped it! Suarez curled it beautifully around the wall, and into the bottom corner beyond the reach of Joe Hart. A great way for him to open his account for the premier league season.

Rather than rocking back onto their heels at this point, Liverpool continued putting good pressure on Man City. City weren’t seeing much of the ball, and were wasteful with it when they got it. Liverpool looked secure, and the result pretty much settled. Unfortunately, 10 minutes from time, goalscorer Martin Skrtel made a huge defensive error. He had nowhere to go, and so, thinking he was safe to do so, attempted a pass back to his keeper. He was unaware that Carlos Tevez was lurking in that area. His pass directly picked out Tevez, who found himself clean through on Reina. In fairness to him, he took his chance very coolly, although the goal was a total gift.

Liverpool then brought on Andy Carroll, who did make a good impact, but wasn’t enough to bring Liverpool a late winner. Although LFC were the much better side, and certainly deserved a win based on their performance, they could only pick up a point as the game ended 2-2. However, the team played extremely well and showed encouraging signs, especially youngster Raheem Sterling (who was given his first Premier League start), who was a breath of life for Liverpool.

Although it would have been great to grab a win against the champions, there is no point brooding over the draw. Not only is it a very good result, but if Liverpool’s best was deserving of a win against the Premier League champions, we can certainly take hope for the rest of the season. Maybe this new, attacking Liverpool is a sign of things to come. I know I hope it is.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

West Brom vs Liverpool – My Thoughts

On Saturday 18th August 2012, Liverpool played their opening match of the season against West Bromwich Albion. They lost 3-0, with goals from Zoltan Gera, Peter Odemwingie (penalty) and Romelu Lukaku. On the face of it, there are very few positives to be taken from this games, and lots of negatives. This is partly true, however there was more to the game than the result might suggest.

The first thing to mention is that in the first half, the game was not at all as one-sided as the scoreline suggests. In fact, Liverpool created more attacks than West Brom in the opening 45 minutes. Their build up play was extremely good (mostly), and they crafted a lot of good chances. However, the problem was once again their finishing. I have had to say this hundreds of times, but Liverpool are still not showing the clinical finishing required from a club that wants to compete for a top 4 position. If this cannot be improved, then I fear that hopes that LFC might break into the Champions League again this season are unrealistic. Despite this, it shouldn’t be forgotten that lots of attacks were made, which is a very good sign.

Unfortunately, Liverpool could not continue creating attacks in the second half. Zoltan Gera had scored a stunning volley at the end of the first half, and it seemed that took the life out of LFC. However, this was not the main reason for Liverpool’s decline in the second half. By far the biggest contributing factor to Liverpool’s poor second half was some dubious refereeing by Phil Dowd. Early into the half, Shane Long managed to break through the Liverpool defence. Daniel Agger attempted to get back at him, and Dowd deemed that he had used excessive and illegal levels of force to do so, and gave West Brom a penalty. This in itself was a little controversial, as the incident was right on the edge of the area, but that was nothing compared to what happened next. The referee sent off Agger. Now I am a massive LFC fan, but I am also reasonable, and accept that Agger fouled Shane Long. However, it was certainly not a foul worthy of a red card. Although Pepe Reina managed to save the subsequent penalty, with LFC only having 10 men and having to chase the game they were as good as beaten.

As if this wasn’t enough, Dowd then decided to award West Brom another penalty! Now I may be seeing this differently to everyone else, but to me it seemed that Shane Long came up from behind Skrtel, tackled him, and then fell over. When I saw the referee pointing to the penalty spot I thought it must be some kind of joke. Odemwingie stepped up to take this one, and unlike Long he managed to bury his penalty. This left Liverpool two goals down. There was nothing controversial about the third goal, which was simply a good header from Lukaku. However, Liverpool would probably have been able to clear it had they had 11 players on the pitch.

To sum up, it is hard to draw any meaningful conclusions from this game. Liverpool may well have come back in the second half, but the match was ruined by some shocking refereeing decisions. However, Liverpool will need to show some better finishing in subsequent games if they want to get results.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Suarez’s Role in LFC

Striker Luis Suarez has returned to Liverpool, after Uruguay crashed out of the Olympics in the group stages following a defeat by Great Britain. Liverpool have had to play all their pre-season games and their recent Europa League qualifier without him, but how will his return affect the team?

Last season, Luis Suarez picked up an 8-match ban for supposedly racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra. This was extremely unfortunate, and meant that Suarez was unable to contribute fully to Liverpool’s campaign last season. However, in most of the games he did play, he performed extremely well and provided the injection of skill and finesse the team needed. In my opinion Andy Carroll is extremely good, but he needs someone more technically advanced to work with, and on the rare occasions he and Suarez got their partnership working well, they were deadly. In the pre-season campaign, Liverpool have been playing well and showing a lot of encouraging signs, but they have been lacking any clinical finishing and fluid play in the opposition half. I believe Suarez’s return will bring this, and with it bring goals.

Technically, Suarez demonstrated how accomplished he is on many occasions last season. My particular favourite moment was his lob from 40 yards against Norwich, which was simply sublime. He is probably the best player in terms of technical ability in the entire Liverpool squad. However, a team cannot succeed when it is built around just one person. It may be a cliché, but if Suarez is going to be used to his full potential, Brendan Rodgers must make sure he builds a strong chemistry between Suarez and the rest of the team. If he manages to do this, Suarez will be a massive asset, and create and take chances by combining with the rest of the team, rather than having to rely solely on his individual skill.

In conclusion, if Rodgers can unlock Suarez’s full potential, he will play a vital role in the team for the coming season. He is an amazing talent on his own, but if he gels with the rest of the team under Rodgers like he never quite managed to do under Dalglish, Suarez may just be able to fire LFC into a top 4 spot in 2012/13. I especially hope the club decide to keep Andy Carroll, as I think there is massive potential in the Suarez-Carroll-Borini partnership that may just be unlocked if they are given regular games together.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Bellamy in the Olympics

Great Britain’s men’s team have been doing quite well in the Olympic football so far, with a draw against Senegal and then a good victory over the UAE. One man who has been instrumental in getting these results is Liverpool’s Craig Bellamy.

Bellamy has been playing well since the start of the Olympic campaign, scoring Team GB’s only goal in a 1-1 draw with Senegal. He also played superbly against the UAE, creating some great chances for other team-mates. I was particularly impressed with his crossing. The Welsh international signed for Liverpool at the start of the 2011/12 campaign on a free transfer, but hasn’t been particularly successful at the club. However, in the few games he has played, he has shown promising signs.

New Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has offered all Liverpool players a fresh start under his regime. Personally, I hope Bellamy will seize this opportunity and possibly even break into the first team. His form at the Olympics has been exquisite, and if he is able to carry that over into the new season I think he will be an asset to Liverpool. He has also been combining well in the Olympics with fellow Welshman Joe Allen, who seems likely to join LFC. If this happens, the two players will hopefully continue to gel, and in turn bring good results for the club. 

However, it cannot be denied that Bellamy is ageing. Although he is still a very advanced player technically, his once explosive pace isn’t what it once was, and unfortunately he may not be able to keep up to a professional standard much longer. There is also quite a lot of interest in him from his former club, Cardiff, and Liverpool could not be blamed for trying to sell him. Saying this, I personally think he should definitely stay at the club. He has been able to keep his fitness at a world-class level for a long time already, and I see no reason why he can’t stick around for a while longer!

Overall, I think Bellamy should seize the opportunity he has been given at LFC. A new manager means another chance, and Bellamy is certainly impressing in Team GB. If he transfers this form to the Premier League for Liverpool, he may have a big hand in leading the club to success in the coming season.