Sunday, 30 September 2012

Norwich vs Liverpool- Our Season has Started

On Saturday 29th September, Liverpool played Norwich at Carrow Road. They played exceptionally well, and won 5-2, with Luis Suarez scoring a hat-trick. The other scorers were Nuri Sahin and Steven Gerrard.

It was a well deserved victory for Liverpool. Luis Suarez played phenomenally, getting three goals and an assist. However, it wasn’t just an individual effort. The team were passing and keeping possession well, and apart from Skrtel’s error that gifted Grant Holt a goal they defended very well. The ease with which Liverpool were scoring goals is very encouraging, as finishing and chance conversion were huge problems for us last season.

Although fans can take heart from this victory, a lot of people are still questioning why it took so long for us to get our first win. To me, the answer seems obvious! To adapt to a new manager is hard for any club, especially when he brings with him a brand new style of play. In our first few games, the tiki-taka way of playing that Rodgers likes so much wasn’t quite working for Liverpool, and they couldn’t play to their full potential. Now, however, the players have been able to fully adjust to this more technical style of play, and are a much better team because of it. This is where our season begins. If Liverpool are able to maintain this level of play, they may stand a chance of turning around our bad start and challenging for a top four spot.

The main problem with this is our striker’s reliability. So far I have not been impressed with Borini, and Suarez seems to either be inspired or useless. On his day, he will terrorise defences and score with apparent ease, yet he sometimes plays extremely poorly and seems unable to shoot properly. The fact remains that if Liverpool want to stand a chance of once again becoming title challengers in seasons to come, they will need to become more consistent.

Obviously the win against Norwich was extremely encouraging, but I think the key now is to stay calm. Liverpool played extremely well, but they need to maintain this level of form. If they play with such assurance and confidence against Stoke next week, I think they should win easily, and if they continue like this for the rest of the season, then maybe, just maybe, we could be set for a long-overdue return to the top 4.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Why Always Us? Liverpool vs Manchester United Post-Match Analysis

On Sunday 23rd September, Liverpool lost 2-1 to Manchester United. Unlike some of our other defeats this season, this game certainly brings fans many valid reasons to complain. Things just never seem to slot into place for Liverpool at the moment, and the question that has to be asked (to mis-quote Mario Balotelli) is why always us?

Firstly, it has to be said that Liverpool were clearly the better side in the match. They played brilliantly, and Manchester United were underwhelming. So how did United come away from Anfield with all three points? I know people say this after every game, but this time I think it is fair to say we have a valid reason to blame the referee. LFC were totally dominant in the first half, with Manchester United seeing very little of possession. The passing style of Brendan Rodgers was working well, and United were not getting a look in. However, very near the end of the first half, referee Mark Halsey showed Jonjo Shelvey a red card. How Halsey reached the decision that Jonjo deserved red I shall never know, seeing as all he did was go in for a 50/50 ball. Both Shelvey and United defender Jonny Evans went in two-footed, and both got something of the ball. The only difference was that Evans started writhing about on the floor, whereas Shelvey got up and chased the ball, committed as ever to the cause.

Once Liverpool had been reduced to 10 men, they could hardly be expected to play fluid, passing football. With United’s one man advantage, it would have been almost impossible for LFC to maintain possession for long stretches at a time. However, I was hugely impressed with how Liverpool responded. They kept up the pressure until the end of the first half, and then came out just as attacking at the start of the second. Despite United having a man more than Liverpool, the majority of the meaningful attacks were still being mounted by LFC. Sure enough, this pressure paid off just minutes into the second half, with a great goal from Steven Gerrard. In a huge fixture such as this, it seems Liverpool can always rely on Steven Gerrard, who certainly gave all his doubters something to think about. It seemed Liverpool may triumph, despite the poor refereeing decision that had gone against them.

Unfortunately though, the captain’s goal seemed to kick-start United into action. They finally seemed to be able to make the most of their one man advantage, and began to see a lot more of possession. In fact, they hit back at Liverpool in just 3 minutes, through a lovely strike from defender Rafael. In all fairness to Man U, their build-up play was good and it was a very sweet finish. However, this did not seem to put out Liverpool’s fire, and Suarez twice came close in the coming minutes.

With Liverpool playing so well and United nowhere near their best, it seemed Liverpool were certain to get at last a point out of the game if not more, even though they had a man less than the visitors. However, Halsey once again intervened. Liverpool were trying to push forward again, when a wayward pass from youngster Suso allowed Valencia to sprint 40 yards up the pitch. In my opinion, Glen Johnson did absolutely brilliantly. He sprinted down the pitch and managed to get back at Valencia, throwing himself into a tackle to try and win the ball back. However, he didn’t get the ball, and neither did he touch Valencia. He slid to the side of both man and ball. However Valencia still went down (somewhat predictably), and Halsey, who seems to simply enjoy seeing Liverpool suffer, awarded a penalty. This was grossly unjust. It almost seemed that justice would be done when Reina made a brilliant attempt to save the Van Persie penalty, but in the end it was just too well placed. The fact that this penalty was given was made even more of a sore point given the fact that LFC had already had two or three legitimate penalty shouts turned down.

In conclusion, the fact that Liverpool got nothing out of this match was massively unfair, and almost entirely down to the referee. Firstly he put Liverpool at a massive disadvantage by sending off Shelvey, and then practically gifted United a goal by giving them a penalty. LFC can be extremely encouraged by their performance, and on any other day with any other ref (except perhaps Howard Webb!) they would certainly have taken all three points.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Liverpool in the Europa- Can our young boys take on the Young Boys?

This evening (Thursday 20th September), Liverpool will face Swiss side Young Boys at the Stade de Suisse. Brendan Rodgers has fielded a very young and relatively inexperienced side, but could this backfire on Liverpool?

Firstly, I must make clear that I am very much in favour of young players being given a chance to prove themselves in the first team. To have a successful club, you must have a successful academy and youth system. The young players can’t stay in the youth and reserve squads forever, and it is good to see the likes of Raheem Sterling making the step up to the regular first team. Liverpool are expected to win against a side such as Young Boys, so Rodgers might have made a good call in picking this game to give some of the younger players their chance.

However, I personally think that this is a bad strategy. I for one want to see Liverpool do well in the Europa league this season, and it would be awful if we were to lose to a side such as Young Boys, in a game which we should be able to win fairly comfortably. Youth should be fed into the first team slowly, not all thrown in at once. I know it is a possibility that all the young players will do really well and get a win for LFC, and I certainly hope this happens. However, I think we would have been better off only including a few young players in the side tonight, and fielding a mostly experienced team to try and secure the result we need.

On the other hand, as you will probably know, there is an extremely important Premier League clash with Manchester United on Sunday. I can see that players need to be rested for this game, as it is arguably more important than our fixture tonight against Young Boys. Hopefully, as Manchester United fielded an almost full strength squad in their game against Galatasaray in midweek, we will have an advantage over them. Most of our main players won’t have been in action for over a week when it comes to the game against United, so this could give us the edge we need to win our first game of the Premiership season.

Overall though, I think a bit more experience should have been included in the squad for tonight’s game against Young Boys. More experience would have made the win easier to seal, and playing so many young players is definitely a risk, but hopefully it will pay off. We shall have to see how things pan out tonight.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Sunderland Vs Liverpool- My Thoughts

In the late kick-off game on Saturday15th September 2012, Liverpool faced Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.  Despite dominating the match, they could only manage a 1-1 draw. Fletcher was the goal scorer for Sunderland, and Suarez netted for Liverpool.

I think Brendan Rodgers will have been pleased with the way his team started. They were passing it around nicely, getting the ball forward and creating chances. However, Liverpool were unable to make the most of these chances, and after 29 minutes were punished. Totally against the run of play, Sunderland mounted a good attack down the right wing and got a good ball into the box, which Fletcher buried. Although it pains me to say it, Reina was once again partially at fault for the goal, coming for the cross and missing it.

After this, I was pleased with how well Liverpool responded. They didn’t let the goal get to them, and continued mounting good attacks, although not quite as regularly as they had been before the goal. Once again Sterling was playing exquisitely, and causing the Sunderland defence a lot of problems. I was also more pleased with Borini’s performance than I have been in previous games. Suarez also looked lively, and should have been given a penalty when he took the ball round two defenders and was then tripped up. The referee did not give it, and to add insult to injury booked him for simulation.

With all of Liverpool’s forwards looking so bright and lively, it seemed inevitable that they would score. However, I started to get worried when we were still a goal down with 20 minutes to go. Eventually though, after a great piece of play from Sterling, Suarez was able to smash the ball into the net from close range. Liverpool had a fair few chances after this as well, and were unlucky not to go on and win the game.

Overall, I think Liverpool played very well and can be pleased with their performance; however the recurring problem of finishing again has to be brought up. With such dominance and so many chances, it has to be said that Liverpool should have won the game. On the other hand, although we didn’t get the result we were after, I think there are many positives to be taken from this game. We should build on this result to try and get the win next time out, against Manchester United. What a sweet first win of the season that would be!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Pepe Reina- Losing his touch or just a bad run of form?

After three games of the 2012/13 season, Liverpool lies 18th in the table. In their first three fixtures against West Brom, Manchester City and Arsenal they have conceded 7 goals. This has prompted many to question the reliability of Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina. The question is, can our hero of so many games really be losing his touch?

It is true that in the last few games, Pepe Reina has made some notable errors. One example would be the shot hit straight at him that he knocked into the net in the Hearts game, another when he came and flapped at a cross against Man City which led to their first equalising goal. Certainly Reina will not be happy with conceding 7 goals in three Premier League games, and some would say that this is clear evidence that Reina is past his prime.

However, there are definitely two sides to the argument. Firstly, Reina is only 30 years old. Brad Friedel is 41, and is still arguably one of the best ‘keepers in the Premiership. The theory that Reina has got too old to play at the top level to me, therefore, seems unlikely. But could it just be that he has lost his touch, not because of age but simply because he is not as talented as he once was? Before jumping to any conclusions, it has to be noted that most of the world’s best goalkeepers have had a bad run of form at some point. Tim Howard, American first-choice ‘keeper, had a massive dip in form near the end of his time at Manchester United. He now plays for Everton and has done extremely well there. Even Petr Cech, who holds the record for most clean sheets in one season, has had some pretty bad spells for Chelsea in the past. However, these two goalkeepers (and many others like them) returned to full form after these dips, and again began to pull off some stunning saves. The key to this is that the club and its fans did not immediately ask for their departure, they kept faith. Liverpool fans should do the same; Reina has served us so well in the past, to say he deserves to go after just three or four poor games in a row is ridiculous.

In conclusion, I think that Pepe Reina has not lost his touch; he is simply having a bad run of games. Although I know Liverpool cannot afford this poor form to go on much longer, I think the fans and the club should definitely give him time to get back to his usual, brilliant form.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

FSG- The Actual Situation

Since Brendan Rodgers took over and announced that he had been provided with very limited funds, fans of LFC have started asking questions about club owners FSG (Fenway Sports Group). However, most fans were prepared to accept that FSG were putting all they could into the club, but the money simply wasn’t there. It seems this is not the case. One of the owners of FSG, who also own MLB team Boston Red Sox, recently boasted of how the Red Sox are one of the biggest spenders in baseball. This caused outrage to fans of LFC, and it does raise questions as to where FSG’s commitments lie.

On the face of it, it does seem like FSG are effectively giving up on Liverpool to focus all their efforts on the Red Sox. However, on closer inspection, Liverpool and Boston are pretty much in the same boat. Both clubs are getting rid of a lot of players in an attempt to lower wage costs (Red Sox star Adrian Gonzalez is just one of the big name departures), both are suffering dips in form, and both are trying to return to former glory. FSG are approaching both situations in pretty similar ways. Although Fenway Sports Group are indeed making more funds available to the Red Sox, they are not simply ‘doing a Man City’. The funds are being spent extremely shrewdly, with a large focus on free agents. Simply pumping a club with money and saying ‘buy who you like’ leads to a disjointed team and ultimately a waste of funds, and that is not the FSG way.

Also, due mainly to the rather large issue of Andy Carroll’s departure and distinct lack of replacement, it is easy to forget that Liverpool’s transfer window was not a complete failure. Everyone is focusing on the fact that Carroll shouldn’t have gone (which is absolutely true, see my views on the matter here:, but forgetting that we made some good signings. Joe Allen looks set to be a great purchase, Borini has already earned himself a place in the starting 11, and new signing Nuri Sahin from Real Madrid showed promising signs against Arsenal. FSG cannot be accused of providing no funds, seeing as Borini cost £11million and Allen cost £15million. Although it is nowhere near as much as teams such as Chelsea, Man United and Man City, Liverpool are still the 5th biggest spenders in the summer transfer window. Personally I don’t think that gives us much to complain about.

Overall, I think people are being a little harsh on FSG. They may be providing the Red Sox with more funds, but they are handling the spending of both these prestigious sports clubs in very similar ways. Also, Liverpool fans should not lose perspective, as FSG provided enough money to make LFC the 5th biggest Premier League spenders this transfer window. They may have made some mistakes, but Liverpool fans need to get behind them. With a bit of luck, FSG will be able to turn the fortunes of both the Red Sox and the reds.