Sunday, 17 March 2013

Southampton vs Liverpool- The Seesaw Tips Again

Yesterday (Saturday 16th March), Liverpool faced Southampton at St Mary’s. They were brutally outplayed in the first half and couldn’t recover in the second half, eventually losing 3-1.

Southampton dominated the early exchanges. Liverpool’s defence looked shaky, and the fist goal was inevitable. In the end it came through Morgan Schneiderlin, who slotted coolly past Brad Jones (in for the injured Reina). This only spurred the Saints on, and Liverpool conceded another soon afterwards, a Lambert free-kick going in off Daniel Sturridge, who was one of the players in a frankly awful Liverpool wall. Daniel Sturridge redeemed himself slightly on the stroke of half time, when his shot could only be parried into the path of Coutinho, who grabbed a goal back for Liverpool. This meant LFC went in at the break with the score at 2-1, which all things considered was not too bad. They could have been 3 or 4 goals down.

Liverpool came out slightly stronger in the second half, but still seemed to lack any real penetration. They had a few half chances, but in all honesty never really looked like equalising. As it turned out they did not just fail to level the game, they also conceded again late on, crushing all hope of a revival. This marked the end of a brilliant streak of three wins on the trot for Liverpool, but there cannot be complaints. They underperformed, and in almost every aspect were outplayed by Southampton.

I’m normally optimistic to the point of desperation when it comes to Liverpool, but now even I am forced to admit that our chances of a place in the Top 4 are now realistically almost certainly over. We could still have done it going in to this game, but to slip up against a smaller club is something you cannot do when chasing down the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal. Still, there is still a Europa League spot to aim for, and I for one hope we can get the old Liverpool back for the tail end of the season, the Liverpool that can terrorize defences and most importantly, get the wins.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Liverpool vs Tottenham- Is Top 4 Still a Possibility?

Today (Sunday 10th March 2013), Liverpool faced an in-from Tottenham side at Anfield. It went to the wire, but in the end Liverpool snatched 3 points in a dramatic 3-2 victory.

Liverpool started the game very brightly, with a decent chance within the first couple of minutes. However, Tottenham were also looking lively, and although Bale wasn't very active early on, Spurs did create some chances. Fortunately, Liverpool were able to keep up their pressure, and mid-way through the first half got their reward. After some lively skill, new signing Philippe Coutinho slotted a lovely ball through to Jose Enrique. Enrique then played a very nice ball to Suarez, who finished absolutely sublimely, slotting it instinctively past Lloris at the near post.

Liverpool still looked the stronger of the teams as the half wore on, but the game was a little less frantic than it had been at the start. In the last 10 minutes of the half, Tottenham began to seize the initiative, and produced some good attacks. Gareth Bale was getting into the game a little more, and it was he who produced the cross that led to Jan Vertonghen's equaliser just before half time, a strong header past 'keeper Brad Jones (who was standing in for the injured Reina).

The second half started, and Tottenham picked up where they left off. They looked the more creative side, and sure enough they added another one minutes after the restart, coming once again from the unlikely source of Vertonghen. Bale was again the provider, whipping the ball in from a free kick which he won. Whether it was a foul or not is questionable. To me, he seemed to go down much too easily from just a little contact with Lucas. Tottenham kept the pressure up after going ahead, and could have easily added a third, with Sidgurdson hitting the post.

However, with 25 minuutes to play, Liverpool were gifted a way back into the game. Kyle Walker, who up until this point had been having a good game, managing to mostly keep Coutinho in check, scooped a clearance straight into the path of Downing, who took it past Lloris and slotted cooly past Vertonghen, who was standing on the line. This blew the game wide open, and from this point both sides created a lot of chances.

The game became very frantic, but neither side seemed able to break the deadlock, and it looked like the game was destined to finish level. However, with just 9 minutes to go, Jermain Defoe gave Liverpool another gift! He lost control of the ball and hit it into Suarez, who was on the edge of the area. Caught by surprise, Assou-Ekotto tried to make a challenge, but it was extremely clumsy, and sent Suarez tumbling. The referee Michael Oliver, who had a good game, immediately pointed to the spot. Gerrard stepped up, and sent Lloris the wrong way, putting Liverpool 3-2 up with just 8 minutes to go. The goal also put him on the same amount of goals for the club as Michael Owen. There were a couple of nervous moments in the closing minutes, with Tottenham pressing hard, but Liverpool held on to take all three points.

Now we come to the big question; could this win go some way to giving us a fighting chance of reaching the top 4? I'll be the first to admit that a few weeks ago I didn't think it was possible, but now we've won three in a row and are looking extremely strong. We also have games to come against a lot of the teams we are competing with for 4th spot, Chelsea, Everton and Arsenal. Apart from those games against our rivals, our other fixtures look relatively easy. If we were to continue this great run of form, I believe there is a genuine (although outside) chance of getting into the top 4, and in doing so finally return to the Champions League next season. Obviously it is optimistic, but when you look at the table and the fixture list, it cannot be ruled out as a possibility. As fans, all we can do is keep on hoping, and keep on giving our whole-hearted backing and support.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Why Next Season Looks Promising for Liverpool

Following Liverpool this season has been infuriating. After a run of two or three great games you start to think ‘we could really make it to the top 4 this year’, then they put in a couple of truly lacklustre performances against fairly low-level opposition. To be honest, it is unrealistic to hope we may still qualify for the Champions League this season, although there are lots of promising signs for the future.

Firstly, it has to be remembered that this is Brendan Rodgers’ first season at Liverpool. Adapting to a new managers style is hard for the players, and whilst they get used to it consistency is bound to be an issue. By the time the 2013/14 season starts, as long as FSG have been sensible enough to keep Rodgers, the players will be used to the manager and to his elaborate, precise method of play. This should mean that the snippets of brilliant play we’ve seen at points this season is maintained throughout the next.

Also, there is the matter of new signings. The players Liverpool have just brought in (Phillipe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge) show great potential, and once they have settled in to the side they have the capacity to be extremely effective. Daniel Sturridge in particular could be key, as Luis Suarez has shown he operates brilliantly with a second striker. Sturridge may well be the answer to the questions being asked about Liverpool’s chance conversion rate. As well as this, there will be a chance for us to strengthen the squad further come the summer, meaning the current weaknesses in our team can be ironed out by new arrivals. The defence in particular could do with improvement, and if we are able to bring in a good new defender before next season it could go a long way to helping us get the right results.

Furthermore, there are a lot of players who were brought into the side in the Dalglish era who are only just starting to come into their own. In recent games Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing have been playing brilliantly, in fact they have arguably been two of the best players in the side. If they continue in this run of form, something they didn’t manage at all under Dalglish and have only just started to show under Rodgers, they could be key in helping Liverpool to reach 4th or higher next season. Henderson in particular could play a huge role in the future, as Steven Gerrard, though still currently playing excellently, will have to retire at some point, so Henderson will be needed to ensure the central midfield remains a strong point for Liverpool.

In conclusion, although a lot of fans are upset with the inconsistency of Liverpool this season, to the point where some are calling for Brendan Rodgers to be sacked, on the whole Liverpool are showing a lot of positive signs. Everyone should be patient, because there is a lot of potential in the current team, and by next season I think everything will fall into place, and the performances and results will finally start to come on a consistent basis.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Wigan vs Liverpool- My Post-Match Thoughts


In the late kick-off game yesterday (Saturday 2nd March), Liverpool  faced Wigan at the DW stadium. 
Before the game many fans were concerned, as Daniel Sturridge was not playing and in the past we haven’t 
proved particularly  clinical in front of goal without him. However, those fears were soon forgotten as Liverpool 
ran riot, in the end winning 4-0.

A very positive part of Liverpool’s play recently is how quickly they get out of the blocks. This game was no
exception, and Stewart Downing headed Liverpool in front (yes, you did read that right) after just 110 seconds!
The goal was made by Philippe Coutinho, who showed phenomenal skill to beat his man out wide, and then
delivered a perfect ball into the box.

The next goal was also created by Coutinho. Whereas the first goal demonstrated his excellent on-the-ball skill,
this one showed his vision and sense of timing. He held the ball up, waiting for Suarez to make the run, and
when he did Coutinho slotted it through to him perfectly. Suarez then finished extremely coolly, slotting it past
the helpless Al-Habsi. After this it got even better for Liverpool, when they got a free kick just outside the area.
Suarez slipped as he took it, but it deflected off the wall, off the post and in. It wasn’t ‘El Pistolero’s’ finest goal,
 but it put Liverpool 3 goals in front.

After half time Liverpool continued to dominate. The 4th goal seemed inevitable, it was just a question of who was
 going to get it. The answer, of course, was Luis Suarez. Johnson slotted a lovely ball through to him, and he
 completed his hat-trick by clinically slotting the ball into the Wigan net.

So far I have only talked about the attackers, but one player who certainly deserves a huge amount of credit
is Pepe Reina. He was back to his old self, making some absolutely stunning reaction saves. Although it is
unlikely that Wigan would have got anything from the game with Liverpool in such a rampant mood, they did
 have 4 big chances, all of which Reina managed to keep out spectacularly. Were it not for the outstanding
play of Suarez, Reina would have been my man of the match.

In conclusion, Liverpool played brilliantly. The attacking play was brilliant, the new signing Coutinho is proving
 himself to be just as good a signing as I said he would be (see my previous article), and Reina appears to be
 back to full form. If we can keep this up we should certainly qualify for the Europa and with a big game against
 Tottenham next week, who knows? Maybe the top 4 still is just possible.