Friday, May 28, 2010

End of an era

There were some good, great, fair and balanced articles on Rafa in the last few days. Here are ones I liked from Rory Smith, Dion Fanning and James Corrigan.

This is a final reminder of the man's class. I hope we do but I fear we won't see a man of his stature here for quite a while.

The phrase "safe pair of hands" has cropped up an awful lot in recent times. I read that as uninspiring, cautious and boring. You're right that we could have done worse but that's damning with faint praise. Given the choice between Stan, Bryan Robson, Sven, David Platt or Roy, I would make the decision we did. But there are much better managers out there and we didn't go for them which is annoying. I don't think exciting/exotic name comes into it. I'm more interested in past record or signs of managerial potential, neither of which Roy has. His record away form home is shocking. 3 away wins in 2 years with Fulham. I don't think his teams play good attacking football either. His transfer record is hit and miss. Don't think he set the world on fire at Blackburn or Inter when he had cash.

He's a mid table manager in my view and that's where I see us going. Curbs was interviewed for the job when Rafa got it as he was flavour of the month then too. Thankfully he didn't get it as the owners made the right appointment. RH is superior to Curbs but given a similar choice here they went with Roy over Pellegrini and I think it's the wrong appointment. Don't see him kicking up a fuss when the Americans break their promises about funding/stadium etc. That might go down well with the board but not fans who think.

I wouldn't give us any chance of making fourth as things stand. We have Arsenal at home first game and then have City away, Utd away and Everton away in our first 8 matches. Baptism of fire. I hope to be proved wrong and for him to turn out an unqualified success.

The one big difference with him and Rafa is he'll have the press onside. There'll be no more talk of bizarre selections, rotation, zonal marking, even if Roy does all three every game.

It sounds like Roy won't get any money bar what he raises from sales. Don't think there is any money knocking about. Sales of Babel/Degen look likely and I wouldn't be surprised if a few others leave too. Mascherano has been talking up a move for around 18 months and would raise a good bit of cash, especially if he turns out to be the world cup winning captain. As I said before, I would have no problem with Gerrard leaving as long as we get a good price for him, but I'm probably in a minority there among fellow reds.

Here's another great article from Paul Tomkins. It's an analysis of Hodgson, his strengths and weaknesses.

Fabio Aurelio has left L4 as his contract has ended and we couldn't agree a pay as you play deal. He was a top player when fit, which wasn't that often unfortunately. But his quality was there for all to see and we can't complain too much considering we signed him on a free. A model professional. Thanks for the memories.

David Moores has written a letter to Hicks and Gillett telling them they should do the decent thing and sell up. Rumours abound of a takeover but nothing concrete as yet. To be honest, I've lost a lot of interest in the club while the two Americans remain in charge. Rafa getting sacked was the final straw. I don't think that I'll be writing this blog while they remain in charge. I may think differently if they leave but I'm going to scale back on this and just go with occasional updates on twitter instead.

The BBC get a lot wrong but this is a great piece by them on the history of the Spion Kop in South Africa.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dull Hull

A 0-0 draw away to Hull was a suitably drab way to end to finish what has been a dour and depressing season. We did manage to hit the woodwork through Gerrard and their keeper made a string of good saves. But we didn't have it all our own way and Pepe had to stay alert to keep us in it. In the end we got what we deserved, 1 point. Our dire away form continued, we've only 5 "road wins" this season which is a damning indictment. The only notable aspect of the match was the fact that 16 year old full back Jack Robinson made his debut as a second half sub to become our youngest ever player. He's being tipped as one to watch but it'll be a while before he's ready to challenge for the first team on a regular basis.

With the season now over and no games to look forward to, some might say thankfully, it's time to take stock and figure out what went wrong this year. It's been shocking, on and off the pitch, in a year in which I expected us to challenge or even win the league. Obviously we needed to strengthen the team with the departures of Xabi, Sami, and Arbeloa. Their replacements had mixed results. Johnson had a pretty good season, injuries aside. Kyrgiakos did well, better than expected for a £1m signing. Xabi was sorely missed. Mascherano and Lucas isn't a midfield that can dictate play. Aquilani was a big gamble by Rafa and it didn't come off. I think he's shown some good form since Christmas but he was much more badly injured than initially expected and took a long time to gain match fitness. Rafa could and should have given him more game time this year. I expect we'll see the best of him next year and he'll prove to be a good signing in the long run. His problem is that he'll always get compared to Xabi, which is a high standard to meet. Maxi was a great signing and has slotted in perfectly. We got a bargain there for £1.5m. It's a pity we didn't buy him in the summer as we could have used him last Autumn.

I was and remain a Rafa fan. I still think he's the best man for the job. Some fans, in growing numbers, think sacking him would be a panacea for our ills. I think that's pretty short sighted and misses the point. The only reason to sack him is if you think we can get somebody better in to replace him. Who might that be? As long as the two Americans remain our owners we're fucked. Whoever the manager is will have to cope with debt repayment squad sales and being undermined at board room level. My fear is that they will push Rafa out and get a yes man in who won't call them for the cheat, lying theives that they are, like Benitez has since Athens. He's the only one in there fighting for the club and the fans. Yes, he's had a bad season this year, really bad, but I think he's enough credit in the bank to deserve another go next year. If next season is as bad as this one then it's time for a parting of the ways. For now, I'd keep him and keep hoping that we get investment sorted before the September 1st.

Mascherano is putting contract talks on hold. I fear he'll be sold and he probably won't be the only one. Sad and sobering times.

I'll be taking a break over the summer unless there are some big transfer deals or a bit of investment news over the summer. Keep it red.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Europa knockout and Chelsea collapse

What a week it's been. FIrst we crashed out of Europe on away goals with a 2-1 win over Atletico Madrid. We played pretty well for 60-70 mins but ran out of steam and ideas. We did get to see some nice goals for Aquilani and Yossi but when Forlan scored in extra time we had nothing left in the tank. Pretty disappointing.

But nothing compared to the way we surrendered 2-0 to Chelsea at Anfield last Sunday. We did a decent enough job of suffocating the Londoners for the first 30 minutes. Then Gerrard decided to try another one of his suicidal back passes, ala France in the world cup, and Drogba pounced to given them the lead. We had no response and Lampard added a second to given them no more than they deserved. Some fans were happy to see us lose but I wasn't one of them. I want us to win every game regardless of the consequences.

We travel to Hull City tomorrow for our last game of the season and it's hard to give a shit about a nothing game like this. The only hope of it being mildly interesting is if we get to see a bit more of the youngsters like Pacheco and Ayala who's been doing well in recent games. They both have talent and could really kick on and become regulars next year. put together a montage of Maxi's play this month. He's been one of the few brights sparks in a dull second half of the season. I expect him to build on this and give us even more next season. His quality is plain to see and the likes of Gerrard, Aquilani and Torres love playing with him.

Yossi doesn't know if he'll stay around this summer. I wouldn't be surprised to see him sold. He's a salable asset and isn't young. I rate him and want him to stay but we've got debts.

Rangers teen Danny Wilson is expected to complete his move to L4 in the next week according to the BBC. They reckon the fee is £2m plus future conditional payments. This seems very cheap for a highly rated young British defender but his contract is running down, hence the value for money. You can see him score a header for Rangers here.

Things continue to get worse off the pitch. The annual accounts were released this week and they it turns out that we're in a worse state than expected. The always reliable Tony Barrett in the Times breaks down the implications of the debt and the extent to which the stateside leeches are bleeding our club dry. If we don't get sold soon we are heading the same direction as Leeds United.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

To the Maxi

Atletico beat us 1-0 in Madrid on Thursday night to put them firmly in the driving seat of this two legged tie. In truth, it wasn't a great game or performance from either team. Forlan did well to beat Pepe but it was a scrappy goal that we should have cleared. This was compounded when Yossi scored a legitimate goal minutes later which was disallowed for offside. Ngog struggled up front and couldn't hold the ball up on his own. Atleti will be happy that they managed to prevent us from scoring and will fancy their chances at Atfield on Thursday given they'll have Aguero back, we're missing Torres and they have a lead to protect. Not good. We can do it but Atleti are deserved favourites.

We finished the week with a 4-0 away win over Burnley. The first half was crap and we only got going with a deflected goal in the second half. Gerrard's strike wrong footed the Jansen when it took a deflection off a defender. His second was a sweet strike from distance, the kind of goal which he made his name with. Maxi scored his first goal for Liverpool, not before time. He's been a superb signing since he arrived and you can see how his technique, passing and movement help those around him. I expect him to bag a lot more goals next season.

Aquilani had a good game and reveled in the space available to him. He managed to set up three goals which is a pretty good return regardless of the opposition. I would like to see Alberto get an extended run and build on it with a full pre season behind him next season. Rafa has said he could play in the hole more regularly rather than in central midfield.
Some of the UK Press have been linking Torres with a move to City. I think this is unlikely and if he does leave us in the future, it will not be to another English club from theses quotes. I'd hate to see him leave but if he does, I could accept him playing for FC Barcelona a lot easier than City or Chelsea. He is also very complimentary about Rafa and his man management style, not something you hear very often in the press.

We've opened out summer spending with a move for Charlton midfielder Jonjo Shelvey. It a done deal now for around £1.7m rising to £3m and it's connected with an arrangement with Charlton. He's only 18 but has been talked about as a talent for a few years. The Mail suggest we're signing 15 year old Swede Kristoffer Peterson who's been on trial at the Academy.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Three and easy

Thanks Hammers. A 3-0 home win was exactly what we needed ahead of a Europa league semi final on Thursday. The Londoners turned up in body but not in mind and didn't really look up for it. Yossi opened the scoring from a Gerrard free kick on the right. It tucked it into the net with his chest, not his arm as some of the defenders were claiming. Ngog got the second with a fine finish from a Maxi cross. The French kid has had the difficult task of doing a Torres impression with our Spanish talisman out injured. He did have Dirk as backup here and it seemed to help him. The lone striker role doesn't really suit David. Rafa was impressed with young Ngog's performance against the Hammers.We added a third goal in the second half when a Kygiakos header hit the post and went in of Rob Green. The big greek is really dangerous at set pieces and could score a shed load if we get the delivery to him right. Zola and his charges offered nothing to trouble us and we were able to take our foot off the gas in the second half.

With the continuing air travel restrictions due to the volcanic ash cloud, Liverpool started a 24-hour journey to Madrid on Tuesday. It's a train, plane and coach journey to reach the Spanish capital, not ideal preparation for a European semi final. They players will probably be knackered when they get home later this week. Atletico will be tough opposition over two legs, especially now that El Nino will be absent for the rest of the season. It's a pity that Fernando is injured as he would have loved to have played against his old club. We'll be looking for the likes of Kuyt and Babel to deliver in his place. They have some dangerous forwards in Reyes, Forlan and Aguero, who is suspended for the first leg. Talented but flaky is how they're described by Sid Lowe here.

Paul Tomkins has an article detailing the importance of a good keeper and stresses the importance of Pepe Reina to the way we play. Maybe the way we played last year would be more accurate. I'm a huge Pepe fan and I'm thrilled he's signed his new contract. We won't do any better than him.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Fulham frustrate

The 0-0 draw with Fulham on Sunday was sadly predictable. As is often the case when Torres is out, we lacked the cutting edge to break down a massed defence, despite all of our possession. Watching the game, it didn't look like a goal would come. Fairplay to Fulham, they parked the bus and got a point. They'll be happy with that. Ngog didn't have a great game up top. It was good to see Pacheco get another few minutes towards the end. Hopefully Rafa will continue to play him now that fourth spot looks gone.

We play West Ham on Monday night. They are in a desperate state and are fighting for survival so I can see their desire being greater than ours. There have been too many occasions this year where the players look like they don't care and aren't giving it everything. I can accept a player not being good enough, if he is trying. When they don't try, that annoys me.
The big news this week was the statement from Hicks and Gillett that they're going to step down and appoint Martin Broughton as Chairman. This coupled with their stated desire to sell the club looks like good news. But we've had so many false dawns with them over the years that I'm remaining skeptical for now. Rafa gave a it a cautious welcome.

David Conn in the Guardian has a good piece on Hillsbourgh this week, the 21st anniversary of the disaster.

Young Hungarian Keeper Peter Gulacsi has joined Tranmere Rovers on emergency loan for a week. He should get a bit of game time while he's there. I'd happily let Cavalieri leave this summer and let the likes of Gulacsi step up as our backup keeper.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Europa joy

What would you prefer, a Europa cup or fourth spot in the league and a Champions League place? I would have said fourth spot at the start of the season but as time goes by, I'm warming to the idea of a Europa cup. The
4-1win over Benfica on Thursday night got the heart racing. It was a great performance from the lads. We went at them, like we often do at Anfield on a European night. If only we had taken this form into our away league games this year.

Dirk Kuyt opened the scoring and Lucas followed soon after. It was the Brazilians first of the season and he showed great composure to latch onto a superb ball from Gerrard and round the keeper. I think the kop would like to see more of that side of his game. Our third goal was a superb counter attacking move at pace with Dirk hitting a class cross from the right and El Nino slotting home. Torres lobbed the keeper for the last goal after a superb Lucas tackle in the middle set us on the attack. The only downer on the night was the consolation goal for Benfica when a free kick took a deflection off the wall and went in. It gave us a few nervous minutes before we got our fourth. Special mention to Javier and Fernando who avoided bookings which would have kept them out of the next round. Not so Sergio Aguero who was booked in Ateltico's match with Valencia and he'll miss the first leg, two weeks from now. Atleti will be a tough game but we should be able to beat them over two legs, despite their talented squad.It's back to the league matters tomorrow with Fulham visiting Anfield. The cottagers could be Europa cup final opponents if we manage to get that far. Their away form isn't great unlike our home form which means we really should be able to do them. I know the chances of sneaking fourth are slim but we have to keep pushing in case City do slip up.

Pepe Reina has given us a massive boost by signing a six year deal which will keep him at the club until 2016. This is brilliant news. I wouldn't swap him with any other keeper in Europe, with the exception of Casillas.

Rafa has said that we need investment in the team and we won't get back to competitiveness by wheeling and dealing as we have been doing over the last two seasons. If it's not forthcoming, I can see him leaving the club in the summer. That would suit Hicks and Gillett as they wouldn't have to pay him off and could get somebody cheaper in to do a job.

The Mirror have a transfer rumour with quotes from Dutch Wunderkind Georginio Wijnaldum, saying it would be a dream move for him to come to Liverpool. Let's hope that he lives up to his billing, unlike our last dutch Wunderkind, Babel. Feyenoord would want around £5m for him.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Benfica away and Birmingham home

We went to Portugal last week and came back with an away goal but little else. Danny Agger gave us the opener with this lovely flick. Then Luisao went through Torres from behind in a tackle that should have seen him see red. Babel decided to step in and defend El Nino, which is fair enough. But he then stuck his hand in Luisao's face which was thick and the ref sent him off. After that we were up against it. Insua got booked and conceded a peno. Later on, Carra conceded another with a handball inside the area. They took both of their kicks and we left Portugal with a 2-1 deficit. The away goal means it's not insurmountable but we're up against it. We've no left back for the second leg tomorrow as Insua is suspended. It could be three at the back or else Agger at left back? We'll find out soon.

The weekend started well with Spurs losing to Sunderland. I can see them falling away now. Unfortunately we didn't fulfill our side of the bargain and all we could manage at Birmingham was a 1-1 draw. Gerrard hit a great shot from inside the area in the second half but we let them equalise soon after. Rafa took Torres off with around 25 mins to go. I didn't really agree with it but maybe he had a knock. In fairness, Ngog changed things when he came on and we created lots of chances. He wasn't able to convert any and we left with a point. On the face of it, it's not a bad result as they've held everybody decent to a draw at home. But with games running out and City in pole position, it looks like we'll miss out on fourth. It would take a catastrophic dip in form for them to throw it away now. Looks like we're headed for the Europa league again next season.

But first there is the small matter of this years competition. We've got to overturn the 2-1 score at home tomorrow. They showed they're dangerous in the first leg and our defence will be a bit patched up as we've no left back. I think we can do it but we'll need to keep the likes of Di Maria quiet and watch out for them hitting us on the break. The ref in the first leg gave us very little so I'm hoping that evens itself out here.

Milan Jovanovic has confirmed that he'll sign for Liverpool on a free transfer this summer, work permit permitting. Sky Sports say that we're chasing 18 year old Rangers defender Danny Wilson.
It seems like Riera will be staying in L4 for the rest of the season after his move to Russia stalled. It's a pity as I doubt he'll play again and will be collecting his pay packet while sitting on his arse. Sky say we've offered a trial to 15 year old French player Moussa Kouyate who plays for Paris FC.

Here are the highlights of the reserves 2-1 win over Bolton. The goals came from David Ngog and an own goal from a Bruna free kick.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Goal of the season?

When the kid's on form, we're on form. Torres led from the front in a stunning 3-0 win over Sunderland. He struck after 3 mins with an incredible goal, likely to win goal of the season. Johnson added a second before half time. El Nino struck again to make it 3 with a nonchalant finish inside the area when set up by Johnson. It was a dominant display from the team and not a beach ball in sight. The only surprise is that the victory wasn't greater.

There were many standout performers in a great showing from the home team. It's hard to say anybody played badly. My top picks would be Torres, for obvious reasons. He's in brilliant form right now and it looks like nobody can stop him. He could have had many more after hitting the post and missing a few presentable chances. Johnson seems to be back in the swing of things. He's showing the form of the early season when we were playing well. He's such a threat with his dribbling ability on the right. His goal was with his left foot from outside the area. He linked up well with Maxi who's coming into his own now. His technique and movement are fantastic. His not a pacey winger who'll beat the full back on the outside, more like an inside right. He was at the centre of many great moves we put together. More of this kind of thing. We really need Spurs and City to slip up but if we can build on our good home form, we're still in with a shout of fourth.Liverpool face Benfica away on Thursday night. This is going to be really tough. I expect Lucas to return to the lineup for this one. We'll probably try to keep it tight and hit them on the break with Torres and Babel. They're a good team, the best Everton have faced this season according to a Toffee supporting mate of mine.

The guardian say that we've accepted an initial £6m bid from CSKA for Albert Riera. However the Echo contradict this by saying it's Spartak Moscow who will capture him, on loan until the end of the season. Either way I expect he's likely to leave at the start of April.

Here's a highlights package of Dani Pacheco. Another one of the reserves, Jordy Brouwer, scored a long range screamer against Hull reserves this week. That 1-0 win means the reserves remain unbeaten this season, a great effort by John McMahon.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lille home and Utd away

A 3-0 win over Lille on Thursday was enough to overturn the 1-0 away defeat and put us through to the quarter final of the Ueropa league. Gerrard opened the scoring after Lucas won a penalty. Torres beat the last man and the keeper with a deft finish to show he's approaching full fitness and form again. He added a third in the second half to put the tie beyond doubt. It was a pity that Aquilani caught a virus in the run up to this match and wasn't able to build on his good form against Portsmouth. We'll face Benfica in the next round. They'll be a tough side to beat and have already embarrassed Everton in the same competition this season.

Given we'd put a bit of form together over the last few games, we weren't so nervous going into the game against Utd at Old Toilet. It showed as we went at them from the off and El Nino opened the scoring with a great header after four minutes. Dirk sent in a great cross from the right and Nando looped it beyond Van Der Saar into the far corner. It was a great start and set us on our way towards anther historic victory at the Toilet. Unfortunately Howard Webb decided to gift Utd a peno when Mascherano fouled Valenica outside the box. I was a bit worried when I heard Webb was reffing this one. Reina saved Rooney's peno but He managed to slot home the rebound. Great effort from Pepe all the same. The Park added a second for the home team with a great header in the second half to consign us to defeat. It was a very even first half but in fairness Utd were the better team in the second period and controlled the game once the took the lead. It finished 2-1 but quality was lacking from both sides and it was a poor enough game overall. We did manage to fashion one great chance at the end but Torres fluffed his effort after Gerrard set him up and Yossi sent his headed effort straight at VDS. Unfortunate. I fear this defeat has killed off any lingering hopes for fourth place. Our only hope for the season is a Europa cup. Our next match is Sunderland at Anfield next weekend. They aren't in great form but beat us in the beachball game earlier this year and have dangerous forwards in Bent and Jones. We've decent home form and should be able to win this.

Albert Riera hasn't done his chances of a first team recall much good by blasting Rafa in the Spanish press. I've no doubt that he's leaving this summer. I was impressed with him last season but he's been poor enough this year on the odd occasion he played.

Liverpool's latest signing, 15 year old Raheem Sterling made his debut against Everton for the Academy team this week. He capped it with a goal, highlights here. No doubt some fans will be demanding Rafa give him his first team debut for the next game.

David Conn in the Guardian has a good article summarising the dire financial position Hicks and Gillett have dumped us in since they bought the club. He also details the Rhone groups bid for a 40% share in the club.