Thursday, November 30, 2006

Pompy persevere

Pretty poor result last night. They put 10 men behind the ball and invited us to break them down at home. We weren't able to. They were happy with a point, which is fair enough for them. We played quite well in the first half but weren't able to keep the tempo going after the break. The really disappointing part is that we could have gone third if we won as the other results went our way. Obviously we're not going to win the league this year but the least we can do is get into third and not finish miles behind Utd and Chelsea.

The midfield was fairly makeshift. Both Guthrie and El Zahr made their league debuts. Guthrie looked decent but El Zhar looks quite small and barely got a touch.

Defence played well but didn't really have much to deal with. Kanu, their leading scorer, only came on as a late sub. Don't know why he didn't start.

Pennant was very poor. He didn't stay wide as much as he should have. He also got wound up by the Pompy players and was lucky to stay on the pitch. I think that Rafa should have taken him off before Garcia. Neither played well but Luis wasn't in danger of getting sent off.

Carra did well enough in midfield. I don't expect it to continue as Xabi should be back for the Wigan trip on Sat afternoon. We could really do with an away win. It's about time that we get one. I can see us struggling to score if Wigan sit back. If they come onto us then we should have a decent chance of winning. Maybe Bellamy will come back and bang in a hat trick now that his trial is over and he's an innocent man. Maybe not.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Fortress Anfield repels Man City

Our amazing home form continues. Our home form is the exact match of Chelsea for the season which makes both the best home teams. Unlike Chelsea, we have only been able to take two points from seven games. While we didn't play well bar around 15 or 20 mins in the second half, we reduced an unambitious City to no clear chances. But the fact that we managed to break down an obstinate defence was encouraging. Garcia can often help to do this at home but he had a fairly poor game on Sat. I'm a big fan of Luis and hope he gets a new contract. He gives us something that none of our other players do. When he's on form he can be stunning but off form he can have shocking games.

Stevie Gerrard built on his goal scoring exploits against PSV to hit the winner. He looks to be finding some decent form over the last 3 or 4 games after a terrible start to the season. Zenden played a very disciplined role behind Gerrard. He was tidy in possession and tackled well. He is no world beater and nowhere near a Momo substitute but we'll have to hope that he can keep this up until Xabi returns in a week or so.

As we have come to expect by now, Kuyt put in his usual trojan workload. He also managed to provide another assist making it three in two games this week. Neither striker came that close to scoring. Hopefully they can change that against Pompy on Wed. Pompy have something of an injury crises at the moment and their defence has lost it's early season resoluteness.

The formation was interesting on Sat. We seemed to start with Agger at left back but this changed to 352 very quickly. In the second half we appeared to revert to 442 with Carra at right back and Finnan on right of midfield. Rafa tried 352 against Newcastle last season and it worked well. I don't see this being used that often and it might have been an effort to get around our lack of fit wingers at the moment.

In transfer news, the Liverpool echo say that we have signed a young Argentine left back called Emiliano Insua. He is 17 and has signed from Boca Juniors for £1m. Jamie McCarthy from Hamilton Academical has also been linked. This kid made his debut at 15 and is in the first team now at 16. He is Scottish born but has expressed a preference to play for Ireland, a la McGeady at Celtic, which is good news for us. Utd want him too so I would expect that Fergie will win that one. Sky linked us with two Spanish youngsters from the Real Madrid B team called Juan Manuel Mata and Alberto Bueno. I can't saw that I know anything much about them other than they played for Spain when they won the under 19 euro championship last month. Billy Clarke an 18 year old striker at Ipswich, has been linked with a £1.6m move. He's Irish too and seems to be doing well for Ipswich this term. I've only seem youtube compilations but some who've seen him play compare him to a young Fowler.

Lucas Neil remains a January target by all accounts. His contract is up in July so he shouldn't cost much. The press say that we'll have competition from Newcastle, Barca and Milan for his signature. I think that he's a decent player and could do a good job for us. But he can be a total hatchet man when he wants to as some of our players have found out when on the receiving end of his tackles.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Red hot and dutch

The title refers to Kuyt, not porn.

Good comfortable win last night. We didn't look spectacular but scored two good goals and didn't give them a sniff. We're guaranteed top spot in the group this may give us a better draw in the last 16 of the champions league. But the win came at a heavy price. Xabi, Gonzalez and Pennant all came off injured. The severity of the injuries isn't yet known but Gonzalez is thought to be the most serious and could be out for a few weeks.

One of the notable performers last night against PSV was Reina. Pepe is back to his form now after a difficult start to the season. He commanded the area well and acted as sweeper, clearing anything in that came into the box. The back four as a whole played well and I can't see any changes for the moment unless it's a meaningless fixture like Galatasary next month.

Gerrard had by far his best game of the season last night. He took his goal really well and looked very up for it. There have been some games where he's tried but it hasn't come off. Last night he had the look of a player who knows that his form is back with him. Koeman was very impressed with his performance as was I.

Crouch and Kuyt both played quite well. Good link up by them for Crouch's goal. Kuyt got two assists on the night. He's a very intelligent player and this coupled with his work rate makes him invaluable to the team. He is also very unselfish. We could probably do with one of our strikers being more selfish, especially in away games.

Wingers weren't great in my view. They both tried hard in the time they had but I thought that they could have had more impact on the game given that the opposition didn't seem up to much.

Xabi is expected to be back for the visit of Man City on Sat. City have fairly poor away form. Given our good home form I would expect us to win this one. Didi could make a comeback at Anfield. He was a fantastic player at the club and won many trophies here. I expect him to get a hero's welcome if he plays.

There was an article in the guardian yesterday saying that the champs league could be anybodies this year given the form of the European heavyweights like Milan, Madrid, Barca and an absent Juve. I'm not saying that we're going to win it but you can get odds of around 22-1 which might be worth an each way punt. There are some similarities to two season ago given our poor form in the league. Hope that we don't get Lyon in the next round. They look very strong at the moment.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Home v Away

We've doubled our away points tally for the season with our draw at Boro. Great success. After initial doom and gloom I wasn't as upset about this result. We dominated the game and spent large parts of the game camped in the Boro half. This was a huge improvement on Utd away and the Arsenal match. But we failed to turn our dominance into three points. Let's explore the perfomance.

Positives

Agger and defence did what little they had to well. The only real chance was the fresh air slice from Yakubu. Other than that the Boro lone striker didn't get a sniff. Agger took the ball forward upfield with the confidence that we're getting used to. It's something that Sami doesn't do and is a great help to the midfield. It allows them to move up the field and reduces the distance between them and the strikers. He also had a crack at goal and wasn't too far away. I can see him scoring another few goals before the season is out. I can't see Sami getting in for too many games now bar those where the opposition has a major aerial threat.

Gerrard was slightly better than he has been recently. I still don't think that he is anywhere near where he can be but it's a step in the right direction. His ball to Gonzalez at the far post was superb and Mark was unlucky not to finish. Xabi and Stevie have played well together in the centre in the past and I think that they'll be the first choice partnership until Momo returns.

Crouch's heading has come on a lot this season. He had a couple of good efforts and seems to be able to place his headers better this year. He was unlucky when Woodgate headed one of his attempts off the line. In the past it seemed that Crouch would take all the power and pace out of the ball when he headed it. Maybe he has built up his neck muscles over the summer.

Team selection was correct for the game in my view. I expect this team, with Garcia and Crouch coming in, to start most games for now. It's quite attacking with two wingers and no specialised ball winner but I think that the defence can cope without Momo against the teams that we have coming up now. Plus Xabi and Stevie are well capable of putting a tackle in.

Negatives

Wingers, crossing and corners. Both Gonzalez and Pennant were poor. Both have played good games so far this season but were crap on Sat. Gonzalez could have scored from Gerrard's cross but didn't contribute much overall. He saw a lot of the ball but his crosses were rubbish, often not clearing the first man. Pennant is a much better crosser as we saw for Brum last year but he is cutting infield when he gets the ball rather than hugging the touchline and crossing from the corner flag.

Scoring and strikers. We dominated the game and spent large parts of the game camped in the Boro half. This was a huge improvement on Utd away and the Arsenal match. But we were unable to turn this domination into three points. As stated above, the crossing wasn't what it should but given the possession that we had the strikers got a reasonable amount of ball and had some chances. Woodgate didn't help matters by having superb game. He could be a superb player if he managed to stay fit. That's a big if but days like this show what he's capable of.

PSV & champs league up next. Can't see them being that pushed as we're both though. I don't expect that Rafa will make a raft of changes. I think that he'll still want to win this one given that we'll get top spot if we win. Some managers like Fergie think that it doesn't matter where you finish in your group as long as you get through. Despite that, the better teams do tend to win their groups so you can avoid some of them by winning your group. If we win on Wed then we will probably play a young team in the Galatasary away match. Glad that we won't be going there needing a result.

In continental football, a great win for Roma cheered me up no end. 7-0 at home coupled with the fact that Palermo were beaten makes them look in a good position, even though they're four points beind Inter. I should really have backed them last week for the scudetto when they were 6-1. Good win for Barca too.

Fins despr├ęs.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Arse 3 - 0 Liverpool

Where to start?

It was a very dispiriting game from Liverpool perspective. I thought that we were reasonably good in the first half and 0-0 at half time would have been fair. But once they scored the first goal our heads dropped. The second half performance was terrible. Some of the teams that got good results in the emirates recently like Everton and Villa and Boro have played 4-5-1 and concentrated on stifling Arsenal in midfield. We didn't do that. We tried to play our own game, attack arsenal and tried to win it. We don't seem to have any confidence in our ability away from home, especially when we go a goal down. Comparing this performance to the one we gave against Villa at home two weeks previously is like comparing Eddie McGoldrick to Ronaldinho.

So what needs to change and what can Rafa do? If it wasn't for injuries we can assume that Momo, Garcia and maybe Kewell would have started. Momo definitely and the other two to a lesser extent could have made a major difference to the result. As I said in my last post, Momo is vital to the way we play. He, in many ways, is our most important player. We are going to suffer a lot while he is out injured and Zenden may be ok for the likes of Brum, he doesn't have the ability to step up against the arse. Every team gets injuries during the season and we have to cope with ours now. What we need is for the likes of Pennant, Gonzalez and Garcia to step up and deliver. If Gonzalez starts performing consistently on the left then we can play Garcia/Pennant on the right and Gerrard in the centre alongside Xabi. Gonzalez was poor on Sunday but had a good game against Brum. I would back him to show some form against Boro. Pennant did well when he came on towards the end and made a good run to the line before Bellamys disallowed goal.

And so onto Boro away. Given that Bellamy played a great game for Wales and scored last night, I would start him against Boro. His pace should cause problems to Woodgate and Pogatez. Even when he's not scoring, his pace can cause panic. Some of our players have been accused of lacking heart and bottle when we went a goal down against Arsenal. You can't accuse Bellamy of that. I think that Samis substitution could be telling and I would expect Agger will start the next few games.

The only football solace from the weekend came from Barcelonas 3-1 win over Zaragoza (read more here) and AS Roma historic 2-1 against AC in Milan. Great to see Totti get back to something approaching his best. Can the giallorossi win the league this year? I think that they have a real chance given that Palermo have a small squad and Inter will inevitably do an Inter and bottle it. We can but dream. Much more chance of Roma winning the league than Liverpool this year.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Momo's misery

It was a handy enough win in the Carling cup last night but it came as a heavy price. Report today suggest that he's dislocated his shoulder and could be out for three months. Momo was the only first team regular to start the match. Given that he's the one player that Rafa doesn't rotate, you could say that he is the most important player in his system. So who'll fill in now? Bolo Zenden auditioned for the part last night and was voted man of the match. I'm not Zendens biggest fan but there is no doubt that he's more effective in central midfield than on the left. It remains to be seen whether he'll be as effective against top class premiership opposition, week in, week out. I think that the more likely alternative will be to move Gerrard into the centre and put Pennant on the right. Alternatively Gonzalez could come in on the left with Garcia moving across to the right hand side. Either way I feel that Momo's injury is a huge blow and I fear that we'll drop points as a result of it.

Back to the match. Gonzalez and Agger were the two most impressive performers for me. I am a big fan of Gonzalez and I feel that he has what it takes to make it at LFC. His pace is frightening (faster than Cisse), he's a good crosser and he's not afraid to shoot. He scored 5 goals in 12 starts for Real Sociedad last season and was said to be one of the main reasons that they avoided relegation. I don't think that he has showed his best form for us yet but he's been improving with games and last night was his best showing so far. I expect him to have made the left wing spot his own by the new year if he continues to adapt and improve.

Agger was once again superb. Our no.5 is only 21 but plays like a 30 year old battle hardened veteran. He is a leader and organised the defence well against Brum. I would like him to play on Sunday against Arsenal despite how well Hyypia has been playing. I think that Agger isn't one for the future, he's on for now. There are certain games where we'll need Sami but Daniel should start the majority of games in my view.

Of the others on show last night I'll give an honourable mention to Paletta. He clearly loves a tackle but he would want to tone it down slightly. He was booked and could have gotten a second. He looks confident though and I hope that he gets another game in the next round of the carling cup. Peltier was cool under pressure and Guthrie got involved during his cameo.

And so onto the Emirates for our next match on Sunday. I was hoping that Everton would take them to extra time last night but Adebayor scored with five minutes to go. We're in better form than them at the moment but we have a terrible record at their ground and our away form in the league has been shocking. Hope we can turn both stats around on Sunday.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Welcome

In Istanbul, we won it five times.

Welcome to my blog. I'll be covering all things to do with Liverpool FC from an Irish viewpoint. Feel free to post a comment and let me know what you think.

The Birmingham match tonight should be reasonably straight forward. A repeat of last seasons 7-0 would be nice but as long as it's a win with no injuries, I'll be happy. It's a good oppertunity for Jermaine Pennant to put on a display against his former club. We might see some of the youngsters such as Guthrie and Peltier get a run out.

The match tonight is a great chance for LFC to put together some away form. We'll need to improve dramaticly on our previous away performances this season when we go to the Emirates on Sunday. I've been pleasently surprised by their recent dip in form. We've had terrible results there over the past few years. They do tend to give us lots of problems. Sami Hyypia has been in good form over the past 3-4 games but I think that Agger might be a better option against Arsenal. His pace and skill on the ball might be more usefull against the lightning quick Arsenal forwards. Plus they tend not to be as much of a threat in the air so we may not need Sami's aeriel prowess.

Until next time.