Sunday, November 18, 2007

It's all kicking off - part 2

Four items on the agenda today.

1. Very well done against Newcastle. Another 3 points in the bag away from home. Our away bag is now the fullest in the league. Long may it continue. 3-0 at St James' Park is always a good result. The press tomorrow will say that the Toon were shit, and they were. But we played very well and we could have had a lot more goals.

Gerrard answered his critics, and the Toon fans booing him, in style. He hit a superb free kick to open the scoring and had a hand in the next two goals. Stevie played in the middle with Lucas and Momo alongside him. This is an effective away from home tactic and has worked well for Chelsea in the past. Lucas had a great game bar a dip just before the end of the first half. He passed and tackled superbly. He sat a bit deeper today which let Momo move forward to hassle the opposition and Gerrard pull some strings. Lucas will be a great alternative for Xabi in times to come. A really impressive first Premier League start from the young Brazilian. Momo was poor again. He hassled and harried as he does and was as effective as ever without the ball. But his touch and passing were as bad as they have been in recent times. Great to see Harry manage to play 55 mins. We'll need him in the weeks ahead.

Torres played very well but his finishing was slightly off. He could have had four or five goals if he was on top form. He was unlucky to see one effort on half time hit the post but the keeper was out of the way so he really should have scored. Kuyt had a mixed game. He was doing his usual workhorse role supporting Torres from behind and out wide. He didn't do too much for his goal beyond being in the right place. But they all count and he has three in the league now. It was a definite improvement on some of his recent form but there is still a long way to go before he's back to his best. Babel came on in the second half and ran Newcastle ragged from the right. Rafa seems to prefer using the Dutch kid as an impact sub for now. It's working well and he gave the home defenders a nightmare. He combined superbly with Gerrard for the third score. It was a sublime goal and the pick of the bunch. I'm a big fan of Babel and hope that he keeps improving at his current rate.

The defence did what it had to do, which wasn't much at all. Martins was well managed by Carra and Sami. There wasn't a huge amount of threat from them anywhere else. Arbeloa had another good match at left back. Between him, Aurelio and Insua we will be able to cope at left back if Riise is sold in Jan.

Utd dropped 3 points against Bolton today was an unexpected bonus. I really didn't expect that to happen. It looked to me like the big four teams all winning before the matches began. We're now three points behind Utd and two behind City, with a game in hand, which is a decent situation. Unfortunately, we're still 6 points behind Arsenal without games in hand. They could do with slipping up and letting us back into the race. That's not too much to ask for, is it?

2. The board v Rafa battle rumbles on. I was hoping that we had left this behind when it all kicked off in the summer. This is a really bad situation and I'm very worried. Rafa came out in the press conference on Thursday and made it clear that he's not happy with the Hicks and Gillett in relation to transfer plans. They seem to have told him to concentrate on training and coaching the current players. I hate to our dirty laundry being washed in public. Things seem to be slightly better after the match today and Rafa said that the row wasn't serious. Hopefully this is the case and both parties can move forward. Unfortunately I fear that Rafa will walk away from the club sooner or later over the boards conduct of transfers and lack of speed. The plan in the summer was rumoured to be that Foster Gillett would be based on Merseyside to work with Parry and Rafa on transfers. It now appears that we went back to US after the Arsenal game and hasn't been back since. I think that they will be able to sort this out short term but I can see this row erupting again in 6 months and Rafa walking in the summer. It'll be a sad day for the club is he does leave as he's a superb manager and the perfect man for the job. His resignation would set us back around 3-4 years in my view.

3. The Porto match on wed night is huge. We're in much better form than we were when we played them in Portugal. But they're still a good team and will cause us problems. We have to win and will be going for it from the start. If we don't score early, I can see the sitting back and trying to hit us on the break with the likes of Quaresma. An early goal and it mightn't be too bad. But we'll have to go for it as we're out if we fail to win.

4. AOB. Javi Martinez has been linked to us recently. He's another young creative midfielder, who plays for Athletic Bilbao, so I don't really see where he fits into the plans at the moment. Rafa then came out on the official site and said that we aren't interested in signing him now. We have more than enough central midfielders at the moment though. Maybe he'll be a target if we sell Momo.

Until Wednesday. Anfield awaits.


Thomas Kelly said...

What on earth is going on with the row between Rafa and Hicks/ Gillett? Like you say, the airing of all of this in public is very unsavoury. I was reading Andy Hunter in today's Guardian and he was saying that Rafa has been told to forget about signing Kaladze from Milan in January and that there are two other Bosman signings for the summer that are now in question too.

I can completely understand Rafa's frustration if this is the case. And Hicks "shut up and coach" attitude is ridiculous. Benitez clearly knows what he's doing so how about they just leave him to it?

And what's going to happen with Mascherano? Who would get the 17 million if they do sign him on a permenant deal? And if Liverpool don't sign him where will he go? Back to West Ham?

Mal said...

From what I've heard, it's only a matter of time before Rafa gets the sack. I'm really pissed off about it. I hope that they will be able to smooth out their differences but it's not looking likely now.

I would imagine that the Macherano money goes to MSI. I reckon that he can go to a different club if we don't sign him, not West Ham.

Thomas Kelly said...

Really? Who would they get to replace him? I can see Liverpool really struggling should he leave. There are echos of the Sanchez Flores situation at Valencia, and indeed Rafa's time there.

It's not as if he's making a balls of it. When was the last time Liverpool made a decent run at the European Cup before Benitez came along let alone won it. Certainly their league form hasn't been as good as one would expect but given time I have no doubt that Liverpool will get there. Sacking Rafa would be a disaster.

Mal said...

It would be a disaster if he left or got the sack. It would set us back years. I think that he is the perfect man for the job. He loves the club and the city. I can't think of anyone better. If he stays I feel he will deliver the title in the near future.
There is an online petition which was started on Sunday night to keep Rafa and it already has over 15000 signatures.

Red's Fury™ said...

Sign the petition, support Rafa!!!


Mal said...

I've signed it already. There is a link to it in the fourth comment. I see that there are over 27000 signatures now. Not bad for 4 days.

Stubbins said...

Hi Mal.

Just one Shankly's quote to describe the situation.

"At a football club, there's a holy trinity - the players, the manager and the supporters. Directors don't come into it. They are only there to sign the cheques. "


Greetings from Barcelona.

Mal said...

Great quote. Spot on.