Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Stop. Babel time

When he got going on Saturday you could see that the boy Ryan was thinking "u can't touch this." I reckon this was his best game yet for the Reds. He tormented both of the right backs and was a constant threat. He scored one goal and could have had another two or three. He is doing well in his wide left attacking role, similar to where he played for Ajax and Holland. It seems to be working well away from home where teams leave gaps for Babel and Torres to exploit with their pace and skill. He still needs to work on his stamina and tends to drift out of games after 60-70 mins. If he continues to improve then we're going to have a quality player on our hands.

In the end it was a routine victory but we looked quite nervous and under pressure at the start. Bolton had us under the cosh for the opening 10 mins with their usual corners, frees, long through ins and punts from the back. We didn't look to clever defending the high ball all match. It could be a case of Skrtel not being used to the zonal system yet. This will come with time. Maybe it would have been easier for him with Carra, rather than Sami beside him.

Once we got the flukey opener, it was a lot easier for us. Bolton pushed on which left gaps for the forwards to exploit and we could have had a few more by half time. Jussi made a few good saves from Babel and made sure that Bolton weren't dead and buried at half time.

Babel struck the all important second with a lovley near post strike after Dirk hit the post. His acrobatic celebration was one for the soccer am fans. Aurelio hit a sweet half volley for the third. A fine strike from a player who's improved over the last few weeks after getting regular starts. I hope that's not the kiss of death as he's been very unlucky with injuries once he puts a run of form together.

This Wednesday it's the turn of the 'appy 'ammers to visit Anfield. They were hammered (opps) by 10 man Chelsea on Saturday so here's hoping that they're panicking after that. It's an important opportunity for us to reclaim fourth and put pressure on Intertoto cup applicants Everton. Rafa may decide to rest Torres for this match or for Newcastle on Saturday give the number of important games that we have coming up.

The takeover speculation continues to drag on. The latest rumour is that Hicks is attempting to get finance or a partner to buy out Gillett's share. Given the current financial climate and lack of available credit, he may find it hard. This image appeared on RAWK. I like the work.

The official site had an interview with Paco De Miguel, our fitness coach. I hope he does as good a job as Pako, his predecessor, did.

Check this shit out. Good interview with our newly signed world class Argentine ace, Javier Mascherano. His english is impressive. It's about time that we've got him tied down. It's a relief that he is now ours and not owned by MSI anymore. Maradona said: "Of all the youngsters to have come through in recent years, the one who impresses me most is Javier Mascherano." Boss.

Good to see that Momo is fitting in well at Juve. Why didn't he ever do this for us?

Nice of UEFA to admit that they made a mess or things in Athens. No turnstiles is asking for trouble.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Can you score for fun, Fernando?

The answer is yes. An unremarkable match was lit up by the brilliance of our number 9. 3-2. Job done. There have been many days when we deserved more than we got but failed due to bad finishing. Here, we finished well without playing well. Boro might feel that they could have gotten a draw but the finishing of the kid proved the difference.

Torres helped himself to three and could have ad four only for a superb save from Swartzer in the second half. The Boro defence were semi sucidal in their back passing and indecision. I think that the pressure and presence of El Nino caused them to panic and make errors. Arca headed back towards his keeper for Torres to latch onto and score his first. His second was a beautiful shot from distance after good work from Babel and Aurelio. Pick of the bunch. For his third, he closed in on a through ball from Kuyt. The keeper and defender managed to collide and Fernando took full advantage to finish them off. That's 15 in the league for the season. I'm sure it would have been more if he hadn't missed a few games with injury. Where are those who were saying in August that he was over rated and we'd overpaid at £18m?

Our defence has had better games. I don't think that Arbeloa does as good a job at centre half as he does at full back. As a result our defensive line wasn't as sharp as usual. But Carra is back for the next match so we should be back to our usual solidity. Masherano did his usual stirling work in the middle. He's fast becoming my favourite Liverpool player. Babel did a decent job and set Kuyt up for a good chance in the first half. He seems to be benefiting from getting a run of starts. Gerrard was ok but hit a lovely free which Swartzer could only knock onto the post. With the race for fourth as close as it is, the points are more important than the performance at the moment. If we play badly and win for the rest of the season, I won't be complaining.

It's a short trip to the Reebok on Sunday. Bolton are doing ok, bar a 4-1 hammering today, and had a good result in the Uefa cup during the week. I thought Megson would be shit and take them down but they look like they might survive due to the teams below them being worse than them. So we'll have to go there and be up for it. These are the kind of games that we've been drawing and losing this year. I predict a draw.

It appears that there was some drama after the match yesterday. Tom Hicks son walked into the Sandon pub and was met with a hot reaction from the Reds inside. There seems to be some debate over what actually happened but I don't think that he was met with open arms. Can't say that I'm surprised. He was badly advised if he expected otherwise.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I hope we finish fifth behind Everton ...

And win the champions league. Wouldn't that be hilarious? I think David Moyes would explode with bitterness. It'd be worth it to see the look on his face. The sky camera could go live to his gaff as we pick up the champions league trophy. I'm fantasising of course, but isn't that what the internet is about?

Great game last night. I really enjoyed it. It was the best that we've played in a long time. We were the better team by far, even before Matrix got himself sent off. I thought that Inter looked nervous from the off and got worse when a man down. But we played well all over. t was a team effort. Defence didn't have a huge amount to do but did it well when called upon. Aurelio and Finnan especially overlapped well to join the attack. Aurelio could do with improving his crossing and set pieces were dire but he's not on his own there. Masch, Lucas and Stevie were class in the middle. I don't think that there is a better player of his type than Mascherano. He is boss. Gerrard struck his goal really well. Big european nights seem to get the best out of him. He should have had a penalty too, when the guy pretending to be Patrick Viera handled in the box.

Dirk and Babel did well supporting Torres. Dirk had his best game this season. His touch was much improved and he took his goal well. I'm hoping that this will help him and his confidence. He's had a really hard time in his private life over the last few months and I don't think that it's helped his game. But he never hides and gives his all even when he's playing poorly. His long term future may lie elsewhere but I'll always have a soft spot for him.

Babel, like most games this season mixed the sublime with the stupid. He has great skill, pace and power but isn't making the most of it yet. If he can improve his decision making and develop his vision he will be superb. But we'll have to be patient with him for now. El Nino did well and was very unlucky to see Cesar knock his effort around the post when he was clean through. Pity.

The second leg won't be easy but we've given ourselves a great chance. Inter will be without Matrix who is suspended and Cordoba who is very unlikely to recover in time. They will be a lot more confident at home, I would imagine, but if things don't go their way early then the crowd may get on their backs. Should be a great night in three weeks time.

It's time to butter our premiership bread with a spread of Boro on Saturday. We really should be beating the likes of Boro at home. The press talk this week is that Rafa is going to cut down the rotation for the rest of the season. It'll be interesting to see what team he picks.

Ballague in the Times has a good interview with El Nino. He does seem to have a habit of getting interviews with top people in the game.

This could be worth keeping an eye on for the summer. Fernandez is a player that I haven't seen much of but I like what I have seen. He's quick, left footed, scores goals and has great set piece delivery. Tim Vickery on the BBC rates him highly. The source, tribal, isn't reliable so I wouldn't be classing it as nailed on just yet.

The DIC rumours won't go away. The latest wildfire on the forums this week is that the deal is all but done for them to buy from the Yanks. I do think that it will happen eventually but it could be a long time off yet. I have no insider knowledge but am not counting any chickens until I see the Sheikh or Al Ansari in Anfield.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Kop out

And so ends the FA cup dream for another year. Have to say that a) I didn't see the match and b) I'm not that put out. Domestic cups are fine if you win them but never a disaster when you lose in my book. We should have won this easily and created loads of chances according to Le Tisier who watched it on sky. We didn't and they got lucky. Many of them played the game's of their lives. Fairplay Barnsley. Magic, romance, giantkillers etc. As one R Keane said of the history and traditions of the cup, "all of it was bollocks. The Premiership and the Champions League were the only trophies we were concerned about."

I was more pissed off about the FA youth cup defeat to Sunderland last week. We'd fought back a couple of times after being 2-0 and 3-2 down. It finished 3-3 to take it to extra time. But Waghorn, who's played senior games, scored 2 to complete his hat trick and make it 5-3. It's a pity but the achievement of this team in winning the comp two years in a row is a testament to the work Rafa, McAuley, Heighway and others have done. The good news is that the current vintage are almost all young enough to play again next season. Hopefully we'll see some of them make the breakthrough to the senior team in a few years.

Inter loom large on the horizon. This is going to be really tough. Mancini is a good coach who's been given money, never in short supply at Inter, but crucuially, he's also been given time. They have some fantastic players on their books like Zlatan, Stankovic, Crespo and Cambiasso. The tussle between him and Monster Masch should be one to watch. If we can keep a clean sheet at Anfield then we're in with a decent chance. Torres should be back to full fitness now so I'm hoping we can knick a goal or two. On paper they have the better talent but we've the european experience and Rafa is the master of two legged ties. A good result here would do a lot to raise morale. If we lose I fear it may go nuclear.

Chris Bascombe had an article about DIC in the NOTW yesterday. Anfield have some good analysis of the article here.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Stamford spoils shared

Not a classic. While I didn't think it was as terrible as some have said in the media, it could be that my emotional involvement in the match makes me more exited than a neutral would be. I thought we played ok without being brilliant. We made a few chances and restricted Chelsea to very few. It was a much better performance that I had been expecting beforehand. With Torres out I didn't think we had a prayer of a draw. As it happened, I think we could have won it. But given that nobody has manager that at the bride in around 4 years, it's not that surprising that we weren't able to, in our blunted state.

Crouch had a few chances, especially a header and a shot after a good pass from Babel in the first half. Babel himself had a good match but looked fairly knackered in the second half. He always gets subbed but usually looks wrecked after around 60-70 mins. Maybe our fitness coaching isn't as good as it was since Pako left. Mascherano was great again. It was between him and teenage mutant ninja Sktrel for man of the match. I thought himself and Carra were superb at the back. The defence has sorted itself out again now after looking really dodgy for a while there. I fear for Carra once Agger returns. I'm writing him off just yet, but he's going to find it very hard to compete with Skrtel and Dagger. The young lads have pace and passing ability which he lacks.

It's the back to the magic/romance/cliches of the FAmous cup at the weekend. The mighty Barnsley are waiting in the long grass. Do football teams wait in the long grass or is that just a GAA thing? Torres may be fit but I doubt that he'll be risked. I would imagine that he'll be kept in reserve for Inter.

Another Finnish midfielder is on his way to Anfield. This chap is called Simon Scrabb and is only 13. He's highly rated and will make a few trips to Liverpool per year for now and will move over full time when he's older.

There was bad news in the form of an announcement from Barcelona that they are going to sign Garay from Santander. I thought that Rafa might make a move for him in the summer. Our loss is their gain. I think he's going to be a world class player.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Keano crushed

I made my annual pilgrimage to Anfield on Saturday. It was absolutely freezing and I was with my dad so I didn't hang around for the protest afterwards. But I made sure not to spend any cash while I was inside. Better one DIC than two and all that.
Back to matters on the pitch. If I were Sven I would say "first half bad, second half better". Thankfully I'm not Sven and I still have my hair. But it was indeed a case of a poor 45 mins. We struggled to create a genuine chance. While we had the vast majority of possession, we didn't do much with it. But it was a win, three points, three goals and a much needed shot in the arm ahead of the Chelsea.

In the second half, Finnan came on for Aurelio who wasn't good at all. Even though Finnan was playing left back, he added a different dimension to our attacking play. But it was Carra, rampaging forward from the right back bearth who set up the first goal. He's played there in the past but not much since Rafa arrived. Rafa said that he wanted to have some good height at the back to counter Jones and co. It seemed to work as they didn't get too many headed chances.

Skrtel impressed me on his first league start. I know that he was a bit shaky in the cup but that was his first game in a few months since the Russian league eneded. He looked a lot fitter and compsed on Saturday. He looks to be quite fast and is a big lad. His passing was good but he did put a few astray in the second half. We've lacked good passers from defence so I'm hoping that he can help us in bringing the ball out of defence, like Agger does.

Lucas started on the left side of midfield, tucking in to support Javier and Gerrard. I think that Aurelio was supposed to provide the width, coming forward from fullback. But it didn't work for either player. Lucas has looked great in recent matches but looked out of place on Sat. We tried it, but it didn't work so I'm hoping that we don't see him there again. Yossi did well when he came on there in the second half.

Mascherano was superb yet again. I would go as far to say that he's been our best midfielder this season. He's a winner and a leader. If Gerrard or Carra aren't playing then he should be our captain. He's hoping to have a permanent deal sealed this week. I hope so too.
Crouch had a good match. He linked well with El Nino. He scored the first with a header and flicked on for Torres goal. He nearly scored with a scissors kick. I think that he did more than enough to warrent a start on Sunday. Torres did well with his finish. He now has 12 in the league. It would be great if he could get 20 for the season but he's done really well regardless. He wasn't at his best on Sat, or in recent games for that matter. But he still was sharp enough to take on his man and beat the keeper. Pennant had a decent match and put the left back under pressure. Gerrard struck a peno for the third to wrap it up. Could have been more but 3-0 is acceptable given how badly we've been doing recently.

Keane was pissed off with Rob Styles and felt they should have had a peno with the scores are 2-0. Style robbed us of 2 points against Chelsea earlier in the season with an imaginary penalty so maybe Keane has a point and Styles was trying to even things up. Rafa, unlike Keane, was happy with the result. Boss.

We face a daunting trip to Stamford Bridge this weekend. Finnan says he's ready. Chelsea haven't lost at home since Ranieri was the manager. The fact that Lampard, Drogba, Terry and Essien are out or away is good news. Given that, we should be able to get something from this but we're not in great form so I reckon the best we can get is a draw. I fear Joe Cole and his flukey deflected goals. They got the rub of the green with their Ref invented goal earlier in the season. Maybe we are due some of that back. I would gladly take an imaginary peno if it gave us the three points.

Lucas and co visit Dublin this week to play in Croker. I would have liked to have gone to this one but my bank manager advised against it what with my viist to Anfield for the Sunderland match last weekend and a trip to Paris for the Rugby this weekend. Two sporting trips per week is my limit now.

There was a hint of some good news on the investment front over the weekend. The Echo had a story saying that DIC could join up with Gillett to buy out Hicks. Wait and see. I don't expect anything to happen soon with this.

Let's give Chelsea the blues.