Friday, August 15, 2008

Chemistry and alchemy

Gentlemen, start your engines.

And we're off. To a sluggish start, it must be said. But this was never going to be an easy match and we got three points away from home against a much improved Sunderland. I can see them troubling other big teams at the stadium of light this year. We were poor enough in the first half but were much improved when Xabi came on for Plessis and created some good chances. First game of the season is all about result. 3 points, job done. United only drawing at home makes it an even better weekend.

That man Nando did it again. His "difficult second season" hasn't started too badly. "If only he could do it away from Anfield" was the incredibly begrudging moan coming from some quarters last season. 24 league goals in his first season wasn't enough for some people. Too many times in recent years we've drawn games when we should have won. But when you have world class talent like el nino in your squad, anything is possible. He used his alchemical skills to turn a leaden one point into a golden three. He could have had another one when Keane blocked his shot. Their chemistry will improve given more time together. I don't think Nando looks at top form and may be a bit rusty over the next few weeks. If he can score goals like that while he's rusty, we can look forward to some more magic when he's back to his best.

Here's an interview with Nando and Setanta man of the match Xabi Alonso. I really hope that we don't sell Alonso. He played well when he came on at half time. There are games where he doesn't have as big an impact as he should but they're rare. He adds so much vision and composure to the team that I think he's almost always worth his place. His effort from inside his own half yesterday showed the genius that he possesses again. Besides all that, he seems to be an absolute gentleman. Please don't sell him Rafa. Chris Bascombe reckons he wants out.

Tony Barrett in the echo has an interesting analysis of the season, focusing on matters off the pitch. Let's hope boardroom wrangling don't adversely effect our season, wishful thinking, I'm afraid. Balague reckons that Rafa nearly quit over the Barry saga when the yanks pulled out of paying the £18m. But then Rafa rang Balague to say he's not quitting. I like Balague but I don't reckon he knows quite as much as he lets on to know. Some of his predictions are way off.

The Daily Mail is linking us to Valero of Real Mallorca. We've been linked to him before, as far as I remember. Tony Mowbray of West Brom is also after him so we've no chance, clearly.

Check out Digger Barnes at the top of the pile. When he does his thing the crowd go bananas.

What do we expect from the rest of the season, starting with Middlesbrough visiting Anfield on Saturday? We should beat Boro at home. Boro aren't a bad side, as Spurs found out yesterday. I'm hoping the Keane can score on his home debut. It'd be a great way for him to settle in. If we get a peno, he should take it.

While I don't think we would have been out of the title race had we lost yesterday, I don't think we're favourites or guaranteed to nab no.19 because we beat the mackems. It's easy to react with a knee jerk after a good/bad result. I'll try to resist and keep the tiller on a happy medium. I really expect a title challenge. Unfortunately I fear it'll be an unsuccessful one. I predicted 2nd last year and am going to make the same prediction this time around. Many fans would be happy us to see us in the mix up at around Easter time. I would hope that we can push all the way but I think one of Utd or Chelsea will beat us to the prize. As I've said before, I don't see us winning under the Americans.

Rafa feels this is his best squad ever and I'm inclined to agree. With the addition of Keane, we now have three match winners. This should help a lot against packed defenses as they'll have to try and mark, Gerrard, Torres and Keane. Plus Babel could step it up and maybe become a fourth match winner. I think we're very well stocked in defence with Agger back, Dossena slotting in at left back and the sale of an error prone Riise. Midfield has loads of quality options and is as strong as any in the league. We're well stocked up front too. The only area that we're weak in is wide attackers. I don't say wingers, as we don't play with wingers. Kuyt did well at times on the right and Babel did the same on the left last year but neither delivered consistently. This is an area in which Rafa may try to strengthen over the next few weeks. Gerrard may play on the right in some games, and is very effective there, as we've seen in previous seasons.

It's great to have football back. How did we manage over the past few weeks since the euros ended? The drought is over, let's enjoy the deluge over the next 9 months.


Red's Fury™ said...

Torres will only get better and better when the season moves on.

Keane is still new to the system, and the expectation of the fans on him has put him in pressure but he'll be a hit once he get used to the tactics.

3 points in the bag, next up Boro. Babel is back. Let's start the fireworks.

Come home #19!


Mal said...

I think Keane will be fine once he scores a goal and relaxes a little. Be good to have Babel back for the next match.

Paul Heron said...

Hi Mal,

any chance you could also have an option to subscribe in a reader ?



Mal said...

Hi Paul,
If you click the rss subscription symbol on the right hand side in the address bar of your browser, it'll give you an rss url that you can copy and paste into your reader. Let me know if you have problems with this.
Keep up the good work on your blog.

Thomas Kelly said...

Mal, I see that Borja is signing for West Brom, for £4.75 million. I guess Liverpool didn't come in for him. What a fall to earth, the Bernabeu, the San Moix and now the Hawthorns...

Mascherano was fantastic yesterday in the Olympic semis against Brasil. He went on an incredible run in the 77th minute before Lucas put the boot in to bring him down. His return will be a huge boost.

Mal said...

I saw Valero is off to the baggies. Never saw him play so I don't know if he's a loss or not.
Mascherano returning will be a huge boost. No offence to Plessis but I think that we really missed him over the last two games.
Lots of talk of Riera again. Sounds good at the right price but I can see Espanyol pricing us out of a move.

Red's Fury™ said...

Riera is a flop, Downing is a no-no too!

Joe Cole might fit the bill on the left of midfield, but now he's on form, Scolari might want to keep him at the Bridge for awhile.


Mal said...

Riera was superb for Espanyol last season by all accounts. Downing would be decent for a reasonable price of around £7m but both clubs will be looking for around £16m plus. Joe Cole would be fantastic but there's no chance of Chelsea letting us buy him.