Saturday, January 31, 2009

Keane kops out

Rafa's going anywhere after a 2-0 win over Chelsea at Anfield. Robbie's going somewhere. Spurs to be exact.

But first to the game, and what a game it was. I found it absorbing. Granted I'm biased, but I really enjoy watching the cut and thrust of these games. This was much more one sided than Chelsea games in recent times as they brought nothing to the party bar some superb defending from Alex and Terry to a lesser degree.

We were well on top before Fat Frank was sent off but Chelsea sat back even more when they went a man down. Admittedly, it was a harsh sending off but it was evened up by Bosingwa evading a Red for stamping on Yossi's back right under the linesman nose. Rafa tightened the screw on Chelsea's ten men by taking Javier off for Babel. Alonso had an effort tipped onto the bar by Cech and there were two efforts cleared off the line. Gerrard looked to be in the mood for it but blotted his copybook by diving and getting booked for it.

El Nino showed he's back in form with two strikes in the dying minutes. The first was a near post header where Torres showed his superb movement to get ahead of Alex and get on the end of a fine cross from Fabio on the left. Cech was shit all match and won't have been happy to get beaten at the near post. Yossi caused havoc when he came on and set up the second by getting free of the defence to advance on goal only for Cole to block it into Fernando's path for a tap in.

Pre match, Scolari gave Rafa his backing over the criticism of Fergie and the behavior of Refs at Old Toilet. He was magnanamous post match and admitted "Liverpool were better than us all game".
Nando reckons that Gerrard is better than Lampard. Me too.

Post match Rafa said that Robbie is going nowhere. 24 hours later, he's re signed for Spurs. The fee is £16m up to a potential £19m depending on appearances and success, which is the same fee Liverpool agreed to pay last year. I feel sorry for him as it hasn't worked out but I feel it's the best for both parties that he leave, as he doesn't fit into our best XI. He'll be back to top dog status at Spurs while he was always going to be behind El Nino in the pecking order here. I would have liked to see it work out, but I won't miss the circus that his selection/substitution had become. The questions and media focus it attracted became very tedious. No replacement was brought in but young Nemeth may step up when he comes back from injury. He is on loan but hopefully he can be recalled.

The FA cup continues to distract this midweek with a visit to Goodison. I couldn't care less about it. I wouldn't mind, or be surprised if he rests many of the senior team. It's always nice to beat them but we're in a great position in the league so lets go for it.

The Toon tried to sign Sami. Rafa was unwilling to let him go which is great. He's done well when called upon this year and is included in the champions league squad this time around.

Hopefully Rafa will get his contract sorted with the Yanks in town this week. Lots of the knee jerkers who turned against him over recent weeks will be annoyed to see the boss sign on, but I will be thrilled. He's the man for the job in my view. I don't know if we'll win the league this year, and we probably won't as Utd are deserved favourites. But we're in there giving it our best and I expect we'll keep plugging away until May. If we win in Old toilet then you never know. A fit and firing Torres could make all the difference, especially in those annoying draws against obstinate defences. If he gets injured we're in deep doo-doo.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lucas laments at Latics late leveler

LUCAS! What was he thinking? I was mucho pissed off when he conceded the peno last night. It finished 1-1 because yet again, our inability to score a second goal gives the opposition hope and let's them throw everything at us in the last few minutes, know that a point is there for the taking. We must have no toes left after shooting ourselves in the foot so often.

Yossi did fantastically well to score from such a narrow angle after beating the keeper and had a good game all round. In fact, he could and should have had a second when he made mince meat of the defence but couldn't beat the goalie. I was glad to see him come into the team as Dirk has been at nothing in recent weeks.

Torres looked off form and never really got into the game. Despite that, he did manage to put a header onto the post and had a few shots and half chances in the first half. He did nothing in the second and looked knackered again at the end. It may be a while yet before he can contribute 90 mins. Gerrard had a half volley near the end and a free kick before half time that were close. Babel didn't do much but Lucas had a decent match until his moment of madness. There was no need for that penalty to be conceded as the Wigan player wasn't even going towards goal.
Chelsea on Sunday sounds pretty daunting given our inability to score and win a game now. They were wobbly themselves for a while but seemed to have steadied the ship with their last two or three matches. We'll need to see more from El Nino and our Captain than we saw last night. Big game for Javier too, but it's the kind of occasion that he loves and thrives in.

Sky are reporting today that Keane is a Spurs target and they've sounded LFC out over a possible return. I think that any deal could only be in the form of a loan. To be honest, I would be surprised if this happens now. Even though he doesn't fit into our best XI, I doubt Rafa would be willing to let anybody leave the squad at this stage without a suitable replacement. But the Keane experiment has been a failure and I think he should be shipped out in the summer. We could do with a quality match winner for our right hand flank to chip in with goals, threat pace and movement from the right hand side. Dirk has his qualities but doesn't have much in that regard.

More evidence of why Parry must go, courtesy of Anfield Online. We risk losing Agger for a pittance due to procrastination.

Both Gabriele Marcotti in the Times and a Man Utd blog called examine the zonal marking system we employ and discover that the myth doesn't match the facts. Andy Gray and co could do with reading these articles. Here's an extract.Quite frankly, that Liverpool are poor at defending set pieces has become the biggest falsehood since it was claimed that Chesney Hawkes was the future of music.
The truth is that Liverpool only conceded from two corners all last season, both coming in Premiership games (Chelsea away and Everton at home). In total the Reds faced 137 corners in the league, meaning Benítez's men conceded on just 1.5 per cent of them. Only one team, Chelsea, were able to come even close to that, allowing three goals from 127 (2.4 per cent).n terms of goals conceded from free-kicks delivered into the box, Liverpool also allowed only two in the Premiership all season, again one less than Chelsea. So the Reds conceded one-third fewer league goals than the next-best team when defending set-pieces.

A spate of youngsters have left on loan in the last week and Mikel San Jose is the latest to join them. The 19 year old centre back is going to Atletico Bilbao for the rest of the season. Those who watch the reserves regularly like this kid so it should be a good opportunity for him to prove he has the quality to step up to the next level with the first team in August. The official site have a chat with Spanish kid Daniel Pacheco. He is one of the youngsters who is tipped to make an impact here.

Charles Itanje wants to leave Anfield. I don't think that anybody is going to stand in his way. Cavalieri has looked far superior to the French keeper this season.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Same score, different game

The BBC had a look back at another FA cup tie between the Blues and Reds. In 1986 it was the toffees who lost out as King Kenny and co went on to clinch the double. This time the score was 1-1 in what was an absorbing cup tie, from a red perspective.

It was like a training ground exercise of attack v defence. Everton offered practically nothing going forward but still managed to score a set piece goal against us, again. We really need to tighten up on that aspect. Once more it was lil' TIMMY! Cahill who did the damage. He managed to flick the ball on and Lescott applied the final touch which confounded Pepe. On the plus side it was a much improved performance from Monday. I could watch this stunning peice of skill by El Nino for the Gerrard goal over and over again. He is a god among men. Dossena had a good game, rampaging down the left flank. In fairness to him, it was his best performance for us, but that's not saying much, and he didn't have to deal with much when defending. Everton were engaged in blatent time wasting, well before half time. It was heartening to see us break down such a packed defence with 11 behind the ball, but unfortunately, we only did so once. On the down side, we didn't kill them off and will have to do it all again in a few weeks time. Neither Dirk nor Babel offered much, despite seeing much of the ball.

Could Robbie be on his way out of Anfield less than 6 months after he joined? The Irish Indo links him with a move to Man City for £20m. 'Arry was also declaring that he would like to have Robbie back at Spurs. There appears to have been a bit of a bust up when Rafa left him out of the squad at the weekend. It's hard to know what the story is here. I'm sure there's more to it than meets the eye but it doesn't look good for his long term future in L4.The italian media suggest that Ranieri at Juve is interested in Deadly Dirk. I can't see Rafa selling him as he's always one of the first names on the team sheets. I like Dirk but we can do better. Somebody like Yohan Gourcuff or Jeremy Menez would give us much greater penetration on the right flank. I would be inclined to keep Dirk for what he brings to the squad and he's great for tough away matches but adds less against the obstinate small teams at Anfield. Last weekend I was in Milan and visited the San Siro to see AC Milan beat Fiorentina 1-0. Given the controversy over the proposed sale of Kaka to Man City, there was an incredible atmosphere. We saw numerous banners and heard explosions and almost 70k chanting in unison. It was louder than any other sporting experience I've had by quite a bit. It was also quite a bit louder than any visit I've made to Anfield. Now, I've only been to one champions league match at Anfield, this year against Marseille, but it was a fairly sedate atmosphere. The Milanese people I met asked me about Anfield and the atmosphere and how it compared but I had to admit that the San Siro had beaten it hands down.

There is another youth feature on "A Liverpool thing". This time Vincent Weijl, the dutch winger comes under focus. Jordy Brouwer has gone on loan to Waalwijk for the rest of the season. From what I've read about the former Ajax striker playing for the reserves, I hope he doesn't return. Two more young strikers, Nemeth and Lindfield have left on loan. It will be interesting to see if Nemeth can make an impact at Blackpool in the championship given how highly he's rated.

Takeover talk has started again. This time it's the Kuwaiti billionaire Nasser Al-Kharafi who's talking to Hicks and Gillett. They want £550 million for the club. But towards the end of the week, this deal was said to have died a death.I wonder if this is just talk to try and get Dubai into a bidding war? The Guardian suggest that Sheikh Maktoum is still interested, at the right price. I hope that he drives a hard bargain in the summer and takes over from Hicks and Gillett.

It seems that the thieving scousers stereotype is a little outdated. Bad news for manchester.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Second goal syndrome

If the premiership games this weekend had ended after 80 mins then we would have been thrilled. As it happened, we had a disastrous weekend. We were leading against the BS at Anfield but let them in with a needless late late free kick that Benayoun conceeded. Lil timmy cahill managed to flick in at the near post. Good finish but a bit of a sucker punch. We'd been the better team and should have battered them. But second goal syndrome struck again when we didn't take our chances and let them back into it due to our slim lead. We don't have any toes left after shooting ourselves in the foot so often.

The captain struck a fantastic long range shot to take the lead which was no less than we deserved. He had a fairly quiet game beyond that. El Nino should have put us in front when he beat took the Everton defence apart but hit the post when he should have hit the back of the net. As well as that, he could have had a peno when Jagielka took him down in the box. He caused lots of problems in the first half but faded badly in the second. But he should benefit from the run out and will be sharper with every game. Riera was good and had a few decent shots. Arbeloa is back soon which is helpful as we don't threaten down the right with Carra. It's Everton again in the cup at the weekend. Rafa may rotate and I have to admit that I find myself not caring too much about this one. It's always nice to beat the BS but I suspect the cup might mean more to them. I am much more focused on the league than the cup.

Oliver Holt in the Mirror has an article backing Rafa over his press conference. What is worrying, is the impasse on Rafa's contract. He rejected the initial contract offer as he wants to bypass Parry in the transfer negotiations and have more say in how we spend our budget but the Americans seem unwilling to acquiesce to his demands.

Ryan reveals all. Will this help? I hope so as he's been fairly poor by and large this season. I fear a summer departure is on the cards.

Quite a few reports have been linking us with a 21 year old centre back at Fluminese called Anderson. Utd are rumoured to be in for him too. But with the Agger situation growing increasingly worrying, some of the press reckon we will give Sami another 12 month deal. Tony Barrett in the Echo has an article which allays the Agger transfer fears somewhat.

The Guardian is linking us with Hibs young full back Paul Hanlon who is on loan at St Johnstone. I fear he may be a bit lightweight for the premiership given these stats.

Pennant looks to be heading to the south coast on loan until the end of the season. Portsmouth say that he wants his free transfer in the summer so they aren't going to be able to sign a long term deal with them. He has no chance of playing for us so we may as well get his wages off the books for now.

At last, some sense on the "mind games" issue. Hindsight is definitely 20-20 vision when it comes to this kind of guff.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Rafa rages amid Stoke stalemate

That was a bad weekend at the office. In the run up to the match, Graham Poll backed up Rafa's comments on Fergie, which was all over the news. Those wise after the event will say that it cost us points and maybe the title. Bullshit I say. We've come out with rubbish performances all season, long before Rafa said anything about the incontinent Scotsman. There was nothing in his statement that I have a problem with. Many in the media such as Alan Green and Oliver Kay have backed him up. By coming out with his rant Rafa has set and changed the news agenda. All of the talk last week was of Steven Gerrard. Not anymore. Was Rafa trying to take the pressure off his captain?

The Arseblog has a post on limited teams playing for a draw which is worth a read. I think that Stoke were good value for their draw here. They played to their strengths here and tried to frustrate us. It worked and very few of our players came out with too much credit. Lucas was ineffective coming in for Xabi. But he was well worth his place after some good performances recently against Bolton, Newcastle and PSV. Dirk laboured but didn't create a whole lot. He really should have done better with his header from a Riera cross at the start. Stevie nearly won it at the end when he hit the woodwork twice. Rafa came in for loads of abuse for his selection but this is almost the same team that hammered Newcastle in the last league game. He gets stick when he rotates and stick when he doesn't.

So we're still top, but for how long? If Utd win their games in hand they will go top. We can still do it but it's looking less likely. We'll probably have to win at the theatre of prawns now which isn't going to be easy. And we need to get back to winning ways against the BS in the derby this weekend. Hopefully Torres will be fit to start this time. He looked a bit rusty against Stoke but the extra week of training should help him. They will be without Fellaini and any sort of strikers. Moyes has a terrible record against us with only 2 wins in 9 matches since Rafa's arrived. Hopefully that trend will continue at Anfield.
Xabi wasn't fit enough for the Stoke game but should be ok for the Derby, which is a boost.
Stoke midfielder and former Red Salif Diao is a big Rafa fan.

Olly Kay in the Times chairs a debate on Rafa's genius. The opinion in these kinds of articles tends to vary wildly depending on the most recent results.

Guillem Balague has an interview with El Nino on his website. Whatever you think of Balague, I think a pinch of salt is needed with whatever he says, he gets good access to players and managers. Balague suggests that Glen Johnson won't be making his way to Anfield. He also reckons that we are not interested in Angel Lafita of Deportivo, who's been linked to us in the Spanish press. Another youngster that we've been linked to is Grenoble playmaker Sofiane Feghouli. Utd are after him now so I would imagine that is the end of that, given that we don't have the finances to compete with them. German teen Marvin Pourie is leaving the Academy to return to his homeland and has signed a deal with Schalke 04. I hope we secured a percentage of his future sale clause because he was quite highly rated. Voronin could also seal a permanent move back to Germany soon, which would swell the coffers by a few million. Renato Agusto of Leverkusen is being linked with a move to Anfield. I can't see us having the £10m+ required to buy him unless we manage to sell a few players soon. Very unlikely. Setanta suggest El Zhar could be on his way to Malaga on loan.

Could Theo Walcott be on his way to his boyhood club next year? I can't really see it happening as Arsenal would surely sell him rather than let him go for free in 2010. The kid is a boyhood red and would be a perfect fit for the right hand side but this all pretty hypothetical as I think Arsenal will sign him up to a new deal soon.

Just as he was establishing himself as our first choice left back, Insua has received the call from Maradona and is heading off with the Argentine under 20 team for the South American youth tournament. On the topic of left backs, Rafa says that Dossena is going nowhere. Some reports have been linking him with a return to Italy but the boss says that's a non starter.

Tony Barrett in the Echo finds flaws in Stan Collymore's logic. Not too hard to do.

It seems that Hicks and Gillett have secured a 6 month extension on their bank loan. I don't think this is much of a surprise as word was out before Christmas that they would be able to get extra times from the banks.

Ian Ayre has been looking into an Indian academy and having a tie in with a reality tv show. Sounds like a bit of a publicity stunt but it should boost our popularity with the billion or so in the subcontinent. There may even be a decent footballer or two among them.