Friday, November 27, 2009

Pepe comes up trumps

Sometimes you get the rub of the green, and we definitely did here. A 2-0 win may have been more than we deserved on the balance of play as I thought Everton deserved a draw. But they didn't take any of their chances. We took two of ours and that was enough. They were on the receiving end of the kind of game we've endured this season, playing well but getting less than you deserve. "Ahhhhhhyyyyyyyy", as the Fonz might say.

Javier got lucky with a long range shot which deflected off and Everton defender. I was shouting at him not to shoot, which goes to show how much I know. Maybe he'll follow in Fat Franks shoes and make a career out of deflected shots. Pepe made a superb double save to keep us in it. I have no doubt that he's the best keeper in the league and has been our player of the season so far. Stevie had a poor enough game but harried Hibbert enough to lay the ball onto Riera. The Spaniard's shot didn't beat Howard but he could only parry it onto Dirk who finished from close range. Kuyt has been in shit form for a while so I'm hoping this will help him recover.A scrappy derby win can be worth a lot to a struggling squad. We now have a week off until the Blackburn game on Saturday. They aren't in good form either but we should really have enough to put them away. There is a chance that Torres will be back and Gerrard and Aquilani will have another week's worth of training.

Sky Sports have an article in praise of Liverpool's number 24 David Ngog. He's come on a hell of a lot this year. It's clear he's no Torres but he's scoring goals and improving his overall play. He's worth well more than the £1.5m Rafa paid PSG for him.

Aurelio has rejected a pay as you play contract. I'm a fan of the Brazilian but he is brittle. Hopefully he signs up and continues to contribute over the next few years. He could be a good mentor to Insua and Butchtmann.

Friday, November 13, 2009

City stalemate and euro knockout

Right. Brief synopsis. I saw very little of the 2-2 drawat home with City. By all accounts it was a fair result in a boring match. Nice to see us score from a set piece but painfully predictable to see us concede from one. Skrtel let himself down again here. Also very predictable were two more injuries, to Agger and then Babel. What the hell is going on with our physios and training? Every player should be on a strict diet of horse placenta.

Last night saw us crash out of Europe despite a 1-0 win away to Debrecen. Ngog continued his fine scoring form. But again we failed to convert our dominance into more goals and let inferior opposition back into the game. For once, we managed to hold onto a clean sheet thanks to some great defending and saves from Pepe. Alas it was all for naught as Lyon lost in Florence to consign us to third spot and the Europa league. So we'll have Thursday and Sunday games to look forward to for as long as we stay in Europe. I hope we go for it and win it. The 2001 Uefa cup victory was a great game and a huge victory for that team.

It's the derby with the Blueshite on Sunday and we can look forward to a rousing atmosphere. Use your own cliche about the form book going out the window in a derby but it's probably for the best here as both teams are in shit form. They, like us, have injuries to contend with but I still feel we should be good enough to win. We'll need the defence to try and build on last nights clean sheet and concentrate on set pieces. It's going to be war.

Norman Hubbard at ESPN has a great article examining the facts about Rafa's reign. The Times has a downloadable pdf which you can keep and refer to whenever spending and signings come up.

19 year old Defender Daniel Ayala has signed a new deal. You can watch him and the rest of the reserves in action here during a recent 4-1 win over Hull city reserves. Good performance by Daniel "Patches" Pacheco.

According to reports in Spain, Cadiz prodigy Suso, will sign for us in January. The deal could eventually cost us almost a million euro if he becomes a first team regular. 15 year old Luton Town prospect Dave Moli will soon sign for the reds. Here's a good piece on Della Valle. The Finnish Wayne Rooney? Martin Kelly has spoken about his healthy rivalry with Daniel Ayala.

The Daily Mirror reckon that we've had enquiries about Lucas but have turned them down as they don't meet our asking price of £14m. With Mascherano's long term future at the club in doubt, I don't see us selling the Brazilian anytime soon. Dossena's agent says that he hopes we let him go in Jan. Eitrecht Frankfurt are interested in signing Voronin in January according to the Echo.

Dutch winger Eliahas been linked with a move from the Bundesliga. He's a talent and might be what we thought we were getting when we bought RyBabbs.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Yet more misery

Just when I thought our luck might turn, we hammered Birmingham but only came away with a point from our 2-2 draw at home. The team was still patched up, Torres didn't make the bench but Aquilani and Gerrard did.

Just because it finished 2-2 with us getting a dodgy peno doesn't mean we got lucky. We destroyed them. Gerrard hitting the post and Riera and Yossi coming off injured wasn't lucky. Stats here. Johnson tore them to pieces down the right again and again. Hart made some good saves and our finishing could have been better. If Torres or a fit Gerrard had played it would have been a landslide.

N'Gog took his goal well but spurned a few other chances. I think he's rapidly developing into a good player. His touch is still inconsistant but his holding up of the ball, movement, awareness and strength have come on greatly. A steal at £1.5m. Somebody said he has the best goals per minutes in the league but I don't know if that's right. I do feel that N'Gog was theatrical in going down and don't approve of it but this kind of thing happens all the time, it's nothing new. Why was there an outcry this week but not so much when Rooney or Ronaldo did it over the last few years? I don't remember Keith Hackett coming out and commenting on those dives.

Man CIty visit Anfield in the first game after the International break. The phrase "must win" is overused but every game we play now is going to be one. The fact that City will be vying with us for a champions league spot makes it even more important. They, like us, are not in great form and neither team is defending well. I think it could come down to which team has a better day in defence. Carra coming in for Skrtel might help us to tighten up at the back.

Tony Barrett in the Times lists 5 areas in which Rafa can help the team to get out of our current slump.The latest injury news isn't good either. Both Yossi and Riera have done their hamstrings and are looking at the best part of a month on the sidelines.

The daily mail reckon we're in for Krasic, the CSKA right winger who impressed against Utd at Old Toilet last week. Another winger, Adam Johnson of Boro, is being linked with a £7m move in January. Given his nationality and age, I think he'd be decent at that price. But I severly doubt we'll be spending £7m on him or anybody else when the window opens. Dossena wants out according to this.

If you're interested in the transfer fees and record of the Boss, have a read of this. It details all of the ins and outs and comes to a net fee of £83m since his arrival. If you divide that by 6, with this being his sixth season, it comes to £13.8 per season. The worrying side of it is that his net spend in 08/09 was £2.5m and this season it's just £10k.

Paul Tomkins employs logic in his defence of Benitez, a much underused tool when it comes to Football writing these days. Here's a great quote:

Apparently Benítez doesn't buy well under £10m, but Reina, Agger, Benayoun, Kuyt, Skrtel, Riera, Insua, Crouch, Garcia, Sissoko, Lucas, Aurelio and Arbeloa all cost less than that amount.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Miracle required

1-1 was a sickener after playing so well. Babel made the breakthrough with a stunning goal but was let down by some madness at the back with 20 seconds remaining. If only we defended slightly better, we would have gotten the win we deserved. Now it's out of our hands.

Claude Puel, the Lyon manager says that they'll try to beat Fiorentina, and win the group. I would like to take him at his word but I fear that the fact they're qualified will lessen their teamsheet and need to win in Tuscany and I wouldn't blame them either were that to happen. So even if we win our next two group matches we will probably face elimination unless Lyon take a point or 3 in Italy, and we will have a few moments of defensive lapses to blame. If we had been slightly more switched on in either of the Lyon games, to get a draw in the first or win in the second then our fate would still be in our own hands. A draw in their match coupled with us winning in Hungary would leave us needing a 3 goal margin win in Italy.

But before all of that, we've got to beat Brum at home on Saturday. Physio room says that we might have Skrtel and Dossena back. We need all of the men we can get what with injuries and suspensions. Degen and Carragher are suspended so it could well be Ste Darby at right back unless GloJo does his best Lazarus impression, although the latest injury update from Rafa is more positive. Torres should make it but Gerrard won't. Could Aqulani make an appearance? Possibly off the bench.