Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Goal of the season?

When the kid's on form, we're on form. Torres led from the front in a stunning 3-0 win over Sunderland. He struck after 3 mins with an incredible goal, likely to win goal of the season. Johnson added a second before half time. El Nino struck again to make it 3 with a nonchalant finish inside the area when set up by Johnson. It was a dominant display from the team and not a beach ball in sight. The only surprise is that the victory wasn't greater.

There were many standout performers in a great showing from the home team. It's hard to say anybody played badly. My top picks would be Torres, for obvious reasons. He's in brilliant form right now and it looks like nobody can stop him. He could have had many more after hitting the post and missing a few presentable chances. Johnson seems to be back in the swing of things. He's showing the form of the early season when we were playing well. He's such a threat with his dribbling ability on the right. His goal was with his left foot from outside the area. He linked up well with Maxi who's coming into his own now. His technique and movement are fantastic. His not a pacey winger who'll beat the full back on the outside, more like an inside right. He was at the centre of many great moves we put together. More of this kind of thing. We really need Spurs and City to slip up but if we can build on our good home form, we're still in with a shout of fourth.Liverpool face Benfica away on Thursday night. This is going to be really tough. I expect Lucas to return to the lineup for this one. We'll probably try to keep it tight and hit them on the break with Torres and Babel. They're a good team, the best Everton have faced this season according to a Toffee supporting mate of mine.

The guardian say that we've accepted an initial £6m bid from CSKA for Albert Riera. However the Echo contradict this by saying it's Spartak Moscow who will capture him, on loan until the end of the season. Either way I expect he's likely to leave at the start of April.

Here's a highlights package of Dani Pacheco. Another one of the reserves, Jordy Brouwer, scored a long range screamer against Hull reserves this week. That 1-0 win means the reserves remain unbeaten this season, a great effort by John McMahon.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lille home and Utd away

A 3-0 win over Lille on Thursday was enough to overturn the 1-0 away defeat and put us through to the quarter final of the Ueropa league. Gerrard opened the scoring after Lucas won a penalty. Torres beat the last man and the keeper with a deft finish to show he's approaching full fitness and form again. He added a third in the second half to put the tie beyond doubt. It was a pity that Aquilani caught a virus in the run up to this match and wasn't able to build on his good form against Portsmouth. We'll face Benfica in the next round. They'll be a tough side to beat and have already embarrassed Everton in the same competition this season.

Given we'd put a bit of form together over the last few games, we weren't so nervous going into the game against Utd at Old Toilet. It showed as we went at them from the off and El Nino opened the scoring with a great header after four minutes. Dirk sent in a great cross from the right and Nando looped it beyond Van Der Saar into the far corner. It was a great start and set us on our way towards anther historic victory at the Toilet. Unfortunately Howard Webb decided to gift Utd a peno when Mascherano fouled Valenica outside the box. I was a bit worried when I heard Webb was reffing this one. Reina saved Rooney's peno but He managed to slot home the rebound. Great effort from Pepe all the same. The Park added a second for the home team with a great header in the second half to consign us to defeat. It was a very even first half but in fairness Utd were the better team in the second period and controlled the game once the took the lead. It finished 2-1 but quality was lacking from both sides and it was a poor enough game overall. We did manage to fashion one great chance at the end but Torres fluffed his effort after Gerrard set him up and Yossi sent his headed effort straight at VDS. Unfortunate. I fear this defeat has killed off any lingering hopes for fourth place. Our only hope for the season is a Europa cup. Our next match is Sunderland at Anfield next weekend. They aren't in great form but beat us in the beachball game earlier this year and have dangerous forwards in Bent and Jones. We've decent home form and should be able to win this.

Albert Riera hasn't done his chances of a first team recall much good by blasting Rafa in the Spanish press. I've no doubt that he's leaving this summer. I was impressed with him last season but he's been poor enough this year on the odd occasion he played.

Liverpool's latest signing, 15 year old Raheem Sterling made his debut against Everton for the Academy team this week. He capped it with a goal, highlights here. No doubt some fans will be demanding Rafa give him his first team debut for the next game.

David Conn in the Guardian has a good article summarising the dire financial position Hicks and Gillett have dumped us in since they bought the club. He also details the Rhone groups bid for a 40% share in the club.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A week is a long time in football

That was a world away from the Wigan game. Portsmouth came to Anfield last night and left on the wrong end of a
4-1 hiding. We were great. Two goals for a rampant Torres, one for Babel and a first Liverpool goal for Alberto Aquilani. Indeed, it could have been more as we should have had a peno when Johnson was taken down and we hit the woodwork twice. All in all, just what the doctor ordered.

Aquilani impressed me greatly on Monday. Highlights here. It must be admitted that it was against Portsmouth and he got a lot of time and space in the middle of the park. He dictated the play ala Xabi at his best. I hope he can build on this and establish himself in our midfield. We've sorely missed some creativity in there, no offense to Javier or Lucas but it's not their forte. I would like Rafa to give him starts for the rest of the season so he can get more experience. He looked stronger, quicker and more confident last night. Great performance and justified man of the match.Gerrard should consider himself lucky not to have received a red card for an elbow on Michael Brown. Given the player that's in it, I can nearly understand why he did it, possibly avenging this headbutt. As it happened, the ref decided that to give a free against Liverpool and talked to the player so he won't now face an F.A. ban. Silly boy as he would have been out for three games and unavailable to play against the Mancs in Old Toilet on Sunday. This is going to be massive. We've a great record against them having won the last three meetings in the league. And we have the advantage of an in form Torres ready to put the shits up his mate Vidic. Let the slaughter commence. Another red card for the Serb would be lovely. In reality, they're playing much better than we are at the moment and I'd be surprised it we took more than a point. I would like to see the same team start as played against Pompy but we'll probably see Lucas and Dirk come in for Aquilani and Babel.

Before all that, we face Lille in a vital European game at Anfield on Thursday. They've got the goal advantage from the first leg so we need to score. We might see a similar team, with Yossi in for the cup tied Maxi. Finishing in the top four is a bigger prize than the Europa cup but it's going to be harder to win given how often we've slipped up in the league. I suspect fourth is beyond us now as City and Spurs have too many games in hand.

The Mirror recken we'll bid £8m for Steven Ireland. He's out of form and favour at city so they'd consider letting him go. I think he's top quality and would love to see us bid for him even if he is a bit of a mentalist.

Aldo was impressed with another Irish midfielder at the Wigan debacle. James McCarthy was probably the best player on the pitch and looks to have a real future ahead of him. We tried to buy him before and should go in for him again now that he's showing he can adapt to English football.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The end of the road?

Just when I thought this season couldn't get any worse, Wigan 1-0 Liverpool, proved me wrong. We were desperate. The team had a collective shocker. Kuyt, Insua, Torres had terrible games but Gerrard pissed me off more than the rest of them. It was a gutless display with Wigan the first to every ball and they looked the more committed team too. I would have withdrawn three of them at half time if I were in charge. Rafa didn't try to defend them post match. They let themselves, the fans, the shirt and club down with that display.

I was in work late on Thursday night so I didn't get to see the 1-0 defeat to Lille. The goal was a poor one to concede and I don't think Pepe will be happy with himself for not going for it. Again, we should have had a defender heading it clear. On current form, Kyrgiakos more than deserves his place in the team for his aerial dominance. We can turn this around in the second leg but if we continue to play like we are now, then it's unlikely.

Another Monday night game and another banana skin on the cards this week. I really can't see us winning this given the attitude that the players have been showing. Portsmouth should be dead and buried but yet their players are fighting for everything and getting some results. If our pack of wasters showed their attitude then we're be far better off in the league.

Which brings me onto the subject of the manager. I'm a big fan of Rafa and have been since before he came to the club. But it has to be said that he's made some bad mistakes this year. His gamble on Aquilani's fitness has backfired and left us creatively bereft in midfield. He's also been too cautious in playing the Italian since he's returned to fitness. But besides all of that, I still think he's the right man for the job and would give him another season. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the players or the fans agree with me. They played like they couldn't care less on Monday. I think they've given up on this season and on the boss. If that's true and they won't respond to him anymore then he'll have to go, probably this summer. I fear we'll regret it in the long run and I shudder to think who the Americans will appoint in his stead, considering they've approached Klinsman before. It's a shit job given the owners, the debt, no transfer funds, no new stadium and a squad that needs serious investment. We've made a profit the last three transfer windows and while that's the case we won't remain competitive in the league. Anyone who thinks we'll attract a big European name like Mourinho, Hiddink or Capello is dreaming. Why would they sign up for this mess? With our current owners and investment scenario, we'll remain a poisoned chalice and any top manager will steer well clear of us. I'm surprised Rafa's put up with them for as long as he has. One of the few silver linings in this nightmare of a season is the prospect the bank forcing the Americans to sell up at a reasonable price this summer. Missing out on the top four places and the champions league money might force their hands. They are a cancer that slowly killing the club we love.

Pepe Reina has signed a new deal with the club which is a massive boost. He's the best keeper in England and one of the best in Europe.

This season has made it clear that we need some new blood in defence. If I were in Rafa's shoes I would break the bank for Kjaer of Palermo. He's Agger's international colleague and a Red by all accounts. He's done well in Italy and it sounds like he'd be interested in a move to L4. I fear he will go elsewhere as he'll be out of price range. That's no big surprise considering our transfer budget will be £0. If we had some cash we could spend it on Arda Turan who is a red and would love to join us. I would happily sell Babel and Riera if we could get him in to replace them.

Swindon youth Goalie Jamie Stephens is to spend a week on trial at the Academy. We've a number of young prospects between the sticks so I wonder how he'll fit into that set up if we sign him.

Aurelio injured himself again in last weeks match with Blackburn and will be out for 2-3 weeks. I like Fabio as a player and he seems a decent chap but I do question whether he will be offered a new contract this summer given how injury prone he is. Maybe he will stay on if he accepts a pay cut.