Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Fantasy transfer signings

Posted: June 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

Michael Dawson

Juan Mata

Leighton Baines

Gael Clichy

Ibrahim Affelay

Romelu Lukaku

Phillipe Coutinho

Adam Johnson

Fantasy transfer signings

Posted: June 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

Michael Dawson

Juan Mata

Leighton Baines

Gael Clichy

Ibrahim Affelay

Romelu Lukaku

1- Liverpool is a Champions League pedigree club.

There are only two teams certain to finish within the top four next season : Manchester United and Chelsea. The other two places will be between Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham, and Manchester City. Against two of these teams, Spurs and City, Liverpool have a particular advantage – Champions League pedigree.

Pedigree counts for a lot, and it is something you can’t just go out and buy. When I talk about pedigree, I am referring to certain qualities engraved upon the psyche of a club. The norms, expectations, philosophy, and attitudes of the club. Qualities of a club which are built up over generations, and in the case of Liverpool, have the given the club a fearlessness which only the elite have. There’s a reason “This Is Anfield” sends waves of fear through visiting players in a way that a “This is White Hart Lane” sign could never possibly replicate.

Liverpool’s European Cup tally is bested by only AC Milan and Real Madrid. In the last 10 years the Reds have only failed twice to qualify for the Champions League. For Liverpool, failing to qualify is an aberration and not the norm. On the other hand Tottenham and Manchester City have between the two of them only qualified twice for the Champions League in the last 20 years. Liverpool see the European Cup as a birth right, for Tottenham and Manchester City it is a novel privilege.

Should the fight for fourth spot go down to the wire next season, it is the confidence bred from the club’s pedigree that will carry Liverpool over the finish line.

2-  Bad ownership and management are no longer obstacles

For a period of roughly 18 months, from the end of the 2009/10 season to the appointment of Kenny Dalglish as manager this past January, bad ownership and manager were holding back Liverpool from performing as they should.

I think everyone knows the damage wrought by Tom Hicks and George Gillet- the poisonous atmosphere they created, failing to properly invest in the first team, and the economic uncertainties brought about by their leveraged by-out.

Gone also is the worst manager Liverpool have had in the post-Second World War era. Roy Hodgson, who had “no qualms” with losing the city derby was a bad appointment which resulted from the bad ownership. King Kenny’s return means nothing short of victory will ever be considered acceptable.

Now that Fenway Sports Group hold a controlling interest in the club, we have owners who have been voted as the best in North America for their handling of the Boston Red Sox. From day one their usage of the term “club” as opposed to calling Liverpool a “franchise” showed a better understanding of the culture around Liverpool. Financially Liverpool are no longer in a sell-to-buy position. This will allow real progress in the quality of the first team.

3- Liverpool has one of the strongest spines in the league

Believe it or not , of the six teams competing for next year’s Champions League spots, Liverpool is the only club which does not require any major changes to the spine of the team.

The roster of Reina- Carragher – Lucas & Gerrard – Suarez & Carroll means the basis of a title-winning side is already in place. The additions which Liverpool will be making to the squad will have the aim of improving options from the bench and out wide.

On the other hand Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, and City have to make changes to their squad in the most critical positions – changes which if not handled properly could cause a crisis on the pitch next season.

Manchester United have to replace Edwin Van Der Sar and Paul Scholes. A very unenviable task for Sir Alex, especially given his poor record in signing goalkeepers. It took him years to find a suitable replacement for Peter Schmeichel, and if he doesn’t do any better this time around United may struggle next year.

At Arsenal goalkeeping has also been an issue for years. Wenger for some reason or other does not take this problem as seriously as he should (to the benefit of the rest of the league). In central midfield there is a great deal of uncertainty, with Fabregas almost certain to leave, and Samir Nasri also voicing dissatisfaction. Wenger will have to make major changes to Arsenal’s engine room if either or both leave.

Tottenham, again also have no quality in goal (notice a trend?). Hilario was universally recognized as the worst keeper in the in EPL last season, and so far Redknapp has given no indication that Tottenham will be much stronger in this department next season. Upfront, Tottenham need a complete overhaul of their strike force. This will be very expensive to properly resolve, and Spurs likely don’t have the cash to sign A-list strikers such as Kun Aguero.

Manchester City also have a serious problem up front. They have been far too reliant on Carlos Tevez who is desperate for a move to Italy or Spain. City’s other strikers- Ballotelli, Dzeko, Jo – have all been very expensive flops.

At Chelsea the signing of Fernando Torres will be a source of headache for whoever replaces Carlo Ancelloti. To get the most out of the most expensive centre forward in the world Chelsea will require an equally expensive signing in either midfield or upfront. Torres’s success at Liverpool was directly connected to the service he got from Steven Gerrard. Chelsea currently have no one in midfield with the same aptitude for killer through-balls. And there other two strikers, Drogba and Anelka, are not suitable strike partners for Torres. All three senior strikers play better alone up-front, or with a deep-lying forward (roles performed by Kuyt and Gerrard for Torres when he was at Liverpool).

4- Kenny’s record against the competition.

Since taking control of Liverpool, Kenny Dalglish has proved that the team is more than capable of competing against our closest rivals in head to head games. Convincing wins against Chelsea, Manchester United, and City was a clear declaration to the rest of the league that Liverpool will be aiming for not just a top four finish, but a genuine title challenge.

Included among some of the LFC’s more impressive performances was also a draw away at Arsenal with a team that relied heavily on reserve and academy players. The only loss against any of the top five sides was a loss to Spurs at home near the end of the season, in which the team as a whole looked fatigued. With a healthy team and enhanced squad depth, Liverpool will be looking to collect wins against both Tottenham and Arsenal next term.

Even while Roy Hodgson was in charge of the team, Liverpool scored a win against Chelsea, and a draw against Arsenal. In the first half of the season, the games Liverpool lost against Manchester United, City, and Spurs were all by a narrow margin. That’s a clear indicator that the problem was never with the players, but with the management. Now that Kenny Dalglish will be at the helm for the entire season, don’t be surprised if Liverpool manage to do the double against most of the five Champions League rival sides next season.

5- Gerrard will be back and fit

One of the more surprising facts about Liverpool’s revival is that it happened largely without Steven Gerrard. Some (foolish) observers have tried putting forward the idea that Gerrard’s abilities are now in terminal decline since he is now in his thirties. While it is true that these past two seasons have not been the skippers best, this does not mean he is no longer the best midfielder in England.
Gerrard underperforming has probably had more to do with the depressing atmosphere around the club before Dalglish returned (he has commented on this), and fitness issues. Last season was a World Cup year, which often affects many of the top players. And of course there was the matter of the groin injury he had picked up – a problem that has reportedly been successfully resolved with a minor surgery. All of these obstacles have been removed, and I have every confidence that Gerrard will silence the few critics he has. Look for Gerrard’s goal tally to hit double figures as usual.

6. The most terrifying front line in the Premiership

Three reasons defenders will hate playing against Liverpool : Luis Suarez, Dirk Kuyt, Andy Carroll.

Even without taking into account the additional signings the club has promised it will make, Liverpool already one of the most potent attacking lines in England. The chemistry and balance which Kuyt, Suarez and Carroll have between the three of them could not have been better designed. Each striker has their own unique skill set which perfectly compliment the others.

In Dirk Kuyt we have a striker who defends from the front, harassing defenders, causing them to make costly mistakes. Kuyt’s link-up play between midfield and the targetman is among the best in the Premier League. Johan Cruyff didn’t say he was “worth his weight in gold” for nothing.

In Andy Carroll Liverpool have one of the most physically imposing forwards around. His height will add the extra dimension of a genuine aerial threat to the attack (a quality that has been missing for years). Aside from these qualites is his rather impressive strike-rate. At only 22 years old he is already averaging one goal every two games over the past three seasons. Expect this ratio to increase now that he is playing with more talented players compared to his Newcastle days. Should he stay fit, he will easily hit 20+ goals next year.

And on a final note, I think I’ll mention a certain Luis Suarez.

I don’t think there has ever been a more phenomenal start to a career in the Premier League than what Suarez accomplished last season. Jamie Carragher has already said that should Suarez have a nice long stay at Liverpool “he’ll become a bigger legend than I ever will”.

Statistics can’t properly indicate the extent of influence he can have on a game, but expect him to bag at least 15 goals and many more assists in 2011/12. With a full preseason to train with his strike partners he will only improve his form. He may be a smart bet to win the PFA player of the year.

I have an awful memory, and it isn’t just because of the concussion I sustained recently whilst skiing. If I try to remember what on earth was going on in my life four years ago, I’m at a total loss. Only when I stop and think…2011..-4 =2007…one year after we won the FA Cup, 06-07 European Cup runners-up, we signed Torres…3rd place in the league was it?….ah, that’s right, just at this time four years ago I was making my decision to major in philosophy.

For those afflicted with the same addiction I have, life literally revolves around Liverpool FC (or whichever club is your dealer). After all, life is essentially a collection of memories. The acquiring of, storage, and reminiscence of memories.  Lose your memories, and you yourself will disappear.  And in the life of a football supporter, landmark games or seasons are the great marker points of your life.
The connection between memory and identity has been something I’ve been pondering for the past year or two. Is it our identity and personality which shapes the memories we have or the other way round?  It actually seems difficult to say where the one ends and the other begins. And why is it that my own personal life always seems to follow a similar pattern to the fate of my club? Parts of my life which I would rather not remember or think about always seem to have happened at a time when Liverpool were having a bad time on the pitch. And on the other hand when I’ve had amazing opportunities professionally, or to travel, we win at least one trophy.  I know I’m not the only one who sees it this way.

Honestly I still do feel a bit dopey from that knock on the head. And I know I’m really just mumbling to myself, and can’t really pull together a fully coherent article. But the smell of the vinegar in the compress on my left hand does pep me up a bit.  Mind, oh that bit of nausea is coming back.  How long til I can take my dose of Tylenol again? ohhhhhh

Blackpool doing the double over Liverpool? I thought it was a practical joke! Torres scored a wonderful goal coming in off of the right, and the interplay and overlapping of our fullbacks was actually the best it’s been this season.  But one bad player, that’s all it takes. Every time Milan Jovanovich touched the ball, a disaster was imminent and you could sense it. Why the gaffer let him play the full 90 minutes is beyond me. And that Martin Skrtel! Is he ever useless?! Remember Alan Hansen and how…..

bla bla bla bla

I can still remember the Blackpool-Liverpool score.  That’s a positive.

There’s a lot of talk this year about the league being more competitive.  It is the job of the mainstream English press to hype up the Premier League, and managers like Arsene Wenger have repeatedly said the league is getting better overall.  But the undeniable truth is that the Premiership is no longer the best league in Europe. The  reason that teams like Sunderland and Newcastle have been able to take so many points off the big four isn’t that the overall level quality has improved, but that the big teams have gone downhill. In fact it’s rather alarming at how badly the big four have all declined. If the current Liverpool, Man Unt., Arsenal, and Chelsea teams were to play against the squad they had five years ago, all of the current teams would have their asses handed to them in a basket.  Just look at the comparison I have made below. Each of the starting elevens from five years ago are vastly superior to the 2010 vintage.  And thats also ignoring the overall squad depth. For example the 2005 Arsenal team I’ve listed leaves out players of the caliber of Dennis Bergkamp, Alexander Hleb and Mathieu Flamini (all players who could easily have walked in the first XI of Arsenal today).

Liverpool 2005-06 Liverpool 2010

GK Jose Reina Jose Reina

RB Steve Finnan Glen Johnson

CB Sami Hypia Martin Skyrtel

CB Jamie Carragher Jamie Carragher

LB John Arne Riise Paul Konchesky

Defensive Advantage : Liverpool 2005

RM Steven Gerrard Dirk Kuyt

CM Xabi Alonso Raul Meireles

CM Dietmar Hamann Steven Gerrard

LM Luis Garcia Maxi Rodriguez

Midfield Advantage : Liverpool 2005

ST Peter Crouch Fernando Torres

ST Djibril Cisse David N’Gog

Attack Advantage : Liverpool 2010


Arsenal 2005-06 Arsenal 2010

GK Jens Lehman Lukasz Fabianski

RB Emmanuel Eboue Backary Sagna

CB Kolo Toure Sebastian Squillaci

CB Sol Campbell Laurent Koscielny

LB Ashley Cole Gael Clichy

Defensive Advantage : Arsenal 2005

RM Freddy Ljunberg Samir Nasri

CM Cesc Fabregas Cesc Fabregas

CM Gilberto Jack Wilshere

LM Robert Pires Andrei Arshavin

Midfield Advantage : Arsenal 2005

ST Thierry Henry Marouane Chamakh

ST Jose Reyes Robin Van Persie

Attack Advantage : Arsenal 2005

Manchester United 2005/06 Manchester Unt. 2010

GK Edwin Van der Sar  Edwin Van der Sar

RB Gary Neville John O’Shea
CB  Rio Ferdinand Rio Ferdinand
CB Mikael Silvestre  Nemanja Vidic
LB John O’Shea Patrice Evra

Defensive Advantage : Man Unt. 2010

RM Cristiano Ronaldo  Park Ji-Sung

CM Darren Fletcher Darren Fletcher

CM Park Ji-Sung Michael Carrick

LM Ryan Giggs Nani

Midfield Advantage : Man Unt. 2005

ST Ruud Van Nistelrooy Dimitar Berbatov

ST Wayne Rooney Wayne Rooney

Attack Advantage : Man Unt. 2005

Chelsea 20o5/06 Chelsea 2010

GK  Petr Cech Petr Cech

RB William Gallas Branislav Ivanovic
CB John Terry John Terry
CB Ricardo Carvalho  Alex
LB Asier Del Horno Ashley Cole

Defensive Advantage : Chelsea 2005
RM Joe Cole Florent Maluda
CM Michael Essien  Michael Essien
CM Frank Lampard Ramires
CM Claude Makelele John Obi Mikel
LM Arjen Robben Solomon Kalou

Midfield Advantage : Chelsea 2005
CF Didier Drogba/Hernan Crespo Didier Drogba/Nicolas Anelka

Attack Advantage : Chelsea 2005

Why is there such a huge gulf in quality from five years ago? The most obvious answer is that it comes down to financial reasons. Five years ago the state of the economy was much better than it is right now. But that explanation doesn’t hold up for very long. First of all most clubs have increased revenue over the last couple of years, drastically so in Arsenal’s case. Yet Arsenal’s improved finances have not meant any improvement in the first team. Secondly, football clubs live in their own universe far removed from reality. Unemployment in Britain could reach 20% and footballers would still be making 200 000 pounds a week.  In the same time as the global recession has forced governments to cut spending, Real Madrid signed Kaka for 56M and C. Ronaldo for 80M pounds.  There’s as much money as ever in football, and English clubs are still swimming in it.

The only reasons I can  think of the decline in quality is a rather quaint explanation. I think the cliche of money ruining football has come true and is a key reason that the players coming through today are not as good as 10 or 12 years ago.  Youngsters who were graduating from academies in the late nineties were still influenced by old school players who came from the pre-prawn sandwhich brigade days. If you were trying to break into the first team at Man Unt. it meant that you would be training with guys like Roy Keane. At Arsenal you might be training with Tony Adams. Those were the last players to come through before the massive commercialization of today.  I think that for this reason players had to work harder to get a big money contract. The money comes too easily for players now which is a disincentive to push themselves to their limits.  This is why players today are just not as good as they used to be. Hardly any of those who were still up and comers around 2005 have lived up to their full potential. Robin Van Persie isn’t half the player Dennis Bergkamp was and Michael Carrick has never lived up to the expectations of replacing Roy Keane.  One of the only youngsters from five years ago who has lived up to expectations is Carlos Tevez. And that’s about it really.

SO yes, the problem is money I suppose. Too much of it.

Liverpool put in probably their best performance  so far this season against the Villa.  First of all it should be said Villa clearly were suffering from injuries and suspension (they’ve spent most of the season sitting on top of the injuries table).  But Liverpool also had some major absences with Gerrard, Carra, and Torres missing.  The fact that Liverpool played so well without the big 3 stars of team is the most encouraging fact of the game. Credit should be given to Lucas and Meireles who put in the kind of midfield domination I’ve been waiting all season to see. Possession was retained well, and the passing and movement of the team was very impressive.  N’Gog and Johnson combined nicely in the second half to almost score with a move that wouldn’t look of place at Barcelona.  Babel and Maxi both scored great goals. The aforementioned players have all been looking much more confident lately and I will be delighted if Maxi, Babel, and N’Gog continue improving and establish themselves as top class players.

But before going overboard it must be noted that this game was at home – Liverpool have still only won one game on the road this season and have a roadtrip to Newcastle coming up.  Hopefully the insanely stupid Newcastle board of directors have done us a favour by sacking a manager who was really doing very good job for them.  For years people have been saying that Newcastle are the worst-run club in Britain, and I believe the prosecution can rest its case now.

Also Newcastle should worried by the fact that Torres will be back in the side next week.  I’m sure that the birth of his child will leave him feeling over the moon and a hat-trick will be the icing on the cake.

Last of all I just want to mention that seeing the pre-match footage of Gerard Houllier almost walk in the home dressing room by accident did put a smile on my face.  I hope things pick up for him at Villa now that this game is out of the way.

I’ve slowed down on my posts about Liverpool because no one wants to read an “I told you so” post about football. I stand by what I said is wrong with Liverpool, and until something interesting happens (ie a new manager, or a dramatic improvement in form) I will probably find other sports subjects to write about. Which brings me to the subject of this post – extramarital football relations.

I once heard someone say “Wives come and go, a football club is for life”.  The reason I’ve remembered this quote was because supporting a football club is a bit like a marriage, albeit more long term. Most real supporters follow their club from childhood or adolescence till they find themselves in a nursing home. Thats a good 60 years at least on average.

So a relationship with the club you support will probably outlast your marriage(s). But as for the question of monogamy , there is more room to spread the love around. Certain teams other than Liverpool will always hold a place in my heart. The Arsenal ‘Invincibles’. The 1998 Netherlands World Cup side. The  Juventus team that demolished the Real Madrid Galacticos in the 2003 Champions League Semi-Final.

And for the last 4 years Barcelona has been a team I find impossible not to love. First because of Ronaldinho and Eto’o. Then because of the incredibly stylish way they set out to destroy their victims. But now, the number one reason I keep an eye on their results is Lionel Messi.

Every avid fan of any sport will have periods when their patience is tested. Now is one of those times  for me.  Despite the awkwardly early hours football games are broadcast  in North America because of the time difference, it’s a very rare event for me to doze off while watching Liverpool, no matter how sleep deprived I am. But thanks to the stodgy way they’ve been playing this season, I have nodded off a couple of times. Which is where Barcelona come in. I may have a plain Jane at home, but any Sunday afternoon I am free to nip out and peek at some daring (almost scandalous) dribbling and passing.

If Barcelona are my figurative mistress, then El Classico would be our anniversary so to speak.  The big rivalry games remind you what it is you love about certain teams, and Barca’s 5-0 thrashing of Madrid certainly did that. Yesterday’s game was exhibition football. Barca moved the ball around beautifully, using the whole width of the pitch. And Lionel Messi had another one of those games that old folks will tell the youngins about in 40 years time. At will Messi was able to create scoring chances against (probably) the second best team in the world. I have seen many great players in my time but all of them look like chumps compared to him. In my opinion he is the best player in history and will have to write an ode dedicated to him sometime.

In the meantime, here is a toast Lionel Messi for keeping my love of football going strong.

If you believe everything you read then Liverpool are on the verge of signing Karim Benzema, Niko Kranjar, Dimitri Payet, Carlton Cole, Mirko Vucinic, Fernando Llorente, Ricky Van Wolfswinkel, Romelu Lukaku,Valentin Stockel, Andy Carrol, Luuk De Jong, Keisuke Honda, Juan Mata, Ibrahim Affelay,  Charles N’Zogbia, Antonio Cassano, Diego Forlan, Royston Drenthe, Ashley Young,  Phillip Mexes, Alexander Kerskakov, David Wheater, Antoine Griezman, Rod Fanni, Urby Emanuelson, Pavel Pogrebnyak, Mathieu Valbuena, Oscar Wendt, Armin Bacinovic, Blaise Matuidi, and Shaun Wright-Phillips.  All players tipped (within the past month) by respectable news sources for which Liverpool “are preparing to break the bank” to add to the roster.

There are two reasons why this nonsense gets regurgitated in the sports press everyday ; the first that journalists are usually so desperate for stories they will print any nonsense, the second being that it is a tool for agents to promote the name of their athletic clients. That much is obvious and well known to all sports fans. But what I don’t really understand is why, even though everyone knows it’s B.S., do people bother to read it? Myself included.  Soon as I see an unfamiliar name being linked with Liverpool, I look up their highlight reels on Youtube to see if they are interesting or not.  And here things get even more irrational.

I know that it’s impossible to tell how good or bad a player is from edited highlights on Youtube. But I still bother watching them, even though most of the time it’s just a collection of easy tap-ins and headers set to bad dance music.  So there I am- watching bad videos, on the basis of tabloid journalism, about players I know will never sign for Liverpool.
Why on earth do I bother?

Although I have seen Dalglish, Rush, and John Barnes play for Liverpool, it was a ‘Legends’ match. These are the players from my own era that  are my personal favourites and with which I associate fond memories.

Robbie Fowler : Perhaps the reason that I fell for Liverpool.  A healthy Fowler in his prime was probably as good any striker in English history. Breathtaking, elegant.

Dietmar Hamann: All-time favourite player in my favourite position. Had zero pace but it didn’t matter since he was one of the most intelligent readers of the game in the modern era.

Michael Owen: The way he left the club and what he has done since clouds and distorts the way many supporters think of him now. But from 1998 to about 2004, he let Liverpool supporters have the bragging rights of  owning the best goal scorer on the planet. Before his hamstrings went, there were centre backs in the league who went on record to say that he was the most feared striker in the country. He was also more than just a goal poacher like now – then he had amazing dribbling ability and could create goals from nothing.

Steven Gerrard: Best player in the history of the club.

Fernando Torres: again, like with Owen, we have the bragging rights of having the best centre forward on planet earth. Fastest player to hit the 50 goal mark in the history of Liverpool. The best striker in England since Henry. Pace. Ruthless.

Luis Garcia: the football equivalent of Thomas the tank engine.  I’ll always remember him playing injured against Everton and still getting stuck in to help win the game. One of the most charismatic players Liverpool has had. I was really sad when he went back to Spain.

Sami Hypia: For about 10 years one of the most familiar sights in Liverpool matches was Big Sami effortlessly collecting the ball off of attacking players and then initiating play to the opposite end.  Because of the physical dominance he had, crosses into the box never ruffled a feather of the Liver bird.

Jamie Carragher: The most loyal player anyone could ask for. Gives 110% in every game.

Djimi Traore : On his day he was actually a much better defender than people give him credit for. Strong,tall,  and with plenty of pace, he was not an easy player for opponents to get around.  And because of his lanky build he was one of the most interesting players to watch just in terms of style. When he put in a sliding tackle it looked great.  Of course there was the number of bad blunders he made, but that only made it more special to see him with a Champions League Winners Medal.

Dirk Kuyt: “Worth his weight in gold”. Kuyt more than anyone else I’ve seen (other than Carra and Gerrard) embodies what a Liverpool player should be. A player who will sweat blood for the team. Chase lost causes. Never gives up.  To the novice, or a sports writer from the Guardian, his quality is not apparent. But people who know football, also know that he is one of the most valuable players in the world.  I could go on forever talking about what a fantastic he player he is to have at Liverpool.

Agree or disagree? Who would you leave in, or take out from your list of favourite players?

During the baseball world series, fans of the San Francisco Giants took to holding up signs that said “Torture Me”.  That being a reference to the experience of watching their home team. Most of the performances by Liverpool this year could be called torturous, or maybe public humiliation. Like the public stockades villages used in the medieval days.  All that’s missing from it being an authentic recreation of these old punishments are the obligatory rotten tomatoes and cabbages hurled at the victim.

 

The most worrying thing about seeing the Reds get turned inside out by a team that will probably be playing in the Championship next year was that it held no surprises. My complaints that I made recently about a lack of team spirit and an inability to keep possession of the ball in the opponents half again proved to be their undoing. I have to ask myself, have Liverpool become the football equivalent of  ‘Troll 2’ – a movie so bad it actually becomes funny and quite enjoyable? No. Rather it’s more like one of the rare bad movies that Steven Spielberg or Quintin Tarrantino make. The talent is there, the script is there. On paper it should be very successful, but somehow it just falls flat.

If this team actually had some real characters in it, and not so many one dimensional mercenaries, things would be different. If Djibril Cisse were still at Liverpool then maybe they might still be losing games, but it least they would lose in style.