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Giving Thanks To Liverpool Football Club

 Posted by on November 12, 2013 at 9:17 pm  Blogs/Media, England, EPL, Liverpool
Nov 122013

For those of you from outside the US, we have a holiday at the November known as Thanksgiving. We get together with family and pretend to be grateful for all the good things in our lives right before stuffing over faces full of food. It is American Excess at its finest.

I participate every year, so I have no room to talk but I would in all honesty like to take a moment to count my blessings as a Liverpool fan. A quick look at the calendar and the EPL table will show that it is November 12, 2013 and Liverpool currently occupy second place. Reds fans can thank a number of people/things for this and I would like to do so in no particular order.

Glen Johnson

Fullback (Left/Right back) might be the most thankless position on a football field. Even in the midst of a data-driven revolution in the sport, it is incredibly difficult to evaluate and quantify the value of a good left/right back. It would seem the only way to do so is to watch how a team plays with and without a particular fullback.

Two weeks ago we saw Jon Flanagan get a last minute start in place of an ill Glen Johnson. The youngster held his own against the best team in England so far this season. But there seemed to be something missing from the right back spot going forward. Liverpool had trouble maintaining possession in the attacking third. This past Saturday Johnson returned to the starting lineup (albeit against a lousy Fulham side) and showed us just how valuable he is. He was constantly stringing passes together with the forwards and the midfielders and helped Liverpool maintain their high backline. He did exactly what a fullback needs to do in Brendan Rodgers system: kept possession in the attacking third and delivered some effective crosses. Even if you look across the field at Aly Cissokho/Jose Enrique, you won’t find the same efficiency and reliability you get with a healthy, fit Glen Johnson.

Luis Suarez

This one is pretty obvious. There isn’t much to be said about the Uruguayan international that hasn’t already been said. He doesn’t just score at an incredibly efficient rate, he does it with a hint of the spectacular. For all the (legitimate) complaints about his tendency to go down easily in the penalty area, he actually tends to work tirelessly, chasing the ball around and making deadly runs in and out of the box. Keeping Suarez should be the team’s No.1 priority in January. We saw Suarez’s new strike partner Daniel Sturridge get visibly frustrated and force the issue way too often against Fulham because he was so concerned with getting a goal of his own. If Suarez leaves and Sturridge has to be relied upon even more for goals, things could go downhill in a hurry.

Lucas Leiva

Despite their success so far this season, Liverpool’s central midfield has been exposed. Steven Gerrard continues to get older and slower while Jordan Henderson works hard but fails to impact the game in big moments. The blond Brazilian has been the only line of defense between the back four and the midfield. Lucas’s work rate as a holding midfielder has helped Liverpool preserve a lot of wins this season and they’ll need more of the same from him in the second half of the season if they’re going to hold a Top 4 spot.

The Schedule Makers

Liverpool have only played three of the current top eight teams in the table and those games have been spread out very nicely. They need to continue to take advantage of their games against lesser competition because there is a 14 day stretch coming in December that will feature games against Tottenham, Manchester City, and Chelsea; all of three of which are away from home.

Sir Alex Ferguson

The recently retired Manchester United boss hasn’t had many nice things to say about Steven Gerrard lately, but his departure from Old Trafford has had a ripple effect across the Premier League. Teams (and referees) are no longer terrified of the Red Devils and as a result we have a wide open title race.


If Liverpool can’t win the whole thing, I’ll be pulling for Arsenal. They’ve been a ton of fun to watch this season and it’s nice to see someone not named Manchester or Chelsea running away with the league so easily.


Oct 202013

Despite a late push, Liverpool were incredibly fortunate to earn a 2-2 draw against Newcastle over the weekend. Even after Newcastle were reduced to ten men just before halftime, the Reds found themselves struggling to take advantage in the second half.

With Glen Johnson back in the starting lineup, this was supposed to be our first look at Liverpool’s truly “Best XI”. Lucas Leiva wound up missing the match due to the birth of his child and Jose Enrique was a late scratch. Still, Brendan Rodgers went to the 3-5-2 he has utilized for the last couple weeks while Johnson was injured. There were signs this wasn’t a great formation for this team in their 3-1 win over Crystal Palace two weeks ago, but Saturday’s draw really exposed the problems it presents.

I saw two big concerns in particular…

Problem 1: The Wing Backs

The biggest issue with this 3-5-2 formation is that it puts quite a bit of responsibility on the shoulders of the two wing backs. Against Newcastle this turned out to be Aly Cissokho and Glen Johnson. They both found themselves rushing to get forward to support the attack, only to be caught way out of position tracking back in defense. Ultimately the wing backs are responsible for being the only truly “wide” players in the formation and they have to cover the entire length of the field. Johnson and Cissokho didn’t look capable of doing so and neither Jose Enrique two weeks ago.

Their inability to get back also seemed to create some confusion among the three center backs as to who needed to be where and when. Yohan Cabaye’s first half goal was certainly a spectacular shot, but he had the space and time to shoot because Liverpool couldn’t figure out who needed to step into his path.

Part of it was obviously due to their man advantage, but Liverpool looked much more comfortable defensively after Luis Alberto replaced Mamadou Sakho in the second half and they went back to a traditional 4-man back line.

Problem 2: Central Midfield

Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson were constantly chasing Newcastle around in the first half, thanks in large part to the confusion created by the wing backs. Newcastle were able to easily keep possession because there was tons of space for them to switch the field. Part of the reason they had such space was because Gerrard and Henderson were getting sucked out wide to support Johnson and Cissokho.

Then there’s the issue with Victor Moses having to play a central midfielder between Gerrard/Henderson and the two man strike force of Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez. He was easily bottled up by Newcastle and saw his speed (his greatest asset) neutered by his new position. Liverpool were able to create more chances in the second half once he pushed out wide and had space to take his defender one on one or cut inside to play Sturridge/Suarez into the box.

Again, most of it was due to the advantage they had, but when Luis Alberto checked into the game for Sakho the team looked much more confident about their individual responsibilities. Assuming everyone is healthy, this is what the formation should probably look like…


Johnson – Agger – Sakho – Enrique


Henderson     –     Gerrard

Suarez     –     Sturridge     –     Moses

If you put Suarez out wide and Sturridge in the middle, you don’t have to rely upon Johnson and Enrique to support the attack as much. Suarez’s work rate is pretty high even when he has to defend and does some of his best work cutting in from the outside. The same holds true for Victor Moses on the other side of Sturridge.

There’s still time to sort the tactics out before the trip to the Emirates Stadium in two weeks. West Brom comes to Anfield next and they will present a good opportunity to sort out any issues. A win in that particular game is now sorely needed since Arsenal and Chelsea won handily over the weekend. Liverpool’s Top 4 chances are still good, but their hopes at competing for an actual title are dwindling and a loss at home to the Baggies would almost certainly spell doom.

Here’s hoping we see a return to the 4-3-3!

Sep 302013

I’m going to be completely honest: I was a complete spaz on Sunday.

Every time Luis Suarez touched the ball I was on my toes, hands clasped together as I focused in on the play developing. For all his faults, he is still must-see TV even after a long suspension. Of course, Liverpool’s defense kept things interesting as well. Which brings us to the point of this post. There were some things I couldn’t help but notice after the final whistle blew, starting with…

The 3-5-2 Won’t Work Against Good Teams

Sunderland are a bit deceiving because they’ve got so much individual talent, yet they can’t seem to get it organized and on the same page. Liverpool were fortunate to concede just one goal with their new three man backline of Kolo Toure, Martin Skrtel, and Mamadou Sakho. The wing backs (in this case Jose Enrique and Jordan Henderson) were caught too far forward way too often and Sunderland were quick to take advantage from the opening kick. They were able to get wide way too easily and if the opponent had been Tottenham or Arsenal or even Everton, the consequences would have been more severe.

I realize there’s a surplus of center back talent at the moment, but I really would like to see Brendan Rodgers get back to a four man back line with two true fullbacks.

Luis Suarez And Daniel Sturridge CAN Play Together

I think part of it was due to the fact that they were a true striker tandem playing off of one another, but they looked incredibly in sync for just their second appearance together this season. I had my doubts, but that’s also because I still want to see the 4-3-3 formation that was being used prior to the Sunderland game.

Even if one has to play a more traditional “winger” role and only one can be a lone center forward, the future looks bright with both of these guys on the pitch at the same time.

Mamadou Sakho Might Be The Best Addition Of The Summer

You could certainly make a case for Victory Moses, especially after seeing him all over the attacking third against Sunderland, and Kolo Toure has been steady at the back, but my pick is the French center back. He frustrated Jozy Altidore right from the start. Last season Liverpool struggled with large, powerful strikers but Sakho had no issues handling the American international. He also looked very composed whenever he was on the ball and had some decent distribution coming out of the back at times.

I’m still waiting for Kolo Toure to get himself injured, but it’s good to know Sakho is capable of shutting down big target forwards when called upon.

A Central Midfielder Is January’s Top Priority

Lucas and Steven Gerrard looked pretty good, but they were facing Sunderland and guys like Mesut Özil and Christian Eriksen won’t be as easy to shut down through the center of the park. Whether he’s a more central figure in a 4-3-3 or a wing back in the 3-5-2, Jordan Henderson hasn’t progressed the way we thought he might after his strong finish to last season. Joe Allen must be struggling mightily in training because he can’t buy himself any playing time right now. Yes, Coutinho can be considered a central attacking midfielder, but Liverpool really need another box-to-box guy.

Personally, I would’ve loved to see Etienne Capoue in there but the Reds will have to look long and hard come January for an enforcer to make the back line’s job easier. Lyon’s Maxime Gonalons and Benfica’s Nemanja Matic are worth keeping an eye on.

The Schedule Is Liverpool’s Best Friend

Liverpool’s next three are Crystal Palace, Newcastle, and a very tricky West Brom before the big showdown with Arsenal. Six points against Crystal Palace and Newcastle is mandatory to keep title hopes alive as neither of those sides really present much of a challenge. We can all see what a trap West Brom is right before Arsenal, but a draw there wouldn’t be terrible. There are lots of wins to be had after the trip to the Emirates; three of the four opponents after that are a dreadful Fulham, Hull City, and an underachieving Norwich with a trip to Goodison Park sandwiched in the middle.

Three December matches with Spurs, Manchester City, and Chelsea will ultimately show us how high this team can climb, but until then there are loads of chances for three points.


“Walk on with hope in your heart and you’ll never walk alone!”


Scousers Stymied At Old Trafford

 Posted by on September 26, 2013 at 11:24 am  Blogs/Media, Liverpool, Manchester United
Sep 262013

Manchester United 1-0 Liverpool
Manchester United v Liver 004 Scousers Stymied At Old TraffordNo doubt about it. Manager David Moyes was ecstatic after this win. Seconds after the referee Mark Clattenburg blew his whistle, Moyes was out on the pitch, shaking hands with every single Manchester United player before standing in front of the Stretford End nodding, bowing and grinning in a manner that bellied his usual gruff, Caledonian reserve. No. No doubt about it. Losing to both Manchester City and Liverpool in four days would have been unbearable.

Moyes certainly bollixed up the night for the ravenous jackals of Fleet Street. The big story was supposed to be Luis Suárez’s comeback after a ten match suspension, but the Premier League’s most press-worthy racist cannibal, although clearly very fit, was not at all sharp. Instead, a more collectively gutsy United abandoned the self-absorbed kind of sloppiness that has stunted so much of the football they’ve played thus far this season for something more disciplined. Led by captain Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs, who is a few weeks short of 40, they hustled and pressed. Indeed, they reminded me of a hustling pressing team like Swansea City… playing against Manchester United. “The whole club were hurt by the game on Sunday,” Moyes said.

Let’s get this straight, though. This is not a great United side. Hustle can only go so far when your technique is limited by the quality of true soldiers you have available. The same old problems still show themselves off at the back like galvanized neon and though it was nice to see a fit Jonny Evans back at the back, his lack of positional sense, along with the relentless panic that repeatedly seizes Chris Smalling, did the hard working full back pairing of Rafael and Alexander Büttner no favors. Liverpool were allowed way too much possession in United’s penalty box and, although the tricky dribbling of Sturridge and Suarez plagued Evans and Smalling as we knew it would do, the usual supply of killer passes they get to feed on from Coutinho were sorely missed. Having Phil Jones around as a sweeper didn’t hurt either. Evans and Smalling are faster than the usual pairing of Vidic and Ferdinand. Both fine athletes, they could be a marvelous pairing if they had just a little more savvinness about them. With Jones playing the fixed role of water boy between them, neither of the Liverpool strikers got the kind of time or space they tend to feed upon like vampires.

70123949 70123948 Scousers Stymied At Old TraffordUnited made eight changes from the Sunday team, but this was not the usual cobbling together of reserves and youth-team kids that all the top six of the PL normally put out for this competition. Too many problems for that. Moyes used the fixture well. Nani can drive you crazy, but he was mostly full of derring-do and energy. Clearly superior to either Valencia or Young, Nani looked positively majestic later in the match when he was joined on the field by Adnan Januzaj. And although Moyes moans about his not being fit and in spite of being played totally out of position on the left, Shinji Kagawa can do so much in small isolated spaces, engineering chances out of nothing, that it’s essentially Moyes finds a way to play him more. Atypical was an exquisite bit of business where Kagawa, boxed in by three defenders, still gave them the slip, managing to make the space and time to flick an absolute ooh-ah 20-harder beauty that, sadly, hit the bar.

Manchester United v Liver 005 Scousers Stymied At Old TraffordSizzling up front and competent at the back, United always looked like they had it in them more to score than the Red Scousers. Having ceded the middle to Liverpool, United relied on stifling Liverpool’s misfiring attack and cavalry-like speedy counterattacks performed with gusto by Rafael and Nani and the constantly dangerous pairing of Wayne Rooney and– substituting effectively for Robin Van Persie–Javíer Hernandez. Indeed, with Rooney captain for the night, the groove he has now found, even against City, may be the best football he has ever played. Rooney, always at his best when allowed to roam all over the pitch and given no help whatsoever by an ineffective Anderson, was United’s best player throughout.

There were a number of near-misses for both sides, but when Hernández struck, a minute into the second half, it was a clever, beautiful goal. Rooney’s corner was not especially well taken, but it was clear that this was a play he and the Mexican assassin had worked on before. As the ball arced its way in, Hernández spun away from his marker, José Enrique, altered his body to suit the trajectory of the ball, rose, his instep all the way up to his chest and fired his shot past goalkeeper Simon Mignolet. A striker of his ability, underrated even by his own boss, Chicharito only needed the one moment of being unmarked by a generous Liverpool defense to administer the dagger. His beautiful coup-de-grace will surely give Moyes food for thought after observing too many episodes of Danny Welbeck’s dithering.

Liverpool fans will surely moan that they played well and lost. The brilliance of David De Gea had something to do with that and more than a few chances were wasted by Sturridge, Henderson and Suarez. The Spaniard’s fine save from a fantastic Victor Moses header certainly showed what an innately brilliant a shot-stopper he is. Liverpool losing after controlling the ball for more than 60% of the game surely shows that United did something right, too. The next fixture against West Bromwich Albion, a decent but very beatable opponent, will also offer Moyes the opportunity to tinker with his line-up.

Manchester Uniteds Mexica 004 Scousers Stymied At Old Trafford

Sep 232013

I could have spent more time making that headline more alliterate, but alliteration is for losers.

Liverpool suffered a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Southampton on Saturday that suddenly has them on the outside looking in when it comes to the EPL title race. Without Philippe Coutinho in the lineup, Liverpool seemed to be missing the creativity that has propelled them to such a good start. Daniel Sturridge found himself in need of service and reverted to Selfish Daniel, taking a handful of ill-advised shots in search of a spark for himself. With Jose Enrique and Aly Cissokho not quite 100% fit, Brendan Rodgers sent out all four of his primary center backs. With little help attacking from the flanks, the Reds were forced to try and barrel their way through the center of Southampton’s defense without their diminutive, Brazilian playmaker to unlock everything.

The loss is even worse considering the other results from around the league this past weekend. Manchester City looked impressive dominating the Manchester Derby on Sunday while Tottenham stole three points at the death and Arsenal and Chelsea completed very businesslike wins over lesser opponents. As talented as they may be, a loss to Southampton at home is the kind of result that you look back on when you’re 6 points out of first in the middle of April and wonder what could have been.

However, Liverpool fans need not lose hope just yet. First and foremost, their next two opponents are Sunderland and Crystal; the two worst teams in the table. Sunderland has just sacked Paolo di Canio and Crystal Palace will be welcoming back Ian Holloway after a two game suspension. These two teams present Liverpool a golden opportunity for six points and the chance to quickly get back into the title race. Then there’s the return of Luis Suarez from his suspension for biting Branislav Ivanovic last season. And in the absence of Philippe Coutinho, Liverpool may have found a new No.10 to pull the strings and feed Sturridge and Suarez: Luis Alberto. The young Spaniard scored a hat trick for the Under-21 side this time last week and showed signs of life as he displayed his creativity as a late sub against Southampton. The moment that sticks out in my mind was his attempted heel flick that, had he continued his run, would have sprung Sturridge into the box with just moments left in the match. Unfortunately, Selfish Daniel revealed himself at an inopportune time and he couldn’t be bothered to continue his run in the dying embers of a match that was there to be (at the very least) drawn.

The return of one Luis and the revelation of another leaves Brendan Rodgers with more options than he appeared to have after Coutinho departed last Monday’s draw with his shoulder injury. Here’s a Starting XI that should easily be able to conquer Sunderland Crystal Palace over the next few weeks…


Flanagan – Agger – Sakho – Enrique


Gerrard – Henderson

Aspas – Suarez – Luis Alberto

First of all, I’m not convinced Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez can form a proper partnership playing in Rodgers’ preferred 4-3-3. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to have Sturridge sit on the bench at the start of the next match to let him clear his head. I’m not wild about Aspas’s start in the EPL, but he has the creativity to link up very well with Suarez and Alberto at the top of the formation. The central midfield trio looked silly against Southampton and Liverpool suddenly find themselves with limited options beyond Joe Allen. If Martin Kelly is still slow to recover, I don’t see the problem in letting a true right back like Jon Flanagan take over for Glen Johnson. The four center back line clearly didn’t work, so get some natural outside backs in there.

I’m really excited to see Suarez back. I think he ought to be back in the starting lineup immediately and it was very encouraging to see him singing You’ll Never Walk Alone so enthusiastically prior to kickoff on Saturday. I think he’s over all the summer nonsense and starving to get back to his goal scoring ways. Do not underestimate his level of motivation, especially heading into a match against a Sunderland squad ripe for the picking. Stick Alberto next to him, and I see a 3-0 result this weekend to get things back on track.

Fear not Liverpool fans. Saturday’s loss hurt, but Dos Luis(es?) can still help right the ship!

“Walk on with hope in your heart and you’ll never walk alone!”

Liverpool Turn The Corner Against Swansea

 Posted by on September 16, 2013 at 8:42 pm  Blogs/Media, England, EPL, Liverpool
Sep 162013

In his first match against Liverpool since being sold over the summer, Jonjo Shelvey looked eager to impress.

The young English international opened the scoring at the Liberty Stadium just two minutes into the match. Two minutes after that he played an ill advised back pass that was picked off by Daniel Sturridge and converted to level the score at 1-1. He went on to gift Liverpool a second goal with another poor pass in the 36th minute before setting up Michu in the 64th. He was very much the talk of the match and rightly so given his involvement in all four goals.

As memorable as his performance was (for good or bad reasons), it is not the biggest takeaway from Monday’s match.

When we look back on this match at the end of the marathon that is the English Premier League season, we may just see a turning point; a moment that everyone points to and says “THAT was the moment Liverpool got back in the spotlight”.

This match looked like a classic letdown. Liverpool had just defeated Manchester United 1-0 and emotions were riding high after the club’s best start to the season since 1990-91. Next up was Brendan Rodgers’ former squad and a former Liverpool player desperate to prove himself. Daniel Agger, by far the best defender on the roster, was out after picking up a knock in training. That meant a starting center back pairing of Martin Skrtel, the subject of transfer rumors all summer, and new signing Mamadou Sakho with the raw, unproven Andre Wisdom starting in place of the injured Glen Johnson.

The 2-2 draw was a pretty fair result. Liverpool’s midfield gave way to Swansea in the second half after Philippe Coutinho departed in the first half with an injured shoulder. It took everything the Reds had to hang on and scrape a point. Now, this doesn’t sound like a huge, momentum swinging moment until you consider some of the other results around the league.

Chelsea were defeated by Everton and Manchester City were held to a scoreless draw with Stoke City. Those are the kinds of results that traditionally prevent teams from winning the title come May. They’re the kinds of results Manchester United used to consistently escape while Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge. And speaking of Manchester United, they didn’t exactly look impressive against Crystal Palace before a red card late in the first half gave them new life. One month into the season, the EPL title race looks wide open with six legitimate contenders in both Manchesters, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, and even Tottenham. I’m even willing to give Everton an outside shot at the Top 4 this season.

Monday’s draw also comes at a great time for Liverpool. With no European competitions to distract, they can now focus solely on their next three opponents: Southampton, Sunderland, and Crystal Palace. Those are three very winnable matches for Brendan Rodgers and company. And that’s before I remind you that Luis Suarez is due back from his suspension in the middle of that stretch. With legitimate depth in his squad and a favorable schedule over the next couple weeks, Brendan Rodgers have a tremendous opportunity to firmly place Liverpool in the driver’s seat for not just a Top 4 finish, but an EPL title.

Granted, we don’t know the extent of Coutinho’s injury and the central midfield trio of Steven Gerrard, Lucas, and Jordan Henderson let Shelvey run through, over, and around them in the second half. Glen Johnson won’t be back for a little while and I don’t trust Wisdom as a suitable replacement.

Nevertheless, if Liverpool take off and win these next three matches to solidify a spot in the Top 4 before facing Arsenal in early November Monday’s draw can be the moment everyone looks back on as the moment they turned the corner and put themselves back in the spotlight. In the EPL marathon, every hard fought draw away from home against a “weaker opponent” (in the eyes of a title contender) is critical. Points must be taken at all costs, especially when your direct rivals drop them.

Sit tight Reds fan. The next couple months could be even better than the first one.


“Walk on with hope in your heart and you’ll never walk alone!”

Sep 032013

On the Transfer Debacle
fellaini marouane david moyes manchester united signing transfer carrington 2997534 United Endure Humiliating Weekend.I won’t belabor this and jump on the bandwagon that’s already piling on David Moyes. After signing only Marouane Fellaini for way more than original estimates said he was worth, United seem to have perfidiously gone about sticking it to their fans. Clearly there’s something more at stake than money and legal paperwork when a multitude of things have gone wrong in the so-called pursuit of Tiago Alcantara, Cesc Fabregas, Ander Herrera, Wesley Sneider, Daniele De Rossi, Sami Khedira, Leighton Baines, Luke Shaw and Mehsut Ozil. Players may indeed be pieces of meat in the eyes of so many agents, owners and managers, but there is already a kind of in-crowd protocol that Messrs. Moyes and Woodward are clearly clueless about. The Glazers were wise enough to leave well alone when Sir Alex Ferguson was running the club. As he was personally responsible for so many of the machinations that allowed the Glazers to step in and make a leveraged purchase, the Gaffer was a good soldier, espousing Knoxian rhetoric about “value in the marketplace” as long as they let him have a little money now and again for players like Berbatov, Van Persie and Kagawa.

An extraordinary man-manager and the last of a breed–along with Arséne Wenger at Arsenal–who was trusted by ownership, Ferguson was a beloved buffer between a bewildered fan base who really wanted to believe the cockamamie fodder he fed them about having the last word in transfers and our being the kind of mortal zombie fans who support Arsenal and other clubs who simply don’t give a shit what they think. None of it matters now, anyway. Clearly the money is there to spend on for someone like Cristiano Ronaldo, who will pay back whatever the club forks out for him back in merchandizing spades. Even the likes of Gareth Bale or Radomel Falcao would work for the gluttonous Glazers. Unfortunately, shopping for perceived ‘water carriers’ and prospects seems beyond the scope of Moyes and Woodward.

To be fair to Woodward–a man who has the kind of Mad Men flair that the Glazers can understand and has shown the ability to raise hundreds of millions in sponsorship money–he seems to have been thrown into the deep-end in rooms full of the kind of capricious oligarchs who inherit oil kingdoms, trust funds and laundered money and their lawyers. Woodward’s bargaining mentality, honed and sharpened in boardrooms, but still schooled in a world of old-fashioned bargaining that’s been going on in the Armenian carpet bazaar since the time of Genghis Khan, is out of his league when dealing with the modern football club. In Spain, for example, where clubs were confiscated after the civil war and their ownership given as prizes to amigos who were fellow soldiers or supporters by the dictator Generalisimo Francisco Franco, American-style buy low/sell high rules do not necessarily rule the football marketplace. Team lawyers expect suitcases full of laundered oil cash and drug money. Players are more often owned in percentages, not just by clubs who only nominally have their contracts, but also Russian and Colombian gangsters. It’s complicated. Whatever secrets the Gaffer is privy to, he has yet to pass them on to Moyes and company.

Depending on who you believe, United’s credibility has now been smashed into a million pieces. This may be so, but Juventus, for example, and now Monaco have survived far worse. Woodward would probably be fired by most clubs, but as he makes money for his friends (The American golden rule–see The Godfather), I’m sure he won’t. Next time Mr. Woodwood, you need to do your homework properly. Personally, I like Ander Herrera as a player and admire him for keeping his trap shut. Perhaps he’ll still go for it if we try again in January.

As for Marouane ‘Bogbrush’ Fellaini. It warms the cockles of my heart when a player really really wants to play for us, as was also the case with Robin Van Persie. He may be a bit slow, but he’s a gamer with a pair of elephant cojönes who likes contact, can score goals and will protect our sometimes awesome, but positively gutless, Michael Carrick. He’s brave and hard, and, although we let ourselves be suckered into paying 28m quid for him, will prove well worth the investment.

Liverpool 1-0 Manchester United
Liverpool v Manchester Un 006 United Endure Humiliating Weekend.It was right out of the Ferguson textbook. “I could see why we were champions today,” Manchester United’s new manager David Moyes said while his head panned the room like a Gorbals thug looking for a wee bit of aggro. “I thought we played really well.”

Right you are, Davey! Better in spades than putting four past Swansea on the opening weekend. Of course, he insisted upon being “more than happy” with the state of the squad. Indeed, should any dealings fail to happen at the close of the transfer window on Monday night he reassured the gathered Fleet Street Sports mavens. “After that performance, I wouldn’t be worried,” he said. “I thought we were really good today.”

“Pull t’other one,” my Gran used to say. “It’s got bells on it!”

Sure, the Gaffer always got dead prickly after a mediocre team performance, but Davey doesn’t own the moxy or luck to be able to run his mouth so contemptuously. Well, not yet. Even though they were clearly the far superior team in the second half, United lost because their central midfield is non-existent. This has been more or less the case since Roy Keane retired and the Champions Cup win of 2007-08 looks, in retrospective, like the Gaffer’s masterpiece, the finest job of papering over the cracks since Chamberlain announced ‘Peace in our time!”

Beyond the frustration United fans feel over the club’s dithering in the transfer market was the gobsmackingly nonchalant, vanilla display of pride in their own mediocrity shown by a gutless Michael Carrick and a painfully overmatched Tom Cleverley in central midfield. Indeed, although a different perspective might say that Carrick’s lack of physical courage may well be solved as a team problem if an enforcer-type player like Marouane Fellaini is signed from Everton to serve and protect him, there is no such hope for Cleverley. Inept in every way, devoid of courage and energy, he is just what the likes of Glasgow Rangers need in their bid to return to the SPL, but is not a Manchester United player.

Soccer Barclays Premier 002 United Endure Humiliating Weekend.All is not lost, however. Liverpool were driven on the day. Led by a ruthless, hatchet-faced Steven Gerrard in a way he never has for England, the red scouters were were completely amped up, especially in the first half, quicker to the ball and crunchingly harder in the tackle. Simply put, this fixture meant much more to them because they genuinely hate Us and Our relentless success over them for years.. Over the first 45 minutes, they attacked United relentlessly to which our only recourse was to simulate injury and repeatedly appeal to a disinterested Neville Marriner, who seemed to mistake them for Arsenal or Spurs or Chelsea. Yes, we were better in the second half, but when your two best performers are a knackered old Ryan Giggs and a pumped up Nan, you have no ammunition. Indeed, Nani, who seemed totally delirious just to actually be on the pitch, was so completely pumped up that he blasted a beautiful free kick opportunity high into the crowd. Due to sign a new contract and clearly feeling renewed by having Mr. Moyes woo him, he may yet be kinda/sorta like a new signing.

For a good proportion of the match, United were vapid. Strangely inhibited, unable to get any real momentum going: This kind of listlessness has become something of a recurring theme in their visits to Anfield over recent seasons. Truth be told, United have now lost six of their last seven visits to Anfield, and, as with Moyes’ Everton, they have flinched in just about every one of those matches. Derby rivalry? United just don’t get it! Giggs showed up, but he can’t hold the ball like he used to when faced with a hacking hyena like Lucas Leiva. Poor Paddy Evra tried so hard, but, was repeatedly, unavoidably legless on a day when the usually reliable tandem of Ferdinand and Vidic looked equally elderly and repeatedly made errors. United’s giving up of only a single goal was miraculous. Well, slightly miraculous, but mostly due to the cold-blooded bravery of goalkeeper David De Gea who took a hammering from Sturridge, Aspas and a host of others who were casually allowed a state of nonchalant carte-blanche in United’s box.

How did the pea-brained Ashley Young come to make the the fourth minute mistake that led to the corner for Liverpool’s goal, allowing Daniel Sturridge to celebrate his 24th birthday with his third successive winner of the season after steering in a close-range header off a Gerrard corner? Young has worn the United shirt for nigh upon three years now. He has not improved one bit since leaving Aston Villa. Like Cleverley, he does not deserve to wear that shirt. Indeed, when Nemanja Vidic tapped a soft back pass toward goal, it was a minor miracle that De Gea beat a thundering Glen Johnson to the ball. Only twice, you say. That’s not so bad. Better yet, minutes away from the whistle, Carrick passed the ball straight to Daniel Sturridge. The whole stadium gasped. Sturridge seemed so shocked that he hesitated and flubbed it.

Doubtless, United would have been better if Wayne Rooney’s forehead had not been split open by Phil Jones in training the previous day. Yet Rooney’s history at Anfield is not good. Where was Shinji Kagawa when we needed passion and ball control? Robin van Persie was well muffled by Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel throughout, squandering United’s best chance late on.

Reticent congratulations to Liverpool are due after they celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birth of their legendary Scottish manager Bill Shankly. Their current boss Brendan Rodgers is, I read, looking for a top four place fourth place this season and when suspended striker Luis Suarez returns they will be even tougher to beat.
As for United, let us all collectively pray for a few good breaks as the transfer window shuts.Liverpool vs Manchester U 007 United Endure Humiliating Weekend.

Sep 022013

Well it took a little longer than I would’ve liked, but Liverpool got the defensive reinforcements they desperately needed; even before Kolo Toure and Sebastian Coates got hurt recently.

The club announced the signings of 20-year-old Sporting Lisbon center back Tiago Ilori and 23-year-old Paris-Saint Germain center back Mamadou Sakho. They’ve also brought in Chelsea winger/forward Victor Moses for a season long loan while simultaneously sending Fabio Borini to Sunderland on loan. The first two cost approximately €19 million ($25 million, £16 million) combined and will challenge fellow newcomer Kolo Toure once he is deemed fit to play again. Moses is a good loan signing (especially with Borini departing) but I’m not sure how much I like him long term with Brendan Rodgers having shored up his front line through summer signings Luis Alberto and Iago Aspas; not to mention youngsters like Raheem Sterling and Jordan Ibe.

The best bit of business, however, has to be the club’s ability to retain the services of Luis Suarez (who seems to be sorry for his recent behavior) and Daniel Agger. The former is still an elite goalscorer who will be needed when Daniel Sturridge eventually cools off. When all is said and done Brendan Rodgers can sit back and feel good about the business he’s done in last two transfer windows. All the piece are in place, and many of them appear to be clicking, especially after Sunday’s triumph against Manchester United.

Unfortunately, the rest of the English Premier League appears to have followed suit and brought in a number of impressive signings this summer; especially after the news from Monday’s transfer deadline. Chelsea brought back the greatest manager to ever patrol the touch lines at Stamford Bridge in Jose Mourinho. Manchester United have added the hard working Marouane Fellaini and (possibly, depending on what has transpired by the time you read this) Fabio Coentrao. Manchester City brought in the likes of Stevan Jovetic, Fernandinho, Jesus Navas, and Alvaro Negredo. Tottenham turned Gareth Bale into Christian Eriksen, Nacer Chadli, Roberto Soldado, Erik Lamela, Paulinho, and Etienne Capoue. Arsenal, as long as it took them, managed to reel in German playmaking sensation Mesut Özil. Even Everton (yeah, those guys) managed to scoop up Gareth Barry (loan), Romelu Lukaku (loan), Gerard Defelou, and James McCarthy.

The stature of England’s top flight was on full display at the end of Monday’s transfer deadline. Even teams like Sunderland, Southampton, and Swansea made some quiet additions that could turn some heads. Just when things were looking up for Liverpool after their victory on Sunday, the rest of their biggest competitors went out and made themselves even better. I do believe this roster, as currently constructed, is capable of earning a Champions League berth next season, but that task looks much more difficult than it did Monday morning.

Eventually Daniel Sturridge is going to stop scoring and the defense is going to concede goals. The Reds are off to a great start, but these reinforcements were really the bare minimum Brendan Rodgers needed if a Top 4 finish was the goal for this season. Manchester United are going to wake up, Tottenham will see a lot of their summer signings progress as the season goes on, and teams like Everton, Swansea, Sunderland, and Southampton will all challenge for the Top 4 throughout much of the season. Earning a Champions League spot will be more difficult than it has been for several years.

Here’s a look at the lineup I’d like to see once Suarez is back…


Johnson – Agger- Sakho – Cissokho

Gerrard – Lucas – Luis Alberto

Suarez – Sturridge – Aspas

Although it’s only been a couple weeks, I think it’s safe to say Sturridge is best deployed in a central position at the head of the attack and having a couple dribblers like Suarez and Aspas on either side of him should help free up space for him in the box. With the front line so well established, it looks like the only way to get Luis Alberto out there regularly is to have him occupy the third midfield spot with Steven Gerrard and Lucas, with Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen in the mix as well. As for the defense, you might as well throw the new guys out there and see what they’ve got. Sakho (and even Ilori) and Cissokho are better than Martin Skrtel and Jose Enrique respectively.

Again, Brendan Rodgers has just finished up what was pretty much the best possible summer he could have short of making Real Madrid truly fancy Luis Suarez over Gareth Bale and turning the windfall into five or six very good players as Spurs did. Unfortunately, the rest of the top half of the table made some good moves for their own and a Top 4 spot just became even more difficult than ever to achieve.

Either way, sit back and enjoy Liverpool fans. It looks like we’re finally going to see the Reds finally make a legitimate run at a return to European competition.

“Walk on with hope in your heart and you’ll never walk alone!”

Two Weeks Later…

 Posted by on August 25, 2013 at 4:52 pm  Blogs/Media, England, EPL, Liverpool
Aug 252013

Last week I tossed around some overreactions to Liverpool’s 1-0 victory against Stoke City. Saturday’s game against Aston Villa wound up being extremely similar to its predecessor.

Daniel Sturridge got a first half goal and Simon Mignolet came up big a couple times in the second half. I wouldn’t call them efficient, but both wins were certainly huge and seem to have given the entire team a huge confidence boost going forward. They’ll need it with Manchester United on tap for next Sunday.

In the meantime, however, it’s worth asking the question: Just how good is this team?

I’ve seen a lot of people throwing around Liverpool’s recent record without Luis Suarez and it seems plenty of fans are ready to permanently part ways with the polarizing Uruguayan. I’m not thrilled at that prospect. While he did convert it, Daniel Sturridge made his first half goal a lot more difficult than it needed to be. He’s a great steward for the starting striker spot in Brendan Rodgers’s 4-3-3 formation while Suarez serves his suspension, but I still remain unconvinced he can carry the load for an entire season. Suarez’s ruthless efficiency, as well as his ability to create for himself, is still very valuable as the Reds pursue a Top 4 finish this season.

Moving to the midfield, Philippe Coutinho has had two decent games but still looks like a man among boys in the center of the pitch. Jordan Henderson hasn’t taken the next step the way we all hope he will this season, but it’s still early on. Lucas has looked a bit sluggish too as Aston Villa had a little bit of success going straight down the middle of the pitch in the second half on Saturday.

As far as defense goes, Sebastian Coates’s season ending ACL injury seems to have finally conked Rodgers on the head and made him realize he needs to buy a center back before the transfer window closes. Aly Cissokho made his debut in a brief appearance as a substitute and looks capable of platooning with Jose Enrique at left back. Kolo Toure has held a couple target forwards (Peter Crouch, Christian Benteke) in check for these first two games, but he’ll really be tested by Robin van Persie next weekend.

I’m not trying to be a buzzkill or anything. Liverpool are off to their best start in years after winning their first two. While it’s true that great teams grind out results, no matter how ugly, when they aren’t at their best, but it’s disconcerting to see just two goals in as many games when there were plenty of more chances that could’ve been converted. That’s why Suarez is so desperately needed. Manchester United will show us just how good this team really is.

Until then, walk on with cautious optimism in your heart!


“Walk on with hope in your heart and you’ll never walk alone!”

Aug 192013



Sorry…that was just my Runner’s High wearing off. But really, talk about getting off to a fast start. Saturday’s 1-0 win over Stoke certainly seemed to have it all.

Now, I’m going to try and avoid recapping each individual game as much as possible this season. But the first match of the season is a time for overreaction and hyperbole (hence the title of this post) so I came up with a list of over-the-top statements and a more realistic counter for each one. Starting with…



I don’t think there’s a lot of people out there singing the Belgian’s praises so highly, even after he did his homework and denied Jonathan Walters minutes before the final whistle. It would be foolish to overlook his tentative first half in which he struggled to re-direct with the ball at his feet on several different occasions. Let’s hope it was simply first day jitters because he’s going to see much more of the ball at his feet throughout the rest of the season.



It was certainly good to see Daniel Sturridge prove himself capable of leading the front line. While his goal turned out to be the difference, however, it was a bit lucky. Liverpool managed to put up double digits shots on goal and yet only one of them made it in the back of the net.

Sound familiar?

If anything, this match showed us just how valuable Luis Suarez is if a Top 4 finish is going to be achieved. This team had similar performances with the lethal Uruguayan in the lineup last year. Without him, this team will have to rely upon Simon Mignolet more often than they’d like. With him, a Champions League spot next season isn’t completely ludicrous to imagine.



The newcomer from Celta Vigo didn’t exactly wow everyone with his finishing ability, but (as we just discussed) neither did anyone else. Since I reside in the United States, I did not catch any of the preseason action. I was pretty shocked by how small Aspas is, especially compared to your average EPL center back. His skill set is well suited for the style of play Brendan Rodgers prefers, but guys like Vincent Kompany, Phil Jones, John Terry, etc are going to eat him alive if he can’t get stronger in a hurry or figure out how to move the ball even quicker than he’s shown he’s capable of.



I found myself pondering this issue when Jordan Henderson missed a good chance in the first half inside the box. He had a pretty quiet game for someone whom management appears ready make the next midfield general once Steven Gerrard rides off into the sunset. Shelvey didn’t exactly light the world on fire himself, but he had his moments against a grizzled Manchester United defense in his Swansea debut.

Jordan Henderson has always been, good but not quite great; or even “very good” for that matter. This is a make-or-break season for him. Shelvey is young and appears to have a brighter future ahead of him in terms of upside. If Henderson doesn’t start finishing more chances and coming up big in big moments he’s going to find himself on the bench in favor of Joe Allen.



Jose Enrique may not be a world beater at left back, but he’s capable. He does have a tendency to get dispossessed a little too easily while going forward, but he was fine on Saturday. Cissokho may turn out to be world class, but we’ll have to wait and see. The greater need is at center back next to Daniel Agger. Kolo Toure was the physical presence Liverpool needed him to be, but Brendan Rodgers would prefer to have a second Agger; a center back who is extremely confident on the ball. Toure was OK distributing out of the back and Peter Crouch had his moments in the first half as he was getting in behind the line pretty frequently; both through the air and on the ground.

A platoon between Toure, Martin Skrtel, and Andre Wisdom probably won’t be enough to earn a Top 4 finish this season.


“Walk on with hope in your heart and you’ll never walk alone!”