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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!

May 132013

With the season 2012-13 effectively over for Liverpool, I wanted to look back and evaluate each individual player; not entirely unusual among the blog-0sphere. Most people like to use a rating scale of 1-10 or (if you grew up with an American education) A-F letter grades.

Well forget that!

I’m going to grade based on the academic rating system of everyone’s favorite boy wizard: Harry Potter.

If by some chance you’re a nerd or you’ve been living under a rock for the last 15 years, Harry Potter attended Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for six years. During his fifth year, he and his classmates were required to take Ordinary Wizarding Level (O.W.L.) exams. The scale is easy to understand whether you know the story or not.

Passing Grades

Outstanding (O)

Exceeds Expectations (E)

Acceptable (A)

Failing Grades

Poor (P)

Dreadful (D)

Troll (T)


Let’s get started!

Pepe Reina: A (Acceptable)

The Spanish international is not what he once was. Even going back to this time last season, we’ve watched Pepe Reina’s skills and (more importantly) judgement slowly diminish. The once rock solid Reina has been seen making poor decisions and letting in soft goals that a younger man probably could have prevented.

That being said, he wasn’t a total disaster and he has managed to record 13 clean sheets in 30 league appearances this season.

Daniel Agger: E (Exceeds Expectations)

The Danish international has made 35 league appearances and managed to score three goals as well. Agger proved to be the rock in the middle of a very inconsistent backline. A solid passer and above average on the ball (for your average central defender), Agger might be the defender best equipped to flourish in Brendan Rodgers’s high pressing system.

Unfortunately, the same probably can’t be said for his first team partner…

Martin Skrtel: P (Poor)

2012-13 has gotten progressively worse for the Slovakian center back. He’s only made 24 appearances this season and recorded 2 goals. He has received a lot less playing time, even when healthy, the second half of the season. You have to wonder if he’s on his way out the door this summer as Brendan Rodgers looks to get more involved in the transfer window. Skrtel seems just a half step too slow to recover from playing the kind of high back line that Rodgers desires. He was also caught flat footed on quite a few set pieces throughout the season.

Glen Johnson: E (Exceeds Expectations)

Johnson does enjoy getting forward in the attack and that’s what Brendan Rodgers likes from his fullbacks. Johnson has only managed to score one league goal this season and serve up four assists, but I think he has improved the defensive aspect of his game tremendously this season. He’s put in some great performances this year locking down top class wingers around the league.

It’s too bad the same can’t be said for his left sided colleague…

Jose Enrique: A (Acceptable)

The Spanish international did manage to produce two goals and four assists and did a great job supporting the attack on the flanks this season. Unfortunately, he has been exposed for being too slow to handle the elite wingers around the EPL. Granted, he makes up for his lack of speed with smart decisions but unfortunately he just can’t up with quicker attackers.

He’s not likely to go anywhere, but Liverpool would do well to bring in some reinforcements to back up Enrique, whether it’s giving Jack Robinson more first team reps or finding an outside source.

Jamie Carragher: A (Acceptable)

The Albus Dumbledore of Liverpool’s defense, Carragher has been respectable filling in for the out of favor Skrtel this season. He has announced this will be his last season and he’ll ride off into the sunset a hero in the history books at Anfield.

But none of that changes the fact that he probably stuck around one or two years too old. He may still be sharp as a tack, but the veteran Englishman won’t be winning any sprint races anytime soon and it has been painfully evident this season. Center back will be the team’s No.1 priority heading into the transfer window this summer.

Sebastian Coates: T (Troll)

Stunning bicycle kicks aside, the Uruguayan center back has looked and played like a troll this season. As far as I’m concerned he needs to be gone next season, whether it’s a season long loan or a permanent sale. This team needs serious help on defense and that means at least two purchases for the backline this summer.

Martin Kelly: Incomplete

Unfortunately the promising young defender has spent the vast  majority of this season injured. Hopefully it won’t wind up being a huge step back in his development as he has shown a ton of potential going back to last season under Kenny Dalglish.

Andre Wisdom: P (Poor)

The youngster showed his inexperience despite starting 12 league matches this season. He’s not quite clever enough to be a center back and he’s too slow to be a fullback. I’m not so sure he needs to be sold; he can still be a quality backup. But it’s tough to justify playing him in significant first team minutes next season.


Stay tuned for the midfielders!


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


Sep 232012

The pre-game tributes were powerful. The fans were (mostly) on their best behavior. Steven Gerrard scored at the 45:51 (45+51 = 96) mark despite being down a man. Possession was rarely surrendered. Pepe Reina guessed correctly!

Not of that was enough to get a point, much less three, for Liverpool. After a controversial red card was shown to Jonjo Shelvey in the first half, Captain Fantastic seemed to have single handedly saved such a special day for Liverpool supporters everywhere. Unfortunately, Manchester United fullback Rafael curled an unstoppable effort into the upper 90 and Robin van Persie buried a controversial penalty kick.

United 2-1 Liverpool

There’s a lot to discuss, so let’s break it down bit by bit…

Jonjo Shelvey’s Red Card

The more I watch it, the more I can’t help but feel like it was deserved. It was an incredibly reckless challenge that never should’ve been made in the first place. And any time you go in studs up you take that chance that you’ll see a straight red for it.

Robin van Persie’s Spot Kick

This one I do have some beef with. It looked like Valencia was already on his way down when the contact was made. The contact itself was minimal and certainly not enough to bring down Valencia on its own. But again, when you gamble like Glen Johnson did by leaving his feet, you open yourself up to that possibility. Poor Pepe Reina even guessed correctly but it still wasn’t meant to be.


The pre-game tribute around the stadium was quite powerful. The supporters were loud and proud on both ends…for the most part. Unfortunately there are still bad apples out there who continue to ruin things for everyone, but for the most part I enjoyed what I heard. The officiating certainly didn’t help calm things down either.

Daniel Agger

Brendan Rodgers did not sound optimistic after the match. He claims the training staff mentioned something about a possible ligament issue and that’s never a good sign. Ever. As if things were tough enough without Lucas, losing Agger would be an even bigger blow.

So where do we go from here? This was supposed to be the match that got everything back on track. First one back at Anfield since the Hillsborough Report and against United no less! The crowd was supposed to propel the lads to victory and get things back on the right track. The “tiki taka” was supposed to take full effect starting today. Steven Gerrard’s goal was supposed to hold up. Everything seemed to be going Liverpool’s way until the Shelvey red card. Even after that, Gerrard scored that wonderful goal and, for a moment, all seemed right again. But then United woke up and took advantage of the advantage they had been awarded.

I’ve seen a lot of supporters express optimism about the future because Rodgers’ system seems to finally be sinking in among all the players. I can’t say I agree. I still think Liverpool are in for a battle against the dreaded R-word. I think at this point we can rule Daniel Agger for at least the next 30 days and Fabio Borini had to leave at halftime with a knock on his ankle as well. I’m also pretty sure that any appeal on behalf of Jonjo Shelvey will fall on deaf ears which means he’s out for three more matches. I don’t care how well the players are getting at playing in Rodgers’ system, I don’t see any silver lining right now. And I stand by my previous sentiments about relegation being a necessity. I noticed one prominent writer on Twitter trying to compare this squad to last year’s Arsenal side that started slowly and still finished Top 4. I’m sorry, but that’s so wildly inaccurate I’m not sure why I dignified it with a response. I see a lot more similarities with Newcastle right before they went down to the Championship a couple years back. They ultimately dominated the lower division and came back the following season with a new appreciation for life in the Premier League and how they could succeed. Liverpool need that same wake up call right now. What is there to gain by finishing 15th or 16th, which is what looks realistic at this rate. Granted, this has been an incredibly difficult early schedule with matches against both Manchesters and Arsenal already in the books, but the lack of proven talent on this squad cannot be overlooked, especially with a daunting Europa League campaign ahead in addition to the cup competitions and trying to stave off relegation.

I’m trying to remain as optimistic as possible, but after the events of today it’s hard to see any bright side. At some point it has nothing to do with bad luck or poor officiating. At some point it has to be about this team, as currently constructed, simply not being good enough. It’s going to be a very long season. Let’s hope some good can come of it before the end.


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

Aug 142012

No, Degeneration X won’t be making an appearance in my Liverpool season preview.

But many other celebrities, including one of their colleagues, will be present. Anybody can run through the Reds’ current roster and predict that the team will finish 7th this season. But it takes a true visionary to do it with celebrity doppelgangers! And so without further ado, I give you the 2012-13 Liverpool Celebrity Season Preview…



Pepe Reina = Stanley Tucci

Pepe Reina 2 Break It Down! 2012/13 Liverpool Season Preview (Keepers/Defenders) Stanley Tucci Break It Down! 2012/13 Liverpool Season Preview (Keepers/Defenders)

Two of the most consistent performers in their respective businesses, both Reina and Tucci can be counted on at any given time to deliver a reliable performance. Reina, however, will need to have an Oscar-worthy season if Daniel Agger ends up departing before the transfer window closes.

Doni = Dane Cook

200px Doni2011 Break It Down! 2012/13 Liverpool Season Preview (Keepers/Defenders) 1230694932 1589 Break It Down! 2012/13 Liverpool Season Preview (Keepers/Defenders)

Neither is the best at his particular profession, but if you’re in a tight spot, whether it’s the 4th Round of the League Cup or it’s 1 am and nothing good is on TV, these guys will help you out. Pepe Reina has a pretty stellar medical record during his time at Anfield, so Doni won’t be expected to shoulder a huge load this season. He’ll make a fine backup.



Jose Enrique = A young Bruce Campbell

jose enrique liverpool Break It Down! 2012/13 Liverpool Season Preview (Keepers/Defenders) Bruce Campbell in Army of 001 Break It Down! 2012/13 Liverpool Season Preview (Keepers/Defenders)

Maybe not your first choice for a leading role, but they’re both great in support. They’re also both good for comic relief. Last season I gave the Spaniard grief over filling out his shirt a bit too much. It truly was comical; just like Campbell in the majority of his roles throughout his career. Whether or not the new 2012-13 top will be too small for Enrique has yet to be determined.

Daniel Agger = Billie Joe Armstrong

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OK this one was a legitimate struggle. Maybe not the best look-alike, but they both have similar roles in that their respective groups go through them. Agger certainly has the traits to lead a punk rock band (the hair, the tattoos, the constant spewing of vocal rage). If Brendan Rodgers is set on the “Spanish 4-3-3″ (and all preseason signs indicate that he is) then he’ll need a center back who can distribute effectively and the Danish defender does just that. Assuming Liverpool can hold off advances for him over the next two weeks, he’ll be arguably the most important piece to the Reds puzzle.

Martin Skrtel = Maris Valainis (aka “Jimmy Chitwood”)

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If the Slovakian center back grew up in the 50′s and grew his hair out a bit, I think this one would work. For those of you who reside outside the United States, Jimmy Chitwood is a fictional character from “Hoosiers”; which is basically Chariots Of Fire but with basketball. The team in the movie struggles mightily until Chitwood shows up and takes over offensively. Now Skrtel isn’t here for his offensive firepower, but if Daniel Agger leaves then suddenly Skrtel becomes The Guy for this team as he’ll be the only world class player left to anchor the defense.

Glen Johnson = Seth Gilliam

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Gilliam plays Sgt. Ellis Carver on what many will tell you (correctly) is the best television show ever: The Wire. Carver spends a lot of his time on the streets while he’s on duty and he has a certain swagger/bravado that tends to show whenever he’s confronting criminals. Johnson has that same swagger/bravado when he gets forward. His goal against FC Gomel in last week’s Europa League qualifier tells you just how confident he is in his offensive abilities, even for a right fullback. With such a thin front line, Liverpool will need all the help they can get in terms of offensive firepower and Johnson will be more than happy to chip in.

Jamie Carragher = Michael Weatherly (aka Agent Anthony DiNozzo)

pro jammie caragher Break It Down! 2012/13 Liverpool Season Preview (Keepers/Defenders) Michael Weatherly1 Break It Down! 2012/13 Liverpool Season Preview (Keepers/Defenders)

I suppose at this point I should apologize for letting my American-ness show through. Agent DiNozzo is a government agent on the American TV Show NCIS. Always quick with a quip, he’s great in a supporting role on his team. Likewise, Liverpool will be better off if Carragher remains in a supporting role coming off the bench as needed rather than a regular starter. The veteran center back is simply too old and too slow to keep up with the best strikers the English top flight has to offer right now.

Martin Kelly = Jake Gyllenhall

martinkelly Break It Down! 2012/13 Liverpool Season Preview (Keepers/Defenders) jakeg Break It Down! 2012/13 Liverpool Season Preview (Keepers/Defenders)

I’m running out of gas, but I managed to rescue this at the death. Almost gave up on it entirely. But it’s a solid one, especially if you have time to browse the rest of the stuff that comes up when you do a Google Images search for both. Both of these men are pretty underrated and sometimes even unappreciated. Neither can be considered a lead choice 100% of the time, but it also doesn’t do them justice to say they play supportive roles. They both seem to be right on the fringe between the first and second team if you will.

Sebastian Coates = Erik Von Detten

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This one will go well over the heads of most Americans, much less you poor, unfortunate souls reading this from afar. Von Detten starred as a happy go lucky teenage inline skater in a movie that came out when I was 12 years old and still impressionable enough to think that I could actually skate competitively. It’s an incredibly cheesy movie, but sentimental in my heart. The connection in this case is purely physical. Coates is still a raw talent at this point, but he showed some bright moments last year so hopefully he can continue to development into someone who can be more reliable coming off the bench a la Carragher this season.

Jack Robinson/Jon Flanagan

OK, sorry folks but I’m running on fumes at this point and these two are still a bit too young to feature prominently this season outside of cup competitions. Barring major injury concerns, we won’t see much of either fullback in the first team although I do feel confident that both can step up into starting roles if the worst should happen.


Check back on Thursday for the midfielders!


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