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End Of Term Grades: Midfielders

 Posted by on May 14, 2013 at 8:05 pm  Blogs/Media, England, EPL, Liverpool
May 142013

If you missed the first part of this whimsical series, I’m grading individual Liverpool players based on the Ordinary Wizarding Level (O.W.L.) rating scale from Harry Potter.

First it was the defenders (and Pepe Reina), so today we move on to the midfielders.

Steven Gerrard: A (Acceptable)

Yes, “acceptable” is the lowest passing grade on the scale (below E-Exceeds Expectations and O-Outstanding), but “acceptable” for Captain Fantastic is still well ahead of the curve. Before the arrival of Daniel Sturridge in January, Stevie G was the man picking up the scoring slack from Luis Suarez. He may be slowing down in old age, but he still hasn’t lost his workmanlike effort to get from box-to-box. Aside from Lucas, he’s shown that he might be the only midfielder capable of tracking back in defense properly.

Lucas Leiva: E (Exceeds Expectations)

Speaking of the Brazilian holding midfielder…

He has fought through enormous injury-driven setbacks and still he remains a solid holding midfielder. If anything, his defensive responsibilities increased dramatically this year under Brendan Rodgers’ preferred 4-3-3 formation. He’s had to go it alone in defense sometimes and any shortcomings from the Liverpool defense as a whole are hardly his fault. His job is thankless and not very sexy, but he does it admirably despite constant fitness issues.

Joe Allen: P (Poor)

To recap: the failing scale is Poor (P), Dreadful (D), and Troll (T).

After a spectacular 2011-12 season under Rodgers at Swansea, Allen got off to a great start in 2012-13 before inconsistency and fitness issues crept in. There’s no denying that the Welshman is a fine passer of the ball. Unfortunately, that’s really his one and only elite skill. Before his shoulder surgery he was exposed as a bit of a one dimensional player. He can’t track back well enough to be a central midfielder in a 4-3-3 and he’s not the greatest dribbler under pressure either.

He’ll need to bounce back quickly from his fitness issues if he’s going to reclaim a starting spot from Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson.

Jordan Henderson: E (Exceeds Expectations)

Expectations may not have been that high after the 2011-12 season he had under Kenny Dalglish, but Jordan Henderson is finally starting to look like a starting midfielder in the English Premier League.

While he only tallied five goals and four assists, he showed a lot of quality in areas that aren’t measured well statistically. He has developed a dangerous boot on set pieces and while he may not always execute properly, he has shown flashes of the intelligence and speed of though required to play the kind of game Brendan Rodgers prefers. He can see the play develop in front of him and is always thinking one or two steps ahead.

Be prepared to see more of him in 2013-14.

Philippe Coutinho: O (Outstanding)

I would’ve said “exceeds expectations” but quite frankly, none of us had any expectations for him coming into the second half of the season. He’s only 20, but he arrived at Inter Milan with great expectations that he couldn’t meet.

Now he looks like he could be a true No.10 for the next 10 years. His passing skills appear to rival those of Xabi Alonso. He’s a great fit for the “tiki taka” 4-3-3. If you saw him on the street you’d never think he could stand up to the physicality of the English top flight, but he showed no such issues after arriving from Inter. If he still has room to grow another inch or two and works on his strength in the offseason, he could wind up being better than Juan Mata in the next year or two.

He might end up being the best purchase Liverpool makes in the 2013 calendar year.

Jonjo Shelvey: P (Poor)

This doesn’t have as much to do with the youngster’s ability as it does with his inability to cooperate with Brendan Rodgers. Rodgers has neglected to use him despite having a less than 100% healthy midfield throughout the season.

He has shown a propensity towards the spectacular, but he made need another year or two before he’s capable of playing regular first team minutes. I recently questioned what Liverpool should do if it comes down to Shelvey or Jordan Henderson and I’ve come to the conclusion that someone out there will still be a solid fee for the former’s services.

He just doesn’t seem to fit what Brendan Rodgers wants and Liverpool would do well to cash in while they still can.

Stewart Downing: P (Poor)

He played more often with the front three, but he’s still a midfielder at heart. Unfortunately he struggled to consistently perform well throughout the season. He’s a good tactical fit, but his first touch and his passing aren’t up to the standard necessary for Brendan Rodgers’s style. Downing is probably better suited as a wide midfielder in a very direct 4-4-2 type of system and so we’re left to wonder if he’ll ever fit in properly.


Stay tuned for the forwards at the end of the week!

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

May 082013


So that was pretty cool, no?

It’s not the first brilliant goal we’ve seen from Jonjo Shelvey and it probably won’t be the last. But could it be his last in a Liverpool uniform?

After watching that goal I stopped and looked at the midfield situation going into this summer. After all, there’s nothing left for Liverpool to play for this season so we find ourselves thinking about these sorts of things. The important thing to keep in mind is that Brendan Rodgers is pretty set in his ways with a 4-3-3 formation. Therefore, we can only play three midfielders at a time and all of them much be centrally located.

So with that in mind, here’s the list of Liverpool’s current central midfielders capable of playing for the first team…


-Steven Gerrard: Old and ailing, Captain Fantastic is calling it quits with a few games to go in order to have some work done on his shoulder

-Lucas Leiva: The only true “holding” midfielder currently on the roster

-Philippe Coutinho: Suddenly looks like a natural No.10 and he’s only 20 years old

-Joe Allen: Had a very inconsistent first season at Anfield and currently out nursing a injury

-Jordan Henderson: Greatly improved in his second season at Anfield and appears capable of starting for the next few years

-Jonjo Shelvey: Capable of the spectacular, but hasn’t seen much first team action under Brendan Rodgers

-Jay Spearing: Currently on loan and didn’t exactly light the world on fire under Kenny Dalglish


This doesn’t include any potential signings this summer and Rodgers has been talking like there will be a decent number of purchases; although there are far greater needs at the moment. As old and frail as Captain Fantastic might appear, we have to assume he’s going to start if healthy. I feel like Lucas HAS to play because he’s the only one on that list who can defend properly. Coutinho suddenly looks like he could be Kaka in 2-3 years and he was just purchased in February.

Barring the purchase of a Christian Eriksen-caliber player this summer, I had to think that those three guys are starting from Week 1 next season. So that leaves Allen, Henderson, Shelvey, and Spearing battling for the chance to be the first option off the bench. Joe Allen was very inconsistent before finally being shelved, but it’s his first year and Rodgers has shown a certain propensity towards former players of his. Jordan Henderson has improved tremendously since this time last season. I think he’s better than Allen at this point and should be the first option off the bench if he’s not starting.

So what does BR do with Jonjo Shelvey and Jay Spearing? I have to think there are some teams out there willing to take a chance on Shelvey going forward. They’d probably be willing to pay too. Jay Spearing may be tougher to get rid of and could find up rotting on the reserve squad. I’m more concerned about Shelvey than Spearing. I feel like he is close to breaking out the way Henderson did this season, but on this roster (without any talented additions) he’s surplus and probably needs to go.

It may come back to haunt Liverpool, but Shelvey and Spearing probably need to be offloaded this summer while there are still takers. They’re going to need the money if BR is going to spend the way he’s suggesting this summer.


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

(Almost) Mid-Week Musings

 Posted by on March 27, 2013 at 10:46 pm  Blogs/Media, England, EPL, Liverpool
Mar 272013

Liverpool had the weekend off thanks to World Cup qualifying, so let’s go through some rapid fire questions to reset.

Will Luis Suarez leave Anfield this summer?

Yes. Yes he will.

Juventus are playing coy and it’s no secret Suarez is Pep Guardiola’s number one target for Bayern Munich. About a month ago I wrote about all the reasons why Suarez would want to leave. It basically boils down to his desire to play in the Champions League next season. Steven Gerrard himself has said the volatile Uruguayan forward deserves as much.

Should Suarez depart, he will bring in quite the payday but it will also deal a serious blow to Liverpool’s hopes at being competitive next year. The Reds have no backup plan for Suarez and they’re also going to need some upgrades to the center back and goalkeeper positions. But if you believe the rumors, Brendan Rodgers won’t have much to spend.

And speaking of goalkeepers…

Is Guillermo Ochoa the next Liverpool keeper?

Ochoa has been wallowing in Ligue 1 with Ajaccio lately. He also managed to earn a start in goal for his native Mexico against the United States on Tuesday. His start was controversial as Jesus Corona seems to be the next big thing in goal for Mexico.

So why did Ochoa get the nod? Reports are surfacing that Ochoa got the start in an effort to help earn himself a work permit in England. Why England? So he can join Liverpool of course!

Personally I’m not wild about the idea of Ochoa replacing Pepe Reina as the starter, but he would definitely serve as a suitable backup; though I’m not sure why that’s necessary since Brad Jones has done well this season.

What’s the deal with Joe Allen?

One week Brendan Rodgers is saying the Welsh central midfielder needs surgery, the next he’s starting him. Now it turns out Allen is in fact having surgery and will miss the rest of the year.

I would say this is a huge blow, but Liverpool blew their last chance at a Top 4 run when they lost 3-1 to Sunderland. Not only that, but Jordan Henderson has proven himself more than capable of performing well.

Is Jordan Henderson Liverpool’s Most Improved Player This Season?


He’s still not living up to his hefty 2011 transfer fee from Sunderland, but he has come a long way from being the punching bad he once was. He’s notched three assists in league play despite inconsistent playing time and he has developed a fine shot from long range. Look for him to continue turning heads now that Joe Allen is done for the season.

Will Liverpool bounce back against Aston Villa this weekend?


There aren’t enough adjectives to describe how poor Villa have been this season. Granted, they defeated Liverpool in the first meeting this season but the Reds have had time to rest and collect themselves and the loss to Sunderland is still fresh in their minds.

Look for Suarez to do what he does best and torture the Villa backline single-handedly.

Prediction: Liverpool 3-1 Aston Villa

Look At The Big Picture

 Posted by on March 17, 2013 at 8:56 pm  Blogs/Media, England, EPL, Liverpool
Mar 172013

*Full Disclosure-I did not watch the match on Saturday*

But that’s also not what I want to discuss right now.

Saturday’s starting lineup featured Joe Allen, who is supposedly due for surgery any day now according to Brendan Rodgers. Meanwhile regular holding midfielder Lucas was nowhere to be found. Liverpool were thoroughly outplayed by a Southampton side fighting to avoid relegation and lost 3-1.

That, however, was just one game. Brendan Rodgers can be forgiven for one or two puzzling lineup decisions. But take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Liverpool have been outscored 5-0 by West Brom, lost 3-1 a few months ago to a pitiful Aston Villa side, and they’ve struggled mightily against quality sides; Manchester United and Arsenal in particular.

Recently we heard some harsh criticism from Nuri Sahin, who failed to impress in the first half of the season. Sahin complained that Brendan Rodgers insisted on playing him out of position as an advanced playmaker in the midfield as opposed to his more natural holding midfield position. The Turkish international was apparently not pleased with Rodgers’ tactical inflexibility.

While Rodgers appears to have had a good January with signings of Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho, it is hard to ignore the botched attempt to sign Clint Dempsey even after letting Andy Carroll go on loan.

All of this put together makes me wonder if Rodgers is, in fact, the right man for the job at Anfield. We’ve been asked to be patient with regard to the Welshman bringing in the right players for his system. So far it appears the current roster has done well to adapt. The offense is flowing, but just as much for the opposing team as for the Reds. Can the defense be solved with one or two additions this summer? Perhaps. But as I’ve said many times before, you cannot wait 3-5 years to build a great club in modern football. You need the desire (and the funds) to go out get the best available players at any given position at any given time. But Rodgers doesn’t want the best players available, he simply wants the best who can play his game. That kind of tactical stubbornness will only get you so far. You have to be willing and able to adapt. Nuri Sahin’s comments suggest Rodgers isn’t prepared to do so.

At nine points out, Liverpool’s hopes of a Top 4 finish have faded fast with Saturday’s loss. Luis Suarez could possible be on the way out this summer and the talisman Steven Gerrard is running out of time. If a return to Champions League football is the goal, Liverpool are not doing themselves any favor right now.

Maybe it’s time to be proactive and make a change at manager before everything becomes too much about the Brendan Rodgers Way.


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

Dare To Dream!

 Posted by on March 11, 2013 at 9:35 pm  Blogs/Media, England, EPL, Liverpool
Mar 112013

“You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger Darling…”

If you’ve seen the movie Inception, hopefully you’re chuckling a little bit. But Liverpool doubters should not laugh at those of us dreaming of a return to the UEFA Champions League.

Brendan Rodgers’ men passed their second toughest remaining test as they erased an early blown lead and defeated Tottenham Hotspur 3-2 on Sunday at Anfield. Luis Suarez got the Reds on the board early, but they fell behind thanks to Jan Vertonghen. Eventually, Steven Gerrard did what he does best and stepped up to score a clutch penalty kick that gave Liverpool the victory.

It was display of both the best and worst the Reds have to offer. Philippe Coutinho linked up brilliantly with Suarez for the first goal. The defense showed they are not as strong as we once thought by letting Spurs back into the match. Then Captain Fantastic stepped up in the clutch to save the day.

Your 2012-13 Liverpool squad summed up perfectly in 90 minutes.

Now all you have to do is glance at the league table and see why Reds fans are so optimistic.  Although they have a game in hand, Liverpool currently sit just seven points behind Chelsea for the fourth and final Champions League spot. Of their nine remaining league matches, only three come against squads in the top half of the table: Chelsea, Everton, and Fulham (who currently sit 10th). Four of those nine come against four of the five worst teams in the league: Southampton, Reading, Aston Villa, and QPR. A clear path to fourth place lies before this squad.

And I believe they can make it.

It was a bit odd to hear in the middle of Sunday’s match that Joe Allen will require shoulders, only to see the Welsh midfielder take the field as a sub moments later. But there are bright spots like the newcomer Coutinho and the ever improving Jordan Henderson who can step up in his absence. Stewart Downing’s goal suggests he has a horseshoe tucked away in his back pocket. Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard continue to do their thing and lead the way by example. Yes, the backline is still shaky but if Liverpool can continue to score at their current rate they need not worry so much.

So get excited Liverpool fans. Our dream is not as far fetched as some would have us believe.


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

Welcome Back…Fabio Borini Out 3 Months!

 Posted by on October 18, 2012 at 10:40 pm  Blogs/Media, England, EPL, Liverpool
Oct 182012

The international break can be quite the double edged sword. It gives some players the chance to get some much needed rest. It also gives other players a chance to sharpen their skills while serving their country.

Liverpool forward Fabio Borini did the latter, but he also aggravated an injury supposedly suffered during the Reds’ match against Manchester United back in September. Borini will be out for three months, leaving Liverpool with exactly one true striker on their senior roster. Brendan Rodgers has said he will not recall Andy Carroll from his loan with West Ham in January. There is “good news” for Liverpool fans though as the club announced 18 year old Spanish youngster Suso received a new, more lucrative deal.

Actually the real good news is that Liverpool return from the international break with one of the few clubs that WON’T be favored against the Reds for the next three months: Reading. And it’s at home, although the Reds have yet to earn three points at Anfield. You almost have to wonder if Luis Suarez will be “rested” this weekend on the bench. Brendan Rodgers literally cannot afford to lose the Uruguayan to any sort of injury, lest Liverpool’s senior squad be reduced to a reserve side overnight.

It’s just one thing after another. This nightmare of a season continues to get worse. I continue to stress that it would be better for Liverpool to get relegated, lick their wounds, and come back better than ever with a new outlook on life in 2014. But odds are the Reds will battle the Drop Zone the entire season only to finish in 15th. It will be truly fascinating to see what happens during the January transfer window. Notice how I assumed something will happen. There is no possible way John Henry can afford to keep his checkbook completely shut when the window opens after Christmas. American Liverpool fans like myself will also be watching the offseason for Henry’s “other toy”: the Boston Red Sox baseball club. I imagine Henry and Fenway Sports Group will be hesitant to make any big deals for either team, meaning Liverpool will have to continue to limp to the finish in the second half of the season. I’m pretty much throwing away all expectations for the Europa League too for that matter.

Of course, the real challenge at this point is filling out the front three in Brendan Rodgers’ 4-3-3 for Saturday’s match with Reading. Here’s my two cents…


Johnson – Wisdom – Skrtel – Robinson

Shelvey – Allen – Sahin

Sterling – Suarez – Suso

Obviously Suso’s new deal says a lot about Rodgers’ plans for him in the future. With Steven Gerrard as old and fragile as he is, it would be wise to keep him out for what is sure to be Liverpool’s easiest opponent this season. In fact I had to talk myself out of starting Adam Morgan for Suarez, but I don’t trust these youngsters THAT much. Not yet anyways. With Daniel Agger’s health also in question of  late, this seems like a good spot to give Andrew Wisdom the nod since he’s had a decent season thus far. The same goes for Jack Robinson at left back since Jose Enrique also doesn’t appear to be 100% and, again, Saturday’s match is very winnable to begin with.

I’ve been pretty gloom and doom all season about this team, so the confidence I have in the youngsters for this weekend’s match should tell you how I feel about their chances against Reading. It won’t be easy, but the Reds should finally earn their first league victory at Anfield this season.

Prediction: Liverpool 2-1 Reading

Tipping Point (Liverpool @ Norwich)

 Posted by on September 27, 2012 at 9:30 pm  Blogs/Media, England, EPL, Liverpool
Sep 272012

Before we get to this weekend’s match, I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on Wednesday’s league cup (I will not call it by its “proper” name) victory over West Brom.

Another non-league match, another glorified youth squad.

If it wasn’t obvious enough, Brendan Rodgers has a thin bench. Any non-league match at this point forces him to trot out the youngsters by default. Case in point: Wednesday’s match saw a new record for youngest debut with the senior team. A  lot of people are optimistic about the future after Wednesday’s display. It’s hard not to be, even if it was Nuri Sahin who scored both goals. There are talented players waiting in the wings.

But do not tell me that all of a sudden Dani Pacheco and Samed Yesil deserve a shot at the first team. These players are not prepared for the rigors of a full length season against some of the most talented individuals in the world. Will they be ready in two or three more years? Absolutely. But as I’ve said before, Liverpool are only falling farther behind by trying to play their youth/academy players too early.

And with that we turn our attention back to league play!

Saturday’s trip to Norwich has the potential to make or break the rest of the season. Liverpool currently sit in the third relegation spot with Norwich right on top of them. The Canaries have plenty to fight for at home and will not roll over. A loss will only magnify fears of relegation. It does not get any easier after this weekend with Stoke City (impossible to score against) and Everton (pesky local rival) coming up in October before November welcomes Newcastle and Chelsea. I would love nothing more than to let Brendan Rodgers have all the time in the order to try and create the “English Barcelona”, but nothing good can come from fighting off relegation for the entire season. Are we really better off finishing 14th or 15th and going into next summer with another meager transfer budget?

So with all that being said, who should start Saturday? Do some of the youngsters deserve a look? Here’s what I think…


Johnson- Skrtel – Coates – Enrique

 Sahin – Allen – Gerrard

Sterling – Suarez – Borini

Daniel Agger and Martin Kelly have left massive holes in the back line and Jonjo Shelvey will serve his three match ban so a spot opens up for Sahin to start. I no longer believe in Jamie Carragher, so Coates gets the start. It’s time for him to prove he’s worthy of being a first team regular. There really aren’t a whole lot of options without dipping into the new found Fountain of Youth. If Rodgers wasn’t so stubborn about the 4-3-3, a 4-4-2 with Gerrard and Sterling at the outside midfield spots would make a whole lot more sense. Fabio Borini’s natural position is at striker. He struggles when he has to create for himself on the wing, far away from the goal. But if the 4-3-3 is must, then this is really the only option.

I think some momentum from Wednesday will carry over this weekend, but not enough to earn three points.

Prediction: Liverpool 1-1 Norwich

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

Redundant (Liverpool 1-1 Sunderland)

 Posted by on September 16, 2012 at 10:51 am  Blogs/Media, England, EPL, Liverpool
Sep 162012

I wasn’t able to get in front of a screen with Saturday’s Liverpool-Sunderland match until just before halftime. At one point I saw someone on Twitter say the following (paraphrased)…

“I’d like to say something insightful about Liverpool, but it’s as simple as a need to score goals. Something we knew back in August.”

I responded: “I feel like my job as a Liverpool blogger is to find 35 different ways to say that for the rest of the season”

Many will feel optimistic about the way Liverpool dominated possession and looked to have Brendan Rodgers’ new system finally under control. Unfortunately, all the  possession in the world couldn’t stop Sunderland from capitalizing on one of their few spells when Steven Fletcher got free in front of goal and redirected a cross to give the home side the early 1-0 lead in the first half. After that we saw more of the same from Liverpool: lots of possession, a couple posts nicked, and no clinical finishing. Granted, Luis Suarez managed to bring one back in the second half to ultimately save a point, but the fact of the matter is he is the only true threat to score for Liverpool.

We also saw the end (or perhaps a temporary halt) to the experiment of playing Stewart Downing at left back. Downing came on for Fabio Borini in the second half to try and steal three points. What really struck me was how much Raheem Sterling looks like a young Stewart Downing in that he’s great in one on one situations with the ball at his feet. Unfortunately, as Downing has showed us so far, that’s hardly the ideal skill for Brendan Rodgers’ new system. Passing is valued above all else and there is little room for individuals trying to dribble at the defense.

So while Liverpool certainly looked like they are finally getting the system firmly into place, it was still the same old Liverpool failing to capitalize. There is no room for error in the next seven days either. Thursday includes a trip to Switzerland for the Europa League opener against Young Boys and then it’s right back to Anfield over the weekend for a meeting with Manchester United. As improved as the Reds looked, I’m not convinced they have what it takes to earn three points against the Red Devils. Emotions will be riding crazy high with the combination of Liverpool’s first home match since the Hillsborough Report and a Manchester United on the other end of the pitch.

It’s still very early, but this week can tell us quite a bit about the direction Liverpool are headed for the rest of the season.


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


Let’s Talk About Relegation…

 Posted by on September 4, 2012 at 6:43 pm  England, EPL, Liverpool
Sep 042012

I don’t want to talk about it. You don’t want to talk about it. Nobody ever wants to talk about the dreaded “R word”.

But right now I think it’s necessary. It’s no different than talking about the Birds and the Bees with your parents. It’s just a conversation that needs to happen. Granted, Liverpool fans have never had to have this conversation before. But things have changed quick, fast, and in a hurry and it’s time we put things out in the open.

Saturday’s loss to Arsenal showed us exactly where this club sits right now. A thin roster (courtesy of a frantic final week of the summer transfer window) is trying to learn a brand new, highly difficult to master style of play. And then there’s Liverpool’s group play opponents for the Europa League. The team’s most valuable player is currently out for 2-3 months with a thigh injury. Once unflappable, goalkeeper Pepe Reina now seems capable of a howler at any moment. Captain Fantastic has been anything but and he looks to be succumbing to shackles of old age and tired legs.

Make no mistake about it: this is not a good football team.

Not only that, but the current ownership group seems content to balance its checkbook before making any more signings this season. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing…if you see Liverpool Football Club as a business; no different from your local supermarket or bank. But this is a football club and as any wealthy oil baron from Russia or the Middle East will tell you, you have to spend money to make money. The only way to become a great team is to get the best players and that requires lots of money.

So what does this harsh lesson have to do with relegation? I’ll get to that in a moment after I make this sure to be controversial statement.

Liverpool must be relegated this season!

There, I said it. I want Liverpool to face the drop this season. Liverpool are owned by a group of Americans. In America, we do not have promotion and relegation. Nothing bad happens to an American baseball team (like John Henry’s Boston Red Sox) if they lose a lot. Instead, you are rewarded with the opportunity to get a high draft pick. American sports have weight lottery systems to determine which terrible teams will get the first crack at selecting the rights to young, highly rated prospects in each respective sport. The Fenway Sports Group owns a baseball team, so it’s easy to understand why they want to adopt a strategy of stockpiling young, ambitious prospects to remain with the team for the next 5-10 years. It can be done in America because we reward athletic mediocrity instead of punishing it.

But you and I know that this is a foolish strategy when it comes to European football. You are only as good as the size of your wallet. Players who spend more than five years at a club are quite rare. Even more rare than that is finding a really talented 20 year old prospect who would willing stay at Liverpool if a team like Barcelona or Juventus came calling. Such a player would throw a fit and refuse to train or play hard until they destroyed the locker room chemistry or eventually got their wish. Usually it’s the latter.

John Henry and FSG don’t understand this concept. Nor do the Glazer Family, which owns Manchester United. The same can be said for Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke and Aston Villa’s Randy Lerner, although the latter has sold his NFL team (the Cleveland Browns) in an effort to focus on the Villains. So how do we get wealthy, American businessmen to finally understand the truly capitalistic nature of European football?


Should Liverpool be forced to play in the Championship next season, it will be a harsh wake up call to their American owners and their colleagues. They won’t have the warmth of Premier League TV money to fill their coffers. They will be forced to learn the lessons of the transfer market the hard way. I can understand why this sounds like an unpopular idea. Nobody WANTS to be relegated, least of all the most prestigious club in England. But Liverpool is not Leeds or Portsmouth. They have the brand power to attract great players. Clint Dempsey WANTED to come to Anfield. But John Henry would not let him. Perhaps a season in the Championship coupled with a fire sale of players like Steven Gerrard, Pepe Reina, and Lucas used to combat the lack of EPL TV dollars will make Henry realize just how much he is in over his head.

You know who just signed a young, promising Brazilian talent for over 50 million Euros? Zenit St. Petersburg. That’s right, a club in Russia outbid the far more famous Chelsea Football Club. Chelsea are a better team with better prospects to win both their domestic league title and a Champions League title. Hulk no care! Hulk want payday! And he got one from a fairly obscure team in terms of European pedigree because they were the ones willing to fork over the money. I’m not saying every single club needs to do this to be successful. Malaga thought they would become Barcelona or Real Madrid simply by spending like them. But nobody outside of Spain knew who Malaga was two years. Great players have played at Liverpool year after year. Great players will come to Anfield if you pay them enough.

Several years ago Newcastle United, another English club with tons of pedigree and history, went down to the Championship. They ran away with the title and were back in the Premier League after one season’s absence. Last season they finished several spots ahead of Liverpool. Granted they did this by purchasing younger players for microscopic transfer fees, but Newcastle would never be in the running for a player like Clint Dempsey or even Alessandro Del Piero, who is reportedly interested in signing with the Reds. Joe Allen and Nuri Sahin know that Liverpool is better than a club like Newcastle and always will be. Even after fans ridiculed him and he failed to live up to the amount of money paid for his services, former Magpie forward Andy Carroll wanted to stay at Liverpool! He rejected a second large payday from West Ham United to stay and try to make a name for himself at Anfield. But he isn’t ideal for Brendan Rodgers’ system and so he was deemed surplus and loaned to the Hammers. I think Rodgers would like to have a mulligan on that one.

The point is, relegation can be a good thing. It will show everyone that Liverpool are not invincible, as so many fans seem to think. Relegation will expose the flaws in John Henry’s “16 year plan” for Liverpool. Oh and you’re mental if you think an American will hold onto a sports team for 16 years. Henry is out to flip  the club just like every other Yankee business man. I see it happen every day here in America.

So forget about a respectable mid table finish. It won’t change anything. It will only fuel the fantasy in FSG’s heads. There’s only one way out of this nightmare for Liverpool: hit rock bottom.

Then real change be affected.


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


Aug 272012

I have watched people raving about Liverpool’s pass completion percentage for the last 24 hours and I’m starting to get annoyed.

Liverpool may have completed a ton of passes yesterday, but it was the one pass that Martin Skrtel did NOT complete that ultimately cost the Reds an additional two points. Skrtel’s foolish back pass was picked off by Carlos Tevez with ten minutes left in the match and the Argentine forward took full advantage.


Two points were thrown away because of one pass. I’m on record as saying that I don’t mind the “tiki taka” style employed by the likes of Barcelona and the Spanish national team, but I also can recognize that their outstanding statistics do not tell the whole story. It’s easy to complete a large percentage of your passes when a significant number of those passes are simply a one touch knock back to the original passer. Yes, you are being smart and keeping possession, but how often are you actually advancing the ball forward in a menacing manner. That is the difference between Liverpool and the two teams I just mentioned.

Both of Liverpool’s goals came from set pieces. Skrtel would’ve been the hero of the day for his aerial strike off a corner kick had he not also given the game away with his poor decision. The other goal was a Luis Suarez free kick that I’m not sure he scores 9 out of 10 times; although it was VERY well taken. Their new style of passing has yet to create a goal in their first two matches. I can understand why people are still pleased with the result based on the way the Reds played throughout the match. But these are the same people who were so cynical about Liverpool’s chances heading into the season. Have they become so desperate that (literally) giving away a victory has become acceptable? It would not have been so last season, especially had it been against a weaker opponent which is where Liverpool struggled in 2011-12.

The bottom line is this: I don’t care that the players are starting to adopt the new style more effectively. I care about results and Sunday’s result was not one with which fans should be pleased. As always there was much we could learn from Sunday’s match…


-Skrtel’s poor back pass aside, the back line still looked vulnerable especially when it came to clearing the ball out of danger. Last week’s first goal surrendered to West Brom was the result of a poor clearance and the same mistake reared its ugly head during City’s first goal on Sunday.

-The normally reliable Pepe Reina also seemed to look unsure of himself on that first goal and that’s very uncharacteristic of the Spaniard.

-Losing Lucas early on was absolutely frightening. Still no official word from the club on his status.

-The significance of the result itself simply cannot be overstated.


-17 year old Raheem Sterling was the brightest star on an otherwise disappointing day. He’s already looked 100 times more effective than Stewart Downing and it will be interesting to watch the battle between the two for more playing time.

-Despite the poor result, the players do seem to be adapting to the new system quickly.

-Both goals were truly a sight to see!

-Nuri Sahin has arrived from Real Madrid on loan for the upcoming season. The Turkish midfielder excelled at Borussia Dortmund, but failed to find significant playing time under Jose Mourinho at Madrid. The timing is fantastic, especially if Lucas’ injury is in fact serious. A Sahin/Joe Allen/Steven Gerrard midfield trio is very exciting to think about.

-Brendan Rodgers said afterwards that he hopes to get another deal or two done before the deadline and that means there’s still the possibility of Clint Dempsey making a move to Anfield.

Next up is Thursday’s second leg Europa League match with Hearts. The Reds were fortunate to earn a 1-0 victory in Scotland thanks to an own goal. It was the kind of result that made you think Liverpool are capable of grinding out wins even when they don’t play their best.

And then Sunday happened.


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