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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!

Which Wrestling Villain Is Luis Suarez?

 Posted by on October 8, 2013 at 8:10 pm  Blogs/Media, England, EPL, Liverpool
Oct 082013

International breaks suck. Especially when your favorite nation (USA!!! USA!!!) has already qualified and doesn’t really have a shot at playing for a seed.

I could continue to harp on how bad of an idea Liverpool’s new three center back system is. If I wanted to, I could talk about how super awesome Daniel Sturridge is. Heck, I probably SHOULD be writing about how it’s okay for us to go ahead and believe that title No.19 is quickly becoming a legitimate possibility.

But that’s boring and there’s a million places you can go for such talk. I’m here to talk about the real issues.

Like which professional wrestling villain is more comparable to Luis Suarez.

Suarez is despised by just about everyone who doesn’t support Liverpool (and even some Liverpool supporters have been turned off by his summer antics) but at the end of the day he’s still must-see TV. He’s arguably the third best player in the world. He loves to go to ground easily around the box. He’s got all the ingredients to be a classic wrestling villain. Let’s see how he stacks up to the some  of the greatest villains in wrestling history, with their ranking according to a recent WWE list (which can be found here)…

*Full Disclosure: I’m 25 years old, so unfortunately you won’t find any discussions of Sgt. Slaughter or Killer Kowalski in this list*

Vickie Guerrero

Excuse me…Excuse Me…EXCUSE ME!!!

Technically she never enters the ring, but the former GM of Monday Night Raw is incredibly annoying. “Annoying” is probably the one word that best describes Luis Suarez. Guerrero is always being interrupted by the crowd and constantly has to ask for everyone’s attention to get her message out. Suarez also tends to find his runs into the box interrupted by defenders and often has to plead with the referee for some attention.

Iron Sheik

This is about as old school as it will get in this discussion (other than my top pick, who will be revealed shortly). An over the top stereotype, the Iron Sheik loved to run his mouth and still does quite  a bit on Twitter these days. He was often the embodiment of America’s political enemies. Suarez doesn’t really fit in here except I think there’s a bit of an element of racism in the way he is treated. Plenty of players dive as often as he does, but in general I think Hispanic players bear the brunt of the wrath of the general public. There’s an unfair association with diving and Cental/South America and Suarez embodies that association.


No comparison here, I just wanted to give a shout out to (Spoiler Alert!) the Undertaker’s brother. Kane is absolutely terrifying and let’s no man intimidate him. Luis Suarez does not have any such characteristics.

Randy Orton

Orton’s nickname is “the Viper” and Luis Suarez is often viewed as something of a snake. I don’t disagree. Both of these men love to lie low and strike at the most opportune moment.

Edge, The Rated-R Superstar

Edge is just a flat out unlikable d-bag. Most people outside of Liverpool’s loyal ranks would probably tend to agree. His finishing move (SPEAR!) is a little too physical for the likes of Suarez, but the level of contempt among the general population for both is pretty comparable. Edge often likes to whine when he doesn’t get his way and Suarez was pretty whiny over the summer when he tried to force his way out of Liverpool.

Chris “Y2J” Jericho

Now we’re getting closer to a legitimate comparison. Jericho’s ego is one of the largest in the history of professional wrestling (and that’s saying something) and Suarez showed us a glimpse of such ego during his summer drama. Both of these men love to troll their haters and seem to feed off of the hatred. They are the best at what they do and are incredibly entertaining, no matter how despicable they may behave at any given time.

Ric Flair (1…2…3…WINNER!!!)

Here’s my pick for the most accurate comparison. Flair is an all-time great among the wrestling ranks. Suarez still has a way to go in his career, but his ability easily belongs in the Top 5 of current footballers. Like Jericho, Flair fed off the negative energy and entertained even the most ardent of his haters.

The biggest trait they both share is their “sneakiness”. Flair resorted to downright dirty tactics and did whatever it took to win. Likewise, Suarez has earned his reputation as a diver and is no stranger to dirty tactics (see: Branislav Ivanovic’s arm). It is the combination of this “sneakiness” and their ability (both of which are simultaneously connected and completely separate) that makes such a match made in infamy.

Both of them also have a…here it comes…FLAIR for the dramatic!!! Goodnight everybody!


What do you think? Is there another wrestling villain out there who is comparable to the polarizing Uruguayan?

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!”


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 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!”

What’s In A Manager?

 Posted by on July 29, 2013 at 10:28 pm  Blogs/Media, England, EPL, Liverpool
Jul 292013

I find the role of “manager” for a European football club to be absolutely fascinating.

Here in the United States the “head coach” of a sports team has his duties limited almost exclusively to producing results on the field. The completely separate role of “general manager” is primarily responsible for assembling the roster that the head coach has to develop. The two certainly try to collaborate for the sake of a cohesive organization, but the two positions pretty much stick to their “side of the tracks” so to speak.

But a manager of a European football club essentially has to do both of those jobs. The manager must have a wide range of skills. He (or she, one day God willing) has to be a master motivator. He needs to have an eye for talent in order to field the best players each week. His problem solving skills must be impeccable in order to figure just how to deploy said players. He must also be accountant, constantly aware of how much money is in his account to bring in players from the outside. Good negotiating skills go hand-in-hand with such financial wisdom. It’s no wonder great players rarely go on to become great managers. The leap from the narrow mindset of one player with one responsibility out of 11 to that of one with the omnipotence of a benevolent dictator is not for everyone.

And so my question is this: Does Brendan Rodgers have all of the necessary skills to become a great manager?

Let’s break it down…

Motivator: 7/10

I never watched Being Liverpool but pretty much everyone I know who did see it felt ready to run through a brick wall for Brendan Rodgers afterwards. He certainly has a way with words and almost plays mind games at times with his players in order to get the best out of them. While his team didn’t get the results against Top 4 clubs the way Kenny Dalglish did in 2011-12, Rodgers did motivate his players enough to make life difficult for superior teams.

Scouting: 9/10

While Joe Allen and Fabio Borini struggled with injuries in their first season at Anfield, Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge showed that Rodgers is more than capable of identifying good players. You can certainly make the argument if you go back to his tenure at Swansea as well. With several new additions in the form of Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto, he’ll have another chance to show us all just keen his eye for talent is.

Tactics: 5/10

While Rodgers does have a clear vision of how he wants his team to play, he struggled at times last season to get everyone in the right place. The high line he wanted from his back four did not play to the strengths of Glen Johnson, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, and Jose Enrique. Luis Suarez is the perfect lone striker for a 4-3-3, capable of creating plenty of chances for himself out of nothing. As good as Steven Gerrard is, he looked out of sorts at times when asked to play in a three man midfield, all of whom were technically considered “central midfielders”. We’ll see if the new additions can fit in more seamlessly this season.

Money Management: 6/10

Daniel Sturridge proved to be worth his transfer fee in just a couple months worth of play. Let’s hope he can continue where he left off now that he will be given a much more prominent role, especially if Luis Suarez departs. Philippe Coutinho was also a good bit of business and while the Clint Dempsey deadline saga didn’t end well, Rodgers got a decent amount back for Andy Carroll and put it to good use (in financial terms, the jury is out on results) in the form of the aforementioned Aspas, Luis Alberto, and also Kolo Toure and Simon Mignolet. He also did a good bit of business selling off Jonjo Shelvey for roughly £6 million.

Negotiating: 5/10

The Dempsey deadline saga last summer may or may not have been Rodgers’ fault entirely. In hindsight it appears there was a lot of mis-communication between Rodgers and the folks at Fenway Sports Group. Regardless, this Luis Suarez situation is getting out of hand quickly (assuming the club is trying to sell him, which nobody at Anfield seems to know for certani either) and Pepe Reina seems to think his own situation could have been handled much better.

Those aren’t the scores of a manager capable of returning to Europe and restoring glory to the ghosts of Anfield Past. Look around at his competitors for example. Despite a quiet summer of his own, Arsene Wenger has shown himself to be an excellent manager of his squad’s transfer coffers and has consistently produced a Top 4 finish to earn a big, fat Champions League paycheck. Jose Mourinho isn’t called “The Special One” for nothing. There’s turnover at both Manchester clubs, but David Moyes and Manuel Pellegrini have had great success with lesser clubs, though the latter seemed to spend out his welcome in Spain.

The bottom line is that I don’t believe Brendan Rodgers can be both a great “coach” and “general manager”. He seems to be much more suited for the former than the latter. But part of being a manager in modern football is being able to outsmart your competitors when it comes to financial negotiations. Time will tell if this transfer window proves to be more fruitful than his first one in 2012, but he’ll need to sharpen his off-the-pitch skills if he wants to bring in the talent necessary to take Liverpool back to the Champions League.


“Walk On With Hope In Your Heart And You’ll Never Walk Alone”

Silly Season Talk

 Posted by on May 21, 2013 at 9:24 pm  Blogs/Media, England, EPL, Liverpool
May 212013

It would seem that January’s transfer window success has buoyed Brendan Rodgers and Co.

Already we’re finding out that Liverpool have accepted a £15 million ($22.76 million) bid for Andy Carroll; though the towering striker has yet to make up his mind on his future. We’re also hearing rumors that free agent Kolo Toure is high on Brendan Rodgers’ wishlist as a (hopefully) short term replacement for Jamie Carragher. There’s also the matter of whether or not Pepe Reina will depart for Barcelona this summer. Rumor has it Stoke City’s Asmir Begovic would be high on the list of potential replacements.

Clearly we don’t have a lot of time to prognosticate so let’s get right to it. Here’s my top 3 needs for Liverpool this summer.

1. A Centerback To Replace Jamie Carragher

Although I’m not a fan of bringing in Kolo Toure (even on a 1-2 year deal), it’s reassuring to hear that this particular need is a priority for the management staff.

If Martin Skrtel also departs, then suddenly this isn’t just about having a guy available on the bench, but rather someone who is going to partner up with Daniel Agger for the long run.

Top Prospects: Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy-MLS), Ashley Williams (Swansea City-EPL), Hector Moreno (Espanyol-LaLiga)

Omar Gonzalez is as fast as he is powerful in the air. He might not be quite as technically gifted as Brendan Rodgers would like for his preferred style of play, but the young American is going to wind up in Europe in the next two years and Liverpool would do well to talk to LA about him. Ashley Williams is the most likely given Rodgers’ propensity towards choosing former players of his; although the price tag for Williams will be steep. Hector Moreno is another up and coming star out La Liga’s Espanyol. Much more technically gifted, but less imposing, than Gonzalez, Moreno is a good distributor out of the back who would thrive in Rodgers’ system.

2. A Winger To Bump Stewart Downing

If it’s not clear by now, I’m not a fan of Stewart Downing, especially as a starting winger in Rodgers’ 4-3-3 formation. Raheem Sterling still needs another year to mature and Oussama Assaidi continues to be ignored. Suso is still too young as well.

Ideally this would be someone left footed, but the key is that they have speed and get technical ability to create on their own out wide to free up space for Luis Suarez to make runs.

Top Prospects: Clint Dempsey (Tottenham-EPL), Nico Gaitan (Benfica-Primeira Liga), Zoran Tosic (CSKA Moscow-Russia)

Rumor has it Dempsey could already be on his way out of White Hart Lane after one season. If that’s the case, Liverpool would be downright stupid to let him get away a second time. Benfica’s Nico Gaitan is an excellent left sided winger who is currently being chased by Manchester United and Bayer Leverkusen. He’s got the technical ability to fit right in from Day 1. Zoran Tosic has gone on the record saying he regrets asking out of Manchester United and what better way to get him back into the Premier League than by bringing him to Anfield. He’s got a wicked left footed free kick and has the dribbling ability to free up lanes for Suarez to run wild down the middle.

3. A Striker Capable Of Replacing Luis Suarez

If Luis Suarez departs this summer and Andy Carroll winds up at Upton Park, then suddenly we’re looking at just Daniel Sturridge and Fabio Borini. If Suarez stays, he’s still missing almost a quarter of the season due to his bone headed decision to take a bite out Branislav Ivanovic. Either way, Liverpool need a clinical striker waiting in the wings.

Top Prospects: Jackson Martinez (FC Porto-Primeira Liga), Edinson Cavani (Napoli-Serie A), Stevan Jovetic (Fiorentina-Serie A)

These are all very expensive prospects, so selling Luis Suarez would go a long way towards bringing one of them in. Jackson is a good tactical fit as a lone striker in a 4-3-3. Edinson Cavani is the most clinical finisher on the market and Jovetic might have the best individual skill set for this system.

End Of Term Grades: Forwards

 Posted by on May 16, 2013 at 10:37 pm  Blogs/Media, England, EPL, Liverpool
May 162013

For those of you who haven’t been following along so far, I’m grading the 2012-13 campaign for individual Liverpool players using the O.W.L. rating scale from Harry Potter.

Here’s a quicker refresher…


O = Outstanding

E= Exceeds Expectations

A = Acceptable


P = Poor

D = Dreadful

T = Troll


Let’s get going!

Luis Suarez: O (Outstanding)

This one is pretty obvious.

Putting aside his extreme case of the munchies against Chelsea, the Uruguayan striker had a phenomenal season practically carrying Liverpool on his back throughout the season. He finished in the top five in terms of league goals and continued to show that he may just be the third best player in the world behind Messi and Ronaldo. He did struggle against better competition, but more than made up for it with his performances against the lower half.

The important people continue to say he’s not going anywhere, but we can’t help but wonder if he isn’t becoming more trouble than he’s worth. This won’t isn’t about to play itself anytime soon.

Daniel Sturridge: E (Exceeds Expectations)

Sturridge was pretty much on his last stop when he came to Anfield from Chelsea in January after washing out with Manchester City. Infamous for a piss poor attitude and a very selfish, “me first” game on the field, Sturridge has turned out to be a wonderful addition. In half a season he managed to score 10 goals and will be expected to fill the void up top whether Suarez returns next season or not.

I’m still not 100% convinced he’s a good fit for what Brendan Rodgers wants to accomplish, but there’s no denying he has revitalized his career at Anfield.

Fabio Borini: A (Acceptable)

Borini missed a decent number of games in his first season at Anfield, but he has shown a bit of a nose for goal and he’s still very young with lots of playing time ahead of him. Rodgers loves former players of his so expect to see the young Italian  a lot more next season, perhaps with an increase in responsibility if Suarez and/or Andy Carroll depart permanently.

Oussama Assaidi: P (Poor)

The Moroccan winger also saw little playing time with the first team in his first season at Anfield. He has shown flashes of the skill needed to play under Brendan Rodgers, but he did not capitalize on his chances to impress nearly as much as Fabio Borini; especially in terms of goal production. We’ll see if he can break out and snatch a more favorable role from his biggest positional competition, Stewart Downing.

Raheem Sterling: A (Acceptable)

He seemed poised for a massive break out in the first half of the season, but his form and playing time tapered off as the season wore on. He still has some growing up to do, but he’s got some time to do so and if he continues to develop properly, he can be a major contributor in a few years.