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Mar 042013

Sing it with me…

You’re the beeest arooounnddd

Nothing’s gonna ever keep ya down!

Doesn’t that feel great?! It certainly felt a lot better than Liverpool’s “routine” 3-0 victory over Wigan over the weekend. The reds controlled the match from the start and left little doubt about the result. The second goal in particular stands out as newcomer Philippe Coutinho calmly collected the ball and played a beautiful through ball to Luis Suarez, who did what he does best and put the ball in the back of the net.

Suarez now has 21 league goals scored, putting himself two ahead of Manchester United’s Robin Van Persie and the ever impressive Keebler Elf Gareth Bale. This stat alone is merit enough for the Uruguayan to be named Player Of The Year. But consider the situation Liverpool was in back in September. They looked foolish in their failed attempt to sign Clint Dempsey after letting Andy Carroll go on loan. Shortly thereafter, Fabio Borini went down with a long term injury and suddenly it was Luis Suarez and…no one else.

Fast forward to today and you’ll find Liverpool in seventh place in the table. They are third in the league in scoring. None of this would be possible without Luis Suarez. And if you think about it, how many other players currently in the EPL are capable of carrying a team on their back the way he has. The previously mentioned Van Persie and Bale are surrounded by more than enough talent.

This is what makes Suarez’s 2012-13 season so remarkable. He has not had world class talent around him. Not that he needs it though. Suarez might be second only to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in terms of individual skill. Whenever the ball arrives at his feet, you know for a fact he is firmly in control of it. It does not move unless he commands it. He creates goals with little to no service from his teammates; which is appropriate considering the best passer out of the midfield right now is a 20 year old Brazilian from Inter.

Time will tell if the Uruguayan forward will move on to the likes of Juventus or Bayern Munich (to name a few) this summer. He’s certainly capable of a massive raise the way he has carried Liverpool from the depths of mediocrity. He becomes even more valuable when you consider the latest news about Liverpool’s debt piling up. They may have no choice but to take market value for their prized goal scorer.

But in the meantime, whether you love him or hate him, let’s all stop and celebrate everything he has accomplished so far this season.

He’s the best around.


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

Riding The Roller Coaster

 Posted by on February 19, 2013 at 9:33 pm  Blogs/Media, England, EPL, Liverpool
Feb 192013

Consistently inconsistent.

It’s something you hear a lot of in sports. Sometimes it’s just members of the media and people like me who have too much time on their hands and not enough things to write. But in the case of Liverpool’s 2012-13 season it’s pretty darn accurate.

Saturday’s 5-0 win over Swansea was just their second over a team in the top half of the table this season. It also came on the heels of a 2-0 defeat to Zenit Saint Petersburg in Russia in the first leg of their Round of 32 Europa League match. Luis Suarez (who had another fantastic performance Sunday) went into Sunday having scored 13 of his league goals against clubs in the bottom half and just four against those who reside in the top half. Manager Brendan Rodgers seems to be doing the exact opposite of Kenny Dalglish last season. The latter’s team struggled against the bottom dwellers and thrived against the top while the former continues to beat up said dwellers and struggled against his toughest competition. It’s a testament to their two styles really. Dalglish was all about motivating his players properly but had no sense of tactics while Brendan Rodgers is on the brink of a significant culture shift at Anfield in terms of his tactics, but fails to get the best of his players in the most crucial of matches.

You could even extend the analogy to a fringe player like Jose Enrique. The Spanish left back scored on Sunday, but has been wildly inconsistent this season and has led some to believe he needs replacing. Daniel Sturridge got off to a hot start but has since cooled. Philippe Coutinho scored a clever goal in his first league start, but obviously more time will be needed to evaluate him.

And with all of that being said, Liverpool STILL find themselves just nine points away from a Top 4 finish. Hell, even in the Europa League group stage their results were inconsistent and they managed to advance on a tiebreaker. It’s absolutely maddening trying to figure out if they are any good. And we probably won’t for the rest of the season. If they make a run and finish Top 4, we’ll all say they’re not THAT good and if they stumble and finish 8th or 9th we’ll scratch our heads and wonder how they wound up there.

So don’t expect to find out any more about this team for the rest of the season. And if you think you know one way or the other…just know that you’re wrong.


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

Jan 312013

A lot has been made about Liverpool’s newest signing, Philippe Coutinho, selecting the No.10 jersey.

The young Brazilian playmaker is the closest thing the Reds have had to a true “No.10″ in their ranks. Although he’s only 20 years of age and has yet to prove himself on a big stage, Coutinho is exactly the sort of player who can provide a spark to Liverpool’s attack.

With Steven Gerrard biding his time until retirement, Liverpool have been searching for a new midfielder who can pull the strings up top. Luis Suarez has had to resort to feats of incredible skill and majesty to carry Liverpool’s offense. Coutinho can make his life a lot easier and he’s also the perfect fit for Brendan Rodgers’ long term vision.

But before we go praising the youngster, let’s not forget a few things. First and foremost, Wednesday’s match against Arsenal showed us that Liverpool’s greatest need is in fact a world class defender, whether it’s on the left side of the back line or somewhere in the middle. Jose Enrique isn’t terrible, but he doesn’t always inspire confidence either. Andre Wisdom is not a natural fullback and even the once reliable combination of Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel seems capable of faltering at any moment. And speaking of Arsenal, they seem to have snatched up the best left back available in Malaga’s Nacho Monreal.

With Coutinho’s signing and Jordan Henderson’s rise in form, we can bypass the midfield and go straight to the top. While Luis Suarez is going to benefit greatly from Coutinho’s signing, he is also Liverpool’s second greatest concern. Bayern Munich’s new manager Pep Guardiola reportedly has a strong desire to sign Suarez this summer, to the tune of 30-40 million Euros. And it’s not just the price tag that Suarez will find appealing. Mario Gomez is inconsistent and Mario Mandzuckic has underwhelmed since arriving in Munich after a solid Euro 2012 outing. Suarez is the perfect compliment to Bayern’s stacked midfield. Guardiola would give him license to roam freely and feed off the service of guys like Toni Kroos, Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, and Tomas Muller.

Liverpool supporters should prepare themselves for the very real possibility that their only goal scoring threat could be gone in six months.

Yes, Daniel Sturridge is waiting in the wings but without Suarez to push him you worry he become too complacent. Sturridge’s biggest issue has always been his attitude and his second biggest issue is his selfish tendencies when he has the ball within 20 yards of goal. Even if Coutinho turns out to be the next Kaka, the idea of Sturridge being the No.1 striker is less than thrilling. Of course, if Suarez does in fact depart, there will be plenty of cash on hand to splash on another world class goalscorer if John Henry and Co. can be smart.

Hopefully we’ll get a good look at Coutinho in Sunday’s match against Manchester City. A win would allow Liverpool fans to hold onto hope and dream of a Top 4 finish. Just take a look at the remaining schedule. But said fans must also remain guarded. A new “No.10″ is nothing without someone to finish everything off.

Identity Crisis

 Posted by on January 24, 2013 at 8:54 pm  Blogs/Media, England, EPL, Liverpool
Jan 242013

It’s not a pun, but it still feels good to write a cliche headline again.

So last week it was announced Pep Guardiola will take over as Bayern Munich’s new manager this summer. Several days later the rumors started to fly that Luis Suarez was high on the former Barcelona manager’s wishlist.

Suarez has never complained publicly about much of anything during his time at Anfield. Despite his unsavory (and not entirely undeserved) reputation, the Uruguayan forward has always worked hard and produced goals regularly for a club so desperately in need of offense on a regular basis. Even the most stubborn of haters can’t deny that Suarez is currently one of the world’s finest players. There’s no reason to think he’s unhappy with Liverpool.

But it’s hard to tune out completely when you hear talk of a transfer fee upward of 40 million.

No one can definitively say right that whether or not Pep wants Suarez with him at Bayern to the extent that he’d pay 40 million of any currency. But if that is the case and such an offer were to come through, Liverpool would be foolish not to at least listen. The mere thought of things playing out like that has led me to wonder just how far Liverpool’s stature in the international community has fallen. They’ve seen numerous world class players depart over the last few years for places like Barcelona (Javier Mascherano), Real Madrid (Xabi Alonso), and Chelsea (Fernando Torres). Steven Gerrard is the last remnant of the group that captured our hearts in Istanbul in 2005.

But Gerrard is growing old and weary. Luis Suarez has become the only other truly world class player to populate this new Liverpool squad trying to form a new identity under Brendan Rodgers. That identity is starting to take shape on the field. But what about off of it? Are Liverpool still one of the premier destinations in Europe? Or are they falling by the wayside? The answer will reveal itself if Bayern come calling for Suarez this summer.

It’s somewhat appropriate timing for such a question given the latest deals completed in the last week or so. Swansea City locked up their diamond-in-the-rough strike Michu to a new four year contract. Newcastle United continue to pillage the youth ranks in France. Queens Park Rangers are trying to spend their way out of relegation with the purchase of Loic Remy. Tottenham have snatched up Germany U-21 captain Lewis Holtby, who will join Spurs in the summer. Most recently we’ve seen Southampton defeat Liverpool head-to-head for the services of Vegard Forren and the Saints are reportedly about to outbid the Reds for Inter Milan maestro Philippe Coutinho. Oh, and I’m just now mentioning the Clint Dempsey fiasco.

If Suarez is sold this summer, is anyone convinced about the remaining talent at Liverpool going forward? Do we trust in Daniel Sturridge, Jonjo Shelvey, Jordan Henderson, and Fabio Borini to lead the charge back to European glory? I, for one, do not. If the goal is to ultimately get back to competing in the Champions League, then Suarez’s departure would make that task seem almost impossible.  I’m not convinced Brendan Rodgers and John Henry’s Fenway Sports Group can come together and spend a significant transfer fee properly. I’m still not convinced Sturridge is worth 12 million pounds and he definitely can’t be the one who takes the torch from Gerrard.

But at this point everything is just speculation. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Suarez will stay and continue to try and carry this new Liverpool squad back to European competition. If does go, however, expect Liverpool to take a huge step back in terms of quality on the field and stature off it. A step so large, they may never be able to recover from it.


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


Nov 192012

“Watch the basin drain
As your life lines wane
And you can’t explain
As your friends complain”

(More lyrics:

This week’s song selection is appropriate because it’s actually a very upbeat, catchy tune with some pretty sinister lyrics.

Liverpool soundly defeated Wigan 3-0 on Saturday thanks to goals from their two best players (at the moment): Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling. Jose Enrique added one as well to (momentarily) shake off those supporters who had been unhappy with his inconsistent play this season. Suarez and Sterling, however, are really the two we should be focusing on for the sake of this post.

Two very interesting stories went public in the days leading up to Saturday’s match. The first involved a rumor that Manchester City are supposedly prepared to pay 100 million pounds for the services of Luis Suarez. Suarez has almost single handedly saved Liverpool from a certain relegation battle this season. He has been involved in just about every goal the Reds score these days. You can understand why the number is so high.

But that’s not what makes this so intriguing. The second story that came out this week probably went unnoticed by many English supporters of Liverpool. The General Manager of the Boston Red Sox, the American baseball team owned by John Henry and Fenway Sports Group, announced that his team would be big spenders in free agency (America’s “transfer window”) this winter.

How very curious that these two stories should come out this week. Now it should be noted that Manchester City were tight lipped about the rumors and Brendan Rodgers has stated Suarez is going nowhere. But these two stories beg the question as to whether or not Liverpool’s current owners will sacrifice January transfer funds in order to beef up the squad for their other team. Brendan Rodgers has already declared a desire to spend once the mid-season transfer window opens up. This also begs the question of what Liverpool should do with Raheem Sterling; a question I attempted to answer several weeks ago.

The teenage winger has already been rumored to have turned a new contract from his current club. There’s really no basis to said rumors, but it does make one wonder just how long Sterling will remain with Liverpool. The month of January will tell us a lot about where Liverpool Football Club is headed under its new owners. If they’re not going to spend big, they’re going to need to continue to rely upon youngsters from their lower ranks. But what happens when if said youngsters, like Sterling, have a desire to leave Liverpool for greener pastures; pun intended. Fenway Sports Group cannot have another summer like the one they had in 2012. At some point they will need to invest a significant amount of money, whether it is in transfer funds or the youth system.

Here’s hoping John Henry and Co. pay a little more attention to their “other investment” in 2013…


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

Nov 122012

There’s a song for every occasion. So what sounds good this week?

“Float On”-Modest Mouse

“Alright don’t worry even if things end up a bit too heavy, we’ll all float on”

I know, I know: how could I debut a new segment involving music and not have YNWA as my first selection? Let me explain…

Liverpool looked dead in the water at halftime of their Sunday match with Chelsea. John Terry had exposed some set piece defending flaws when he broke free and nodded home a corner kick to give the Blues a 1-0 lead. Shortly thereafter, Terry left with a pretty serious knee injury but his side continued to dominate the match in just about all meaningful stats. Liverpool had no business taking a point from this one.

But then Suso came on for Nuri Sahin in the 60th minute and the Reds started to pick themselves up off the mat. After some decent spells of possession Andre Wisdom won a corner and the subsequent kick glanced off Jamie Carragher’s neck towards Luis Suarez who nodded home his own headed goal to level the score.

Out of darkness came light! A team that looked like it was sleepwalking in the first half stole a point on the road against the defending champions of Europe and the Premier League’s best side so far this season. In fact, the performance of Jose Enrique seemed to personify the team’s play as a whole. The Spanish left back was constantly giving the ball away in the first half. But he came out in the second half and made each and every one of his touches/passes/shots count. He got forward more and started thinking a bit more boldly on the attack.

The result really could not have come at a better time for Liverpool either. Sitting at 13th with just two wins on the season as of November 11, the Reds appeared to be headed for a legitimate relegation battle. But Brendan Rodgers got the team fired up at halftime and his 60th minute substitution seemed to provide a huge lift to the team, for whatever reason.

I’ve been a huge critic of the this team all season long. I still feel like relegation wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for this club. But for the final 60 minutes of this match I suddenly found hope once more. Hope that perhaps this team can still contend for a Top 8 spot and possibly another Europa League Berth. While that’s a long way from respectability (as far as I’m concerned), it”s a huge step forward given how thin the roster currently is. And next up is lowly Wigan Athletic; a tremendous opportunity to build on the momentum from Sunday’s final 30 minutes.

So go on and float on you Reds! Even though things are looking tough right now, it seems you just might be alright in the end.


“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

Oct 092012

Stop me if this sounds familiar: Liverpool struggled to break down Stoke City’s defense. Want another one? Stop me if this sounds familiar: Luis Suarez tried (and failed miserably) to draw a penalty in the box.

Let’s start with the first one. It’s not exactly breaking news that Stoke City are tough to score against. They live up to their reputation as a team that would rather wrestle or play rugby than pass a ball around. It’s also no secret that Liverpool’s biggest issue right now is scoring. So it should come as no surprise that the Reds failed to produce a goal against the Potters over the weekend. If you’re of a certain mindset you also noticed that, once again, a handful of Liverpool shots managed to strike the woodwork. Many will curse the football gods for such poor luck. I see it as poor finishing.

There’s really not much to tell with this one. The match was everything we expected. Stoke came out and held their ground with 10 men behind the ball and roughed up Liverpool’s newfound strategy of trying to pass it into the net.

The moment that had everyone talking afterwards was a hilariously poor effort by Luis Suarez to draw a penalty inside the box. Referee Lee Mason was not impressed, ignored Suarez, and the match went on. Such a simple turn of events and yet people think that the debate over diving is infinitely more complicated. Potters manager Tony Pulis stated afterwards that he believes such an offense should constitute a three match ban.

Suarez is not the first player to try and fool a referee and he won’t be the last. He’s probably not even the best at performing such a “dark art”. But he has a history and a reputation that goes back to what is (in my opinion) a far greater sin: deliberately handling the ball. He’s an easy target, especially if you believe Sergio Aguero’s accusations of foreign bias among England’s top officials. I do tend to agree with him, but that’s another story for another day.

Look, nobody likes it when players dive. But it’s an issue that dates pretty far back in the game’s history. And contrary to a popular opinion, it is NOT an easily solved issue. There is too much grey area, too much subjective-ness for a referee to determine in real time whether or not a player was truly fouled. But when it is as obvious as Suarez made it over the weekend, I think the best way to deal with it is the same way Lee Mason handled it: ignore it and move on to keep up with the run of play. If a player has reputation like Suarez’s, then everything balances itself out when the player in question is truly fouled and doesn’t receive the call. He hasn’t earned the benefit of the doubt and thus has been punished for his acting. Why did we have to pursue further punishment. I love this sport BECAUSE it’s so subjective. It’s problems (well some anyways) cannot be solved with technology. It’s athlete vs. athlete and may the best man win.

So the next time a player blatantly tries to deceive the referee, go ahead and complain at your own risk. I’ll be watching the counterattack that just developed as a result of the no call.


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

One Man Band

 Posted by on October 4, 2012 at 7:57 pm  Blogs/Media, England, EPL, Liverpool
Oct 042012

Reason No. 4,506,326 for why I love soccer (football): No one player makes or breaks a team’s fortunes.

Now I realize this contradicts the very title of the post, but please humor me for a moment.

In order for a team to succeed, all 11 players on the pitch have to be in sync with one another. It’s almost impossible for an individual to try and dribble past an entire opposing team and score to give his team the win. It doesn’t happen. Yes, a Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo might have the talent to beat three or four, but he still has to receive the ball from his teammates at some point. And he needs to defend while he’s off marauding for goals as well. Individuals are often touted more than the club they represent but this is foolish and most of us know better than to get sucked into the hype.

This brings me to the case of Liverpool and Luis Suarez.

The Uruguayan forward has become one of the most polarizing figures in England’s top flight for a variety of reasons; both good and bad. He’s incredibly talented and has a tendency to score the more difficult goals. He is one of those rare forwards capable of beating three or four defenders by himself and scoring. But he’s also the poster child for unsportsmanlike behavior. A little over a year ago I wrote about how I hated Suarez for his handball at the World Cup in 2010. He knowingly and willingly violated the single most important rule of the sport. And he did not have to suffer for it as it ultimately preserved the lead and allowed his side to advance to the semi-finals. He’s brought that underhandedness with him to England. Last season he served an eight match ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra. He then made matters worse by refusing to shake Evra’s hand at the second fixture between Liverpool and Manchester United. Now he has his coaches and teammates rushing to his defense because he is not being rewarded with penalty kicks when he actually does beat his man inside the box and earn a legitimate foul.

There’s something…poetic?… about a player so talented, yet controversial starring for a club steeped in tradition. A club that calls a blue collar, hard nosed town its home, Liverpool have a proud history of carrying the aura of its home city onto the pitch at Anfield with them. The Reds have fallen on hard times since then. A host of great players have recently left Liverpool, resulting in a very bare cupboard for new manager Brendan Rodgers. There is one bright (pun partially intended) spot for Liverpool though: Suarez. Suarez is constantly being relied upon to deliver goals for a club that has dire need of them. Last weekend the Reds rode Suarez’s hat trick to an away victory against Norwich; a club that frustrated Liverpool to no end last season. Today Liverpool found itself trailing Udinese 3-1 in its Europa League match and had to call Suarez off the bench in order to attempt to mount a comeback. He got one back for the home side, but ultimately the Italians came out on top.

The best efforts  of one man were all for not because the defense behind him was not up to the task. One man can do a lot for a club, but he cannot do everything. Liverpool would do well to remember this and keep Suarez in mind as they continue to try and build a new powerhouse from the ground up. Would I rather have a Robin van Persie or Wayne Rooney or even Cristiano Ronaldo? Absolutely. I still detest Suarez for his antics.

But right now Liverpool have no other choice. It’s Luis Suarez…or bust.


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