Archive for October, 2011
On Saturday we saw a fine Liverpool away performance with the outclassing of WBA in a 2-0 stroll for the Reds.
But most importantly we won without Steven Gerrard or Jamie Carragher in the squad, and maybe that could just be the start of a team at the beginning of evolution and a team that has grasped the reality that Liverpool will be without Gerrard & Carragher more and more.
For years Liverpool have excessively relied on their two finest players and given the duo’s appetite for the club and the game it’s almost short of a miracle that either one of have not had to retired already.
Steven Gerrard trains and plays the game the only way he knows how and that’s at 100mph while Carragher’s fitness levels are so impressive it’s simply stuff of legends.
But time and evolution is friendless and holds no sentiment for anyone, Carragher has been losing pace over the last two seasons and mistakes have started to creep into his game while Gerrard has unfortunately started to become injury prone through bad luck and age.
This does not mean that both players are finished as that would be a ridicules statement or judgment for anyone to imply but as a team Liverpool need to start making preparations for the replacement of both players.
Steven Gerrard in particular is a concern purely because of the type of player he is and the extra dimension he brings to the team but where would you even begin to start looking for another Gerrard, Jamie Carragher on the other hand is replaceable and will be replaced.
We all know what a great servant to Liverpool Jamie has been and all the loyalty he has given the club but Liverpool’s permanent place among the top four and Champions League ambitions do not include Carragher, and to some extent Gerrard comes into the same bracket.
Dalglish has already started looking at replacements for Carragher but also needs to discuss the continuing problems with Daniel Agger with the owners which means Kenny must cover both defenders positions, the capture of Coates is a good start and all the early indications are that the Uruguayan will become a fantastic buy.
Kenny Dalglish faces a challenge to replace Gerrard simply because he is such a fantastic player and with abilities that simply are not available at present, the only fortunate side of this situation for Dalglish is that he has time to find the player he wants to replace Steven with.
Carragher has at least one more season in him but I feel it wont be as a regular and Gerrard has about two to three seasons at most, so does Dalglish go out and spend a large amount of funds on a replacement for Steven in the next year or run the risk of being without Gerrard and not having a world-class replacement?.
Both players are loved by all of us and are legends within Liverpool Football Club but we have to learn to win without them just as we did on Saturday, we need to be competitive and that means finding replacements for star players.
We are heading in the right direction in terms of squad quality but it is paramount that Dalglish adds another class defender and a world-class central midfielder either in the January transfer window or next summers one.
If Liverpool are to capture a top four place in the Premier League on a regular basis we have to learn to beat teams when our star players are not available, the way we controlled the game on Saturday was refreshing and one of surprise due to the early news that Gerrard was not going to feature.
Liverpool would have taken nothing from this type of game if Gerrard and Carragher would have been missing in the past, which is why Saturday’s performance was special for me, it showed we can compete and work as a team even when your captain and defensive rock are missing, did we or could we have shown that sort of fight under Benitez or Hodgson I think not.
It may surprise some people to hear that prior to the West Brom game, with just one exception, Andy Carroll has been on the pitch every time Luis Suarez has scored this season. Another remarkable stat is that they have only started 10 games together in 10 months. Their time together on the pitch has therefore been both fruitful and brief.
A lot of people have a misunderstanding about Carroll’s role for Liverpool. Many assume that he plays further forward than Suarez, like a classic No.9, waiting in the box for a cross to put his head on. In reality, however, Carroll is more deep-lying. This role is well suited to Carroll’s attributes: tall, powerful and awkward. Put simply, he is a nuisance to the opposition defenders. When Carroll takes up this deep position he forces defenders to make decisions, dragging them out of their comfort zone and creating the space for Suarez and the supporting midfielders to exploit.
A comparison of the heat maps for Suarez and Carroll during the West Brom game shows clearly the different positions they take up during a game:
Carroll spent 36% of the game in and around the centre circle, and 26% of the game down the left flank. Two thirds of the game spent outside of the danger zone, being a nuisance. Suarez was more advanced, spending 50% of his time roaming around the right hand edge of the box, dragging one defender right whilst Carroll dragged the other left. This is highlighted from the heat maps of Olsson and McAuley, the West Brom central defenders:
Carroll’s goal on the stroke at half time was a by-product of a stretched, and out of position, West Brom defence. A goal down and chasing the game, West Brom came forward, with Olsson playing the ball forward from midfield and McAuley at least 15 yards out of position:
When the West Brom move breaks down, Lucas plays a sublime one touch pass to Suarez. Importantly, Suarez moves from his position near the centre circle to a position closer to the touch line:
This movement from Suarez takes full advantage of the poor positional play from McAuley, leaving Olsson in no man’s land between the two strikers. The inch perfect pass from Suarez, combined with Carroll’s intelligent movement away from Olsson towards the edge of the area, left Carroll all the time in the world to slot home Liverpool’s second:
There is no doubt that McAuley’s poor positional play left a lot of space for the strikers to exploit. However, given the recent criticism about Liverpool’s ability to convert chances, it was a huge relief to see such clinical execution.
Carroll and Suarez were responsible for 11 out of Liverpool’s 16 shots during the game. Against Norwich, with Carroll on the bench, Suarez had by far most shots in the team. Against West Brom, Carroll had 7 shots on goal, almost double Suarez’s total. This clearly shows a sharing of the striking responsibility, in contrast to the game against Norwich where Suarez was a lone ranger. Carroll’s 7 shots are even more impressive when you revisit the stat from earlier: he spent two thirds of the game outside of the danger zone, making a nuisance of himself.
West Brom never really got started as an attacking threat during the game. Again, Suarez and Carroll can take a great deal of credit for this. They are both excellent at defending from the front, harrying defenders and stopping moves before they start. Of the 86 possession duels contested on the pitch, Liverpool’s two attackers were involved in 35 of them (Suarez 12 Carroll 23). To put these numbers into context, Lucas was only involved in 10 possession duels in the entire game. As ever, Carroll was a menace in the air, competing in 18 out of Liverpool’s 29 Aerial Duals. All in all, Carroll’s contribution against West Brom was fantastic and he got the goal his display deserved.
The stats from the West Brom game point to a partnership developing between Liverpool’s two strikers which promises to blossom into the deadliest in the league. Suarez and Carroll have complimentary styles which, on paper, have always looked compatible. One thing they have not had, as of yet, is a run of games together. The performance against West Brom strongly suggests that they are going to be seeing a lot more of each other as the season progresses.
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written by Jamie McLaughlin website at www.anfieldnews.com
What a difference Kenny has made since his return back in January, it has been quite remarkable the transformation of the club’s fortunes. With superb backing from the new owners who gave Kenny the much needed finances to rebuild the threadbare squad, things at this great club are starting to go in the right direction.
No promises or shouting from the roof tops about Liverpool going to win this or win that or sign him or build a new stadium tomorrow. Everyone at Liverpool is pulling in the same direction and singing of the same hymn sheet, it is just like the good old days, when Liverpool went quietly about their business, collecting scores of silverware in the process.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and nobody at the club is promising instant success, and the supporters understand this as well. If success does come then this season then the club will just take it in their stride and not blow their trumpet about it like other clubs do. There is a great sense of purpose and sense of daily improvement at the club from on the park to the hierarchy.
Kenny brought in a lot of new faces in the summer and in my opinion this was needed as too many youngsters were asked to step up to the plate last season, maybe a bit too soon, although in no way did they look out of place as Liverpool have some great talent flourishing in the youth teams. But to ask youngsters to play week in week out at the highest level is a very big ask, so Kenny went out and brought some talented individuals in with great experience with the likes of Adam, Downing and Bellamy.
The squad now has quality in every position with competition for places in every position which is very important. Reina has Doni as back up and I saw him at Ibrox the other week and he looked very good. At right back we have Johnson, Kelly, Flanagan and Carragher who can all play there. On the left there is the impressive Enrique, Glen Johnson, Agger, Aurelio and young Jack Robinson who is a tremendous prospect. In the centre of defence we have Carragher, Skrtel, Agger, Wilson, Coates and we also have the option of Martin Kelly to play there also. On the left side of midfield we have Downing, Bellamy, Aurelio and Maxi who has been unlucky to miss out in so many matches this season. On theright side we have Henderson, Kuyt, Johnson and Downing and Gerrard can also be used there. The centre of midfield is very strong too with Lucas, Adam, Gerrard, Spearing and Henderson another option for the middle. Up front we have Suarez, Carroll, Kuyt, Bellamy and Gerrard can also be used higher up the park. So personally I am very pleased with the squad we have as we look to challenge for trophies and at least a top four place.
But what I like best about Liverpool over recent months is our style of play, we are now playing a far more attacking style of play compared to our defensive style that we have played over far too many years for my liking. Yes we have been losing more goals than we are used to and so far we have not scored near as many goals as we should have, but the amount of chances we are creating is superb and the goals will come. The football we are now watching is similar to the style of play Kenny had his team playing in his first stint as manager. The passion and work rate of the players is much better to see and the players look as if they are enjoying there football.
The new signings including the much maligned Andy Carroll are starting to gel and they will all be important players for us this season and for the future. So I am very pleased with the progress we have made over recent months and I think we will at least finish in the top four this season, with hopefully a trophy in the cabinet too. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season with continuation of the Liverpool Way.
I often am one of the first, if not the only, to spank the Reds on their ass when they churn out a performance which I feel is way below their standards. Frequently, my reality checks stimulate condescending comments such as ‘We are still works in progress’, or ‘Give Kenny some time’, or better still, ‘The team is only beginning to gel’. The best ones are ‘Go support someone else!’ Objectively all reasonable reactions (minus the latter one which is the epitome of stupidity), but is this the same perspective with which Henry, Warner, Comolli, Kenny and all our players view this season?
I feel that the plan was, and still is, a quick return to Champions League football. That is priority number one! The Club wants it, the owners demand it, the manager believes in it and the players crave for it! We have witnessed that the Club is finally giving the domestic cups their due importance and respect, and even though we played Stoke the other day with 8 changes from the previous game, the starting line-up was jam packed with quality players and the performance reflected this quality in depth, playing a full strength Stoke team at the Britannia which is renowned to be a difficult hurdle for any visiting team.
So let’s not beat around the bush. Those that believe the Club is not targeting this goal are either living in a parallel world or else have their computations completely wrong. Competing in Champions League football has a multiple ripple effects that all point towards positivity: top tier of European football, substantial financial benefits, brand exposure leading to stronger sponsorship deals, helps keeping your best players from wanting to go elsewhere, and helps you attract quality star players to the Club. Indirectly (so to speak), the same target helps you remain within striking distance of landing the Premier League title, unless of course the team leading the pack is flying at unreachable heights.
Those who believe that Henry & Co put in the money they have (and I am not referring to the purchase of the Club) just for the Reds to finish ‘a bit better than last year’ think again, because you are mistaken. The money has been provided and the team has been radically overhauled. The players that did not ‘sell’ but either did not want to stay (see Aquilani), or were not part of the plans (see Cole) were sent out on loan for three reasons: the first not to remain a heavy burden to carry, the second to keep their careers and their value on track, and the third to have them half-way away from a guaranteed commercially viable sale.
There was good turnover of money which resulted in some good business for the Club. Seven new players coming in and almost double that moving out is, in effect, an overhaul! New owners, new management and a squad with depth are the foundations on which success is built, and not one, not least us passionate supporters, will be happy with finishing one spot better than last year!
We need to be bold and brave, and we need to be consistent. We need to remain humble but we also need to foster ambition. We ‘avoided’ Europa League this season to concentrate starting with a fresh slate. Let’s make the most of it, because if the PL title may not be within our sights, Champions League football and the domestic cups most certainly are!
And, lest we forget, the January transfer window is only 60 days away, and yes, there might be a couple of pleasant surprises around the corner……!
written by Jamie McLaughlin website at www.anfieldnews.com
Liverpool travelled to the Hawthorns on the back of a great midweek win at Stoke in the Carling Cup, but Liverpool were hoping to get back to winning ways in the League after two draws in their last two league matches. West Brom were going into the match with some decent form too and on the back of a great win over their local rivals last weekend. Liverpool lost at the Hawthorns in this fixture last season soon after former Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson had taken charge, so Liverpool were hoping for a better result this time around as they try to keep in touch of a top four place.
The big team news regarding Liverpool was the absence of Gerrard and Carragher who had injuries, but better news for the travelling support was the news that Suarez was starting after shaking off a knock from Wednesday night. Glen Johnson came back into the side at right back with Enrique coming back into the side at left back, Agger partnered Skrtel in the middle of defence. The midfield saw Downing start on the left with Henderson on the right and Lucas partner Charlie Adam in the middle. Andy Carroll got another start up front alongside the form man, Suarez.
Liverpool went on the offensive from the first whistle with Enrique splitting the home defence with a raking pass, but for once Suarez failed to control the ball when clean through. Moments later Suarez teed up Adam but his effort went well over.
Liverpool were asking all the questions and they took the lead in the 9th minute after Suarez was impeded in the box by Jerome Thomas, but the penalty was only given after referee Lee Mason noticed his assistant’s flag. The West Brom players protested the decision, but Charlie Adam kept his nerve to send Foster the wrong way from the spot and give the visitors a deserved lead.
Liverpool continued to press after taking the lead and were continuing to create chances and they thought they had won another penalty after a Carroll header struck the arm of a West Brom defender. Suarez seemed to be involved in everything and most of the chances were falling to the striker, but his luck in front of goal was deserting him, his best chance came when Skrtel teed up 6 yards out but his effort went high over the bar.
West Brom were not giving the Liverpool defence much trouble in the first half although Scharner saw his long-range effort well blocked by Skrtel. Liverpool scored a second on the stroke of half-time when a superb first time pass by Suarez sent Carroll clear, the big striker stabbed a low shot beyond the advancing Foster and into the net. The 2-0 score line was well deserved by the visitors.
West Brom almost pulled a goal back right at the start of the second half but Tchoyl saw his low shot just miss Reina’s far post. The home side were starting to have more possession as they tried to get back into the game but Liverpool were dangerous on the break and continued to create chances. Suarez had a few efforts on goal and he eventually saw an effort end up in the net only to be flagged offside.
Enrique saw a brilliant effort spectacularly saved by Foster as it looked like he would score his first goal for his new club. Andy Carroll had a stinging shot well saved by Foster as Carroll and Suarez showed glimpses of a blossoming partnership.
West Brom continued to press for a goal but they never really threatened Reina’s goal and Liverpool almost got the icing on the cake when Downing smashed a shot in injury time off Foster’s near post, but it was a very good performance from Liverpool and got them back to winning ways in the league.
I thought this could be a tricky fixture for Liverpool especially with Carragher and Gerrard absent. But I do believe we have strength in depth now this season and Kenny still managed to field a very strong team. I have to say I expected more from West Brom but you can only beat the team you face and I thought Liverpool totally dominated the match. Reina was virtually redundant as Liverpool dictated the play away from home. This time last year we feared every away game but credit to Kenny and his coaching staff he has Liverpool taking the game to his opponents away from home, especially with sticking two up front. Stonewall penalty kick and the ref should have gave it himself with no need of help from his assistant. Great to see Carroll score and this could be the making of him, with glimpses of an understanding with Suarez in this match. Impressed with Lucas again in the middle of the park complimenting Adam and Enrique is superb at left back, but Suarez is unbelievable and is so important to Liverpool right now. Overall it was a great professional performance from Liverpool away from home.
Man Of The Match – Suarez- just for a change, well its getting so obvious now isn’t it, another superb game, amazing how he failed to score.
Unfortunately the worst fear came true and Stevie G could be out for two months more…
(Feel really bad for him)
Scharner accuses Suarez of diving more…
Daniel Agger is happy with the shut out more…
(Yes, nice to start seeing those cleansheets again)
Stevie might not feature in the England friendlies more…
(He should be rested, we need him for Chelsea)
Alan Hansen makes £40,000 for each MOTD appearance more…
(Hey that is not bad)
On Twitter @empireofthekop
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