Archive for December, 2012
Here are a couple of great illustrations created by young artist Sam Parry of Steve Gerrard and Luis Suarez. I am sure you all agree that they are amazing.
Follow Sam on Twitter @Doodle_Designs and Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/Doodle.Designs.NW
By Paul Culff
Sunday’s game against QPR has to be labeled a big game! Two weeks ago, we headed into our festive fixtures within touching distance of the top 4 with a run of games that were all winnable. Taking 10-12 points did not seem so impossible against Villa (H), Fulham (H), Stoke (A) and QPR (A). Now we enter the final fixture of 2012 almost being a must win. A loss to QPR, who only have one other win all season against Fulham at Loftus Road (and we all know how awful Fulham are away from home), will certainly have the Brendan Rodgers skeptics out in force. I want to be patient with Rodgers but a loss on Sunday will certainly test that patience. Our consistency is killing any progress we make and his ability to get the players up for game after game must be questioned as we can’t seem to string a few good performances together. I would have expected the boys to be fully up for the Stoke game after the Fulham win but they were far from it.
Let’s talk about team makeup, primarily the midfield, especially as the January window approaches. I don’t think it is any secret that our front line needs reinforcements and hopefully it doesn’t stop with Daniel Sturridge as I’m unsure he has the goals needed in him. But what about the midfield and I include wingers in this conversation? 4 months ago, our midfield seemed stacked with options, even more so that we have seen some of the younger players come through. However I find the midfield to be a questionable area, especially finding the right mix. Just look at the names – Gerrard, Lucas, Sterling, Suso, Shelvey, Henderson, Cole, Assaidi, Sahin, Allen and Downing. This midfield seems to match the way our season has gone. There is promise but no consistency. They blow hot and cold week in week out. We can’t find the right mix or balance. I found the game against Stoke to be frustrating. I thought Shelvey didn’t offer too much and BR continues to persist with him. I have seen Suso show glimpses of being able to pass and move and interchange nicely with Suarez but BR doesn’t persist with him. I was sure we would see more of Sahin over the festive period but he has been rarely included (despite a broken nose and my understanding that he is still available to play) and wasn’t even on the team sheet on Boxing Day. I would love to see Sahin get a run of games. Assaidi now looks set for the African Cup of Nations despite not having played recently for us. In the small game time he has been given, he has at least shown invention, more so than Joe Cole and likewise Stewart Downing. I know Jordan Henderson has his detractors too but surely he needs more game time to prove himself.
I am just struggling to understand the vision of our midfield. BR clearly has his favorites and it worries me if he is satisfied. There are definitely players across the squad that simply warm the bench. These players seem to include Sahin, Assaidi, Coates, Henderson etc. These players surely have promise but must question how the inconsistent Shelvey, Cole and Downing get game time ahead of them. It’s also worrying when our left back (Enrique) gets some games at left midfield and is seemingly able to perform better there than some of the regulars.
Our defense and ability to track back is an issue but that is best saved for another article. My concern is finding the right combinations in midfield and do we have the right balance? During the summer, I felt that our midfield options were stacked and we didn’t need reinforcements. Now I find myself wanting creative midfield reinforcements to provide us with the quality we need. We have players to fill the midfield, but we lack the creativity and quality of a Juan Mata or Santi Cazorla. The trouble is attracting players of that caliber that seek Champions League football but there have to be options out there.
It seems that we have too many options with no solution. I have recently found myself asking, what is the solution in midfield?” I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts.
Honeymoon Over For Rodgers
Liverpool lost again on Boxing Day for their 6th league defeat of the season. It has been a very inconsistent season for the Reds, but everyone connected with the Anfield club realise that this is a season of transition, with a new young manager at the helm.
Brendan Rodgers has been given the backing from the supporters and the owners, which is important, and his passing style of play has impressed the supporters along with his introduction of many young players into the first team. Brendan Rodgers is also media friendly, as his post-match interviews have proved, along with his starring role in the behind the scenes documentary “Being Liverpool”. Rodgers’ relationship with the media has been very encouraging after previous manager, Kenny Dalglish’s frosty and awkward relationship with the media.
But for the first time since Rodgers took over in the summer, there has been some grumblings of unrest from the Anfield faithful, probably, triggered by the way Liverpool lost to Stoke the other night and not just by the defeat itself. It looked like a re-run of the Aston Villa defeat, not so long ago, apart from the fact that Liverpool never led in the Villa match. In both matches Liverpool’s defence looked vulnerable and a lack of creation in the final third never caused the opposition defenders too much trouble. But the lack of passion and commitment to get back into these matches caused the biggest concern. Gerrard and Suarez looked like the only two players willing to give their all for the club in the face of defeat and that is what is not good enough for Liverpool supporters.
Liverpool lost many experienced players in the summer who did a good job for the club over the years, and when you look at who Rodgers has brought in to improve the team, well, I’m not sure they are better, Assaidi, Yesil and Sahin can’t get a game, ok Borini has been unfortunate with injury, but in his short spell he has only contributed one goal and struggled with the pace of the Premiership. Even big money signing Joe Allen is struggling to get a game recently since Lucas returned from injury. So his transfer record is not impressing so far, and hopefully he can change that in January.
Brendan Rodgers has tried to implement a “Barcelona” style into his Liverpool side, but although Liverpool have played good football many times throughout the season, he doesn’t have the players “Barcelona” have and in defence especially his style doesn’t work. I don’t know how many times this season Liverpool have lost goals from trying to pass in their defensive third. Against Stoke it was getting embarrassing as Stoke hustled Liverpool into mistake after mistake. Liverpool’s defenders are not comfortable enough in possession to play this way and the sooner Rodgers realises the better for Liverpool. Recent stats have shown that Liverpool pass mostly in their defensive third, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Reina gets the most touches with all the back passes he receives. I’m not saying Liverpool should play long ball tactics but you have to be versatile and be able to play different styles, depending on who you are playing against and if the preferred style is not working then be willing to change.
Patience has been granted to Rodgers throughout this inconsistent first season, but football is a results driven business and he must find that consistency or face being under pressure from the supporters, but more importantly from the trigger happy American owners.
I don’t think there is a need to panic yet and I think Brendan Rodgers should get at least this whole season, hopefully longer to prove himself. But he has to show the supporters and the owners that the club is progressing in the right direction and for the first time many Liverpool supporters are wondering if that is happening.
Kick off at 16:00
Stats Below provided by the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index
QPR are struggling with life in the Premier League, after losing both their games over the Christmas period to date. Their most recent loss to West Brom saw Djibril Cisse score a consolation goal which was not enough to make up for an earlier Robert Green own goal.
Cisse’s goal was his third of the season, but more are surely on the way as Cisse has had 39 shots at goal with an impressive two thirds on target, suggesting that he will hit a run of better luck soon
Rob Green has shared goalkeeping duties with Julio Cesar this season, and has made 38 saves averaging a save every 21 minutes 48 seconds compared to Cesar’s 58 saves averaging one every 17 minutes 36 seconds
QPR’s struggles this season are indicated in that they have no players in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index’s top 100. Ryan Nelson is their top ranked played in 119th. He’s made an incredible 93 interceptions, 22 clearances and 20 blocks to try and keep his team from conceding, and has also won 56.7% of the 30 tackles he has attempted.
Liverpool will be looking to bounce back from a 3-1 defeat against Stoke in their last game, where an early Steven Gerrard goal wasn’t enough to break the Potters’ unbeaten run. That result was in stark contrast to their previous 4-0 win over Fulham, where Gerrard, Skrtel, Suarez and Downing all scored.
Suarez has now had an incredible 97 efforts at goal this season, more than any other player, with 53.6% on target, and averaging 8.72 shots per goal.
Brenadan Rodgers has started new contract talks with Steven Gerrard and three goals in back to back games shows why. Gerrard has five goals this season from 46 efforts with 63% on target,
Gerrard has also won 67.6% of the 37 tackles he has attempted, and is ranked sixth for passes completed in the opposition half with 586 and fourth for crosses with 66. Given that level of involvement in playing in his team mates, it’s no surprise he is third for assists with 8 this season.
Downing’s search for a goal or assist was well documented last season, and he’ll be relieved that he now has one of each already this season. Downing has had ten efforts at goal this season with half on target, and a healthy 184 passes completed in the opposition half averaging one every 3 minutes 40 seconds.
By James Giblin
Sitting with my younger brother in the Kop and watching Liverpool punish Fulham 4-0. Nothing is more satisfying. It was the first time that me and him had watched a game together since we played Burnley at home a few years ago (we won 4-0 then as well). It is then that my delusions of Liverpool hit a new high.
Those delusions were soon shot down though. Yet again, Liverpool won a game convincingly and then were beaten in the same fashion. As much as it hurts to say, Liverpool are nothing more than mediocre. Granted, there are a few classy players scattered around the field but in terms of attitude, they fight for nothing.
This season Liverpool have been handed a brutal dose of reality. Teams do not fear coming to Anfield anymore. Strikers look at a fixture against us and can taste a goal or two. People aren’t afraid of the boys in red.
Perhaps the solution is close at hand, though. Nobody can doubt Steven Gerrard’s work ethic, but time is catching up with our captain fantastic. Several mistakes this season have cost Liverpool goals and in some cases, points. It may be about time that Liverpool inform Gerrard that he is needed more as a squad player, than a team player. Leaders like Agger, Reina or Johnson may be just what Liverpool need to re-inspire the team as a captain.
There is no consistency in this team; there is no focus. Most worryingly though, there is no fight.
Stoke 3-1 Liverpool Match Report
Liverpool faced a tough Boxing Day fixture away to Stoke who are undefeated at home this season and on a good run of form. Liverpool have had an inconsistent season, but were buoyed by their biggest win of the season at the weekend when they defeated Fulham 4-0 in their final match at Anfield of 2012, and go in to the fixture with confidence.
Brendan Rodgers kept faith in the side that defeated Fulham at the weekend for the visit to Stoke, so Raheem Sterling and Joe Allen had to be content with a place on the bench for the second match in a row. The eleven that started were Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique, Suso, Gerrard, Lucas, Downing, Shelvey and Suarez.
Liverpool got off to a flying start in the first minute when Suarez was tugged down by Shawcross in the penalty box, referee Howard Webb awarded Liverpool their first penalty in 31 games. Steven Gerrard made no mistake from the spot to give Liverpool the perfect start.
The lead was short lived, when Walters beat Reina after a slip by Martin Skrtel. Worse was to come for Liverpool, when they fell behind 6 minutes later, when Jones headed in from a Cameron corner kick.
Liverpool looked stunned by the quick reversal in the score, and tried to respond. Downing carved out an opening for Gerrard on the edge of the box, but his shot was just wide of the post. Then Suarez exchanged passes with Downing before shooting over the crossbar.
Reina did well to keep the visitors from falling further behind when he raced out to deny Etherington who had found acres of space inside the Liverpool penalty area.
Liverpool’s hopes of a comeback in the second half were dashed in only 3 minutes after the re-start when Jones flicked the ball into the path of Walters who chested the ball down before brilliantly volleying past the helpless Reina.
Liverpool tried to respond to the deficit with endeavour with Suarez looking the most likely and Gerrard trying his instrumental best, but Stoke looked comfortable and organised in defence. Gerrard brought out a fine save from Begovic from an effort from the edge of the box in one of Liverpool’s best efforts of the second half, but the damage was done and Stoke ran out worthy winners in a disappointing result for Liverpool.
I wasn’t surprised that Rodgers kept the same team that defeated Fulham after that impressive performance. But Stoke are not Fulham and I thought we were a bit small in stature to compete with Stoke’s physical approach, the likes of Lucas, Suso and Downing are a bit lightweight and I would have rather seen Henderson in the midfield and Coates in to bolster the defence against the Stoke aerial threat. I think the team were probably shocked to be awarded a penalty as it’s been so long. But after the great start it was so disappointing to lose the lead so soon and to get the stuffing knocked out of us right at the start of the second half was a big disappointment as the game turned into a carbon copy of the Villa match the other week. Enrique didn’t have one of his best games, but he gave everything for the cause. Suarez was once again our main threat but he needs more support against disciplined defences like Stoke. Gerrard played his guts out trying to drag Liverpool back into the game, but he had little help from his troops other than from Suarez. Worrying to see Agger and Skrtel once again being bullied from a couple of average strikers in the form of Walters and Jones, just similar to their inability to handle Benteke against Villa. I can’t understand how Shelvey remained on the park for the full 90 minutes, he was woeful, no effort and gave possession away at every opportunity. It was so disappointing to see the lack of fight against a team that was hungrier than Liverpool and only Enrique, Gerrard and Suarez looked up for the battle.
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