Yesterday’s game against Swansea was exciting – there’s no doubt about that. It was the type of game neutrals will have watched and genuinely enjoyed. But if you’re following one of the teams involved, particularly the one trying to cement fourth place, who have an outside chance of winning the league, that enjoyment could easily have been snatched away in an instant.
The team came very close to drawing a game they were winning 2-0. There were so many ups and downs – I was exhausted after the game. And I was only watching. Can you imagine how that battle will have drained the Liverpool players? It’s a good job they’re only playing one game a week at the moment.
Of course, the way the team are playing is amazing. Along with Man City, Liverpool have played the best football in the Premier League this season. The 5-0 win over Spurs, the 4-0 demolition of local rivals Everton and the 5-1 hammering of Arsenal all prove this. By any standards these are fabulous results. But it is incredibly difficult to continue scoring like that. Man City are finding this out at the moment. They aren’t creating the amount of goals that they were earlier in the season. So a solid defence is important too.
Against Swansea, the way the team linked up when going forward was breathtaking at times. The back heels, flicks and through balls looked sensational. Liverpool were like Brazil going forward and like Bury at the back. But as great as that attacking prowess is, the awful defending could cost the team and that would be a shame.
I’m not suggesting for one moment that I would prefer to be watching Jose Mourinho’s brand of football – frankly, that’s a great cure for insomnia. Liverpool’s defensive play does need to improve though.
People might say the team was missing Lucas. And they would be right. But there have been errors at the back in games when he’s played this season. And anyway, who would Lucas replace? Gerrard is currently playing the CDM role. Would Rodgers really drop him? If the manager were to go with two holding players, who does he favour in front of them? The much-improved Henderson, who was the match winner yesterday, or the influential Coutinho who is amazing on his day but tends to drift in and out of games? Personally I think Gerrard can play the Alonso role where he picks up the ball and starts an attack from deep but he does need a Mascherano alongside him to break the play up. When Allen came on the team instantly looked more solid but unfortunately, in bringing him on, Rodgers was forced to sacrifice the pace and trickery of Sterling.
The bigger problem concerns the centre backs. On paper, Liverpool have four top class defenders in Agger, Sakho, Skrtel and Toure. I’m not so sure though. If you’re being brutal, and brutality is something that you need to demonstrate in the quest for perfection, each of these players has their flaws. I believe Agger is Liverpool’s best defender but he gets injured a lot and it’s hard to base the defence around him. The club’s other left-sided centre back, Sakho, has had a mixed start but that can be attributed to the fact that he has had to adapt to the Premier League. Granted, he has sustained a bad injury and only time will tell if this was a one off or if he will be the type of player who repeatedly has spells on the sidelines. But for now, I would suggest that the French international will be the future rock that the team is based on, providing he stays injury-free. Skrtel has put in some fantastic performances this season but he has also made a lot of costly mistakes. He has been unlucky to concede several own goals and despite his size and physique, he isn’t commanding in the air. The penalty he gave away yesterday might have been soft but it had been coming for a while. All season he has been grappling with forwards when defending set pieces and it finally caught up with him. Finally, Toure is great on his day and his early form for the club was brilliant, but he sometimes loses concentration, which has been demonstrated in recent weeks.
For me, the team is more balanced when it features a right and left-sided centre back together. If Liverpool could get in the region of £15m for Skrtel, I would sell him in the summer and either give Llori a chance or get someone new in. Sakho would be my first choice moving forward, with Agger as his replacement when needed, although the Dane might not settle for being second choice. The fact is though, with the extra fixtures that European football will bring, the club needs four strong centre backs with the two who are first choice perhaps being rested for the domestic cup games. Defensive stability won’t be achieved if the manager continues to chop and change in the league.
Brendan Rodgers is right to put the emphasis on attack and Liverpool should definitely keep playing the way they are. Eight times out of the last ten seasons the most prolific team has won the league so it’s no coincidence that the club is in the mix this year. If the players can just cut out some of the mistakes at the back this could be an unbelievable season.
As January drew to a close and there were no new faces leaning on things around Anfield, I knew this summer would be pivotal in seizing a Champions League spot and staying there. As a rule, I would like us to bring in 2 or 3 first team players each transfer window until all the deadwood has been dropped from our team. Sadly, with all our January transfer targets such as Salah, M’Vila and Konoplyanka all falling through (largely due to our own transfer incompetence) this summer will mean bringing in a large quantity of players to the squad. This isn’t too odd, considering that we did bring in 8 players in the summer of 2013 and the same can be done again. We know the formation Rodgers prefers is 4-3-3 and the players we bring in you’d like to think will fit in according to that. We also know that Rodgers is not an advocate of stock piling players and having an overly large squad, so we will only have two players per position and use youth to supplement the rest. Bearing this in mind and using the players most frequently linked to LFC we can create a general idea of where we will hopefully stand come the end of the summer.
Players Transferred Out:
Daniel Agger – I know what you’re thinking and I feel the same, nobody wants to see Agger leave. He has been the clubs most loyal servant bar Gerrard for the past 8 years and a mainstay in the Liverpool squad. However, it is clear that Sakho is the preferred left sided centre half by the club as he has started over Agger on numerous occasions. At 29, Agger is hitting the peak of his career and I very much doubt – despite his love for the club- he would be happy to sit on the bench. He is also one of highest earners at the club and we know the club is trying to reduce the wage bill, so he would be a very expensive squad player. I would love to keep him for another season or two, but I can only see him leaving in the summer for around £15m.
Lucas Leiva – Another player that many will dispute with me on his leaving. We all love to see the story of a bad player come good, but I don’t feel he is the quality we need for the Champions League. With Gerrard taking up his role as our most defensive midfielder, Lucas becomes unnecessary. He gives away far too many fouls near our own box, his positional play needs a lot of work and he is prone to long term injuries. He offers very little going forward and only marginally betters Allen and Henderson defensively, so if we are going to be bringing in players to improve the first team Lucas in my opinion, being older and on higher wages, will be the player the club choose to make way for new players at around £9m.
Oussama Assaidi- Although he is putting in a few decent performances for Stoke, I can’t see Assaidi breaking into our team. He is fast, but often lacks the decisiveness and quality we need in the final third and his attitude was supposedly questionable whilst with LFC. With Ibe, Sterling and hopefully new wingers coming into the squad, Assaidi is a player I feel we would be better off selling. Due to the small £2.5m fee we paid for him, I think we would gain a profit from his sale and would easily get £5m for him from Stoke or another midtable club.
Aly Cissokho – The on loan Valencia man has been of an okay standard of late. This does not mean we should exercise our option to buy, as he has only appeared to improve as less is being asked of him. As a defender he is very solid and is good physically, but lacks the ability to take on a man and the technical ability to be a solution for us at left back.
Viktor Moses- I for one thought the loan signing of Moses was quite a good one until he played for us. He was great for Wigan and is good a player on his day. However, he has been lazy and reckless on the pitch for us and is not the kind of player we want at LFC. He would be best sent back to London as soon as summer arrives in my opinion.
Pepe Reina- One of the old guard of LFC. In recent interviews he has said he will not be returning to LFC next season and could be available to clubs for as little as £4m. This is astonishingly cheap for a world class goal keeper, but we would do well to sell him to get his large wages off the wage bill for good. He enjoyed some wonderful years with us but once again we must look to the present and the future and not players of the past to bring us glory.
Ricardo Rodriguez- Currently plying his trade for German side Wolfsburg, the 21 year old is a Swiss international left back with 17 caps for the national side and catching the eye of many big clubs with his performances. A strong, fast modern fullback Rodriguez could fill a problem position in the LFC side for many years. He can also cross a ball well, which is more than can be said for Enrique and Cissokho. For the right price he would be available, at hopefully around £14m, which would represent good long term business for us. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIHe9by9tFA
Steven Caulker – Long term we need a replacement for Skrtel to give Sakho the partner he deserves. Caulker was sold by Spurs to premier league strugglers Cardiff and has since proven his real worth. A young player at 22, the Englishman would be a great long term option for our right centreback spot. Also, with Cardiff struggling in the league, relegation for the side could mean a price drop to make him a very cheap option too.
Nathanial Clyne- The Southampton right back is frequently finding himself on the bench behind another talented fullback in Chambers. Clyne is also what we look for in a modern fullback, with pace, athleticism and the ability to attack. With Johnson aging at 30, the 22 year old could be phased into the side as Johnson is faded out over the coming seasons. With Southampton already appearing to have Chambers as their first choice right back, they may be more inclined to let Clyne go for a reasonable price such as £10m, than those figures touted for Luke Shaw. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WwhGmkLR5a0
Lars Bender- A midfielder equally adept in all areas of the field, even at right back, Lars would represent a great quality investment from LFC. The German would come at a cost due to the competition surrounding his purchase, likely at over £20m, but the 24 year old Leverkusen man would solve the concerns surrounding our midfield. Able to play in any defensive or attacking midfield role with stamina, skill and quality will be invaluable next season when we have a lot more games to play. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zgh8kGeZwQ
Yevhen Konoplyanka- Much was made of the Dnipro winger’s transfer to LFC in the final days of the window that sadly never came to fruition. However, should we successfully secure Champions League football we may be glad to have waited as he supposedly has a clause that drops from €15m to €10m as of July 1st, which would make the 24 year old a bargain signing for us. He would provide quality on the left wing and reduce the reliance upon the young Raheem Sterling for a very cheap price. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0EK2LC2Jbc
Ron-Robert Zieler- An ex-Manchester United player currently in between the sticks for Hannover. He has a release clause of around £5m which terminates in the middle of the summer, so we’d have to act fast to get him. It’s clear Mignolet is doing a great job for us, but Brad Jones in my opinion isn’t a good enough back up choice. Even the likes of Swansea have better 2nd choice keepers than us in Tremmel for example, so the 25 year old would provide some real competition to keep Mignolet on his toes and also provide some better cover in cup games.
If I’m being reasonable, I know that not all these transfers will occur. They are all, however, possible and with a clinical and effective transfer team (removing Ian Ayre) we might pull of some great transfer deals come the summer. Manchester United and Spurs will be fighting us tooth and nail next season for the top four spot and if we don’t invest in quality this summer the overload of games could prove too much for our squad to handle and we could lose what we fought so hard to gain. So if next season our squad looks something like this after the summer transfer window slams shut I will be very pleased with the club and the direction in which we are going, as we cannot afford anymore transfer slip ups if we truly want to compete with the best again. By keeping the likes of Enrique, Johnson and Skrtel at least until the next January you give the new players time to adjust and settle without risking a weakness in the team appearing. These older players can be phased out of the side once players such as Rodriguez have established themselves and can be trusted to take up the mantle of their seniors. http://lineupbuilder.com/?sk=2b0d
With 12 games left of the season left to play this season, talk of what Liverpool must improve on next season may sound premature. Liverpool are on fire at the moment, thrashing Swansea and Zenit at home and doing so quite comfortably. How comfortable Liverpool were against Zenit is absolutely meaningless now; it was a fruitless endeavor. We were knocked out.
There is nothing to be ashamed of. The manner in which we played football was beautiful; I was particularly pleased with Jose Enrique’s stunner against Swansea (and people are talking about Gareth Bale’s West Ham goal for goal of the season!). We must look forward to the future with eager anticipation and leave behind the cobwebs of this season. Although Champions League qualification is still mathematically possible, it is unlikely.
With all this in mind, I have written up 4 top targets for Liverpool, if they are to obtain Champions League status once again:
Almost all of you are aware that LFC’s kit manufacturer has changed from adidas to Warrior. Most of you would also know that Warrior does not have a presence in India. And only some of you know that you can buy authentic LFC merchandise in India thru Red Label – www.shopredlabel.com
Red Label, thru arrangements with suppliers, imports the Warrior kits in and accessories like training wear, footballs, bags, wallets, scarves etc in India and sells thru the above said website. The kits are still priced at £45′s INR equivalent and the shipping times and costs are drastically reduced as compared to the Indians buying it from the official store. Warrior also has an Asian market specific ‘fashion style’ LFC shirt which is similar to the home shirt but is knocked down on the fabric and is available for less than half the price. This is done specifically keeping in mind the price-sensitivity of the market. Thru Sporting iD, the official manufacturers of BPL Letters and Numbers, BPL Patches and Club specific name-numbers, Red Label offers the option to customers to customise their shirts with their desired names and numbers on the back in either PL or LFC-European style letters. These patches and name/numbers are available at a much lower price than you’d pay elsewhere.
The site also has a collection of unbranded (non-Warrior) but licensed LFC products to choose from. From playing cards to blankets to car stickers to footballs, the store has it all and items keep getting added to the portfolio. All Warrior and non-Warrior licensed LFC products come with an LFC hologram as mark of authenticity.
Utilizing our association with Jamie’s 23 Foundation thru Steve Parry, their Asian ambassador, we also facilitate purchase of any Jamie signed memorabilia in Indian currency.
Finally, Red Label also manufactures and prints ‘fan-art’ t-shirts. The shirts are designed by some of the best known LFC designers-cum-fans, most notably Kit Nelson. The ‘Royal Tee’ by Kit was the first product to launch this line and the Royal Tee has already received great response. Red Label is one of the only two stores in the world licensed to sell Kit’s designs.
Finally, for those without a credit card, Red Label offers other payment options like Net-banking, Debit Card and bank-transfer for the young Indian fan.
This shameless plug is written only because I understand that most people in India aren’t aware of the store. YNWA!
Despite knowing how stupid FA can get, some of us thought the overwhelming lack of evidence against Luis Suarez would let him off. Then why was he banned when most commentators thought he wouldn’t be? Guess only the powers that be know the truth.
The statement released by FA Luis was found guilty under rules E3(1) and E3(2). From what I could make of those two rules, E3(1) is more about insulting language, bringing the game to disrepute etc. and E3(2) comes in effect when any insult dished out under E3(1) pertains to someone’s race, ethnicity, nationality etc. If E3(2), is applicable, the punishment that would have been laid out in E3(1) would be doubled. Thus, as per the statement, what Luis said to Evra was a) insulting and b) the insult was derived from color of Evra’s skin.
Insulting?! I mean if that rule was implemented to the T, I’m sure more than 90% of Premiership players would be serving bans on most match-days. And some of the referees that FA have used this season are both a) insulting to any common man’s intelligence, and b) bring the game to disrepute.
Luis’s argument has been that he used the term Negrito to address Evra and that it is not offensive in his native language. Moreover, he has been upfront about what he said otherwise no other camera had picked up what the conversation was. In fact, no other United player had picked it up either. So FA has heard two sides. Evra says that Luis called him in a racist manner. Luis, although he could have denied it altogether, said he used a used spanish phrase with acceptable spanish words – Por Que, Negrito!
What’s appalling is that FA had absolutely no proof that Luis said anything racist. None whatsoever except what Evra said. None till the point Suarez actually told them what he said and fair play to him for being honest and upfront telling people that he had nothing to hide. In hindsight, may be he could have asked FA to take a hike and find evidence for themselves but in all earnestness, I am proud of Luis Suarez for he knew he didn’t do anything wrong and he thought he should be honest and truthful.
Apparently, the FA thinks what is offensive in one language is offensive in all. Well, on that logic if I call the FA a ‘dick’ in Hindi (my native tongue), it should only mean a Swedish town to the gentlemen and they should not take offense in it.
What gave me the most consolation on a night like last was LFC’s statement in support of Luis. It was one of the most brilliantly worded expletive I ever read. It implied Evra is unreliable, that FA is two-faced, that FA’s decision was pre-meditated. It takes a lot of courage to fight lies with truth when supporting lies can be the populist way. Of course, as we would expect on any day, LFC have more than that courage, while FA doesn’t have a drop of it.
May be it was the scandalous nature of the allegation that ‘pre-meditated’ FA’s actions. Everyone has been talking about how they stood up against Blatter and his remarks regarding racism being a trivial issue. Here they had a player who was accused of racism and they couldn’t afford to portray themselves as weak at home. The silver lining was that the player was not English. They know that the charges are not going to hold in an appeal. The ban would most probably be overturned. I don’t know the details but I’m hopeful that LFC might even take FA to court on this one. The FA knew all this but they couldn’t make themselves appear weak in fight against a global evil. So what if they had to brand an innocent foreigner for life! The other side of the case would have been to let Suarez off and to levy charges against Evra for defamation. Then the problem would have been that a black sportsperson suffers racial abuse from a foreigner but no action was taken against the foreigner because of lack of evidence but on the other hand the black sportsperson is charged with defamatory things. Everybody would have further amplified and translated that episode saying England and FA are not friendly to people of color and that they need to carry their own cameras to record every second so that they have evidence for the next time something racist is hurled at them. Surely the FA could not have afforded that sort of PR. In the end, they have risked the ignominy of an overturned decision and chances of further lawsuits in order to be populists. Wonder how much is it going to cost Vauxhall, or whoever else, next year!
In the meantime, there is one small request to the LFC Family. We know Luis is not racist. We are going to fight for it to be proved. But the one step we need to take to protect the image of this Family is by not being racists ourselves. I’ve read all sorts of vile messages on various posts and discussion groups on internet. Surely we can’t do much worse in this fight by being racists ourselves.
I’ll seek advance apologies from anyone who thinks that this post might not be worthy of a blog but the idea of the site was to have an international platform for reds across the world to be able to share their view/ opinions/ experiences and such and the below link engulfs every single one of those parameters.
Staying in Delhi, I am a part of a local LFC support group called Liverpool Delhi Supporters’ Club or ‘DelhiKop’. The group was founded in 2007 and one of the earlier screenings was for that game against United in early 2009 saw a group of 7 fans get together at a sports bar in Delhi’s CBD. One of the seven, Sandeep Adlakha, also happens to be a decent enough singer to be appreciated by the rest of us. He’s taken his talent and love of Liverpool FC and the love of LDSC to another level and written, composed and sung this song for the group and to say I find it worthy of sharing would be an understatement.
The song is in Hinglish (Hindi + English) and it’s Spanglish translation is ‘Vamos Reds’. It talks about the first screenings and how things moved from there. So much for ado; here’s Sandeep’s art talking to the rest of the world:
Liverpool Delhi Supporters’ Club is available on facebook: facebook.com/DelhiKop.