Saturday Jun 21Posted by: Ben Green  Comments Off

Another early exit for England – So what now?

Well here we are as a nation, hopes dashed and wondering what could have been after yet another unsuccessful World Cup finals campaign. Expectations were rightly lowered but still the disappointment is remains.

If only Wayne Rooney had started in the middle, then maybe he’d have taken his golden chance against Italy…? If only he hadn’t had his hair transplant, then maybe he would have headed just that bit lower against Uruguay…? Why didn’t we continue with the passing game that served us so well against Italy? The list goes on.

The fact is that the reasons go a lot deeper than that. Right down to the very basics of football and it’s application to the modern game. Even though I’m not a professional footballer, I have played the game at a fairly decent level. Also, like many a football fan, I’ve watched all manner of games: from Grovewood Albion on a cold January Sunday morning on the local common, to Champions League games. The following is what I’ve noticed over my many years of following this game.

Football it seems to me, is predominantly about three things. Space, positioning and decisions. Tactics are a way of exploiting those things. Now, what I’ve also concluded is that if you, as a player, or more to the point – a team – cannot manage all three of those things correctly and consistently, then it’s unlikely you’ll ever win a game of football. Not at the very top level anyway. Not in this world or the next. There is also another very important thing to consider.

Enter the England football team. Technically all very capable. Very fit and, for the most part, young men. On those levels, I don’t see them being that far, if at all, different than any other nation in the game in that respect. In the 90 degree heat of Manaus, the team were forced to slow down. Conserve energy and thus play a more calculated game. To achieve this, they had to use the space better, take up better positions and make the right decisions about passing, the types of passes to make. Making runs and the kind of runs to make and when. They had to think.

On Thursday England were in São Paulo. Much cooler, less humid and not as sapping on energy. England could play their normal game. This is where the problem lies. You see, England’s normal game as we’ve come to know it, is poor. Mainly because the players don’t seem to think that much about what they’re doing from what I can see. A German football pundit said recently that England’s tactics “belong in a museum”. As much as it burns me to say it, the man is correct. 100% spot on. The world has moved on from the 1980′s percentages based game upon which England seem to be insistent on playing.

In all fairness, Costa Rica play better football than England do. It’s not down to technique, it’s down to tactics and their application. Most of the long passes I’ve seen in this World Cup have been on the ground. England’s, in the air! The players, in particular the defense, have no ability to a) play a pass to a nearby teammate when possession is retained from opposing attackers: or b) to take the time to think about the passes they’re about to make. Add to that, the fact that the defensive positioning was absolutely woeful in each game. The winning goal for Italy in the first game, despite Wayne Rooney taking the flack, was down to Leighton Baines. The first goal against Uruguay, Glen Johnson. On both occasions the y drifted out of perfectly good positions and allowed opposition attackers time to deliver telling crosses. As for the second against the South Americans, Steven Gerrard sadly, equally guilty.

For me the signal is clear. Football is now a thinking man’s game. In fact, it always has been. England need to change their approach to football. Not only that but change the personnel also. Gerrard is clearly past his best and Baines, for me is not upto the job. The central pairing of Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill are not composed enough on the ball and should be replaced in my opinion. The youngsters, Luke Shaw, Raheem Sterling Jordan Henderson, Daniel Sturridge et al must be given more time and given the tactical nous and support to play better football at the highest level. They’re definitely capable, there’s no question. They simply haven’t been deployed in the right way. I’d like to have seen Shaw given a chance at the expense of Baines because he seems to be a more intelligent player. As for right back, Jon Flanagan could definitely do a job there for England. At Centre back, the likes of Steven Caulker and Phil Jones should be tried.

That said, there’s no point in simply throwing these guys in, just to play the same old, same old. We as a footballing nation need to move with the times. This has been said umpteen times before and still we’re in the same predicament. Perhaps it’s just the English mentality that’s to blame? If so, it’s not impossible over time and with education to change it. I’m not sure if Roy Hodgson  is the right man to take England forward. That said, he should be given the benefit of the doubt for now. Either way, one has to question his tactics if at all, the players carried them out.

In order to avoid the same outcome in years to come, England need to go back to basics. Football is a simple game but not, I believe for simple minds.

Follow me on Twitter: @ Mrbengreen

Thursday Jun 19Posted by: Michael Cage  Comments Off

Sturridge and the art of predicting Uruguay v England

Today’s Uruguay v England game is perhaps the one Liverpool fans have been waiting for the most this summer. With Gerrard, Sturridge and Suarez all expected to start and Sterling, Henderson and Johnson also expected to feature, this is going to be a great game for Liverpool fans to watch.

There are plenty of reasons for supporters of both Uruguay and England to be hopeful – and we’ll look at betting tips for both sets of fans. Doesn’t matter if you back Suarez or Sturridge, there’s no excuse not to make some money off a potentially great game!

Read the rest of this entry »

Tuesday Jun 17Posted by: James Nelson  Comments Off

Why Rooney Can’t Be ‘England’s Suarez’

With a title like that I could probably just write the words ‘because he’s not good enough,’ and the article would be done with. But I’m thinking specifically, why Wayne Rooney can’t replicate for England what Luis Suarez does for Liverpool and Uruguay.

Rooney recently stated that he wants to link up with Daniel Sturridge the way Suarez does at Liverpool, to make England’s attack as lethal as our SAS duo. That’s not going to happen, and the main reason was blatantly evident in England’s 2-1 loss to Italy on Saturday.

Luis Suarez is a player with an almost ridiculous will to win. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player so determined to win every single game of football he ever plays. And Suarez will contribute in absolutely any way he can to make that happen. Rooney, on the other hand, is a player with a ridiculous ego problem. This is a player who naturally wants to win as well, but on top of that wants to be the star of the show.

There were times last season when Suarez was asked to play out wide on the left hand side to accommodate Sturridge up front. The Uruguayan handled this as you would imagine; tracking back, running tirelessly, and staying wide to keep the shape of the team.

When asked to do this for England, Wayne Rooney offered no protection at all to Leighton Baines behind him, constantly drifted infield meaning that another player had to go wide to cover for him, and seemed to shoot on sight instead of creating chances for his teammates. Admittedly he did get an assist for England’s goal, so I’ll give him credit for that. But that was an occasion where a sublime pass from Sterling actually found him in his supposed left wing position, and he had no other option but to cross it for Sturridge to tap in.

He also missed an absolute sitter, because he was so determined to strike the ball emphatically and do his best to break the back of the net, that he lost his accuracy. It was like he wanted to demonstrate his frustration by scoring with a belter, instead of staying calm and just picking his spot. He was being played out of position, with rumours of being dropped entirely, and still had the burden of not a single World Cup goal to his name. If he was in it for the team, he would have done the sensible thing and stroked the ball into the back of the net. But he wanted it to be the Rooney show; he wanted to prove his point. But he blew it.

From then on he was shooting left, right, and centre when teammates were in better positions. And when the full time whistle blew, he’d been far and away the worst player on the pitch. For a player capable of such brilliance, his mentality let him down. Now say what you want about Luis Suarez, but he does what he does to win games. He’s always willing to take one for the team. His goals and all-round play is a by-product of his hard work and determination. And this is the man who also had the second most assists in the league last season; the words greedy or selfish aren’t in his vocabulary.

As a final demonstration of how the two differ, I offer a Wayne Rooney moment that still irks me to this day. Ironically it came directly after probably the finest moment of his career. No one can deny the quality of the overhead kick he scored against Man City in the 2010-11 season. But his celebration afterwards is what sums the man up for me. He ran away from his teammates and then quickly turned around, spread his arms out, and tilted his head back. ‘Praise me!’ he might as well have screamed. He wanted to be on a pedestal with everyone kneeling down in front of him. This was after he’d scored the winning goal to claim all three points, where a tap-in would have done the same job. But his mind wasn’t on what the goal meant for the team, he was thinking about what it meant for him.

And it did cement his status as one of football’s biggest stars. But boy is he paying for it now. He wanted all eyes on him, and now that’s exactly what he’s got. Whereas Luis Suarez thrives in being his country’s talisman, Wayne Rooney needs a team built around him to excel. But to get that now, he’d need to either displace man of the match against Italy, Raheem Sterling, or goal scorer Daniel Sturridge. I don’t think even Roy Hodgson could find a logic behind making that change.

If Rooney desperately wants to swap positions with someone for England’s upcoming game against Uruguay, I’d suggest the best candidate would be Adam Lallana.

By James Nelson (@_James_Nelson_)

Sunday Jun 15Posted by: James Barlow  Comments Off

A LIITLE HELP FROM THE REDS

Hi fellow Reds. This year I’m cycling for charity, I know some might not be aware of some of the rides I’m doing so lots of links to check out. This is the charity I’m riding for http://www.papworthtrust.org.uk/
It would be great if anyone who reads this helps push me hard by donating here http://www.justgiving.com/james-barlow1 but please read the rest before you decide on an amount

I ride nearly everyday and have also done some epic one day rides this year already, listed below.

Liege-Bastogne-Liege 280km, I rode the course the day before the professionals did. An up and down course in the Ardennes, with some crazy gradients to get up. Ride data here http://app.strava.com/activities/134952961

Jurassic Beast 160km This was in Dorset, England. Another up and down course, very windy day and beautiful tough ride. Ride Data here http://app.strava.com/activities/140072816

Godwin Challenge. Tommy Godwin holds the record for most miles ridden in a year, he averaged 205 miles a day for the year. Raleigh have challenged cyclists to do 205miles in a day. I did mine and here is the data http://app.strava.com/activities/147802745
and the challenge site with hall of fame board here http://www.raleigh.co.uk/TommyGodwin205/Hall-of-Fame/

Next up is lONDON-PARIS 3 day event and I have got myself into group1 and able to race for leaders jersey’s. I hope to win one and auction it for the charity, or at least have a lot of fun trying. Event site here http://www.londres-paris.com/

A fortnight after this I’m ging to attempt the Everest challenge, riding a hill course up and down until I have ascended the equivalent height of Everest, just short of 9000m and will take me roughly 16hrs, The hill I’m climbing is only give 27m each ascent over a very short distance, In an hour I have done 500m.

Thanks for taking a look and if you do donate please sign your donation YNWA, I sure hope don’t while I’m out there pushing those peddles. You can see my full ride data page here.http://app.strava.com/athletes/2622892

SONY DSC

Saturday Jun 14Posted by: Ben Green  Comments Off

Fantastic Four LFC weekly transfer update

Welcome to this weeks Fantastic Four transfer update. Here we’ll be discussing the pick of this week’s transfer speculation for an insight into the comings and goings of everybody’s favorite football club.  Brendan Rodgers and the men behind closed doors, or The Transfer Committee as they’ve come to be known, are no doubt locked away in a darkened cigar smoke filled room with downed scotches and heated debate Purposefully ticking off or crossing out names from the list in between calls to high level figures at Southampton, Chelsea and Bayern Munich… Probably not exactly the reality but that’s the way I prefer to picture it.

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at who those supposedly in the know feel will be donning the red shirt of Liverpool Football Club come mid August. As usual, the BS rating indicates the likelihood (1) or not (5 – total BS) of a deal being struck.

Max Meyer - According to the Metro everybody’s favorite commuter rag, Rodgers is preparing an £8m move for the 18 year-old Schalke 04 play-maker. Meyer is well thought of in the Bundesliga and last year had an impressive season with the German side. Meyer had attracted the attentions of Chelsea last season and it would make a nice change for a player to prefer the Reds over the west London outfit instead of continually losing out to them. Personally, I think he’d make a great addition to the side and I’m watching this one with interest. BS Rating: 2 - This could be a very likely purchase for Rodgers and at a reported £8m represents good value over other clearly overpriced prospects.

Alberto Moreno - Speaking of overpriced prospects, the Liverpool boss retains an interest in the Sevilla left back. However according to the Mirror there is a cooling of interest from Liverpool as the Spanish club hold out for £18m for a relative unknown with very little top flight experience. Quite rightly, Rodgers is refusing to play ball. I’m hoping this is true. When you consider the Reds shelled out £12m for Mamadou Sakho, a French international with proven experience, it’s hard to justify the price tag being placed on the 18 year-old. Judging by Luis Alberto and Iago Aspas showings in the red shirt, it’s a gamble that’s not worth taking. BS Rating: 4 - Can’t see this happening. Far too pricey when compared to other options.

Ryan Bertrand - The Chelsea loanee has been mentioned a couple of times as a cheaper, more realistic alternative to Moreno and, let’s not forget, more experienced alternative to Señor Moreno. Personally, I think Moreno should be considered the alternative. With a price tag for Bertrand expected to be in the region of £7-8m, what could possibly go wrong? Well for a start, if he is genuinely any good then it’s unlikely that Jose Mourinho will want to sell to a club that one cannot deny is now a direct rival according to the Telegraph. Bertrand is definitely a player who could add some solidity and longevity to the left back position. He has Premiership and Champions League experience (albeit only one game in the latter – and even then he came of after a knock). BS Rating: 2 - I’d prefer to see Bertrand in a Liverpool shirt than Moreno for both footballing reasons and for knowing that the club is £10m better off because of it.

Dejan Lovren - the Southampton centre back has been linked with a move to Liverpool since the close of last season. However, according to reports, the 24 year-old Croatian has signaled his intention to bring his season long stint at Saint Mary’s to a close by handing in a transfer request. The Daily Star has even gone so far as to suggest the player has outlined his intention to move to Liverpool. Personally, I think this is great news for Liverpool and if Rodgers is able to do a deal, he’d have addressed the clubs biggest problem over the last few seasons, let alone last season. I’ve seen prices ranging from £12-15m which would be round about right for a player of his experience and ability and would make an ideal partner for Martin Skrtel. BS Rating: 1 - There’s been so little written about this in the press up to now, I can’t help feeling that there has been some genuine effort gone into this behind the scenes. Watch this space.

So, that’s my Fantastic Four for this week. Rodgers and his crew have clearly read our article from last week and decided to get a move on with strengthening the defence. The inclusion of Lovren in the list is reassuring and indicates that the manager isn’t going completely keeganesque and being intent on playing a 1-1-8 formation. I like to believe that he’s learnt the lessons from last season and is actively seeking to address the clubs most urgent weakness.

The Adam Lallana and Xherdan Shaqiri stories remain but I’m beginning to think those are both coming to nothing. At least the Moreno situation looks to have been nipped in the bud so the club doesn’t get a reputation for being total mugs. Where Lallana is convened, I don’t see why he hasn’t followed Lovren’s example and handed in a transfer request if he wants to play for Liverpool that badly. Send him to Tottenham. They’ll gladly pay £30m for him!

So all together a quiet week, and now with the World Cup finals well and truly under way, it’s unlikely there’ll be much business done, if at all. Still, the fire isn’t out and we remain hopeful.

Follow me on Twitter: @Mrbengreen

Saturday Jun 14Posted by: Guest Writer  Comments Off

The Peculiar Case of the Liverpool defence

By Mobeen Kamran

Many have blamed Liverpool’s defence on their short coming in the league and Liverpool desperately require reinforcements in their defence or do they.

Liverpool interchanged their defence between four defenders: Martin Skrtel, Kolo Toure, Daniel Agger and new comer Mammadou Sakho. Not only were these 4 interchanged between each other (all of them having a partnership except Agger and Sakho). Not only were there changes in partners there were also changes in formation for the players. At the beginning of the season Liverpool played a 4-3-3, then after the arrival of Luis Suarez a 3-52, a 4-1-2-3 and a 4-4-2 diamond towards the end of the season.

In the beginning of the season Liverpool played with 2 holding midfielder (Henderson and Lucas or Gerrard and Lucas). During this time Liverpool kept 3 clean sheets. After Lucas got suspended and spent some time outside of the first team Liverpool started to ship goals in.

Rather than blaming the lack in top quality personnel it should be seen that Brendan Rodgers sacrificed a second holding midfielder for an extra striker this led to an exposed defence. If a look is taken at any of the clubs around Liverpool they all played with 2 holding midfielders (Yaya Toure and Fernandhinio for Man City, Ramires and Matic for Chelsea and Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky for Arsenal).

With an aging defence as Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel entering their 30s while Kolo Toure is already in them, a young and inexperienced Mammdou Sakho played less than 20 league games last season and Thiago Illori who did not even get a sniff of first team football and was shipped out on loan to Granada. It is clear Liverpool need a young experienced Centre back and so is being linked with one in Dejan Lovren who would be the ideal signing for Liverpool.

But the defence is not anything that should be looked at, the midfield that is covering the defence should also be considered. With the obvious fact that Gerrard is getting older looks almost unable to keep up with teams that carry pace on the counter attack (Aston Villa match), while Lucas continuously suffers leg injuries reinforcements in the holding midfield position were needed and this need was fulfilled when Emre Can was purchase, a player who plays from one box to the next, someone who has the legs to deal with the pace and physicality in the game.

Fans should expect drastic improvement in the defence in the 2014/2015 season not only with new players brought into the club but for Brendan Rodgers as he will have learnt that a top heavy teams win matches but not titles. However one should not be too optimistic about the future of the Liverpool defence as Liverpool are yet to sign anyone in that department!