Sunday Aug 31Posted by: Shantanu Singh  Comments Off

The Defensive Conundrum

31st August 2014, LFC go back from White Hart Lane with 3 points after securing a 3-0 victory against Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham side. On a cursory look at the score-line, most people would term it a comfortable win for the Reds, but Liverpool’s defense ensures that the neutrals watching are in for an entertaining ride no matter whom they are playing, be it Manchester City or Crystal Palace. A new make-shift center-back partnership of Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho was deployed in the wake of Martin Skrtel’s injury. A little miscommunication and nervy moments were expected from the new defensive pairing. But the overzealousness of Lovren coupled with the lack of sharpness in Sakho’s passing ability, led to several occasions during the game that could have been easily exploited by the Spurs side had they been as clinical as Manchester City last week.

Dejan Lovren was brought from Southampton to provide Liverpool with greater defensive solidarity

One of these opportunities arose when Lovren came buccaneering for an aerial ball just outside the box. The ball was clearly meant for Sakho to clear. With Sakho approaching the ball and Lovren coming in too, there was clear space for Chadli to breakthrough in case the ball did fall to him. That is exactly what happened. Lovren lost the header to Adebayor who headed the ball into Chadli’s path. Chadli subsequently unleashed a powerful shot at Mignolet who, like he has been doing for a long while, came up with a great save to keep Spurs at bay. If that had gone in, it would’ve been 1-1 and the plot of the game could’ve easily turned.

Sakho entered the starting XI with no pre-season game time and was expected to show some rustiness. Usually really good at picking out midfield players from his own half, Sakho was terrible in his delivery this afternoon. His eagerness to play a first time pass into a teammate’s path led to interceptions in the defensive half by the Spurs side and could’ve easily led to goalscoring opportunities had Spurs again possessed the lethal edge in attack. Lamela and Eriksen looked nowhere close to their incisive best during the game and thus Liverpool survived these lapses in concentration.

One to two defensive errors during a game can be tolerated, but Liverpool’s defense continually looks shaky no matter who is thrown into the center-back positions. Is it because the players are just not good enough? Well Sakho was France captain a little while ago and Lovren a rock at the back for Croatia at the World Cup, so to call them poor players is a travesty. Then what is the reason behind them looking so vulnerable. It’s miscommunication. If Lovren and Sakho call out for a ball clearly then they won’t end up going after the same ball. Proper communication is what makes good defenders great. Lovren was bought to bring that quintessential leadership quality into the defensive organization of the team. However, oft times its Simon Mignolet who keeps berating the others for improper cover and pleads for greater solidity and orderliness. Lovren needs to check his overzealous nature of going after every aerial ball that is thrown at Liverpool’s defense. There are two center-backs for a reason. Sakho on the other hand will only get better with his distribution which was shambolic to say the least. Playing more games should help fix that. Well, hopefully.

I’m not saying that the Liverpool defense needs to be inch-perfect in every game throughout the season. Each team is likely to have hiccups throughout the season. Heck even Chelsea shipped in 3 goals against Everton (who shipped in 6, but wait why are we even talking about Everton). But title-winners are outrageously consistent. Here’s hoping Brendan Rodgers can continue tinkering his defensive pairings to provide ample assurance to Liverpool fans all over the world. Well there’s Real Madrid coming over in October and Ronaldo, Bale, Rodriguez and Benzema would be sitting in their plush homes in Madrid, laughing their way into the night after watching Liverpool’s defensive performances.

On a side note, it is worth commending the performances of both full-backs Javier Manquillo and Alberto Moreno. Both looked solid from the word go. They provided ample attacking verve with Moreno scoring a breath-taking solo effort for the 3rd of Liverpool’s goals. He certainly has the pace and ability to go on and get more in a Liverpool shirt over the years. Carragher referred to him as ‘probably the best left-back Liverpool has had since the treble winning season’ and that does mean something. With Manquillo performing solidly on the right hand-side it’s hard to see Johnson getting back into the first team unless Rodgers decides to add nervous excitement back into the lives of Liverpool supporters.

Sunday Aug 31Posted by: Tom Noon  Comments Off

Tottenham 0-3 Liverpool

Rodgers said of the Balotelli signing that he didn’t want to talk about the new striker from AC Milan every week. But at 13:25 at White Hart Lane, all eyes were on Super Mario, who arrived late out of the tunnel, typical of a man who loves the limelight. By the end, his thunder had been somewhat stolen by the brilliant Raheem Sterling and the impressive Alberto Moreno, although Balotelli certainly had an impact on his debut.

 

Liverpool played Tottenham twice last year, winning 5-0 against AVB’s side at White Hart Lane, before a similar drubbing to the Tim Sherwood managed team at Anfield. Yet under Pochettino, signs had been promising. Misfits Erik Lamela and Nacer Chadli showed form in their opening two fixtures, which they won without conceding. Liverpool on the other hand had been average in comparison to the excitement they provided for much of last season. A scrappy 2-1 win at home to Southampton was followed by a disheartening 3-1 loss away to Manchester City. A win at in-form Tottenham would be a solid statement to send out to fellow title rivals.

 

The enigmatic Italian almost made the dream start to his Liverpool career after just two minutes, but his header from Sturridge’s cross was parried away by Lloris, and the follow-up went wide. Liverpool started strongly, and the reward came after seven minutes. Manquillo won the ball back from Chadli, getting it out to Sturridge who found Henderson in an advanced position. Henderson’s perfectly weighted pass evaded Kaboul and Vertonghen, allowing Sterling to score from close range. The move, involving three English players, will have delighted the onlooking Roy Hodgson, hoping to build a team capable of challenging at the biggest stage.

 

This was the first time Spurs had conceded in the league this season, but Pochettino’s men were almost level immediately, Adebayor’s attempted lob failing to trouble Mignolet. Moments later, Sturridge came close to doubling the advantage, only to see his left footed drive drift just wide of the post. Balotelli continued to cause havoc in the Spurs defence, and was unlucky when he headed wide from Gerrard’s searching free kick. After a period of being pressed back into their own half, Tottenham bounced back with their own period of possession. New recruit Dejan Lovren impressively used his skill to prevent a decent opportunity for Chadli, while Sakho atoned for giving the ball away by making a last ditch tackle on Adebayor, to prevent a glorious opportunity. An error strewn period of the game continued, after a poor back pass from Bentaleb gave Sterling the chance to set up the advancing Moreno in acres of space. However the England winger scuffed his pass, allowing the home side to reclaim possession.

 

Balotelli showed glimpses of how he and Sturridge will link up, with a well-timed backheel giving his new teammate a decent chance for a shot on goal. Luckily for Pochettino, his keeper was alert, and able to save Sturridge’s effort comfortably. The new signing tormented the defence on his debut, doing brilliantly to hold off the advancing Spurs players, but after Lloris rushed out of position to clear the ball, Balotelli’s 35 yard effort towards an empty goal ended up well wide. With Gerrard having a poor half by his standards, Henderson stepped up, controlling the game while demonstrating grit and tenacity, as if this were his audition for the currently vacant role of vice-captain. Lovren and Sakho were making their first appearance as a centre-back pairing, and it showed, when their lack of communication saw them both go for the same ball, allowing Chadli a free shot on goal. Fortunately for the two, Mignolet, who had had precious little to do previously, was alert to tip the shot over the crossbar.

 

It was just minutes into the second half when Liverpool doubled their advantage. Joe Allen was caught in the box by Eric Dier, under limited but certain contact. Balotelli has a near perfect penalty record, but it was the regular taker, Steven Gerrard, who sent the ball into the bottom left hand corner to beat Lloris. The home side attempted to escape from a difficult position, but a Chadli cross failed to reach Adebayor, and Moreno reacted superbly to prevent an easy opportunity for Adebayor, following a mistake from Lovren. Despite the chances for Tottenham, Liverpool put the game to bed after 60 minutes. New signing Alberto Moreno won the ball back in his own half from substitute Andros Townsend, and kept running down the left hand side, before unleashing a left footed drive into Lloris’ bottom right hand corner.

 

Tottenham rarely challenged from that point, their main priority appeared to be preventing the 5-0 embarrassment suffered last season. Emre Can and Lazar Markovic were given half an hour to impress, but shortly after Sturridge forced a good save from Lloris, it was Sterling who came close to a ‘goal of the season’ contender. In a manner similar to that of his former teammate Luis Suarez, Sterling picked up the ball of Emre Can, humiliating two Spurs with his excellent footwork. In a manner unlike Suarez, however, the finish was awful, and comfortably gathered by Lloris. The remainder of the match was a formality, and the feelings at the final whistle will have been ones of optimism for Liverpool fans, compared with the worries felt last week at the Etihad. It’s hard to say whether Balotelli will hit it off at Liverpool, but judging by his performance today, the early signs are promising.

Saturday Aug 30Posted by: Antoine Zammit  Comments Off

Goodbye Daniel Agger

Daniel Agger is returning back to his former club Brondby, really sad to see Daniel leave.

Daniel spent almost 8 years at Liverpool and although his time as a Red was often plagued by injuries he still managed 232 appearances and scored a total of 14 goals.

My favourite Agger moment was the goal against Chelsea in the 2007 Champions League Semi-Final.

Good Luck Daniel and thank you.

Thursday Aug 28Posted by: Antoine Zammit  Comments Off

Redmen TV : Tottenham Hotspur V Liverpool | The Uncensored Match Build Up Show

With Spurs just coming off the back of a convincing victory against QPR, Chris is joined by Craig Austin, John Machin and Jack Harte to preview the opposition and discuss what formation and tactics the Liverpool team might employ.

Thursday Aug 28Posted by: Guest Writer  Comments Off

Patience is the Key

by @koolhanger

After tasting this early season defeat us Liverpool fans need to remain grounded and display some of the humility that our great club is famed for.

As I watched our team do battle against the reigning champions on Monday night it was tempting to let disappointment take over.  City’s strength in midfield and clinical finishing dampened my spirits and all but pissed on my garlic-cheese chips. If only we had got in level at half-time was my main reflection. 

In truth Liverpool were looking comfortable in that opening half.  We were carrying the expectations of being an almost-equal partner in this clash with last seasons victorious foe.  There were positives to take for sure.  Moreno will prove to be a great acquisition.  Liverpool fans will give him time and he will be encouraged to mature into a reliable and exciting full-back.  This will be under a boss who is quickly securing a name for himself as a very intelligent man-manager.  Rodgers has been most effective in creating a suitable environment to enable our young team to grow and hopefully maximise its potential.  Will this climate be put to the test now with the arrival of Super Mario?  I don’t think so.  For now Rodgers has earned our trust.  If he feels that Balotelli’s approach and mindset are suitable to Liverpool then we should have confidence in his decision.  This is not blind faith I am talking about, this is respect, and belief, that the Antrim man is due.

Last seasons heroics and almost fairytale ending means Rodgers is now in danger of falling victim to his own relative success.  Patience really is the key however and we have to remember that Liverpool Football Club is ahead of schedule, possibly two years ahead.  I know this is the boring viewpoint to have but what we need after last seasons roller-coaster ride is stability.  I would love another title-challenge, and lets go for it, but we should not despair if we don’t go as close as last season.  If we guarantee Champions League qualification again with a top four finish, coupled with a good showing in club footballs elite competition (I’m thinking quarter-finals at least) then we will be on our way to re-establishing ourselves as a major European force.  Up-and-coming young talent will see that Liverpool are back at the Champions League table and dining with the best.

The clubs transfer strategy this summer was excellent.  Ian Ayre, last seasons “in-joke”, is this years over-achiever.  The committee identified areas that needed strengthening and got to work on those deals quickly and ruthlessly.  Yes we lost Suarez but we have improved squad-depth everywhere else on the pitch.  The “Spurs” curse will not befall us either, of that I’m sure.  The atmosphere, team spirit and leadership that all new arrivals will be met with at Melwood is far more positive than anything Spurs could offer under AVB last summer.  Also, Balotelli is not a bad “last resort” to strengthen us in the attacking third.  He is a twenty-four year old with experience of playing (and winning) at the highest level.  If he doesn’t work out the club will recoup most, if not all of his fee two or three years down the road.

So again, lets push for the title but not be too disheartened if we don’t reach those heights again immediately.  Its going to be another cracker of a term and a great time to be a Liverpool fan.  We have glorious European nights to look forward to and one of the best young squads in Europe.  We will no doubt challenge on all fronts with our replenished squad.  We will play the best football in the league and attack at every given opportunity.  Thats the thing with Rodgers.  He doesn’t seem to know any other way.  And honestly, right  now, I don’t think I want him to.  

Follow me @koolhanger

Thursday Aug 28Posted by: Antoine Zammit  Comments Off

Liverpool to travel to Spain, Switzerland & Bulgaria in the Champions League Group stage

uefa-champions-league3

Liverpool will face Basel, Real Madrid and Ludogorets in the Champions League Group stage.

 

Tuesday September 16: Ludogorets Razgrad (H)

Wednesday October 1: FC Basel (A)

Wednesday October 22: Real Madrid (H)

Tuesday November 4: Real Madrid (A)

Wednesday November 26: Ludogorets Razgrad (A)

Tuesday December 9: FC Basel (H)