According to reports, the country is now on the road to financial recovery. Despite this we all still need to keep an eye on the purse strings and Liverpool Football Club are no different. Let’s be honest, never mind blaming the Mrs., we’re all guilty of a retail excess now and again. A little shirt here, £50. A nice jacket there, £200 and, in the case of Liverpool, a centre back or two, £20m. It all adds up. I’ve been doing some digging and Liverpool have no fewer than 13 players out on loan this season. That’s virtually another team, barring a few subs.
It’s common knowledge that Brendan Rodgers needs to strengthen the defence, not only in preparation for potential Champions League football, but also to spare the blushes from some more than ropey defending we’ve seen in recent months. Well, he need look no further than the loan list where the team almost has an embarrassment of riches available and ready to save the club more than just a few quid on new players.
To avoid boring everyone to tears, here’s my pick of the bunch that will help Chief Financial Officer Andy Hughes sleep that little bit sounder with the prospect of signing off some rather hefty cheques over the summer months to come. After all, as they say, look after the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves.
Of the five defenders, Andre Wisdom must be in with a shout of pushing for a first team place next season. And the updates from Derby are very encouraging indeed. The lad is good. Strong, fast and, judging from what we’ve seen of Glen Johnson’s ageing legged performances this term, Wisdom would be worth a run in the side. We have Jon Flanagan at right back now, but he’s also been used effectively on the left. Wisdom has been impressive whenever he’s played and you could argue that the first team exposure will bring him on leaps and bounds as it has done for Flanagan. That’s surely a saving of six or seven million at today’s rates.
In midfield, I’d like to see Oussama Assaidi come back. From what I’ve seen he’s had a decent spell at Stoke City. He scored an absolute screamer against Chelsea in December to give the Potters a deserved victory. He would make a decent replacement in the event of injury, and alternative to any of Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho or Iago Aspas. Where Aspas is concerned, I think his massive league goal tally this season of, er… two, should make him a contender to be sent out on loan himself if Rodgers still rates him. Or out to graze if I were to rate him. There’s also Jordan Ibe who most definitely has something to offer. Not as a starter, but again, bums on seats. Even if those seats take the form of the bench, he should get more playing time in the cup games and cover for the inevitable injuries. That’s another five or six million quid there. More if you add the two bob they’d get for Aspas if he was sold on.
The loan market has already helped Liverpool to save a fair packet. I’m sure Mr. Hughes is glad they’ve taken some players on to the books with only the wage liability and not a burdensome multi-million pound transfer fee to add to the balance sheet as well. Enter Aly Cissokho. He was mooted as a £12m must have purchase a year or two ago. The 26 year-old on loan from Valencia has been a tad disappointing in my eyes and I’m grateful that the club didn’t part with a large fee for him. Thank The Lord! They’ve only just turned the corner of financial recovery like the rest of us and he’d have been the footballing equivalent of a pair of loafers too far. The ones that looked nice in the shop, but now they always squeak and hurt your feet when you wear them.
Liverpool have a good thing right now. Not only are they second in the league and improving mentally, tactically and technically physically with each game, but the future prospects for the team look very bright in terms of the younger players at hand. It’s vitally important that the likes of Ibe, Conor Coady, Jack Robinson and the rest are developed into the players that they have the undoubted potential to be. My only concern with them playing at clubs like Notts County and Sheffield United is that they do not get the kind of challenge in the lower divisions that they’ll get in the Premiership and the club should strive to find top quality clubs for these players whenever possible.
In summary, let’s try to have a win win situation here. The home-grown players mean the team can grow from within and build a stronger base. LFC must not rely on the transfer market where prices and quality are both overinflated. Money makes a good servant, but an awful master.
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I am actually starting to get worried, not for the result at Old Trafford, but the potential repercussions of whatever transpires out of that game. The past weekend’s English Premier League results has certainly proven a few points, some of which I hoped I would not have to admit. But what I hope is that the pressure does not get to the players in trying to grab a Champions League qualification place.
Firstly, Liverpool will not win the league.
It’s Chelsea’s to lose essentially, after their thrashing of Tottenham Hotspurs at Stamford Bridge. One has to only look at their remaining games to try to find any game in which they might slip up, and to be honest, I could only find two, as hard as I tried. The first is the visit of fellow title contenders Arsenal to Stamford Bridge. Looking at Jose Mourinho’s record at home in both spells as Chelsea coach, even into this current campaign, the Portuguese will definitely find a tactic to either outwit Arsene Wenger or simply not to lose. The other game which Chelsea might slip up is away at the Liberty Stadium, but even then Mourinho’s vast experience in relation to Garry Monk’s would certainly point to another three points. There’s also the visit to Anfield, but by then the league might have been wrapped up for the Blues already.
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Secondly, Manchester United look to have come into some form.
The combination play for Danny Welbeck’s goal, United’s third, against a West Bromwich Albion side that managed draws recently against Liverpool and Chelsea, did look quality and shows the United frontline are still a threat. Robin van Persie might be having somewhat of a downer lately, but he will surely be fired up against Liverpool this coming Sunday. Similarly, the rest of the United team will not want to allow their Merseyside rivals to do the double over them this season. David Moyes will not want a second defeat against his perennial rivals.
Worryingly too – ironically – this is the first time in recent times that Liverpool go into a game against United as favourites, even at Old Trafford. The form book heavily points in favour of Luis Suarez and co., and however much I would like him and Daniel Sturridge to tear the United defence in front of their own fans, there’s still that concern that the pressure of being favourites and somewhat being in a title race for the first time in five years could get to them, which brings me to my next point.
The bookies have Manchester United slightly favoured to win the game, for more information on this check out Betsson Sportsbook.
Thirdly, no talk of the title, please.
With the squads of Chelsea and Manchester City, to a lesser extent Arsenal, containing so much more depth than the current Liverpool side, though Lucas Leiva and Mamadou Sakho have returned to the first team, the Reds have to concentrate only on making the top 4. Nothing more, nothing less. This sort of pressure got to the Reds sides of the past, and Brendan Rodgers can ill-afford that right now.
With Spurs, the current closest of the challengers to the top 4, 6 points behind having played a game more, Liverpool have, regardless of how little, a buffer in the race for Champions League spots. This should help ease the pressure off the players for the still titanic clash on the weekend. Yes, I reiterate again, I do want Liverpool to do the double over United even if its another gusty, slim victory, and similarly a point would be a really good result as well. But a defeat is not, and should not be seen or felt as the end of the world.
Why the ‘pessimism’?
At the worse, it only gives Moyes some confidence, which would probably be blown away come midweek when Olympiakos come to Old Trafford defending a 2-0 first-leg lead, and close the gap on the Reds and the top 4. Still, United would be behind Spurs and potentially Everton. But the Reds cannot slip away and throw away the momentum gained so far this season, should they see defeat against the old enemy. The main reason for this is because they need to get back to winning ways immediately at Cardiff and against Sunderland the following midweek to set up a potentially top 4-deciding clash against Spurs at Anfield at the end of the month. This game against Tim Sherwood’s Spurs will, in all honesty, set the tone for the rest of the season and ultimately decide on the Reds’ top 4 prospects.
Sunday 16th March – 13.30pm – Man Utd v Liverpool
Our friends at MatchChat are hosting an interactive online event on their Blog for the Manchester United v Liverpool game this Sunday.
There will be discussion on the blog post all week in the lead up to the game and real time fan engagement during the match. The event has been promoted across the MatchChat network and we need a strong turnout from our faithful fans.
There is also a £20 prize for the person who’s comment receives the most ‘Trophy’s’.
Have your say on every decision, goal and controversial incident.
Attend on facebook to stay up to date on the event: https://www.facebook.com/events/485946081511602/?fref=ts
And visit the Match Centre to give your opinion:
20 million quid. A 21 year old bought from Sunderland. Not many knew the name, not many had seen him play. Fans questioned the club’s transfer policy. Overpaying for average players had become a dictum Liverpool Football Club adhered to with minimal deviation. Alberto Aquilani and Riera come to mind when you think about players who have failed at the club. Liverpool paid a considerable sum to secure their services. It is curious that players of such undisputed talent failed to acclimatize themselves to the Premier League. When Jordan Henderson was recruited for a humongous fee of 20 million, I sat at home wondering if we had another Aquilani or Riera at hand. A player who would give us a few good performances and then fade into oblivion. Who would then be sold to another club for minimal resale value. “20 million quid for a 21 year old?” read the headlines on several websites after he was signed. I doubt there were any Liverpool fans who would’ve considered the deal a great piece of business by the club. A relatively unproven talent for so much money is a deal even a 10 year old football fan won’t agree with. However, such is the over-valuation of English players that everyone reserved their judgment for the future when they’ve seen Henderson showcase himself on the field.
Considered a bit too young for a central midfield role at a big club, by the manager Dalglish, Henderson’s career began on the right-wing for Liverpool. Blessed with great athleticism, Henderson coped with the battle reasonably well. He had the pace to go past a full-back, the defensive nous to help his team’s right back in defense and be available as an outlet on the wing for the central midfielders to ping balls to. However, what Henderson lacked was the flair, the occasional showboating skills, to go past multiple defenders if need be. For any observer, it seemed conspicuous that he found the role relatively uncomfortable. Delegating a natural midfielder to an outing on the wing seldom works out. Gerrard himself has played there before but he rarely had the same influence on a game from out wide than from a central role. The above-average performances of Henderson over several matches let to disapproving murmurs being heard amongst the fans. Comments such as “Here we go again, another average player in our ranks!” or “Did we really pay 20 million pounds for that kid?” could be read all over Facebook or over the club’s forum webpage. His average performances led to him being reserved to the bench for the latter part of Dalglish’s spell as manager. Even Rodgers earlier considered him an entity he could discard and reclaim a small amount of the 20 million paid.
However, Henderson wasn’t to be put down by a relegation to the bench or by being considered a superfluous entity at the club. He is the kind of player who would run through a brick wall for the club if he had to. After declining Rodgers’ proposal of a move to Fulham, Henderson continued to work tirelessly to improve his technical skills. Now, he has gradually become a player Rodgers would hesitate to put on the bench, let alone dispense with completely. Henderson’s an invaluable asset to the club sole for his desire and energy. Seldom have I seen a Liverpool player run up and down the pitch for the entirety of a game. Last I remember it was another English midfielder who was omnipresent on the pitch, jumping into tackles and setting up attacks in an instant. Yes, Henderson might not possess the thunderous right foot of Gerrard or his tackling ability, but what he does possess is Gerrard’s insatiable desire to win and his limitless energy of days past. The medical team recently stated that they fear for players like Henderson and Suarez who they believe would play every day of the week if they could. They love football and want success more than anything. It is these breed of players that form the heart of a club and are the players we turn to for inspiration. You’d never hear a fan criticize Henderson’s performance for lack of drive or purpose. They know that when he walks onto the pitch, he is a fan himself who’d do anything to secure victory for his club.
I for one have utmost respect for players who never give up. On countless occasions, I have seen Henderson sprinting back to win the ball after a team-mate lost it in the opposition’s half. If football was a game where you had to rack up “distance covered” numbers, Henderson would be out of sight by half-way into the season itself. His desire is evident from his passionate goal celebrations too. Fans love his celebrations more than his goals, for all fans love players who display the same fervor and zest as them.
With the season entering the last few games, I am assured that Jordan Henderson would have a major part to play in deciding where we finish this season. After his peerless performance against Swansea which was studded with two well taken goals, no one can doubt his value to the side. Roy Hodgson himself acknowledged the midfielder’s stellar form and rewarded him with a start for England this past week. If Henderson continues to run amok in games with the same drive, it’s hard to see how he doesn’t deserve to start in Brazil.
I’m sure Henderson will keep putting in Herculean efforts on the field for every game in his career and we should be glad we have such a player in our ranks. Gerrard’s retirement in the future would require someone to fill in his boots. The task of replacing such a legend might seem daunting but then Henderson is no ordinary individual.
In the past five seasons, Liverpool have had mixed form in the last 10 games of the respective seasons, the stage Brendan Rodgers’ side are at now. From the 2008/09 season where Rafa Benitez ran a Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired Manchester United side close to the title, till Rodgers’ first campaign last year – 2012/13 – it seems to be that one season’s magnificent end of season run will be followed up by a mediocre final ten games. Having had a pretty good end to last season, Reds fans will be hoping this trend does not continue into this potentially great campaign.
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2008/09 – 9 wins, 1 draw, 0 losses
Benitez’s Liverpool side entered the last ten games of the season in third, having led the league during the New Year. They needed to have a flawless end to the season, and hope United slipped up at some point, in order to have any shot at the title. The fearsome offensive combo in Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres ensured that, with comfortable home wins against Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur, adding onto victories at Hull City, West Ham United and West Bromwich Albion. Further, Torres tormented Nemanja Vidic in that 4-1 win at Old Trafford, where even Anfield flop Andrea Dossena got in on the act with a cheeky lob over Edwin van der Sar. However, it was that only draw in the last 10 games costed Benitez, a crazy 4-4 draw against Arsenal at Anfield, which saw Emirates flop Andrei Arshavin bag four and effectively ended Liverpool’s hope of that elusive 19th championship title.
2009/10 – 4 wins, 3 losses, 3 draws
Benitez could not follow up the previous campaign with another sustained title charge. And as the season started drifting away, the Reds seemed to want the season to end early. They only saw victories against bottom-half teams, while suffering abysmal draws at Birmingham City and Hull, as well as at home against Fulham. Further losses at Manchester United and Wigan, and a home defeat to Chelsea would eventually see Benitez fired at the end of campaign and mark the start of Liverpool’s absence from the Champions League.
2010/11 – 6 wins, 3 losses, 1 draw
After coming in to save Liverpool from the predicament the current England manager Roy Hodgson put them in, club legend Kenny Dalglish oversaw a blistering end of season form that would see him be rewarded a permanent contract before the start of the next campaign. New signing Andy Carroll would enjoy his best game at the club against Manchester City, where he bagged two in a 3-0 victory, while fellow January buy Luis Suarez inspired the Reds to a famous 3-1 win against United, where Dirk Kuyt bagged a hat-trick. However great these victories were, the Reds’ habits against ‘lesser’ teams still held as they lost to West Brom, Villa and Spurs.
2011/12 – 3 wins, 1 draw, 6 losses
Probably the worst end to the season in recent memory, what made this all the worse was that it followed a League Cup victory, which should have provided the momentum for a push for Champions League qualification. Instead, Liverpool suffered from the curse of the League Cup as they first suffered a defeat at relegation-threatened Queens Park Rangers, after going 2-0 up, an insipid defeat at home against Wigan Athletic, and a 2-0 defeat at Newcastle where Pepe Reina saw red for a Alan Pardew-esque head-butt. It was a case of the Reds either focusing on the FA Cup final, which they lost, or just simply gave up. Unfortunately, this led to Dalglish’s sacking. Ironically, the last game of the season was a defeat at, yes you guessed it, Brendan Rodgers’ Swansea City side.
2012/13 – 5 wins, 4 draws, 1 loss
Though most of the draws should have been wins, it was still a terrific end to the season under the new boss, and especially with Suarez out for the last 4 games due to his bite on Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic. Still, Liverpool managed to cope with the combined efforts of January buys Daniel Sturridge and Philipp Coutinho, with 3 wins in that last four games. Still, there were those two unlucky goalless draws at Reading and against West Ham at Anfield, the fortunate 2-2 draw against Chelsea, and that abysmal 3-1 reverse at Southampton. Fortunately, this form did carry over into the next season.
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Taking the average of the last five season’s final 10 games, Liverpool will gather at least five wins in the next two months, and one should be able to pick up which five league games the Reds should win; there will also be close to three defeats and two draws. However, with the big teams coming to Anfield this time, the Reds should be able to go against statistics and convert some of those five negative results into positive wins.
Still, the main issue is how Liverpool deal with so-called ‘lesser’ teams away from home, like they did against Southampton last weekend. With Lucas Leiva and Mamadou Sakho finally back from injury and playing their part in the reserves’ win last night, Liverpool should have enough depth in their squad to secure the wins they should, while pushing the other three teams hard in the last race of this long, drawn-out marathon. Yet, the focus should still be the same: Champions League qualification.
With news that Liverpool owner John W Henry has admitted to Suarez having a buyout clause last summer The Redmen TV look at the recently started “Free Suarez” campaign and other examples of winding up Arsenal fans
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