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.
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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)
Joe Allen has often being made scapegoat of this team for a good two years now, I realise he has won many over in reason months, but there are still a few fans who are not convinced. I want to address that issue.
Brenton Fraudgers brought in Joseph Xavier Allen as his 2nd ever signing, for at the time, what seemed an inflated fee of £15m. Many people, myself included, were sceptical of the fee. A one seasoned Premier League player at a recently promoted club with 5 goals? Blasphemy! However, after a think, in perspective the deal to me looked fair. He was a 22 year old international midfielder, breaking in to the Welsh national team in somewhat of a new era for the Welsh boys with the them having some of the most successful talent they’ve had in years; Ashley Williams, Aaron Ramsey and Bale to name a few. It was evident the talent was there. Furthermore, Liverpool as a club, were in transition, both on and off the field. We didn’t know what to think of the man whose name is sung loudly around the stands of Anfield, he was an unknown quantity but Allen was a safe buy. He knew Rodgers system, and gave us depth in a position were club legends Charlie Adam and Alberto Aquallani had left. This signing gave us solidity, the foundations, the beginning, a small insight to Liverpool fans as to the way the way Rodgers wanted us to play. Of course, Rodgers could have gone out and spent the money on an exotic name we didn’t really need to appease the fans. Cough cough Man Utd. But he stuck to his guns with, let’s be honest, a fairly underwhelming signing. Then came the Welsh Xavi tag from Brendan, which probably wasn’t a wise move. This became a source of ridicule before he’d even kicked a ball for us, the lad was fighting a losing battle unfairly, but he just got on with it. Many wouldn’t. Let’s be honest though, he’s got on better than the Egyptian Messi some of our fans craved for. Again, the grass isn’t always greener.
Not beating around the bush, we were in a dire state. After two years of turmoil with Hicks and Gillet a 3-0 loss against the mighty West Brom wasn’t the perfect way to start for Rodgers. The dismay continued and the early days of Allen’s career must have been tough. He was our best player. Never mind your Luis Suarez or Steven Gerrard, Allen was our best player. Why? He is perfect for a Rodgers team. However, fans only look at the price tag, his introduction of the team and, the number of goals he scored (or didn’t) and the result. He was made a scapegoat. He was often labelled as Rodgers obsession, not in a good light either. People need to understand that Joe doesn’t score goals. He has everything a player needs to thrive in Rodgers system, his fitness is impeccable, evident through his tenacity in relentless pressing. I aren’t going to sit here and bore you all with his passing stats, what people seem to think is the be all and end all of a player. Stats are only a small reflection. Let’s take it back to two years ago tomorrow, against a certain Manchester City. Brother of our beloved Kolo was quoted after a 2-2 draw as saying “That was the hardest game I’d played in England”. Why? The system. The pressing. The hunger. Oh. What’s that? Who got man of the match that day? Yep.
Then came a crushing blow to Liverpool’s, Joe Allen’s and most of all Lucas Leiva’s season. Lucas, as we have often heard before was ruled out for a prolonged period. This was back in the day when Stevie actually had legs you know, therefore we had no DM. (Shockingly this still needs addressing, but that’s for another day). Allen was shoehorned in to the roll having never played there in his life. He did alright. I remember one of his first games; a fiery affair at Goodison where he’d come up against the ever physical microphone with elbows, somewhat of a footballer, Marouane Felliani. I know who I’d back in a bout. Allen again, got in with it in workman like style. I’ve never seen such a display of maturity from someone as young as 22. He was in a new city, surrounded by new people, new team-mates and he doesn’t seem the extrovert does he? Then came the birth of child, I remember him being quoted as saying he was awoken every morning for about 3 weeks. Can’t help with his performance can it? I look at these facts. I look at his performance. In my eyes, I see a model professional. I have nothing but respect for him, especially with what was revealed towards the end of the season. Joe had being carrying a shoulder injury for 5 months but wanted to wait for surgery to let him play on and recover over the Summer. I hear time and time again, this is what the fans want; players who are committed to the cause, who will fight tooth and nail for you. But because it was little Joseph Allen, not a big name by any stretch nobody gave a toss. I can only imagine the orifice violation if that was Suarez or Stevie.
Again, after the injury he got his head down the following season. A rejuvenated Jordan Henderson came in to the team after a truly magnificent turn around; Allens place was under threat as our squad was looking bigger than the previous season, – Yeah I know, not hard. Players we’re adapting to the system, things were finally looking up. Joe was out of the team for a while, however he pushed himself, he matched the fast pace the squad was evolving. He became a prominent figure. As Gerrard was slowly converted to the regista role, it became evident to Rodger’s, the fans, and probably anyone with footballing knowledge we couldn’t play a midfield three containing Gerrard and Lucas due to the lack of the intensity it provides. We again, needed Allen to come back in to fit the system. He didn’t moan. It was evident to see that he gave his all, and again when results didn’t go our way, all though that proved to be little last season. There’s a reason he was often in the team during our great run last season. What a guy.
One of Rodgers first quotes – “I want to make coming to Anfield the longest 90 minutes of an opponent’s life. – Joe Allen embodies this.
I’m not going to pretend he’s one of the best all round midfielders ever to play, because he isn’t. He’s very good at what he does. He does the dirty work; he’s never going to catch the eye especially with OUR attacking players. Players like Raheem and Daniel will probably love Joe. He provides the perfect link between defence and attack. He gives us control. I can remember several times when he’s come on to the field when we’re looking shaky and he’s giving us assurance, this being as recently as last week. He changed the game against Southampton. He sets the tempo. If he wants us to slow is down, we do. Up the tempo? No problem. His ball retention is second to none. Do I care if he passes sideways a lot? Do I hell. The ball constantly moving from side to side often opens up space further up the field as we wait for Gerrard or Coutinho to make the killer pass. Due to the re-emergence or Henderson, Allen is often unnoticed. Don’t get me wrong, I love Henderson, of course I do, but I think a lot of the attention he gets now is because of his big turnaround. I do think Henderson overall is a better player, but some games, Joe does just as good of a job. He’s epitomises the phrase, ‘squad player’. The model professional. Him and Henderson are a perfect partnership, imagine how annoying it is being constantly chased down, not being able to do what you want as soon as you touch the ball. Rodgers must love them. Of course, he can work on somethings, we all remember that miss at the small timers ate Goodison. But it happens. It’s football. Joe will be even better against the more tactically astute sides in Europe, and I for one Can’t wait to see him play, going toe to toe with Europe’s finest. If he played in Spain, I have no doubt he would be loved. That £15m, which was at the start of a new era of extravagant transfer fees, and compared to some transfers these then it doesn’t seem too much at all.
World beater? Nope. Under appreciated? Yes. To suggest he’s a bad player is quite frankly, ridiculous. To want him out of the club, take a look in the mirror and question your so called ‘support’.