Saturday Oct 26Posted by: Guest Writer Comments Off
One can only sit back and marvel at how much Liverpool has improved since last season. After 9 games last season, we were stuck in the bottom half with just 2 wins. Fast forward a year later, we sit comfortably in 2nd (until Chelsea plays) after a delightful 4-1 victory over West Brom.
One can also argue that West Brom isn’t a very tough opponent. But having lost both home and away to them last season; a bitter 3-0 defeat at The Hawthorns on the opening day of the EPL, and then 0-2 at Anfield, this game was never going to be an easy gaming for Rodgers’s boys. West Brom went into this game unbeaten in their last 5 and yet to lose away from home this season.
Like clockwork, Liverpool’s first half started well-formulated, executed with the precision demanded by the manager. They controlled the tempo of the game, kept the ball and it didn’t take long for Suarez to open the scoring. He dashed past one defender, nutmeg’d the next and powered it accurately into the bottom corner. From then on, Liverpool, and Suarez in particular, threw West Brom into a rout. In this game alone, two outstanding efforts from our lethal strikeforce, the “SAS”, were tagged instantly as goal-of-the-week contenders; Suarez’s magical header for his second goal and Sturridge’s brilliant chip from outside the box. Liverpool should have kept a clean sheet but a bizarre call for a penalty by the linesman gave Morrison the chance to pull one back for the Baggies. In conclusion, a neat 4-1 victory over the Baggies and we definitely looked a lot more comfortable in the second half as compared to previous games. Gerrard, Henderson and Lucas put in great performances today. What was it you were saying about Gerrard and Hendo again, Fergie?
Next week, we travel to London for the biggest game of the season so far. It’s a chance for us to go top of the table once again as November begins. I predict an insane battle to erupt at The Emirates. It will not be an easy battle, nor will it be a hard one. Arsenal, will be an arduous challenge for the Reds.
Arsenal looks like a title-challenging side this season. Boosted by their star summer addition, Mesut Özil, They’ve won 7 out of their 9 EPL games thus far. A visit to The Emirates is never an easy one, but Liverpool will be happy to know that the only loss Arsenal had this season was at home on the opening day, where they fell 1-3 to Aston Villa. Defeated by Borussia Dortmund in mid-week, Arsenal bounced back in the EPL with a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace. However, it wasn’t a very convincing win, with Arteta being sent off (after scoring the opener with a penalty) but Giroud managed to wrap the game up in its final stages. Liverpool, on the other hand, dismantled West Brom 4-1. Fans will also be happy to hear that the team we beat today drew 1-1 with Arsenal just 2 games back.
It will be a clash of the titans next weekend, and while its too early to predict the lineups of both teams, you can expect fireworks to go off in almost every inch of the pitch. Of course, Lucas and Gerrard will have to work hard to shut the likes of Ozil and Cazorla down in midfield. That beautiful team link-up play that destroyed Norwich in the game before Crystal Palace keeps replaying in my mind, and i certainly hope Liverpool can shut their midfield down. Also, the defense has to pay attention to the rampaging Welshman Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal’s current top scorer.
On the other end, Mertesacker and co. will have to brace the full force of the “SAS” partnership. Since the return of Suarez, the SAS has struck in every single game. Today, Suarez claimed his first hatrick at Anfield and Sturridge scored once again with a brilliant goal. They will both be entering the clash brimming with confidence. Another delightful news is that Phillipe Coutinho will be returning to the side to face Arsenal. With Coutinho linking up play between Gerrard and Suarez, expect Liverpool to pass the ball fluidly through the gaps of the Arsenal midfield. It will be a bloodbath, but whichever side manages to control the midfield will have the advantage. It will be interesting to see how Rodgers plans to deal with Arsenal’s creative midfield. I believe he will opt for the 3-5-2 system once again, or else it will be a 4-1-2-1-2 formation we were more accustomed to at the start of the campaign.
Our first big test of the season. Come on you reds, show the rest of the league why we should be feared once more. Bring on Arsenal.
- Yashasvi Diptivilasa (@yashasvid)
How good was that? Just how good was that? It wouldn’t be too much comparing it to Benitez’s team in its heyday. That was our best performance this season. By far! I honestly expected West Brom to provide us with more of a challenge considering Steve Clarke’s teams are usually very well organised defensively. But when you have a player like Luis Suarez, sometimes even the most well organized defences don’t stand a chance.
We were well organized in defence, strong in midfield and absolutely lethal in attack. Sakho is an absolutely inspired signing, in my opinion. He is an excellent tackler and brings strength to the back that we have lacked previously. Agger might be better suited in defence than Skrtel, but not to take anything away from Skrtel. He has been absolutely top drawer of late. As expected, Glen Johnson’s return to the side offered us visibly more in an attacking sense down the right.
Our midfield looks extremely strong – Hendo, Gerrard and Lucas were really dominant on the ball in the middle of the park. Their combination seemed to be offering complementary strengths and it actually seems a matter of debate if Coutinho will even get into the side next weekend or not! Personally, I’d keep Coutinho on the bench and start with the same side that started today. We will need Hendo’s endless running against Arsenal.
And now onto our attack. I cannot wax eloquent enough about our forward line. Suarez and Sturridge were absolutely lethal. Suarez seems to want to make up for lost time with his fantastic hat-trick that included a logic defying header from just outside the penalty box. His first goal was a pearl, with a typical nutmeg and his final goal was a world class delivery from our top, top player – Steven Gerrard. And what can I even say about the Daniel Sturridge goal? He looks up, sees the goalkeeper off his line and plants a sublime chip over him into the back of the net. Absolutely world class.
The best part about the Suarez and Sturridge partnership is that they seem to be inspiring us to greater heights. There is an feeling of ‘anything you can do, I can do better.’ There is a fantastic team spirit running through the team and we have got the balance right in most areas of the pitch. I can NOT wait for top of the table clash with Arsenal game next week! Come on you big Redmen!
Saturday Oct 26Posted by: Zak Forster Comments Off
You’d be doing well to find a Liverpool supporter out there who doesn’t have a strong opinion on midfielder Joe Allen. He is definitely one of the most divisive players currently on Liverpool’s playing roster. Some think he’s a complete waste of space and that he doesn’t supply much more than his “back and sides” nickname suggests (a nickname of poor taste I might add). However, many fans can see beyond the cold hard statistics that many people take as gospel. The fact that the young Welshman supplies neither tonnes of goals nor bucket loads of assists means little to the cultured eye of an open minded football fan. Although I acknowledge that everyone has an opinion I will attempt to explain the reasoning behind my faith in Joe Allen, the “poster boy” of Brendan Rodgers.
The diminutive midfielder gives Liverpool exactly what they have been lacking so far this season: precision passing and an air of composure. Liverpool have enjoyed brief stints of control in games – most notably the first half at Villa Park – with Gerrard, Lucas, Henderson, Coutinho, Agger and Johnson able to keep the ball well under pressure, but this has failed to materialise far too often, particularly when the Reds have taken the lead and surrendered territory to their opponents.
Realistically, once the Reds went 3-0 to the good against Crystal Palace they should have passed the Londoners to death and scored at least one more goal in the second half, but they became lazy and took their feet completely off the gas – giving Palace plenty of the ball and therefore plenty of opportunities to hit Liverpool’s defence, against a better team this would have been fatal despite the brilliant first half showing. If you have the ball the other team cannot attack and Allen would bring this ethos back into the team – at the moment, everything is happening at one hundred miles an hour, possibly because Steven Gerrard is the current midfield dictator and that’s the speed at which he loves to operate, Allen would help bring back last season’s footballing ethos.
In addition, Allen’s cool head would help prevent these situations when teams come back at Liverpool in the second half of games – simply because Allen would be comfortable (and knowledgeable enough) to keep the ball without the need to drop to the edge of the eighteen yard box. Keeping the ball and ticking down the clock might be boring to the neutral and hot headed fan, but it’s sensible and teams that choke the life out of football matches, whilst they’re in a winning position, are the successful ones. Rodgers knows this.
“The Midfield Dilemma”
It’s no big secret that Liverpool are in desperate need of a mobile defensive midfield player, and while Allen is not this type of player in a complete sense he is mobile (ish) and he can get around the pitch much quicker than both Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva – Liverpool’s current first choice central midfield pairing. His relative pace is similar to that of Jordan Henderson’s and that makes him one of Liverpool’s faster midfield players – although he’s no Ramires (of Chelsea), it does give Liverpool more mobility in the middle of the park than a pairing of Lucas and Gerrard would, which has been a real problem so far this season particularly with Liverpool enjoying less possession than last season and therefore having to complete more defensive work such as pressing – which is obviously much easier if you’re a quick, mobile midfielder with young legs carrying you. The Welsh international could be Liverpool’s key to maintaining their usually impressive pressing game through the entire ninety minutes – and with Liverpool having to make-do until the January transfer window it’s a safe bet he’ll be called upon once he’s fully fit.
Brendan Rodgers has spoken candidly in recent weeks about Liverpool’s failure to produce the performances he desires. Stating that he isn’t just happy with results but that he also cares about performances on the whole – meaning he wants fresh and vibrant football accompanied by good results. If Rodgers wants a very specific type of football, namely possession based attack which pushes and pulls opposition defences from one side of the pitch to the other accompanied by strong and powerful counter attacks away from home or during periods of sustained opposition pressure, then he’s going to have to reintroduce Allen because that style will be much more effective with a player who’s truly comfortable playing it. Performances are just as important for results for the Ulsterman and bringing Allen back in may be his only chance to get both.
Certainly with Allen in the team Rodgers has the potential for clever and patient possession ticked off and with Gerrard by his side in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 he also has the potential to fling a ball quickly forward to set up a lightning quick counter attack – this would be particularly effective with Sturridge’s pace – thus, combining the two clearly gives Liverpool more strings to their proverbial bow.
This of course raises the issue of how Lucas Leiva fits into such a system – with many Liverpool supporters questioning if Lucas has what it takes following his major injury problems in the last couple of years, least of all @DaveHendrickTLW.
“Allen & Coutinho”
Joe Allen and Philippe Coutinho are easily the two most comfortable Liverpool players when in possession of the ball. They are also the two best players when it comes to playing the ball around on the turf. Whereas Gerrard loves the Hollywood, over the top, raking pass, Allen and Coutinho stroke the ball around on the floor with consummate ease and, as Liverpool supporters, we are left wondering what this combination could produce on the football pitch.
Since Coutinho signed during the winter transfer window, the Brazilian and the Welshman have played just a handful of games together and we are still wondering what their partnership could be like as Liverpool’s chief passers and creators. I suppose, by the same token, we are wondering if they will compliment each other at all with Allen probably operating at a slower pace than Coutinho but it remains to be seen. In my opinion, these two players are in Liverpool’s strongest available XI and having the strongest available XI playing for as many weeks as possible is key to a successful team. Especially if they can hit it off in a consistent run of games together.
“A victim of faith”
Much has been said about the infamous documentary series which took cameras behind the scenes at Anfield, Melwood and Liverpool’s pre season tour of America; “Being Liverpool”. Not only did this series place huge pressure on the, then, new manager Brendan Rodgers, it also piled the pressure on Joe Allen. When Rodgers playfully named Joe Allen (signed during a day in which the cameras were rolling) the “Welsh Xavi”, he had done exactly the opposite of what he had intended. He had tried to make Allen feel completely at home in his unfamiliar new surroundings but the playful nickname only served to heighten expectations beyond the Welshman’s control. Immediately, Allen had an expecting fan base and a cruel media with a stick to beat him with. Everyone now acknowledges that the nickname, and the documentary, were a mistake but I hope that over time people will come to realise that Joe Allen is a real asset for this football club.
On Twitter: @UponTheSpionKop
Luis Suarez opened the scoring after just 11 minutes in a brilliant solo effort, thanks to @MostarLFC for sending the video.
Luis Suarez Brilliant Goal vs WBA by LFCmostar
Suarez scored another brilliant goal, this time with a header after just 17 minutes 2-0
Luis Suarez Magical Header vs WBA by LFCmostar
In the second half, Suarez completes his hatrick with another header.
Luis Suarez 3rd Goal vs WBA by LFCmostar
Morrison makes it 3-1 from the penalty spot.
Sturridge made it 4-1 with a brilliant effort.
Daniel Sturridge Sensational Goal vs WBA by LFCmostar
Lucas returns to the starting lineup as Moses starts on the bench.
Liverpool Starting XI : Mignolet, Johnson, Cissokho, Toure, Sakho, Skrtel, Lucas, Gerrard, Henderson, Sturridge, Suarez
Subs : Jones, Kelly, Agger, Allen, Sterling, Moses, Alberto
Follow the game on @empireofthekop or our iPhone App
Friday Oct 25Posted by: Zak Forster Comments Off
Venue: Anfield, 15:00
Referee: Jon Moss
Positions: Liverpool – 3rd, West Bromwich Alboin – 12th
Current Form: Liverpool – DLWWD, West Bromwich Albion – DWWDD
Managers: Liverpool – Brendan Rodgers, West Bromwich Albion – Steve Clarke
Both teams will be without several key men for this weekend’s three o’clock kick off. Starting with the home team, Brendan Rodgers will still be without chief creative talent Philippe Coutinho but believes the Brazilian should be back for next weekend’s clash with table toppers Arsenal – the little playmaker has been back in full training this week and should be chomping at the bit to return. Another continuing absentee is expected to come in the form of left back José Enrique – the Spaniard missed last weekend’s draw with his former team Newcastle United with a long standing knee problem which seems to crop up every few weeks. Aly Cissokho is widely expected to continue in the left back slot despite his mistake leading to Newcastle’s second goal last Saturday. Rodgers could finally be able to call upon Joe Allen as he has fully recovered from his hamstring injury sustained in the League Cup victory over Notts County earlier this season – the Welshman was an unused substitute at St. James’ Park. It will still be some time before Rodgers can call upon Sebastian Coates (knee) – he remains out for the rest of the season.
Steve Clarke will sadly be without the talents of on-loan winger Scott Sinclair who is currently struggling with a hamstring injury. Zoltan Gera and George Thorne are both struggling with niggles but could be included in the travelling Baggies squad. Perhaps the most annoying injury Clarke has to contend with is the long term injury to number one goalkeeper Ben Foster who is out with a serious foot injury – Foster would have been hoping for an England call-up to the recent World Cup qualifiers but failed to do so, with John Ruddy and Fraser Forster taking his place.
Liverpool will have to do better in this fixture than they did last year if they hope to go top again this weekend – West Brom earned a fantastic 2-0 victory at Anfield last season, defending stoutly and hitting Liverpool with two very late goals, coutesy of Gareth McAuley and Romelu Lukaku. For obvious reasons, the in-form Lukaku will not be available for Steve Clarke this weekend – the Belgian forward returned to his parent club, Chelsea, in the summer and was immediately re-loaned to Everton for the course of the 2013/2014 season. However, the Lukaku sized hole in their squad shouldn’t put West Brom off, they did the double over Liverpool last season and have already beaten defending champions Manchester United at Old Trafford – as well as holding league leaders Arsenal to a 1-1 draw earlier this month. West Brom are also the in-form team from this fixture, boasting nine points from thier last five league games compared to Liverpool’s eight in the same sequence.
However, Liverpool are boosted by the return of Lucas Leiva – he missed last week’s game due to compassionate leave as his wife was giving birth to their second child. Liverpool could go top with a win over the Baggies but their goal difference is inferior to both Arsenal’s and Chelsea’s. If West Brom’s attacking talents of Berahino, Anelka and Sessègnon all turn up then they could go eighth with a victory – placing them above Manchester United (temporarily at least).
Expect Rodgers to ditch the three man defence for a more favourable four man system. Formation: 4-2-3-1.
Liverpool: Mignolet, Johnson, Škrtel, Sakho, Cissokho – Gerrard, Lucas – Henderson, Moses, Suárez – Sturridge
Expect West Brom to remain unchanged and to stick with one up top. Formation: 4-2-3-1.
West Brom: Myhill, Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell – Yacob, Mulumbu – Amalfitano, Sessègnon, Berahino – Anichebe
I think I’m going to go for a tight Liverpool victory, probably by a single goal. I’m going for 2-1 to the home side. Sturridge to get on the scoresheet.