Posts Tagged ‘Tottenham’
The headline is somewhat ironic seeing as Liverpool have had two main problems this season and one of them is not finishing the chances we’ve created. I keep reading about how we’ve made an impressive start to the season. Unfortunately we haven’t. We’ve made an okay start to the season. I know it’s much better than the last couple of years and we are a work in progress at the moment. This isn’t a criticism. It’s just my opinion based on what I’ve seen.
Of course we’ve had some good results, notably our 2-1 win away to Chelsea last weekend. However, it’s fair to say they were in the middle of a bad patch at the time, just like Arsenal were when we beat them earlier in the season. Now it’s true that we can only beat the teams we come up against and they were both valuable wins, but think how much better off we could have been if we had taken our chances. Games against Sunderland, Norwich and Man United at home – we really should have won. In all three of those games we were the better team but we could only manage 1-1 draws. And when we played away to Stoke we were also the stronger side but we slumped to a 1-0 defeat, while United and Chelsea both grabbed draws against them, despite poor performances.
One of the characteristics of a title winning side is grinding out results when you have an off day. Another is getting vital goals when you come up against a stubborn defence. These are things that Kenny Dalglish will be trying to instill into the players and it will take time. We have added a lot of new faces over the last twelve months and they will only get better the longer they play together. For some of them, they are starting to realize that they are expected to win every game and maybe they haven’t been used to that at their previous clubs. This isn’t arrogance on our fans’ part. It’s ambition. I’m always amused when rival fans accuse Liverpool supporters of living in the past. Of being unrealistic for hoping that we win the league. When you start settling for second best and don’t aim to be as good as you can be, that’s when you’re guaranteed to fail. And that’s why, without going overboard, we should celebrate our successes but aim to iron out our failings.
As I’ve said, one of those failings is not scoring enough. Suarez is pure class but he isn’t an out and out goal scorer. He’s more of a Kenny Dalglish than an Ian Rush. That’s not a bad thing but he could do with someone else to take the burden off him. Carroll is taking time to settle and isn’t that goal scorer. Kuyt, whilst bringing vital energy to the side, isn’t prolific in front of goal. Bellamy causes teams trouble with his pace and is perhaps unlucky not to have had more minutes on the pitch. But football is truly a squad game and we could do with another striker in January. If only we had a young Robbie Fowler, someone who has a knack of being in the right place at the right time. That’s the type of player we need to recruit to help us continue our improvement.
The other thing we need to address is conceding goals from set pieces. Countless times we have been caught out by headed goals when the opposition had no right to score. When we played Norwich, Holt beat Carragher, Skrtel and Reina to head home. And against United, Hernandez was left on his own with a free header. This isn’t a new problem, it’s been a weakness of ours for a while now and it does need addressing.
Football is a simple game. If we score more and concede less than the opposition then we’ll beat teams. Against Manchester City tomorrow we’ll have to be at our best to win. And if we do prevail, back-to-back victories against them and Chelsea could be a springboard for our season. But whatever the result, we should continue to be ambitious and crave the glory days. With United and City seemingly in a two horse race contesting the league, there are only two Champions League places left and we face stiff opposition from Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal for those places. So it’s not how we’ve started this season, but how we finish the rest of it that matters.
Finally, after months of speculation, John Henry has given Kenny Dalglish the Liverpool manager’s job permanently. He couldn’t have timed it any better. Since Kenny took over I believed it was just a formality that he would get the job, although initially I thought it would be best to confirm this in the summer. However, with European qualification now in our hands and our last home game against Tottenham on Sunday, it will give the team extra impetus. It is ingenious timing and truly deserved. The King is back.
There is someone else who deserves a mention though. Steve Clarke epitomises the role of unsung hero. Quietly going about his business behind the scenes, he has injected some tempo into the training regime and has undoubtedly played a massive part in the team’s good run. This is the man who Mourinho fought to keep at Chelsea, ultimately signing his own death warrant in the process. When Scolari was in the hot seat and Zola tempted Clarke to West Ham, not only did Scolari beg him to stay, but after he left, Chelsea’s form dipped and the manager was subsequently sacked. The man is clearly a top coach and has earned the respect of some of the biggest names in football.
You can’t underestimate how valuable a good number two is to a manager. Just like in life where, to quote an old saying, ‘behind every great man, there’s a great woman’ it’s true for football managers and their assistants. All the great managers had loyal assistants working alongside them. And when they did have to cope on their own they struggled. When Brian Clough moved to Leeds without the long serving Peter Taylor he failed. After Rafa Benitez parted ways with Paco Ayestarán Liverpool failed to win a trophy. And when Alex Ferguson failed to replace both Brian Kidd and Steve McClaren at Manchester United they finished the season empty-handed.
It was a superb decision by Kenny to appoint Steve Clark when he took charge. They are both Scottish. And whilst a lot has been said about the Liverpool team historically having a home grown, Scouse presence; over the years there has been a history of Scotsmen at the club during our most successful years.
There is a great chemistry between Dalglish and Clarke and they are both integral to future success but it’s inevitable that Kenny will receive most of the plaudits. He’s already a legend at the club for what he’s done on and off the pitch. He’s possibly one of only three men who are more revered than Steven Gerrard. The other two, Shankly and Paisley, are both dead now, but they made the club great.
Kenny Dalglish and Liverpool go together like bread and butter. Liverpool’s bread and butter was always the league title. Can Kenny take the club to our 19th title? Let’s not get carried away but if anyone can, he can.
My first thought after Liverpool lost to West Brom on Saturday was ‘Hadn’t Hodgson done enough damage to Liverpool’s season when he was managing us?’
The result was particularly hard to take because since Kenny Dalglish took over as Liverpool manager and Steve Clarke joined him in the dug out, our performances have improved significantly and qualifying for a European spot was a real possibility.
It still is.
However, with Tottenham now looking like they are out of the Champion’s League, there is less chance that their league form will stutter due to a fixture pile up. They’ll be able to concentrate on the league with the same energy as us. And it’s hard to imagine Arsenal, Chelsea or either of the Manchester teams self destructing and dropping out of the top five.
To be fair, we haven’t played with the consistency to qualify for Europe. Even under Kenny. This isn’t a criticism of him. He’s worked miracles and his aura has had a massive impact on the players, the fans and the owners. But it was a massive job that he took on and the problems at the club when he returned were not ones that could be solved overnight.
This season was all about halting the crisis, finishing as high up the table as possible and building for next season. That’s what Kenny and our owners will surely be concentrating on.
Some fans have questioned whether the team would benefit from missing out on a European place and not having to play so many games next season. They have a point. We don’t have the strongest squad and even with new signings in the summer, there are bound to be players who leave. However, I think playing in Europe is important as it makes Liverpool more appealing to potential new signings and a club of our stature shouldn’t get used to not competing against the best teams. Not playing in the Champions League is bad enough.
There are seven games left and they are difficult games. I wish I could say I think we’ll win all seven but I don’t. All the team can do is their best and see where they finish. This makes grim reading but there’s a bright side. There is a much happier atmosphere at the club compared to the start of the year and I’m not alone in thinking that we’ll be in a better position at this stage of the season next year. And as depressing as Saturday was, all Liverpool fans should be thankful for that.
Yesterday’s defeat against Spurs ranks as one of the worst emotional debacles I have endured as a Liverpool FC fan. Frustration and anger overcame my system and I was left wondering that someone “up there” must certainly hate us. My last column, “Cautious Optimism” highlighted how Tottenham move into top gear after half-time and have become the season’s masters at coming back from behind and beat their opponents. Nothing prophetic may I add and a quick look at results will only confirm this. Tottenham away was not an insurmountable target I concluded, but deep down I knew we had to be inch-perfect to come away with anything but a defeat.
I must say that both teams were ambassadors to the English Premiership and proved to me (not that I needed further confirmation) that this league is the most exciting sporting event in Europe. The ball was continuously played from one end of the field to the other and both teams sought to pass the ball precisely and indulge in one-touch football. The Reds entertained us to one of the best away performances in the last months and any sincere neutral fan will acknowledge that Liverpool should have at least earned a point after yesterday’s much improved away display. It was not to be and the Liverpool players and management have to pick themselves up after yet another set back.
Liverpool proposed a typical 4-4-2 line-up with Ngog partnering Torres up front, both supported by Kuyt and Maxi just behind. Lucas returned into the starting eleven after seeing out a one-match ban against the Hammers the previous week. The Brazilian proved to be a massive influence and was instrumental in breaking down attacks. Equally important was how Lucas muscled his way through Tottenham’s defense on many occasions reminding everyone that he can shoulder the great burden when Gerrard is absent. Liverpool’s game play was tremendously professional, well disciplined, accurate and made easy by a Spurs side impatient to score the opening goal many times failing to put Pepe Reina under notable pressure. In fact it was Liverpool that gained the upper hand in the first half and such was the positive effort that Spurs suffered a sucker punch just before half-time with an opportunistic but well taken Skrytel shot. Fair to say, Spurs had lost two men to injury during the course of the first period.
Minutes later and Liverpool failed to consolidate, first through Maxi and then through Torres, both taking advantage of a napping Spurs defense but ultimately failing to find the net. Two nil down, and Liverpool firing on all fours would have made it tough for Tottenham to come back, but with the game so tight and the lead minimal, the onus was for Redknapp’s side to come out fighting after the break. And so they did, although the Reds never bowed to pressure and kept on probing Tottenham’s half in search of the elusive second goal, which never materialized. And this is the crux of the whole game – Liverpool created many chances but only scored once, so with Tottenham riding their luck, it was always too much for Liverpool’s back four to keep Spurs at bay. Mid-way through the second half, the North London team were awarded a dubious penalty but Defoe fluffed his shot wide, and, boy was I elated. Moments later, elation turned into despair as a bulldozing unchallenged run by Modric saw his shot blatantly deflected goalwards by Skrytel who suddenly turned villain after cunningly giving us the lead. Good to note that Skrytel’s “second” goal meant that this weekend’s Premiership round saw all teams score, at least, one goal, apparently a record in it’s own right.
It was not an onslaught from then on and Liverpool had penalty appeals turned down when Kuyt was amateurishly tackled inside the box. The match official wasn’t eager to hand Liverpool any favours and seemed to enjoy extracting the yellow card and book Liverpool’s players in a game that warranted less involvement of the referee. The football maybe great in England but English referees leave much to be desired. With a few minutes on the clock remaining, Liverpool were forced into a sudden change after Carragher signaled arm trouble and the only option was to bring Krygiakos on. As a side-note, any experienced armchair fan would have recognized the injury as being a dislocated shoulder, and it was to my surprise that a popular website came up with the mad conclusion that Carragher had sustained a broken arm! Deep into injury time and Konchesky was found dormant the moment Lennon latched onto a well struck pass and the England man showed great confidence to beat Reina and make it 2-1. Tottenham could have scored a third but failed to capitalize on poor defending.
The game provided a preview of what Liverpool might offer when the ship is finally stabilized and yesterday’s performance suggests we’re not far off from reaching this goal. It’s a fine line nowadays between victory and defeat; every team will provide for a stern test but the approach and mentality adopted by the Reds yesterday is welcome and helps tone down the consequences of earning zilch from a game which could have easily been won.
The defeat boiled down to errors which are a result of the team still trying to gel but the players seem to understand Hodgson’s tactics much better now. For once, there was nothing the manager could have done to change things for the better. The game was lost when Liverpool provided, on a number of occasions, a life-line for Tottenham to hang on to by failing to score that all important second goal. It is a boosting psychological factor when one’s opponent is not ruthless infront of goal and buoyed by the home crowd, Spurs were in no mood to throw in the towel early and pressed for an equaliser even after failing to convert a highly debatable penalty.
Torres was uncharacteristically shy at shooting goalwards and may have felt somehow lost playing alongside Ngog. The latter was a nuisance all throughout but needs to improve on his ball retention skills as many times he is shoved off far too easily. The next game against Steaua Bucharest will be important for us to get back in good shape in time for the home tie against Aston Villa which is another must win and one which I am confident will see us secure three points. Three home games and two visits to Newcastle and Blackpool offer a relatively straightforward end to 2010. No use crying over spilt milk (after losing to Tottneham) – it’s important the team recognizes the good achievement albeit the loss, build on this and improve on the few but determining negative aspects. Good luck Roy, Liverpool.
See you next time.
The game against the Hammers was, for all intents and purposes, a must win and a time to recuperate on a horrendously looking goal difference. Win we did and although visibly happy after the final whistle, it was an insatiable emotion that took over a few seconds later leading to anti-climax conclusion that left me riling that our goal difference read -1, and, moreover, Stoke City were still ahead due to the afore mentioned parameter. Goal difference should never be overlooked and such an importance can only be emphasized in a season which is turning out to be one of the most competitive campaigns in the splendid history of top flight English football.
West Ham offered little in all areas. Slow to react, playing a lone and lost striker, a complete lack of cohesion between departments meant that Green was in for a torrid evening against a wounded Liverpool side missing the drive and status of Steven Gerrard. Green produced some World class saves in a struggle for damage limitation, but it was a Liverpool side that genuinely failed to deliver the goods in the second half after a splendid first forty-five, in which, most notably, El Nino failed to get on the score sheet. True to say, Liverpool should have scored one or two more but there is still reason to be satisfied. This was not your typical six nil thrashing where one player shines above the rest and scores a hat-trick. Liverpool’s win was a collective effort, the team bound as a working unit wanting to impress the home crowd and more importantly to bounce back after the Stoke reversal. If only the players can use this performance as an example of how best to approach games, especially away from home, then I’m sure we can hope for better days ahead. Hodgson himself seemed visibly agitated towards the end of the game and must have been unhappy that the scoreline only read three nil.
Tottenham host the Reds next this coming Sunday and this promises to be an entertaining game of football. Tottenham have only lost once at home this season, and this was back in August against Wigan. Since then Spurs have won three and have drawn three. Last Saturday’s triumph over arch-rivals Arsenal will be a much required boost for Harry Redknapp’s team having rediscovered winning ways against Blackburn the previous week. The North London derby continues to expose how Tottenham can turn things round after the break. The matches against Arsenal and Internazionale away from home are just two examples. The London club seems to kick start after half-time. On average, the first goal is scored around the 50th minute and half-time scores at White Hart Lane have typically been square at 0-0 or 1-1.
Tottenham are good value when coming back from behind but take time to settle in. It is not typical for Spurs to start with a high tempo. Liverpool must not be complacent. Defending the flanks will be key. We’ve seen Roy introduce the double, triple marking concept which is reminiscent of the “catenaccio” method used to devastating effect by Italian clubs such as Juventus and even the Italian national side. In this sense, Konchesky will be needing support as his defensive performances have been average to say the least. Back-up is a must. Doubling up on an opponent has a weak point in that position recovery needs to be swift. The usual positional discipline must be adhered to at all times especially against teams which can hurt if given the slightest of opportunities and Tottenham will have studied the weak characters in our side and the full backs will be number one targets.
An important factor is that Tottenham have leaked goals consistently. Seven goals conceded at home or an average of one goal let in per game played means Liverpool must ask questions of Totteham’s defense from the first minute. Defending deep is a certain recipe for disaster. Joe Cole may be fit for the first team but I would suggest against throwing the ex-Chelsea man in the thick of it all from the start. It is important not to disturb the delicate balance in the team and to deploy Maxi and Kuyt as forward suppliers to Torres. Lucas back in the team means we will have more of a tackling and inventive menace in midfield. Hodgson can opt to revert to the usual 4-3-2-1 formation playing Miereles, Lucas and Poulsen in the middle with Maxi, Kuyt just behind Torres. Lucas will be roaming in between Poulsen and Miereles hopefully mopping anything that gets through the middle. Kuyt and Maxi’s secondary function will be thwarting attacks going down the flanks – useless trying to defend determined attacks so stopping the menace up-field is important.
Liverpool have ample time to prepare for the big match. Spurs will be playing Werder Bremen in the Champions League on Wednesday and this will undoubtedly be a distraction for Sunday’s clash. Whatever the result on Wednesday, it will take a good 24 hours to get it out of the system which gives Redknapp little time to prime his players for the match against Liverpool. Hodgson and company will be studying the CL game in an effort to spot any deficiencies. Buoyed by the result at the Emirates, Spurs will expect a victory against Bremen inevitably increasing confidence levels which many times results in the unwanted effect of underestimating next opponents. Defending must be top notch on Sunday. Both teams will be up for it and both will want to consolidate positions near the top four. Tottenham is not an insurmountable hurdle – what Liverpool fans don’t want is another Stoke repeat, and, consequently a well deserved defeat. Good luck Roy, Liverpool.
Liverpool are reportedly lining up a bid to bring England striker Peter Crouch back to Anfield, some sources already advising that conversations are underway and the player could be heading to Melwood this coming week for a medical.
Rumours concerning Peter Crouch have intensified over the last fortnight, as Liverpool have looked to add an experienced striker for around the £10m mark to their squad. Their orginal interest was thought to lie with Loic Remy of Nice but nio deal materialised for the player and he has since been to talk to Stoke, over a Premierhsip move. The name of Crouch has moved on from a suggestion in many places to a lot of talk from Spurs sources a fortnight ago that he may lie outside of Harry Redknapp’s plans for the coming season. Spurs sources were also credited with saying at the time that finances are alot tighter at White Hart Lane than they have been in recent transfer windows and the sale of Crouch maybe required to enable them to bring in one of their own targets. Spurs funnily enough are now credited with directing their interest at Remy.
The 29-year-old England International spent three years with the Reds earlier in his career, where he was a popular figure with the club’s fans despite returning just 22 goals in 85 Premier League games for the Anfield outfit. Crouch was somewhat underplayed by Rafa Benitez and never fully received the opportunity that he perhaps thought he would, but his exit for the arrival of Robbie Keane certainly provided no improvement as the Irish international failed to deliver for his boyhood team.
A lack of backup options for Fernando Torres went on to prove costly for the Reds, as the Spaniard was sidelined for a big part of the campaign with a series of injuries. Despite the young potential of David Ngog amongst the Liverpool ranks, the squad is lacking depth across the forward line. Liverpool are hoping to pay around the £8 million mark to seal a Merseyside return, but Harry Redknapp is believed to be looking for an extra £1m to £2m to conclude the deal.
Crouch would not only add depth and support to the forward line but would also increase the homegrown player count for the Kop side. Crouch’s arrival would be another step towards the level of squad that Liverpool should have operated from last season. If the truth be told, even with the arrival of Crouch, the Liverpool strikeforce is still a little light weight compared to the leading Premiership sides, who tend to operate from a bank of a minimum of four but the ability to bring in the likes of Remy as well may not quite be in Liverpool’s grasp just yet as the battle in the boardroom for ownership continues to rumble on.