Let The Transfers Begin

By , June 8, 2011 12:48 pm

With the news of Liverpool Football Club signing Sunderland’s 20-year-old star Jordan Henderson, the transfers have officially begun. Many in the media are already bemoaning the hefty transfer fee of what is said to be £20 million for the talented youngster. But the club wasted no time in sealing their first transfer deal of the summer and no matter what, with this bold and logical approach of snapping up Britain’s best talent, Liverpool will be winners. Whether it’s now, or a few years down the line, the strategy Dalglish is implementing will pay off.

The opinions being spouted in the media (and they are only that, opinions), is that Liverpool have now overpaid on potential talents not once, but twice. First in January on Andy Carroll and now in June on Jordan Henderson. Putting aside the fact that everyone must overpay for young English players, such is the inflation and premium they command, Liverpool have not overpaid for anyone just yet.

Buying any player is always a gamble. No one will ever know if the player will fit into the team or not, if they will get injured, if they will perform as well as they have in the past, etc. But buying a young, gifted, English player for perhaps more money than a mid to late 20′s English or foreign one offers two advantages.

The first would be that the potential resale on the player down the line is always going to be higher. Buying a player at 20, getting four or five good years out of them and selling them on for a profit at 25 is a genuine long-term strategy. Key examples of this would be Fernando Torres and David Ngog. Bought young, and sold for massive profits.

The second advantage is the obvious one: they have youth on their side. Of course not every 18, 19, or 20 year-old with amazing potential will succeed in the long run, but they have every opportunity to do so with plenty of time to learn and develop ahead of them.

I won’t pretend that I know a lot about Jordan Henderson right now, but from what I’ve read, he has a wonderful range of passing and the ability to distribute with thought and accuracy. Journalist Iain Macintosh reckons he is of the “Alonso school of play.” Whether he turns out to be as good as Alonso remains to be seen. But the potential is there.

With Henderson, Liverpool have acquired their first big signing of the transfer window. And it would appear that Kenny Dalglish is not stopping there. If rumors and conjecture turn out to be true, than Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing, and Connor Wickham will follow hot on the heels of young Henderson.

The Newest Addition To The New Dalglish Era

The pattern coming into focus with Dalglish and Comolli’s strategy is not just “buy young English players,” but to buy young, gifted, and versatile players. Henderson is essentially a central midfielder, but he can also operate successfully elsewhere. The same goes for Adam, Meireles, Gerrard, Suarez, Kuyt, and Downing. And just look at the ability of Glen Johnson to switch to left-back as if it was his natural position.

The team is being built with and around players that have the ability to not just play one position in one formation, but to play in multiple positions in various formations. This is what creates pass and move football, and this is what Dalglish wants to achieve.

Like everyone else, I have my doubts about players until they have had some time to really prove themselves. On top of this, with Henderson and the others rumored to be added to the squad, I’m not sure how the team will gel and who exactly will be in the starting eleven. But the fact that there will be options and selection headaches is what every big team needs and wants. Liverpool’s squad has been poor over the years and now finally looks set to have genuine strength in multiple areas on the pitch.

Dalglish and Comolli have already taken this team leaps and bounds ahead of where they were last summer. We’ve traded OAP’s for youthful, promising talent. The intent being shown in this transfer window indicates that Liverpool are preparing themselves to once again be a force to be reckoned with. Let the rest of the transfers commence.

What About Adam Johnson?

By , June 6, 2011 2:57 pm

With the summer transfer window open and transfer speculation in full swing, it’s worth taking the time to look at some of the players mentioned in the same breath as Liverpool Football Club. By now we all know the names being bandied about and the level of enthusiasm, anger, and apathy is pretty clear with each one.

Most tend to think that Stewart Downing, now a strong candidate to be a big signing, doesn’t have what it takes to consistently perform in the big games and for a big club. He has his strong points, but most, myself included, feel his weak points may take over when push comes to shove.

There’s also Juan Mata, Charles N’Zogbia, Ashley Young, Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson, and even radical fantasy possibilities like Alexis Sanchez, Fabio Coentrao, and Eden Hazard. Many of these are examined extremely well and in great detail in Paul Tomkin’s latest subscriber piece “Transfer Views – Creative Midfielders In Focus,” which can be read here. There is also a great piece written by Tony Barret about trusting Kenny Dalglish and Co.’s decision making when it comes to transfers here.

With these and other great articles regarding transfers this summer, my focus is not to rehash much of what’s already been said so well. My question to LFC is: What about Adam Johnson?

Could He Be Headed To Liverpool?

First and foremost, I am a massive fan of Adam Johnson. Having only seen him in Manchester City’s first team this past season and a half, I am already an ardent admirer. The fact that he was excellent against Liverpool back in August really put him on my radar.

In terms of raw ability and pace, Johnson has both in spades. He’s an extremely pacey left-sided winger, with wonderful dribbling skills. He’s confident enough to take defenders on and can score as well. He’s tricky, elusive, and fast. Exactly what LFC have been missing for the last number of years.

Johnson also appears to tick a lot of the new FSG player philosophy boxes. Turning just 24 this summer, he’s young and his peak years are still ahead of him. He has a head start on some other targets by already being settled in the Premier League. And while squad strength will be built this summer with an eye to rotation next season, Johnson would most likely start every game, as long as he stays fit.

According to some of his stats found on Anfield Index, he made 15 starts last season for Man City, while playing a total of 1531 minutes. He scored 4 goals, and had 26 total shots. His goals per game average is not bad with around 3.5 every time he starts. Where he might be lacking is his chance conversion, which is at a mere 15%.

In his first full season with Man City, he put in a total of 108 crosses, with 20 of those being accurate, a cross accuracy of 19%. Again, that’s not a number to get too excited about, but he has five assists for the season. On top of this, Johnson has an average of 2.1 successful dribbles per game. When compared to City’s standout star David Silva who has had the same amount of successful dribbles, but has played 1000 minutes more, you can see Johnson’s potential when getting the chance to play week in and week out.

There are definitely some flaws to Johnson’s game, but he is only 23 and has shown a lot of potential in his one and a half seasons at Man City. With the über rich Sheikh Mansour collecting as many players as possible, Johnson has been edged further out of a starting place. There were some rumblings toward the end of the season that he was becoming frustrated with his lack of first team opportunities and this could be the perfect time to snatch him up.

Johnson is a player that will not only be great for next season, but also, barring injuries, for seasons to come. He has the potential and proven skill to be a brilliant winger, and he may be just what Liverpool needs.

The Wonderful Conundrum of Andy Carroll

By , May 18, 2011 3:33 pm

Putting aside the pretty toothless defeat to Tottenham on Sunday, the second half of the season has been damn swell for Liverpool Football Club. From the brink of relegation in September to fifth place in May, the season has been the epitome of a roller coaster ride. With each crazy turn, people have gotten off (Hodgson, Torres), and more have gotten on (Dalglish, Suarez, Carroll). And while Liverpool may not be able to look forward to European football next year, it is not a loss that will dampen anyone’s spirits too badly. With King Kenny being signed up for three years, the youth team progressing and producing at a rapid pace, and a set of owners willing to do whatever it takes to bring the club back to greatness, the future looks incredibly bright from here on out.

But let’s not get carried away.

I’ll admit that I was allowing myself to get a little carried away over the last few weeks. With stellar performances against Manchester City, Birmingham, and most recently AT Fulham, there were plenty of reasons to start believing we were all but assured the Premier League title next season.

Obviously the game against against Tottenham gave everyone, myself included, a big slap in the face to wake us up to the fact that despite an impressive run of form since January, the club still needs improvement in many areas.

I’m not even sure where exactly the problem was against Tottenham. I felt this was as winnable a game as could be. The recipe for success was as follows: The momentum and confidence surging through the team, combined with Kenny Dalglish’s fresh signature on a three-year contract, and add in the extremely poor form of Tottenham and presto! Three points for the Reds with at least a +2 or +3 goal difference on the day. Unfortunately, it was not to be.

It didn’t make me particularly happy to see the last home game of the season, after such an incredible run of performances and results, end in such a limp defeat. But taking a step back to look at the bigger picture is much more important.

I saw Raul Meireles as a bigger loss in that game than I thought he’d be. That’s not to say I don’t think he’s great when he plays, I just felt the team had enough about them to cope without the Portuguese playmaker. And despite Kenny saying he doesn’t think a change in personnel and formation caused the defeat, I’d like to think it still had a lot to do with it.

Tottenham must also be given credit as, for the first time in months, they decided to actually show up and play their hearts out for a game. Fair play.

Many have suggested it was Andy Carroll’s lumbering, half-fit presence that really did the team in on Sunday. Outside of a handful of decent touches, he was pretty useless overall. He was pedestrian up front, he failed to win headers when challenging Ledley King, and he wasn’t linking up well with his fellow forwards. It almost seemed as though his inclusion on the team was more of a hinderance than an asset on the day.

I’m not denying that Andy Carroll had a poor game against Tottenham, so did a lot of the other players. But going back to the idea that the bigger picture is what is important here, Andy Carroll “the problem” is a problem Liverpool haven’t had for a long time. That is, having a very talented striker to utilize while already having a very potent front line. Finding the formations and systems to get the best out of him is still a new challenge, but one that should be greeted with great joy from anyone supporting LFC.

For too many years Liverpool have relied too heavily on Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard to score the goals in a very limited formation. Now the team has options and fluidity up front which will only get better after this summer of purchases. If Andy Carroll is a problem to figure out right now, than he’s a wonderful problem I can’t wait for Liverpool to solve.

Liverpool Need To Finish Strong

By , April 27, 2011 12:56 pm

We are now ensconced in the business end of the season, but unfortunately for Liverpool Football Club and its fans, there is really no business to take care of. The season probably finished for most when the club was mired in the relegation zone, along with being dumped out of the Carling Cup by lowly Northampton Town. This has been one of the most incredibly dramatic seasons for Liverpool in a long, long time, and while there may not be silverware or even a place in Europe to show for it, the last four games in the Premier League need to be played as if they are all cup finals.

The club’s roller coaster ride this season has been well documented. From the farcical appointment, rise, and fall of Roy Hodgson, to the near collapse and administration bound point-of-no-return for the club as a whole. Just as darkness appeared to descend on Anfield, the cavalry arrived in the form of American John W. Henry. With a scroll of his pen on a massive check, he wiped away the club’s debt and informed everyone involved that a new era would develop and Liverpool would be back in their place as one of the best sides in world football.

A collective sigh was breathed from Huyton to Mumbai as Liverpool fans from all over the world witnessed a new beginning. Just a few short months later and the horror show that was Roy Hodgson would also be wiped from the club’s collective past, present, and future.

The return of the King made all the headlines in January, until another Kop hero overshadowed even Kenny Dalglish’s long awaited return at the helm of LFC. Fernando Torres made a strange and oft looked at treacherous move away from Anfield, only to find his new home at Chelsea to be anything like the light at the end of the dark tunnel he described after leaving. But enough about him.

With Kenny In Charge, The Club Has Taken A Turn For The Best

January saw, ostensibly, three new signings in the form of Dalglish, Luis Suarez, and Andy Carroll. FSG displayed their intentions for the famed Merseyside club by installing a capable and historically significant man to steward the good-ship LFC and splashing the cash on much needed reinforcements up front. Already a massive success, Suarez looks the business and Carroll, who is yet to fully recover from injury, is still finding his feet better than most believed he would.

It’s almost the end of this sometimes torrid, sometimes shocking, sometimes spectacular season and it would seem that Liverpool need the season to end already to put a lot of the bad memories behind them.

While it would be easier to sit comfortably in a position mid-table, with guns at the ready to aim at the summer transfer window and prepare for next season, this can’t be done. Liverpool need to finish the season strong and prove to themselves and their supporters that they are better than anyone in the media, Roy Hodgson, or anyone else outside the club has given them credit for this season.

There are no trophies, but there is pride at stake. Forget the possibility of still qualifying for the Europa League (or the very outside chance of the Champions League), Liverpool need to do this for them.

Arsenal fans were aghast at their team’s dismal game against LFC, and many were shocked that Liverpool and their fan base were not more willing to just give up in the dying minutes so as to help Arsenal’s chances of taking on Man United for the title.

I don’t know about most of you, but just the thought disgusts me. I would never prefer Liverpool rolling over just to hurt one of our rivals. The thought never crossed my mind, and I don’t think it crossed any of the players’ minds either. That’s why they never gave up until the final whistle and secured what could be an invaluable point.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not happy that Manchester United will win another Championship this year, and overtake Liverpool’s record, but more than anything it should spur the players and club on even more to win that all elusive Premier League title in the years to come and overtake United’s new record. After all, records were meant to be broken.

Once again, while it may seem the club has nothing to fight for, it is just the opposite. The fans give everything to their team and they deserve nothing but the same in return. A strong finish will give the team confidence, attract new players, possibly secure Kenny Dalglish into a permanent manager’s role, and perhaps even garner a place in next season’s Europa League. The positive boost going into the summer in which LFC will be busy in the transfer market and pre-season is unquantifiable and could make all the difference heading into August.

The ups and downs the club has experienced this season have all pointed to one extraordinary thing: a new dawn. New owners, new players, and a new manager will return the club to where it belongs. But until they can get there next season, they need to finish this one right.

Fernando Torres: Me Thinks You Doth Protest Too Much

By , March 11, 2011 9:58 am

For all the pain that Liverpool has had to endure in the last number of months, culminating in the, at the time, devastating loss of Fernando Torres, the club and its fans are moving on. We are moving forward into the future, one step at a time, rebuilding the confidence that was stripped away from the club under the horrible regime of Hicks and Gillette and the disastrous reign of Roy Hodgson. No one involved with the club is under any illusions that the club is anywhere near its best, but the progress, positivity, and incredible signs of life under Kenny Dalglish are proving that the end to this fallow period is nigh.

Fans of the club have recently been reveling in the joy that is Luis Suarez, and are even seeing signs of what Andy Carroll will offer once match fit. Mouths across Merseyside are indeed salivating at the prospects of a fully fit Liverpool across the board. Kenny Dalglish reminded the club that while the departure of former idol Fernando Torres was painful, no one player is bigger than the club. Almost immediately, everyone adopted that attitude and the team has since gone from strength to strength, together as one.

As Liverpool looks to the future, it seems odd to keep hearing reports from Fernando Torres, who seems to be focused on the past. Since leaving the club in a rather backstabbing manner, Torres has come out in the press time and again to remind everyone (mostly himself) that he is happy with his move.

This of course despite the fact he has made no impact at his new, “bigger” club. I have watched every game he has played in a Chelsea shirt and all I see is someone just as lost as they were when they were at Liverpool. Not only should Torres leave well enough alone and move on, like Liverpool has already, but maybe he should stop blaming everyone else for where he is as a player and start looking at himself.

Walk On, Just Walk On Already

Time is the great leveler, and as time has slowly moved away from the end of January when the shocking transfer took place, perspective now grows. Fans were tired of defending Torres’ constant moodiness. I’m sure the manager was tired of it too. I’m sure his fellow teammates didn’t appreciate the way he sulked on the pitch when many of them were doing their best to bring the club out its misery. The bottom line is despite our better judgment, the fans defended Torres because he was our player, and he should have defended Liverpool because that was his club.

After all his statements since leaving, his newest one really takes the cake. He claims to Spanish paper Marca that at Chelsea, “There are more personal relationships and jokes between the players than there were at Liverpool. Everything was much more serious there. Here, you don’t have to prove you are a professional, it is assumed.” To quote the old saying, it is the plainest instance of the pot calling the kettle black. No “professional,” as he claims, leaves a club in the manner he left Liverpool. And remember Fernando, you should never assume, as it makes an ass out of you and me.

Fernando Torres goes on to blame the sale of Liverpool for wanting to leave stating, “The institution was in chaos with the sale. There was all this talk of possible projects. In many ways it reminded me of (former club) Atletico Madrid… a great history, many ideas but without money, it needed time. I don’t have that.” He continues, “I knew I was an idol for the fans but it wasn’t the same any more.”

So he blames the sale of the club and the chaos that ensued, he blames the manager, he blames his fellow players for being too serious, while at the same time not being professional enough, he blames the former owners for not investing when they should have, and he torments the fans by reminding them that he was their idol, but he no longer felt the same about them anymore.

When someone tries this hard to convince every one of his or her behavior, you start questioning why. Torres convinced himself that this was the right move, but you have to think he’s really not so sure. He must have watched Liverpool’s performance on Sunday against Manchester United, especially Luis Suarez, and started doubting his hasty decisions, wondering what could have been had he stayed.

While Liverpool fans are sick of hearing from him as they look to focus on their team and the players that want to play for Liverpool, maybe he should do the same with his new club. The more he opens his mouth, the more I don’t believe a word he says. Indeed, me thinks the Spaniard doth protest too much.

Chelsea Football Club: The Next Fallen Giant?

By , February 18, 2011 3:50 pm

According to Frank Lampard, “It would be a disaster” if Chelsea don’t qualify for the Champions League. At this point in time, there is a fairly decent sized question mark over whether the West London club will indeed capture fourth place. With Tottenham grabbing fourth spot by securing a win last weekend while Chelsea could only manage a draw at Fulham, and Liverpool insistent on nipping at both their heels, nothing is a guarantee. Such is the shock of how far they’ve fallen that Lampard now insists it’s hugely important to reach the finals of the cup competitions they remain in, as well as keep their eye on the ball when it comes to finishing in the top four at the end of the season.

Champions No More - Frank Lampard Laments Chelsea's Downward Spiral

It is no surprise that the Chelsea and England midfielder is concerned about his team’s position. At the start of the season, Chelsea looked to run away with the title leaving the rest of the pack to chase after the remaining three spots for the Champions League. A massive shift in the last few months has seen Chelsea go from first to fifth. They have remained strong in the cup competitions, but their league form has taken a massive nosedive.

It may be a bit cheeky as a Liverpool supporter to say that Chelsea’s downward spiral began when Liverpool (with Fernando Torres) beat them 2-0 back in November. But since then, their record has been Won: 5, Drawn: 6, and Lost: 6. The dropping of 30 points in the matter of three months is enormous and has left Chelsea floundering for a Champions League place with twelve games left to play.

For all the talk this season of just how bad Liverpool have been, they are six points behind Chelsea in sixth place. Granted, Chelsea have a game in hand, but the gap is not as wide as it may seem based on Liverpool’s performance in the first half of the season.

It remains to be seen where each team will finish come May; such is the nature of this up and down season. And Chelsea may well surprise everyone and climb their way back to the top. Not to the top of the league, but at least into the top four.

Just a year ago, finishing seventh was a new low for Liverpool, and being out of the Champions League for the first time in years was a huge blow. It never occurred to most Liverpool fans that that was even a possibility until it happened. It signaled the end of a successful era, as well as the end of Rafael Benitez.

There seems to be a longstanding view from rival teams that Liverpool has an attitude of entitlement, and that the club feels its rightful place is firmly in the top four. Whether or not that’s true, that belief was shattered after finishing seventh.

But if other clubs can paint Liverpool with this entitlement brush, than surely they must be painted as well? For Frank Lampard to say it would be a disaster if Chelsea finished outside the top four, than it was undoubtedly a disaster for Liverpool when they did.

It was a tough season to endure, compounded by the following six months of negative transfer dealings, Roy Hodgson, and the worst run of games in over 50 years. That season truly set Liverpool back further than just being out the Champions League. The owners’ and manager’s relationship became untenable, the club sold one of their best players in Javier Mascherano, and they brought in players not nearly up to the level that Liverpool normally requires. All this combined with Roy Hodgson’s clueless undertaking at the helm eventually lead Fernando Torres to his Liverpool exit, under very acrimonious circumstances.

Fernando Torres Has So Far Failed To Live Up To Expectations In Chelsea Blue

The attitude toward Liverpool has remained one of “they deserve it,” “they’re not good enough,” “their players are rubbish.” In the span of a year and a half when the team barely missed out on a first placed finish, they went from hero to zero. Yet somehow you don’t get the same feeling when it comes to Chelsea. All you ever seem to hear is how Chelsea have the quality needed and shouldn’t be finishing outside the top four, it just wouldn’t be right if they did.

The press and Chelsea fans seem to think that because of having one of the most expensive and successful squads in recent years, they can do no wrong and that they too are now “entitled” to finish in at least the top four. Well Chelsea, welcome to Liverpool’s world, where nothing is a guarantee when it comes to football.

That’s not to say that Chelsea aren’t capable of finishing fourth. They are more than capable. But then, you could say, so were Liverpool.

Chelsea need to face facts just as Liverpool were forced to. They have a squad with multiple players perhaps having had their best days behind them, and this includes Fernando Torres. Whatever he’s done, £50 million was still an enormous amount for a striker about to turn 27 and with a massive history of injury problems. Chelsea were definitely looking to him to salvage their season with a cup win, but you have to say that outside the FA Cup, it’s not looking likely with the strength of teams in the Champions League this year.

Liverpool have had to endure a very difficult eighteen months, and with Fernando Torres leaving in January, things only seemed more bleak. But now there’s a new sense of renewed pride in the team that has been instilled by Kenny Dalglish. With new owners taking over in the fall, two new strikers signed in the January transfer window, and the youth team looking frighteningly good, the future seems quite bright for Liverpool and the hard times look to finally be over.

For Chelsea, the future is a little less certain. Ancelotti has the massive weight of expectations on his shoulders to deliver Chelsea back into the Champions League while he keeps one eye looking over his shoulder to see if Abramovich is ready to wield his axe. And with more financial losses announced, plus the gargantuan £70 million plus outlaid for players last month, it’s a wonder how Chelsea will cope with the Financial Fair Play rules. Without the bottomless bank account to recruit players for a team on the precipice of an immense overhaul, you wonder just how they will handle the seasons to come.

As Liverpool have had to put up with the disappointment that came with not being in the Champions League, so too will Chelsea if they don’t manage to finish fourth. Perhaps it is what they need to be reminded that no club is entitled to anything in football.

Would Liverpool Have Been Worse Off Losing Pepe Reina?

By , February 3, 2011 9:20 pm

Don't Worry, La. I'm Not Going Anywhere

As the debates rage on about Torres and his untimely departure from Liverpool Football Club, an interesting question has started to creep up. There’s no doubt in most supporters’ minds that losing Fernando Torres, no matter how much he didn’t want to play for the club anymore, was a massive blow. The hurt feelings combined with the fact the club would be lacking one of the most talented strikers in the world was always going to be hard to take. Everyone felt used, mistreated, and saddened by his sudden change of heart. In the wake of his new desire to play for another team, fans were so disheartened by the treatment they felt Torres had put them under that they didn’t stop to look at the bigger picture.

Since Torres was, is, and most likely will be a top class striker, for the remainder of his career anyway, it’s easy to see why any club would miss him. But while we all sat around dismayed and disillusioned, the manager and owners were busy working at a way to overcome that feeling of loss. Dalglish couldn’t have said it better than when he told the press, “The football club will always be here, and no person is bigger than this football club.” Right on.

And strikers, while top class ones are always hard to find, are definitely out there. And I personally think the top brass did a magnificent job in acquiring the likes of Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez. The feeling around the club is that the team will be better off in the long run. Goals will keep flowing, and perhaps the burden will now be shared from one to many.

And as we watched all this drama unfold, you had to look around and think: if we had lost another massively important player other than Torres, would we still have been better off? I think the answer to that is no. And the player I’m referring to Liverpool losing is Pepe Reina.

It’s a matter of coincidence that I prepared to write this piece over the last number of days when just this afternoon, Twitter was abuzz with rumors of Pepe ‘apparently’ stating he wants out now as well. And I use apparently because the rumors appeared primarily on Twitter and then one small, what looked like slapped together article in the Metro UK, regarding his desire to leave Liverpool and go to Manchester United. While I am no more in a position than the Metro UK to claim this is true or not, I have to say it all sounds a bit strange.

For all we believed Torres when he said he loved the club and would never leave, I just don’t think Reina is the same kind of person he is. Couple that with the fact that goalkeepers have much longer careers than outfield players (which is why Torres felt he needed to leave now before it was too late), and you just don’t get the sense there’s any merit to the silly rumor. (It seems Simon Clancy and Ben Smith were having a little conversation of their own on the micro-blogging site, nothing but harmless speculation, and somehow the Metro believed this to be word on high regarding the Spaniard’s current position.)

Back to the question at hand. If the fans and the people involved in managing Liverpool had a choice, would they be worse off seeing the back of Fernando Torres, or the back of Pepe Reina? As mentioned before, as sad as most are to see Torres go, I think it’s an easy question to answer.

A quality goalkeeper, as Arsenal knows all too well, gets you about 10 extra points a season. This can be the difference between safety and relegation, European qualification and mid-table mediocrity, and winning the league and coming in second. When losses are turned into draws and draws turned into wins because the man between the sticks makes some world class saves, it becomes more clear that his position may be even more important than the ones scoring the goals.

Don’t misunderstand and think that I’m saying strikers are insignificant, that’s not my point at all. But key to grabbing points is not just up to how many the team scores, but how many you keep out in the end. You’ll never lose a game if you don’t concede a goal and all that.

Reina Has Two Golden Glove Awards And Numerous Broken Records To His Name

After the game against Stoke, two wonderful things happened. First, Liverpool managed to finally gain a positive goal difference. It took 25 games, but at least they got there. Second, and most importantly, Pepe Reina kept another clean sheet, his third in a row to be exact. And on top of that, Reina passed Elisha Scott for third highest clean sheets in LFC history. That’s an amazing feat for a keeper who has only been at the club just over five years, and also managed to beat Ray Clemence’s record of fewest goals conceded in their first 50 games by notching 28 clean sheets in his first 50 appearances. Add to that his two Premier League Golden Glove awards for most clean sheets for three years in succession (three if you count 2008 when he tied Petr Cech), and you see what an incredible asset Reina is.

On top of that, Pepe Reina has the reputation of a lovely and jovial young man. He celebrates more than most when his team wins and score important goals, and he, we’d like to believe, is Liverpool through and through. He has even joked that his kids have scouse accents. The fact that he’s been made captain in the absence of Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher speaks volumes about his leadership, commitment, and talent. Gerrard even testified last season as to the immense character of Pepe Reina, and believes that he will indeed one day captain the club.

Reina made his intentions clear last year by signing a contract extension, and committing himself to Liverpool for many years to come. He was one of the first to do so in a season filled with low points, which just goes to show the perseverance and faith he has in Liverpool. He was quoted as saying during the most recent transfer window, when his position at the club may have been in doubt, “Obviously, I want to be part of a team that has the chance to win the title, win major trophies and to play with the best players – but I expect that to happen here at Liverpool, and for the club to return itself to that level. I plan to stick to my contract.” I imagine Pepe might have had one or two things to say to his Spanish compatriot about loyalty before he walked out the backdoor.

At the end of the day, Liverpool Football Club and its fans want players that want to play for them. In Reina they have a world-class talent and loyal servant to the club. If I had to make a choice this past transfer window, as difficult as it would have been, I would have chosen for Reina to stay. And while Liverpool may once again be fooled into taking a player’s word as his bond, you get that feeling that Pepe means it – really.

Liverpool Transfer Saga 2011: Adios Torres, Hello Carroll And Suarez

By , February 1, 2011 12:06 am

It’s amazing what can happen in football in the span of a few days. As I sit and reflect on what turned into a turbulent weekend for Liverpool Football Club, it’s hard to decipher through all the mixed emotions. There have been ups, there have been downs, and there has been a lot of anxiety in between waiting to find out which one was coming next. In the end, the January transfer window closed with us saying goodbye to a player who disappointed many with the manner of his departure, creating a gaping hole in our collective heart where the love for him used to be. And while this pain may be the legacy he has left behind, it’s much more important to now look to the future.

Cue Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez. Don’t worry; I will get back to Fernando Torres, as his becoming an official Chelsea player does not mean he’s nothing to do with Liverpool at all anymore. But for now, I’m going to focus on the positive, and for the first time in a long time, there is a lot to be positive about.

This is the first transfer window in eons that Liverpool has been truly involved in. Let’s just step back for a minute and appreciate this. I know many fans (especially those at other clubs that don’t quite understand LFC or know what we’ve gone through) are quick to point out the massive transfer fees splashed out by club owners FSG in the last few days. Many are saying the £55 million or so was a ridiculous amount spent on two largely unproven strikers, one who last played in Holland, and one who just entered his maiden year in the Premier League. But when studied a little more closely, they may just prove correct and perhaps in time, a bargain.

Let’s first look at Luis Suarez. He’s a young (24), versatile striker who can play off a central striker, on the wing, or in a partnership. Anyone who has watched videos of his goals on YouTube can attest to his natural and predatory striking ability. He’s quick, he’s feisty, and he has a hunger to play at Liverpool. He arrived at the club thrilled to be there and has since been caught on film at Melwood with an enormous smile plastered on his face.

A Beaming Luis Suarez Can't Wait To Play For Liverpool

He is quoted as saying in his first official interview as a player, “I’m very happy to be here, to me this is the most important club not just in England, but in the whole world.” He claims to have watched Liverpool as a boy and followed the English league, while also pointing out that the Liverpool fans are the greatest in England. He says it’s a dream to play there. There’s not much more you can want from a new star signing, and Luis has endeared himself to the fans almost immediately with his warmth and excitement for the club. His goal scoring record speaks for itself with 49 goals in all competitions for Ajax in the 2009-10 season. It remains to be seen whether he can replicate this sort of form in England, but he looks to be a fearsome and electrifying prospect.

Andy Carroll, the other new addition about to don the famous number nine shirt, came as a bit of a surprise to Liverpool and its fans. With Torres so abruptly putting in a transfer request at the end of the window, it left Dalglish and Co. scrambling. In the circumstances, you might expect some rash and silly decisions to be made. Liverpool needed a replacement striker fast with Torres on his way out, but FSG was not about to throw away all their plans on building for the future simply because they had little time to make a snap decision. They were never going to buy just anyone, even if it was with one eye on the summer to make the real purchase. Bringing in the right player was paramount, but FSG also had an opportunity to make a real statement of intent.

When the name Carroll was first mentioned, I was skeptical. Although he has shown a lot of skill over the first few months of the season, this was still Carroll’s first time in the Premier League. And immediately the colossal transfer fee Liverpool offered for him took me aback. But once I had some time to look past the inflated fee (some of which is due to the Man City effect, some due to the fact he is English), I was able to see the potential of the player. For starters, he is a mere 22-years-old, and only just turned 22 this month. He has the ability to play well for a number of years to come and if successful, could potentially offer Liverpool a sizable return on their investment should they wish to sell in the future.

Dalglish Welcomes Liverpool's New Number Nine

According to Kevin Keegan, Carroll is one of the three best headers of the ball he’s ever seen. He’s big, he’s strong, and he’s also technically sound with his feet. Watching him earlier this season, you could see the way he was able to use his strength to power into the box, challenge extremely well for headers, and score some lovely goals, of which he already has 11. From the initial evidence, you get the feeling that he has a lot of the skill Torres has, combined with dominant heading prowess, and most of all, the ability to hold the ball and link up play. For all Torres’ strengths, the latter was never his cup of tea.

What could also prove quite exciting is something else Torres lacked: the ability to play as part of a strike partnership. With the attributes of both new strikers, it seems clear they have the opportunity to compliment each other very well. Carroll could play up on his own with Suarez on one side and Maxi, Kuyt, Cole, Jovanovic, or Gerrard flanking the other, but the pair could be lethal with Suarez playing just in behind. With Carroll’s ability to hold up play and create around the box, coupled with Suarez’s finishing and ability to join in the play, the partnership is starting to seem mouthwatering.

And how it all comes full circle is the partnership of Torres and Suarez was also looking quite tasty before Torres’ oddly timed decision to leave was thrust onto the club. Upon more reflection, it’s key to remember that Torres was never very good at playing in a partnership. All the times it was tried with him at Liverpool, nothing ever seemed to work. And for those that say the surrounding players at Liverpool just aren’t good enough, then what excuse can be made when Torres plays with Spain, up front with David Villa, and always looks out of place and ineffective?

This begs the question of how the Spaniard will fit into the Chelsea system. With Drogba, a player who is also used to playing up front on his own, it will be interesting to see how the two combine. And this means of course that Anelka will have to be dropped to make way for the new striker. Or perhaps Drogba will be dropped. Or maybe even one of the coveted midfielders of Lampard, Essien, or Malouda. Abramovich may have been keen to finally get the prize he’s always wanted, but Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti may not be thanking him anytime soon for the re-think he will have to do with his squad.

As was mentioned in the previous post regarding Torres’ poorly timed (and possibly ill-advised) decision to leave Liverpool, Chelsea are an aging team looking more on the verge of a slide rather than an ascent. While they may continue to have an inordinate amount of funds to invest, they will need to replace the most important positions on the team, all at the same time, very soon.

This is compounded by the fact that Torres will turn 27 before long and could very well have played his best days at Liverpool. Take Michael Owen as an example of a striker who has looked a shadow of the player he once was. His speed was exhilarating to watch, and while his finishing skills have never really waned, the consistent injuries and time on the sidelines has affected him mentally and physically. Speedy players tend to burn out younger as their hamstrings continue to give way more easily. The evidence of this was clear the last 18 months or so with Torres, and Liverpool fans had to put up with a number of spells of him injured or lacking in confidence due to his injuries. This was always something that should be a concern for Chelsea, and one they might be worried about sooner rather than later.

It’s with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to Fernando Torres, and at this moment in time, I’m not quite ready to forgive and move on. I believe the way he handled his departure from the club was unprofessional and disrespectful to everyone at Liverpool, especially the fans. The timing, the motivation, and the exact reasons for his desire to leave a team that idolized him are still not clear, and it will be an interesting few weeks ahead as some of the truth comes out.

At the end of the day, it’s a shame that Torres couldn’t see to give Dalglish and the new owners until at least the end of the season to prove him wrong about Liverpool moving in the right direction. That is of course if we are to believe his main reason for joining Chelsea is to win trophies. He tarnished what could have been legendary status at the club, similar to the one the current manager still has. In my opinion, I feel he will one day regret the decision he has made (if he hasn’t already), and he will have no one to blame but himself.

Even Ryan Babel, a much maligned and indifferent player to most of the fans left with parting words of appreciation and gratitude for his time at Liverpool, even going so far as to say he wishes everyone at Liverpool luck and hopes they end up in the top four where they belong. Torres’ parting words, as he joins Chelsea tonight, so far have been, ”This is the target for every footballer. To try to play at one of the top-level clubs in the world and I can do it now.” Make of that what you will, but as his respectability amongst Liverpool fans is currently rock bottom, not even mentioning the club and his time there strikes yet another cruel blow.

It’s difficult to say when I’ll be able to look at Torres with appreciation and respect once more. I’m sure it will happen one day, but the way in which he deserted the team when it had a bright future to offer him is still fresh in my mind.

But what is important now are the two new players that have joined Liverpool today. Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez are the future of the football club. And as Kenny Dalglish said in his laconic comment today regarding players, “The most important people at Liverpool Football Club are the people who want to be here.” And right now, those people are two young lads named Luis and Andy. Welcome to Liverpool.

Fernando Torres: Timing Is Everything

By , January 29, 2011 10:57 am

Upon hearing the unthinkable news that Fernando Torres desired to leave Liverpool and go to one of their Premier League rivals, Chelsea, the one and only question running through my mind was: Why? While clubs have made their admiration for Torres obvious over the three plus years he’s excelled at Liverpool, there was never any indication the forward ever wanted to leave. He’s made statements in the press professing his love for Liverpool Football Club, and his most important statement has always been on the pitch where he’s been prolific as a goal scorer. Despite a recent drop in form, which most believe had more to do with his lack of respect for former manager Roy Hodgson, Torres has been given a new lease of life under Kenny Dalglish and has looked the player we all knew he was. So why leave now? With new owners already showing they mean business, a new manager whom the Spaniard respects, and a clear indication that the club’s ambitions are to get back to the top with the additions of Luis Suarez, Damien Comolli, and Steve Clarke, then his desire to leave only seems more bizarre at this moment in time.

It’s very difficult to know where to begin, primarily because it’s a strange feeling to be hurt by a football player. This person doesn’t know me, and I don’t know them, but somehow we’ve cultivated a relationship together that is hard to explain. This is the case with Liverpool’s (or perhaps soon to be Chelsea’s) Fernando Torres. He’s a player that has produced moments of magic over the years. He endeared himself to the fans almost immediately upon his arrival, and he’s never failed to set Anfield alight on more than one occasion. And the fans love him for it.

In this way, the relationship between the fans and their football club can be compared to a marriage. When a player signs a contract, they are committing to the team, through thick and thin, in sickness and in health. If the team does poorly, the player doesn’t jump ship, and the opposite is true (not always, but more often than not, especially at Liverpool). What hurts is that through all Torres’ injuries and bouts of low confidence, the club and its fans have stuck by his side, through thick and thin, in sickness and in health. We’ve watched as he’s had recurring knee and hamstring injuries leaving him out of the side for weeks and months at a time. Did the fans demand that he be sold? Did they turn their back on him after all he had done for them? Never. And yet with this transfer request, Torres has blatantly treated the fans with such a lack of respect for all their support through the years. He’s basically put two fingers up to the Kop, the ferocious fan base that has sung his name hundreds of times, in favor of a move to another team.

Why Leave The Club Now? Liverpool Fans Dismayed At Torres' Desire To Leave LFC

Don’t get me wrong; I completely understand a player’s desire to move on at some point. There’s nothing that says, no matter what, a player has to or will want to stay at one club for most of his career. I believe that if Torres had made the decision to complete the season, playing his best for the club and the club ended the season relatively well, he might still feel the same way he does now. If that was the case, the fans and club would be disappointed to lose him, but it would make more sense to move on when the club has adequate time to utilize the enormous amount of money from his transfer to buy two or three replacements. £40-£50 million is great, but only when given the time to use it. This is the issue I think some people, fans and media alike, are missing. It’s not about the money, but the timing of Torres wanting to leave.

Sadly, Torres’ sudden change of heart to leave the club that made him the world-class player he is may not have been as sudden as it seems. Jason Burt at the Telegraph reported after the news broke that Abramovich had flown to South Africa during the World Cup specifically to have a word in Torres’ ear about a potential move to Stamford Bridge. And while Torres remained loyal, stating numerous times in the summer, and as recently as January 9th that his desire was to stay with Liverpool and honor his contract, Abramovich continued his pursuit. Apparently, Ancelotti is not convinced about signing Torres, but of course, what Abramovich wants, Abramovich gets (Shevchenko anyone?). Supposedly the Russian has promised Torres shelves of silverware, but what makes Torres think this is possible?

Once again, here come the questions. Despite still being contenders for the Champions League this season, Chelsea are a team perhaps more in decline than Liverpool are at this current time. Their squad is seriously aging and most point to this as a direct reason for their slide down the table this season. With Terry, 30, Lampard, 32, Ashley Cole, 30, Anelka, 31, Drogba, 32, Malouda, 30, and Petr Cech becoming a shadow of his former self, this team needs a massive rebuild and it may take a couple years before they start seriously challenging for trophies again, especially with the Financial Fair Play rules coming into effect after this transfer window. No longer can the Russian oligarch throw his checkbook around without abandon. They will have to be shrewd, and may not get everyone they want anymore.

So why join a team that is aging and in need of many replacements, while also not looking to challenge for any honors this season? I honestly can’t believe that Torres thinks they can win the Champions League. This apparently is said to be the reason he wants to leave in January, rather than the summer. If that’s the case, then he must be more disillusioned than when Liverpool fans were told Roy Hodgson would improve Liverpool Football Club.

The feelings of fear, followed closely by hurt, disappointment, and sadness are what has engulfed Liverpool fans in the past 24 hours. January 28th was supposed to be the day that the team celebrated the signing of Luis Suarez, an extremely promising young goal scorer who’s potential partnership with Torres was mouth watering. Instead, it turned into one of the most disheartening and dispiriting days in the club’s history. This isn’t about a player wanting to leave; it’s about the player picking the absolute worst time to do it. That, coupled with the fact that only three weeks earlier, he once again stated his commitment to the club only makes the situation so much more unbelievable.

Players leaving for other clubs have become as much a part of modern football as billionaires buying titles. But what was so hurtful about Fernando Torres was the way in which he made it clear he wanted to go. Why leave mid-season when you know the club needs you? Why leave for one of our biggest rivals? Why go to a team that looks like it’s on its way down in the mid to long term rather than up? Why break the hearts of the fans that have stood by your side through all the highs and lows of the last three years? Liverpool fans know that when a player comes to Liverpool it’s because they want to play for the club, and love to do it. Liverpool, no matter its current station, is a special place and special players will be deified. As fans, we always felt the love was mutual.

No matter what happens now, Fernando Torres has rather foolishly broken the unique bond he built with Liverpool. The situation may change and Torres may stay a Liverpool player, and the fans may yet come around in some time if that happens, á la Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney. But it’s not looking good. Nothing about his character ever suggested he would leave in this manner. It’s a sad day for Liverpool Football Club. Not because they might be losing one of their best players, but because that player decided to leave at the worst time, in the worst circumstances, and for all the wrong reasons. Liverpool was willing to love you through thick and thin, it’s a shame you didn’t feel the same.

Women And Football: The Legacy Of Andy Gray

By , January 25, 2011 3:55 pm

I think it goes without saying that the decision to dismiss Andy Gray from Sky following his remarks regarding a female linesman was correct. The fact that he and his co-commentator, supposedly refined journalist Richard Keys, decided to have a dig about the young female referee was pretty shocking to the football world as a whole, and not just the women. It may be an exaggeration to say that their behavior sets women in sports back 50 years, but it might not be far off. Fortunately for the women in football today, there are enough people in power to not let two big-headed presenters get the best of all those women that have worked so hard to get where they are in such a male dominated arena.

The Smug Ones - Andy Gray And Richard Keys Mug For The Camera

I can pretty much guarantee that when 25-year-old Sian Massey took to the pitch at Molineux Stadium, she never envisioned herself becoming the catalyst for the sacking of one of Sky Sports’ most well known commentators. I imagine that she woke up that morning, ate a healthy breakfast in preparation for the game, had a cup of tea to relax, and then proceeded to go about her business on the field as an official for the match. Ninety minutes later and she was most likely headed home, feeling very confident in the fact that she did a fine job officiating a big Premier League contest. And to her dismay and bemusement, she awoke the next morning to find her name branded all over the print, online, and television media. Not for her laudable performance as an official, but because she is a woman, and according to Keys and Gray, women don’t know enough about football to be anywhere near it.

Understandably the chain of events that followed, first the suspension of Keys and Gray followed swiftly with Gray’s sacking, had very little to do with her in the end. She was merely the focal point for a couple of over-the-hill chauvinists who believe they are living in the 1950s, a time when it was perfectly acceptable to chastise women all in the name of being manly. And what makes the whole situation even more comical is that Keys and Gray, who are not well liked by many viewers, are often questioned about their knowledge of the offside rule. Something they ignorantly believed Massey was incapable of knowing simply because of her gender.

Kenny Dalglish, whose own daughter works in the field of football as a presenter, first on Sky Sports and now on ESPN, claimed he didn’t even know a woman was officiating until after the second half began. As the whole situation gathered momentum, the Liverpool boss was then questioned about his thoughts on the matter. Ever the intelligent diplomat, Dalglish simply replied, “I don’t know what Sky’s attitude is towards women, but certainly for me if you’re good at your job I don’t think your gender should be a restraint. If they’re there, then fine. As I said, I didn’t even realize until the second half that there was a woman running the line. It didn’t bother me in any way, shape, or form. The most important thing is how they see and interpret the laws of the game. The fact that we never knew tells you something. And, by the way, I never noticed if it was a guy on this side either.”

Dalglish has since poked fun at the situation by asking the press before his press conference, “Is it OK for a lady to be here? It doesn’t affect Sky?” His daughter Kelly followed suite and supplied her own quick-witted response to the inanity of Keys and Gray’s comments. She said on Twitter: “Phew am exhausted. Just read about something called ‘the offside rule.’ Too much for my tiny brain. Must be damaged from nail polish fumes.”

I can say as a woman who has played, watched, and analyzes football that I’ve never understood some men’s obsessions with constantly wanting to remind women of their inferiority. Many men, such as Keys and Gray, take some kind of pleasure in making others feel subordinate. Anyone with an ounce of self-confidence knows that the best way to make themselves feel better about their own self-image is not to degrade, but to enhance. With Keys and Gray, it seems a clear case of projecting their own inferior lack of knowledge onto someone else.

In all honesty, despite the prevalence of men like Richard and Andy in the world and especially the world of sports, I’ve rarely come across such antiquated attitudes in my personal life. As a kid, I played on official league teams with all girls, but spent the rest of my time playing with the boys. They always picked me for games and I was often one of the first to play. Was this because I was a girl? Was it because I wasn’t a boy? Or was it simply because I could play and no one gave a toss what I was as long as I contributed to the game?

This being the twenty-first century, I assumed people would be able to notice that one person can do anything just as good as another, no matter what their gender, race, or beliefs are. Perhaps it was naive of me to think that Keys and Gray’s sexist opinions were a thing of the past. I can only hope, along with the rest of the intelligent football community, that with Gray now out of the game for the foreseeable future, it will send a message that such behavior is unacceptable. That, and maybe Sian Massey can become a shining example of just what women can do in football when given the chance, despite what some people might say about them.

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