Posts tagged: Gerrard

Liverpool: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

By , March 4, 2012 11:57 am

After the ecstasy of the Carling Cup victory last Sunday, Liverpool once again felt the agony the following weekend with defeat to Arsenal. It would seem that every time Liverpool appear to finally be clicking and on their way to a run of successive positive performances and/or wins, they continue to mystify the manager and fans with displays in which they are either dire (think back to Bolton) or unlucky combined with poor finishing (Arsenal, Norwich, United, etc.). Miss penalty, hit post, opposition keeper has a blinder, create chance after chance without scoring, rinse, repeat. This has been the short and sweet illustration of Liverpool’s season thus far.

There is no doubt amongst knowledgeable supporters just how much progress has been achieved in a little over a year since Kenny Dalglish returned as manager. And despite some poor results, poor performances, and results that just wouldn’t swing our way, anyone that thinks we haven’t taken major strides forward is deluded. The style of play since the second half of last season has been mostly excellent. The game against Arsenal was a perfect example of Liverpool demonstrating how they can completely dominate a team with movement, quick passing, and the right balance of players in the side.

Liverpool's Victory in the Carling Cup Was Meant To Propel Them Into the Top Four

Suarez was particularly on form against the gunners, while Dirk Kuyt was back to his old self, combining with Suarez and Kelly on the right extremely well. I for one was overjoyed to see Jordan Henderson in his preferred central role as he once again showed that is his best position. He had an excellent game and was voted Man of the Match by Liverpool.

I was also very pleased to see Spearing reinstated to the side. With Gerrard unavailable through injury, it was no surprise to see a central three of Spearing, Henderson, and Adam, but to me Spearing is essential in these games, especially with the continued absence of the much missed Lucas. With him allowed to cover the back four, whatever combination of Adam, Gerrard, and Henderson can feel free to do what they do best ahead of him.

I don’t think anyone would disagree with the assessment that the central pairing of Gerrard and Adam has been just shy of disastrous at times. Neither are deep lying defensive midfielders and neither wants the role. When they play together, there is a massive gap between them and defense which has left the team alarmingly vulnerable. Spearing in my opinion has done more than enough to earn a place in the side, and if someone must be sacrificed, it should be Adam.

Despite my last statement, I actually like Charlie Adam. What I like most about him is not his “Hollywood Balls,” but his continued effort and confidence in the face of failure. After a succession of bad passes, Adam never ceases to amaze me by still eagerly wanting the ball and continuing to make difficult passes. Against Arsenal, when the penalty was won, Adam enthusiastically ran to take it. Despite taking one of the poorest penalties ever seen against Cardiff, he was committed to atoning for his mistake. I give him credit because many players don’t have the bottle to take that chance with the possibility looming that they might screw up again. Not Charlie Adam.

Unfortunately, beyond his effort and desire, as well as some decent passing, Adam can be shockingly poor. He really is either brilliant or terrible and I can’t seem to figure out what triggers the great performances and what triggers the bad ones. But isn’t this the very same conundrum that has plagued Liverpool all season? Consistency is the buzzword of our campaign and it has yet to be found anywhere we look.

What was missing against Arsenal? Goals, pure and simple. Tactically the team was set out great, they created a whole host of chances, good chances, that were denied by the bar, the goalkeeper, confidence, some bad luck, and some poor finishing. Alas, once again, the story of our season. Does the lack of finishing make this a poor side? Not in my opinion.

Robin Van Persie Showed Liverpool What They Are Painfully Missing With His Clinical Finishing

I love watching Liverpool play when they play like they did against Arsenal, or Chelsea earlier in the season, or Norwich, or Newcastle, or any of the other great games they’ve had. Some of those they’ve won, but many (too many) have been drawn or lost due to some much needed good luck and of course, some clinical finishing. A poignant fact shoved in our faces adding insult to injury by watching Robin Van Persie have two touches, two shots, and two goals all game. What we wouldn’t give for someone like him in the side.

At the beginning of the season, when this pattern of domination and creation, but lack of scoring started to emerge, it felt like only a matter of time before the goals would flow. It’s now March and we’re still waiting. Liverpool have one of the worst chance conversion rates in the league and one of the lowest goal tallies of any Liverpool team in years. It’s shockingly obvious where the problem lies, but I can’t seem to figure out why or when this happened.

The second half of last season saw the Reds regenerated, playing some electric football (the 5-2 against Fulham comes to mind) and scoring plenty of goals. Then the well dried up. With even more attacking threat from a fit Carroll, Suarez, Kuyt, Adam, Downing, Henderson, and Gerrard, the team has scored far less goals and draining confidence began to take its toll. Instead of expecting to score with a shot, they expect to hit the bar or have it saved. How to change this pattern of thinking is up to Kenny and the players.

But it feels like the flood gates are bound to open at any moment. And when that happens, this team will be fairly unstoppable. You combine the great play, possession domination, and some decent finishing and so many of this season’s draws and losses become wins. If results went our way, we would easily be up near Arsenal and pushing toward third.

The most concerning issue Dalglish has at the moment is trying to figure out what his best team is. I still don’t think he, or the team, knows. Combine that with players still getting to know each other, certain players still searching for confidence (Downing, Carroll), and players out from injury (Lucas, Gerrard, Agger), and this season’s results make more sense.

It’s especially disappointing for the fans because every time the team plays well and gets a good result, they do the opposite in the following game or game after. But overall, the team is moving in the right direction. It was always going to take at least a season for this team to be completely overhauled and gel, and the performances show we’re on our way. The only thing missing are the results and all important goals. Not to say those things are easy to change, but there is enough of a platform to jump from at this point.

Some much needed firepower and top class players should be bought in the summer. Why no one was purchased in January is a mystery to me. Newcastle didn’t need any help scoring goals, and they went out and got another striker in January. We have been desperate, and yet for whatever reason, that wasn’t made a priority. This summer, it must.

At this point, the only good thing about ostensibly being out of the fight for fourth place is that perhaps the team can relax and play without pressure. This is what they did in the second half of last season, and they played fantastically well because they really had nothing to lose. You get the feeling this season that a lot of the new and younger players have felt the enormous pressure that comes with playing for Liverpool and it has hindered their confidence and performances. Take away that pressure, and we might just push it close. And let’s not forget winning the FA Cup which is still a genuine possibility.

It’s absolutely been a season of two steps forward and one step back, but we are slowly inching our way forward and playing better and better as the season has gone on, as well as already securing one of only four trophies on offer every season (one of three if you’re not in Europe). I have complete faith in Kenny Dalglish and the players to get things right. I, like many other fans, just need to accept it might take longer than we wanted it to. Such is being a fan and such is being a fan of Liverpool at the moment. But I believe the most important thing is we are moving forward and the future continues to look bright. After all, at the end of the storm, there’s a golden sky. So let’s walk on until the end of the season, giving the team our support every step of the way, whether it be forward or backward.

Is England The Future France?

By , June 21, 2010 11:39 am

Fabio Capello and Raymond Domenech: They Could Be Twins

Two group games into the World Cup and France have fantastically imploded for all the world to see. Perhaps it’s fitting considering their path to the finals in the first place. To say Les Bleus’ qualification was ‘questionable’ is an understatement. Thierry Henry’s now infamous “Le Main De Dieu” (Hand of God) against the Republic of Ireland was shameful. Even French newspaper Le Monde titled their headline “Blues Relieved, Irish Disgusted.” Yet, Henry didn’t seem to feel any shame as he came out publicly and admitted to the use of his hand that led to the goal for France, subsequently allowing them to qualify in place of Ireland. Sadly, this is a player who was revered around the world as one of the best in the history of the game. With one incident, he marred his good name forever. But at least he got France qualified. The French are the only ones to forgive him so far.

Fast-forward eight months and France’s karma has kicked in. Their first match, while not a total disaster, was a toothless draw against Uruguay. This was the first of many dull opening round games, but as 2006 runners up, people expected more. In the second game, France began to unravel. Another awful display led to a 2-0 loss to Mexico. The difference in body language between the sides, epitomized by the two managers, was astounding. Mexico’s manager Javier Aguirre was demonstrative on the sidelines, cheering his players on, congratulating their efforts at every turn as they played admirably against France. On the other end of the spectrum, French manager Raymond Domenech cut a lonely and uninterested figure on the sideline. He stood frozen, arms crossed, blank expression on his face. No effort was made to inspire his team, it almost felt as if he didn’t care whether they won or lost, conceded or scored. The team was dreadful. What followed was a break down of epic proportions. The squad refused to train, France striker Nicolas Anelka was sent home after a profanity filled tirade against Domenech, and France’s team director, Jean-Louis Valentin, resigned. Before driving away after he angrily walked out on the French squad, Valentin added, “As for me, it’s over. I’m leaving the federation. I’m sickened and disgusted.” That really says it all.

England, on the other hand, do not look like descending into this kind of chaos, but many similarities can be drawn between the two sides, much to the England fans’ irritation. In regard to England’s latest group game against Algeria, I can honestly say I’ve never seen a worse performance. The image of former England and Liverpool player Steve McManaman, one of the panelists covering the match, slamming his head against the desk after the final whistle was something to behold. To claim the team lacked inspiration, creativity, passion, and talent would be a massive understatement. They looked an empty shell of a football team, with no idea as to what they were doing there. Most predicted an easy victory for England, as Algeria is not a team that should be feared by players of England’s magnitude. The result couldn’t be further from that assumption. The England squad even used the word ‘fear’ in the aftermath of a shockingly dull 0-0 draw. Fear? What exactly were they scared of? These are players who play for Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool. They’ve played in Champions League finals, won league titles, and many can be named with the best in the world in their respective positions. And yet they were scared of Algeria, a team that should have been swept aside with consummate ease, especially after a disappointing draw with the United States. This was their opportunity to regain confidence and propel themselves easily into the round of 16. But rather than resemble the great team they are quite capable of being with players like Rooney, Gerrard, and Lampard, they looked like… well, France.

Capello had a lot to answer for after the game against the USA, but even more to answer for after Algeria. He once again refused to use Joe Cole, probably England’s most incisive player when it comes to unlocking defenses with sheer creativity. Instead, he opted for Gareth Barry in the middle. A player I am still not convinced should be there, and shoved Gerrard out to the left. But rather than allow the formation to shift from a rigid 4-4-2 to a 4-5-1 with Gerrard just behind Rooney, where he is devastatingly dangerous, he was forced wide and had no impact on the game. Neither did any of his teammates. Wayne Rooney thrives on having boundless energy from the first to the last whistle, and chasing back to defend is something he is renowned for. By the closing stages against Algeria, he barely walked back to defend, let alone run. And what of Capello? He stood frozen on the sideline, arms crossed, blank expression on his face. He made no effort to inspire his team or look for solutions to shake them out of their slumber. Instead, he resembled Domenech and his team resembled France.

But there is still hope. While France has dissolved into turmoil, England is attempting to band together and pick themselves up. Largely due to the USA’s unlucky draw against Slovenia, they now hold their fate in their own hands for Wednesday’s third group stage match. With a win, they become the England team everyone believes they are. Anything less, and their future has an undeniable feel of French ‘je ne sais quoi.’

Panorama Theme by Themocracy