Posts tagged: lfc

The Lucas Lesson

By , July 9, 2012 5:10 pm

In just a few short years, Lucas Leiva went from being a midfield pariah, to the rock that anchors Liverpool’s midfield down. It was a transition that was anything but swift, and looking back, I think every fan is amazed he wasn’t driven out of the club. At one point, the vitriol against him was so immense, all it lacked was actual torches and pitchforks to literally run him out of the city.

Lucas’ story is a great one, and for a number of reasons. It taught an ever increasingly impatient fan base patience. It taught players, managers, pundits, and the media that you can’t always rush to judgement on a young, foreign player. And most importantly, it taught everyone what a self-motivated and talented young footballer can achieve when he truly believes in himself and his ability. Add to that Lucas’ uncanny knack to stare adversity in the face and win without even blinking, and you have yourself a player that taught us all a lesson.

To give some context, Lucas arrived at Liverpool as a mere 20-year-old from Brazil. He shined for Gremio and caught the eye of more than one manager in Europe. But it was Rafa Benitez who saw something special in the young Brazilian midfielder and decided he would fit well into Liverpool’s setup.

He joined the team at a time when the Reds were on the rise. They had just competed in their second Champions League final in three years, and were building towards continued success for the future by investing in promising, youthful prospects such as Lucas.

A Young Lucas Looked Increasingly Overawed When He First Joined LFC

Fast forward to the 2008-2009 season, and Lucas struggled. Badly. He was disappointing in a number of performances for Liverpool, so much so that the Anfield faithful took to booing him off after several lackluster games. Benitez, being the kind of manager he is, leapt to Lucas’ defense. He claimed none of us knew just how good Lucas was. And in return, we claimed that Benitez had no clue just how terrible he was. Many, including myself, struggled to see what the manager saw in the diminutive Brazilian.

To be fair, it couldn’t have been easy competing in a midfield stacked with talent. At the time, he was up against Mascherano, Alonso, and Gerrard. And as we all so cruelly remember, the axis of Alonso and Mascherano was phenomenal, and Gerrard’s inspired role behind Torres was ingenious. Lucas was the weak link, and the fans and media were intent on getting him out of the team. At least, I know I was.

Then the bottom dropped out. The 2009-2010 season was a disaster. Alonso was gone, the team were never able to build on their incredible success the season before, and in the end, it all cost Benitez his job.

But, while the team was most definitely on the wane, Lucas was on the rise. With Alonso’s departure, the Brazilian was finally given more responsibility, which he seemed to grab with both hands. His first half of the 2009-2010 season was decent, but he grew in stature as the season went on.

And while the 2010-2011 season (the first half of it anyway) was something most Liverpool fans want to forget, Lucas’ performances were tremendous. Rumors have it that Hodgson actually wanted to flog Lucas off. Thankfully, no such thing happened. He continued his excellent run of form when Dalglish replaced Hodgson mid-season, and enjoyed a wonderful run that saw the team go from a lowly 12th to 6th in about 4 months.

In May 2011, Lucas was voted the fans’ player of the year. He also made the most tackles in the top 4 European Leagues for the 2010-2011 season.

Lucas Showed Fans How Good He Really Was

His barnstorming form returned at the start of the 2011-2012 season, and he was absolutely immense against Manchester City and Chelsea in November. Sadly, his season was cut short from a terrible ACL injury, and the collapse of form of the team following his injury tells you a lot about how much influence he truly began to have. From a player that most would have been happy to sell, to a player that, through his absence, the team around him disintegrated.

In the five years since Lucas was brought to the club, he has undergone a transformation few players have the opportunity to make, namely because time is never on a player’s side when trying to impress a new team. But every fan that maligned the very name of Lucas, was singing his praises last season, and no one could mention the demise of Liverpool in 2012 without uttering what a loss Lucas had been to the midfield. There was an enormous chasm that opened up after his injury, one that was never filled by Dalglish. The team lost its balance, and most importantly, they lost its metronome. Two things Lucas provided in spades.

I honestly haven’t been as impressed with a player’s improvement as I have been with Lucas.

So what does this story teach us? It teaches us to give players time, especially players who come from halfway across the world, don’t speak the language, and are only 20 years old.

But it also teaches the importance of a mentality, belief, and intelligence that belong to only a handful of players ever to have graced the beautiful game. Lucas took the anger that was aimed at him, misdirected or not, and he turned it into a reason to work harder, rather than pack it up and go somewhere more comfortable, somewhere a little easier than the cauldron of cruelty that he experienced at Anfield. But he didn’t.

His story is a brilliant one. For once it wasn’t a player asking what the club and fans could do for him, but rather what he could grab onto deep inside and give to the club and fans. And all that in the face of rancor from every corner of Anfield and every media outlet that needed a new person to beat down.

So while the fans also needed to learn a few lessons, chiefly in their patience skills when it comes to a young player’s development, it was an even bigger lesson for players. Perhaps other footballers will take something from Lucas’ story. Perhaps they’ll walk away thinking that it’s them that have to impress the club and the fans. Perhaps they’ll realize, that deep down, the fans always want a new player to succeed, and that if the player gives it their all and more, they will, and with the fans’ backing.

Lucas has taught us all a lesson. And I hope he continues to do so for Liverpool for years to come. He’s an excellent example of a player you can be proud of. And more than anything, he should be proud of himself for reminding every one of what players need to show the fans, and how the fans should really treat the players. We were lucky he stayed. And if we didn’t learn the Lucas lesson fully, we may not be so lucky the next time a young player like him comes along.

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.

Liverpool Need to Let Their Heads Catch Up With Their Hearts

By , August 19, 2011 8:57 am

I was as disappointed as any Liverpool fan last Saturday when the team managed a measly 1-1 draw with Sunderland. It wasn’t just the scoreline that disappointed me, but the manner in which it was played. “Hoof and Hope,” the mantra that has now become our perennial second half way of life, did nothing to ease the tension and anxiety within the stadium, or for those watching worldwide. As cliched as it is, this truly was a game of two halves and while the team ended on a sour note following the final whistle, perhaps we can continue to take heart in the way the first half was played.

It’s easy to forget the first 45 minutes after having to endure 45 dour minutes of the second half last week. There was no cohesion, no movement, no energy, and poor, sloppy balls were given away all over the pitch. The momentum from the first half, despite an appalling display from referee Phil Dowd, should have propelled Liverpool to pick themselves up, score a couple of quick goals, and put the game to bed.

As we know, the game did not go this direction. When the team was 1-0 up and the cracks started to show, the final whistle couldn’t come quick enough. When it was 1-1 and Sunderland attacked threatening a winner, I think the recurrent thought running through everyone’s head was, “here we go again.” It could easily have been a loss on the opening day of the season, something all too familiar in recent years. And in some ways, this draw felt like a loss because of the team’s inability to kill the game when the opportunities arose in their completely dominant first half exhibition.

But I digress. The first half is what we should all focus on. Because at the end of the day, had Suarez converted the penalty, Richardson been sent off, Carroll’s goal stood, and Downing’s fierce drive just tickled the underside of the crossbar, we would be top of the table with four or five goals tucked away and a victory brought about through creativity, movement, and sublime skill from multiple players. As much as the draw hurts, the encouraging signs were there that great things are to come.

So do Liverpool fans need to be patient and await for the pieces to click? I tend to think so, but Kristian Walsh makes a good point in his piece Why Context, Not Patience, Is Needed on the Kop Blog.

Walsh writes, “An excellent opening 45 minutes was immediately eradicated when Dowd began the second half. Larsson’s goal acted as a switch; agitation and restlessness followed, both on and off the pitch.”

Walsh continues, “Anfield knew what this newly-constructed side was capable of already. This wasn’t impatience, this was anxiety and frustration – anxiety at not getting the result the first half performance deserved; frustration that the anxiety was well-founded.”

I think he hits the nail on the head. Liverpool fans are smart enough to know how good the first half performance was. The issue of disappointment arose when the fans felt that while they performed more than good enough for three points, it was still not earned. How many years has this happened to good Liverpool sides while simultaneously watching Manchester United perform under par and still gain the three points? Frustration does not even begin to describe it.

Even so, I still believe Liverpool and Liverpool fans need to practice some patience. But the kind of patience I think we need is not patience for the team to click, they’ve already shown us at the tail end of last season and in the first half against Sunderland that they click very well.

The patience needed here is between our heads and our hearts. Every Liverpool fan across the world wants so badly for the team to win and achieve the trophies and prestige that has eluded them for five years, and in some cases, 20 years. The fans’ love beams from the deepest parts of their heart for the players, the manager, and everything having to do with Liverpool Football Club, no matter how well or poorly they do.

The difference is, for maybe the first time in that 20 year span, the fans finally feel like they have the manager, players, and owners to achieve great things. The heart (the fans) believes we have already won, while the head (the team) is still catching up.

We know what Liverpool is capable of, and despite a disappointing draw, there is no reason to change the way we feel about the club. The head will soon catch up, and until then, well, the heart wants what it wants, don’t it?

Crouching Liver Bird, Hidden Transfer

By , July 6, 2011 10:51 am

*Update
In between the writing and posting of this piece, the Charlie Adam deal finally went through and he is indeed having a medical at Melwood tomorrow according to the official site here.

Ah, the transfer market. There truly is nothing like it. The agony and the ecstasy all rolled up into one. The joy of a fantastic capture in one hand, and the disappointment of a lost opportunity in the other. There really are only so many world class players out there, and plenty of different clubs competing for them. So far for Liverpool in this transfer window, it’s really been a case of frustration more than anything else.

Who Will Be Wearing The Liver Bird On Their Chest Next Season? *Photo courtesy of Kit Nelson

That being said, we have been told from on high to be patient. The powers that be have been and are continually working on bringing in the best players for the team that they can. The fact that John W. Henry came “face-to-face” with the fans by responding to their anxiety on Twitter should tell everyone something. But does it calm anyone down? No, not really.

We are anxious to get the ball rolling. And when the club vehemently told the fans after the super quick procurement of Jordan Henderson that they would attempt to secure transfers quickly to have almost everyone in before pre-season, it seemed a fait accompli all transfer business would be done by then. That time has come and gone as pre-season began this week.

So what are we to make of the secrecy involving the transfer targets? Fans begged for the return of “The Liverpool Way,” but then we hypocritically can’t stand it when we don’t know what’s going on. It’s very difficult being on the outside looking in when you’re trying to look through a piece of frosted glass.

Newspapers don’t help with their pages full of “transfer rumors,” sometimes containing the most ridiculous and out-of-this-world piece of transfer nonsense. But it’s not for lack of trying, or even full disclosure. Many journalists may have more information than they are allowed to reveal, which leaves them in the unfortunate situation that the clubs are also in; tell & you die, don’t tell & the fans will kill you.

The saying goes: “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that,” but surely no one should die over anything that happens in the silly season. At least we hope it doesn’t come to that. But with Charlie Adam having his 10,000th medical tomorrow, and Aston Villa rejecting another bid for Downing, it’s becoming increasingly aggro in the world of Twitter, fan forums, and even blogs when it comes to Liverpool’s transfer dealings.

The real question that keeps cropping up is whether any of these “rumors,” that is any information about transfers full stop, are actually true at all. No one except for a select few inside Liverpool know who Liverpool Football Club are actually targeting. The Clichy, Wickham, Adam, and Downing possibilities seem plausible enough because actual bids were made, and the other club revealed that they had turned them down.

But those aside, who is Liverpool FC really going after? Will Juan Mata be the club’s marquee signing? Is Jose Enrique still on Liverpool’s left-back radar? Is there any truth to the rumor they are interested in another Spanish star, Santi Cazorla?

Unfortunately for those of us looking in, we won’t know until the papers are signed, the official website makes an announcement, and a medical, an actual medical conducted by the club when they specify, is done.

Until then we must all live in the haze and mystery that surrounds the transfer market, wishing and hoping for the best players to choose us over anyone else. But luckily for us, a new dawn has descended over Liverpool with new owners, a new manager, and hopefully plenty of new players in place before next season. Liverpool Football Club finally has a lot more to offer than just a successful history. They can now offer a successful future as well, something we hope players realize when they make their final choice for a new club.

*Great Liver Bird picture courtesy of Kit Nelson

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.

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.

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