Posts tagged: premier league

Liverpool, Suarez, and Why I Think Dalglish is King

By , January 4, 2012 5:19 pm

Please excuse my lengthy piece on the matter, as I realize the whole Suarez affair has been extremely upsetting and exhausting for everyone involved with Liverpool Football Club. And most of all, for Luis Suarez himself. One of the major issues with everything that has happened since that fateful day back in October is the way it has drawn whole sections of England and even Liverpool fans apart. You may agree with what I have to say, or not. Either way, I will respect your opinion even if I don’t believe it myself. This is much the case with the FA, but I am personally having a more difficult time than some accepting the way they’ve handled this case, dished out its punishment, and gave reasons for their decision based on the term ‘probably.’ I am also finding some of Liverpool’s handling of the case poor, in only so much as to how Suarez was represented. I firmly believe Liverpool’s players and Kenny Dalglish have done everything right in their support of Suarez, and I salute their bravery in the face of countless media articles, opposition fans, and even anti-racist organizations turning on them. This must be acknowledged, because as much as some people simply want Liverpool to just roll over and move on, like they would have done under the previous regime, it’s nice to know the team will stick by someone, believing 100% in their innocence whether others do or not.

I read the 115 page FA report, cutting into my New Year’s Eve festivities to do so. At first, I found the reading to be very uncomfortable with the allegations about what Suarez said. It wasn’t pretty, and I thought after the first few pages that Suarez may in fact be a truly awful person despite all obvious evidence to the contrary (mostly referring to his jovial nature, electric smile, and passion for the game. He may be snarky at times, but that is what makes him a great player, not necessarily a horrible human being.)

But as I continued to read, I began to feel puzzled, confused, then I started to laugh. I was laughing at the ridiculousness of the claims, the lack of corroborative evidence, and the pure lack of evidence at all. When I finished page 115, I kept scanning back thinking I had missed something. But no. The FA had no real evidence on which to base their judgements on. Simply that they somehow found Evra a more convincing and reliable witness than Suarez, even though Evra was not the one on trial, therefore Suarez is found guilty of racially abusing him, but is also not a racist. Confused yet? I was, and still am.

Who Do You Believe When So Much Is At Stake?

Before I go any further, I’d like to point to some other articles that have broken down and analyzed the report, as well as some other articles on the subject. I agree with their sentiments, and while I’d be happy to do the breakdown myself, I would just be repeating what others have already said very succinctly. A great piece by Stuart Gilhooly, the solicitor for the Professional Footballers Association of Ireland, can be read here. A few great pieces on the Anfield Wrap here, here, and here. This post by @joescouse_LFC is also a great read regarding the breakdown of the report’s numerous inconsistencies. Plus the excellent language dissection by Professor in Hispanic Studies at Brown University, Aldo Mazzucchelli here. (Also, while in the middle of writing this piece, Paul Tomkins has of course trumped me with his own excellent article here. A must read, and so much of it I agree with).

Any logical person who has read the report, Liverpool fan or otherwise, can see the glaring inconsistencies and bias that is there. And when I say bias, don’t misunderstand that I think the FA and all of the footballing world have it in for Liverpool. While it sometimes does appear that way, I simply mean bias in the FA’s strong correlation between Evra’s events and the truth, despite no evidence or witnesses to support it. And of course, because the FA published its reasoning, the media takes that as word on high that they must be right, no matter how flawed their reasoning is and no matter how many times they use the word ‘probably’ or some variation thereof.

There are two things that some have casually mentioned, but that I find astoundingly atrocious when reading that report. The first is the FA explaining that while they believe Suarez is categorically NOT a racist, they basically explain his comment to Evra simply as ‘heat-of-the-moment’ and ‘we’re all a bit racist sometimes.’ I am appalled at this comment and the logic with which it is brought about.

From the horse’s mouth:

Paragraph 342: We asked ourselves whether a player (Suarez) with this background would make the comments that Mr Evra alleged. We took all these points fully on board and thought long and hard about them before finding the Charge proved. We dealt with them in the following way.

Paragraph 343: Mr Suarez’s background as described by him in his statement raised doubts in our minds, in the first instance, as to whether he would ever make the alleged comments. We recognised that Mr Suarez’s background together with the seriousness of the Charge, meant that a greater burden of evidence was required to prove the Charge. We formed the view that, overall, the preponderance of the evidence favoured the FA’s case.

And here’s the kicker, Paragraph 344: We took into account the fact that it is a real albeit unattractive trait of human nature that we all act from time to time, to greater or lesser degrees, in ways which may be out of character. This is especially so when we feel under pressure, or challenged, or provoked, or pushed into a corner. We do and say things that we are not proud of and regret, and that we might try and deny, sometimes even to ourselves. We occasionally do or say things that we would be embarrassed to admit to family or friends. It is not inconsistent to have black colleagues and friends and relatives, and yet say things to strangers or acquaintances about race or colour that we would not say directly to those closer to us.

And their incomprehensible conclusion, Paragraph 345: Bearing these considerations in mind, whilst we were initially doubtful that Mr Suarez would make the comments alleged by Mr Evra, we proceeded on the basis that the factors relied on in relation to Mr Suarez’s background and experiences did not mean that he could not or would not act in this way. We weighed these considerations together with all the evidence when asking ourselves whose account was more probable.

Why am I appalled by this part of the report? Because the FA has basically said that people in a highly tense situation will of course say something racist, but would never say the same things to their best friends of another race because that would be too embarrassing. This is so insulting and bizarre to me, someone who despises racism and prejudice in all its forms. And the fact they can come up with the conclusion that despite Suarez having NO history of anything he was being accused of, having a grandfather that is black, playing with black players, and being involved in a charity that supports and encourages young black and white children to play together and stamp out racism, they STILL believed that he must have said what Evra alleged. If anything, with all their decisions based on ‘probabilities’ and ‘likelihood’s’ this would make Suarez LESS likely and ‘probably’ impossible to racially abuse someone in the way he is being accused of.

The second of the astounding atrocities is the confusing manner in which the FA on one hand defends Suarez, giving him some benefit of the doubt when it comes to his limited use of the English language and the way he may feel nervous at having to defend his good name in light of such serious charges. Yet, they neither seem to care or believe that those two things could be why there were some inconsistencies in what he said. And on the flip side, the way that he speaks his own language has somehow been summarily dismissed as wrong because Evra, someone with the ability to converse in Spanish, but by all means not fluent, especially in Suarez’s dialect, claims Suarez said something that Suarez refutes. Personally, I’m going to believe the person who grew up speaking that language and is fluent in it, but obviously the FA does not.

On that note, as many others have stated in the articles I linked to above, despite what you may believe, I am not defending a ‘racist’ in my defense of Luis Suarez. Accusations like this are beyond me. The club, manager, players, and many fans believe he is innocent of the allegations of being a racist and using racist language. The part where many people differ is their understanding and the importance they give to the idea that there may be – brace yourself – cultural and language differences between two different cultures and languages. I know this may be hard to grasp for some, especially it seems from the English speaking countries like England, but it’s true. I think we can all agree that Spanish and English are undeniably two different languages. There, I’ve said it. Get out your pitch forks and start lynching.

A great comment was made by Glynn on The Anfield Wrap’s article Suarez: Why the Guilty Verdict Was Correct stating, “That’s a fairly reasonable article, however, like the media at large, you also are taking the English literal meaning of the five letter word which Luis has admitted using (negro) and presenting it as proof of Luis’s guilt. There’s no attempt to explore the meaning in the cultural-linguistic context in which it was originally used – and that this is dismissed as not even being worthy of discussion smacks of xenophobic arrogance.” This is excellently stated, and concisely explains what I said above.

On this basis, I just cannot understand how people keep pointing to the fact that Suarez admitted using a word, which to him is completely harmless and not only not racist, but not insulting either, as clear evidence that he’s guilty of racially abusing Evra. Think about it for a second. If everything we said in one language was insulting to someone in another, we’d all be apologizing everyday for everything we say. Doesn’t the FA’s logic on this seem completely illogical?

Many also keep pointing out that: ‘ignorance is not an excuse.’ Really? It is a perfectly good one to me when Suarez, by his own admission of using the word, clearly had no intention of insulting or racially abusing Evra. Because if he did have those intentions, it would be much easier to lie and profess that he said nothing at all. And if what he admitted to saying was misconstrued by Evra as something racist, how is that Suarez’s fault? He was honest (perhaps too honest seeing how horribly he’s been treated over all this) in saying what he said because he felt he had nothing to hide. I, as I’m sure many others, have also done this in their lifetime; been honest in a situation where we had nothing to hide, but were found guilty of something anyway because of the way it was perceived by someone else.

If this was such a grievous mistake made by Suarez, then shouldn’t the powers-that-be have done the right thing in just explaining to Suarez that despite him speaking in his own language, they found it abusive and therefore unacceptable? Giving him a one-game ban and explaining to Liverpool and every other club that foreigners need to be given better lessons on understanding the culture they are now living in? Surely this kind of scenario should have been sufficient for anyone even if it does reek of xenophobia.

Perhaps if Evra had attempted to discuss what he thought he heard with Suarez, the ref, and the managers before making the accusations to a television channel, then Suarez would have easily been able to apology for any misunderstanding and clearly explain what he meant in saying what he did. People have told me I’m foolish for thinking of this and it could never be an option. And clearly a logical, sound, and rational approach to all this from the FA was also never an option after reading their report. I don’t know how I could be so silly as to think that they would be any of those things with such a serious charge being made.

To comment on current rumblings, in regard to those in the media, Man United corner, and any opposition or Liverpool fans that agree with the notion that Suarez should now apologize for what he’s done, let me say this. Saying he should apologize is an outrageous thing to ask when they are referring to an apology for making a racist remark, which he categorically denies he did. If anything, maybe an apology for the simple misunderstanding on the part of Evra, but never, NEVER should he be made to apologize for something he didn’t do which is racially abuse Evra. From my own negative experience of a similar situation to Suarez’s, where I was being accused of all kinds of outlandish things by people around me, none of which I was guilty of, did I ever think that apologizing was right. I knew in my heart of hearts that I did nothing wrong, and at the end of the day if someone else felt otherwise, that truly was their problem and not mine. I think Suarez feels much the same as he continues to deny doing anything malicious or racist in any way, shape, or form.

I’ll make two more comments about this whole sad and sorry affair.

First, I’m not excusing some of Liverpool’s misguided tactics in all this. It seems to become more and more clear that their handling of the situation as far as preparedness of Suarez and other witnesses, as well as the lawyers chosen were perhaps not the best. So many on various websites, forums, and twitter have been able to logically dispute so much of what was said it’s almost incomprehensible that an institution as big as Liverpool didn’t have the absolute best representation in their corner. They seemed to have screwed up royally in some ways that made it difficult for Suarez to truly defend himself.

But this is also not to say that I think what Dalglish and the team has done was ever wrong. Obviously the media see the support of Suarez’s manager, teammates, and fans as blind favoritism and in turn they are of course supporting a racist, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Dalglish, to his great credit, has stood by his player in the face of criticism from every corner. Read the transcription of his press conference after the Manchester City game here and you can see that he is defiant and still 100% believes in Suarez’s innocence, while also condemning the ‘blind’ favoritism the FA and media have for Evra. This is what makes Dalglish so brilliant, and why Liverpool fans will always see him as the king. While Suarez may be young, and relatively unknown to the British footballing world, Dalglish is not. Anyone that doubts his sincerity and integrity throughout his prominent career as a player and manager is sorely mistaken.

Which brings me to my second point. I want everyone to imagine being in this situation themselves. If your good name was sullied across the country in every national newspaper, blog, Twitter account, Facebook page, and forum, and you knew yourself to be completely innocent of what was being said, would you not try and fight for yourself? Would you not expect those closest to you, who know you better than everyone and who know the truth as you do to stand up for you in every way they can? Perhaps I find this more difficult than most as I’ve been in a similar personal situation where I had ONE person on my side, and no matter how hard I fought, how hard I tried to prove what was said about me was untrue, and how much I pointed to the past as an example of why those things would never be true, no one believed me. Sometimes it’s easier for people to believe one thing over another based on their own prejudices, biases, and mistakes they’ve made in the past by projecting their negative (and ill-informed judgements) onto others. I would hope that most would want the same support Suarez has received if they were in his shoes, and would also offer it to someone they truly believed was innocent. By all means let’s “Kick Out Racism” from the game, but not by slandering someone based on no evidence, who is most likely innocent if not completely misunderstood in this situation.

To conclude, I feel for Luis Suarez more than anything. Neither him, nor Liverpool, and even to a certain extent Evra and Man United, have come out of this smelling like roses. But Suarez is the one that has to live with these unfounded accusations the rest of his life and especially his footballing career.

Not only that, but say a scenario occurs in the near future, maybe next season, or two seasons down the road where an opposition player is having a torrid time against Suarez, much the way Evra was having on the day in question, or felt aggrieved at a decision that went in Suarez’s favor against him, and he felt in the heat of the moment to accuse Suarez of racial abuse after the match. Despite it not being at all true, and simply based on this player’s word, the FA will look to this current case and decision as an easy way to convict Suarez again and have him permanently suspended. Serve the ban, pay the fine, whatever. But this isn’t a case of a bad tackle where a player serves his suspension and it is easily forgotten and never brought up as evidence next time he makes a challenge, a challenge which can easily be proved on video evidence. This is the man’s career at stake on the word of someone else. A word with no evidence behind it. A word that has yet to be corroborated. By anyone.

And just as this incident was ‘proven’ based on one man’s word against another (despite the FA so cutely saying that this just wasn’t the case), what’s to say that won’t happen again? No one has believed Suarez thus far despite nothing against him holding water, so even less evidence is bound to find him guilty too. This is what I find most disturbing and worrying for Suarez’s future as a world-class player. So forgot how you feel about Suarez, forget he plays for Liverpool, or whether or not you deem him a racist, forget the ban and the fine. Simply think about how easily he was found guilty based on one other person’s word and how easily that could happen to you, your star player, your wife, brother, parents, or child. Then see if you’ll feel the same way Liverpool did in their defense of Luis Suarez.

Who Really Cares About International Football?

By , September 6, 2011 1:04 pm

The three month long wait over the summer for the Premier League to begin sometimes felt excruciating. Weekend mornings were dulled and it became difficult to fill the empty space. And as much as I enjoyed a very entertaining final few games in the women’s World Cup, as well as the Copa America (despite the commentary being in a language I couldn’t understand), it just wasn’t the same. It was only on August 13 that everything felt right with the world. As the season began with as many plot lines as there are super stars now at Man City, it was once again put on hold for a few international qualifiers coupled with a handful of friendlies. Seriously, is this really necessary?

I love the World Cup and the Euros as much as the next crazed football fan, but I could certainly live a happy life never having to watch the national teams play otherwise. I used to enjoy international football, even friendlies, because it was exciting to see how each country was shaping up, and when Liverpool’s players were playing, it provided even more incentive for interest.

Now I really don’t care. Whenever one of these ridiculous international breaks come up, I pray to the football Gods that none of Liverpool’s players get injured (and perhaps a cheeky prayer that some of the opposition players do). All we ever seem to see after an international break is players limping off the field after the manager promised not to play them too long, accompanied by poor results in the league that following weekend.

I just can’t seem to wrap my head around the placement of these international breaks. Although due to unfortunate circumstances, many English players dodged a bullet not having to play a friendly THREE days before the Premier League began. Who on earth decided that was a good time to send these players away to play international friendlies? And I’d love to know the genius who decided that not only would it be great to have internationals a few days before the season kicks off, but again in three weeks time.

You see, momentum is a strange thing. Games can change in an instant and certain events occur in a split second that swing momentum in a positive direction. I think most Liverpool fans, as well as Manchester United, Manchester City, and even Wolves fans would agree that momentum was building for their clubs after the first three games of the season. To halt that momentum with a two week break where club managers have to entrust national team ones with the health of their best players is far from ideal.

I can’t even count how many times Benitez reluctantly handed over Steven Gerrard and Daniel Agger to England and Denmark respectively, and was in turn handed back a broken midfielder and center back. It’s gotten to the point that managers have started to beg and plead with their players not to play in these games unless it is absolutely crucial.

Steven Gerrard Has Been Injured Countless Times Playing For England

And friendlies? Give me a break (no pun intended). Friendlies need to be played with younger or second string international players, or at least with the first choice players not playing the full ninety minutes.

And more to the point, who exactly is watching these international games? Unless it’s a major tournament, who really cares how well San Marino play against Uzbekistan in a friendly?

That’s not to say there aren’t big national team followings, and there are a lot of football fans who only follow international games. I am in no way discrediting their passion or nationalistic pride.

But at the end of the day, these players are not paid by England, or Argentina, or Denmark. They are paid by and extremely important to their club teams and it has become a shambles how distraught the relationship between club and country has become. Club managers no longer have any faith in the respective national team setups and are constantly forced to make changes when players come back injured.

I have two suggestions to rectify the pestilence that is the international break.

Number One: Qualifying for major tournaments happens over ONE period of a few weeks each season. Qualifying becomes almost a mini-tournament in itself and teams are seeded to allow the teams to play as few games as possible.

Number Two: The qualifying games are to be played during the summer, or during a winter break. Now it’s true that at this moment in time, England does not have a winter break, but perhaps they should. This would give players a much needed rest during the year, and give the opportunity for international games to be played without disrupting the leagues when the season is in full swing. Players and managers in the UK have long advocated for a winter break as it seems pretty successful in other European leagues.

Even if both suggestions were combined and some qualifiers were played during the summer, and the other ones played during the winter, it would help the leagues, help the players, and perhaps even attract more fans to the international games.

I think more than anything that club fans have started to despise these breaks because they come at such awkward times in the year. Maybe the love for international football would return if it wasn’t thrust upon fans at the worst possible times in the football calendar.

And even more to the point, what do fans and players alike value more, international level football or the Champions League? The Champions League has become such a massive tournament every year that many value its importance and difficulty to win as the holy grail as opposed to winning the World Cup. Playing in the Champions League has become the pinnacle for footballers as so many made abundantly clear upon their transfers in the last couple of years. If you’re not in the Champions League, you don’t have a hope in hell of signing top class players. Liverpool have certainly had to learn this lesson the hard way.

Even so, a lot of players still take a lot of pride in playing for their national team, and that’s great to see. Spaniards, Uruguayans, Brazilians, and the Dutch all take enormous pride playing for their national team, whereas English players see it as more of a hinderance. This is evident in how these countries perform on the world stage and the attitude the players bring to the team.

So what is the solution? For better or worse, international football is one side of the game as a whole and the club vs. country row will continue forever. The only way forward is for FIFA and each country’s domestic league to come up with a better system in which to balance both sides of the footballing coin. And no matter what they come up with, it has to be better than what there is now.

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?

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.

The King Is Dead, Long Live The King

By , January 13, 2011 2:54 pm

The fortunes of Liverpool Football Club look to be much brighter after the return of one of their legends, Kenny Dalglish. There is still a lot of work to be done, but the club looks set to become successful once again.

Dalglish Returns To Liverpool

After what proved to be one of the worst periods in Liverpool Football Club’s history, the manager that oversaw it all is now gone. And while there are still some, mostly in the media it seems, that believe Roy Hodgson was not given a chance to shine, it was obvious to about 99% of Liverpool fans that his reign had become untenable.

When the news eventually came of his departure, along with the installment of one of Liverpool’s greatest ever players and managers, the future looked bright once again. King Kenny as he is affectionately called by the Liverpool faithful took time away from his vacation to swoop in at the first call from owner John Henry. It didn’t take much to persuade the 59-year-old to take charge of the club for the rest of the season. It is well known he continued to eat, sleep, and breathe Liverpool despite not having been a player or manager there in two decades.

Dalglish’s effect on Liverpool has already been immense. Having been there less than a week, the whole mood around the club has changed. The owners are behind him, the fans are behind him, and most importantly, he is behind the team and the players. What Hodgson lacked (and he lacked a lot), was the ability to unite the football club and the team behind him. His appointment wasn’t a popular one on Merseyside, and the fact that he managed a mid-table team to some mediocre success in the past did not allay any of the fans’ fears he wasn’t the man for the job. It took him six short months to prove this, and a devastating first half of the season is what he left as his legacy.

As a result, the team has been left low on confidence and with less talented players and more deadwood than was at the club last summer. That was not all down to Hodgson, but a lot of it was. He plunged Liverpool into believing it was no more than a mid-table team and expectations of anything grander would never be achieved with a squad like that. It was Hodgson’s belief that given the time and money to put his stamp on the side, he would bathe the team in glory once more. But what glory was he referring to? That of being safely mid-table? That of going into games desiring just not to lose? He proved with his signings, tactics, man-management, and team selection that he was out of his depth. I hate to say it, but I really can’t think of anything positive he left with the club, except his resignation.

The trouble now is that all the damage he did to the club will be difficult to undo before the season ends. If Hodgson thought it was difficult to take a team that previously finished second and seventh in their last two seasons to loftier heights, than the challenge on Dalglish’s shoulders must be far greater. The team currently languishes in 13th place, and if not for the unpredictable nature of the league this season, they may have been in a far worse position.

While I don’t pretend that Dalglish is the long-term answer for Liverpool, he certainly makes for a bright spark to come in and help arrest the club from plummeting further. As he has done through most of his career as a manager, he intends to win by playing football as he used to. I believe that most fans disliked Hodgson not just because he lost, but also because he refused to play in any kind of positive or attractive manner. Many of the players that Roy so rudely alluded to as not good enough and below par, are seasoned internationals and just 18 months earlier, part of a team that finished second in the league and gained one of their highest points totals ever. You don’t do that without footballing talent and skill. These players want to play football, they want to pass the ball from the back, they want to win the ball in the opposition half and attack, they want to move around the pitch with pace and purpose to win football matches.

This is where Dalglish comes in. Despite not having managed for a while, he is a footballing mastermind. Few have achieved what he has as a manager and there is no reason he can’t apply the same ideas he’s always had to a team begging to play attacking, creative football again.

The first two results of his reign have been unkind. What was always going to be a tough game against United at Old Trafford was compounded by the fact that United earned a ghost penalty in the first minute, and Liverpool had Gerrard sent off after only 30 minutes. This not only made the game more difficult, but also exhausted the players for their next match to be played three days later.

Some will be quick to point out that had Hodgson lost these two games, he would well and truly be crucified. But the fact remains that Liverpool fans saw a lot more in these two games than just two losses. The spirit was back, the passing was back, the disappearance of hit-and-hope long balls was back, and against Blackpool, Fernando Torres looked back. They may have lost these two games, but the wins will come if they continue to play in such a manner.

That’s not to say there aren’t criticisms to be made, and Dalglish is just as accountable as any other manager. I believed his team selection wasn’t the best against Blackpool, but then he is trying to discover just what his best team will be. He made substitutions far too late in the game, and that is something I couldn’t take with Hodgson or Benitez for that matter. And to be fair, the team started very well, but petered out in the second half. A lot of that had to do with the previous game at Old Trafford being played with ten men for 60 minutes. Even so, the defense was all over the place at times, and the passing left a lot to be desired.

The team has a lot of hard work ahead of them, and when I say the team, I refer to the players, Kenny Dalglish, Steve Clark, Damien Comolli, and John W. Henry. No one expects success overnight, and it may even be a season or two before Liverpool are back to their best. What’s important now is the progress the team makes from here until the end of the season when they will have time to further assess where the club is at on all fronts.

Unlike the previous manager, the belief that the future looks good for Liverpool is back. While they may be facing a difficult time in the here and now, and the media continues to be unsupportive of Liverpool, their fans, and their future, those that understand the club will know what lies ahead. So as one manager and era comes to an end, let the next begin with nothing but hope in our hearts and the king back on the throne.

Is It Just Me, Or Are Defenses Shocking This Season?

By , September 23, 2010 8:36 am

Chelsea Have Proved How Poor Defenses Are This Season

You have to look pretty hard at the Premier League results so far to find a decent amount of clean sheets. It seems that with each game in this short-lived season, it’s becoming increasingly less likely there will be no goals. While this is good for entertainment value, I can guarantee every club is not happy with their defenses at the moment.

Two of the obvious examples are Liverpool and Manchester United. Despite United’s recent win over Liverpool, neither team has started the season well. Most worryingly for both sides is the fact that their defenses have leaked so many goals.

Between the 2005/2006 season and the 2008/2009 season, Liverpool were known for being the clean sheet keepers of Europe. No one was able to hold a 1-0 score-line like them, and you always felt confident they wouldn’t concede.

Now they can’t keep a clean sheet to save their life, unless they’re not scoring themselves, that is. That being said, they’ve actually performed well in the Europa League, but it’s hardly the same opposition the Champions League and Premier League offer.

United have done a fair bit better, but once again they are a team whose defense is a shadow of their former self. So far this season, they’ve conceded two goals against Fulham, three goals against Everton, and two against Liverpool. Two of these games they dropped points in and the other they won by way of Liverpool’s defense being slightly worse than their own.

Merely two years ago in the 2008/2009 season, when Man United last won the title, they kept an impressive 24 clean sheets in the league. With Vidic and Ferdinand at the back, you felt their defense was always rock solid. Now that’s not the case.

Liverpool and United aren’t the only teams in the league giving up goals. Arsenal have kept only one clean sheet this season and that was against Blackpool. Manchester City, Tottenham, Everton, and Aston Villa have all conceded goals.

Not even Chelsea, the current league leaders with maximum points this season, have kept a clean sheet in all five games so far. That being said, Chelsea have also majorly contributed to the lack of clean sheets in the league overall. Their goal difference is +20 after only five games.

This statistic is slightly misleading, though. While Chelsea have started the season well, you’d have to say their fixture schedule has been incredibly kind. Winning 6-0 against consistent bottom of the table teams is not what you’d call impressive. In reality, it’s a combination of Chelsea’s excellence in front of goal, as well as incredibly poor defenses that have created their overwhelming lead at the top of the table.

It’s still too early to decide anything concrete about the season, but one thing is fairly obvious. The defensive frailties of the top teams could really cost them by the end of the season. That being said, I hope it continues if only to make the season more interesting.

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