Thursday, 30 October 2014
Wednesday, 29 October 2014
Monday, 27 October 2014
Thursday, 23 October 2014
The Balotelli Experiment is Over.
The Balotelli experiment is over or at least we hope. Now let's make it clear. I am not calling for his head nor am I trying to sell him in January. The experiment of playing one striker up top should be over. It does not work with this group of players.
Balotelli has been given chance after chance to change and adapt to a striker that is willing to run in behind the back four, or be dragged out wide to allow others to push up. The latter was seen in the Real Madrid game, where we saw a tactical change of Balotelli being on the right wing for ten minutes. The problem with that though was when he was looking to cross, which he did do pretty well, no one was there to meet the ball. Although it may surprise many of you Balotelli had the second best Squawka rating behind Coutinho in the first half. So being taken off at half time was purely tactical as Brendan Rodgers suggested. With that being said to only stat that matters is the goals column. 1 goal after all these matches with few and far between chances proves to me that this system with Balotelli does not work.
Let's be clear Balotelli is a contribution to why we are not winning. He is not the reason why we are leaking goals and losing important games. It is unfair and reckless to heap the blame on a new striker, playing out of position. Many fans are getting on his back about his attitude towards the game and how he projects his emotions on the field. Fair points in my opinion. But we all knew he could be like this when he signed. He was and is a risk.
My solution to the problem is to allow Borini and Lambert time over the next couple of matches to develop a partnership. The next couple of matches we play are Hull, Swansea and Newcastle. Perfect games with the right about of pressure to win combined with confidence that we should win these games, to form a winning combination. My hope is that Borini will run in behind defences and Lambert would be a target man for crosses. Both aspects that Liverpool's toothless attack is lacking. Too often does the ball get moved forward to be greeted by the disappointment of no one running into space. Let alone the sense of regret wide players and full backs must feel after looking up and crossing to no one in the box. Only 2 out of 22 crosses actually found red shirts during the Champion League game against Real Madrid at Anfield. We can look at our squad full of play makers, but all too often this season we are lacking players in advance roles to make plays for.
Balotelli and Lambert cannot play at the same time. They both occupy the same area on the pitch and do the same job. Balotelli has called out for a partner and Lambert needs one too. Borini is all we have to partner either of them. Sterling could fill that role but at times he can get lost in the trees that are centre backs when crosses come in to the box. We saw that in full effect during the Real Madrid game. When Liverpool constantly went wide with no one of stature to whip a cross into.
With two strikers up front it will allow Liverpool to play in the diamond midfield giving rest to Gerrard Sterling and Skrtel. With Can Allen Lucas and Toure all coming into the team more. Einstein explained insanity as doing something over and over again and expecting a different result. It would be insane to play Balotelli up front alone again.
Monday, 20 October 2014
Sunday, 19 October 2014
Friday, 17 October 2014
Wednesday, 15 October 2014
Tuesday, 14 October 2014
Victor Valdes has been heavily linked to Liverpool since the close of the transfer window. He is a goalkeeper who carries great respect. His destination since he declared that he would leave Barcelona last year has been unknown. But after a recent ACL injury, that cut short his swan song at Barça, clubs willing to take a chance on him diminished. Many clubs have been linked with the La Liga winning keeper but Liverpool are the most resent.
So why do we need Valdes when we have a young international goalkeeper of our own? Where Mignolet is a great shot stopper and can at times pull off miraculous saves, we all know too well that he is inconsistent from set pieces. Mignolet needs some competition for the No. 1 position and that completion isn't coming from Brad Jones. It's fair to say that Mignolet has never had completion since he has been at Liverpool. With Reina being shipped out to Napoli for a years loan and then being sold to Bayern this summer. Mignolet has never had the experience of a veteran goalkeeper to help himself progress. This is why we have seen a stall in Mignolets abilities, and why he hasn't advanced as much as Liverpool or Brendan Rodgers had hoped. Valdes is a proven goalkeeper at the highest level. Something Liverpool need. A strong shot stopper with the ability to control his box. Although he was blessed with a pair of world class, World Cup winning, centre backs in Puyol and Pique I still believe he had a lot to do with the success he enjoyed at Barça.
It has also been pointed out by former players, such as Gary Neville, that Mignolet is lacking some goalkeeping fundamentals. Fundamentals that are obviously not being picked up by the coaching staff. This is clear because Gary Neville can take us back to last year and show everyone Mignolet is still making the same mistakes. Bringing in a veteran such as Valdes will surely only add to the knowledge of the coaching staff and leave Mignolet in a more educated position than he was before. This would happen whether Valdes starts or not. In my opinion if you want to challenge for the title this year, Valdes must start and start soon.
If Valdes ever does get the dressing room at Anfield he will find our must successful player Steven Gerrard. Gerrard can boast FA cup, League cup, UEFA Cup, Super Cup and Champions League medals. Moreno could boast about his recent triumph with Sevilla in the Europa League. Manquillo could tell tales about the way Atletico Madrid went about securing La Liga last year. But after that finding players that have won and won repeatedly on the highest stage would be few and far between. Valdes himself as been a part of teams that have triumphed in the World Cup, world club cup, champions league, Copa del Rey and most importantly he has won league titles. 6 to be exact with Barça in La Liga. He knows what it takes to go from August to May in a competitive league and both win and be narrowly beaten. He also knows how to move out of that shadow of a close call and build on it. Something that so far in this season looks severely lacking.
What Valdes would bring to Liverpool, wouldn't be his medals to be passed around and looked at, he would bring a winning attitude. An expectation to win now and to keep being successful. He can do this by either being between the sticks or on the bench and the training pitch. He could be the key that would lift this squad from the all mosts to the champions. That all derives from his mind set of winning, not winning sporadically like Gerrard, but by winning time after time season after season like Valdes.
Who knew a 32 year old former Barça goalkeeper with a dodgy knee could be the biggest signing of the year for Liverpool?
Before the game most of the talk was about Balotelli being dropped or rested and Lambert taking his place in the starting eleven, I wasn't sure I haven't been impressed with Lambert so far, he has looked out of his league, very slow and with a poor touch, I know he is better than he has looked, but perhaps nerves etc of playing for Liverpool are costing him.
This game Liverpool managed to find the fast, high intensity start that has been missing from last seasons performances and it was good to see we still had it in us, we didn't get a goal during this period but we looked more lively and threatening than in recent games, unfortunately the intensity appeared to drop and after around the first fifteen minutes we returned to the frustrating, slow paced football that has plagued the start to our season and didn't really look like scoring right up to the moment we did, some brilliant interplay between Henderson and Lallana gave Lallana the chance and he took it with a superb left foot finish across the keeper.
We did defend better as a team throughout the game limiting the number of chances that WBA were able to create and that was good, signs that the team are starting to function a little better, but there were still plenty of problems particularly with the centre backs and in my opinion Lovren in particular, we still had problems defending set plays and crosses in to the box continue to be a problem for Mignolet, but Lovren had one of his poorer days and this is happening to often for me with poor decisions and positioning costing us and when the penalty came it was again a poor decision and a lazy challenge from Lovren that cost us. I'm sure he has it in him to be the twenty million pound defender that we need but we haven't seen it yet, I expect far more.
When the penalty to WBA came it was as I have said partly poor defending but also was in fact not a penalty the contact was well outside the box and was a terrible mistake from the officials, this could have cost us hugely, and we shouldn't just have to accept mistakes of this magnitude, referees must do better, yes it's a tough job but It's not acceptable to make mistakes and then just brush them under the carpet, the consequences for players and mangers could be careers threatening.
After West Brom equalised from the penalty i feared the worst but we actually got a good reaction from the team and the management and it wasn't long before Henderson had restored the lead after good work from Sterling a good goal and reaction from the players but it was the slight changes in formation and the substitutions that really impressed me. Balotelli took to the field and played in my opinion his best game for the club so far, linking well and looking a threat, perhaps a very good decision from the manager to start him on the bench. Henderson was played or at least allowed to push forward more resulting in an assist and a goal and a superb performance with his physicality noticeable in the midfield and finally Gerrard was pushed forward for the last fifteen minutes and impressed, creating plenty, possibly the reason why Balotelli looked so good, nice to see and a few more options for the manager.
I said in my last blog that if we were going to insist on playing this formation we needed to make slight changes and find a way to make it work, I don't know what these are or should be but today we looked better with one or two noticeable slight changes. Still lots of work to do, still plenty of players needing confidence and a return to form but a small step in the right direction, well done Liverpool.
I simply don't understand why we don't learn lessons, the most obvious ones from this game are firstly, that yet again, we refuse to use the diamond formation that has been so successful, it has worked, the figures show it, with two up front we score goals and create chances with one we don't and it baffles me why we aren't accepting this and using the formation that seems
to best suite the players we have, I suspect there are two reasons, that we have injuries to a couple of midfield players limiting choices and that in the diamond it is difficult to see how both Sterling and Lallana fit into the team and I think Rodgers wants to play both. If this is the case the 4-2-3-1 doesn't work for us so we need to find something that does its ok if it's not the diamond, but find something that's works rather than stubbornly persisting with something that is plainly not working and is in danger of costing us our season.
Secondly our defending is bad but from set plays is a total disaster and has been for a long time and we appear to be doing nothing about it, or the players are not listening and refusing to change, I don't accept that they are not good enough they are almost all full internationals. An example is Skrtel a full international with plenty of experience who has gained criticism for several years for pushing and pulling players at set pieces so much so that many feel he concentrates on the player without even looking at the ball. This issue was highlighted for months last season by supporters, coaches and the national media, so why over a year later is he still making the same mistakes, either he hasn't been told or isn't listening, both not acceptable. Last night for the Basel goal, he was totally focused on the attacker, physically pushing him with two hands away from the goal, a penalty in itself, he wasn't looking at the ball or aware of its flight, he couldn't have been or it wouldn't have it him on the back of his head, forcing the keeper to make a save that lead to the goal from the rebound off the keeper, the same mistakes again and again.
I know this is turning into a rant again but it hurts, we had a chance this year and are blowing it and nobody seems to be doing anything about it. I fully support Rodgers and all the players but bloody hell get a grip.
Against Basel as in many other games this year to many players just simply played badly no terribly, disgracefully bad, yes Sterling is young and we are undoubtably putting far to much pressure on his shoulders but to fall over the ball when through on goal is bad and shows somebody out of form to do it twice, simple mistakes all over the field, from a group of players who look like they have never seen each other before. It is exactly like watching England and yes I mean Roy's England, it is that bad, I am that frustrated.
Players and management need to have a long look at themselves and sort this out and do it now, it may already be to late.
I'm sorry if the tone of this article is negative but I want to write what I am actually feeling not what I think people want to hear, I am normally optimistic and I certainly love the club and all the players are heroes to me, but, to sum it up, I spent all day, a few days actually looking forward to the game and it spoilt my week instead of making me happy and that's not because we lost its because I can't see any positive signs that things are getting better.
Come in Liverpool I'm sick of kicking the dog.
Who are they?
Let's start with Alberto Moreno Pérez. Born in the Spanish city of Seville. He grew up playing for his hometown team. Rising thought the ranks of Sevilla B, where he played in the third division of Spanish football. ( something that English and Scottish leagues should look at to develop young talent. But that a different article for a different day). He quickly progressed playing 49 games and scoring 8 goals. Moreno graduated from there to the main Sevilla team, making his first full La Liga debut at the end of the 2012 season. By the start of the 2013 he was a fixture in the starting Sevilla team. He made 45 appearances scoring 3 goals and grabbing a Europa League winners medal at the end of the 13-14 season.
It's interesting to note that both Moreno and Javier "Javi" Manquillo Gaitán have risen to success at similar speed. Both played for teams from their home cities. Manquillo being from Madrid, started in Real's youth ranks with his twin brother, Victor. Victor, who was a forward, was released by Real. So both boys stuck together and decided to take their talents across the city to rivals Atletico. Both Moreno and Manquillo broke into senior football in 2011. Both played for the B team of the clubs they were at. Where the paths start to differ is at the A team level. While Moreno stood out in the Sevilla first team. Manquillo was a little more intermittent with his playing time. That was for two reasons. One was the neck injury sustained during an aerial challenge with Cristiano Ronaldo during a Copa Del Rey match against Real. The second reason was at 19 years old it pretty hard to break into a team that is challenging for both the La Liga crown and the Champions League trophy. Last season Manquillo made 6 appearances and scored no goals. Having said that he does have a couple more medals in his cabinet than Moreno. Those medals include the La Liga winners medal to go along with his Copa Del Rey Medal from the previous year.
While we are chatting about medals both Manquillo and Moreno have won youth medals with Spain. U19 and U21 European championships respectively.
How did they get to Liverpool?
Manquillo was brought in to the club on a two year loan deal, from Atletico Madrid with the option to buy after that time period. The loan fee is believed to be around €2m with his current market value (according to transfermarkt.com) of €6m. On arriving at Liverpool FC Manquillo was quoted as saying " I'm very happy to have signed for a club like Liverpool. I think it's one of the biggest in Europe. Any footballer would want to come and play here."
Moreno on the other hand is a £12m permanent signing from Sevilla. During the transfer window it was thought that the fee would be closer to £20m. Moreno signed a 5 year deal. He was seen crying while waving goodbye to the Sevilla fans, in Cardiff. He was scratched from the line up in the Super Cup as a result of his transfer. Even after his emotional goodbye he had this to say about his move to Merseyside. " Liverpool are the best club in England and I couldn't waste an opportunity to come and play for them."
So how are they fitting in?
Moreno has appeared in all but one of Liverpool's games this season. He has rapidly grasped his role within the team. After a shaky start against Man City he has went on to score against Tottenham and dominate Lukaku in the Derby. Where he needs to improve is his over lapping abilities. When Sterling is above him on the pitch on the left hand side, Sterling becomes very isolated. This makes it very easy for defenders to double team Sterling. If Moreno would over lap more this would cause the right back to respect Moreno's position and open running lanes for Raheem. Some other teething problems that look to have been fixed, was his ability to close down attackers when running at him. I think we can all agree this have been something that was worked on in training. The evidence is for all to see in the way he dominated Lukaku on the right wing. Fundamentally he was sounds and long my that continue.
Manquillo has been fantastic is other ways. He has been helped by Glen Johnson's injury. This has afforded Manquillo time to bed into the system and show BR what the has to offer. What he has to offer are skills such as, incredible closing down speed and sensational crosses. Although at times he can be reluctant to push forward, but when he does he offers Liverpool something different. Due to the fact that he is hesitant to move further up the pitch it gives him a unique position to cross the ball from. He tends to whip the ball into great areas from being in a position much closer to the halfway line than the by-line. This brings a different angle on to which Balotelli can attack the ball from. The variety of angles on the right wing will be something to watch later in the season. It will be a real advantage against poorer defences.
In all both players are of the high quality that Liverpool fans have come to expect. With highly reasonable transfer fees, their young age coupled with international experience and high football IQs many Liverpool fans are very excited. Why wouldn't you be. We just stumbled upon Spain's next two full backs!