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Match report: Suarez+Sturridge 4 West Brom 1

October 26, 2013 Leave a comment

I wasn’t convinced about the formation before the game. Still not convinced. The only thing that saves it is if Sturridge and Suarez are in irrepressible form. Lucky for Rodgers, they were.

Plus Steve Clarke had put out an attacking formation and Liverpool, with Lucas back in the holding role, were able to take control of midfield. Sessegnon and Mulumbu were overrun, and Anelka and Anichebe offered little threat.

Each of the Suarez finishes was delicious. The first, he got too much room, but West Brom couldn’t handle him at the back. Yacob and Olsson were torn apart. It was interesting to see the two strikers often in the same five-to-ten yards of the pitch, as they have been since they’ve started playing together after the end of Suarez’s ban.

Initially I thought it was two players taking similar, instinctive positions and that it could be a problem. But it actually looks tactical. They can both play in tight space, and easily beat defenders with pace or skill. So the idea may be that the two strikers come up against weaker opposition, and Liverpool simply rely on them being better than their markers on the day.

Which is a problem when you come up against better teams, like Liverpool will against Arsenal next week. But against West Brom it worked and for now, it will take a bit of pressure, or focus, off Rodgers’ tactics.

Cissokho was poor again. And at the end, didn’t bother to do the simple things like close players down, or block attempted crosses. He was also at fault for the penalty, though it was a soft one; probably a bad decision from the linesman.

Lucas and Henderson were good. Henderson should have scored at least one though, and there’s always a risk when Gerrard isn’t finding shooting opportunities, like he didn’t today, that with Lucas as the third midfield man, we again have to rely simply on our strikers being better than the defenders for goals.

Coutinho coming back will help there, and if he stays fit with the two strikers in the form they’re in, then Rodgers can probably afford to stick with the 5-3-2/3-5-2.

Both wing-backs were quiet today. Skrtel was immense again. Sakho is playing well, and is a big signing so I can understand why Rodgers is selecting him. But our left side looks weak as a result of not having Agger’s poise. Both Sakho and Cissokho have a bit of a ‘head down’ mentality.

If we look a bit susceptible at the back, both tend to hang their head slightly. Agger would strengthen that left side, and it’s no surprise that the penalty was given away there.

The goals. Amazing. Suarez managed to settle the nerves with a brilliant run and finish with the outside of his left boot from the right hand side of the box. He likes that trick, and it often comes off for him. His header from the second was on the edge of the penalty area, and didn’t have a huge amount of pace from the cross from Cissokho, which may have taken a deflection.

How he decided it was a shooting opportunity is beyond me. Brilliant. The commentator said ‘for goodness sake’ in praise of the finish. The third, from a superb Gerrard free kick, was also great. Backwards header. Again though he had way too much space.Image

(Suarez and Sturridge do their best Zoolander impressions. Sturridge wins. Photo: Daily Mirror)

Sturridge. My word, what a fourth. He looked a little bit frustrated in the opening hour.He skied an effort or two, lost his footing, lost the ball in good positions. But he smacked the bar with a ferocious effort and nearly knocked a fan unconscious with one of the most ferocious free kicks I’ve seen which went just wide.

But his goal was magnificent. A cheeky chip that probably eluded Myhill’s forlorn dive by an inch at the most. Perfect. And I’ll put it here (until it’s taken down).

Overall, a fine win. But Cissokho looks weak and I’m still not comfortable with the formation. Coutinho coming back is massive, and he should replace Cissokho/Henderson/Lucas depending on the opposition, but I’m also still keen to see Agger given a go at left-back.

We struggled against Arsenal last year and we may do so again next week, but if Suarez and Sturridge are given any bit of space by Arsenal’s centre-backs, we’ll have a good chance.

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Gerrard scores from it. Rodgers’ tactics miss it.

October 20, 2013 Leave a comment

An entertaining game at St James’ Park, but another one in which Liverpool have dropped points where they shouldn’t have, having played for most of the game with an extra man.

Newcastle had a player, deservedly, sent off for the third game in a row, as Yanga-Mbiwa saw red for a drag back on Suarez late in the first half (wonder if he had that half-time chat with Montpellier?)

In the BT Sport studio, David Ginola argued that it shouldn’t be a red card as the punishment multiplies for a single offence with the (a) penalty – which it was (b) red card and (c) goal.

Image

Er. So if Gerrard miss the penalty, the incentive is on the defender to deny Suarez the goalscoring opportunity, no? Drag him back, concede the penalty, and take a risk that the opposing team misses, while seeing your name go into the book. Sorry, I’m not buying it.

Also, I feel Newcastle were in a strong position down to ten. They had shown last year that they could withstand relentless pressure from Liverpool down to ten, and looked in little danger of conceding a third yesterday.

The panel also focused on Cabaye at half time. Fair enough, he was playing well. But the star for Newcastle was Cheik Tioté, who looked like the player he was when they first signed him. Liverpool were lucky that he had a knock and was late getting out of his own half to help Suarez stay onside for the penalty.

I could see the logic of the 3-5-2/5-3-2 yesterday if it was what Rodgers felt would win the game against Newcastle.

They rely on several creative players, and lack invention from the wings. So, stifle Remy and Ben Arfa and you have a good chance. But I think you need Lucas in the team. The idea being that Cissokho (poor yesterday) and Johnson bomb on with support from Gerrard and Henderson, but Lucas is there to stop Newcastle’s counter-attackers (who played well yesterday).

We lost (the chance to win three points) in the middle of the park. Shame Enrique wasn’t in as well. Cissokho played the same role, get forward until closed down, cut back, and lay the ball off to the supporting man. But, crucially, Cissokho tended to go backwards, rather than pass inside and go further forward to stretch the opposition.

Johnson got more joy on the right through his own impetus to attack, but Cissokho had more space on the left, and the game was crying out for a player to really go at Debuchy. I would’ve liked to see Agger given a go at bringing the ball forward, despite it not being his favoured position.

Gerrard played sporadically well, but gave the ball away with a couple of attempted killer passes. Good to see him get his 100th Premiership goal (and especially nice to see him beat Krul, the league’s most irritating keeper) Sturridge and Suarez played fine, but still seem to be in the same part of the pitch when we aren’t counter-attacking.

When we are, they’re superb. The Suarez chip for Sturridge’s equaliser was magic (his touch down in the right hand side of the penalty area earlier in the game one of the best I’ve ever seen).

I think Mignolet is too far to the left for the goal, which gives Cabaye a nice part of the goal to aim at. After that, the shot is brilliant, but it could be that Sakho should have got closer to him (and ducked the shot slightly when Cabaye hit it), though I may be stretching it there.

The second goal is woeful. Cissokho is asleep, Sakho not much better. Shocking, and cost us the three points.

What bothers me is that we got a bit lucky with Gerrard’s equaliser (stupid defending). The formation had not been working, and it was 40 minutes in when we got the chance. Change should have been made earlier, for me.

Likewise, at 1-1, we still looked flat. I would have liked to see Lucas replace Cissokho, send Johnson to left back to really get at Debuchy and have Kolo at right back. Shame Allen didn’t get 20 minutes at the end as well, when Newcastle were tiring and we were lacking inspiration.

We had quite a few not quite matchfit players yesterday, so that should improve. But if Rodgers is persisting with this formation to sit our two front players, the return of Coutinho can’t come quickly enough.

Skrtel played well and I think Sakho should carry on playing, as he is an eventual first-team choice for the foreseeable future. There has to be an argument for Agger to play at left-back for a while, though Enrique gives us attacking options that we don’t have from defensive players (why can none of our centre-backs attack the ball properly at corners??).

West Brom at home next week. Need a win, before a tricky run of fixtures which includes Arsenal and Everton away in the following three (and a nasty set of games over December).

The case for Hodgson’s dismissal. An LFC rant.

October 17, 2010 Leave a comment

I really wanted Rafael Benitez to become Liverpool manager before he took over in 2004. I was away living in Edinburgh for the summer but when his name was linked with the job I thought back to the time his Valencia team had thoroughly dismantled Liverpool in 2002, with Pablo Aimar and company running rings around a shaven headed Gerrard and his teammates.

Clueless? Hodgson's future as Liverpool boss is looking bleak

I was still on the fence about the case for Benitez’ dismissal in the summer, and let’s face it, his time had come to an end and the mutual decision was a case of saving face for the former owners, Hicks and Gillett. I still felt that with proper backing, with the ability to choose the right players to sign for the club, Rafa could have won the title.

When Hodgson signed, I felt nothing. No excitement, nothing. It was a case of Hodgson taking a team who weren’t very good and making them punch above their weight with Fulham. He did a terrific job. But he hadn’t been given the big jobs over more than three decades of management. He presided over an Inter Milan team in a rebuilding phase but as recently as five years ago had been manager of Norwegian team Viking.

This season has been an unmitigated disaster, on and off the pitch. But while fans and commentators are queuing up to criticise the effort of the players, something has to be wrong with the style of management when the likes of Torres and Gerrard don’t even have the usual passion for the game, especially against rivals Everton.

It has become popular to say that Liverpool need massive rebuilding of their squad, but these are the same players who were winning big games with ease two years ago. Rolling out victories as they chased Man Utd, hammering the likes of Real Madrid and the league leaders within a week. Reina, Agger, Skrtel, Carragher, Lucas, Kuyt, Babel, Gerrard, Ngog, Torres. They were all a part of it. Johnson is not a bad signing. Meireles is not a bad signing. Cole is not a bad signing. In replacing the likes of Degen, Mascherano and Benayoun, the fact is the first team should not be considerably weaker.

Meireles has not been utilised to his potential under Hodgson

Mascherano and Alonso were the perfect platform for any team and them leaving has ripped the fulcrum of the team apart. But the first team is still performing well below its ability.

The full backs look up and see no-one on the wings. As Hodgson said recently, “we don’t play with wingers” meaning that Konchesky and Carragher had to pass the ball infield at every opportunity today because Maxi and Cole were invariably nearer the centre circle than the wing. The lack of width is frightening, especially when the opposing team has the ball it means that they can switch play with ease and find themselves with acres of space with which to attack a frightened defence.

The usual criticism applies of Liverpool failing to test the goalkeeper. Any save Howard had to make today was a hopeful shot straight at him, with the exception of a Torres header in the first half that would have taken a Howard howler to give Liverpool the lead. Torres’ running was shocking today. He was heading for the same channels as his teammates. When he laid the ball off to good effect he failed to show the ambition to get into the box.

This points to a lack of belief in the tactics. It seemed he wanted to drop deep and try and work magic on his own because once again he received no service in the box, nothing to trouble Jagielka and Distin. Indeed Everton dropped back with half an hour left because they weren’t afraid of Liverpool attacking. The midfield five passed the ball among themselves with no penetration, no ideas, meaning Everton knew the victory was theirs if they kept their discipline. Which they did.

Hodgson's comments in the media have failed to inspire confidence

Hodgson’s dismal start as manager is all the more depressing for his growing tendency towards foot in mouth moments in front of the microphones. Here’s the phenomenal delusion he showed after today’s demoralising defeat:

We suffered at the hands of an early onslaught which you invariably do at Goodison but towards the end of the first half we started to even things out.

From what I saw I thought we dominated the second half totally.

I thought the shape of the team was good, the quality of our passing and movement was good.

We didn’t score goals and Everton did but I refuse to accept that we were in any way outplayed or any way inferior.

Is it a crisisI don’t think it is a crisis, I thought the way we played today was not the level of a team in the bottom three.

TorresHe got battered during the World Cup and mentally he is probably a bit low and he needs a goal or two to get it back. Certainly today I would have no qualms about his performance.

Before Gerard Houllier was sacked as Liverpool manager, he had become fond for noting statistics like the number of corners his team had won as a way of batting away suggestions that his tactics were negative. Today’s comments from Hodgson beggar belief though. That he could go on to describe the second hand performance as the best of the year so far is nothing short of a disgrace.

If that is Liverpool dominating and performing well, if Hodgson says he can’t ask for anything more from his players, what can Liverpool fans genuinely hope for this season.

Everton chairman Bill Kenwright shows new Liverpool owner John Henry how to point and laugh

I try and maintain this blog impartially as I watch all teams play and love The Premiership as a whole. But when it comes to Liverpool at the moment it is important to show that this is a team I watch week-in, week-out. I hate seeing us exit the Carling Cup because it means another matchday with no Liverpool involvement. But I was almost smiling this afternoon. It was a weary smile of someone who has given up. That I saw Hodgson do the exact same thing on 90 minutes made me angry though.

The team has gone backwards again after a poor season last time out. Decisions to invest in the likes of Konchesky and Poulsen rather than stick with Insua and Lucas in similar roles and failing to bring in a striker are strange, bad judgement maybe.

Investing in Poulsen and Meireles after bringing in Cole is odd, given that it was possibly the one area Liverpool didn’t need strengthening in. Playing Cole and Meireles on the wings, keeping faith in Maxi for 85 minutes today despite his complete lack of imput,  risking Ngog only when games are lost, failing to inspire his team despite the roar of the Merseyside Derby and new owners watching from the stands, describing his Northampton team as a “B team”, failing to back Fernando Torres against Alex Ferguson, publicly flirting with the sale of the likes of Babel and Lucas, only to go back to them in times of desperation, signing in Paul Konchesky a likeable man but a decidedly average player, these are no the decisions of a top coach.

I expect Hodgson’s comments to lead to his dismissal shortly. New owners will want to start afresh. They will see some despondent players today and will probably make quiet signals to key players and hierarchy like Gerrard and Dalglish to see what they feel needs changing.

Hodgson admitted the buck stopped with him after Blackpool. He couldn’t do so again today as it would be like a broken record interview. His time is running out. The gamble on Hodgson has backfired. Far from steadying the ship, Liverpool are in their worst-ever position in Premiership history, with a team containing some world-class players. Players who don’t believe in their coach either.

 

Why Roy Hodgson needs to adapt his approach to get results.

September 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Torres looks to the gods for inspiration. They say to try Lucas.

Another game, another disappointing performance from Liverpool. That a 0-0 draw away to Utrecht is being hailed by Roy Hodgson as a “good point” is an indication of Liverpool’s expectations for the season.

That Hodgson put out the strongest team available to him is an indication of the pressure he is facing at Liverpool this early in his career as manager.

Hodgson knew that defeat would mean further dissent among the media and fans but cannot have conceived of such a disjointed Liverpool performance against a team who while no pushovers, seemed a little shocked that they were going to be given such an easy ride. Indeed FC Utrecht looked far more dangerous in attack, and manager Ton du Chatinier summed the game up nicely when he said: “They had a lot of the ball in midfield but we saw in the second half against Manchester United they have problems when they play against attackers.”

Hodgson has called games badly with his tactics so far in his Liverpool campaign. Only when Ngog came on for Liverpool against Manchester United did they begin to look dangerous with Meireles in a more central position. Likewise the game against Birmingham the team were clueless as to their positions. Kuyt was poor tonight but didn’t seem to have a position and is not a player who thrives in a free role as he poses no danger from long-range shots and doesn’t have the vision to pick out passes. Meireles was once again deployed on the right-wing and didn’t have a clue.

Lucas looks to the gods for inspiration. They don't answer.

When Meireles and Cole were in midfield they combined neatly and Cole at least looked full of energy and attempted to make Liverpool move the ball quicker. But with Poulsen and Lucas sitting behind the duo, it left Liverpool with Kuyt and Torres effectively being swarmed with defenders. No width whatsoever – Johnson has clearly been warned about his defensive positioning and looks less eager to bomb forward – and a lack of pace meant Utrecht’s defence had a comfortable night for the most part.

Read more…

Five things we learned from Man Utd V Liverpool

September 20, 2010 Leave a comment

  1. Alex Ferguson was very, very worried.
    For all his post-match talk of Utd threatening to score ten, the facts are these. United managed five shots on target. Three of them went in. To beat Pepe Reina you have to do something a bit special, and Berbatov executed his three goals brilliantly. The truth is Liverpool looked comfortable for long periods of the game. Wayne Rooney was anonymous throughout and while Liverpool didn’t offer anything going forward, the sole point Ferguson made that bears any credence, they scored two goals easily and Meireles could have even made it 3-2 had he managed to make proper contact with his header minutes after Gerrard’s free-kick.

    Berbatov had a red-letter day for United

  2. Torres did try and get O’Shea sent off, but the real theatrics came from Nani.
    Ferguson claimed after the game that Torres tried to cheat the referee into awarding a red card to John O’Shea. This is true, Torres clearly remonstrates with Howard Webb after the award of a yellow card as if to say it was the wrong decision. It wasn’t. Torres couldn’t get to the ball, was not denied a goalscoring chance, but it was a yellow card and a free-kick. That Gerrard scored made it even better that O’Shea hadn’t been sent off as we had an enthralling encounter on our hands.
    However the real theatrics came from Nani, something Ferguson failed to refer to after the game. The Portugese attempted one outrageous dive for which he had to be pulled away from a seething Daniel Agger. The game had to be stopped for another similar dive which Nani attempted to turn Konchesky’s challenge into some form of assault charge. Nani’s two crosses against Everton were perfect, but he’s a player no-one will miss when he starts hankering after a move abroad. As for trying to get a player sent off, perhaps Ferguson’s forgotten his berating of the officials for failing to give Nani a free-kick for a nothing challenge?
  3. Liverpool’s have had a tough start with the fixture list, but things won’t get much easier.
    Ok Northampton on Wednesday in the Carling Cup isn’t a bad way to get your mind  off a defeat at Old Trafford. But after that the fixture list looks easier, but not easy when you look at the lack of service Fernando Torres is receiving. Sunderland and Blackpool at home are winnable games, but Everton away is a tricky ask of any team and Liverpool’s performances will be put under a media microscope until they start winning again. Games against Blackburn and Bolton then beckon before Chelsea arrive on Merseyside.
  4. Ferguson and Hodgson may not be such good friends after all.
    Roy Hodgson fielded several questions about his friendship with Ferguson in the run-up to the game as supporters struggled to get to grips with the fact that not only is Hodgson a cockney, but a Ferguson buddy to boot. The friendship may be on the rocks this morning. Ferguson’s post-match analysis that Torres cheated, Liverpool offered nothing going forward, United could have been ten up before the penalty, all pointed to a man who is worried about his own team and feared a fourth draw in succession.
    Liverpool had 50% possession and looked reasonably comfortable with the ball. United had the right formation though and while Cole and Meireles looked good going forward, there was little end product.

  5. United need Wayne Rooney to return to his best, fast.
    Rooney struggled to do anything of note yesterday. Michael Owen must have been watching from the bench wondering did Ferguson just play a really cruel joke in signing him to irritate his rivals. Berbatov is in great form and finished his three goals with incredible precision. However the Bulgarian blows hot and cold. Ferguson is doing his best to boost the striker’s confidence but he has gone missing in games already this season and will do so again.
    Wayne Rooney offers a goal threat from all over the pitch but looked as though he was happier offering the responsibility to his teammates yesterday. Eager to pass rather than to shoot, Rooney has had three poor games since the tabloids blew the lid on his indiscretions. Ferguson’s team always have a star man, a Ronaldo, a Cantona, even a Keane to give them a lift when needed.They need Rooney to be back to his best soon or the title will be in London quicker than Ferguson can say boo.

5 things we learned from Man City V Liverpool

August 24, 2010 Leave a comment

  1. If Man City play like that week-in, week-out, they will be challenging for the title. – People who say this morning that last night’s performance doesn’t mean anything are wrong. Yes, it is very early in the season, but that is precisely why we should be taking Man City seriously. Not only was Mancini’s selection mature (David Silva and Balotelli left out for the right reasons), but this is just the second game of the season. We all assumed it would take a long time for these players to gel but Man City’s midfield was awesome last night. Not a word we particularly like using. Ever.

    Hodgson has plenty to ponder after a comprehensive defeat

  2. Man City’s away form will be crucial this year
    Useless at Spurs, poor in the Europa League, Man City were a different team last night. Points may come thick and fast at the City of Manchester stadium, but a lot will depend on how the big-name players travel this year. Will the likes of Yaya Toure and Micah Richards play with as much confidence on the road? If so then the likes of Chelsea and Man Utd will be looking over their shoulders.
  3. Roy Hodgson doesn’t need to panic, but Liverpool are aiming for fourth and no higher.
    One bad result doesn’t mean too much here for Liverpool. However the performance will be a big concern. One of the reasons Kuyt is utilised on the right is to offer protection to the attack-minded Glen Johnson. Last night Johnson was the only danger Liverpool possessed from the right in an attacking sense. By having Kuyt as a defensive winger, Johnson finds himself further and further forward, leaving gaps at the back.
    Die-hard Liverpool fans will point to Chelsea’s defeat at Man City last year as proof that the team can bounce back. But despite what Hodgson says, no Premiership-winning team gets dismantled so completely in any of the 38games, let alone the second game.
  4. Liverpool are still carrying too much dead weight.
    The acclamation Milan Jovanovic received on his Premiership debut against Arsenal from the Liverpool fans is indicative of the fans crying out for attack-minded players. However the Serb has shown little in his games so far to show he is more than an average player. One run that ended in a square pass against Arsenal got the crowd going. Last night he showed reluctance to really run at Micah Richards and pin the English player back in his own half.
    Lucas is not as bad as people would have you believe and may be a victim of the tactics employed by the club, but he is certainly no Mascherano. Poulsen will be the ball-winner in midfield and a ball-winner was desperately needed to allow Gerrard to roam free. Likewise Kuyt, Agger and Ngog all struggled in unfamiliar positions (except Kuyt who just struggled in general) and showed Liverpool urgently need new blood and attacking blood. They have commitment. They have a top-class keeper, they have good defenders, now Hodgson needs to figure out how to get opposing teams on the back foot.
  5. Money can buy you love.
    Ask the Man City fans do they love owner Sheikh Mansour? Yes. Yes they do. One new signing James Milner was instrumental in the victory. But then again, all the others were new signings as well weren’t they. Micah Richards maybe not, but he certainly played like a new guy. Mansour was in the stands smiling last night. Alex Ferguson was in the stands frowning.

Handy Carroll destroys Villa (Newcastle V A Villa report)

August 22, 2010 Leave a comment

St James Park witnessed a spectacular game this afternoon as Newcastle thumped Aston Villa by six goals to nil with number nine Andy Carroll grabbing a hat-trick.

Handy Andy

Aston Villa enjoyed a 3-0 win in their opening game of the season against West Ham while Newcastle had been outclassed by the same scoreline at Old Trafford against Man Utd. However Newcastle fans were treated to one of the team’s finest performances for many years, albeit after being fortuitous to go 1-0 up.

Always exciting going forward with Routledge and Gutierrez superb on either flank, Newcastle fans will also be impressed by the defensive performance with new signing James Perch in particular and Coloccini excellent at the back. Spanish left-back Jose Enrique was at his devastating best combining with Gutierrez on the left, while Andy Carroll was unplayable throughout.

Stephen Ireland was a peripheral figure throughout on his debut, while questions will be asked of Villa caretaker manager Kevin MacDonald who seemed to employ young centre back Ciaran Clark on Carroll rather than the experienced Richard Dunne.

John Carew stepped up to take Villa’s 10th minute penalty but blasted it over the bar. From there on it became the Toon Army’s day and the ever-controversial Joey Barton stepped up to rifle home a screamer from 25 yards just two minutes after Carew had wasted Villa’s chance to go in front. (Did Barton follow-up his goal with a ‘Hitler’ celebration though http://bit.ly/ad94AB ?)

There was further controversy to come however as Ashley Young was played through to level at 1-1 before the referee disallowed the goal despite it seeming to be legitimate.

From that point on the party started for Newcastle however. A beautiful, flowing move from the left found Carroll who laid the ball off for Nolan to head not once but twice at goal and after Friedel saved the first effort, he could do nothing about the second. Andy Carroll added a third minutes later and Newcastle were cruising at the break.

Carroll hit a fine fourth and last minute sixth for the Toon Army in the second half , while Kevin Nolan grabbed his second as Aston Villa essentially gave up and collapsed at the back.