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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.

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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).

Alan Pardew v Liverpool. Not on to a winner.

October 18, 2013 1 comment

Alan Pardew has insisted that Liverpool’s 6-0 trouncing of his Newcastle team at St James’ Park last year has been put behind them ahead of today’s clash.

The Newcastle boss is quoted as saying Liverpool “have got a really great attacking flair and the team is set out to score goals” on Newcastle’s club website.

And it’s exactly that type of astute comment that will ensure Liverpool don’t arrive quaking in their boots. Oh, and the memories of the 6-0 scoreline should help.

Taking a look through Wikipedia the Charlton, West Ham and Newcastle record books on Friday, I make Alan Pardew’s record against Liverpool as played 11; won 2; drawn 2; lost 7 (I can’t find any cup games, FA Cup final apart).

Admittedly that includes the FA Cup final in 2006, lost on penalties after a 3-3 draw after extra time, but I’m counting that as a loss. Because they didn’t share the trophy in the type of style John Terry may have proposed.

Pardew’s first win over Liverpool as Newcastle came in his very first game in charge (3-0; Nolan, Barton, Carroll). Liverpool were woeful. And to make it all the more sweet, Andy Carroll’s performance and third goal probably played a part in Liverpool losing their minds and panic buying paying £35m for him.

Four defeats from four against the reds while at West Ham; a solitary game and point on the last day of a season that had already seen Charlton relegated (Kewell with a 90th minute penalty to level the game); but a rather better record of two wins and a draw from six in his time on Tyneside.

But a hammering last year. And red cards for Debuchy (0-6) and Coloccini (1-1). Also, Suarez and Sturridge only played once each against Newcastle last year, but managed three goals between them. And Stewart Downing started last year and got two assists. TWO ASSISTS.

Coloccini misses out tomorrow through injury, while Gutierrez is on compassionate leave. Coutinho, a star in last year’s 6-0 triumph, is Liverpool’s only concern (does Iago Aspas missing count? Rodgers has already hailed it as his ‘strongest’ squad of the season). Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, substituted last month against Everton at half-time with the team 3-0 down, is expected to come in alongside Mike Williamson.

(Gratuitous Joe Kinnear shot. If he was managing, Newcastle would win 6-0).

Still, if he has another nightmare against a Merseyside team today, at least Montpellier’s chairman Louis Nicollin will be there to console him. Unless he’s predicting Yanga-Mbiwa will have a stinker and need a new club by 2.30pm.

There are reasons for Reds fans not to be overly optimistic though. The 2-0 reverse in April 2012 saw Papiss Cissé score two, and Ben Arfa run the show.

But this is a very different Liverpool team (Flanagan, Spearing, Shelvey, Carroll, Bellamy vs Johnson, Henderson, Allen, Suarez, Sturridge) and Liverpool should have too much. Assuming they don’t get internationalbreakitus.

A win today, followed by another against West Brom at home next week, and the prospect of top-4 looks achievable.

 

Andy Carroll – Where’s the support?

January 13, 2012 4 comments

In his defence…..

Andy Carroll is widely regarded as the biggest flop of the Premiership season to-date. Fernando Torres, pound for pound, perhaps deserves the title, but pundits have grown tired of taking him to task after each 12 minute cameo in the blue of Chelsea.

But every game the Spaniard starts (usually against weaker opposition) you think to yourself, Torres could get a couple today. In fact, he could get a couple any day. But he probably won’t until Roman Abramovich orders Villas Boas to make the Spaniard penalty taker (and even then I’m not sure I’d bet on him finding the net).

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Pic: Andy Carroll in training ahead of the clash with Stoke (Pic from www.liverpoolfc.tv)

The problem with Andy Carroll is, you don’t ever start a game thinking, this could be his day. But rather than bash him for his lack of touch, pace, fitness, finesse, whatever the various criticisms are, let’s consider for a minute that he’s lacked the right support to blossom at Anfield.

(1): Stewart Downing/ Liverpool’s lack of width.

Carroll thrives, we hear all the time, on good crosses. He’ll win more than 50 per cent of hopeful balls launched at him in the air, but when he’s really attacking the ball, the percentage rises. In his games so far he’s shown that if you give him a ball to attack rather than hold up, he tends to beat defenders (though his accuracy is also questionable here).

But the one time he got a chance to do that in the recent 3-0 defeat to Man City, was from a cross from Jose Enrique. Carroll peeled away at the back post, easily beat Clichy with a perfect nod-down for Kuyt whose shot was superbly blocked by Vincent Kompany. So where’s the support from the £20m signing from Aston Villa.

When Downing signed, everyone said he would provide the ammunition for Carroll. To-date, Downing has been the biggest flop of the Premiership season.

Kuyt, Maxi and Henderson have all been tried on the right wing, none are any use to Carroll. Bellamy has been superb at driving crosses in from right and left, but tends to get to the penalty area and cut the ball back, something Gerrard is sure to benefit from in the coming weeks and that the likes of Shelvey and Maxi have already benefited from to-date this season.

The midweek game against Man City was exactly the wrong one for Carroll who played a thankless task in Liverpool’s 1-0 grind. His opportunity early in the game was on his weaker foot, however he out-muscled Savic and created space for the chance which was well-saved by Hart, the league’s most in-form keeper.

When Carroll plays, he needs support and space to make more of those opportunities to score.

(2): The Aquilani experience

Have Liverpool not learned from the signing of Aquilani from Roma? The club was arguably taking more of a risk with the Italian, not only was he injured but his move to the Premiership was bound to throw up the usual ‘foreign playmaker cant hack the rough stuff’ questions?

The signing of a half-fit Carroll in January made little sense. His role in the second half of the season was minimal and Liverpool knew signing him he would have little impact on their season.

The argument that Suarez couldn’t play in Europe was fine, but Carroll wouldn’t play for the team till March and it didn’t seem as though Europe was anyone’s priority in the early days of Kenny Dalglish’s second coming.

Another argument went that the more Newcastle demanded for the striker, the more Liverpool asked from Chelsea for Torres.

But that makes little sense from a business point of view either. Carroll had started well in the Premiership, but in the summer, once he had recovered fitness, he would hardly have cost more than the amount Liverpool eventually shelled out for him in January 2011.

There is an argument, in fact, that Carroll would have cost less as Newcastle would have had time to buy a replacement, but maybe the move was to appease Lfc fans who expected a marquee signing to replace their former idol in the number nine shirt.

Carroll has lost weight and looks fit, but seems to have lost confidence and was his touch always that bad? His goal against Oldham showed he can still turn things around at Liverpool, but against a defeated team late in an FA  Cup third round?

He has a run of games now to show his worth. The Geordie has found himself in and out of the team all season (unlike Stewart Downing who has been given every chance to prove his worth) and has mostly played without Liverpool’s best players Gerrard and Suarez (more often than not chosen instead of, rather than alongside Carroll).

At home, against so-called ‘weaker’ opposition is the time for Carroll to show he can still bully defences and can score goals like that against Oldham given half a chance. Better strikers than Carroll have been given more time to find their feet and the 23-year-old has barely 100 first team starts to his name.

Stoke at Anfield is time to show an ‘old-fashioned centre forward’ can still prove his worth. However if he fails to impress in the coming month, Andy may go down alongside Aquilani as yet another expensive Liverpool mistake.

The weekend: From Man City and Nani to Newcastle and Maxi

November 1, 2010 1 comment

The weekend’s talking points:

(1): Man City are eight points off the leaders Chelsea after Molineux shocker.

He's not blind. They're sunglasses.

Wolves claimed a victory over Manchester City whose manager Roberto Mancini described his teams performance as the worst in his tenure as boss. City went ahead through an Emmanuel Adebayor penalty but were pegged back by Wolves who followed up a good Carling Cup performance at City’s rivals Manchester United in midweek with a deserved victory.

City ‘s mutinous dressing room shows no signs of breaking out in peace with Mancini reproaching first teamers including Joe Hart and Adam Johnson for a midweek drinking session in Scotland, after allegations of a bust-up between James Milner and Yaya Toure at half-time of City’s miserable 3-0 defeat to Arsenal last week. Adebayor and Vincent Kompany became embroiled in a row during Saturday’s defeat while big-money signing Mario Balotelli produced a shocking performance, compounded by a yellow card for dissent in the second half.

Verdict: Wolves get a much-needed win their performance deserved but are still lagging behind in the league. Mancini will be nervous after an awful City display and a non-existent team morale. City look nowhere near good enough to challenge for the title on this evidence.

(2): The goal that was. But shouldn’t have been. But was.

Nani scored a controversial second for Manchester United in their 2-0 win over Spurs in the late kick off on Saturday. The Portugese saw appeals for a penalty waved away before stopping the ball with his hand. Spurs’ keeper Gomes placed the ball down (nowhere near the hand ball it has to be said) as if he was taking a free-kick. Nani stopped rolling around and went to close the free-kick down, took a look at referee Mark Clattenburg who appeared to indicate nothing untoward as Nani rolled the ball into the net. Cue consultation with linesman amidst furious appeals and the goal stood.

United manager Alex Ferguson blamed Gomes, rightly so the keeper should have played to the whistle. Spurs manager Harry Redknapp blasted Clattenburg, rightly so, as not only did Nani take a theatrical tumble but he deliberately hand-balled and the referee should have blown his whistle. The goal took the gloss off a good win for United.

Here’s a better look, albeit without English commentary, at the goal.

Verdict: Good game, farcical end. Spurs should be worried about being a club that seems intent on qualifying from the group stages of the Champions League rather than retaining a place in the competition. They will probably qualify from the group. They will have a hard time qualifying for the competition via the league. A good win for United, who are staying in touch with Chelsea and Arsenal, despite not hitting top gear, or anything like it.

(3): Newcastle 5 Sunderland 1.

What a performance from Newcastle. Occasionally brilliant this season, sometimes woeful, a Kevin Nolan hat-trick and cracking performances all over the pitch, particularly from Andy Carroll and Joey Barton helped the Toon Army celebrate a famous win over their neighbours.

Nolan and Barton were outstanding in Newcastle's 5-1 win

But it could have been a different story had on-loan Danny Welbeck squared to an unmarked Darren Bent with the game tied at 0-0 in the first half. A tap-in would have given Sunderland the lead. Newcastle never looked back. Barton was sublime, superb passing and leaving defenders chasing shadows. Carroll showed impressive movement and link-up play and was unlucky not to register a goal. Shola Ameobi scored a perfect penalty and a cracking second. And while Kevin Nolan’s annoying wind-up-the-goalie routine continues from his days under Sam Allardyce at Bolton, seven league goals already this season is an impressive return.

Verdict: Newcastle were arguably better in this performance than the 6-0 drubbing of Aston Villa earlier in the season. Chris Hughton’s future had been the source of great speculation in recent weeks. Today they sit seventh in the league. A decent run recently comes to an end for Sunderland and with just eight points separating Newcastle from bottom-of-the-league West Ham, Bruce knows it will be tight at the bottom and Sunderland could find themselves in trouble if the allow themselves to be torn apart like they did.

(4): Hodgson’s Maxi delight

They left it late and it wasn’t pretty, but Liverpool have won back-to-back games for the first time under Roy Hodgson and gone to a stadium where it is tough to get wins against a well-organised Bolton team under Owen Coyle. A win for Bolton yesterday would have left them joint-fifth with Spurs. Liverpool’s win now leaves them level with Coyle’s men in mid-table.

What's eating Steven Gerrard?

That said, Torres and Gerrard, the men Liverpool fans hope will fire them up the table were awful yesterday. Gerrard hardly managed to complete a pass in the first half while Torres was worse, missing a one-on-one in the early stages that he normally found so easy in his first three seasons at Anfield. That Liverpool managed to win will be a mighty tonic for Hodgson with his star men so off-form. Excellent performances from the likes of Kyrgiakos, Lucas and Meireles helped, but David Ngog’s appearance from the bench will give the manager food for thought. The French man opened up the game as Liverpool applied some belated pressure late-on with Torres limping and out of form. It should of course be noted that bad game or not, the Spaniard’s back-heeled through ball for Maxi to score was sublime. Chelsea next for Liverpool after Napoli in the Europa League. The star duo will miss out on Thursday and Hodgson knows that his team are beginning to grow in confidence and if his stars show up on Sunday it could be a big test for the visiting league leaders.

Verdict: For Bolton, Gary Cahill showed once again why he is capable of performing on the biggest stage. Outstanding throughout, he was unfortunate to be nutmegged by a piece of brilliance from Torres but will have caught the eye regardless. Forwards Davies and Elmander played well without truly threatening Pepe Reina in Liverpool’s goal, but Bolton will fancy their chances of a top-half league place on this performance.

Saturday’s Premiership preview: 10/09/10

September 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Thank god for that we can stop talking about Rooney and his effect on the England team and can start talking about…Rooney and his effect on the Man Utd team…

Everton V Manchester United

After surprising no-one here at TheFC100 by scoring first against Switzerland, Rooney will be Man Utd’s star man against Everton tomorrow in the early kick off on Sky Sports. The Everton fans quite rightly get stuck into Rooney whenever he returns to his boyhood club due to the fact he buggered off just after breaking onto the Everton first team in a big money move to Manchester. However he has stuck the boot in several times since with the usual badge-kissing, Moyes-bashing shenanigans and now the Everton fans will be relishing their chance to chant several brands of filthy at the former Toffee.

This game is more interesting in determining Rooney’s state of mind. The England fans gave him a great reception on Tuesday but tens of thousands will be doing their best to wind him up. That Everton have had a nightmare start to the season makes the pressure fall on both Rooney and Everton. A good start to the game for the home side is crucial, if they can get their noses in front and get Rooney and company frustrated then this could be a bad day for Man Utd fans. In fact, despite their problems so far, we fancy Everton to nick something here and we’ll throw in a card for Rooney at the same time
Prediction: Everton 2 Man Utd 1

Arsenal V Bolton

Arsenal have lost another few players for their game against Bolton (what are they feeding them at Arsenal, cereal with barbed wire?). Walcott, van Persie and Thomas Vaermaelen all miss out this weekend, however Samir Nasri could return from injury sustained against Liverpool on the opening day. Bolton are missing their inspirational keeper Jussi Jaskelaainen though, after the Finn was sent off last time out.

Read more…

What the second Premiership weekend taught us:

August 23, 2010 Leave a comment

(1): There are plenty of unhappy strikers kicking their heels on benches.

Tuncay is out of favour at Stoke

It was a difficult weekend for some established Premiership strikers. Tuncay is clearly not a favourite of Tony Pulis at Stoke and had to sit on the bench while Jon Walters made his debut just days after signing. Emile Heskey watched on from the bench as John Carew had a stinker for Villa, perhaps wondering whether he should have drawn the line at international retirement. Louis Saha was relegated for Everton and watched Jermaine Beckford being talked up by boss David Moyes after a game in which he failed to score and Everton failed to win. Not to mention the lads at Man City who may never play for the club this season.

But most interestingly, when Javier Hernandez was selected for Man Utd against Fulham, we wonder if Michael Owen

Michael Owen looks on from the bench

regretted all his media statements about being “happy to be selected less regularly for Utd than selected all the time for another club.” While we understand the sentiment, Mr Ferguson can’t have been particularly enthused to hear that Owen was content to sit on the bench.
Wonder if that had anything to do with Hernandez getting the nod away to Fulham, a team that possess a top-class central defender in Brede Hangeland and are a difficult team to break down at all, for nearly any striker. With Stockdale again deputising for Schwarzer in goal, did Ferguson not think Owen’s experience could be crucial in any one-on-one scenario. Granted, Hernandez looked good in pre-season, but then again it was pre-season. Owen must have been wondering what he has to do to get a starting place while Ferguson must be wondering what he has to do to get a win at Craven Cottage.

(2): A little confidence goes a long way.

-Villa miss a penalty, Newcastle score. Villa are denied a legitimate goal, Newcastle score another five.
-Wigan dominate the first half hour, Chelsea score. Wigan heads go down, Chelsea score another five.
-Arsenal score, Blackpool look dangerous on the attack. Arsenal penalty, Blackpool man sent off, Arsenal score another five.

(3): Any English striker who bangs in a few goals will be “on the verge of an England call-up”.

Andy Carroll was very, very good against Villa. He plundered a hat-trick including a swivel and low shot, left foot volley and one-on-one with Brad Friedel. All very impressive. Unfortunately watching it you couldn’t help but feel that ‘Carroll for England’ would be the inevitable cry from the press. And this morning, true to form, people seem to think he’s worthy of a place in the squad.

Man of the moment Andy Carroll

Now to be fair, if he carries on that way he’ll be in the 2012 squad as England need a good quality striker. However let’s all calm down for a moment and realise that he scored Newcastle’s third, fourth and sixth goals when Villa heads were not so much dropping rather plummeting. He missed a good opportunity against Man Utd the week before but didn’t enjoy himself as much up against Vidic and co. Had Richard Dunne been employed to mark him, maybe the result would have been different. Excellent performance Andy, now do it week-in, week-out.

And in brief:

  • Alex Ferguson has earned Man Utd a £1,000 fine by refusing to speak to the BBC. It is inevitable he will have to speak to them at some point. We cannot wait.
  • West Ham were good in the first half against Bolton. They lost 3-1. A bad start to the season, especially when the likes of Bolton, Wolves and even West Brom and Blackpool have picked up early points.
  • Theo Walcott is far from the genius people are willing to portray him as this morning. Arsenal could have had 10-12. His final ball and decision is still in vast need of improving. However if it does and he stays injury free, he can rule the world. And he should definitely be in the England squad. Shaun Wright-who?
  • If you decided on removing Gareth Bale and Andy Carroll from your fantasy football team in favour of Martin Petrov and Jermaine Beckford, now would be a good time to kill yourself.

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.