Match Preview: Liverpool v Sevilla

The Reds will return to Champions League action on Wednesday when they face Sevilla at Anfield.

Liverpool held by Sevilla in Champions League opener

Liverpool began their Champions League group stage campaign with a 2-2 draw with Sevilla at Anfield on Wednesday.

Match Day: Liverpool 1-1 Burnley

Liverpool endured a frustrating afternoon at Anfield as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Burnley on Saturday.

Goal Highlights: Liverpool 1-1 Burnley

Liverpool is keen to make up for the frustration of Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Burnley.

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Showing posts with label govind nayar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label govind nayar. Show all posts

Sunday, August 14, 2011

2011-12 Liverpool FC Season Preview

Everyone from owner John W Henry to most pundits to fans in general seems to generate this notion that Liverpool will definitely be finishing at least fourth this season, but without mounting a serious threat for that elusive record 19th Premier League title. I tend to think that we can do better than just acquiring 4th place, however there are those who think we will miss out on the Champions League yet again next season.

First of all, Arsenal. Arsenal are now seen as much less of a threat simply because they seem to be about to lose two of their best players - Samir Nasri to cash-strapped Manchester City and captain Cesc Fabregas to the club he played for in his youth, Barcelona. But in my opinion, of all five clubs who finished above us last season, Tottenham have always been  a team capable of entering the top four but definitely the least likely to do it. Arsenal on the other hand, can never be truly written off because they do play some VERY eye-catching football and they have a resilience that Tottenham certainly do not have. This leaves Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United as the teams who could battle for the Champions League places and/or title in the 2011-12 season.

Liverpool have been the most active English team in the transfer window after Sunderland (who've brought in a remarkable EIGHT players this summer). We've signed young midfielder Jordan Henderson from Sunderland, delivery specialist Charlie Adam from Blackpool, backup goalkeeper Alexander Doni and clever winger Stewart Downing from Aston Villa. This week, we announced the signing of Newcastle United's Jose Enrique who'll fill the left back position that has been an absolute headache for us since John Arne Riise was sold to Roma by Rafael Benitez some 3-4 years ago. Fabio Aurelio, the intelligent but injury-magnetic Brazilian, will provide the necessary backup in that position - not to mention the young and feisty Jack Robinson.

When I consider the the large and talented squad at Liverpool’s disposal now, I wonder why King Kenny’s side are being written off.

Goalkeepers:– Reina, Doni, Jones

I'm just gonna say it - Pepe Reina is one of the best goalkeepers in world football and undoubtedly the best in the Premier League. Chelsea's Cech comes close and certainly started out in England better than Reina did, but Reina is now indisputably the best in England. In his hands, Liverpool are safe. And in Alexander Doni, they have a capable back up on the bench; with Brad Jones providing even further cover for the most crucial position in the game.

Right back:– Johnson, Kelly, Flanagan

The right back position is well taken care of. Glen Johnson is, in my opinion, the best right back in the league when going forward; but defensively, there are one or two better players like Arsenal's Bacary Sagna. But after Dani Alves and Maicon, Johnson has to be the biggest threat from right back in world football. The emergence of Martin Kelly however, has seen us possess a right back who is defensively sound and an equally good threat going forward. Keep an eye out for his pace and size, which gives him an advantage over most opponents. Johnson is the better man now, but Kelly is honestly not too far behind. Kelly's fellow Academy graduate John Flanagan impressed when called upon last season (his first team debut against Manchester City was particularly outstanding, as was his performance at the Emirates Stadium) and he looks absolutely ready to fill in if either of the aforementioned suffer from injuries or losses in form.

Left back:– Enrique, Aurelio, Robinson

Signing Jose Enrique has solved the left back problem. The Spain national is blessed with blistering speed which is coupled by strength on the ball. This makes him difficult to get past or bully. Fabio Aurelio, I fear, may not be the first choice; but his contributions will be crucial with his insightful passing, smart off-the-ball movements and mastery of the dead ball. Emiliano Insua is still with the club right now, but it looks like we're going to either sell him or loan him out before the transfer window closes.The energetic and sharp Academy graduate Jack Robinson will be third choice and given the right amount of games to give him first team experience.

Centre back:– Carragher, Agger, Skrtel, Kyrgiakos, Coady, Wisdom

The centre back position, despite a majority of Liverpool fans being concerned, is not one that troubles me personally. Club vice-captain Jamie Carragher is still one of the best last men / sweepers in the game, but he may have lost half a yard of pace. Regardless, his sheer experience, organization abilities and leadership skills are still crucial at the back. Anyone who thinks Carra is past his prime should look at his incredible performances against Chelsea both home and away last season. Daniel Agger is a player who's accurate in the tackle and elbows traitorous Spaniard strikers in the face without giving away a foul, but he does tend to spend time on the treatment table. But when he's fit, he also provides great passes and composure from the back and has a fierce left foot that can score a goal or two. Martin Skrtel epitomises consistency, having played in all 38 league games for Liverpool last season, and is equally great with the tackle. What he lacks in attacking talent (compared to Agger) he makes up for in sheer strength / solidity. Like Carra, he also makes a fantastic last man. Sotirios Kyrgiakos is someone who may score the occasional goal and is good at defending high balls and set pieces, but he tends to be more of a liability than an asset in my mind. I wouldn't mind selling him for superior cover. Expect us to throw England U19 captain Andre Wisdom and Academy graduate Conor Coady into a few games for first team experience. Coady is also captain of Liverpool's reserve team and was captain of the England U17 team that won the UEFA European Under-17 Football Championship.

Central Midfield:- Gerrard, Meireles, Adam, Lucas, Aquilani, Henderson, Spearing, Shelvey

If Liverpool’s midfield was a swimming pool, it would be overflowing because of the sheer amount of talent accumulated in it. Jordan Henderson is young with plenty of time to improve on his already impressive abilities - which include physical strength balanced with sufficient pace, passing range and a fierce shot. The England U21 international also has a high capacity to adapt - being adept in both central midfield and right midfield positions. Alberto Aquilani, considered to be one of Juventus' star players last season, has come back injury-free and with a thrilling variety in his passing abilities. He recently scored the winning goal for Italy against world champions Spain and has demonstrated far better shooting techniques in recent pre-season games. Lucas Leiva's wonderful new ability to break down opposition attacks and his great eye for interceptions saw him voted as Liverpool's Player of the Season for 2010-11, and you can expect him to do more of the same this season. Charlie Adam, the big fish in a small Blackpool, is another great deliverer of dead balls and possesses a cultured left foot that has been missing in our central midfield for quite many years. Raul Meireles is a star acquisition for Liverpool and has fabulous technique in his volleys. He has an energy that's infectious and he tends to be everywhere, mostly right where you need him. Enough has been said over the years about our captain Steven Gerrard, so all I will say is this - the day he comes back from injury will be the day opposition teams should prepare themselves twice as well as they would otherwise. His world-class passing, trademark shots, powerful tackles, skill with set pieces and overall dynamism will take the whole team up to another level entirely. Jonjo Shelvey and Academy graduate Jay Spearing will get games to enhance their first team experience. Shelvey has everything an attacking midfielder must have - intelligent passing, destructive shots, crisp movement; whereas Spearing has the abilities all class holding midfielders have - a crunching but fair tackle, well-time interceptions, ball distribution and a fire in the belly. It's interesting to note that save for Spearing and Lucas (who play the more defensive, destroyer roles), each of our central midfielders also have a world class eye for a killer pass, long or short. Our midfield options are so plentiful that die-hard fans themselves have no exact idea as to which 2 or 3 players make up the best central midfield partnership. By the way, expect danger man Christian Poulsen to be phased out of Anfield.

Wingers:– Kuyt, Maxi, Henderson, Cole, Downing

Dirk Kuyt is like the Duracell bunny because he just keeps on going. His tireless efforts on the right, coupled with a striker's eye for goal and a wealth of crosses make him a very dangerous attacking threat for Liverpool. He's quickly built up a rapport with both of our winter striker signings, Suarez and Carroll (especially Suarez, as noticed versus Manchester United, Newcastle and Sunderland), and that bodes well for the future. Maxi Rodriguez is a capable backup to Dirk Kuyt because of his passing, crossing and seemingly newfound eye for goal. While he's no Kuyt, he also has energy, can play on either flanks equally well and has a capacity for quick thinking. Stewart Downing is the signing of the summer, for me. Blessed with more pace than most defenders, some trickery, an ability to weave through a few opposition players and a knack for near-perfect crosses, Downing will prove to be one of the club's top assist providers and can score a few mean goals as well. He is yet another player with fantastic dead ball abilities; and all in all, is my summer signing to watch out for this season. In contrast, i feel Joe Cole has basically become very much a shadow of the player he formally was at Chelsea and in pre-season has looked susceptible to yellow cards and tussles. I would much rather have sold him and brought in a proven winger to provide backup to Kuyt and Downing. Jordan Henderson's flair on the wings makes him a viable option on the right hand side of the attack as well.

Strikers:– Luis Suarez, Andy Carroll, Dirk Kuyt, David Ngog (?)

If Downing is the summer signing to look out for this season, Luis Suarez must be THE player to keep an eye out for in 2011-12. The catalytic Uruguayan forward has just returned as the top scorer and Player of the Tournament from the Copa America, having helped his home nation to their record-breaking 15th Copa America title. Suarez scored one and set up another goal in the final against Paraguay after scoring in the semi-finals as well, following a fruitful six months at Liverpool. His blistering pace, impressive trickery, sharp ball control and energetic displays led to a handful of goals and even more assists for Liverpool. To top it all off, he's yet another one who is great at set pieces (even though he's yet to prove that at Liverpool). Andy Caroll is the sort of striker who will feed off defender's errors and the fruits of his fellow forwards' labours. His significant height and bulky physique makes him a prime candidate for finishing off the crosses provided by Kuyt and Downing, and any loose balls and assists generated from Suarez's magic. David Ngog looks set to be sold before the transfer window closes, but IF he doesn't, I believe he is still a decent finisher when he's having a good day. He'll just be a backup option though, and would not really be considered a threat to any opposition yet. The aforementioned energy of Kuyt sees him as the much more obviously preferred backup striker, with a decent knack of scoring goals and providing crucial final passes. Having said that, it would be a lot better if Dalglish and Comolli could sign another proven striker into our ranks, to bolster our resources up front in case of emergency, suspension or loss of form.

All in all, Liverpool Football Club have bought very good players who all have a role and a gap to fill, and for the first time in a few years, there will be more football than problems higher up. With the return of the King, a club legend is in charge - one who seems to have once again instilled the foundations of our famous pass-and-move policy which served the great teams of Shankly, Paisley and Fagan so well. Confidence has returned and the fans are more optimistic. The club is finally stable, and the players seem raring to go and, for now, have little pressure to deliver the title. The club's Academy is churning out many good players, to become one of the best youth systems in the world. Things are looking up! Let the 2011-12 season begin.

Written by Govind Nayar, who blogs at Football (soccer) – The air I breathe

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Where Do We Go From Here?

Much has been said about Liverpool Football Club’s record 18 league titles won during its 119-year history. The undeniable fact had always been that those titles in addition to our 7 FA Cups and record 7 League Cups (known for now as the Carling Cup) has established us as English football’s most successful club of all time. It’s given us unending pride as fans of the club, and has been the biggest consolation throughout the last 20 years of not winning the title. The ability to say that no other club in England had been able to overtake us despite being unable to win it for 20 years had inspired such strong feelings of great self-esteem and comfort in us, that it was almost intoxicating.

However, the time soon approaches where we can no longer roost proudly on this lofty pedestal. Manchester United - fiercest rivals for the longest time, fellow Lancashire residents and perennial claimants to being the most famous club in the world - will overtake Liverpool’s glorious tally of 18 league titles for the first time in history this season, if they secure at least a draw against Blackburn this weekend. I won’t need to go into much detail as to how this makes me feel - losing the right to claim be England’s most successful football club is heartbreaking, especially since we have taunted United for decades about our superiority thus far. United supporters now love to point out how Liverpool fans had told them in 1994, to come back when they had won 18 titles too. Now they have, and are almost about to overtake us. To think that in 21 years we have never made the feat any harder for them is a hard pill to swallow and a tougher thing to swallow in the days ahead will be our considerable and decades-old pride. That Man United can win twelve titles in the years since our last title is an appalling fact that surely rankles with the most die-hard of Reds.

In a way, this is a small test of supporters’ faith in the club. United winning their 19th title ahead of us tests the foundations of our faith in the club in each of our hearts. Having faith and belief in a football club is like constructing and expanding a building - the stronger the foundations, the more unshakeable the faith; the older the architecture, the more valuable and cherished it is. As such, those of us whose hearts have buildings that are proud monuments with well-placed foundations that have been strengthened over time, will suffer little from this earthquake; whereas the weaker architectures in some fans’ hearts will make them question their allegiance to Dalglish’s army. But one of the few advantages to dark times is that the faint of heart can be separated from the strong-willed, with greater ease. Personally, I prefer to have fewer of these yellow bellied fans supporting our club and it helps ensure the “purity” of our fan base. Liverpool fans are the best in the world - it’s been said before by the likes of Maradona and Cruyff - and the best fans must have the best spirit. One true measure of a fan is how much they would support the club during its fruitless times, not just the glory days. And in the days ahead where United could have more titles than us, we must stand by the club and uphold its values as much as we have for the decades past where we have been the emperors of English football. If our fans were to consist of glory hunters alone, we’d have been defunct as a club by now. The fact that we haven’t won a title in 21 years but are still one of the most followed clubs in the world means that while we won’t have as many fans as Man United (whose incredible number of glory hunting fans continues to appals me), we can be confident of the fact that the many million fans we do have are proud to walk on through the wind and the rain though their dreams be tossed and blown.

It’s time to look ahead. Nothing can be done about United overtaking us. The past is set in stone - unchangeable and undeniable. We have relied on this deniability to throw our brilliance of days gone by into the faces of our rivals; and we must similarly utilise it to help us realise that while we cannot change the past, we can definitely add on to the past’s triumphs. And the future, right now, looks bright. As I started writing this article, news broke out that the Anfield boardroom have (FINALLY!!!!) signed Kenny Dalglish to a 3-year deal as manager of the squad. The King has returned to the throne, in a fashion as dramatic as Viggo Mortensen in The Return Of The King. Dalglish’s second kick at the management ball has been talked about and discussed at great length - and the reason for this, is that is has been an incredibly successful one, with only Chelsea picking up more points in the league since Dalglish took charge in the first weekend of January. This run has seen us hand Man United their most convincing defeat of the season, beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, beat Man City more comprehensively than when they beat us under Hodgson, thrash our bogey team Birmingham by a resounding 5-0 score line and end the season unbeaten against Arsenal. That’s positive results obtained against each of the top 4 and if we beat Tottenham on Sunday, we will have gotten points off each of the 5 teams above us in the table - four of which were unquestionable victories.

Results aside, what is exciting the Kop more than these aforementioned results (if that is possible) is the swashbuckling style in which Dalglish has had us obtaining them. We have been scoring goals for fun, keeping clean-sheets with ease, and we seem to be able to bring players in and take some out without affecting our final results. Additionally, we’ve flirted with different formations - and within each formation, every offensive player has been given a freedom to express themselves and rotate positions in a way that hasn’t been seen at Liverpool since the days of John Barnes, Steve Heighway, John Aldridge and Ian Rush. And most importantly, the players seem much more motivated to perform well and there is a deliberation and intensity to their approach that had been missing under Roy Hodgson and (sadly) the last few months of Rafael Benitez’s reign. Credit must go to Steve Clarke here as much as it does to Kenny Dalglish. The former Mourinho right hand man at Chelsea was signed by Dalglish as a first team head coach immediately after Kenny himself had signed on. In all my years as a fan, I’ve never seen Liverpool players mention in interviews a coach’s contribution to training as much as they have done for Clarke. Dalglish himself was eager to give as much credit to Clarke as himself, in the press conference made to announce the 3-year deals (which Clarke had signed as well). Clearly, Steve Clarke has been instrumental in the breathtaking football Liverpool have been playing lately.

A truly wonderful thing to see lately has been Dalglish’s introduction of the club’s youngsters into the first team this season. Martin Kelly, Jay Spearing, Jonjo Shelvey, John Flanagan and Jack Robinson have all been great beneficiaries of Dalglish’s placement of faith in the Academy players. It is worthy to note that they are all English players, with all but one of them from Merseyside. Jay has featured in nearly all of Dalglish’s games for which he had been fit and has looked a brilliant player alongside Lucas at the heart of the midfield. Jonjo, Flanno and Robbo are the younger of the set; but whenever Jonjo has been called to action he has shown desire, commitment and quality passing.  Flanno has been composed and slotted in well on the right side of defence, and has even shown quality at left back in the last two games. And Robbo has done at least as good a job as Flanno has in his two appearances for the club this season. In fact, the impact made by Robbo and Flanno in defence has made us almost forget about the best one of them all, Martin Kelly. To be fair, it was Rafael Benitez and Roy Hodgson who gave Kells his first true opportunities in the first team, against Lyon and Chelsea at Anfield - but it can also be said that Kelly’s best showings came under Dalglish, most particularly at Stamford Bridge when he played a bit further forward. But all in all, these 5 youngsters have been a strong testament to the work being done at the Academy, and we can all look forward to seeing them and hopefully a few others (Conor Coady, Raheem Sterling, Suso, Brad Smith and hit-man Adam Morgan come to mind) in the first team in the near future.

Another positive sign for the future is Andy Carroll. The big Geordie has played only 4 league games for the club, but the 2 goals he scored for us in that time have demonstrated the sheer quality and potential we now have at Anfield. His first goal was a sublime strike which is fast becoming a trademark of his and he has scored similar goals for England and Newcastle (remember his goal against us on December 11th?), and his second goal was a clear indication of the impressive aerial threat his physique provides. We haven’t had an aerial threat that imposing since Peter Crouch (Kyrgiakos aside, as he’s a defender). The fact that Big Andy is only 22 years old this year makes him a signing of such immense potential that the prospects are mouth watering. Another aspect of signing Carroll has been the size of his transfer fee. Big Andy is now our record signing at 35 million pounds, and this is important because it shows that the new owners John W. Henry and FSG were willing to break the bank to sign quality players for the club - which is what every Liverpool supporter had wanted to see from the Americans. Whether they will do it again this summer, we shall see.

Saving the best for last, the best thing to look forward to next season (now that Dalglish has signed on for the long term) is the astute, speedy, hard working and simply incredible Luis Suarez. I will not spend any time talking about his controversies with Ajax and the Uruguay national side, because the only controversy he’s caused at Liverpool thus far has been about why he was not signed earlier. If ever the word “selfless” could be used to define an international-level world class striker, it would be used to define Luis Suarez. Hat-tricks for Dirk Kuyt and Maxi Rodriguez (2) came about largely because of Suarez’s assists and efforts, and the scorers themselves credited Suarez for his set-ups. No better example of this exists than when he set up Kuyt’s opener against United; in a series of moves, dribbles and sidesteps that flummoxed the entire United defence and goalkeeper for Kuyt to simply just tap it in. When Suarez sets off, nothing can stop him except a petulant foul or a poor finish. His pace is electrifying (ask Fulham’s defence), his movements dumbfounding (ask Manchester United’s defence), his work rate tireless (ask Newcastle’s defence) and his selflessness heart-warming (ask any Liverpool fan). Purists would hate to admit it, but Suarez was bought as a replacement for Fernando Torres. How unfair has that been to Luis? For instead of replacing him, he’s gone and outshone him completely. Torres was never selfish, but he was not selfless like Suarez; Torres’ work rate does not compare to Suarez’s; Torres’ ball control and sharp movements are lethal, but still inferior to Suarez’s; and Suarez is most definitely faster than Torres ever was. Torres moved to another club within the league and scored just one goal in 12 league appearances, whereas Suarez came in from a far inferior league to notch up 4 goals in his first 11 appearances and neutrals everywhere will agree that Luis deserved plenty more. Many people said that replacing Kevin Keegan had seemed impossible, but it had been done immediately with Kenny Dalglish in a manner that made Kopites forget about Keegan. It seems like Liverpool Football Club have managed to do that again with Luis Suarez. Fernando who?

So where do we go from here? Onward. We have a bright future ahead of us, but we must remember that it is a bright potential future. We must grab the bull by the horns and take the initiative like never before to finally win ourselves the title again or at least secure a Champions League spot. We must tap that burgeoning potential. We have plenty of encouraging signs and good omens, but we must compound that with effective football and positive results. If we do, then with the resources already at our disposal (and a few more class signings), we shall be back amongst the silverware soon enough.

Written by Govind Nayar, who blog at

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