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Archive for January 2008

The Right Choice

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008 by

A lot of things have been written about Tom Hicks in recent weeks, most of them critical and most of them accurate. But it is only fair to give him some credit when he deserves it.

AFL have just released their revised design for Anfield which, for the second time got knoced back in favour of HKS’ revised design. Rumour has it that Hicks was the only one to want to go with HKS and, looking at the two designs, I have to back him on this one.

If he can find the funding, then Liverpool will truly have the iconic stadium that he has promised and earn the right to tell us that we were wrong to doubt him. For Liverpool’s sake, I hope that’s how it turns out to be.


There Was Just One Problem, He Was Born a Blue

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Monday, January 28, 2008 by

One occasion not to be overshadowed by the recent goings-on about the ownership was Jamie Carragher's 500th match ina Liverpool shirt. In an era where players change clubs at the whim of an agent, it served as a timely reminder of what an exceptional servant to the club Carragher has been.

To mark the occasion, LFC TV has produced a must see documentary about Carragher which includes this piece by Dave Kirby who is, as always, excellent.


Benitez – and Liverpool – Too Easy A Target

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Saturday, January 26, 2008 by

Few fans would begrudge Rafael Benitez if he were to look towards securing the best possible pay-off should he be relieved of his job. Even so, the revelations by Richard Bevan that the League Managers’ Association has been in contact with Benitez to offer him assistance and support, is disconcerting.

Not, however, because this signals that he is thinking about leaving his job – as today’s media has spun it – but because it will simply heap on added pressure on Benitez. What the club needs most at the moment is a period away from the spotlight and some stability not people like Bevan providing the media with soundbites that he knows (or should know) will be taken of context.

Apart from obvious questions regarding betrayal of confidentiality, by saying that Benitez has sought their assistance but not specifying exactly what that concerned, he was sending out an open invitation for all and sundry to speculate. For what we know, the assistance could have been about something simple like getting membership but, put in the context of what is happening at the club, will be taken to mean that it surrounds his position as manager.

So what was the point of mentioning Benitez and Liverpool other than winning a few bonus points with whoever was listening by bringing up a familiar name? Is that really how the League Managers Association wants to get some publicity?


Selling the Club is All That Matters

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Friday, January 25, 2008 by

A Transfer Window Round Up

There’s has been only one transfer preying on Liverpool fans’ minds over the past days and that is the one surrounding the club’s potential sale from Tom Hicks and George Gillett to Dubai International Capital.

What started out as an argument between a demanding owner and a touchy manager has dramatically snowballed into a full-blown crisis that has seen the fans organize two protests and planning a number more in a bid to try and force the owners’ hands.

Whether that will happen remains to be seen, although it would seem unlikely that either one will sell regardless of what the fans do especially now that the refinancing deal has been completed. Ignoring the protests isn’t that difficult when you live in another continent with both Hicks and Gillett being experienced enough of sports fans to know that what happens on the pitch will quickly turn their attention away. Liverpool fans claim to be different – and the nineteen year log boycott of a particular unmentionable tabloid would prove that – but this will certainly be a tough challenge.

One thing that Hicks in particular has been doing is that of answering any fans’ e-mails that do land in his inbox and, in those replies, he says that he will back the manager by signing any players that he feels are needed.

If that is true, it is unlikely that it will happen during this transfer window. Javier Mascherano seems to be one of the more likely candidates and it is an expensive way – but, hey, who cares, they can always take out another loan – for the two owners to show that they are backing Benitez. Losing a player of Mascherano’s ability would criminal but in reality it is a transfer that Liverpool should have wrapped up last summer before every club on the continent started to take notice of his abilities.

There were some rumours that Benitez was looking at Fernando Amorebieta of Atletico Bilbao and Javi Martinez but, while both are targets, Liverpool won’t be making any immediate bids.

One bid that they did make was for young Croat midfielder Domagoj Vida who, however, has opted to remain with Osijek: a wise choice, given how the Liverpool career of fellow Croat Igor Biscan panned out.

Talking of players who don’t fulfill their potential, Nabil El Zhar and Sebastian Leto were rumoured to be on their way to Racing Santander for the rest of the season on loan. The deal looked close to being settled but that was before the club realized that what they really needed was experienced players, something that neither one of those two is. Leto could still be playing his football elsewhere, however, with River Plate interested in taking him on loan.

A couple of Liverpool’s academy products seem to be on their way out. After spending a month on loan at Notts County (four games, one goal) Craig Lindfield will play for Chester City for the rest of the season. It will be a good way for him to play regular football but a move to a Third Division side is hardly indicative of a long term future at Anfield.

Equally on his way out is Lee Peltier who is spending some time at Norwich on trial in the hope that he can secure a permanent move there.

Jack Hobbs is another sent out on loan although his stint at Scunthorpe has been set up purely to ensure that he gets some experience. Despite not playing him when there wasn’t another central defender standing, Benitez remains convinced of Hobbs ability but knows that some things have to be learnt through experience. Better that he get that, and make costly mistakes, elsewhere.

There remains uncertainty around Momo Sissoko with Valencia now also expressing an interest. This is good news for Liverpool as it served to hike up his price with Juventus quickly coming back in for him with an offer of £9 million.

John Arne Riise is wanted by King Kevin Keegan who is willing to pay £6.5 million. Ask most fans and they would rip Keegan’s hand off but put that question to Benitez

Finally, there’s Peter Crouch who is in fine form – well, he is when compared to Dirk Kuyt and Andrei Voronin – but still can’t get a regular spot in the side. The papers are linking him with a move to Portsmouth and, although Harry Redknapp has denied this, we feel that the papers know what they’re saying on this one.


Paco Ayesteran Leaves Real

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Thursday, January 24, 2008 by

Paco Ayesteran has left his new job as director of football at Real Sociedad after just twenty days according to diariovasco.com.


Having been on of the cornerstones of Inagi Badiola's campaign to become Real's new president, Ayseteran moved into the job at the start of the year - after being released from his contract at Liverpool - having been convinced that he would be given the freedom to manage the club as he saw fit.

But any notion of that happening quickly evaporated after Chris Coleman decided to quit and the club came to choose a new manager. Ayesteran opted for Juan Carlos Oliva and went as far as offering him the job. Badiola, however, didn't agree and quickly made it clear that he didn't intend to employ Oliva which was a tad harsh on him given that in the meantime he had resigned from his previous job as coach of Villareal's second team.

This seems to have prompted Ayesteran to resign from his position even though Badiola himself was indicating that this wasn't the case. At least it isn't just Rafael Benitez who has to deal with problematic owners.

Ayesteran's departure from Liverpool was equally controversial with many still of the opinion that it is where Liverpool's season started to go wrong. Seen as the link between the dressing room and Rafael Benitez, many were surprised at the fall out between the two who had been considered as inseparable.

Despite plenty of assurances to the contrary, the move undoubtedly had an impact and it is surprising, if not unusual, that Benitez has chosen against appointing someone in Ayesteran's place. Rumours that the job had been offered to Gary McAllister have proven to be off the mark but it would seem that an appointment will eventually be made.


Loan Move for Liverpool Winger

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008 by

Liverpool's Argentine winger Sebastian Leto could be set for a loan move back home with River Plate. Ole' is reporting that the new River boss Diego Simeone is unhappy with the quality of his left midfielders and has suggested Leto's name as a potential re-inforcement.

Earlier in the week it looked as if Leto, along with Nabil El Zhar, was all set for a loan move to Spanish club Racing Santander but that deal doesn't look like going through after the Racing president Francisco Pernia revealed that they were looking for more experienced players.

Leto was a star with his previous club Lanus, with whom he got better and more influential with the passing of every game and put in some exceptional performances towards the end of the season including a man of the match display against continental champions Boca Juniors. His arrival on Merseyside was overshadowed by those of Fernando Torres, Ryan Babbel and Yossi Benayoun yet there were genuine hopes that he could quickly force himself into the side.

Yet, despite starting promisingly for the reserves, he has dramatically faded away and hasn't been included in the Liverpool squad since surprisingly starting the home game against Olympique Marseilles in the Champions League. A genuinely talented player, these continued omissions - particularly in the cup games against Chelsea and Luton - are all the more surprising given the lack of alternatives on the left hand side of Liverpool's midfield and would indicate at off the field problems with the player perhaps struggling to get to grips with life away from Argentina.


Good Game Bad Game [vs Aston Villa]

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008 by

It was a result that suited the mood surrounding the game, with Liverpool fans going home frustrated by what is happening off the pitch and on it.

How those two goals went in I’ll never know. I guess fate owed Marlon Harewood a goal against Liverpool seeing what happened to him in the FA Cup final but the second one was quite simply a sign from above, as if Someone wants to tell us to give up.

Quite simply, we’re better than Aston Villa. Martin O’Neil has a lot of admirers and he’s a fine coach, but this doesn’t take away from the fact that his teams rely on long balls. There’s nothing wrong with that, yet it is something that goes overlooked in the general fawning over him simply because he’s British.

Rafael Benitez might or might not be Liverpool’s manager – and my own personal hunch is that he will be – yet he must look at why his sides fail to kill off teams. If there is one big difference between Liverpool and the top three, that is it.

This draw and the one against Wigan would have been avoided if the side managed to score a fraction of the chances that came their way. The uncertainty surrounding the club isn’t helping but hey, a lot of us work for companies where there is the threat of closure or dismissals yet we keep on working as hard as we ever do.

As things stand, we’re not only falling behind but also getting embroiled in a difficult situation regarding the Champions League qualification.

Good Game
He took some risks on occasions but they all paid off for Pepe Reina who couldn’t do anything to stop either one of the two goals. I’ve been critical of Sami Hyppia of late but he was majestic against Villa. He anticipated everything that came his way and was flying particularly in the first half. A close second for my man of the match. Jamie Carragher was dependable as always, even if his tendency to hoof the ball forward is starting to grate.

Most probably Alvaro Arbeloa isn’t over the knock that he’s been carrying for the past couple of weeks but he still played well enough. Ashley Young was virtually anonymous for most of the game and, when he got forward, he caused them a lot of problems.

One of the saddest aspects of this whole ownership situation is that it probably means the end of any hopes of keeping Javier Mascherano. I, for one, am resigned to seeing him go which is demoralizing especially after seeing him play as he did against Aston Villa. Nothing gets past him and even his passing is getting better. If only he could learn to shoot as well. My man of the match.

Steven Gerrard was better than the last couple of games even if his shooting was wayward whereas Yossi Benayoun played his usual game full of trickery and hard work. My biggest issue with Benayoun is that his instinct takes him inside when sometimes it would be better to beat his man and send in a cross. It means that often Liverpool try too much to create chances through the middle and make them look one dimensional.

In the first hal, Dirk Kuyt played well and looked as if getting back to last season’s form. He still doesn’t look like scoring but he was making a lot of intelligent runs that Villa couldn’t really handle.

Bad Game
His own goal was purely down to bad luck but, even allowing for that, Fabio Aurelio was poor and does seem to be doing his best to make John Arne Riise look good. In front of him there was the quasi static Harry Kewell who still can thread excellent passes but he simply doesn’t have the speed to cope with games at this level.

For some people, it might sound like heresy but Fernando Torres didn’t do anything against Villa. Most of his passes went astray and his first touch often left a lot to be desired.

Substitutes
Finally, a goal since coming off the bench, and Peter Crouch confirmed the general feeling that he is the best partner up front for Torres. An extremely well taken strike salvaged Liverpool a point. Similarly, Ryan Babel didn’t do anything special but his talent and verve always make him a tricky proposition.

Martin Skrtel didn’t have the easiest of debuts but he got stuck in well and sent one cross-field pass that was spot on. At least in his respect matters look promising.


A Quick Summary of Things

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Monday, January 21, 2008 by

A lot has been written and said over the past few days about the American owners' plans and intentions for the club. Most of us seem to have made our minds up without really understanding what is going on. In that respect, This article on the BBC's website offers a quick, knowledgeable and unbiased summary of what re-financing actually means and its implications for the club. Whether it allays some, or all, fears is another matter.

One other important thing that it does mentioned, and which has been mentioned elsewhere, is that Rafael Benitez's job isn't secure if DIC do manage to take over the club. If anything, it might be more at risk: given the fans' reaction it would be quite foolhardy of Tom Hicks and George Gillett to sack him and indeed it might be a way of at diffusing the whole issue. Something that DIC might not be inclined to do, especially as they would come in as saviours and any decision they make would be welcomed.


Tonight's Game Will Make Uncomfortable Viewing for Some

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Here’s a piece of advice for Tom Hicks: if you’re going to watch Liverpool’s game tonight, then it would be better to keep the sound turned off. Because otherwise you’re going to hear what the Kop sounds like when it’s angry. And, given that it is angry at you, I don’t think you’ll like it.

Of course, Hicks won’t ever come across this opinion and much less listen to it. People like him make money because they don’t let sentiment interfere with their business dealings. The knowledge that the fans want him to leave might make him slightly uncomfortable but only because it might lead to a slight downturn in sales.

Then again, Hicks is experienced enough in the sport industry to know that fans can never keep up their threats. The reality is that he’s right: we love the club too much to stay away and avoid spending money on it. It is why he’ll probably opt to stick this period out, confident that there will be greater benefits to be had once a stadium, any sort of stadium as long as it holds in excess of 70,000, is built.

There is one minor chink in that strategy: George Gillet. As opposed to his partner, Gillet has maintained a silence during the whole saga and, according to most reports, he’s unhappy with how Hicks has dealt with the whole issue. But that does not make him the good guy: remember that after all he met with Klinsmann just as much as Hicks did.

What he might be is the least determined of the two. If enough pressure is put on him then he might consider selling up or allow DIC to use his options in order to buy Hicks out. Again, the prospects do not look good, and the possibility that he will do so looks remote. Yet we can only live in hope.

Either way someone who is unlikely to survive for much longer is Rick Parry. Much like the movie baddie who in the end emerges as one of the good guys, perhaps it is time to adjust slightly the opinion on him.

He might not be the most efficient operator and surely has to shoulder much of the blame for pushing David Moores in the direction of the Americans when it came to selling the club. Yet it would seem that his delaying tactics have as yet stopped the owners from dumping the debt incurred in acquiring the club onto Liverpool FC itself. This has, in turn, left an impact on the refinancing package which is what has weakened their position.

That could be deteriorate even further once the fans make their opinions known tonight against Aston Villa. Tom Hicks might or might not switch the volume on, but the feelings of the Liverpool fans will get through to the rest of the world.


Good Game Bad Game [vs Luton Town]

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008 by

In today's newspapers we'll probably read how Luton managed to frustrate Liverpool for a half but in reality, all the frustration was self inflicted given the number of chances that were spurned. In the end, it was the best possible tonic following the recent run of draws and hopefully the team can move on from this.


My only disappointment was that none of the young players were included. I half expected to see Emiliano Insua, Jack Hobbs, Sebastian Leto or even Jay Spearing at least with the substitutes but even on the bench Benitez opted to rely on his more experienced players. Perhaps an admission that, since the owners only seem to focus on the present, then so will he.
Good Game
It is difficult to look beyond Steven Gerrard whose three goals lifted Liverpool and make him the obvious man of the match but I thought that Ryan Babel had another outstanding performance particularly in the first half. With each game that passes he becomes ever more undroppable. Like most I'd like to see him up front alongside Fernando Torres - and Benitez has been occasionally using him there of late - but even on the left he seems a special player.

Jermaine Pennant is another who I thought played exceptionally well. His crosses caused Luton problem and that is something that has been missing from Liverpool's game of late. A big plus is that he seems to be working hard to improve with each game and, for all the rumours about him before he joined, he's been nothing short of a model professional since coming to Liverpool.

Finally, something about Jamie Carragher. Lately there has been some grumbling that he is too negative and hoofs the ball too much. It is typical of many fans' short memory for Carragher has been a great Liverpool player and his 500 games couldn't have been celebrated in better style. As a journalist on the Corriere Della Sera newspaper once opined, "if Jamie Carragher were Italian, we'd build entire dynasties around him."

Bad Game
No one really played badly yesterday, and the passing was always spot on


Respect, dignity and honesty: three simple rules for running Liverpool FC

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008 by

What is it exactly that Tom Hicks wanted to achieve by revealing that he and George Gillett had virtually sealed an agreement for Jurgen Klinsmann to replace Rafael Benitez? Perhaps he wanted to give the impression of being honest about the whole situation and he can claim that a subsequent comment highlighting that they were now working much better together was given much less prominence.

Yet Hicks is experienced enough about how the media works to know what part of his comments was going to be picked up. He must have known that they were going to cause more unrest rather than calm things down.

What is more baffling is the timing of Hicks’ comments. Meeting or not, Klinsmann’s appointment at Bayern Munich offered the perfect excuse to rubbish the claims of Liverpool’s approach whilst the signing of Martin Skrtel offered proof of the backing being afforded to Benitez.

Instead, any illusion that things are getting back to normal has been shattered. Whatever the club claims, it will be difficult to dismiss any rumours that Benitez is going to be removed at the end of the season or that Jose Mourinho is the one they will be turning to as a replacement. It’s every tabloid writer’s dream.

Liverpool FC deserves better than this. Respect and dignity used to be by-words of how the club was run but now it is fast becoming a shambles, a club on par with Newcastle as Sami Hyppia aptly put it.

It is amazing how quickly Hicks and Gillett have blown away the goodwill that their take-over of the club generated. Initially, they said the right things and made all the right noises. They showed that they were determined to get to club to maximize its potential, a desire typified by their setting up of a club television channel within a matter of weeks.

Of late, however, it has gone from bad to worse. Apart from the undignified and public fall out with Benitez, there has been the degrading back tracking about the new stadium. On top of all this are the continuous rumours about the two owners’ inability to refinance the loans that they took to buy the club and their intention of loading the debt on to the club, something that they had promised not to do.

And therein lies the root of the whole issue. For the past six weeks we’ve been hearing how the deal to refinance the club is about to be closed off yet every time nothing comes of it. We keep hearing how everything regarding the new stadium is still on schedule yet the work has to commence.

Little wonder that most fans have lost faith in Gillette and Hicks, that they no longer believe in what they say. Not everyone is convinced that Rafael Benitez is the man for the job but even those who don’t think so feel that he has been treated shabbily, as is the rest of the club.

Having come in claiming that they respected the club’s heritage, they’ve found a strange way of doing so.


The Lad Can Play: Martin Skrtel

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Monday, January 14, 2008 by

Whilst everyone was expecting a move for Ezequeil Garay following one of those rumours that over the internet tend to spread so quickly and mysteriously gain credibility, Liverpool were silently doing a deal for Slovak defender Martin Skrtel.

Where the situation surrounding the club calmer then those handling the transfer would have been praised for doing it quickly and quietly just as Liverpool always used to do but instead there has been a guarded acceptance of the transfer. That Rafael Benitez had indicated his desire to move for Garay a couple of months back is taken to mean that the Argentine was his main target and Skrtel is simply a fall back option.

There are even those claiming that he is a cheaper fall back option despite the fact that the £6.5 million spent in signing him is a club record fee for a defender.

Given the nature of the transfer, comparisons with Nemanja Vidic are unavoidable. Both were foreign players coming from a Russian side for a big fee and both have a similar burgeoning reputation at international level.

Yet no one should be expecting another Vidic just as no one should be anticipating that Skrtel turns out to be an exact replica of Sami Hyppia, the man many believe he is probably replacing. Indeed, the high yellow card count that he brings with him immediately highlights a big difference with the Finn who rarely gets booked.

Where Skrtel is similar to Hyppia is that little was known of them upon joining Liverpool. What has emerged is that Skrtel is a tough tackler, perhaps not the fastest but who rarely gets beaten when the ball is on the ground. Good but not exceptional in the air, the right footed defender isn’t bad with the ball at his feet yet his strength lies primarily in the ability to stop players from getting through.

Equally there is one comparison with Vidic that should be held. During his first six months at Old Trafford, so poorly did he play that it looked as if Ferguson had made a huge mistake in going for him. Instead it turned out that it was simply a case of the defender getting used to a different style of play. Today he is a fundamental player for United.

Expecting Skrtel to make an immediate impact would be unnecessarily raising expectations and judging him by his first games a risky proposition. As with Vidic, and Daniel Agger for the matter, it will take him some time to settle in.

Fortunately, he will come into a side that can rely on the experience of Jamie Carragher and Hyppia so, while Skrtel is initially expected to deputise for Agger, the manager knows that he has others to turn to if the immediate impact on the player is tougher than anticipated.


Good Game, Bad Game [vs Middlesbrough]

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Sunday, January 13, 2008 by

It is been some time since I did my post-match analysis so it seems rather unfair to pick it up again when the team is playing so poorly. And they were woeful for most of the game against Middlesbrough. Granted, we always struggle at the Riverside but this time it was as if all confidence had been flushed from the players. How else can you explain that many misplaced passes?

Rafael Benitez has to take responsability as well. As much as I hate criticising players, I don't think that Andrei Voronin will ever be anything near good enought to play for Liverpool. So too, playing Riise at left midfield just isn't going to work.

Good Game
Fernando Torres actually had a very quite first half but that was purely due to the way in which the team was playing - Torres upfront and Voronin working behind him - but when he started going wider in the second half he began giving the Middlesbrough back four some serious problems before scoring a fantastic goal. My man of the match. As always, Javier Mascherano had a solid game in front of the back four and there's nothing he did which can be faulted. That said, I did think that it was a waste to keep him on the pitch once Alonso came on. For me, Yossi Benayoun is another who had a decent game - taking him off certainly seemed strange to me - and when he gets the ball you can sense that he can create something. Opposing defenders seem to feel the same way too seeing how they tend to back off. Unfortunately, he didn't get that much of the ball to cause them too many problems.

Bad Game
Partially at fault in the goal Pepe Reina also gave us a couple of frights when coming for the ball outside the box. The back four held their line well - continuously catching the Boro forwards offside - yet they conceeded a stupid goal and creatively they were shocking. I can't recall how many times Jamie Carragher and Steve Finnan aimlessly launched the ball forward. Sami Hyppia too was poor with his passing but my personal theory is that Hyppia has been carrying a knock for the past couple of games and is only playing because there is no one else.

Alvaro Arbeloa was really struggling but he too has the possible excuse of being injured - that's why I think he was taken off - but that's not something available to John Arne Riise who didn't send in a single decent cross in the first half despite seeing a lot of the ball. To be fair to him, he got better when moved to left-back but at this rate he'll have to thank the lack of alternatives on the left for keeping his place in the side.

He's carried us a bit lately but Steven Gerrard was poor against Wigan and so too against Middlesbrough. Perhaps the realisation that he won't be winning the league is seeping in.

And then we get to Andrei Voronin. When I saw him in the first pre-season friendlies I was really excited by Voronin. He looked intelligent and he looked as if he could finish. As the season has progressed, however, he's gone from bad to worse. He can't seem to pass, head or do anything with the ball. On the few occasions that Liverpool looked like setting up a decent move in the first half, it all fell down when the ball got to him. The worst player on the pitch which, seeing what Boro have got, is saying something.

Substitutes
If there's one thing that we learned against Middlesbrough, it is that Ryan Babbel must start. I'd rather he did so as a striker alongside Torres but on the left will do as well. I'm one of those who feel that Liverpool have missed Xabi Alonso a lot but when he came on yesterday he seemed to get into the overall mood of the side. His passing was poor and he looked awfully slow. Benitez wanted him to start dictating play but he let his manager - and the side - down. Dirk Kuyt was played on the left wing to allow Babbel to move up front and barely got a kick of the ball. Still, a massive improvement on Voronin.


Spanish Midfielder Dreams of Playing for Liverpool

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008 by

In one of the more bizarre rumours heard so far – and there have been quite a few – Javier Dopico is claiming that Liverpool are interested in signing him.

If his name rings a bell, it is because Benitez had actually made a bid to sign him three years back but Malaga weren’t interested in selling. At the time, Dopico was quite highly rated but he’s since faded away and at 22 he finds himself playing for Ibiza in the Spanish third division.

Talking to Ultima Hora, Dopico spoke of his disappointment at not joining Liverpool in 2004.

“Three years ago, in August 2004, there was a concrete offer from Liverpool. Rafa Benitez requested a swapwith Malaga for a player of his team which, in turn, appealed to my club. Now the situation is different, but for the moment can not say much.”

“It is very difficult for a player to make the leap from the Second Division B to the top level, but it would be a dream to play at Anfield Road. I have a tremendous desire and it is clear that both for me and for Ibiza it would be an honour to end up at that club."

"However, we must not anticipate events and I'm only thinking of the next game. Right now I do not know if a date of January 31 will continue or not in Ibiza,” he continues, hinting perhaps that there might be something in he offing.

In reality, even though the story has been picked up by El Mundo Deportivo, it is highly unlikely that he will move to Liverpool and, like the rest of us, his dream of playing at Anfield will remain just that.


Liverpool in Talks to Sign Martin Skrtel

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Saturday, January 05, 2008 by

With rumours doing the rounds that Liverpool are on the verge of a deal for a central defender, it has emerged that talks are underway to sign Martin Skrtel from Russian side, Zenith St. Petersburg.

This was revealed today by the Norwegian broadcaster NRK, which is government owned and therefore not liable to idle speculation.

Skrtel, a 23 year old Slovak international, has already played on Merseyside this season when Zenit went down 1-0 to Everton in the UEFA Cup where, truth be told, he didn’t perform particularly well.

Even so, he is highly rated and regarded as one of the most promising defenders in Europe. With a reported fee of around ₤6.5 million, if the transfer were to go throught then it should also ease off the rumours that the club's owner aren't willing - or able - to back the manager.


Shocking Defender Rumours

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Thursday, January 03, 2008 by

Following yesterday’s dismally disappointing draw, the news that Liverpool were ready to make a bid for Wayne Bridge was probably the last thing I wanted to see this morning.

Where does one start: not only is Bridge injury prone, he is no better than what we have meaning that he just isn’t good enough. Surely the £6 million fee would be better spent elsewhere then on a Chelsea reject.

If Benitez wants to prove to the owners that he knows what he’s doing with their money, then he has a strange way of showing it.


All Work and No Goals Make Dirk Seem a Bad Striker Indeed

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008 by

Watching Dirk Kuyt toil throughout every minute of the game against Manchester City whilst simultaneously hearing the groans of those around me whenever he got close to the ball was a discomforting experience.

On the one hand, it is impossible not to appreciate the effort that Kuyt puts in: quite simply he never stops running.

Yet it is just as possible to understand the growing frustration that there is with him. Ultimately, strikers are there to score and, with just three league goals all season (two of which came from the penalty spot), Kuyt is failing miserably.

Perhaps even worse, the belief that he can score appears to have been lost. Every time he’s in with half a chance, he seems to dither that little bit that allows defenders just enough time to close him down. Or else he opts to pass the ball on to someone else, effectively passing on responsibility. Little wonder there is moaning.

His defenders will point at Kuyt’s work rate and the important role that he plays for the team but rather then being of any comfort, that is effectively part of the problem.

In most games it is difficult to determine whether Kuyt is playing as a striker or else as a midfielder, so little does he get into the box. With Torres or Crouch as the main forwards, he’s nominally the second man up front but, on the pitch, he is rarely in the opposing penalty box.

Being an extremely intelligent footballer, coupled with his work rate, Kuyt fits into the role designed by Benitez whereby he drops deep to win balls and get others into play.

Yet, although he can fulfill those tasks well, he’ll never excel in such a role. He’ll huff and he’ll puff but he’ll never blow any houses down.

The main reason is Kuyt’s lack of pace. He’ll never be a dynamic player like Gerrard who can explode into the box and past defenders. It is why he is always seems to be that split second late whenever the ball breaks to him: out of position due to his role, it takes him that little bit longer to get into the danger areas.

Last season, when he was used as the main striker, Kuyt showed that he is a reasonable forward. He’s not in the same class as Fernando Torres, yet he can easily score ten to fifteen goals in a season.

Yet, it is precisely because Torres is at Anfield that his role has changed. His versatility makes it easier for Benitez to play him contrary to someone like Peter Crouch who you can only see playing instead of Torres rather than alongside him. There is, however, a huge difference between being able to play in a position and doing well in that role.

Slowly, Kuyt is morphing into Emile Heskey. The parallels are certainly worrying. When Heskey first joined Liverpool, injuries to the other strikers saw him being used as the lone man up front and he did exceptionally well.

Once Owen returned to the side, however, Heskey was asked to play in a more withdrawn role with the primary brief of getting balls to the main striker. It wasn’t something that he was particularly good at yet he stuck to the task so much that he ultimately he started to believe that it wasn’t a problem if he didn’t score any goals because he was doing a job for the team.
His unquestioning loyalty was appreciated by Houllier but it hampered his career as he got stuck with the label of not being good enough. It is a lesson that Kuyt would do well to absorb.