Archive for January 2009
Wednesday, January 21, 2009 by Paul Grech
It has become something of a hobby for Rafael Benitez, signing young players – predominantly foreign – exclusively for the reserves squad. That seems to be the destiny of the most recent addition to the squad in the form of Victor Palsson and that is what lay in store for the player bought at the very end of last summer’s transfer window, Vincent Weijl.
Inevitably, these transfers lead to discussions about their need. Again, both Palsson and Weijl are good examples: the Icelandic midfielder will have to compete with Jay Spearing and Damien Plessis for a slot in the centre of midfield whilst Weijl was seen as someone who could block the progress of Ray Putterill.
That the latter hasn’t happened is simply down to the academy product’s bad luck where a couple of injuries have forced him to miss out for most of the season. It has helped that Weijl’s start at the club has been quite good.
Indeed, in what has been a disappointing season for the club’s reserves, Weijl has consistently been one of the few bright spots. Fast and with good technique, he has been a constant threat on the left hand side of midfield showing signs that he could develop into a useful player for the first team.
For all the positive impressions, there are aspects of his game that need improving. He often makes wrong decisions in the final third of the pitch and, as with most wingers, he isn’t too much of a team player. Then again, he is still learning to play in this position having been a striker with his previous clubs Ajax and AZ Alkmaar.
Interested in reading more about Liverpool's young players? Find many more profiles here.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009 by Paul Grech
First off, whoever thought that it was a good idea to have the Merseyside derby on a Monday night is stupid and doesn’t know a thing about football. Secondly, Liverpool didn’t deserve to win this one: Everton came with a plan, stuck to it and got the result they were looking for.
Which leads me to the final point, one that perhaps is clouded by a heavy fog of pessimism at the moment but hey, it’s my blog. For the past couple of week’s I’ve been getting the feeling that whatever momentum there was, Liverpool have lost it. Instead of building on the hammering of Newcastle we’ve progressively gotten worse. There’s no cohesion in Liverpool’s play and we rely far too much on individual flashes of brilliance.
I don’t know what the reason is for this but for sure Gerrard’s problems haven’t helped. Much less has Benitez himself, first with the untimely criticism of Alex Ferguson and then this week with his refusal of a new contract. The feeling is that Liverpool aren’t pressing the self destruct button as much as they are jabbing at it like a crazed monkey.
Three good saves and no fault with his goal, this was another good game for Pepe Reina. There have been rumours that Sami Hyppia is getting an extention to his contract and, if so he fully deserves it. He was impeccable once again against Everton as was Martin Skrtel who has quickly gotten over his injury. So too Fabio Aurelio who did his job diligently if unspectacularly.
In midfield, I though that Steven Gerrard actually had a rather quite game but then he goes on to score a great goal. Indeed, apart from that goal he was completely overshadowed by Xabi Alonso who kept the ball moving despite constantly having the nearest Everton player trying to hack him down. My man of the match.
Praise goes as well to Albert Riera who yet again failed to finish a game but, in my opinion, he was very good today where he was perhaps Liverpool’s best creative outlet. Even so, his understanding with Fernando Torres isn’t up to scratch as yet. Just as Torres’ finish in that glorious opportunity in the first half wasn’t even close to being good enough by his standards. Despite that miss, however, he had a good game and did his best to unsettle the Everton defence.
Let’s make this clear: I absolutely adore Jamie Carragher. That he’s not a right back is, I think, a well known fact by now. But at least normally he can be relied upon to carry out his defensive duties well. He failed to do that on this occasion making both Piennaar and Anichebe look far too good. Had he been doing his job, Benayoun wouldn’t have had to put in that desperate tackle which led to the foul from which Everton scored.
Perhaps it is a coincidence but, just as Liverpool’s performances have started to flag so too has Dirk Kuyt. The great player who was on show at the start of the season has been nowhere to be seen lately. He runs as much and as hard as ever, but it doesn’t really lead to anything and he’s stopped scoring goals.
Goals have been a rarity for Robbie Keane but he has the excuse of not being given enough playing time. I felt that it was harsh to take him out of the team when he had scored three times in two games but, on this day’s showing he clearly doesn’t know what he should be doing. Hardly had a touch and made no impact on the game.
Yossi Benayoun was unlucky to concede that late foul for, in reality, he shouldn’t have been the one making that tackle. It would be unfair to judge Lucas too harshly seeing how little playing time he had. That said, he did give away an awful lot of unnecessary fouls during that brief stay. Ryan Babel was on the pitch for far too little time to judge him.
Thursday, January 08, 2009 by Paul Grech
There is a very clear and specific reason why players go out on loan: to prove that they have the talent to make it. Yet there is a fair degree of risk that the move either proves otherwise or else that the wrong stage had been chosen for the player.
The latter was the case for Robbie Threlfall. Having done well there last season, Hereford was once again chosen as his destination for the first half of the season. Unfortunately, injury struck soon after he joined and when he recovered he went into a team struggling desperately against relegation.
Not the exactly the ideal conditions for the left back who during his time with the youths and reserves had shown that he had the ability and determination to play at a higher level than this.
As indeed he has the opportunity to prove in the second half of the campaign. Because from a relegation fight he now goes into a promotion push with Stockport, a move that will offer its own set of challenges not least is the necessity to win a place in the side.
It is nevertheless a positive move, not only because it shows that Threlfall was good enough to catch the eye despite the circumstances but also because it puts him in a better position to impress.
Whether that is good enough for Liverpool is to be seen because the reality is that whatever possibilities Threlfall had of making it to the first team they were swept away as soon as Emiliano Insua was signed from Boca Juniors. That the Argentine has taken so well to first team football strengthens the feeling that Threlfall's future is away from Anfield.
Yet that another player comes in and proves to be better is the reality at any club let alone one with Liverpool's ambitions. Indeed, all that remains for Threlfall is to take comfort in Stockport's interest in him and keep on working hard to impress those watching.
Tuesday, January 06, 2009 by Paul Grech
Young striker Marvin Pourie has returned home to Germany where he will join Schalke 04, according to Ruhr Nachrichten. This move had been rumoured for some time, and last November the same paper had published a story claiming that Liverpool wanted around €2 million for him but the rumours are that the actual fee paid by the German club is closer to €150,000.
Pourie had joined Liverpool from Schalke's local rivals Borussia Dortmund after he fell out with youth team coach Edwin Boekamp. At the academy, Pourie had often impressed with his skill but wasn't seen as being a team player. Indeed, this season he had struggled to nail down a regular place in the U18 side where Nathan Ecclestone and Lauri Della Valle were seen as the preferred starting duo upfront.
Monday, January 05, 2009 by Paul Grech
When people talk about FA Youth Cup winning sides they seems to imagine teams brimming with potential Premier League stars. Reality, however, rarely works out that way. In most cases clubs count themselves lucky if one or two manage to establish themselves in the top flight with the rest either settling lower down the league scale or else dropping out of professional football altogether.
Liverpool's youth cup winning side of 1996 cerainly followed that pattern. Whereas Jamie carragher and Michael Owen went on to have fine careers and David Thompson did reasonably well till injury curtailed his, the rest of the side disappeared out of sight.
Even so, some fared better then others and managed to enjoy a good career. Jon Newby falls in this category even though it probably hasn't paned out as he might have expected.
Indeed, there was a time when Newby might have reasonably expected a real shot at making it work at Liverpool. A good player at reserves team level, Gerard Houllier had a real look at him and for a time he was a permanent fixture in the first team squad.
Yet the breakthrough never came and eventually he went out on a series of loan deals that took him to Carlisle, Crew, Sheffield United and finally Bury. Here he did well enough - four goals in nine games - to start generating some interest, certainly enough for Liverpool to expect to get a fee for him.
Surprisingly, however, Liverpool opted not to do so and instead allowed Newby to move for free to the club where he had settled in so well.
It was a fortunate choice for Newby, but even more so for Bury, a club in apparent permanent financial trouble. Indeed not only did the striker meet the essential criteria of being cheap but there was the added bonus of him being actually quite good.
His combination of speed, good eye for goal and decent skill made him a good both as a striker and even as a winger.
So good, infact that he started to attract the attention of bigger clubs. Which was good for Bury who saw it as an opportunity to make a bit of money.
Sadly, Newby saw it that way too and opted to see out his contract and move on a Bosman.
This led him to ambitious Huddersfield which was seen as being his big opportunity.
Unfortunately, it didn't turn out to be that way as he never really made his mark. Eventually it was back to Bury for him but things never were back to how they were before. Newby lasted almost two years there before starting off on a series of moves in the lower scale of the league from Wrexham to Southport and then to Morecambe.
Here he did well enough, even scoring his first professional hat-trick, to hint that he was recovering his best form. That much was underlined by the fact that he ended the season as the club's joint top scorer but boss Sammy McIlroy saw it differently and opted to let Newby leave on a free.
Despite interest from a number of clubs, Newby opted to try his luck north of the border with Greenock Morton, where he scored on his debut in a friendly. Yet that was as good as it got and within four months he was packing once again, this time to join Burton Albion on loan in the hope that he does well enough to earn an extended deal.
Such a journeyman existence, therefore, is the possible destiny of an FA Youth Cup winner. All considered Newby hasn't had a bad career and he can rest assured of a good reception every time he goes to Gigg Lane yet it is a far cry from the riches and glamour that many assume will fall into the laps of any decently talented football player.
Friday, January 02, 2009 by Paul Grech
It has become accepted wisdom that you don’t place too much attention on the January transfer window unless you’re really in trouble. The right players aren’t available and those who are will probably cost far more than they are worth. That much was recently outlined by Liverpool’s CEO Rick Parry, serving as indication that there weren’t many moves in line for Rafael Benitez’s side.
Yet some of Benitez’s best transfer moves have been made during January: Daniel Agger, Alvaro Arbeloa and Martin Skrtel were all brought in during the mid-season transfer window. Even allowing for a couple of spectacular misses – Fernando Morientes anyone? – that is an impressive tradition.
Of course, if Liverpool have an such move lined up this year, we won’t know about it until it is done because the common element between those three transfers is that very little was known of either one of the players. The assumption, therefore, is that any new player is unlikely to be well known.
Which sort of defeats the purpose of an article intended at trying to second guess who Liverpool are going to buy. So rather than do that, it is probably better to see which sort of player Benitez is likely to look out for.
The implication that a club that is currently top of the league might need too many players is slightly churlish: indeed it could be argued that Liverpool’s first team doesn’t need any new faces, certainly not from the players who are likely to be available at this stage of the season.
Yet, as Benitez’s constant team changes show, this is now a squad sport and here is where Liverpool have been found lacking. Whenever he wants to change things out wide, Benitez has had to turn to Nabil El Zhar and whilst the Moroccan is a decent player, he is not the sort who can really change games. Same goes up front where David N’Gog lacks the experience to make much of an impact.
All of which would explain the interest in someone like Emile Heskey. Put aside that the England striker could be available at a fee that is within Liverpool’s limitations, he offers Benitez all sorts of options. Indeed the fact that Heskey can be used on both sides of midfield as much as he can as a striker makes him an enticing choice despite his mediocre goalscoring ratio.
Which, thinking about it, would give Liverpool another Dirk Kuyt, a player whose work rate and tactical flexibility has made him practically undrop-able for Benitez. Given that the Dutchman’s presence has become much more appreciated by the fans these past few months, perhaps the scepticism that has met the rumours about Heskey will fade away if he becomes as effective.
But, whilst he may become an acceptable choice for the fans, the real question is whether Heskey would be willing to accept being a squad player. His improvement at Wigan has come about largely because he is playing every week so it remains to be seen whether he would be willing to forgo that for a final shot at glory.
Don't think that Emile Heskey is a good option for Liverpool? Who should Rafael Benitez sign this January? Leave a comment with your opinions.