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Archive for October 2009

Good Game Bad Game [vs Arsenal]

6

Thursday, October 29, 2009 by

This was a game where, more then anything else, Liverpool were looking to see which players would enhance their reputation. And, in that respect there is plenty about which to be satisfied despite the defeat. Make no mistake, this was nothing like last year's feeble surrender at Tottenham: Liverpool played with determination and commitment that deserved a better outcome.

Arsenal played well - exceptionally well - in bursts during which they had Liverpool chasing shadows. It was during these moments that they scored their goals. Fair play to them and Arsene Wenger's policy of focusing on youth - on which he has been working for over a decade and spent a fair deal of money on, one must add - as they have some brilliant players coming through.

Good Game
He should have done better for Bendtner's winner but overall Martin Skrtel stood strong and, more often then not, helped stem Arsenal's attacks. Emiliano Insua scored a brilliant goal and, overall, had a very good game especially considering that he didn't have much help on that left hand side.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the game was Phillip Degen's performance. Defensively he's nothing brilliant but when he set off on a run on the right hand side, he invariably caused Arsenal problems. Should have scored in the first half but, that aside, at least it hinted that he could be a good squad player.

Jay Spearing didn't have a good first half: it wasn't Sunderland bad but it was way below what is needed at this level. Then in the second half, he seemed to grow in stature and started imposing himself more on midfield. He didn't show the level of play that he regularly did for the reserves but he showed way more then he's ever done in the brief appearances he's had in the first team and that is something that should give him a fair bit of confidence.

Apart from Degen's good game, the other major surprise came from Damien Plessis. After such a good debut against the same team two seasons ago, Plessis faded away but this season he has been playing quite a bit better in the reserves which is probably why he was granted a new contract. Whatever the reason for that, he played very well showing great intelligence and character. And he gave Voronin a real bollocking for the feeble pass that led to Arsenal's first goal.

Dirk Kuyt did the captain's job well: not only did he put in the usual mileage but he was constantly looking at getting other players involved. Another player who seems revitalised following Sunday's game which, hopefully, he will be able to take forward after a disappointing start to the season.

The goal against Manchester United clearly did David N'Gog a world of good as he repeatedly took on the Arsenal defence. His movement and overall awareness of the game was encouraging to see and he, more then anyone else, looks the ideal candidate to be Fernando Torres' deputy. My Man of the match

Bad Game
Diego Cavallieri did little to convince that he is an able deputy for Pepe Reina. Perhaps time has come to take a closer look at Peter Gulacsi. Equally disappointing was Sotiris Kyrgiakos who gave the impression that he didn't really know where he was supposed to be most of the time.

The worst performance of all, however, was undoubtedly that of Ryan Babel. Forget his incredible miss that would have sent the tie into extra time, he actually did nothing on the pitch to justify his starting spot. At this point, the only option seems that of letting go on loan in January in the hope that someone actually decides to buy him next summer. A massive disappointment.

I'm going to go against the flow and say that Andriy Voronin had, overall, a decent game: nota particularly good one biut not bad either. He started well enough and then was quite good in the final 25 minutes. In between, well let's just say that he was the usual player. The frustrating thing is that he clearly has enough talent to hack it but he lacks the determination to impose himself. When things start going against him, he starts sulking.

Substitutes
Alberto Aquilani got the cameo that everyone was hoping for and did enough during those fifteen minutes to show that he is indeed a class player. Still, patience is the key at this stage and he must be allowed to find his best form as well as get used to English football.

Yossi Benayoun did very little when he came on as did Nathan Eccleston although he was only on the pitch for six minutes. For the youngster, however, this was a massive occasion and surely he has to take heart at being given an opportunity. The player is talented and has that cockiness about him that is vital for a player to succeed. This was the first step for him but he is a real talent.


The Lad Can Play: Nathan Eccleston

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009 by

Irrespective of what some would have you believe, it is foolhardy to try and predict at an early age which players can make it at any professional club, let alone one with Liverpool's ambitions.

This should be the principle underlying any talk about the prospects of those players at the academy or in the reserves. Some might have the talent but not the characther, others might lack the physical strength to make a mark and then there are those for whom strength is the only attribute.

It is a one of or a combination of these factors that ultimately kill off many hopes. And the closer they get to the first team, then the more under scrutiny they will be.

This specific kind of pressure by itself can be enough to filter away some of those who don't have the determination required.

That is unlikely to be the case with Nathan Eccleston. Handed a new contract last year, there were rumours that the player could be on his way out having irritated the club's management by insisting that he deserved to be playing in the reserves rather than the academy.

Eventually this rumour died down and this season Eccleston has been playing for the reserves on a regular basis. That's not to say that the self-belief that supposedly led him to protest last year has been quietened down.

Indeed if there is an aspect of his play that is striking, then it surely is his supreme belief in his abilities. That, technically, he can pull off tricks that are out of the reach of lesser players obviously helps but even so he does constantly push his limits.

That, perhaps, is the biggest challenge facing him. The talent is there, so too the knack for scoring goals and the speed to handle football at a higher level. Yet tactically he needs to learn how to fit in and given today's highly regimented manner with which teams play that is as vital as the natural talent.

Whether Eccleston can best achieve that in the reserves or with a loan spell remains to be seen. What is sure, however, is that his standpoint last year was right: he deserves to be playing on a regular basis at the highest possible level to him. It is the only way with which it can be determined whether he can eventually make it all the way to the first team.


There are more similar features on Liverpool's young talent here. In the meantime, why not follow A Liverpool Thing on Twitter?


Good Game Bad Game [vs Manchester United]

3

Monday, October 26, 2009 by

Just as last Tuesday, this was a game that Liverpool had to win but, contrary to the game against Lyon, they put in a performance that irrespective of the result was an excellent one. That Liverpool did win is a great bonus but in reality seeing the team respond in this manner was almost enough.

Of course, there will be those who will claim that Jamie Carragher should have been sent off, particularly because of his foul on Michael Owen. That could be the sase but, equally, Nemanja Vidic could have received a caution much earlier in the game given the physical style of his defending on Torres. Who knows how the game would have changed if he'd have had to hold back on his tackles?

Good Game
He didn't really have much to do but Pepe Reina handled the few shots on goal that United had with ease. That he was relatively so under untilised is mainly due to the level of performance that both Daniel Agger and Jamie Carragher put in. In particular, Carragher answered all those critics with an immaculate performance where he was determined to win every ball and most of the time did.

Following a somewhat shaky display against Lyon, this was Emiliano Insua's great chance to make amends which is exactly what he did. A great defensive display, he was extremely clever when getting rid of the ball. Same applies to Glen Johnson who might not have attacked as he would like to but defensively he was impeccable.

In midfield, Fabio Aurelio was exceptional particularly in the first half before tiredness started to take part in the second. Yossi Benayoun was much better than of late and he helped set up Liverpool's first goal.

For most of the game, Javier Mascherano was a monster on the pitch throughout the game. Indeed he would have been my man of the match if it hadn't been for that stupid second card. So instead the honour goes to Lucas Leiva who, now, should be silencing the critics. Against United his tackling was often impeccable, his passing showed vision and also found space in the box well in order to challenge in order to possibly score a goal.

Like many others, Dirk Kuyt rediscovered his form against United and did his utmost to hassle for every ball. My big fear before was that Fernando Torres wasn't as fit as many would have liked but he was fit enough to out run United's defence.

Bad Game
How can anyone possibly say that anyone played badly on this day.

Substitutes
David N'Gog came on and did all that was asked of him: he defended from the front line, harassed the United defenders and, most importantly, scored the second goal. Now here's an interesting fact, in all competitions N'Gog has scored three times which is one more than Michael Owen. And he had 149 less minutes in playing time (206 minutes against 355).

Martin Skrtel was sent on in the final instances to ensure that there were no lapses in defence and did his job to perfection.


The One Man Club

3

Friday, October 23, 2009 by

There was always a fair bit of discomfort every time that Michael Owen returned to Liverpool in the past. Those calls asking what he was doing in Istanbul we're initially funny but eventually the feeling was that they gave way to some serious spite in his direction. Some clearly enjoyed his injuries and the way that his career spiralled downwards hitting the low point of relegation with Newcastle last term.

In light of this, it is very easy to imagine the reaction as he returns to Anfield next Sunday. Owen didn't really help himself with his claim that Manchester United are the biggest club in England but it would be naïve to think that it was simply that statement which will give rise to the reaction that awaits him.

Michael Owen never really had a special relationship with the fans. He was seen as a speciall player who carried Liverpool for a couple of seasons yet there was never the adulation that Robbie Fowler enjoyed or with which Fernando Torres is bestowed nowadays.

Explaining why that was the case is difficult because there isn't really a specific reason. If anything, everything was in place for him to be the undoubted hero in the fans' eyes: he came through the ranks, he scored innumerable goals and helped Liverool win a number of trophies. Yet something didn't click.

What did it for him probably was England. Michael Owen enjoyed playing for Liverpool but what he really loved was doing so for England. And that is something that grated. It was as if Owen saw playing for Liverpool merely as preparation for England games.

Matters came to a head when he finally decided to force the club's hand in to selling him to Real Madrid. Liverpool had a new manager who needed his key players in order to rebuild. Owen, however, saw this as wasting a couple of years - with the resulting impact on his national standing - as Benitez relayed the foundations. So he decided to jump ship.

A year later he had the opportunity to rectify matters but when Liverpool asked him to hold strong and refuse any offers in order to force Real to lower their asking price he buckled and instead went to Newcastle.

That second rebuttal killed him in the eyes of the fans. It also killed off any possibility that he would join Liverpool whilst Benitez was in charge who probably as he was never going to be the one to forget that the player had rejected him twice.

It is why Liverpool made no move to sign Owen this summer even though he clearly wanted to return and despite his availability on a free. Liverpool weren't going to sign him not even if this meant that he was going to join Manchester United.

Yet, perhaps not much has changed. Underlying his decision to move to Old Trafford is the desire to win back a place in the England squad. Just as Liverpool were in the past, United are just another vehicle through which Owen wants to prove his suitability to play for his country.

So, come to think of it, next Sunday Michael Owen won't be playing for Manchester United. He will be playing for Michael Owen. Just as he always has.

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Reality Bites for Spearing

0

Thursday, October 22, 2009 by

If Jay Spearing needed a lesson in the fickle nature of football fans, he certainly got it this week. Given the Lucas Leiva's continuing unpopularity, Spearing somehow became not only a viable alterative for the Brazilian but also a better player. A sort of 'he can't be any worse than him' attitude took over.

But then reality butted its head in last Saturday. Handed his full league debut against Sunderland, Spearing found out what it means to be in Lucas' shoes: just as the Brazilian has so many times during his career, he was suddenly the appointed scapegoat on whom the defeat was pinned.

At least there was the beach ball accident which diverted the attention away because otherwise the criticism probably would have been much harsher.

Even so, the reality is that Spearing had a bad game. Apart from two moments when he broke forward and found a bit of space in midfield, he showed practically nothing. In theory, he was playing in the Mascherano role but didn't manage to put in a tackle. Unfortunately, his passing wasn't any better with giving the ball back to the defenders being his prefered option. Lee Catermole quickly latched on to his discomfort and started pressing him every time the ball reached Spearing, a tactic that paid off with a series of wayward passes that put added pressure on the defence.

So does this make Spearing a bad player? Given the rushed judgements that are so prevalent these days, many have already made their minds up that he is. The truth, however, is that probably he isn't ready to play at this level yet.

It would probably have helped if he'd been given a handful of minutes in the games that Liverpool won at ease earlier in the season. That would, at least, have given him some experience.


Or perhaps he simply needs to spend some time out on loan. After all, there is a huge difference in the way in which a player mentally approaches a game which doesn't really mean anything - such as the reserves - to one that counts as much as a Premier League game.

Whatever his talents - and this is a player who Steve Heighway publicly said was ready for the first team three years ago so he must have a bit of talent - Spearing lacks that game experience. Unfortunately, the Champions League requirements for home born players make him too valuable to let go on loan. Meaning that, if he is to get the experience, it is likely to be done the hard way. Just as against Sunderland.

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Good Gam Bad Game [vs Lyon]

0

Wednesday, October 21, 2009 by

This was a game that Liverpool had to win and for over an hour looked like they could do so. Then Lyon equalised and you sensed that something dramatic was about to happen. Sadly, it did and now Liverpool have a huge task in their hands to qualify. They have done so in the past under similar circumstances but this time it looks too much with two very good teams in the group.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this game is that Liverpool didn't deserve to lose despite the absence of Fernando Torres, Glen Johnson, Albert Riera and, after twenty minutes, Steven Gerrard. Sadly, our defence broke down at crucial moments and leave us to rue another defeat.

Good Game
Pepe Reina did all he could the keep the first goal out and clearly wasn't at fault for the second. He is one of the few key players who are playing at last year's level.

Whilst most people will remember this game for the defeat, for Martin Kelly it will always be the night in which he made his full debut. And what a debut it was. This kid is a special talent and he showed that on the night by being one of the best on the pitch.

For Lucas Leiva, this was another good game as he was the fulcrum of Liverpool"s midfield. His work often goes by unnoticed but he is doing his job very well.

The trip to Argentina seems to have revitalised Javier Mascherano as he was back to his best after an uncertain start to the season. My man of the match.

A cooly taken goal by Yossi Benayoun looked like being enough for Liverpool. Unfortunately it wasn't. Dirk Kuyt too was better than of late, even if not to the same standards of last season.

Up front David N'Gog was a surprise inclusion but he did well enough. He went for every ball and often got a touch on it. He also took the two half chances he had in the first half well. Unfortunately, he fluffed the only clear opportunity he had in the second half and, after that, his head seemed to drop and he wasn't as effective.

Steven Gerrard was only on the pitch for 20 minutes so it would be unfair to rate him.

Bad Game
I wouldn't say that Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger had a bad game overall but they switched off in key moments and Liverpool were made to pay. Emiliano Insua gave the impression that he wasn't fit enough and his passing was sluggish most of the time.

Substitutes
Fabio Aurelio came on for Gerrard and really inspired Liverpool in the first half. In the second, however he faded away dramatically which was a huge disappointment.

Martin Skrtel came on for Kelly and didn't do much wrong yet he too has to shoulder some of the blame for the second goal. Only Benitez knows why he put Andriy Voronin on and in the few minutes that he played the Ukranian once again proved just how useless he is.


Spreading The Word: Football Filter

0

Tuesday, October 20, 2009 by

I have to admit that I am something of a creature of habit, particularly where technology is involved. If I'm comfortable with how something is working, then I don't really tend to go out to look for ways to improve on it.

It is why I've always stuck to NewsNow.co.uk to get an overview of the latest stories concerning Liverpool. When I stumbled across Google Reader, however, I realised that this too could be a good way to gather stories and I had a similar reaction when I started experimenting with Twitter.

So now my habits are slightly changing which is why I decided to take a look at a couple of football specific web spidering services and here Football Filter is at the forefront.

The idea behind this is similar to NewsNow even if the layout is much more pleasing. Stories are split by source so that, if there are any sites that you don't like, you can easily skip over them. Another nice feature is that, when you scroll over a news story, a brief excerpt of that story appears along with an approximation of when it was published. Indeed, it is also possible to customize the site and adjust the length of time elapsed since the publication of the article.

That you can toggle between the sort of sites that you want - e.g. broadsheets or blogs - is another useful feature that adds to the validity of the site as a source of information.

The only major downside of this set-up is that when a site stops updating its articles it stays there with its old news. The only way that can be fixed is manually by the site's authors which can be a bit cumbersome when you have over fifty sub-sites for various teams and leagues.


A Look At: Genius Does As it Must

2

Monday, October 19, 2009 by

Book Review: Genius Does as it Must - Liverpool FC Banners Compiled by Chris McLoughlin and Adam Oldfield

When people talk about the atmosphere at Anfield, particularly on a European night, they often refer to the singing and the raw emotion that there is in the ground. Too often, they fail to pick up on an important element that distinguishes Liverpool fans from many of their English counterparts: the banners that adorn the stands.

This is a tradition that has been going on from the seventies - with the Joey Jones one being the most iconic from that era - and goes on today. Indeed, the history that there exists around these banners fuels the creation of even better ones as fans try to outdo their predecessors with wittier retorts.

Now the best of these banners have been captured in a fantastic book called 'Genius Does as It Must - Liverpool FC Banners' which is a pictorial guide to the best that Liverpool fans have been able to think of over the past four decades.

As you'd expect, there isn't much to read here but it is still easy to lose yourself in this book for a couple of hours as you go from one banner to the other. Because, regardless of how often you see them, you always seem to notice something new.

The only disappointment with this book - and I have to say that it was quite a major one when I opened the package - is its size. Indeed for a photo book, I was expecting something much larger than a book the size of a postcard. The design is excellent and nowhere is there any photo that looks crammed in. Even so, it could have easily afforded being twice its size or even more which would have made it a luxurious permanent on my coffee table.

As it stands, it'll just have to make do with sitting on my bookshelf like other mere mortal books conscious, however, that the entertainment that it offers is much more everlasting than the rest.


Good Game Bad Game [vs Sunderland]

4

Sunday, October 18, 2009 by

There are a number of excuses to which we could turn in order to sweeten this defeat: Darren Bent's fluke goal, the absence of both Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, the late arrival of Mascherano, Lucas and Insua, the little time for preparation that Liverpool had and the length of time that Sunderland had in order to get ready for this game.

The truth, however, is that Sunderland were unlucky not to score more whereas for Liverpool this was the worst performance in the last two years with players unable to string three passes together.

I won't go as far as saying that we should forget about the league because it is still too early for that but it isn't looking good, is it? Indeed, given a choice I'd focus more energies on the games against Lyon and even the one in the League Cup against Arsenal rather than the league game against United.

Good Game
The only one to come out of this with any credit was Pepe Reina. Absolutely not at fault with the goal he saved Liverpool in the second half when Darren Bent broke through and was solid throughout.

Bad Game
Going forward Fabio Aurelio was decent enough - although his corner taking was attrocious - but he will have nightmares about Andy Reid for weeks. Indeed, the beach ball incident has probably saved Aurelio from having to answer why he let Reid pass him so easily in the move that led to the goal.

On the opposite flank Glen Johnson tried his best to ignite Liverpool's attacking play but more often than not seemed to hang on too much to the ball.

In the centre of defence, Jamie Carragher, Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel were given a torrid time by Kenwyne Jones and Darren Bent. In truth, they didn't really look like they knew what they were supposed to do which was probably down to their unfamiliarity with the system in which they were playing.

There are those who believe that Benitez plays Lucas Leiva instead of Jay Spearing purely because he paid a significant amount for the Brazilian midfielder. Well, today we saw that this quite simply isn't the case. Not that Lucas played well today - he failed to impose himself on the game - but Spearing was quite simply attrocious. He was over-run in midfield and too often didn't know what to do with the ball particularly when Lee Catermole - a player many snobbed when it was rumoured Liverpool were interested in him - was close by.

As with practically everyone else, practically nothing that Yossi Benayoun tried out worked. Dirk Kuyt did have a couple of moments but overall, he looked absolutely knackered which perhaps can be excused given that he was a doubt earlier in the week.

The next time that Ryan Babel opens his mouth to complain about the lack of opportunities he gets, all that needs to be done is show him a video of this game. After a good first few minutes, he simply disappeared and every time he touched the ball it went to a Sunderland player.

Substitutes
Well, it shows how desperate we were that we looked at Andriy Voronin as a potential saviour. Not that it had any impact as he simply spent the half an hour he spent on the pitch giving the ball to Sunderland players. Tired or not, Javier Mascherano gave order to the midfield and Liverpool started to play a bit better when he came on.

Same goes to David N'Gog who caused the Sunderland defence more problems in fifteen minutes than Babel did throughout the whole game. Probably deserved to come on earlier.


Liverpool's Youth Problem

3

Wednesday, October 14, 2009 by

Some players have that innate talent that when they get on the ball it is impossible not to notice them. Others are always doing the hard work that goes unappreciated but which is vital for the team to succeed. Indeed it could be argued that whilst the brilliance of the individual might occasionally win matches, it is what those around him do that usually plays the key role.

It is in this second category that Robbie Threlfall fits in. Strong and powerful, he knows his job – that of left-back - well and carries it out extremely well. He might not be the one to win the games, but ensures that those can have every opportunity to do so.

Yet, for all his good qualities, he is also unfortunate in that blocking his way to the first team there are three internationals which he is unlikely to displace. On top of this there are the continuous injuries which have regularly interrupted his career, meaning that it isn’t that difficult to see why he is still playing for Liverpool’s reserves.

Actually, it is. Threlfall might not be ready to push on to play in the Permiership but he seems good enough to play at least in the Championship. Which is were the major surprise comes in because so far in his career, the only ones that have expressed an interest in him have been either Second Division or low ranking First Division sides.

Last week Threlfall had the opportunity of going out on loan to Darlington, currently rooted at the bottom of League Two with just two points. Initially, it looked as if he was going to accept but then decided against it.

Good move for him. Despite the presence of Steve Staunton, the recently appointed manager at the club, it is difficult to see what he would have gained by going there. It certainly wouldn’t have furthered his prospects at Liverpool and it is doubtful whether it would have allowed him to attract the attention of some club higher up the league structure.

The thing is: why is it that only small clubs seem to be interested in our young players? Is it lack of contacts? Do Liverpool scare off potential suitors with excessive demands? Or is it, quite simply, that the players themselves aren’t good enough?


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Despite their Promise: Patience is Key for Hungarian Duo

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009 by

Does anyone know who Adailton is? Or Pablo Counago? And what have they got in common?

Give up? Ok, no need to rush to google: the answer is that they both finished the FIFA U20 World Cup as top scorers (1997 and 1999 respectively) and were considered among the best talents of their generation.

Going by that information, both should now be major players in their prime yet neither one is: the first is a squad player at Bologna whilst Counago struggles to get a game for Ipswich Town. The sad truth is that for both, those U20 championships were the peak of their careers.

It is a thought worth holding to as this year’s edition of the U20 World Cup enters its final stages. With the spotlight on them, there will be those who are showing the kind of skill that will see them being labeled as certain stars when, in reality, they are just kids who perhaps are having the tournament of their lives.

Another truth is that, whereas it used to be that international youth tournaments was were clubs got to know about the most promising players from around the globe, now the bulk are already familiar names. This World Cup used to provide European clubs, especially those with an eye for a gamble, with the opportunity of spotting an unpolished diamond.

Now the best players are already tied up, the result of the ever widening net that the richest clubs – who, ironically, are least likely to give them an opportunity – are casting in order to find players.

Not everyone appreciated this when Liverpool struck a deal with MTK Hungaria back in 2007. The criticism was as easy as it was predictable: what could Liverpool possibly find in a country whose glory days had come 50 years earlier and without a player of note for the previous two decades?

Over time those questions faded away, especially now that Hungary are on the brink of making it to the U20 World Cup final with two players who made that early trip to England back in 2007.

Kristian Nemeth, scorer of two goals against Italy in the quarter final, is already being earmarked as one of the best talents around. Same too Peter Gulacsi, whose penalty saves in the second round were vital for Hungary to progress.

For both, however, the difficult part starts now. And that’s without considering the semi-final: both now have to start proving to Rafael Benitez that they are good enough to play for Liverpool on a semi-regular basis. For Nemeth, this means excelling in Greece whilst Gulacsi has to do his best in the reserves and on loan, should that opportunity come up. It is if they do that, rather than how much the feature in the World Cup in Egypt, which will determine what their future will be like.


Spreading the Word: The Tomkins Times

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Monday, October 12, 2009 by

It is fair to say that Paul Tomkins is one of the leading Liverpool writers out there (Brian Reade, Oliver Kay, Tony Barrett and Tony Evans are the others), a reputation built over the years initially on various forums and then on the club's official website. He is also probably the most prolific author of books about Liverpool FC having published some eight books in the space of four years.

Yet, as many other writers have found out before him, it is difficult to earn a living purely from writing even if you produce one bestseller after the other as he has. It is a difficulty about which he spoke in detail on his blog a couple of months ago, which was quite surprising given how downbeat the writer known for his positive outlook on matters was.

Those difficulties have, however, led to the development of a new venture: the Tomkins Times. This is quite an interesting experiment as Tomkins will now be charging for his articles even if the fees are minimal - £2 monthly for a regular subscription and £3.50 for a premium one - which are what you would normally pay for a magazine. There have been such experiments in the past most notably on Koptalk although that was a completely different beast as it was based exclusively on pushing out as many news stories (true or otherwise) as possible.

News and gossip are, you would think, the last thing that Tomkins would resort to. His strength has always been an ability to look at matters as objectively as possible and in analysing aspects of Liverpool's play where others simply go with the flow. It is what has attracted so many people to his writing and why he has sold so many books.

There is, however, something of a shift in his writing style for the Tomkins Times. Given the audience and the medium, he was never going to say what he really wanted to say whilst writing for the official site. All that changes here as his recent article about Tony Cascarino's misguided opinions on Liverpool illustrates.

This is a very interesting project as it gives the fans of his writing access to many more articles than they were used to. For Tomkins this is an opportunity to keep on writing on a subject which he enjoys whilst ensuring a fairly stable source of revenue. In reality, that is the key: it is fairly easy to get people to subscribe in the first month but much less so to ensure that they keep on paying month after month. Given the quality of his writing, I would think that it is a safe bet that many will be doing so.


A taster of the type of articles on the Tomkins Times can be found here.


Lack of Appreciation

2

Wednesday, October 07, 2009 by

Underrated: forced to choose a one-word description of Emiliano Insua, then that would be it. Had he been anywhere else in the Premier League, especially at any one of the other top five or six clubs, then his emergence would be deemed an outstanding one. Not at Liverpool, however, where his rise over the past eight months seems to have gone by largely unnoticed by the outside world.

Which isn’t such a bad thing when you think about it. The biggest question mark hanging over younger players before they start getting into a side on a semi-permanent manner isn’t how they will cope technically or tactically – those will be attributes over which there should be little doubt for the coaches who see them train on a daily basis – but rather how they will handle the pressure that comes with playing when it really counts.

It is, without getting sidetracked, why the current reserves structure isn’t working. There is too little at stake and it has basically become a league where players who are too old to play in the academy leagues face each other, hardly the ideal preparation for playing in a league as demanding as the Premiership.

The last thing they need when they do get to make the step up is the added pressure that comes of people’s expectations; the knowledge that their every move is being analysed to determine whether they really are good enough. It is something that Insua has managed to avoid, even if through no effort from his end. The truth is that no one really seemed to take any notice of him.

Whether it would have made a difference is debatable. One aspect of Insua’s game that instantly stands out is his maturity. Nothing seems to overawe him and there hasn’t been a game where he has struggled purely because of who he was facing.

This is not to say that his game is mature for that is something which comes out of experience. Instinctively, Insua is an attacking player yet if he were to try and move forward every time the side does then it would greatly impact the team’s balance. Suggesting that he does so would be a gross mis-statement but there are moments when his judgment seems to be lacking; when he exposes himself and lets players get past him.

You have to look fairly hard to notice that however, and in doing so his attributes would probably be what catches the eye. On the ball, Insua displays an enviable calmness where he seems to have all the time in the world to deal with it and knows what to do with it. So too when he does move forward to attack.

The beauty of having a full-back like Insua is that, whilst the regular winger can move inside drawing at least one defender with him the full-back can exploit the space that this movement creates.

Of course, this can create problems on the other side of the pitch. But it isn’t often that this happens. Rarely has Insua been caught out as his speed – he is much faster than what you would imagine him as being given his build – helps him recover his position. The same goes for his heading which is far better than what you would expect of a player who is apparently the shortest in the league.

All of this is appreciated by most Liverpool fans but not all. Indeed, after his performance against Fiorentina – probably the first bad game he’s had for Liverpool – his quality was put into question.

That, at twenty years of age, it is possible for him to be overawed at playing in such a stadium and in front of that atmosphere doesn’t seem to matter much. Or that it could be that he hasn’t reached the level of fitness required to play on a bi-weekly basis at the same level.

All of those explanations could be written off as excuses but there really is no need. Within a few months of earning a regular spot for Liverpool, he’s on his way to playing for Argentina having been called up for the first time last month. Confirmation that there are those outside of Anfield who have been impressed by what he’s doing.


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Good Game Bad Game [vs Chelsea]

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Monday, October 05, 2009 by

Playing Chelsea at Stamford Bridge is never an easy task; doing so after a confidence crushing defeat makes it that little bit harder. Despite the protestations that the defeat at Fiorentina had been archived and forgotten, that clearly wasn’t the case as Liverpool looked to avoid getting hurt first and foremost.

It was a tactic that, for the most, worked even if it meant that with Javier Mascherano and Lucas playing quite deep Chelsea themselves could defend with a fair bit of ease.

Then, out of nothing, Mascherano got caught out of possession and a few instances later Chelsea were 1-0 up. It is the way such games go: you make one mistake and get punished for it.

Now, as Benitez said, focus has to shift on the next game. Chelsea’s own defeat at Wigan and Manchester United’s draw at Sunderland highlight that the top teams are likely to drop points against the lower ones this season. Despite the gap, therefore, Liverpool are still very much in it, conscious however that no more mistakes can be made in the coming weeks.

Good Game
Not at fault at any of the two goals, Pepe Reina was always ready when Chelsea tried their luck with shots from the distance and commanded his defence with the usual authority. Similarly, no fault can be place on Martin Skrtel and Jamie Carragher’s feet on this occasion as they both had very good games. In particular, it was nice to see how Skrtel handled Didier Drogba given how he’s struggled with him in the past, even if the Ivorian did create both of Chelsea’s goals.

The two full-backs, Glen Johnson and Emiliano Insua were just as diligent. Both clearly had instructions to pay attention to their defending and did that well. With Liverpool chasing the game Johnson started getting forward with greater intent, something that we haven’t seen much of in recent games, and he can cause problems with his running. Sadly, he couldn’t force the breakthrough here.

It seems that there are many out there willing Lucas to have a bad game so that they can criticise him (and having a bad game is optional). This season he hasn’t been that accommodating, certainly not on this occasion as he did an excellent job of tidying up in midfield. Nothing spectacular but the sort of performance the team needs in games like this.

The biggest difference between this game and the Fiorentina was the presence of Javier Mascherano who worked tirelessly in shielding the defence. It was unfortunate that he made the mistake which led to Chelsea’s first goal but that doesn’t detract from an otherwise impeccable game. My man of the match.

Steven Gerrard wasn’t his usual self today – and he should really stop taking corners – but when the team needed him they found him ready which, for me, means that he did his job.

Bad Game
Having Albert Riera missing against Fiorentina was something of a surprise but you would have thought that he would be more than eager to prove that it was a bad decision today. That wasn’t the case as he went missing more often than not. It was also a bad game for Dirk Kuyt who hasn’t really excelled so far this season. He was as willing as always but rarely did anything that he touched come off.

It could be argued that Fernando Torres didn’t have good enough service today and it would be right. Then again, he failed to take the chances that he did have which, at the end of the day, results in a bad game for him.

Substitutes
The introduction of Yossi Benayoun gave Liverpool another dimension as his creativity and link-up play was very difficult for Chelsea to mark. It wouldn’t have made any difference, but he really ought to have scored with that chance at the death. In theory, Ryan Babel was supposed to come on and trouble the Chelsea defence by running at them. That, however, didn’t work out as Babel either ended up going down blind alleys or else losing the ball cheaply. Fabio Aurelio’s late introduction was in all likelihood intended to stretch Chelsea that little bit more given his ability to act as an added left sided midfielder.