Tag: daniel sturridge

Will Liverpool Ever Gel Or Are They Doomed to Follow In Tottenham’s Footsteps?

Something is very wrong with Liverpool. Although it has become cliche to ring the alarm bells during the first few games of a team’s season, especially when a team has so much promise and a long season ahead of them, these alarm bells are warranted. And at this point the alarm bells have become cacophonous. This team is not working.  Plenty of analysts have been clamoring for Liverpool’s critics to ease up on their concerns because the team needs time to “gel.” They claim that the new and old players need time to learn how to play with each other and once they do they will become the team we expected to see after last seasons excitement. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly apparent that this point of view is overly optimistic. While many people enjoy a person who can see the glass as half full they never stop to question what the glass if half full with. In Liverpool’s case it is a glass filled with a warm stale beer that had been sitting on the table for over a day. After the past three games in the last week this Liverpool team looks like they may be much worse than analysts and fans feared. Tottenham began last season in a similar manner with several new players looking to “gel” with their new teammates and suffering some disappointing losses as they looked to do so. The problem was that the season came and went but Tottenham never did fully gel as a team. They looked as disjointed at the end of the season as they did in the beginning of the season. Fans kept waiting for the team to improve and the improvement never came. Tottenham was then forced to revaluate their team this summer which lead them to sell several of the players that were never able to gel with their teammates. It was, in essence, a lost season. Legitimate concerns are growing  that Liverpool is facing the same fate.

Is Suarez’s absence the main problem? For starters, yes, his absence has definitely hurt Liverpool’s playing style. Last season Liverpool was frequently faced with opponents who would pack the box and force Liverpool to beat them. A man with individual brilliance was necessary to break these teams down and Luis Suarez provided this. His slipperiness and creativity were essential to breaking down the obstinate defenses that Liverpool was forced to attack against. A seemingly innocuous buildup could become a goal when Luis Suarez was in the game. He distracted defenders, created space, and freed up his teammates to have more time on the ball. Without him in this side teams have a lot less to deal with and as a result, are much harder to break down. It also does not help the Daniel Sturridge has been once again hit by the injury bug, forcing Mario Balotelli into a starring role when he was originally brought in to compliment Sturridge. However, the loss of one player does not excuse the woeful start to Liverpools’ Premiership campaign. Last season Luis Suarez was a big part of their team but it must be stated that this is also a team that scored over 100 goals last season and they showed that they have skill at other positions besides just forward. The loss of Suarez was a setback but it is not the main reason for Liverpool’s decline.

Injuries, the loss of Luis Suarez, and new players still needing time to gel with each other are just a fraction of what is wrong with Liverpool. A significant fraction, but still only a fraction. Defensively the Reds have been repeatedly exposed despite Brendan Rodgers bringing in new players specifically brought in to fix last years leaky defense. It was last years leaky defense that proved to be the achilles heel of Liverpool that would eventually lead to them losing out on the title to Manchester City. For the most part they were able to cover up their defensive frailty with goals but this season Liverpool, with the exception of their game at White Hart Lane, have been unable to score the goals necessary to offset their poor defensive performances. Profligacy in front of goal, mixed with a swiss cheese defense, has proven hard for Liverpool to overcome so far this season.

Losing Luis Suarez definitely hurts an offense but there is no excuse to become as profligate as they are considering the talent within the squad both from last season and the talent added over the summer. It is not that the players are incapable of matching last season’s success, instead it is as though the players have regressed. Last season Coutinho was a master at zipping in pin-point accurate passes that could lead to devastating breaks and goal scoring opportunities. Steven Gerrard used his newfound role last season to spray ambitious passes that could spur lightning quick counterattacks. The team as a whole was capable of replicating Barcelona styles at times to work their way out of tight spaces using brilliant passing triangles, movement, and vision. This season though Liverpool has yet to find that ability. There are brief times during games this season where they have looked their old selves but most of the time they look slightly off. Due to the style of play they have chosen, being slightly off can have tumultuous consequences. Whereas last season Coutinho could fit a pass through a pinhole, now his passes have been missing their mark and have gotten intercepted. Steven Gerrard has been man-marked out of many the games he has played so far and many of the other Liverpool players have looked uncomfortable on the ball. Almost as if they have lost their confidence. It was their soaring confidence that led to last seasons 11 game unbeaten streak and it is confidence that is needed by the players so that they remain calm on the ball and complete the perfect passes needed for Liverpool’s style to work. If Liverpool continues to play like they have been then their problems will further intensify and their confidence will continue to erode. Their problems need to be fixed and fixed fast or this season will get even worse.

Teams have rebounded from rough starts before. It is a long season and their are always bumps on the road. The concerns surrounding Liverpool are real but thoughts of this season being a failure are still conjecture. Daniel Sturridge’s return and a possibly blossoming partnership with Mario Balotelli could produce great things for Liverpool and lift then out of the Premier League basement. It is also possible that players such as Coutinho find their form and help lift the team back to the pedestal it was believed they would occupy this season. Only time will tell. Brendan Rodgers has a lot of work ahead of him though if he is to insure that fans look back on the end month of September as the wake-up call they sorely needed rather than the beginning of a long and fruitless season.

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World Cup Preview

Guest Written By Brian O’Neil

 

Here. We. Go(oooooaaaaaallllll!).

The wait is finally over. Here is a preview of the 32 teams participating in the Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup.

 

Happy We Were Invited

 

Due to a tough draw, insufficient skill set, or a combination of the two, it will be a shocker if any of these teams advance to the knockout stage.

 

Australia

FIFA Ranking: 62

Key Player: Mile Jedinak

While Group G is rightfully getting labeled the Group of Death, Australia has to be asking itself what it did to deserve this draw. Salvaging a point against Chile, Netherlands, or Spain will be considered a successful tournament. Red Bulls forward Tim Cahill will need to find his scoring touch for the Aussies to have any hope.

 

 

Korea Republic (South Korea)

FIFA Ranking: 57

Key Player: Son Heung Min

 

Korea has shown that it’s 2002 controversial semifinal appearance on its home turf was no fluke, as it most recently advanced out of the group stage in South Africa. They will have to be disciplined and opportunistic to escape a solid group containing Belgium, Russia, and Algeria.

 

 

Iran

FIFA Ranking: 43

Key Player: Ashkan Dejagah, Iran

The Persian Stars are appearing in only their fourth World Cup, with their only win coming against, you guessed it, the United States back in 1998.

 

 

 

Honduras

FIFA Ranking: 33

Key Player: Emilio Izaguirre

Costa Rica

FIFA Ranking: 28

Key Player: Joel Campbell

 

These two Latin American countries will both have their hands full in their respective groups (Costa Rica more so than Honduras), and an early exit seems imminent. CONCACAF could have a rough go of it in this World Cup edition.

 

Continue reading “World Cup Preview”

Can Liverpool Afford (Not) To Sell Luis Suarez?

               Recently it has come to light that Liverpool’s debt has risen to £87.2 million. A sobering figure, and one sure to conjure up bad memories of Tom Hicks and George Gillett’s ruinous ownership. The damage of which the club is still recovering from. Building what is supposed to be a Champions League football club, without the influx of Champions League cash, will always cost money and LFC is experiencing that problem. However, that is not the only reason LFC’s debt has risen £21.8 million in the past year alone. Poor money management and decision making deserves most of the blame. The large amounts of money that were thrown at Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing are a prime example of those two problems and those payments were due in this fiscal year. Along with that the contract extensions given out to players such as Steven Gerrard and newly signed players compounded the money problems Liverpool has been trying to finally eradicate themselves of.
            In fact, looking at their recent signings, and their commitment towards promoting youth-team players, it could be argued pretty well that Liverpool is on the right track towards being more fiscally sustainable. There are many who are hoping that this sobering news is only a temporary blight on the way to Liverpool’s resurgence. Since the December 1st Liverpool has been on a war path scoring 35 goals and amassing 26 points.  Much of this can be credited to the influx of two very quality January signings in Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho along with Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson  finally starting to give performances that better match their price tags. Yet Liverpool would not be where it is this season if it were not for their offensive stalwart Luis Suarez. He has amassed 21 league goals alone to currently lead the league in scoring and his performances have been nothing less than spectacular. The Messi comparisons may be tiresome but there is something to be said of his behavior on the field. He is constantly hustling, pestering, and running. For a star player on an under-performing team he could get away with being lazy but he continues to give his all. In the first half of this season he was all that stood in the way of Liverpool dropping into the relegation zone.
            Great talent does not usually last long on teams that are not playing Champions League football and that is a tough lesson for most teams and fans to learn. Even great players on teams playing and succeeding in the Champions League, like Robert Lewandowski for example, will sometimes leave for bigger clubs. Luis Suarez is a great talent who deserves to be playing Champions League football and it is hard to convince a player who is offered ten of millions of pound/dollars/euros to stay to help the club achieve the dream of qualifying for Champions League football when he could easily transfer and play in the Champions League next season. Nonetheless, that is what LFC must do.
             If this past few games are any sign, Luis Suarez is beginning to form a great attacking partnership with Coutinho and Sturridge. It is very plausible that next season that if those three are all still playing for LFC and Brendan Rodgers gets some quality summer signings then this team can set their goals on winning the Premier League and not just qualifying for the Champions League. Unfortunately, plans and scenarios are not valued as highly as money and Champions League football. When a player wants to leave then he finds a way to leave  and it is sometimes better for the club to get the money while they can and Liverpool does need the money.
             Yet Brendan Rodgers has a specific vision and Luis Suarez is the centerpiece of his team. Losing the centerpiece to this team could knock Liverpool back to square one and it is possible that whatever striker replaces Suarez is unable to replicate his proficiency in front of goal. Therefore, Liverpool may currently be in debt and a large transfer fee would be a perfect way to eradicate a large amount of that debt but in the end they would actually lose more money by selling Luis Suarez. This club cannot go on that much longer without Champions League football. There is only so long LFC can sell its fans and future transfer targets on a dream. The more someone talks about a dream the longer it takes to become a reality. Keeping Luis Suarez for at least one more season would exemplify to Liverpool’s fans that LFC may finally be within striking distance of becoming a “big club” again. Given LFC’s profligacy in front of goal, they cannot afford losing a man that scores twenty-eight goals and replacing him with an unknown is not a risk Liverpool can afford to take.

January Transfers Already Paying Dividends

Rosters are officially locked in for the final 4 months of the football season.  The recent closing of the January transfer window provided the last opportunity for clubs to add quality to their rosters.  There wasn’t what some would consider a “blockbuster deal”.  There wasn’t a transfer fee over £20m and in today’s world of football economics, that is fairly tame to say the least.  However, that is not to say teams did not significantly improve their squads.  Here are a few of the most recent transfers that already could be considered successes.

Nacho Monreal – Malaga to Arsenal (£10m)

Some will say this was a reaction to the expected month without Kieran Gibbs due to a leg injury and that may be true, however Arsenal were in need of a much needed upgrade at the left back position.  Gibbs is a great young player, don’t get me wrong – he simply can’t stay healthy.  It just shows you how much of a need Monreal was to Arsene Wenger when he immediately thrust him into first team duty a day after signing to the club.  He answered the calling as he helped an inconsistent back 4 come away with a clean sheet against Stoke City on Saturday.  Granted, Stoke didn’t exactly provide the attacking prowess of a Manchester club, but that also hasn’t stopped Arsenal from giving up goals to lesser opponents either (see Swansea, Fulham, and the  Liverpool matches).  God only knows how many goals would have been conceded if Santos played an entire 90 minutes at left back.  Not only did Nacho provide some stability to the defense, he showed some skill on the ball going forward.  Many Arsenal supporters will argue Arsenal could have used another attacking signing or two, but it seems Arsene has once again found value in a quality player on deadline day.  (For a more in depth look at Arsenal, check out another recent blog post from kvenezia.)

Daniel Sturridge – Chelsea to Liverpool (£12m)

With the impending arrival of Demba Ba from Newcastle at the beginning of the transfer window, Chelsea suddenly had a surplus of attackers and Daniel Sturridge was the odd man out.  So he was abruptly shipped to Liverpool who were in dire need of an offensive spark.  Liverpool immediately saw glimpses of Sturridge’s potential as he scored a goal in each of his first 3 appearances for his new club.  His fourth and most recent goal tied up the match against Manchester City at 1-1 where the teams saw out a 2-2 draw.  They still haven’t beaten a team ahead of them in the standings; however, the last two matches could be considered statement matches for Liverpool.  A 2-2 draw against Arsenal and Manchester City may provide the confidence they need to finally push for a top 4 finish and Sturridge may very well be the attacker they were looking for to compliment Luis Suarez going forward.  You can’t ask for much more from a newly acquired player than to score 4 goals (2 Premier League/2 FA Cup) in his first 6 matches for his new club.  Daniel has already played more minutes for Liverpool in the last 6 matches than he did for Chelsea during the first half of the season.  It seems like this transfer was a win-win for both teams involved and it’s not very often that can be said.

Moussa Sissoko – Toulouse to Newcastle United (Undisclosed Fee)

With Demba Ba off to Chelsea, Newcastle had some cash to spend.  It took them a couple of weeks but they landed Moussa Sissoko a week before the window closed.  The 23 year old midfielder had been at French side Toulouse since he was a youth at just 13 years old.  So his switch to the Premier League should have required a bit of an adjustment period for Moussa considering the higher level of play in the Premier League.  He was also thrown into the starting lineup right away.  In his first Premier League match against Aston Villa, Moussa provided the assist to Papiss Cisse to open the scoring.  Newcastle ended up seeing out a 2-1 victory.  He followed up his good debut with an even better showing against Chelsea this past Saturday by scoring a brace in a thrilling 3-2 victory over the Blues.  Down 1-2, Moussa put in a rebound past Petr Cech to level up the score.   As extra time ticked on, Moussa took a pass at the top of the 18 yard box and fired a low line shot through the Chelsea defenders and past Cech again to win the match 3-2.  Moussa has shown that a Premier League “rookie” can step right in and provide a spark to a new club.  Newcastle can only hope he keeps up his form since joining the club.  (For more on Newcastle, check out another recent blog post from leftymagic.)

Mario Balotelli – Manchester City to AC Milan (£19m)

The highest profile and most expensive transfer of the January window was of course the Italian International and former Manchester City player Mario Balotelli to AC Milan.  Another deadline day deal that was thrown into the starting lineup following day, Balotelli had a marvelous debut for the club he supported as a youngster.  Milan knew they were getting a player with massive potential, but could he put his focus on the pitch to be the player everyone thinks he can be?  If his first match was any indication, it’ll be a fun ride for Milan and its supporters.  Against Udinese on Saturday, he volleyed home a beautiful side-footed goal from close range.  He followed that up with the match-clinching penalty kick in the93rdminute (see what I did there?).

For additional transfer saga reading, you’ll want to check out mcmigs’s take on the Wilfred Zaha transfer.

Picture Sources:

http://i1.mirror.co.uk/incoming/article1514808.ece/ALTERNATES/s615/%C2%A3%C2%A3%C2%A3+Daniel+Sturridge