Monday, August 29, 2011

What a difference a year makes!

As the transfer window comes to an end, I thought it would be a good idea to look back at one of the busiest summers in some time.

Before I do that however, some context is surely needed. As I stood on the Kop for the 2-2 draw against Sunderland last September, I thought to myself, "this isn't the Liverpool I love." The Kop was nearing anarchy with the old guard shouting down the anti-Hick & Gillett chants, the younger generation angry & looking for a fight. I remember saying to my friend Dave "if this is what we've resorted to, we're doomed". It meant that the Kop was no longer a solitary force, urging the team on. It was a fractious group fighting the fight in an extremely divisive manor.

That fight of course, was to rid Liverpool FC of the worst owners the club had ever seen. The banks may have saved LFC, but without the voice of a methodical, and in some cases maniacal fan base, who knows what would have happened. I can safely say, I was fearing the worst.

Those feelings I had 11 months ago evaporated January 12th 2011. The King had returned, Roy Hodgson had been sacked, and finally, the club was ours again. Dalglish's return marked a new era for Liverpool, and was being driven on by  Fenway Sports Group (FSG). There wasn't any time for the new owners to 'test the waters', as our star striker wanted out, and he wanted out now. As we now know, we pocketed an absurd amount of money for him and have been laughing ever since. One can't forget of course, the two signings that marked a signal of intent, but that's not the focus of this post.

The summer transfer window started with some increased optimism from the Liverpool support. FSG, Damien Camolli & Kenny Dalglish had a plan, a plan to rebuild a broken team, with many needs after several summers of poor signings & little money. We were told that this was the beginning of a long and painful rebuilding process. None of that mattered though, not to me at least. You could just feel we were headed in the right direction.

Twitter has brought on a new age of transfer madness which lead us to be linked with hundreds of players we had no intention of signing (Kun Aguero & Juan Mata come to mind). I’m of the opinion that this helped to create some anxiety within the fan base. Faceless people with no real knowledge were praying on the impatient fans desperate for a signing. What would follow however was a calculated two month process that would see us bring in players we’ve needed for years.

Compare Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing & Jose Enrique to Milan Jovanovic, Christian Poulsen, Pual Konchesky, Joe Cole & Raul Miereles. That is how far we’ve come in just 12 months. We now have as good a left side as anyone in the league in Enrique & Downing, we’ve finally found a pivot midfielder that can settle a game down in the midfield with Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson provides Dalglish with a player that can play three midfield positions effectively.

I’ll use my upcoming posts to go into a little more depth, but I figured it would be a good start to the new season to give us just a small glimpse at how far we’ve come since the Hodgson/Purslow/G&H reign came to an end.

Until then…


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Liverpool vs Bolton - Saturday 9:30am PST

So we took on the mighty(sic) Bolton at Home and in the end had a comfortable victory ....

The comments page is open so by all means let us know what you think !

For members of LfcSeattle, we are going to attempt to get a blog up for each fixture when anyone watching the game came comment/chat/blog with fellow Liverpool fans during the game.

This will free up the facebook page and ensure nobody gets any scores before seeing the game. The beauty and the beast of being in different time zones eh !!!
The beauty being we have all day to celebrate a win .... The beast being that sometimes you can't help but find out a score before watching the game!!

So I urge one and all to chat away and let's get the blog going!!


Monday, February 1, 2010

Back In the Saddle

It has been sometime since words have occupied this space, and I figured it would be a good time to 'get back in the saddle' as they say. A lot has happened in the four months since my last post, not a lot has gone right for the Reds and most of it has been awful. There is no denying that this is not the path we expected of this team, but it is not at all surprising.

After a summer of speculation an hope for investment in the squad, just Glen Johnson and a then injured Alberto Aquilani arrived at Anfield. It wasn't until a defensive crisis forced Rafa Benitez into purchasing Sotirios Kyrgiakos at the end of the transfer window. It is easy to look back after six months and view the transfer dealings, but even back in the summer, we were left woefully short of options.

It had been reported that when Benitez signed his new contract that he would be receiving a minimum of £20m plus whatever he received in sales. For those that have followed to club's board room commitment, you will know that this was yet another false dawn. The fact is, the owners had a crushing £60m loan payment due in the middle of the window. It is no surprise to me that money supposedly earmarked for transfers never materialized.

While the owners are only part of the equation, it is safe to say that they have a lot to do with our torrid season thus far. I will not absolve the manager of any guilt, nor can the players get away without mention, but the owners control the purse strings. Everyone who follows football knows that we have been one striker short for some time. While the Robbie Keane era was an unmitigated disaster, he was still an option for the manager. If this team cried out for anything, it was an accomplished striker to fill the void should Fernando Torres get injured. As it stands, Torres is injured and likely to miss this entire month.

With a brutal run of fixtures coming up, it will be important for the team to stand up and put in a shift. I am less worried about this month of fixtures as I was in December, but it will still test our resolve.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Jaime Carragher: Is his time coming?

This is undoubtedly going to be a very touchy subject for many a Red, but I think it is one that deserves looking at. For all my forthcoming criticism, I challenge anyone to find me someone in the past 10-15 years who exemplifies LFC more than Jaime Carragher. The no nonsense defender has been a rock in our defense for a decade. He's the one player in our first team that I can always depend on. Even through his odd blunders over the years, he's always come back with something brilliant.

Over the past two years however; and most recently our first six league games, there seems to be a chink developing in Carra's armor. In the beginning, it was easily brushed off as a one off blunder from our most consistent player. Yet, as he nears his 32nd birthday, other reasons are beginning to enter my frame of mind. Is it his fitness, is he not sure of himself or his ability, is he just naturally wearing down?

In my opinion, it is the latter. I am not one to criticize his footballing brain as he has an incredible footballing brain, but Jamie is now 31 years old and his current form seems to suggest he has lost a stop. This has never been more evident to me than in the last 2 matches against West Ham & Leeds United respectively.

Against West Ham, young Zavon Hines was a terror against our back line, and won what looked to be a deserving penalty against Carragher. To be fair, Carra was never the fleetest of foot but this penalty paints a good picture for my argument. I am of the opinion that he could have been in a slightly more defensive position that would have cut that angle out, instead he attempts to go step for step with a much quicker Hines.

His decision making would come into question yet again just three days later against Leeds in the Carling Cup. Most memorable for me was the long ball that was put over the top for Jermaine Beckford. Had that ball been just 6 inches shorter, Beckford could have controlled the ball and had no one but the keeper to beat. He seemed to be trying to catch Beckford offside, but his positioning was such that he could not recover quickly.

Add this to his well publicized bust up with Arbeloa at the end of last season and he sudden lack of communication with Skrtel that landed the latter with a stint on the sidelines, I am beginning to wonder when our most consistent of performers is going to be dropped. I am by no means calling for this to happen, but the time where he is 3rd choice is not far off in my opinion.

Would you like to be Rafa Benitez making that decision? I wouldn't

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Looking Back On Week 1

In a season that promises to have its ups and downs, Week 1 of the Barlcay's Premiership was just that. For many Reds, this first week was seen as a new beginning of sorts. This was finally the year we would challenge and over take the scum from Manchester. Yet if you looked on any LFC Forum, you would likely see doom mongers wildly proclaiming the season lost.

That last observation may be a bit heavy handed, but it still raises a point. It it took one poor performance at a venue where we rarely play well to once again bemoan the manager and the players. Truth be told, no one bar Pepe Reina put in a good shift. It was simply one of those games. It also gave us a possible look into what is to come against stronger opposition. Lucas struggled at times against Tottenham, but never really made any massive mistakes. I think Lucas is a good squad player, and someone who could eventually make an impact for us, I just think our midfield is less creative with him in there.

Oh how quickly outlooks can change.

As I was getting ready to watch the match yesterday, I was telling friends back in Liverpool that we needed this fixture. I was strangley confident, but all the while knowing all too well the four points dropped against Stoke last season. From the first whistle I saw a different Liverpool. Where we seemed unassured and simply poor in the midfield against Spurs, we were confident and comanding against Stoke.

It would take but four minutes for Fernadno Torres to find the back of the net. This my friends, was the product of what we will need to see more of if we are to end our 19 year drought. Not just goals from Torres, but a complete team attack. All of our attacking six got involved in the goals scored. None more spectacular than Anfield debutant Glen Johnson's 44th minute beauty.

If there is one massive difference in our side, it isn't the loss of Alonso. It is the signing of Glen Johnson. Johnson clearly adds flair to a right side that was rather dull last season. Not only is our attack already more dynamic, but his nose for the penalty area will only aid our attack. He has been involved in three of our five goals scored this season. He's already matched our previous RB's production in just two matches. Should this keep up, it may very well be a key part in bringing number 19 home.

Without getting ahead of myself, a look at the next five fixtures brings a positive feel to our chances. Three of these five fixtures are at home. A struggling Aston Villa, newly promoted Burnley & Hull. While we must be weary of all opposition, these fixtures maybe coming at just the right time for Liverpool.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

No Money in the Coffers

As the transfer season winds down, fans were treated to a rude awakening this morning. Rafa has but £1.5-£2m left in his budget. Tony Barrett writes a piece today on our worrying central defensive woes and paints a sobering picture for the year ahead.

To put it in blunt terms, we're skint. It's no secret that our owners have talked a big game and failed to deliver time and time again. It was widely reported this past spring that Rafa would receive £20m a season plus any player sales for his transfer budget. Under normal circumstances, this is a fair bit of money for any manager not residing at Stamford Bridge, Old Trafford or the Eastlands. As Barrett writes, this is obviously is not the case:
The Liverpool owners argue that the club must be run as a business and made it clear that pay increases handed out to Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard, Dirk Kuyt, Yossi Benayoun and Agger would be subtracted from the money made available to Benítez.

That's right folks, our owners have taken the salaries signed by first team players into account. Its a maddening prospect when you analyze it. It also makes you wonder where the money has gone. By my count Rafa has brought in close to £50m in player sales this summer. Even the reported fees for Glen Johnson & Alberto Aquiliani add up to just £38m. Even that figure is surely lower as Portsmouth owed us money from the sale of Peter Crouch last summer (around £7m).

By that figure it leaves some £20m unaccounted for. I find it rather unlikely that the money was taken out of his budget for contract signings. Torres, Gerrard alone account for over half that remaining figure. Adding in three other players would see what's left surely gone.

It was this article, published last month that leads me to believe something far different is going on at Anfield. In order to refinance their £290m loan, our owners are being forced to pay £60m, with half coming up front. That £30m had to come from somewhere, and with the history of these owners, I have a feeling I know exactly where that £30m went.

There may be a twinge of over reaction here, but when an article like the one written in the Wall Street Journal, it paints a sobering picture of our owners.

Creditors to Texas financier Tom Hicks's Hicks Sports Group have declared the company in default, a measure that could eventually dislodge the Texas Rangers baseball club and Dallas Stars hockey franchise from his control.

The default notice is the strongest sign yet of the economic perils awaiting the country's professional sports leagues, where owners have spent lavishly on player salaries. Many owners' personal fortunes are also on the wane, creating uncomfortable standoffs between the owners and lenders. (link)

In short, Rafa has been duped once again by our owners. A season that was once filled with optimism is quickly becoming the same old story.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Examing the Alonso Sale

With the season just four days away fans should be excited for what is coming up, not looking back and questioning the manager. It seems as if the sale of Alonso has polarized the fan base more than it already is. This blogger sees both side of the argument, and that is what I am trying to lay out in this post.

Xabi's qualities are unmatched in the Premiership, and in many a pundits opinion, Europe. It is no wonder Real Madrid tested Rafa's resolve all summer and finally broke down and paid up. They see Xabi in the same light that many of us see him. He was the calming influence that our midfield often needed last season. He has this uncanny ability to switch the field with a cheeky ball that many try to pull off and ultimately fail.

So what now?

I think it would be prudent to examine both sides of the argument currently being written about on the many LFC forums and even in the papers. Lets start with the negatives.

First off, I don't think we have an adequate replacement for Alonso currently in the side. It remains to be seen what the new boy Aquiliani brings to the side, but an Alonso he is not. Alonso didn't score as much as I liked, but his bag of tricks played a large part in us scoring the most goals in the league last year.

Alonso was also the perfect foil to Mascherano. While Mascherano's industry broke up opposing attacks, Alonso's passing ability spurned our attack on. Being able to put his foot on the ball and calm play down, is something I think Liverpool may miss this season. His overall distribution will be hard to replicate and it remains to be seen how our midfield will work without him.

Why so negative Jeff? How about some positives!!

In all honesty, I had to think long and hard before coming to my overall opinion. I have debated this with many friends and each has provided some great insight. I will miss Xabi and his cool demeaner and vast array of passes, but it is time to move on. It is clear he wanted to move on, and I don't want a player in the team if he doesn't want to play for the shirt.

Looking at the team, there is a good chance that we could be even better without him. Ian made a point that his long balls and daft passes are no good against teams who will play 10 men behind the ball and ultimately pack defense. This, in my opinion, is too true. If Aquiliani is the player he seems to be, it will bring another dynamic to our attack that Alonso could never bring. His quick one-two short and midrange type passes will hopefully provide the missing link against a vast majority of the Premier League.

If there is one thing that I am hoping to see from this move is more goals from our midfield. The problem is, I am not sure we have signed the player to do this. His injury record seems more distinguished than his goal scoring record, and he's never scored more than 5 goals in a season. I must say, I don't expect him to come in and score 15-20 goals a season because he doesn't have to. We have Gerrard, Torres and Kuyt to do that.

So what is my final opinion?

I trust Rafa and his judgement. Alonso wanted to go, and Rafa made the best of the situation. We got top dollar for Xabi and brought in a replacement that has the chance to make a big difference. It is just a chance though, there is no guarantee that Aquiliani can come off his ankle surgery and make a difference.