Martin Skrtel: Why it was Time to say Goodbye

Finally, after close to eight years of dedicated service to Liverpool, Martin Skrtel has departed Anfield in a move to Fenerbahce for a fee of approximately £5.5 million. Despite being an everpresent in the Red’s defence since his arrival, I think it would still be somewhat of an understatement to say that Skrtel has received much criticism for his performances, especially during the later years of  his tenure. Whether it was due to his frequent lapses of concentration, a tendency to commit unnessecary fouls and love of shirt pulling, or simply his inept defending, Skrtel has found it hard to escape the wrath of the Anfield faithful. The Slovakian hasn’t always been a figure of disdain though, having provided vital headed goals and produced moments of heroic defending, while his intimidating presence often helped to unnerve opposition attackers, which worked to Liverpool’s advantage. However, Skrtel’s dramatic decline throughout the last four years has been remarkable, having gone from a dependable figure who formed rock-solid partnerships with club legends Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger, to someone who had no trust from the manager and was even displaced from the squad by an ageing Kolo Touré. In spite of our regular defensive crises and although he has been an important player in the past, here is why Jurgen Klopp was right to sell Skrtel, someone who is evidently past his prime.

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Rather surprisingly, if you look at Skrtel purely from a statistical point of view, you’d have thought Liverpool would have made a mistake by selling him on. According to Squawka, during his last two seasons at the club, Skrtel constantly ranked higher than both Lovren and Sakho in multiple factors, namely his clearances, blocks and interceptions, areas of the game where Skrtel seems to excel. Astonishingly, despite the fact that on the surface Skrtel seemed to be one of the most error prone defenders in the Premier League whenever he played, last season he made less errors leading to goal per ninety minutes than both Sakho and Lovren, which perhaps suggests that he was unfairly treated by the fans. Although on paper Skrtel seems to be a reliable and consistent defender who could have still have played a role in the Liverpool team, statistics fail to tell the whole story. What they don’t show you is how Skrtel failed to get close to Odion Ighalo when he scored against us for Watford and how Skrtel was humiliated by him and Troy Deeney when we lost to them in December or more memorably, when he was embarrassed by Anthony Martial after he turned Skrtel inside out and glided past him to score his first goal in a United shirt. Although not technically counted as defensive errors, moments like this show just how easily Skrtel could be bullied by strikers and how he could no longer keep up with the demanding pace that the Premier League possesses. This therefore suggests exactly why it was right for Liverpool to sell him on this summer, especially when taking into account the high pressing style implemented by Jurgen Klopp, which requires incredibly high levels of fitness, something that Skrtel seriously lacks.

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Skrtel tussling with Graziano Pellé against Southampton, where he arguably single-handedly caused Liverpool to self-implode

However if you are looking for something that epitomises exactly why Liverpool fans wanted Skrtel out the door this summer, look no further than the 20th March of this year. With Liverpool coasting against Southanpton, with a two goal advantage at half time, Klopp decided to substitute on Skrtel in an attempt to assure the three points and keep us in the race for Champions League qualification. There should have been no problem with this. Albeit the fact that Skrtel had just returned from a muscular injury, Liverpool were bringing on an experienced and accomplished defender who should have been able to help see the game out for the team. Yet everything that transpired in the second half was essentially a compilation of all the defensive weaknesses and liabilities that Skrtel possesses in his game. Just moments after being on the field, Skrtel brainlessly tangled with Graziano Pellé in the box and gave away a penalty and although Mignolet fortunately saved the effort, Skrtel was then culpable for all three of the goals we conceded. Even though he was admittedly rusty after three months out with an injury, he was the complete opposite of what you’d expect from a once first-choice centre-back and reflected the fact he is longer dependable, as a starter or substitute. With the Liverpool Echo describing Skrtel’s appearance against Southampton as a ‘nightmare return’, was there really any point of keeping Skrtel in the squad? When you consider that displays akin to the Southampton one were a regular occurrence, with Skrtel being instrumental in costing us games against Stoke and Crystal Palace, along with the fact Lovren and Sakho were cemented as first choice and the impending arrival of Joel Matip, I didn’t really any point of Skrtel sticking around.

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Even though Skrtel has become a figure of revile at the club, he’s still provided great moments, including two early goals against Arsenal in our 5-1 thrashing of them back in 2014

Typically, when a player has been at a club for almost a decade, they are viewed as somewhat of a cult hero to fans, even if their form starts to drop near the climax of their career. Similarly to Lucas Leiva though, despite his dedicated service to Liverpool, Skrtel was generally a figure of disdain and ridicule for the supporters. We blamed our defensive fragilities over the years on Skrtel, somewhat understandably as he has been the ever present in our weak defence over the past five years, while many thought he was one of the main culprits for preventing Liverpool from winning a first league title in almost 25 years. Even though Skrtel has evidently deteriorated over the years, the amount of disrespect Skrtel received from the supporters was in my opinion unjust. Not only has Skrtel been an incredibly loyal servant to the club since his arrival but also provided some magical moments for the team as well. Whether it was his goal scoring heroics of the title-chasing season, namely the two early headers during the thrashing of Arsenal or his perfectly executed volley against Man City back in November, Skrtel has given enough to be regarded in a positive light by supporters, rather than the disdain he receives instead.

Martin Skrtel Fenerbahce ile resmi sozlesme imzaladı

In spite of all Skrtel has given to Liverpool over the years though, it was clearly time to move on. Not only was he evidently past his best, with him lacking the intimidation factor that was so prevalent early in his career, he can simply no longer cut it in the competitive Premier League. With Lovren and Sakho now established as a solid centre back partnership, with both looking weaker whenever patterned with Skrtel, the Slovakian had almost no chance of reestablishing himself in the starting team, despite being first-choice only a year ago. For a price of £5.5M, Liverpool have got an excellent deal and along with the departure of Kolo Touré and the arrivals of Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan, we look much stronger in defence than we did this time last year. His status at the club may have waned progressively but Liverpool fans should still be grateful for the dedication Skrtel has shown to the club, with Liverpool definitely holding a great place in his heart.

Thanks Martin and good luck!

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Joe Allen: Why it is imperative Liverpool keep hold of ‘The Welsh Xavi’

If you had told me last year that today I’d be writing an article on why Joe Allen should be kept at Liverpool, I would have laughed, which is testament to just how much Allen has progressed under Klopp’s management. Under Brendan Rodgers it would be fair to say that although the Carmarthen-born ace had moments of class, generally he had little ability to influence the game and was much too often out muscled on the ball, with him sadly also becoming a figure of mockery as soon as Rodgers coined him ‘The Welsh Xavi’ upon his signing. However, under Klopp (and coinciding with him growing a beard and hair somewhat akin to Jesus) Allen looks a completely different player and comparisons to the Barcelona legend may be slightly more apt. Despite the fact that appearances were limited last season, it would still be fair to say that whenever Allen made a cameo for the Reds, he always managed to help the team in some way- either by picking out a perfect pass or by simply offering an assured presence on the pitch. Yet in spite of Allen’s evident improvement, which was also echoed by his outstanding performances for Wales this summer in France, he has been linked with a move away from the club, most notably in an approximately £10M deal to his former club Swansea City. Nevertheless, when taking into account the central-midfielders Liverpool have been linked with, along with those who are already at the club, here is why Joe Allen needs to stay with the Reds and potentially even stake his claim for a starting place in the Premier League.JS89318694

One thing is very important to note: Allen is in no way the same player he was this time last year. Although he put in occasional great performances, with his display against Manchester City at Anfield in the 2014/15 season being a particular highlight, the general way to describe Allen would be ‘tidy’. His play could often be described as safe and comfortable, and while his defensive game may arguably be slightly better than it is today, from an attacking standpoint, he offered little to nothing and rarely did anything to impact and change the game. However, this season, that’s completely changed. According to Squawka, albeit the fact that he played just over half the amount of minutes in 2015/16 than in comparison to the previous season, his improvement in statistics within 90 minutes is remarkable. For example, the development in how Allen can impact a match in terms of passing has enhanced hugely, with him making around 1.3 key passes per 90 minutes in 2015/16 compared to around 0.9 in 2014/15, while his ability to create chances for the team improved noticeably as well. Allen also appears to be more confident and audacious with shooting since Klopp’s arrival, with him having scored two goals and got one assist, rather than one goal and no assists the season before- even more impressive when taking into account how much less Allen played in his more productive season.

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Allen against Dortmund at Anfield where his calming presence helped win the game for the Reds

To be honest, the first time I really acknowledged how good a footballer Joe Allen could be, especially under the guidance of Jurgen Klopp was during the 6-1 thrashing of Southampton back in the League Cup match during December. Although Allen’s display may have been slightly understated and lacked presence, he still showed he has great ability, while he formed a fantastic partnership with Emre Can in the middle of the park and reflected a potential pairing that could work well for the team in the future. The moment in the match though that really managed to catch my attention and demonstrated that Allen does in fact have the talent to change matches was his involvement in the first goal, which showed much more audacity than I had seen before. Rather than choosing the conventional, safe option of a sideways pass, which he did frequently before, Allen instead sent an over-the-top Hollywood-esque pass to Daniel Sturridge that completely caught out the Southampton defence and resulted in the first goal. That point was the one that most encapsulated Allen’s appearance in a game where Empire of the Kop stated he ‘oozed class.’  

However, if you really want a game that epitomises exactly why Joe Allen needs to stay at Liverpool, look no further than April 14th 2016- a day which will surely resonate in the memory of Reds for a long time to come. With Liverpool heading for an inevitable elimination from the Europa League, needing three goals against a sensational Borussia Dortmund side in around half an hour, the former Swansea man was somewhat of an unsung hero in what was undoubtedly the greatest Liverpool comeback since Istanbul eleven years prior. Before Allen entered the field, the team were almost too desperate to make something happen, which resulted in misplaced passes and a series of rash mistakes. Yet almost instantaneously when Allen entered the field, he got the team playing at a steadier, more patient style, with it being no coincidence that the three goals Liverpool needed in order to accomplish the remarkable victory came while Allen was on the pitch, with Neil Jones of The Liverpool Echo quite rightly saying that ‘Liverpool were better when he was there.’ Despite the fact that this suggests Allen is more effective as an impact sub for the team, which is still partially true, I still feel that had Allen started the Dortmund game, his calm nature may have prevented us from conceding two in ten minutes in the first place.

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Allen at the Euro’s this summer in France, where his performances for Wales earned huge acclaim

It’s fair to say that throughout the past six months or so, Allen has gained something of cult hero status at Anfield. By providing moments such as a very late equaliser against Arsenal and converting the last penalty against Stoke to send Liverpool to Wembley, Joe Allen has gone from someone who fans want out the door to someone who fans are clamouring for to be given more of a chance in the team. However, if you thought Allen was loved by the Liverpool faithful, that is nothing compared to the adoration he receives as part of the national team for Wales. Best summarising their love for the Welsh maestro by the banner stating ‘When God created Joe Allen he was just showing off’, Allen has become a key player for the Welsh national team, with his performances in this year’s European Championships in France echoing that. In particular during Wales’ opening game against Slovakia, Allen was instrumental in making sure they didn’t get overawed by the occasion and continued playing their usual game, while he was also focal going forward as well and was one of the main reasons as to why Wales got the furthest in their international tournament history. Yet perhaps most importantly, consider the already world renowned midfielders that were at this year’s Euro’s. The likes of Paul Pogba, Thomas Muller, Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta. But when the official UEFA ‘Team of The Tournament’ was announced following the Euro’s, rather than any of the aforementioned stars, Joe Allen took a place in midfield. Just to reiterate: in a tournament destined to showcase some of the best players on the planet, Joe Allen took a place in the team. Surely it is therefore ludicrous for Liverpool to even consider selling a player who can perform so well on the big stage, especially since he has the ability to replicate his form for the Reds.

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Allen with skipper Jordan Henderson: If Liverpool had to sell one of these two this summer, I’d rather it wasn’t Allen

However the main reason as to why Liverpool need to keep hold of Allen is because of not only the players we’ve been linked with, but also the midfielders we already have. Albeit the fact the deal looks unlikely now, this summer Klopp’s main target in the centre of the park was Udinese’s Piotr Zielinski. Why would Klopp want to bring in Zielinski, a seemingly mediocre player who struggled to get into an average Polish side at the Euro’s, when he already has Allen, who conversely led his side close to immortality in France? Statistically, Zielinski is essentially comparable to Allen, disregarding the fact that he plays in the much less competitive Serie A and even though he may be better in time, at the moment he is in no way a better option than Allen who, at 26, is just starting to come into the prime of his career. Also, taking into account the midfielders already at Liverpool, namely Jordan Henderson, is Allen really a worse option than Henderson? Just to clarify, I really like Jordan Henderson- he’s versatile, can really pick a pass and was focal in the title-chasing season of 2013/14. Despite all that, that doesn’t mean he’s not expendable. Even though he was very unfortunate with injuries last season and I would certainly give him further opportunities under Klopp, it is noteworthy that some of Liverpool’s best performances last season, in particular Villarreal and Dortmund at Anfield and Man City and Chelsea away had no involvement from Henderson, which goes to prove that the team can do perfectly fine without him. Essentially, although I’d love to keep Henderson, if a £25 million offer came in for a him along with a £10 million offer for Allen, I’d choose to sell Hendo automatically, especially taking into account the fact that Allen is much more suited to Klopp’s pressing style of football, which Henderson may struggle with due to his persistent heel problems.

To conclude, Liverpool need to keep hold of Joe Allen. Not only is he perfect for the manager’s ‘gegenpressing’ style of football and can have an impact as a substitute or starter but also he has shown huge improvement last season and his first international tournament for Wales showed that he is a star on the big stage. However, if Klopp insists on selling him, we simply must receive more than the rumoured £10m fee. In spite of the fact Allen only has less than a year left on his contract, when you consider that in today’s market the likes of Matt Ritchie and even Jordon Ibe transfer for fees of £12M and £15M respectively, I don’t think that about £20M for Allen, who just got into the Euro team of the tournament and is coming into the prime of his career, is unreasonable. And anyway, if Allen instead decides to stay at Liverpool and cement himself in our history, it may not be long until rather than being called ‘The Welsh Xavi’, Xavi is called the ‘Spanish Joe Allen’!

 

 

 

 

Alberto Moreno: Should Liverpool persist with the much-maligned left-back?

Ever since the departure of John Arne Riise from Anfield back in 2008, left-back has been somewhat of a problem position for Liverpool. Many players have been brought in to try to become Liverpool’s long-lasting left-back with little degree of success. Fabio Aurelio was a decent prospect but always on the treatment table, Paul Konchesky was a terrible signing who epitomised everything that was wrong with the club during the Hodgson era, while José Enrique was a solid option until he lost his place due to injury and consequently reverted to spending the rest of his Liverpool tenure on social media rather than fighting to regain his place. However, in the summer of 2014, it finally appeared that Liverpool had signed a left-back who could fill the spot for years to come- Alberto Moreno. I remember being really excited when we first signed the then-Sevilla player as he seemed to be everything we were looking for: young, fast, a great attacking threat, effective defensively and many regarded him as one of Sevilla’s standout players in the 2013/14 season. Yet two years later, despite showing flashes of brilliance throughout his two seasons at the club, an accumulation of costly errors has led to many fans questioning whether Moreno is good enough to be Liverpool’s left-back for the foreseeable future or instead a replacement should be brought in. Taking into account everything Moreno has contributed to the club over two years, should we persist with him or is it time to move on and consider other options?

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Generally from an attacking standpoint, Moreno is a highly effective player. He’s always looking to get forward and according to Squawka, Moreno created sixty-one chances last season, more than any other defender in the Premier League, thus showing he certainly possesses qualities that could make a great attacking full-back for the club. Additionally, even though he admittedly rarely scores goals for the club, when he does they’re usually goals to remember. In particular, his goal against Tottenham in one of his first games for the club showed exactly why so many fans clamoured for his signing as he managed to dispossess Andros Townsend in his own half and showed incredible speed to then calmly slot the ball into the bottom corner. Moments like this show that even with the regular mistakes and poor crosses that Moreno makes for the team, he still has enough positive attacking attributes that suggest it would be naïve to sell him- especially when considering he is only 23 and has plenty of time to try to eradicate the defensive fragilities in his game.

However, when looking at Moreno defensively, it would be somewhat of an understatement to say that he is a massive liability. Even though he occasionally shows flashes of defensive class, with a last ditch tackle on our newest signing Sadio Mané back against Southampton last October being a particular highlight, these flashes are far too often outweighed by moments of brainless ineptitude. For example, despite the fact it luckily proved inconsequential in terms of the result, during the 4-5 thriller against Norwich back in January, Moreno was lucky to not give away a penalty following a bad challenge on Steven Naismith, but followed the foul up with another stupid foul, which did result in the penalty being given and a goal conceded. It was completely reckless, showed a lack of a footballing brain and didn’t help endear himself to the naysayers who believe Moreno is much too erratic and empty-headed to be a Liverpool player. Unfortunately for Moreno, it’s not like these mistakes are irregular, with Squawka showing that over his two seasons at the club, he was made six defensive errors that have led to a shot on goal- a number far too large for a player who wants to start for a club the size of Liverpool’s calibre. Also, in spite of the fact that Moreno is capable of making a good tackle, he only managed to win 46% of his duels last season, one of the lowest figures in the team and a number that certainly needs to be improved if Moreno wants to remain a starter for the club.

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Moreno against Sevilla, in a performance that drew heavy criticism from fans

Undoubtedly, the main reason as to why many Liverpool fans want Moreno to be replaced is due to his performance in one game- the Europa League Final. In what was Liverpool’s biggest match of the season, Moreno embodied everything that is wrong with his performances, with a showing so bad that I would even be accustomed to say that if we had a different left-back on that day, we may have actually won the Europa League. He was at fault for Sevilla’s first goal, making no attempt to stop Mariano from picking out Gameiro, while he regularly lost possession and was constantly out of position, with The Guardian quite rightly describing his display as ‘dismal’. Hastily after the game, Liverpool fans everywhere flocked to social media to slate Moreno’s showing, with Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher best echoing every fan’s fury towards Moreno at the time by sending a brief tweet saying: ‘Jurgen, transfer committee, anyone sign a f*****g left back.’ Although perhaps premature at the time, the tweet reflected how every Liverpool fan felt following the game- Alberto Moreno is simply too error-prone and careless to ever become Liverpool’s long-term option.

To be honest, I think it’s clear that Klopp wants to keep Moreno. He appears to strongly value his attacking qualities, in particular, his speed, control and ability to get forward and provide width for the team, with Neil Jones from the Liverpool Echo mentioning that Klopp ‘sees the development potential in him’. Although the club does apparently want a new left-back, by making a young, inexperienced player like Ben Chilwell the primary target rather than an accomplished player, it seems that instead of replacing Moreno, Klopp simply wants to provide competition for him. Despite that, I do worry that due to Chilwell’s lack of first-team football and the fact that he has never actually played a Premier League game for Leicester, whether Moreno would actually feel as if his place is in danger, as Chilwell seems a player for the future as opposed to someone who would challenge to start for the club. Therefore, I feel it is crucial that if Klopp really wants someone to threaten Moreno’s place, he needs to bring in an experienced player who can really bring stability to the back-line, with Jonas Hector of Koln or Ricardo Rodriguez of Wolfsburg being my preferred options.

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To summarise, considering his attacking attributes and large potential, I do feel that currently it would be a mistake to get rid of Alberto Moreno and would keep him at the club, yet not in the way you might think. As he clearly has obvious defensive issues and always looks like making a mistake, Klopp should convert Moreno from a left-back into a left-winger or left-midfielder, where he will have more freedom to attack and thrive by getting forward. This transformation from left-back to winger could be akin to that of Gareth Bale, who started as a left-back for Tottenham but due to his attacking abilities, was turned into a left-winger and is now among the best players in the world. Although I am in no way saying that Moreno is anywhere near as good as Gareth Bale, by giving him a role where his defensive duties are limited and he can focus on getting forward and contributing in an attacking sense, it can surely only be a benefit for the team.

 

Liverpool vs. Arsenal: Line-Ups and Predictions

Early on in the season, the most important thing is admittedly to pick up points. The play doesn’t have to be fantastic nor do the wins have to be convincing, but as long as the team manages to pick up three points, everything else is irrelevant. Considering this, casual fans may find it slightly confusing that supporters of Liverpool are complaining about an 100% record along with two clean sheets in the process but particularly online, fans are less than happy. Despite Man United winning their first two games in a similar fashion (albeit apart their home draw to Newcastle this weekend), their fans were more than satisfied, saying they successfully managed to grind out two wins in a resolute fashion. Conversely, fans of the Merseyside club have stated that wins against Stoke and Bournemouth were extremely lucky and the tactics that Rodgers deployed with long balls to new target man Christian Benteke has made our play increasingly uninspiring and fruitless. While our win at Bournemouth honestly should not have stood due to the goal apparently breaking the new offside rule, it did and now we have to build on that by putting in an effective performance against Arsenal. Although the Emirates Stadium has never been our favourite place to come and we have only managed one win at the ground since 2006, Arsenal have not exactly had flawless form in the league either, which should be effective for giving us confidence heading into the encounter. The Gunners lost to a West Ham side which hasn’t looked entirely convincing early on, while just scraped past Crystal Palace which means that the Reds may possibly have an additional sense of buoyancy heading into the game. So, heading into our first vital match of the season and our first of those seven problematic away fixtures, will we be able to earn a win and further enhance our chances of Champions League qualification?

LINE-UP:

Liverpool ArsenalAs the line-ups against both Stoke and Bournemouth personally showed a lack of creativity, especially from midfield, Rodgers needs to change his style going into the match and add extra attacking flair in the final third. Although Rodgers’ opinion obvously tends to differ to that of the fans’, this is how I would personally line up against Wenger’s side tonight and down below I will do a short summary on what side I expect Rodgers to choose in this crucial fixture:

Goalkeeper:

The goalkeeping situation at the club is obviously clear as though Adam Bogdan is evidently an upgrade on perpetual bench warmer Brad Jones, he is still no competition for Simon Mignolet. At times Mignolet has looked unconvincing and more like the player of pre-December than the confident man who owned his box at the tail end of last season. These are the matches where Mignolet has to assert himself and prove to both Rodgers and the fans that he deserves to start in the position for the next five years.

Defence:

Potentially the most polarising section of our team, that completely splits the fans is the topic of defence. Although I do admit that our defence for the first few games is not our strongest and that a fully fledged French international like Mamadou Sakho deserves to start instead of an error prone Croatian– the most important attribute of the defence at the moment is consistency. For the defence to really remain secure, they need to develop an understanding and connection with each other so they are a much more adhesive unit. If Rodgers keeps on changing the defence, errors are thus more likely to occur- which won’t be beneficial for the confidence of already nervous players like Lovren at all. There is no disputing that Clyne is the perfect choice at right-back and already looks like the ideal replacement for the dwindling and departed Glen Johnson. While left-back is still a debatable position and I do love the pace and trickery that Alberto Moreno provides, Gomez looks much more defensively capable than Moreno at the time being, which is what the team needs at this current moment in time.

Midfield:

Despite the fact that Jordan Henderson would likely be the first name on the team sheet if everyone was fit, the fact that he had to come off at half time against Bournemouth with a niggling foot injury shows he definately shouldn’t start against Arsenal. Even though Rodgers may play him anyway due to it not being entirely severe, if Rodgers has to play Henderson when he still has the chance of aggrevating the injury, that shows evident flaws in our transfer business. We have brought so many players in this summer and previous ones that if we have to rely on a player even when they are not fully fit– we unfortunately need to get more cover in those particular positions and delve back into the transfer market. It is obvious that James Milner will start in central midfield (his preferred position) considering he has done an admirable job there so far this season– with his high work rate and determination being especially conspicuous. As Henderson is unfit and in my opinion definately should not appear, Emre Can seems a viable option to replace him in midfield, as he has off the substitutes bench in both our previous encounters. Can is highly effective in adding more creativity to the role, which is thus successful in allowing Henderson and Milner to get further up field and contribute in an attacking sense also. Furthermore, I would love Lucas to get a run out against Arsenal (or potentially even start) so he can prove to Rodgers why selling him would be a massive mistake, specifically when you consider that he is our only dedicated defensive midfielder.

Attack:

Per the Liverpool Echo, rumours have been floating around that Adam Lallana injured his thigh just prior to the match tonight at the Emirates Stadium and although it sounds harsh, may end up being a blessing for the whole team. Both Lallana and Jordon Ibe were mostly ineffective during the matches against Bournemouth and Stoke, so much to the extent that I think they should be replaced due to the abundance of options we have from the bench. Adam Lallana should drop out for (who might be a surprising option considering my suggested position is not his traditional one) Alberto Moreno on the left side of the attacking trio. Personally, I thought that Moreno was really impressive during the short ten minute cameo he had against Bournemouth and managed to show everyone his ability and pace– which was exemplified by his darting run which earned us a free kick during the end of the match. Although Moreno is obviously susceptible defensively, when he attacks he offers much more than Gomez or Ibe does and should therefore be given a chance in that position. It’s important to note that a certain Gareth Bale also started off as a left-back who transformed into a left-winger and although Bale is admittedly much better than Moreno, a similar conversion is not completely improbable of happening. Coutinho, who is likely the first name on the team sheet nowadays, will definately start as one of the three behind the sole striker, due to his match changing ability and long range strikes. Although I’m not complaining as it reduces the chance of injury, it must have been highly disappointing and inexplicable that Coutinho was left of the Brazilian squad for the upcoming friendlies so manager Dunga can look for a balance of ‘experience, not just youngsters.’, which is just simply bizarre considering Coutinho is one of the best players for the Samba side at this current moment in time. Roberto Firmino, who did in fact make Dunga’s Brazilian squad, should start in place of Jordon Ibe, who has offered absolutely nothing so far and with him being a £29M signing, it is strange that his first two apperances have only been from the bench thus far. Despite the fact that Firmino is rumoured not to be entirely fit, he has had almost a month of training now admist his break from the Copa America, and with other stars such as Alexis Sanchez, Salomon Rondon and Sergio Aguero starting games with the latter even reaching the final, which means Firmino surely must now be ready to start the game.

The sole striker will clearly be Christian Benteke, who has already got his first goal for the club (even though it shouldn’t have stood under the new offside rule) and has looked a solid acquisition for Liverpool thus far. His movement has been good, contrary to opinions before his debut he hasn’t looked lazy and inconsistent and has shown he is more than just a target man. Even though I am admittedly still not 100% convinced he was worth £32.5M, he has the chance to prove the doubters wrong and be the striker we have been sorely missing since Suarez’ departure. Danny Ings and Divock Origi should also feature from the substitutes bench as if they fail to get enough minutes, their growth and experience will be severely hindered in the process and I believe that they are both great prospects for the future.

P150404-025-Arsenal_Liverpool-1200x738PREDICTION:

The match can either go two ways: it’ll be dull and lethargic and mainly played out in midfield or conversely a very open goal with around four goals. I hope for the latter and as a Reds fan, I’m going for a slightly optimistic score line which will suit us more than it will suit the Gunners—so I’m going for a 1-1 draw, a definite improvement from our last visit to the Emirates…

P.S. As part of the build up to the match, I paired with a passionate Arsenal fan from Chicago named Amy, who’s blogs are a must read for football fans in general. Amy managed to get tickets to the game through work and prior to the game I completed an interview with her which is available on her blog. If you want to read it, please click here and you’re in for a fantastic read.

2015/16 Season: Predictions and Line-Ups for the Reds’ Ongoing Season

Apart from that magical night in Istanbul, where Liverpool astonishingly managed to recover from a three goal defecit to win the Champions League against AC Milan on penalties, no memory arguably resonates with recent Liverpool fans as much as the 2013/14 season. The season where, assisted by the world-class abilities of Luis Suarez and the sensational leadership of ‘Captain Fantastic’ Steven Gerrard, Liverpool came so close to their first league title in almost twenty-five years. Despite untimely slips and conceding three goals in nine minutes against a rejuvenated Crystal Palace side, the season provided much optimism for fans and the most expectant supporters of the Merseyside club even thought that we could finish one place higher next season and finally win the Premier League. They couldn’t have been more wrong. Even with the sale of Suarez to Barcelona for a huge £75M, factors such as an influx of substandard signings, no prolific goalscorers with the persistent absence of Daniel Sturridge, constant formations changes and potentially poor management led to one of the most disappointing seasons in recent memory where the Reds were knocked out of the Champions League at the group stages, finished sixth in the league and even failed to win a trophy. In the face of last season almost being epitomized by Liverpool’s humiliating 6-1 defeat to Stoke City on the last day of the season, following the signings of seven new first team players and changes to the backroom staff, the sense of optimism is once again back around Anfield and the fans are hoping for a much more successful season. However, following the departures of Gerrard and of course, Manchester City’s new winger Raheem Sterling, can fans really expect an improved season where we finish in the top four or should we be ready for yet another disappoinment?

Brendan-Rodgers-597202PREMIER LEAGUE:

PREDICTED FINISH: FIFTH

If you had told any football fans twenty-five years ago that Liverpool would not win the league up until 2015, they would have called you crazy. A club the magnitude of Liverpool, that has won five European titles and copious league titles, should constantly be fighting at the top part of the table and averaging at least a trophy biannualy. However, during a period in football where mid-table teams such as Stoke and Crystal Palace can buy top players such as Xherdan Shaqiri and Yohan Cabaye, it is evidently clear that the way for clubs to progress is obviously through money and heavy spending. Average teams such as the Manchester City of five years ago can easily transform into a title winning side following a sale to a wealthy businessman and the tradition of clubs such as the Reds, Arsenal and to some extent Manchester United winning the league are slowly dying out. Still, for a Liverpool fan to say that the club will finish outside of the top four seems inexcusable although being realistic, this seems the most likely option. I hate to be pessimistic yet I cannot plausibly see Liverpool breaking into the top four this season with the competition from Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal and United, even though I am honestly not completely ruling it out. With £80M being spent on quality signings to transform the team (which is the most out of all twenty teams in the league) such as Christian Benteke, Roberto Firmino and Nathaniel Clyne, the club and particularly manager Brendan Rodgers is under immense pressure to break into the top four despite the competition from well-established top four sides who typically finish in them every season.

Personally, the most important objective for the upcming season is to get off to a great start, especially in the face of a difficult away match schedule, where the Reds go to the Emirates, Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge, the Ethiad, Goodison Park and White Hart Lane within the first seven games of the season. If Rodgers’ side can manage to accumulate a healthy amount of points from these tough fixtures and are still in or just outside the Champions League spaces during November, this would hopefully be sufficient for giving the team a real confidence boost and thus causing them to challenge within the top four for the majority of the season. Brendan Rodgers also knows how pivotal it is that his star signings Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke get off a great start as well with the huge transfer fees that were spent on them and to further reduce the pressure on himself, Rodgers will be hoping that the investments prove successful and Benteke scores around 20+ goals and dispels myths about him being purely a target man, while Firmino manages to be a nonstop creative member of the team.

Unfortunately for Rodgers, this is the second season in the row where Liverpool have lost a marquee name and although Raheem Sterling is still no where near the loss that Luis Suarez was for the team, lacking a player of his potential and pace is still a large detriment to the team. Coping with the loss of Sterling, while managing to integrate an inpouring of new signings into the team is certainly an arduous task for Rodgers, but it is one he must rise to if he wants to keep his job, especially with world class replacements in Jurgen Klopp and Carlo Ancelotti possibly being ready to accept the position at any moment. When Rodgers’ was first named Liverpool manager in June 2012, he stated that he would “promise [to] fight for my life and the people in this city,”– this is the perfect opportunity to prove that.

lpool_2156699bFA CUP AND LEAGUE CUP:

PREDICTION: QUARTER FINAL (FA CUP)/ FINAL (LEAGUE CUP)

If there was one thing that Liverpool fans clamoured for during the majority of last season, it was a trophy. For a club of our magnitude and scale, to have not won one since 2012 is unfathomable and being the only manager to have not won a trophy during the first three years of his reign since 1950, Brendan Rodgers knows that he is under extreme pressure to finally deliver on that and win a cup during this season. Albeit the fact that we did manage to get to two cup semi-finals last year and delivered a admirable performance against Chelsea in the League Cup, our performance in the semi-final against Aston Villa at Wembley, where we had the perfect opportunity to get into our first final for three years, was abysmal and uninspired and was a major disappoinment for the fans and caused a vast amount of contempt towards Rodgers, with many calling for him to be axed.

However, this season Rodgers knows that if he is failing in the league, he has to prioritise the cups as in the long run, no one remembers the team that finished fourth in the Premier League yet everyone remembers the team that wins the FA Cup or League Cup that season. The priceless opportunity for fans to have a day out at Wembley and to celebrate a trophy is magical and Rodgers will be hoping that he will deliver on the fans’ wishes during the ongoing season. Realistically, I see Liverpool managing to be knocked out by a bogey-side such as Crystal Palace in the quarter finals of the FA Cup yet managing to reach the final of the League Cup before being knocked out by my pick for the winners Manchester City in an enthralling contest. Even though this would still be unacceptable and another failed chance to win a trophy- it would at least be an improvement on the past few seasons and for Liverpool’s sake, Rodgers has to hope that the so-called magic of the FA Cup is still around in Liverpool’s favour.

_81275379_dejan_lovren1_gettyEUROPA LEAGUE:

PREDICTION: QUARTER FINAL

When most Liverpool fans discovered that we were competing in the Europa League next season, the majority groaned. The competition has a reputation as a ‘Mickey Mouse’ cup that no one takes seriously and many felt that the Reds shouldn’t prioritise it at all and should instead focus all of their attention on having a high finish in the league so the prospect of Champions League football is increased for next season. However, I completely disagree. The Europa League is still a chance for silverware, which Rodgers certainly needs at this point of his Liverpool career, while with the additional incentive that the winner automatically qualifies for next season’s Champions League, Rodgers needs to go all out to make sure that Liverpool manage to win the competition. Even though Brendan must definately not underestimate opponents in the group stage, it is admittedly the perfect opportunity for the Teixeira’s, Rossiter’s, Markovic’s, Ilori’s and Origi’s of the team to get some much needed game time and show their ability and potential to be first teamers in the near future. During the knockout stages of the competition, Rodgers’ should field our first XI although I fear he may not do this and instead chooses a similar XI to the group stages, which will cause us to be knocked out relatively early to a team along the lines of Schalke, Dnipro, Napoli or Sevilla– which would personally be a massive blow.

What is the strongest XI that Liverpool can field this season?:

Following the influx of multiple new signings during the summer transfer window, it has been highly debated among Liverpool fans as to how the club should line up throughout the season. It has also become increasingly clear that the sentiments of the fans do not always echo what the manager thinks so I will first suggest the XI that I think is the strongest that the Reds can field this season, even though it will likely not be chosen:

CaptureGoalkeeper:

The goalkeeping position for the club is obviously clear as although Adam Bogdan is clearly an upgrade on previous number two Brad Jones (who has recently joined League One side Bradford City), he is still no real challenge for Simon Mignolet who will likely not feel threatened by Bogdan’s presence at all. However, Mignolet knows this is still a crucial season for him, as during the year he has to validate that he can be Liverpool’s starting goalkeeper for the next five years as if he underperforms or is constantly shaky, he should be moved on or kept as backup next summer.

Defence:

The defence of the team seems to be the most polarizing part of how the team shall line up, as although almost everyone can agree that Nathaniel Clyne should start in the right-back position due to his evident ability, the positions of centre-back and left-back are increasingly hard to settle on. While it is obvious that Martin Skrtel is the first choice centre-back (traditionally on the right hand side), his partner in defence is a clear competition between Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho. Despite the fact that Rodgers seems to prefer Lovren (likely because he convinced the transfer commitee to spend £20M on him), I personally believe that Mamadou Sakho is currently the best option to partner Skrtel. Even though on occassions, Sakho can be akin to ‘bambi on ice’ and looks increasingly uncomfortable with the ball on the feet, he is still a fantastic header of the ball and according to http://www.squawka.com, averaged a highly impressive 90% passing accuracy throughout the season. Additionally, he only managed to make a total of two defensive errors throughout the course of the season, while Lovren tripled that with six errors– which shows how Rodgers can not always trust Lovren in defence. Mamadou Sakho is also an occassional captain and regular starter for the French national team and considering that he faces competition from top defenders such as Raphael Varane, Laurent Koscielny and Jeremy Mathieu, that is no mean feat and if Sakho can be trusted at the centre of the French defence, I’m sure Rodgers can trust him in a faltering Liverpool one.

The position that divides Liverpool fans seemingly equally though appears to be left-back, with it clearly a two-horse race between Alberto Moreno and recently signed ex-Charlton defender Joe Gomez. Although I do not doubt Gomez’ potential and he was immense throughout pre-season, he is still only 18 years old and to go to playing regular first-team football for Liverpool is undoubtedly much pressure. Considering that Liverpool already have a left-back with great potential and pace in Alberto Moreno, I believe that Moreno should start for Liverpool, while Gomez plays during the Europa League and occassional league game. Despite the fact that Moreno is slightly inept defensively, going forward he manages to show amazing energy (epitomized by his great goal against Tottenham last year) and taking into account that he was tracked by Real Madrid and reportedly Chelsea before signing, while also being included in the preliminary squad for Spain’s World Cup team last summer, shows how great Moreno can turn out to be and how he should be given more of a chance in the Liverpool first-team.

Midfield:

Choosing Emre Can to start in a central-defensive midfield role is a risky option and although some may say he needs to drop down onto the bench to accomodate Sturridge once he returns, I believe conversely that Can is a key member of the team and should start most games for the team. When Henderson and Milner started against Stoke, the team looked devoid of creativity and while there is no disputing that Henderson and Milner should start in the team, Can is also needed so Milner and Henderson can further contribute to the team in an attacking role and get themselves some additional goals for the team, which may be reduced without solid defensive performances from Can.

Attack:

Even though there is no denying that Lallana and Ibe are both solid talents that certainly contribute to the team creativly and in terms of goals and assists, the front trio of Roberto Firmino, Phillipe Coutinho and Christian Benteke are virtually undroppable and unfortunately Lallana and Ibe cannot be accomodated without dropping one of the front three. The front line of the XI certainly looks very formidable and can help the Reds’ challenge for the Champions League spots and fortunately each one of them has to have a fantastic season for Rodgers’ sake and their own. Coutinho has to prove that he can score more goals and assists each season (along with a few more worldies!), Firmino has to prove that he can contribute creatively and constantly like he did for Hoffenheim, while Benteke obviously needs to justify his huge price tag, score at least 15 goals in his debut season and repay the faith that Brendan Rodgers showed in him.

Daniel-Sturridge-LiverpoolOnce Daniel Sturridge has returned and settled into the team once again, he needs to start and Liverpool should transform to a 4-4-2 formation (with Emre Can dropping out) so that Benteke and Sturridge can hopefully produce a partnership akin to ‘SAS’ two seasons ago and give Liverpool fans a reason to cheer again.

To say that Liverpool must deliver this season is an understatement. Every fan of the club is tired of us being complacent and being satisfied with a 6th placed finish and a lack of trophies and this is the season where we have to perform. If Brendan Rodgers really wants to stay at Anfield, this is the season where a cup and/or Champions League finish must be obtained and Rodgers must prove the doubters wrong and show he deserves to stand in the dugout of such a great club. English football needs the Liverpool team of the 1980s  and if Rodgers fails on any of these objectives, there is always a certain maverick German who would be happy to take over as soon as John W. Henry comes calling… hi-res-9e6a7369bd715c5ca3ae23954494225d_crop_north

Raheem Sterling: How much of a loss is the new Man City man?

In footballing terms, the definition of a selling club is essentially one where they generate more transfer revenue than surrounding teams through the selling of star players and no matter the skill of the player or their importance to the team, if the right price comes in, they will be sold under any circumstances. Although fans of such a great club like Liverpool, who could once declare themselves as one of world football’s powerhouses, would hate to admit this, to say that the Reds have recently transformed into a selling club, would in some regards be a fair statement. Over around a period of the past few years, Liverpool fans have almost become accustomed to losing a key player every season and we generally mourn afterwards due to the inevitable period of transition that occurs where the club generally has to cope with an influx of new signings to compensate for the loss of their main player. The names of great players to have left Liverpool over the past few years are endless: fans were devastated over the loss of Xabi Alonso, disappointed over losing Javier Mascherano, downhearted by the loss of Fernando Torres, depressed by the loss of Luis Suarez and most were in downright despair when Liverpool lost Steven Gerrard to LA Galaxy after approximately seventeen years at the club. However, when Liverpool lost their star player this season, to say that reactions were a polar opposite would be a huge understatement. Following the departure of Raheem Sterling to Manchester City for £49M this summer, supporters conversely rejoiced- praising both the swiftness and amount of money in the deal and stating how glad they were to have a renowned trouble-maker away from the club. On the surface you could argue that the move seems bizarre as Liverpool are losing a player with immense potential to a rival club, which could perhaps backfire majorly and prevent the Reds from reaching a Champions League spot in the upcoming season. Yet, despite the great amount of potential that Sterling admittedly has, Liverpool almost had no other alternative than to sell due to the refusal of the player to remain at Liverpool and his desire to move in order to (apparently) “win trophies”- something which he believes Liverpool is unable to deliver on. However, considering the fact that Sterling may one day turn into one of the world’s best players and we are selling him to a direct rival, were we wrong to let go of Sterling and essentially how much of a loss is he to our team for the new season?

a.espncdn.comEven though Sterling is admittedly not the greatest loss for the team, it would still be highly unfair to say that he will not be at all missed. This is particularly true when considering that statistically, last season Sterling constantly ranked within the top two Anfield players in terms of goals, assists, successful dribbles as well as the total chances he managed to create for the Merseyside outfit. According to squawka.com, Sterling managed an 81% average pass accuracy while also creating an admirable 75 total chances- which was generally just behind Liverpool’s crucial attacking midfielder Phillipe Coutinho. A somewhat preposterous comparison by The Daily Mail  was written before Liverpool’s Champions League clash with Real Madrid in October, where they stated that the ‘raw numbers have Sterling slightly ahead of Ronaldo at this juvenile juncture’. Considering that Ronaldo, albeit perhaps Lionel Messi, is the pinnacle of world football, the figures definately reflect the potential that Sterling has to be one of the best footballers in the world and arguably how foolish it was for Liverpool to sell him to a direct rival.

Sterling11However, despite the vast amount of potential and ability that Sterling may have, the one rule that all Liverpool fans can agree on is that no one man is bigger than the club- which is especially true in the case of Raheem Sterling. Since November, where Sterling decided to turn down a £70,000 offer from the club, controversy has gradually grown surrounding his contract and personal life, which was no doubt furthered by his rapacious and self-obsessed agent Aidy Ward. Since turning down the initial contract offer, Ward has influenced Sterling to constantly turn down further contract offers (including an £100,000 offer from the club), while also stating that he would “not sign[ing] for £700, £800, £900 thousand a week” and calling famed Liverpool icon Jamie Carragher a ‘kn*b’- actions which failed to endear Ward to the Liverpool faithful. Although fans initially sympathised with Sterling and believed he was being misled by his agent, his following actions were more reprehensible. Sterling decided to carry out an interview with the BBC where he stated that he was not a ‘money-grabbing 20 year old’ and instead had a desire to be incredibly successful and to win multiple trophies throughout his career. Even though at the time he stated that he was ‘flattered’ by Liverpool’s contract offer, his following actions did not suggest this at all. Sterling, who has been nicknamed ‘The Mercenary’ by resentful fans, and following his decision to quit Liverpool, eventually reached a point of no return- in order to force a move to either Chelsea or Manchester City, Sterling decided to refuse to go on Liverpool’s pre-season tour of Asia and the Far East despite being named on the tour sheet, while also phoning in sick two days in a row in order to escape training at Melwood. It became increasingly obvious that despite what Raheem was saying, he was predominately driven by money and although trophies may be appealing, Man City obviously has the money that Liverpool are unable to offer him, and for Sterling, a huge bank account apparently seems more attractive than his footballing development.

raheem-sterling-009Despite transfer fees becoming more and more inflated over the past few years (£8M for James Chester and £9M for Connor Wickham- seriously?), you cannot deny that £49M is still a huge sum of money. When you’re paying £49M for a player, you expect them to be able to transform a match instantly (like Zinedine Zidane who amazingly went for the same price in 2001) and as an attacking-minded player, be able to score at least 20+ goals a season, especially considering that Sterling was occassionally used as a striker during the mid-part of last season and was also used so during pre-season for Manchester City. At the moment, Sterling is unable to change matches and City are only paying for his potential, and despite this being huge, Sterling is not yet the finished article and nowhere near worth £49M. As ex-Anfield captatin Phil Thompson said, ‘he’s certainly a good player, but he’s not a great player’- which at the price Man City paid is not really acceptable and Liverpool are currently getting the better end of the deal. You can see why Sterling is an attractive option for City: he’s versatile, has extremely good pace and ability for his age, while most importantly Sterling manages to fulfill more of Man City’s homegrown quota, which is need in order to fit within Financial Fair Play regulations and in terms of English players, Sterling is really the ideal option out there.

To conclude, although Sterling undoubtedly does have a great deal of ability and potential, at the moment he is nowhere near the finished article and when you are paying a player £200,000 a week, a salary only deserving of the world’s top players, they must have an ability to greatly improve a team- which I’m not sure Sterling is currently capable of. While Man City do benefit from the acquisition of Sterling, Liverpool are already greatly equipped with wide attacking players and almost have a ready-made (and possibly even better) replacement in young Jordon Ibe, who will hopefully be given an even greater chance in the first team following Raheem Sterling’s departure. Most importantly, when Liverpool endured the period of ‘transition’ last season because of the departure of Luis Suarez- that was somewhat understandable. Suarez was arguably the man who caused Liverpool to become so close to winning their first league title in almost twenty-five years and is now possibly within the top three players in the world and has gone onto score a winning goal for Barcelona in a Champions League final. Compared to Sterling, who’s career highlight is feasibly hitting the side-netting in a World Cup group stage match, I don’t think he is that much of a loss and the period of transition is hopefully over and the upcoming season will be more successful.

131215-219-Tottenham_Liverpool-958x840
Sterling is no Luis Suarez and Liverpool will hopefully cope well without him, despite his evident potential and ability

Javier Manquillo: Gone Too Soon?

To say that some of Rodgers’ last year’s summer signings were scrutinized would, in some cases, be a huge understatement. Dejan Lovren was criticised for being erratic, error-prone and inconsistent, Adam Lallana for proneness to injury and failing to justify his huge price tag and Mario Balotelli for failing to score enough goals and for, well, being Mario Balotelli. However, one signing that went slightly under the radar was the capture of Spanish right-back Javier Manquillo from Atletico Madrid on an initial two year loan deal. Presumably signed in order to become the understudy to recently released right-back Glen Johnson, on the surface the deal for Manquillo appeared to be solid business- Liverpool were gaining an adequate full-back, Manquillo could gain much needed game time and experience, while fans were also left salivating over a possible defensive partnership between himself and fellow Spanish U21 international Alberto Moreno, who Rodgers also signed that summer. Despite his evident potential and ability, it was announced officialy by SkySports on Wednesday that Liverpool and Atletico had decided to ‘mutually end Manquillo’s loan spell a year early.’ The news admittedly was both surprising and somewhat disaspointing for me, especially in light of Brendan Rodgers’ recent comments where he insisted Javier had a future at the club and ‘is a good defender who [will] come back in pre-season and can work well and work his way into the team.’ Considering that Manquillo has not played for the Reds since a Europa League defeat against Beşiktaş, should he therefore have been given more opportunities in the first team to gain invaluable minutes and experience and most importantly, is it a mistake to send Manquillo back to Atletico instead of letting him stay and complete the original arragements of the deal?

1407838313653_wps_10_epa04348193_Liverpool_s_JYou can’t help but feel sorry for Manquillo. The full-back had little game time at Atletico Madrid and likely thought that a loan move to Anfield would be ideal for him so that he could gain both game time as well as experience in a top European league, at a club where regular minutes would also become more likely. Manquillo’s vast potential was evident from the offset- he performed admirably for Liverpool during a pre-season friendly against Borussia Dortmund, with live4liverpool.com describing him as “a revelation at right-back, solid in defence and confident and technically able going forward.” Manquillo followed this up with capable performances against Southampton, Ludogorets Razgard and Hull and it appeared that Liverpool had finally got their hands on a fine full-back, who could fill the right back berth for a number of years and a defender who could effectively replace Glen Johnson when he decided to leave the club. Despite Manquillo’s solid start to the Premier League season, somewhat inexplicably, the move soon turned sour. The amount of playing time that Manquillo had would dramatically reduce, as he only made three apperances in 2015, with none of these being in the Premier League, with this drastic lack of playing time probably becoming highly influential in making Manquillo lose confidence while hindering his experience- which could become costly to his development. It’s difficult to explain why Manquillo became so frozen out of the team but constant formation changes and the period where Rodgers decided to play three in the back could be key, while also Rodgers’ preference to play a more attacking player such as Raheem Sterling or Jordon Ibe at a right-wing back role could additionally be the explanation to Manquillo’s disappearance. Taking into account that Manquillo was hardly playing badly and was likely a better option at the time to the diminishing Glen Johnson, was it fair and good man-management by Brendan Rodgers to completely drop Manquillo from the team and potentially prevent further development?

Liverpool+v+Middlesbrough+tNuuHttQymElIf you look at Manquillo’s statistics from the latest season, while they are in no means spectacular, they are definately solid and help to further the question as to why Rodgers would drop one of his more consistent defensive players and replace him with the more erratic Glen Johnson. According to Squawka.com, Javier Manquillo managed a passing accuracy of 83%, won 54% of his duels, while also completing six defensive actions and managing to create one scoring opporunity. While these statistics may not jump out as outstanding, Manquillo’s most telling statistic is that he managed to not make one defensive error throughout the whole season. While he admittedly did play less often than them, compared to the likes of Dejan Lovren, Martin Skrtel and Alberto Moreno, who made ten, five and four defensive errors respectively, surely Rodgers should have given Manquillo more of a chance to help the already error-prone and volatile defence, who managed to ship fourty eight goals in the 2014/15 season and fifty in the previous season, which makes it clear that defence is a glaring issue for the Merseyside outfit to sort out. However, in my opinion, the most incomprehensible situation about Manquillo was during the final few games of the season, where Liverpool reverted back to the traditional back four- where Manquillo would likely be given a last chance to show Rodgers why he made a mistake in dropping him from the team. Yet, despite having a proven right-back in the team, Rodgers mystifylingly chose to use midfielder turned defender Emre Can in the position- a position Emre evidently found uncomfortable, which was particularly clear during the final day against Stoke City, where Liverpool shipped six goals and Can had to be substituted due to the extent of his terrible performance. Playing Can at right-back was probably effective in damaging both the confidence of Can and Manquillo, as while Can must have been nervous and uncomfortable, Manquillo must surely have been disheartened by the fact that he as an accomplished right-back failed to get into the team when one was necessary and instead Rodgers’ reverted to a central midfielder to play there- which I feel is truly astonishing.

1407328791154_Image_galleryImage_LIVERPOOL_ENGLAND_AUGUST_Essentially, although Manquillo’s potential and ability is obviously apparent, and I for one would love to have kept him in the team, for his own development and future, it is probably best that he departed the club and returned back to the Vicente Calderón. With the release of Glen Johnson and the subsequent arrival of Nathaniel Clyne, I believe that Manquillo would have been a great choice as a backup to Clyne, as he would have had a full season of Premier League experience and would likely prove to be a much better option than the average Andre Wisdom or the always injured Jon Flanagan. Despite his immense potential and ability, Brendan Rodgers just does not appear to rate Manquillo and prior to the move last summer, SkySports stated that Manquillo was rated at £10m and is already an accomplished Spanish U20/21 international and at his age it is key that he is playing regularly and does not stagnate on the bench- which would likely have happened if he had decided to remain at Liverpool. Unfortunately for Manquillo, he was likely a victim of a system change and I wish him the best of luck when he returns to Madrid, where he can hopefully gain a loan or permanent deal to a Spanish club where he can gain multiple minutes and exposure, which is critical for his development.

However, the person who Manquillo’s departure will hit the most will likely be his former Spanish teammate (who remains at Liverpool), Jose Enrique, as with apperances in the team becoming so infrequent for Enrique, he reverted to becoming known for his table tennis battles at Melwood with Manquillo. Now with Manquillo gone, Enrique will likely be without an opponent and (probably) soon without a club. I wish Enrique luck in finding a new opponent at table tennis and while Manquillo’s departure will probably hit him hard, he must gain regular game time and live up to his potential- which unfortuantely is wasted playing ping-pong.

SIDENOTE: Sorry, for the inconvenience, but I am about to go on holiday for two weeks where it will be impossible for me to update the blog so this will be the last post for a while. When I return, there will likely be posts on Sterling’s inpending departure to Manchester City, the vice-captaincy vacancy as well as transfer targets and preparations for the upcoming season. I hope you continue to read the blog and spread it while I am away as I’d love it to still have a solid following and not have stagnated when I get back- keep reading and I look forward to writing the next article. Thanks and YNWA- Laurie

Nathaniel Clyne- Liverpool’s Ideal Right Back?

Approximately a month after their initial £10m bid, it was announced on Wednesday that Liverpool had successfully completed the signing of Southampton’s 24-year-old right back Nathaniel Clyne- who is their sixth signing of the summer. Clyne, who was signed as a replacement for the released Glen Johnson, has been praised by Liverpool fan’s as the man who can fill the right back position for years and a defender who gives a great sense of stability to the team. Liverpool legend Alan Kennedy also believes that Clyne is the ‘perfect choice [because] he’s fast, tenacious, likes to tackle and can get forward.’- qualities that Liverpool definately need to inject within their team. However, concerning Liverpool’s failed history of signing Southampton stars, will Clyne turn out to be a successful signing for the Reds or will he be another failed South Coast star?

Over the past couple of seasons, the right-back position of the Merseyside side has been particularly uncertain- Glen Johnson has constantly underperformed, Jon Flanagan has suffered a debilitating long-term injury and the loan signing of Javier Manquillo has proved an unworthy investment. Rodgers even tried to convert central-midfielder Emre Can into a temporary right back for the final few games of the season yet since had horrendous results and likely damaged Can’s confidence- especially when the defence leaked goals during the 6-1 humilation against Stoke on the final day. Fans demanded that the right-back spot was filled and wanted someone who was willing to become involved in a match and could also contribute to the side in an attacking sense. The statistics of Clyne are generally very impressive: in particular his 79% passing accuracy last season, winning 64% of tackles as well as winning the majority of his aerial duels.CI0vufNWgAE0jge Like Johnson used to during the early years of his careers, Clyne is also capable of scoring goals, including some highly impressive finishes against Arsenal and ironically at Anfield- with Clyne citing this match and atmosphere as one of the prime reasons he chose to join the club. Additionally, Clyne has approximately seven years of Premier League experience and has developed impressively during spells at both Crystal Palace and of course Southampton, where he has developed a reputation as one of the best full backs in the league- something Liverpool certainly need to add stability to the team.

Furthermore, one of the most pleasing aspects of the deal is the great value it provides, as at only £12.5M, Clyne is arguably a bargain for Liverpool. For the stability Clyne brings to the role, £12.5M is a great investment and is thankfully a contrast to the inflated amounts Liverpool have paid for players in the past- notably just last season where Liverpool decided to unfortunately splash £20M on Dejan Lovren and £25M on Adam Lallana, who have both so far been flops for the club.

The signing of Clyne may be influential to Rodgers changing ideals and tatics next season, which is looking increasingly likely due to the inevitable signing of Christian Benteke from Aston Villa. Benteke mainly relies on crosses to score headed goals, which is something Clyne excels at. Clyne constantly delivers crosses from the right flank, which should hopefully lead to a number of goals and a potential partnership between the pair, even though Rodgers is not known to rely on target men within his side. Although Rodgers infamously dumped Andy Carroll as he did not want to build a side based on headers and physicality, Benteke is quicker and slightly more technical than Carroll, so Rodgers may be optimistic- especially if Clyne manages to effectively cross into the box so Benteke can latch onto headers.

However, considering that Clyne has been signed from Southampton, which is essentially the feeder club of Liverpool nowadays, fans have warned Liverpool to approach the deal with caution due to the failed signings that Liverpool have made from Southampton before. Last season, Liverpool signed three Southampton players during their summer exodus, which has become a running joke among online fans (with former Southampton player Francis Benali joining in on the joke on Twitter): Dejan Lovren, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert. While Lallana performed adequately, Lovren and Lambert completely failed to justify their signings so should Liverpool have steered clear from Southampton players to avoid both the potential failings and online ridicule (for both the club and Clyne)? Additionally, according to both the Guardian and the Express and despite being ‘delighted’ about signing for Liverpool, Clyne amazingly would rather have signed for arch rivals Manchester United and Liverpool were only his second choice club. However, when United decided to turn their attention to Everton right-back Seamus Coleman, Clyne decided to sign for the Reds but this poses the question regarding as if we should be signing a playing who isn’t potentially completely motivated to join our great club?

clyne_2159679aTo answer the question that was posed in the title, I thoroughly believe that Clyne is a great signing for Liverpool and is the ideal right back that the club could possibly have signed. Clyne is a great upgrade on Johnson and has the potential to be a part of Liverpool’s defence for years and form a great partnership with our equally promising left-back Alberto Moreno. I believe that Clyne was the best option that Liverpool could have opted for, considering that there was a lack of other options- with the only viable ones being Kieran Trippier (who has now joined Tottenham) or Martin Montoya (who has just joined Inter for a season loan) but would they arguably be better than Clyne or even an upgrade on Javier Manquillo? Liverpool’s right back position is now completely solved, with Andre Wisdom, Jon Flanagan and Javier Manquillo all providing competition for Clyne, in which should now hopefully be a much more solid defence for the upcoming season. Perhaps most importantly, Clyne is both young and already a capped English international- qualities that Rodgers finds ideal in a player, with Clyne of course being an added bonus as he is an ex-Southampton player, which for ‘Liverhampton’ (the name some fans coined for the club last season) is the most appeasing attribute of all!

Roberto Firmino- Shrewd Signing or Overpriced Gamble?

After weeks of speculation, it was finally announced by SkySports last Wednesday that Liverpool had completed the signing of Roberto Firmino, for an initial £21.3M, although this fee could easily rise to £29M depending on Firmino’s success at Anfield. The former Hoffenheim attacking midfielder, who can also be deployed as a striker, has certainly caused much buzz on Merseyside, with many praising Ian Ayre’s ability to get the deal done so easily as well as drooling at the prospect of Firmino and Coutinho in midfield. However, some have arguably not been as enthralled by the deal, with this criticism predominantly stemming from the inflated transfer fee and the worry that Rodgers’ may cause unnecessary pressure on Firmino’s shoulders (which is linked with the high fee). So, is Firmino the signing that the Reds need to propel themselves into the Champions League or is it an unneeded risk?

If you look at the statistics of the Brazilian forward over the last three seasons in the Bundesliga, which is one of the toughest leagues in Europe, Firmino is constantly within the top five of terms of goals and assists- which is particularly impressive considering that the majority of these were from a midfield position. The versatility of Firmino is also something worth noting, considering he can play effectively all over a front line, which is evident through the fact that he averaged 4.3 dribbles, 2.1 key passes and 2.9 shots on goal per 90 minutes in the league, with these statistics obviously proving very appealing to Brendan Rodgers. Barring the fact that he is hardly ever match fit, Firmino also seems the perfect forward to complement our star striker Daniel Sturridge. Sturridge’s main qualities are his tireless workrate and dedication, which is coupled with lightning pace and ball presence, which was particularly noticeable during his outstanding partnership with Luis Suarez during the 2013/14 season. However, Sturridge is also regarded as the perfect goal poacher and this generally requires the need of a strike partner whom he can form an almost telepathic partnership with (like he did with Suarez) and Firmino seems the exact person to be Sturridge’s partner with his great work ethic and creative ability. Although no one expects Firmino to reach the heights of, or replicate the amazing ‘SAS’ partnership during the season where Liverpool came so close to the Premier League title, the invaluable work ethic and dedication of Firmino will hopefully allow him to become the partner that Sturridge needs to thrive again in the BPL.

Journalists and former team mates of Firmino have also been gushing with praise, with Marcus Christenson of the Guardian describing Firmino as a ‘thiever of balls who never stops running’, while Watford (and former Hoffenheim goalkeeper) Heurelho Gomes stating that Firmino is a ‘quality player [who] can hold the ball well, he can pass the ball very well.’ The statistics of Firmino certainly back up these opinions well and Firmino on the surface appears to be an incredibly intelligent signing for the Merseyside club.

The price tag of Roberto Firmino has conversely been regarded as extortionate by Liverpool fans and at £29M, many have said that this is too big of a gamble and that FSG should instead be spending their transfer budget on proven Premier League players, or big names who can fire Liverpool to the top four and potentially even the Premier League title. Fans of the club have argued that Firmino is not the finished article and lacks Champions League experience yet during the modern game, it is not rare for clubs to pay over the odds for players of great potential- which of course Firmino has plenty of. Consequently, for Firmino the fact that he ranks as the second highest transfer fee paid by the football club (behind only Andy Carroll who Liverpool infamously paid £35M for back in 2011) puts a great deal of pressure on his shoulders, and considering that he is only 23 years old, will it really be best for Firmino’s development to have so much pressure from expectant fans? The ‘brutal’ price tag has also made former Liverpool defender Markus Babbel flinch due to the burden it puts on Firmino’s shoulders, with everyone constantly analysing him, with the obvious possibility for criticism when he doesn’t perform to potential. This has already been proved following Firmino’s performance during the Copa America quarter final match against Peru last week, where many fans were already criticising the player for his ‘ineffective’ and ‘uninspiring’ performance, where he was subsequently substituted by Dunga in the 69th minute. This therefore begs the question as it is is unfair on Firmino and his development to place so much pressure on him at such an early age.

Although I am not expecting Firmino to be the saviour of the Liverpool squad or be able to carry the whole team, for the time being I belive that Firmino is a shrewd and intelligent signing by FSG, who can finally get fans excited again and encourage them to forget the disastrous season of 2014/15. With what could potentially be Rodgers’ best signing since Coutinho, I am very much anticipating viewing the development and performances of Firmino during the upcoming season yet am admittedly worried about the scrutiny he could face when performances dip for the whole team. Arguably, most importantly though, Firmino’s success mostly depends on Brendan Rodgers. Although, he is well known to be a great man-manager and has been influential in the development of now key players such as Raheem Sterling and Jordan Ibe, he may have also conversely hindered the development of players such as Lazar Markovic, who was signed from Benfica in a £20M deal last summer. It is very possible that Rodgers managed to crush the confidence of Markovic by playing him out of position and changing the formation and shape of the team, which often led to Markovic being dropped from match day squads completely. Therefore, it is crucial for Firmino’s development and future that Rodgers plays him in his preffered position as a central attacking midfielder and does not rely on him to be the answer to our striking problems and the man who will single-handly fire us into the Champions League. It is crucial for Firmino that he is initially played as a creative midfielder and for the love of God, please Brendan, do not use him as a right wing-back!

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Introduction

Hi! My name is Laurie and I am a 15 year old passionate Liverpool fan who has followed the Reds for a couple of years and tries to watch as many matches as  I can. Using sources such as the Liverpool Echo, Squawka, Empire of the Kop as well as predominantly my own knowledge, I will attempt to post daily updates regarding LFC (although this may not always be possible as I am in the midst of studying for my GCSEs)- whether this be in the form of match reports, transfer rumours or simply opinionated articles. My posts will obviously be a mixture of both opinion and fact and although any posts in the blogs are of course my opinion, I am welcome to any from any LFC fans, which can be left in the comments below. I hope to have a great time writing this blog and if you happen to enjoy it, please share it with other Liverpool or football fans who you think would be interested in reading it as I’d love to start a blog that Liverpool fans find engaging and one that does our great club justice.

Thanks and YNWA,

Laurie