Sunday, 31 January 2010

Reds Show What They Can Do

Liverpool grabbed an important victory at home to Bolton Wanderers yesterday, and stretched their unbeaten Premier League run to 6 matches. A first half goal from Dutch winger Dirk Kuyt, his third in 3 matches, was followed by a Kevin Davies own goal in the second period to confirm the victory.

Liverpool signalled their attacking intent as Aquilani came in for Lucas Leiva and David Ngog returned up front. However, it was the away side who had the better chances during a nervy first half. There was a clear sense of tension engulfing Anfield, and this was transmitted onto the pitch as Rafa's Reds struggled to create any clear cut chances for the majority of the first half.

Bolton ripped through the Liverpool defence on two occasions as they displayed an attacking style of play that was absent under the managerial reign of Gary Megson. First, Tamir Cohen, son of ex Red Avi Cohen, ran with the ball into the penalty area and the Israeli had a glorious chance to shock Anfield by giving Bolton an early lead, however the irrepresible Pepe Reina smothered the ball after Cohen had skipped past Jamie Carragher.

This missed opportunity didn't discourage the away side as they counter attacked well. Liverpool were dominating possession without penetrating the Trotter's backline. From another attack, Bolton broke away once again, this time Chung-Yong Lee raced through into the penalty area from the half way line, leaving several Liverpool player's in his wake. Reina forced him wide of goal as he arrived in the box but Lee still managed to get a shot off and would have scored if Kyrgiakos hadn't cleared off the line.

The Greek continued his good form in this game, and helped Liverpool to keep a clean sheet once again. Liverpool have now only conceded 1 goal in their last 6 Premier League matches. Over recent weeks Kyrgiakos has shown that he is a more than able central defender, and can definitely do a good job when required. There is no doubt that he wasn't Rafa's first choice signing however he has been good value for money, and could prove to be a more than adequate replacement for the Legend that was Sami Hyypia.

Liverpol took the lead shortly before half time through Dirk Kuyt. Riera sprayed a pass out to Insua on the left wing. The Argentine picked out Aquilani in the box who provided another assist for Kuyt as he headed the ball back across the box to the feet of the Dutchman. Kuyt scrambled the ball home from 6 yards to give Liverpool the vital first goal, and relieved a little of the tension that was looming over Anfield.

Liverpool came out for the second half looking to score a critical second goal to put the game to bed, however it was Bolton who pressurised Liverpool's defence in the opening moments of the half, with Liverpool's backline having to deal with several long throw ins and set pieces.

Liverpool had plenty of space to exploit as Bolton pushed forward in search of an equaliser, and they almost took advanatge through young striker David Ngog. Riera ran with the ball down the left and crossed for Stevie, who's first time effort rebounded out to the Frenchman. Everyone in Anfield expected to see the net bulge to confirm Liverpool's victory but this wasn't the case as Ngog's shot bounced onto the bar from 6 yards out.

It was a horrible miss but Ngog made up for his error on 70 minutes as he provided the pass to Insua who's effort from the edge of the box took a massive deflection off Bolton striker Kevin Davies to wrong foot Jaaskelainen.

The second goal relived everyone inside Anfield, of a red allegiance, and led to the Reds playing some excellent, high quality attacking football to reward the patient supporters who packed out Anfield once again. Maxi and Babel came onto the pitch as substitutes to add some extra attacking flair to the Liverpool line up.

Gerrard was inspirational throughout, and displayed his quality in attack as the game came to a conclusion. His cultured free kick was headed just over the bar by Lucas when Kuyt was better positioned to find the back of the net.

After this, Gerrard entertained the home crowd by turning a Bolton defender inside and out at least 5 times, to rapturous applause. The ball was then transferred to Insua via Lucas. The young left back, who showed his worth to the side with another terrific performance, whipped in a dangerous cross to the back post where Maxi Rodriguez just failed to connect with the ball as he slid into the 6 yard box. It would have been a perfect ending to the game, but it wasn't to be.

Liverpool must now look to sustain the level of performance they showed in the second half of this game, against Everton, Arsenal and Manchester City in 3 massive games that could rescue the Reds disappointing season. If we show this attacking flair and quality in the upcoming games then i am sure that the results will follow.


Friday, 29 January 2010

Reds Facing Crucial Period

The next month will determine whether Liverpool have rescued their season or fallen short once again as Liverpool face several crucial Premier League games in the battle for a place in the top 4, and also a difficult two legged Europa League tie against Romanian side Unirea, which is Liverpool's last chance of sliverware this season.

Liverpool have managed to spark a run of form over recent games, in an attempt to make something out of what has been an instantly forgettable season. Wins over Wolves, Villa and Spurs have propelled the Reds back towards the top end of the table, with draws away at Stoke and Wolves showing that the Reds have finally devloped a defensive backbone, even with Glen Johnson, Daniel Agger and Fabio Aurelio all on the treatment table.

However, Liverpool now face matches against Everton, Arsenal and Manchester City following their home game against Bolton on the weekend. Sandwiched in between these vital season defining Premier League games is a critical Europa League tie against Unirea.

Liverpool are expected to claim maximum points against Bolton, and, if they get an early goal, should do with consummate ease, even without Spanish striker Fernando Torres. Following Saturday's home game against Owen Coyle's side the Reds welcome Everton to Anfield for the Merseyside derby.

Everton, like Liverpool, have had a disappointing season and have struggled desperately with injuries. However, recently they have regained some form and have provided the Goodison faithful with something to cheer, as they've beaten both Manchester City and Steve Bruce's Sunderland team. Furthermore, the Bluenoses managed to earn an impressive point in the snow at the Emirates Stadium, and were only a few minutes away from claiming a massive 3 points.

Everton will be a difficult match for Rafa's Reds but if Liverpool play at the level that they know they can, then the Reds should collect all 3 points from the Derby. It will be a fiesty and fiery occasion (as all Derby's tend to be) but Liverpool have shown the determination and desire in recent performances to show that they will not shy away from a tough, physical fight. Also, with several key players likely to still be out, or not at full fitness, a physical battle could play right into the Red's hands, and may be the best way to win what will be a heated contest.

On the 10th February Liverpool travel to London to face Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. The Londoners have embarked on an impressive unbeaten streak in the League following their embarrasing 0-3 reversal at home to Chelsea on the 29th November. At that point many pundits and punters, including myself, ruled Arsenal out of the title race however they have proven their title credentials with a 10 match unbeaten run, including 7 wins and 3 draws.

Amongst those victories is a 2-1 win at Anfield on the 13th December, in a match which truly proved that football is a game of two halves. Liverpool dominated the first half, defying their form this season, to go into the break with a one goal lead. It should have been 3 or 4. Arsenal came back out for the second half a changed side. They pressed and harried the Reds into mistakes, causing Glen Johnson to score an own goal. From that point on Liverpool capitulated and failed to make a single chance. Arshavin scored at Anfield for the 5th time in 2 seasons to break Red hearts, and leave Liverpool's season in tatters.

The Gunners will pose a stern test for Liverpool and will be confident of claiming victory over a Liverpool side that has been woeful at times this season. Liverpool must go to London with a positive mentailty, however they must be defensively stable otherwise they could be ripped apart by the attacking quality of Fabregas, Arshavin and Rosiscky.

The Europa League (which used to be known as the UEFA Cup) has never been a popular trophy. Like the Carling Cup it is shunned and mocked but this season it is vitally important for the Redmen. The newly formed Europa League is Liverpool's only hope of silverware so takes on an importance of its own. Also, the winner is given a place in next season's Champions League. If Liverpool fail to finish 4th then this competition could be their only route into the elite European tournament.

Unirea Urziceni, similarly to Liverpool, dropped down into the Europa League after finishing 3rd in Champions League Group G. However, they did achieve some notable results in the group stages, thrashing Rangers 4-1 at Ibrox and defeating table topping Sevilla 1-0 in Romania. In fact, they survived longer in the competition than the Reds as they went into matchday 6 with a chance of qualifying for the last 16, however they disappointingly lost 3-1 at Stuttgart.

Liverpool will aim to get the job done at Anfield in the first leg of this tricky tie. With a difficult fixture at Eastlands squeazed in between, Rafa will hope to raise an unassailable lead at Anfield and then give some squad players and youngsters a run out in Romania, leaving the first teamers to rest at home.

Perhaps the most important fixture in February is the away match at Roberto Mancini's Manchester City, as they are one of the Reds main rivals for 4th spot. City have experienced a revival following the ugly saga when Mark Hughes was replaced by Italian boss Mancini, with a run of wins ensuing. However, they showed their fragility when they succembed to a ramapant Everton just after the New Year, losing 2-0.

Moreover, they are likely to suffer, pyschologically at least, after being dumped out of the Carling Cup by bitter rivals Manchester United, as the Red Devils triumphed 4-3 on aggregate. The Carling Cup was the Blue Mancs main chance of winning a trophy this season, and they will be devestated at missing out on a trip to Wembley. Liverpool should have more players back from injury by the time the Reds visit Eastlands, and it would prove to be a huge win if they could grab 3 points from City.

Liverpool are facing a season defining month and must be playing well or this could turn out to be an unimaginably horrible season. On the other hand, if we can claim a few wins on the trot then it could turn our season around.

Here's hoping...


Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Back to Mediocrity

Like a pig returning to the muck after a wash, Liverpool returned back to the mire of mediocrity last night after a miserable display from the Reds finished in a disappointing goal less draw away to relegation threatened Wolves. To make things worse, Tottenham Hotspur comfortably eased to a 2-0 victory over Fulham at White Hart Lane to move 4 points clear of the Reds and Manchester City, who are in 5th and 6th position respectively.

The Reds started quickly, and battered the home side for the first couple of minutes but from then onwards Liverpool were poor and lacked creativity, even with Maxi starting for the first time and Steven Gerrard back after a hamstring injury had forced him to miss the games against Stoke and Spurs.

Liverpool could have taken the lead in the first minute as Riera flashed a header across the 6 yard box. After this Dirk Kuyt had a 20 yard effort blocked by Wolves defender Jody Craddock however, apart from these opportunites, there wasn't much goal mouth action at either end with both teams struggling to gain superiority in the middle third.

The home side's only opening in the first half came on 32 minutes when lone striker Kevin Doyle, who toiled tirelessly all night for Wolves, shot just wide after Matt Jarvis had done well to whip in a cross from the left wing following a surging forward run.

Liverpool were hoping for a better second half, and they started the second period in a similar fashion to the first, with Albert Riera going close to breaking the deadlock, however his hooked effort from the edge of the box was saved impressively by Hanneman in the Wolverhampton goal.

Wolves performed with a stubborn resistance throughout, dominating the second half of play. Liverpool were placed under pressure from the home team who were desperate for a memorable win in front of their own supporters.

Doyle gave the Reds defence a scare when he smashed a shot inches over the bar from 25 yards out. Also, Karl Henry saw his shot blocked as Wolves were in the ascendency. However, Liverpool hit back and worked endlessly in an attempt to score a vital winning goal but they just lacked the creativity needed to break down a resistant Wolves defensive wall. If Liverpool had had Torres up front instead of Kuyt they could have snatched a late winner, like the Spanish superstar did at a snowy Villa Park ealier this season, but it simply wasn't to be.

Liverpool must now look to take all three points from the game on the weekend against Owen Coyle's resurgent Bolton side. One thing is for sure, they must perform a hell of a lot better to grab 3 crucial points in the race for the 4th Champions League spot.


Monday, 25 January 2010

Gerrard Fitness Boost

Steven Gerrard has been named in Liverpool's squad to face Wolves at Molineaux tommorow night, providing Liverpool with a timely boost. Liverpool's inspirational captain had been expected to be out for around two weeks after pulling his hamstring on the 13th January during the FA Cup replay against Reading however he has returned ahead of schedule, as he started training again on the weekend. This is brilliant news for Liverpool, and will help the Reds to add some more attacking quality to the hard work shown in recent matches.

Daniel Agger and Fabio Aurelio both missed the midweek game at home to Tottenham and are expected to miss out again tommorow, so Rafa will probably continue with a back four of; Carragher, Skrtel, Kyrgiakos and Insua, which worked very well against both Stoke and Spurs.

Liverpool go into tomorrow night's game on the back of two positive performances and results. Liverpool displayed fighting spirit and determination at the Britannia Stadium and at home to Tottenham Hotspur, to earn an impressive 4 points.

Reds fans will be hoping for more of the same as Liverpool wait for their star names to recover from injury and add some attacking flair to the hard work and endeavour that has devloped in the Reds game over recent weeks.


Friday, 22 January 2010


I learnt about an absolutely unbelievable news story today, related to Liverpool Football Club. During a protest against the Hicks and Gillett regime 2 Liverpool fans were arrested, held at a police station for 6 hours and then charged with public order offences.

The fans were shouting, "YANKS OUT!" like many concerned supporters have been, and the police deemed this to be a racial slur although it was clearly an attack on the owners of Liverpool Football Club and not the American people. In fact, Liverpool fan's hatred of Hicks and Gillett has precisely the square root of nothing to do with the fact that they are American. Clearly Americans are extremely clever business men and can be successful even in the football industry (take a look at Randy Lerner at Aston Villa) however Hicks and Gillett are simply a nightmare.

If they kept their promises they would be the ideal owners of Liverpool Football Club. There's just one problem. Every time their lips move they lie. For example, they claimed that they would start the construction of a new stadium within 60 days of their takeover. 3 years later and there are still no developments on this front. They've also been claiming that the financial climate has made it impossible for them to build. This is an illogical claim if you think about it. Surely, with builders desperate for any sort of work, it would be much cheaper to undertake a major building operation, such as the building of a football staudium. As the financial climate improves the builders will have more work and will be able to demand more money. Simple common sense is all that is needed to see through the Yanks smokescreen of lies and spin.

Secondly, they claimed that the club was brought "without a single penny of debt on the club." Another lie. When David Moores owned the club Liverpool had around £44 million worth of debt. Not ideal, but definitely manageable. Now, Liverpool are an astronomical £237 million in the red and seem to be heading further and further into a black hole of debt. These eye watering debt levels, in the long run, are unsustainable. The worrying thing is Liverpool are nowhere near paying off these huge debts that the Yanks have afflicted on our great club. With interest payments alone amounting to around £30 million every year, the club is struggling just to pay these, let alone hack into the debt owed. Of course, this leaves Rafa potless and searching for bargains in each and every single transfer window.

Also, for the first time ever, money used to give star performers a pay rise, is being taken out of the transfer budget. Pay rises are vital in any business (just ask any banker worth his salt) however they are especially important in football as Rafa's star players could easily go to another top level club and earn so much more money then they currently do at Anfield. To keep some of them happy, they must be given pay rises. These pay rises are cutting Rafa's transfer budget, which is frankly ridiculous. It has never happened like that and never should.

Furthermore, the Yanks promised they would support Rafa in the transfer window. George Gillett even said that he would give Rafa money if he asked for "Snoogy Doogy." Of course, once again these were just empty promises that haven't been kept. Rafa had a net spend of just £10,000 this summer. No manager should ever be expected to achieve anything better than a top 8 finish with these levels of investment, but Rafa is expected to not only provide Champions League football year after year, but also to compete for the Premier League Title. Expectations are way too high at Anfield and must be brought down to realistic levels, that are consistent with the amount of money that Benitez has had to invest in the playing sqaaud.

Rafa has spent, in net terms, just over £80 million during his 5 year stint in charge of Liverpool. Most of this money has been earned through successful runs in the money spinning UEFA Champions League. Hardly any of the cash that Rafa has spent came from the back pockets of messers Hicks and Gillett. Instead, it has been earned through Rafa doing well in Europe, and also through the boss buying players cheaply then selling them for profit. This profit has been reinvested into the development of the squad, however in this January transfer window it looks like things have got even worse, with Rafa not even given the money generated through player sales.

If Hicks and Gillett were born and raised opposite Anfield it would make absolutely no difference. Liverpool fans would still despise them for their lies, and the way in which they have dragged our famous club into the mire of debt. It is a damning indictment of our politically correct culture that a police officer doesn't even have the common sense to realise that Liverpool fans do not detest the Yanks for their racial background, rather they can't stand the lies that roll along their slimy tongues.


Thursday, 21 January 2010

Reds Claim Massive 3 Points

Liverpool moved into 6th place in the Premier League last night, only 1 point behind their opponents from last night's game, Spurs, who sit in that all important 4th place. It was a terrific and gutsy performance from Liverpool, who were missing several key players once again. Agger, Gerrard, Torres and Benayoun are all still injured, however the Reds managed to put in a determined and energetic performance to claim a crucial 3 points against one of their main rivals for a Champions League spot.

Liverpool chased and harried the Spurs players all night, just like they had at Stoke on the weekend, however this time, with Aquilani and Riera back in the starting 11, the Reds played some quality attacking football in what was a fiercly thought, competitive and open encounter.

Liverpool gained the early initiative as they took the lead after only 6 minutes. A long punt up the field was chested down by Dirk Kuyt to the feet of Alberto Aquilani, who showed flashes of brilliance once again last night as he begins to adapt to the rapid and hectic nature of the Premier League. Aquilani played a neat pass back to Kuyt who placed the ball past Gomes and into the Kop net. This set Liverpool off to a positive start, and after this the Reds dominated possession for much of the first half.

For once, it wasn't Liverpool complaining about the referee after the match as the Spurs players and fans were furious with some of the decisions that went against the London side. Towards the end of the first half Greek defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos seemed to be pulling the shirt of ex Red Peter Crouch in the penalty area, while defending a free kick. It would have been harsh to give a penalty, although considering the fact that Everton were awarded a penalty on Saturday after Micah Richards commited a similar offense, it wouldn't have been surprising to have seen Howard Webb point to the spot.

An even worse decision was made one minute into the second period. Jermain Defoe, who had been walking back into an onside position, dispossessed Reina after he had received a weak pass back from Jamie Carragher. The England striker then went on to slot the ball home, however the goal was ruled out for offside. I don't understand how it could have been offside though as the pass was from a Liverpool player, Carrragher, therefore making it impossible to be offside. It's a very confusing rule and the FA have to make it more clear after this fiasco.

Tottenham then went on to put the home side under pressure for large parts of the second half, with Liverpool becoming more and more defensive as the game progressed. This is a trait that has been characteristic of the Reds over past weeks and must be eradicated soon, as it has cost us far too many late goals.

However, Liverpool responded in the closing stages of the match by pressurising the Tottenham goal. Kyrgiakos missed from 10 yards, and Riera headed onto the cross bar from Aquilani's centre as the Reds began to fight back. Liverpool finally got a crucial second goal from the penalty spot in the 92nd minute. Dirk Kuyt managed to slot the ball home twice, as he was forced to retake his spot kick after encroachment from some players. However, both times he found the back of the net to confirm a fantastic Liverpool win that puts us right back in the race for 4th spot.

A special mention must be given to the amazing supporters who created an awesome atmosphere around Anfield. Before the game around 300 supporters greeted the Liverpool bus with flags unfurled and songs celebrating Liverpool's illustrious history aired.

Spurs boss Harry Redknapp even said, "You come here to Anfield, you stand there and listen to that crowd, and it's the greatest sight in football."

Those fans demonstrated that Rafa Benitez and all of the players will never walk alone.


Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Reds Can Only Get Better

Liverpool have not been playing well recently. That's an undeniable fact. As much as i hate to say it Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa have all played far better, and much more consistently this season.

However, as regular readers will know, i like to be optimistic, and the good news is that Liverpool can only get better, whereas Spurs and Villa can only get worse. It's a simply theory and it goes like this; it's a hell of a lot easier for a great team (eg, Liverpool) to have a poor season than for a good team (eg Aston Villa or Birmingham) to have an excellent season.

Ignoring the abysmal performances against Reading in the FA Cup Liverpool's results have improved recently with wins against Wigan, Wolves and Aston Villa coming in between a pathetic 2-0 reversal away to bottom of the table Portsmouth. Also, Liverpool gained a vital, and for many unexpected, point away to the battling Stoke City. These results have given the Reds a respectable 10 out of the 15 points available, even though the team hasn't been performing anywhere near the dizzying heights of the second half of last season.

During the same period Villa have taken 7 out of the available 15 points, and have not scored a Premier League goal in their last 3 matches. These matches include a 3-0 reverse at the Emirates Stadium, where Cesc Fabregas was on top form, scoring 2 goals from the bench, and a heart breaking 1-0 defeat to Rafa's Redmen, with Torres scoring a last minute winner in the snow. Furthermore, Villa could only manage a 0-0 draw at home to the relegation threatened West Ham at the weekend.

Tottenham Hotspur have fared slightly better than Liverpool over the past 5 matches, claiming 11 out of 15 points, however this is a slightly disappointing return when you consider the fact that Spurs have been in a much richer vein of form over the season than Liverpool have. Also, they have drawn 2 out of their last 3 games. Both were games they were expected to win, as they drew 0-0 away to Fulham and at home to Hull City.

It is surprising that Liverpool have only been 1 point worse than Tottenham over the last 5 Premier League games (and 3 points better off than Villa), considering the amount of negative press Liverpool have had, with some journalists even claiming that Liverpool are heading into mid table obscurity, despite the fact that Liverpool are a mere 4 points off that all important 4th spot. If you believe all you read in the papers Liverpool have been in such horrible form that you'd expect them to have only 1 or 2 points from their last 5 matches, however this is not the case.

This brings me back to my theory. Liverpool have been showing signs recently that things are beginning to look up, with 10 points taken from a possible 15. Villa on the other hand have been on decline, and Tottenham haven't fared much better. This is because Villa and Tottenham are not on the same level as Liverpool, over a sustained period of time. As i said above, it is much easier for a great team like Liverpool to have a poor season, than for a good team, like Spurs or Villa, to have an excellent season. It is much easier to lose several games on the bounce than to win consecutive matches because poor form is contagious. Good form is also contagious, however it is easily lost and much harder to retain. Poor form, on the other hand, is notiriously difficult to stop and is easily obtainable, with only one disappointing result enough to plunge a team into a disappointing run of results.

Liverpool are on their way back to the top. We'll finish fourth this season as we are better than Spurs, Villa and City however i suspect that we might be fighting for a fourth place finish once again next season, while City should be right in the thick of the title race, with their supreme riches given them a considerable advanatge. I suspect that Arsenal might be dragged into the top 4 fight next season, with City taking their place in the battle for top spot.

Only time will tell...


Lee Mason- The "Perfect" Referee

When asked about referee Lee Mason's performance following the 2-0 defeat at Fratton Park earlier this season Rafa sarcastically replied, "He was perfect." To every follow up question about the referee the Boss simply repeated the statement, "He was perfect." It was a clever tactic from the Spaniard. He clearly showed his disgust at the referee's display without saying anything that the FA could charge him for. Normally, the FA discipline manager's who criticise the performance of a referee, however they couldn't charge Benitez for saying that the referee was "perfect", even if the comment was laced with excellent sarcasm.

Ironically, these comments came after one of Lee Mason's better matches while refereeing a game involving Liverpool. Liverpool had just deservedly lost 2-0 to Portsmouth. Javier Mascherano had been sent off towards the end of the first half because of a reckless tackle. It could be argued that Mascherano only deserved a yellow card as it was his first offense, however it was an awful tackle and he was rightly given his marching orders. For once, Lee Mason had made the correct decision.

However, Mr Mason was inconsistent during the match as he failed to penalise the centre back pairing of Younes Kaboul and Tal Ben Haim for persistently fouling a frustrated Fernando Torres. Also, he continually ignored the vicious Michael Brown, who threw in several dangerous challanges that warranted at least a yellow card.

This under par performance came only 6 Premier League games after Mason had had a shocker at Craven Cottage, home of Fulham FC. Liverpool lost 3-1 and had both Philip Degen and Jamie Carragher wrongly sent off, within 120 seconds of each other. Degen was given his marching orders after a late challenge on Clint Dempsey that deserved a yellow card. It was most certainly not an offence worthy of a straight red.

That was after 79 minutes, when Liverpool were trailing 2-1. However, we know that the Reds have a tendency to grab late goals and quite possibly could have scored a late equaliser if it wasn't for this sending off. Only 2 minutes later Carragher was sent off for a challenge on Bobby Zamora, in which he clearly got the ball. Even Zamora admitted afterwards that the scouser didn't deserve the red card that Mason ridiculously gave him. The Reds went on to concede another goal, losing the game 3-1.

This weekend Mason took charge of his third Liverpool game this season, as the Reds travelled to the Britannia Stadium to face Stoke City. Mason made three shocking decisions that denied Liverpool what would have been a crucial three points. Firstly, he showed Lucas a yellow card for diving when everyone in the ground (and watching on the tele) could clearly see that the Brazilian midfielder had been sliced down by Danny Higginbotham. Then, with 2 minutes left, he awarded the home side a corner, when the shot from Stoke striker Ricardo Fuller had clearly gone behind for a goal kick. From the resulting corner Robert Huth tapped home to break Red hearts.

Deep into injury time Fabio Aurelio swung a cross in from the left wing and Dirk Kuyt could only hit the post with his diving header. However, Lucas (once again) had been pushed over in the box as he tried to get his head to the ball. Lee Mason missed the incident and failed to award Liverpool a second stonewall penalty. It capped off a shocking performance from the referee.

It seems as if when your luck is down, absolutely nothing goes your way. Either that or Lee Mason is refereeing once again.


Monday, 18 January 2010

Fighting Spirit Earns Reds Valuable Point

Liverpool displayed the fighting spirit, grit and determination that has been lacking over recent weeks, to earn themselves a vital point at the Britannia Staidum. Only Chelsea and the in form Birmingham City have taken all 3 points from the Britannia Stadium this season, and Liverpool were only 2 minutes away from becoming the third team to win at the Potteries.

The Reds once again lacked quality, especially in attack, however this is understandable with Liverpool's best attacking players either injured or lacking the neccesary match fitness to compete with the ultra physical Stoke side.

It was a good weekend for the Reds as both Villa and Spurs could only draw home matches that they were expected to win, against West Ham United and Hull respectively, and Manchester City experienced defeat for the first time under Roberto Mancini, losing 2-0 at Goodison Park.

Rafa started with 9 defensive players, as Kuyt and Ngog were the only attacking players in the starting line up. The Reds battled throughout and got into a real fight with the home side. This led to a poor game for the neutral to watch, but it was good to see the team showing a little heart and determination. Liverpool have been poor defensively in recent matches but against Stoke they coped well for most of the match, with Sotirios Kyrgiakos, in for the injured Agger, impressing at centre back, and scoring the crucial goal that gave the Reds a slender lead to hang on to.

Liverpool had a stone wall penalty not given in the first half as Lucas was sliced down in the box by Danny Higginbotham. Lee Mason, one of the worst referees in the Premier League who has persistently performed below par, failed to award the penalty, and even had the cheek to show a yellow card to Lucas for diving.

That was the only significant action in an instantly forgettable first half however the second half was slightly better. The Reds took the lead after 57 minutes when the Greek defender Kyrgiakos scored his first goal for the club, scrambling in a Fabio Aurelio free kick. After taking the lead the Reds went too defensive and went back into their defensive shell, like they have so often this season.

Stoke piled on the pressure with long throw ins and corners bombarding Liverpool's penalty area, and Liverpool's otherwise strong defence cracked in the 88th minute. Another Stoke corner was swung into the box and the ball was eventually tapped into the net by former Chelsea defender, Robert Huth. However this was yet another poor decision from Lee Mason, as the corner was obviously a goal kick. A shot came in from Ricardo Fuller and the ball went wide, without a deflection. Admittedly, it was a difficult angle for the ref, but he should have been able to tell that it was a goal kick because the ball wasn't deflected behind. It was yet another awful decision from a League 1 quality referee, who's decisions cost Liverpool a crucial 3 points.

By this point both Alberto Aquilani and new signing Maxi Rodriguez were on the pitch to add an extra dimension to Liverpool's attack. The Reds pushed for a winner in the remaining miniutes and nearly grabbed a priceless goal in the last minute. Brazillian Fabio Aurelio, who had a solid game on the left wing and added quailty with his crosses, swung a cross into the box which Dirk Kuyt headed onto the post from 6 yards out. The Flying Dutchman should have done better but Liverpool were denied a stone wall penalty once again, as Lee Mason amazingly failed to award the Reds a spot kick after Lucas was clearly pushed over in the box.

It was another display that lacked attacking quality however at least all of the players put in the effort and hard work that is expected of them. When a few more attack minded players are fully fit Liverpool should start winning games again, if they continue to show the heart and determination that they displayed on Saturday.


Friday, 15 January 2010

The Magnificence of Istanbul

Simon Barnes claims in today's (15/1/10) Times Newspaper that Liverpool's 2005 Champions League triumph was a, "...great and glorious fluke" and that, "Liverpool's lucky triumph in Istanbul in 2005 was merely a glorious blip for the club during a gradual recession over the past 10 years."

Now, this is an accusation often thrown in Rafa Benitez's face. The claim that his greatest success, not just on the 25th May 2005, when Liverpool overturned a 3-0 half time deficit to win on penalties against the mighty AC Milan, but that the whole Champions League campaign was a fluke, a lucky break not in keeping with his actual managerial ability. However this is demonstratably false to anyone with even a basic grasp of the concept of logic. Only the incredibly foolish, blind or stupid would even dare to entertain the belief that just because Liverpool were 3-0 down at half time in Istanbul means that the whole Champions League campaign was a massive fluke.

In 2005, Liverpool progressed out of the group stages of the Champions League after finishing second in Group A, which also included Greek giants Olympiakos, the talented Deportivo La Coruna and Monaco, who had been finalists in the competiton the previous year. Of course, Liverpool's progress from Group A was mainly down to luck (at least in the view of Simon Barnes) because Liverpool only scraped through thanks to a late screamer from Steven Gerrard on Matchday 6, in front of the Kop, against Olympiakos. However, this ignores the fact that on Matchday Four Liverpool recorded a vital 1-0 victory away in La Coruna, with Igor Biscan prominent in a determined display, with both Alonso and Gerrard out through injury.

Liverpool then faced a tricky, but winnable, game against German side Bayer Levurkusen in the last 16. Levurkusen had finished as runners up a couple of years earlier in this very competition, after losing 2-1 against Real Madrid at Hampden Park, Glasgow. Despite of this, Liverpool thumped the Germans 6-2 on aggregarte, winning both ties 3-1. Of course, all of this was down to luck, and had nothing to do with the abilty of the players, and definitely nothing to do with the managerial abilites of Rafa Benitez, at least in the view of our friend Mr Barnes.

Rafa's Reds had done well so far but no one, not even club captain and local hero Steven Gerrard, expected Liverpool to progress any further in the tournament as Juventus were next to visit Anfield for a mouthwatering quarter final clash. It was an emotional encouner at Anfield, because, incredibly, it was the first time the two club's had met after the tradegy of Heysel in 1985. Liverpool extended the warm hand of frienship to Juventus Football Club, with the Kop displaying a mosaic saying "Amicizia" (Friendship), and most of the Juventus fans graciously accepeted the offer of reconciliation, however a significant minority, quite understandably rejected the offer. Some pain cuts so deep, it can never be healed.

On the pitch, Liverpool dominated as the Juventus players froze. They simply couldn't cope with the cauldron that was Anfield, as the atmosphere repilcated the glory days of Milan in 1965, and St Etienne in 1977. Liverpool won the game 2-1 after a wonderful volley from Hyypia and an unforgettable lob from Luis Garcia, but only had a small advantage going into the second leg in Turin, as Juve only needed to win 1-0 to go through to the semi finals, and with Steven Gerrard missing the second leg through injury Liverpool's task became doubly difficult.

Alonso returned to the starting line up for the first time in months after a serious injury, and helped Liverpool to control the play throughout the second leg, as the Reds managed to limit Juve to half chances only. In hostile conditions, and without their captain and star performer, Liverpool defended tremendously and looked solid from start to finish, earning them a 0-0 draw and a semi final tie against Jose Mourinho's Chelsea side. Rafa's tactics had stifled the Italians and carried Liverpool safely through to the semi finals. Even Fabio Capello, Juve manager at the time, admitted afterwards that Rafa had out smarted him tactically. Luck wasn't a factor at any point.

Liverpool went into their Semi Final matches against table topping Chelsea filled with confidence, despite of their domestic failings, as the Reds continued to struggle in their top 4 battle with Everton, which eventually ended in defeat, however this turned out to be of little importance as Liverpool's Champions League success guaranteed European football for the following season.

A dull and boring first leg at Stamford Bridge ended 0-0, which played straight into Liverpool's hands because Rafa had planned all along to keep it tight, as he knew that if the game became too open Chelsea's natural abiltity would greatly surpass the capabilites of the Reds squad. There was an electric atmosphere inside Anfield for the second leg, and this support from the home crowd helped Liverpool to defend resolutely for 86 minutes, plus the insane addition of 6 minutes injury time, after Luis Garcia had scored another crucial European goal in the 4th minute, to give Liverpool a deserved 1-0 victory. Liverpool were now going to Istanbul for there first taste of a European Cup Final in 20 years.

In Istanbul Liverpool somehow managed to over turn a 3-0 half time deficit to send this enthralling encounter into extra time. Second half goals from Gerrard, Smicer and Xabi Alonso in an unbelievable 6 minute spell had drawn the Reds level. However, they still had to endure an agonising 30 minutes of extra time. By this stage Liverpool's players were suffering badly from cramp, and were having to face wave after wave of attack from the Italian giants, AC Milan.

When Liverpool thought they were safe, with only seconds of extra time left, Anrdiy Shevchenko sent in a powerful header that Jerzy Dudek only just managed to parry out. Unfortuantely, the ball fell right at the feet of the prolific (at the time) Ukranian striker but, incredibly, Dudek managed to pull himself up off the ground, to deflect Shevchenko's goal bound shot over the bar, from only 3 yards out. It was at this point that most Reds fans knew that Liverpool's name was on the trophy.

Liverpool won the penalty shoot out 3-2, and the rest, as they say, is history. Now, lets analyse that campaign. Liverpool defeated Bayer Levurkusen, Juventus and Chelsea, all fantastic sides, over two legs. Also, they managed to comeback from 3-0 behind against AC Milan, one of the best sides in the world, to win the greatest European Cup final in history. According to Simon Barnes, Chief Sports Writer of the Times, this was a "fluke". In his view, beating 3 of the best teams in world football (Juve, Chelsea and Milan) was purely a lucky occurence that doesn't, in anyway whatsoever, represent the true abilites of Rafael Benitez or any of the Reds players.

Can someone please give me the number of a psychiatric ward, i would like to section Simon Barnes!


Thursday, 14 January 2010

Can we start again please?

It all started on a cold September night in Florence. It was the second match in the Champions League group stage and Liverpool faced a difficult trip to the Stadio Artemio Franchi, the home of Italian side, Fiorentina. However the Redmen were confident that they were able to achieve a positive result to take back to Mereyside after 6 consecutive victories. With Javier Mascherano missing Liverpool looked lost in the middle third, with Brazilian Fabio Aurelio, a left back by trade, unable to step into the Argentina captain's considerable boots, and Liverpool lost 2-0 despite a small improvement in the second half.

It's hard to believe that this one result was the start of what has become a deep malaise that currently engulfs Liverpool Football Club. This malaise has been long and painful for all Reds fans, causing bickering between supporters, a lack of clear thinking, massive over reactions to any poor result or disappointing display and a general sense of chaos and anarchy at Anfield.

After that desperately frustrating night in Italy, Liverpool have played a total of 20 games, winning only 6, losing an embarrasing 9 and drawing 5. To put that into context, Liverpool lost just 5 of the 55 competetive matches they played last season. In just under half of that time, the Reds have lost nearly 2 times as many games.

They're shocking statistics that don't reflect favourably on what has been a season to forget. But how did it come to this, is the vital question which i will seek to answer, if possible, in this article.


I have said this so many times before, but i'll keep on saying it as it is a vital reason for our failure this season. Rafael Benitez had a net spend of just £10,000 this summer. It is completely unreasonable and senseless to ask any manager, even one of the calibre of Rafael Benitez, to achieve anything with this sort of money being spent on transfers yet, because of Liverpool's magnificent and glorious history of winning countless trophies year after year, people forget that, like it or not, success in the modern game is almost completely dependent on financial clout. According to the book "Soccernomics", written by expert football economists, nearly 9 times of out 10 (89%) the team with the highest wage bill wins the league. Over recent seasons the teams with the ability to spend big on wages have been Chelsea and Manchester United, and guess who has won the league? Yes, that's right, Chelsea and Manchester United. Liverpool now have the 5th highest wage bill in the Premier League, surpassed by Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotpsur. Therefore, we should be finishing 5th. Anything above a third placed finish should be considered a massive over achievement, and unsustainable over a prolonged amount of time.


Liverpool have been hit hard by injuries this season, to key players in vital positions. 17 players have either missed matches because of injury, or been forced to play despite a lack of match fitness. These include 7 players who i would call "first teamers" (Agger, Gerrard, Torres, Benayoun, Aquilani, Johnson, Mascherano), 6 players who would regularly appear on the substitutes bench (Skrtel, Aurelio, Babel, Ngog, Riera, Kyrgiakos) and 4 squad players (Degen, Dossena, El Zhar, Kelly). These cannot be helped, but have seriously effected the team's performace. Injuries have caused poor performaces, and therefore disappointing results. Injured players have returned to a team bereft of confidence, denying them the opportunity to devlop match fitness in a successful team and continuing the run of bad results. Moreover, injuries have stopped the boss putting out the same team for a run of games. This can prove disastrous, especially for defences, as confidence and a knowledge of your team mates are vital components to a successful defensive unit.


People regularly scoff at the idea of football managers or players suffering from pressure. They argue, quite rightly, that real pressure is putting food on the table for your kids, paying the bills at the end of the month, and surviving the cut backs at your office. The great Bill Shanly realised this saying, "Pressure is working down the pit. Pressure is having no work at all. Pressure is trying to escape relegation on 50 shillings a week. Pressure is not the European Cup or the Championship (the equivalent of the Premiership, at the time) or the cup final. Thats the reward." However, pressure from the media and supporters is by no means helpful, and is often detrimental to a team's performance. Biased media reports, over critical phone in shows, illogical criticism from foolish ex Reds (Jamie Redknapp, Greame Souness, Stan Collymore, to name but a few) all add unneccesary pressure to a club and effect results on the pitch.

All of these reasons have contributed to the horrible run of results Liverpool have had recently. Supporters must have a sense of perspective after every poor result, and not jump to knee jerk conclusions. Also, it is vital that George Gillett and Tom Hicks don't listen to the media and the small amount of glory supporters that continually demand Rafa Benitez's head after every setback. Logic and clear thinking must prevail, or our club will continue to fall even further into mid table obscurity.


Injury Crisis Hits Again

Rafa Benitez has confirmed today that Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Yossi Benayoun all face a lenghty period on the sidelines.

Torres has torn a cartilage in his right knee, meaning he could be out for 6 weeks or more, while Gerrard is facing 2 weeks on the sidelines with a hamstring injury and the tricky, skillful winger Benayoun has a fractured rib and is out for between 3 and 4 weeks.

This means that Liverpool will be missing 3 of their best attack minded players, and their best 2 players in Torres and Gerrard, for the crucial Premier League games coming up against Stoke (16/1/10) and the 6 pointer against rivals Spurs, at Anfield (20/1/10). Torres could also miss 5 more games, including matches against Everton, Arsenal and Manchester City, forcing Rafa to continue with the talented but inexperienced David Ngog in the lone striker role.

With Glen Johnson also suffering from injury, and expected to be out until the end of the month at least, this new injury crisis that has afflicted the Reds threatens to derail Liverpool's season even further, making a top 4 finish even harder to achieve. Any hopes of winning the title were killed off months ago as the Reds have simply not been anywhere near good enough to compete with the deep pockets of Chelsea and Manchester City, nor the attacking flair of Arsenal, and the strength in depth that Manchester United's squad possesses.

Liverpool will have to hope that the likes of Ryan Babel, Dirk Kuyt, Maxi Rodgriuez and Albert Riera step up to the plate and prove their worth to the side, or we could be facing a few more difficult months ahead.


Reds Crash Out of Cup

Liverpool crashed out of the FA Cup last night as an embarrassing 2-1 (AET) reverse at home to Reading left Liverpool's season in tatters. Liverpool lacked creativity after Gerrard and Torres had to be subsituted, suffering from injuries that will keep them out for 2 weeks and 6 weeks respectively, and were toothless in front of goal throughout, especially during extra time when both Benayoun and Ngog missed clear cut chances which, if converted, would have sent the Reds through.

The importance of this competiton to the Reds this season was shown in Rafa's selection as the Spaniard picked a near full strength side, with only Cavalieri and Degen given a rare run out. Torres, Gerrard, Aquilani and Benayoun all started signalling Liverpool's attacking intent, but this intent didn't materialise at any point during the tie, with another below par display that was punished by an energetic and determined Reading side.

Liverpool have grounds for complaint but over the course of 180 minutes, plus 30 minutes of extra time at Anfield, Liverpool got exactly what they deserved. Absolutely nothing. The penalty given in favour of Reading was a pathetic decision from Phil Dowd. Benayoun touched Shane Long's ankles but the lanky, useless striker threw himself over like he was being attacked by heavy gunfire. It was a ridiculous decision, but nothing more than the Royals deserved as they had performed well throughout, dominating the game at times, and squandering several gilt edges opportunites. Following that unbelievable decision, Alberto Aquilani was hugged by a Reading defender in the box, after Liverpool had fallen behind, and, even though he was in a perfect position to make the right call, Phil Dowd ignored the screams from the Kop and the desperate protestations of the bewildered Liverpool players.

All Reds fans knew it wouldn't be their night after Benayoun shot straight at the keeper when clean through, and Ngog disappointingly scuffed his weak effort wide of the post, when even a half fit Fernando Torres would have put the ball in the back of the net with relative ease.

Once again Liverpool were awfully bad and lacking any sort of cutting edge, as has so often been the case, in this season that has gone from bad, to worse, to even worse, and now i'm at the point where i'm thinking, "Is this all a dream, because there is no way we were this shockingly dreadful last season."

All we can do is back the lads and back the boss and hope that the cowboys sell up soon (preferably with a massive loss, in financial terms, as they definitely don't deserve to make a single penny out of the mess they have put us in). As Rafa always says, lets "concentrate on the next game."


Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Chamakh heading to Anfield?

Reports in today's media suggest Liverpool are close to signing a pre contract agreement with highly rated Bordeaux striker Marouane Chamakh, pinching the top talent from underneath Arsene Wenger's nose. He scored an impressive 13 goals in 31 games for Bordeaux last season and has scored 15 goals in 52 appearances for his national side, Morocco.

With a lack of investment in the January transfer window, this is yet another sign that Rafa is getting ready for the more significant summer transfer window. The signing of Chamakh could also instigate a change in formation for Rafa's Reds to a more attacking 4-4-2., with Chamakh partnering the profilic Fernando Torres up front.

Also, Chamakh won't cost Liverpool a penny as he is out of contract in the summer, meaning that, under the Bosman ruling, he can sign a pre contract agreement with any other club, this January.

Arsenal are said to be interested in signing the Moroccan however it seems that Arsene Wenger hasn't acted on his interest. He would be a perfect signing for the Gunners to provide offensive cover this season, with Robin Van Persie missing through injury, however Wenger is unwilling to spend around £8 million on a player available for free in 6 months time.

The signing of Chamakh, if it happens, is good news, and shows that Rafa can still sign quality players even if he only has peanuts to work with. Lets hope to see him arriving at Anfield this summer to boost our striking options, making us a bigger threat to Chelsea and Manchester City who, with their unbelievable spending power, are likely to be the front runners in the title race next season.


Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Lies, Lies and More Lies

Have you heard the news? According to Tom Hicks Snr. Liverpool are going to spend big in the summer transfer window. Oh yeh, wait a minute, haven't we heard these lies before? When he was introduced as one of the new owners of Liverpool Football Club (which is one of the darkest days in our history, even worse then losing 2-1 to Worcester City in the FA Cup in the pre Shankly era) the Americans claimed that they would support Rafa, and give him money, even if he wanted to buy "snoogy doogy". Who, or what, "snoogy doogy" is i'll never know, but the point is they promised to give Rafa the money to sign any player they wanted. Yet, Liverpool have repeatedly been outbid for players such as Christiano Ronaldo, Michael Essien and Simao Sambrosa.

Another lie those scumbags told us was that they'd start building a new stadium within 60 days of them taking over ownership of our great club. They claimed that there would be something that looked like a swimming pool developing on Stanley Park. I haven't seen many old age pensioners heading for an earling morning swim down Stanley Park recently. Neither have i seen a spade in the ground. Yet another lie from the cowboys that have run our club into the ground with their lies.

The Yanks displayed the full extent of their footballing knowledge when they appoarched Jurgen Klinsmann to take over from Rafa Benitez as manager, during Novmber 2007. Hicks and Gillett, with their incredible intellect, somehow thought that Jurgen Klinsmann, who managed only one season at German giants Bayern Munich because their owners were worried that he couldn't achieve qualification for the Champions League, was a better option than Rafael Benitez, who has obtained Champions League qualification in every season that he has been with Liverpool. Under his managerial reign, Liverpool even won the competition for the first time in 21 years, in 2005, after an unforgettable night in Istanbul, and finished as runners up in 2007, after dominating the final against Italian side AC Milan.

Tom Hicks even claimed that, "we never use player sales for debt service." What do you use it for then Hicks? Filling your pockets? Because there certainly hasn't been any investment coming from your pockets Mr Hicks. Rafa only got 10 GRAND to spend this summer. Ok, or do you somehow think that this reprents "heavy investment". My arse is it!

Of course all this comes days after Tom Hicks Jnr. resigned from his position on the board, after replying to an email from a supporter concerned with the levels of investment in the team, by saying, "Blow me f*** face. Go to hell. I'm sick of you." Of course, later that day an apology was sent, which was not worth the paper it was written on. It was just a PR exercise designed to save face which, thankfully, didn't work.

Incredibly disgusting bile and lies are what Liverpool fans are used to now, but are completely unacceptable all the same. We line his pockets by going to matches, buying merchandise and consuming food at Anfield and yet they don't even have the common decency to reply respectfully and politely to an email. Disgusting, and i for one can't wait to see the day when the Yanks leave Anfield forever. They're a disgrace, and don't deserve to be associated with our famous football club. The sooner their gone, the better.


Sunday, 10 January 2010

Rafa- Scraping the Barrel Once Again

Most Liverpool fans will be use to the sell-to-buy policy, that has been imposed on Rafa by the Americans, by now, however, in this critical transfer window, with the Boss seriously needing to freshen up the squad with a couple of new faces to increase competiton, and to keep up with the likes of Manchester City, Tottenham Hotpsur and Aston Villa, who all have much deeper squads (and pockets) then Liverpool, it appears that Rafa Benitez will have to scrape the barrel for free signings and loans, even if he recoups up to £16 million from the sale of fringe players such as Andrea Dossena, Phillip Degen, Andriy Voronin and possibly Ryan Babel.

Benitez has already earned £6.2 million from the sales of Andrea Dossena to Napoli (£4.4 million) and Andriy Voronin to Spartak Moscow (£1.8 million), however even if he manages to recoup up to £3 million for Phillip Degen, he is unlikely to be able spend any money in this January transfer window. In fact, if Athletico Madrid had demanded a fee for their out of favour winger Maxi Rodgriuez (who is almost certain to be one of only two arrivals at Anfield this winter) then the deal probabaly would have fallen through.

Rafa knows that the money raised from sales will not go to signing new players, and instead be used to pay off hefty debts, this has persuaded him to endure with the misfiring Babel, who could be a useful asset for the Reds in the race for 4th spot, as he is incredibly versaitile, and explosive from the bench, as he proved in his first season for the Redmen, when he changed the game after coming on as a substitute in big games, such as the Arsenal Champions League quarter final tie, which Liverpool won 4-2 at Anfield. However, if he doesn't prove himself in the second half of this season, then he should be shown the exit door, in order to build up a war chest in the summer.

Unfortunately, once again the American owners have failed our great club, and it looks like it will be a very difficult battle to grab fourth spot, and with it another season dining at Europe's top table.


Saturday, 9 January 2010

Reds Facing Fixture Pile Up

With the Premier League game against Tottenham Hotspur already called off this Sunday (1oth January) the Reds could be facing a fixture pile up. Liverpool Football Club, in association with the local council, will have to work around the clock to clear the roads and pathways in time for the visit of Reading, on Wednesday night, in the FA Cup 3rd round replay.

If that match on Wednesday has to be rearranged, and the Reds progress to the 4th round, then they could be facing a gruelling schedule of 5 games in 14 days, with Premier League games against Stoke City, Wolves and Bolton alongside a the cup tie against Reading, and the possible match versus Burnley to follow.

Rafa Benitez will be depserate to play the cup tie against Reading on Wednesday as, with FA Cup and Europa League commitments this season, the Reds squad could face burnout towards the end of the football season.

January Fixtures:
13th January- Reading (H) FA Cup Third Round Replay (In doubt because of poor weather conditions)
16th January- Stoke City (A) Premier League
19th/20th January- Possible dates to play the Reading replay, if postponed.
23rd January- Possible cup tie with Burnley, if the Reds progress to the 4th round
26th January- Wolves (A) Premier League
30th January- Bolton (H) Premier League


Friday, 8 January 2010

Who would want to be Rafael Benitez?

Which other football manager would want to step into Rafael Benitez's boots? The simple answer is that very few top level managers would wish to take over at Liverpool, after they've seen the conditions in which Rafa Benitez has had to work under at Liverpool Football Club.

Rafa has had to cope with severe financial difficulties during his time at the helm, affecting his ability to purchase the world class players neccesary to compete at the highest level, as Liverpool are expected to do season after season. His net spend, over the 5 years that he has been manager, is just over £80 million, which he has earned himself through the team doing exceptionally well in the Champions League, winning the competiton in 2005, and finishing as runners up in 2007, as well as reaching the semi finals in 2008. Rafa has been given very little money by the American owners, as debt clearing is a much higher priority then trophy collecting, to the cowboy owners. His net spend for the most recent summer transfer window was a mere £10,000. No manager should be expected to achieve anything with these astonishingly low levels of investment, yet Rafa has succeeded, despite the financial constraints imposed on him. Liverpool have won the Champions League (05), FA Cup (06), Super Cup (06) under his management, as well as reaching the Carling Cup Final (05), the Champions Legaue final (07) and finishing an impressive second place last season.

After achieving so much in the English game, with so little money,you'd expect the English media to applaud the Spaniard for his expert managerial skills. However, this couldn't be further from the truth as Sports Journalists across the country have been demanding his head. Here are the 5 main complaints being posed regarding Rafael Benitez, from both journalists, eager to label another club as "in crisis", and fair weather fans;

1. He is too stubborn
Well, would you prefer him to listen to the ever changing opinions of the British media and so called "supporters", which change like the wind, or would you rather he stick to his tried and tested methods that have proved successful at both Valencia and Liverpool? Stubborness is a quality all good leaders have, as they are convinced of their methods, and is vital for all top level managers to possess if they are to survive in the cut throat business of Premier League football.

2. He has spent too much money
This is simply not true, as i have shown above. Some ridiculous figures have been suggested by people in the media. Ex player, Ronnie Whealan, claimed that the side that beat Debrecen 1-0 at Anfield, in the Champions League (16th September 2009), cost an eye watering £250 million, when in reality it was around £50 million.

3. He is too defensive
The 4-2-3-1 formation that Liverpool play provides the perfect balance between attack and defence, with 6 defensive minded players providing solidity, and 4 attack minded players (possibly 5 if Alberto Aquilani plays in the defensive pair in front of the defenders). Last season, the Reds played this formation and stormed oppostion defences, winning many games by large margins, epsecially in the second half of the season. People often criticise Rafa for not starting with two strikers, however, last season, when Torres played up front by himself for the majority of the season, Liverpool scored the most goals in the League with 77, proving that Rafa Benitez is by no means a defence minded manager.

4. He doesn't blood enough youngsters
Jay Spearing, Damien Plessis, Nathan Eccleston, Daniel Ayala, Daniel Pacheco, Stephen Darby and Martin Kelly have all tasted first team action this season. Also, Emilianio Insua has become the first choice left back at the tender age of 20. Arsene Wenger gets lauded because of his youth policy, however Rafa's work in revamping the academy, and improving the number of youngsters experiencing first team football, is conveniently ignored by his critics.

5. He plays players out of position
Very rarely does Rafa play a player out of position for a sustained period of time. Dirk Kuyt came to the club as a striker, however Rafa has converted him into a hard working right sided midfield player, who scores goals, with 15 recorded in the 2008/09 season. The British media are always trying to criticise Benitez, slaughtering him for playing Robbie Keane for 20 minutes at Villa Park last season. However, they conveniently forget that their precious Harry Redknapp has played Keane on the left 3 or 4 times since he returned to White Hart Lane. I don't have a problem with Harry Redknapp, i just can't stand the hyprocrisy.

All this pressure from the media would affect any manager, and it has took its toll on Rafa, causing him to be short, and sometimes sarcastic with the media. Personally, i fully understand his shortness with the media, as they are often a disgrace in their unbalanced reporting after any unconvincing performance or bad result.

Finally, a major problem that has plauged Rafa this season is injuries. At least 14 players have either missed games or lacked fitness at some point this season. This has caused poor results, and a drop in confidence, meaning that when the injured players finally regained full fitness, they were returning to a team desperately low on confidence. Injuries have been a major contributing factor to our horrible run of results earlier this season, and cannot be ignored when judging the season's performance.


Liverpool Request Permission to Call Off Spurs Clash

Liverpool Football Club have officially requested permission from the Premier League to call off their game against Tottenham Hotpsur on Sunday 10th January. The conditions around Anfield are treacherous with snow and ice affecting the North West over recent days. However, the game is due to by shown on Sky Sports, so the money men at the Premier League may wish to press ahead with the fixture anyway.

Update: This game has now been postponed


Up and Running

Red and Proud is now up and running. I will be posting my opinions on everything and anything about Liverpool Football Club whenever i get the chance.