Rodgers believes Skrtel is one of the league’s best

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Brendan Rodgers has lavished praise on Martin Skrtel following his two goal performance in the 5-1 win over Arsenal, describing the Slovakian as one of the Premier League’s best defenders, and insisting he is an example for other players to follow.


Martin SkrtelSkrtel found himself out of favour at Anfield during the second half of last season, and was widely tipped to leave the club during the summer.

But since being bought back into the first team fold for the early season clash with Manchester United, the 29-year-old has been a Premier League ever present, and put in a superb display during Saturday’s 5-1 win.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday night’s trip to Fulham, Rodgers said: “He looks a class act.


“It is big credit to him that he’s been able to prove me right. I brought in a way I wanted to work, on the training field and in games, and for the second half of last season he didn’t feature much.

“He had a choice, he could either throw the toys out the pram, or he could sit down with the manager and the coaching staff and see what areas he needed to improve.

“Now, you see a player with great intelligence in his defence, his use of the ball is composed and he has taken on a real leadership role. His performance levels, consistently, have been of a high level.

“He is up there with the top centre halves in this league, and I am delighted for him.”

 


Rodgers backs Sterling for World Cup place

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Brendan Rodgers has backed Raheem Sterling to cement a place in Roy Hodgson’s World Cup squad this summer.

Raheem SterlingThe Liverpool boss also dismissed suggestions from Sky Sports pundit Tony Gale that the wingers game was all about pace.

The 19-year-old has been in fantastic form for the Reds, and has started the last 13 Premier League games.

He put in a man of the match performance against Arsenal on Saturday, scoring twice as the Reds ran out 5-1 winners.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday night’s trip to Fulham, Rodgers said:

“I saw Tony Gale suggesting that it would be too early for Sterling to go to the World Cup.


“I know Tony. He was a good player and I have respect for him, but I see Raheem every day of his life, and I can tell you that is not the case.

“He is one of the most tactically aware players I have worked with.

“He certainly has more than pace. He has wonderful quality, and what he does have for a young player is responsibility on the pitch.

“I would have to disagree with Tony on that one!”

 

 

Gerrard: Arsenal victory one of our greatest

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Liverpool’s 5-1 thrashing over the gunners on Saturday ranks as one of the best team performances against a ‘big four’ side in recent seasons according to skipper Steven Gerrard.

Whilst this result puts ‘The Reds’ clear of Spurs and Everton in the race for fourth spot, Gerrard reluctantly agreed with Brendan Rodgers that the title will probably not be coming to Anfield this season.

“According to Brendan we are not (in the title race),” Gerrard said. “Ask the manager (why not). Listen, he said we are not so we are all behind Brendan.

“We do what he says and he says we are not in the title race, so we carry on pushing for the top four and see where it takes us.”


Gerrard intimated  that the performance against Arsenal was probably one of the best he could remember since turning pro’.

“I am trying to think back of a performance – especially in the first half – that I can remember in the last 15 years,” he  added.

“Maybe one or two in the Champions League got close but that was as explosive as it gets. That is right up there: definitely in the top three performances I have been involved in.

“You are talking about a side that is top of the league with world-class players, ones who are worth £42m, Jack Wilshere, one of the country’s big hopes who we are looking to perform at a World Cup, (Santi) Cazorla – a World Cup winner.

“We have absolutely demolished a top team there from start to finish.”

Liverpool 5 – 1 Arsenal

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Liverpool opted for craft over guile in midfield with Coutinho in instead of Allen in a very attacking line-up featuring SaS, Sterling and the Brazlian.  Arsenal had Ozil in as well as the usual suspects for a mouth-watering clash at Anfield.

A bright start with Saurez nicking in front of Mertesacker on his blind side and jhe wins a free kick.  Gerrard puts in a quality ball and Skrtel thighs it in the net for a goal and its 1-0 to Liverpool!  Come on your redmen! Arsenal look to come straight back into it and Skrtel makes an excellent tackle to stop Giroud having a 1 on 1 with Mignolet.  Sturridge breaks quickly on an excellent run and forces the save – excellent fast start from Liverpool.

As the game settles Arsenal have a chance as Mignolet palms out unnecessarily instead of catching the ball.  Flanagan breaks through with an excellent ball from Sturridge as Liverpool look dangerous on the break and the ball goes out for a corner.  The corner comes in and it’s Skrtel again with an excellent header to make it 2-0 to Liverpool.  Liverpool nearly make it 3 and it should be with Saurez putting it through for Sturridge who lefts it over the keeper but wide of the post. Then they are in again with Sterling firing across the goal with Liverpool threatening to run away with it. They play the ball out and Saurez smashes a shot against the post from well out that nearly broke the goal.

Brilliant break again by Liverpool with the ball coming across from Saurez to Sterling for 3-0 with Liverpool absolutely rocking.  It isn’t long before Liverpool are at it again, Coutinho plays a brilliant through ball to Sturridge and he passes it into the net for the best start i can ever remember.  20 minutes not even gone and its 4-0 to Liverpool.  The game begins to settle a little but Liverpool are swarming over Arsenal when they have the ball and are hounding Arsenal.  The game settles and 15 minutes go without a goal…. Arsenal have yet to have a meaningful shot on target as the first half plays out.  Liverpool are nearly at it again as Sterling breaks quickly but it falls to nothing.

The first half whistle blows to a standing ovation from the Liverpool fans and for good reason, it’s 4-0 and it could be 7, Arsenal have not had a shot.  What a shame that Saurez shot didn’t go in because that would have been goal of the season.

The 2nd half gets under way and Wilshire goes on a run and Henderson brings him down for the first booking of the game.  Carzola hits a free kick and the ball goes out for a corner with Toure clearing well.  Sturridge gets in well but takes a deflection for a corner which comes to nothing.  A good break by Toure and he clips a great ball to Sterling who hits it but the keeper saves and the ball comes out to him and he hits it into an empty net, 5-0 to Liverpool.

Liverpool look dangerous on the break and Saurez is brought down by Koscienly.  The resulting free kick nearly gets his hat trick but the ball goes outside the post. Chamberlain goes on a good run which results in a corner.  Arsenal have their first shot on taget with Chamberlain hitting a grss cutter which is easily saved by Mignolet.  Wilshere gets booked for hacking down Sterling in frustration.  Saurez trys a cheeky free kick after faking to cross and the keeper does well to save it in the end and the ball goes out for a corner.  Flanagan hits a great pass to Sturridge but he was off side.  Flanagan is having a great game and his passing has been excellent.

Sturridge is replaced by Allen after 65 minutes as Liverpool look to rest some players.  Coutinho zigs and zags with some excellent footwork and releases Henderson with a great ball but he can only scuff it wide.  Liverpool lose the ball in possession and Gerrard brings down Chamberlain for a penalty to Arsenal.  He knocks it straight down the middle for a goal to Arsenal.  Arsenal look a better aside and Mignolet does well to save a good free kick.  Liverpool aren’t residing though and Coutinho smashes the ball straight at the Arsenal keeper.  Gerrard makes way for Ibe has Liverpool can afford to rest another player.

The game flows without much action and Saurez is replaced by Asapas to give him the ovation he deserves, although as usual he looks annoyed to be missing some minutes. Sterling quickly breaks and hits it one side and goes the other and the keeper just saves it and the ball goes out for a corner.  Sterling has had an excellent game and gets the motm from Owen. The game finishes with Liverpool nearly scoring a 6th as Cissokho surges in after a brilliant one, two, and three but doesn’t find the far post.

We must stamp out individual errors to make the top 4

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Sunday’s disappointing draw at the Hawthorns in many ways summed up the positive and negative aspects of Liverpool’s season so far.

A subdued first half performance was lit up by Daniel Sturridge’s 17th goal of the campaign, and further emphasized the point that Liverpool do not always need to be at their best to pick up points, now that they have two top strikers in their ranks.

The fact Suarez and Sturridge have managed so many goals between them this season has gone some way to masking the teams short-comings defensively, which were once again exposed in the second half.

Kolo Toure’s horrendous misplaced place allowed former Blue Victor Anichebe to level the scores in a game the Reds should have won comfortably, and saw Twitter go into meltdown with the hashtag #cultzero.

The Reds will have to be at their very best to ensure there are no more defensive lapses on Saturday, when league leaders Arsenal arrive at Anfield.

Liverpool have not managed a Premier League win at Anfield over Arsene Wenger’s men since 2007, when Peter Crouch scored that famous hat-trick.

Since then, the Gunners have drawn three and won three at Anfield, and broken plenty of scouse hearts along the way.

Revenge should be at the forefront of the Reds minds on Saturday lunchtime.

The 4-4 draw to all but end our title challenge of 2009, and the last minute Van Persie winner in 2012 that sent Kenny Dalglish’s side completely off the boil, are painful memories that are still fresh in the minds of every Liverpool fan.

You can’t help but feel Liverpool are due a big win over Arsenal at Anfield, and there would be no better time to produce it than Saturday.

Three points would be more welcome than ever, not only because of the confidence it would breed, but with Tottenham and Everton playing each other the next day, a win would further cement Liverpool’s place in the top four.

But as has often been the case this season, a concern remains over the Reds defensive capabilities.

Kolo Toure will come up against his former club with the hope of atoning for his awful mistake at the Hawthorns, but Liverpool must do more defensively as a unit, rather than relying on the goals of Suarez and Sturridge.

A worrying statistic heading into Saturday’s game is that Liverpool have made 29 defensive errors that have lead to a goal or an attempt – more than any other Premier League team this season.

You could argue that the Reds are at least three players short of their preferred back four, with Glen Johnson, Mamadou Sakho, Daniel Agger and Jose Enrique (remember him?) all out injured.

But never-the-less, the individual errors the likes of which we saw at the Hawthorns on Sunday need to stop if the club are to make the Champions League for the first time since 2009.

No doubt Rodgers has had to sacrifice the odd clean sheet to get the Reds playing the exciting brand of attacking football they have been producing most weeks, but the frustrating part of watching Liverpool this season has been the feeling that so many goals conceded could easily have been avoided.

More often than not, Suarez and Sturridge have got us out of trouble, but will the goals of the SAS be enough to carry us over the line and back into Europe’s elite club competition?

Although it pains me to say it, Chelsea’s performance against Manchester City at the Etihad on Monday was the classic example of how to defend against one of the bigger teams, whilst playing effective counter attacking football.

Mourinho’s side do not have front players anywhere near in the class of Suarez and Sturridge, yet they still sit six points ahead of Rodgers side in third place.

The comparison between the two sides is interesting, as it begs the question as whether a team more focused on playing free-flowing attacking football or a team concerned with winning ugly and defending well, are more likely to challenge at the top.

I definitely know which team I would rather watch, but Chelsea’s defensive capabilities are likely to see them finish above the Reds this season.

I still have every confidence that the Reds can make the top four this season, which given the circumstances would be an incredible achievement for Rodgers and his side.

However, between now and the end of the season it is crucial the defending improves, starting Saturday against Arsenal.

Steven Gerrard looks set to continue in his new role of the holding midfield player, and will be looking to replicate the performance he produced in the Merseyside derby, rather than the first half showing he produced against Aston Villa on January 18.

Gerrard’s role will be pivotal on Saturday, with the Reds deciding against signing a new holding midfielder in January, despite the injury to Lucas Leiva – another decision that has Red’s fans wishing Ian Ayre would hop onto his motorbike and drive off into the sunset.

Arsenal boast the best defensive record in the league, and are more than capable of picking off a weak defence on the break with pace and intricate passing.

Sturridge and Suarez will have to be at their electrifying best if the Reds are to get a result, whilst Gerrard will need to protect a defence that continues to look vulnerable.

If it is a case of Liverpool simply trying to outscore Arsenal, whilst you would back Rodgers front players, you would be concerned with the Reds abilities to keep the Gunners out.

Every Liverpool player needs to be tactically spot on against Wenger’s side, and no doubt will have to produce their best defensive display of the season so far if we are to get the three points we so desperately crave.

Whilst it is sure to be an incredibly exciting 90 minutes of football, I would personally settle for a scrappy 1-0 win – with Kolo bundling home the winner from a corner with our only shot on target.

de Boer would manage Reds

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Ajax coach Frank De Boer says he would be happy to manage Liverpool or Tottenham in the future, despite previously turning down the opportunity to discuss the role with both clubs in the last couple of years.

deboerThe former Dutch international defender is in his fourth season in charge of Ajax – and has won the Eredivisie title in each of those years.

“Those two clubs are clubs that I think in the future I could be a manager of. I think the history of the clubs and what you can do with the team is my cup of tea.” de Boer told BBC World Football Show.

“I’m not really thinking about it because I’m very happy here at Ajax. I’m not in a hurry to leave because everybody is still happy with me.

“I step in my car with a big smile to go to the club. I don’t think I’m finished here but there will come a time when I don’t like it any more or the club doesn’t like me anymore. Then we have to go both ways.

“Tottenham called my manager with the possibility after sacking [Andre] Villas-Boas but I said, ‘no, right now it’s not the right moment’,” he said.

He signed a four year deal with Ajax last Summer.

Wenger has no regrets over Suarez

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Arsene Wenger says he has no regrets over the failure to sign Liverpool’s Luis Suarez last Summer as he prepares his table topping squad for their visit to Anfield in Saturday’s lunchtime kick off in the Premier League.

wengerThe North London club put in a bid of £40,000,001 – which they believed would trigger a buy out clause for the Uruguay international striker. Which it did not. Wenger after admitted that it was “not the most subtle thing we have done.”

Suarez has pushed himself on to even better things at Anfield this season and is currently leading the scoring charts with 23 goals in 19 games – he is eight clear of Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero and nine ahead of team-mate Daniel Sturridge.

Wenger has moved quickly to say that he doesn’t regret failing in the move for the prolific frontman ahead of Saturday’s encounter.

“No, there are no regrets,” Wenger said.

“You have sometimes regrets when a player played for you, and scores goals or does well somewhere else – he was never our player. It is just a situation that did not come off and that is it.”

“At the moment, no,” he said when asked if he would make another move for the forward.

“For us, the important thing is to win the game,” Wenger added. “The fact about what happened in the summer is nothing to do with that. If you want to win the game, what is for sure is that he’s one of the players that you have to keep quiet.

“Liverpool have a strong offensive force with Sturridge, with Suárez, with Coutinho, with Sterling behind. All these players can score goals and make a difference. What you want on our side is a strong defensive performance and to dominate, to leave them as few balls as possible. The philosophy on our side has to be the same: to master the ball and to dominate the game.”

Arsenal sit top of the table after beating Crystal Palace 2-0 on Saturday with Chelsea going level with Manchester City two points further back after their impressive 1-0 win at The Etihad on Monday evening.

“I told you one month ago and you did not believe me … there is no invincible team,” Wenger said.

“It is because there are so many quality teams in the Premier League and it is just how close you are to your best every time which decides the game.”

Arsenal have a tough run of fixtures ahead of them this month. After visiting Anfield, they face Manchester United at home in the league next Wednesday; Liverpool at home in the FA Cup a week on Sunday and Bayern Munich at home in the Champions League on the following Wednesday.

Wenger is hoping to welcome back some of his stars from recent injuries for this difficult run – starting with England midfielder Jack Wilshere.

“We might have Wilshere back,” he said. “It’s important to have as many players back as possible in the squad. In the big games, it is always decided by having the complete squad available … by strong players who have a big statement.

“We have had some good wins at Anfield and I have a big respect for the fans there because they really know football. Even, sometimes, when you had good results, their behaviour is unbelievably loyal. It always has been. They are a passionate crowd with a big history and they always behave in a passionate but very fair way.”

West Brom 1 – 1 Liverpool

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Liverpool fans were brought back to earth with a thump following the midweek demolition of Everton, as they limped to a 1-1 draw against West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns.

The pre-match news confirmed that Brendan Rodgers named an unchanged XI from the team that had seen off their Merseyside rivals so efficiently, whilst Joe Allen was deemed fit enough to return to the bench.

From the outset it appeared that the efforts in midweek had taken a lot out of the Liverpool players, and fans were left wanting in the early exchanges as both sides failed to dazzle.

The Reds seemed to find a bit of flow after a while though, and they had the travelling fans on their feet on the quarter hour mark as Daniel Sturridge put Luis Suarez through with just one defender to beat. The West Brom defence were quick to react though, and managed to crowd out the Uruguayan before he could create a goalscoring opportunity.

The breakthrough for the visitors came on 25 minutes. Raheem Sterling got in behind the Baggies’ defence down the right and laid the ball off to Suarez, who managed to find his strike partner Sturridge at the back post for an easy tap-in.

It was almost 2-0 eight minutes later when Suarez tried to divert a Coutinho corner past Ben Foster and Kolo Toure tried to force the loose ball across the line, but the home side’s defence were just about able to deal with the threat.

Coutinho fired narrowly wide whilst at the other end Zoltan Gera reminded the Liverpool defence to stay alert with a fierce drive, but neither side was able to improve their respective position before the half-time break.

The home side were fastest out of the blocks at the start of the second half, with Gera in particular looking threatening. Liverpool’s back line stood firm though and the threat looked to fade following an early flurry.

Just before the hour mark it looked like the Reds were set to get the second goal required to put breathing space between them and their opponents. Suarez showed smart footwork to dance around the West Brom defence, but fired the resulting shot too close to Foster.

As the game drew on the home side once again started to look the more assured side, as they gained control of the midfield and started stringing passes together.

The Liverpool defence looked to be soaking up the pressure, until Kolo Toure gifted the opposition a way back into the game. The Ivorian defender played the ball across the edge of the box straight to the feet of Victor Anichebe, who made no mistake in driving home into the bottom left corner.

Rodgers brought on Joe Allen and Martin Kelly to try and regain control of the midfield as the Reds sought to regain the lead, but the fight seemed to be lost and there was little for the travelling fans to get too excited about in the closing exchanges.

The ref blew up to confirm the draw, a result that is certainly two points dropped considering results elsewhere over the weekend.

BREAKING NEWS: Liverpool fail in Konoplyanka bid

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It being widely reported this evening that Liverpool’s move for Dnipro winger Yechin Konoplyanka has failed after complications made it impossible to complete the move.

Ian Ayre has been part of a delegation trying to get a deal done for the Ukraine international. But the move appears to be over as the club end up with no new signings in this transfer window.

Spurs had tried to complete a move after getting a bid accepted but they fell by the wayside earlier today. Liverpool were in pole position to sign the winger, but no deal has been possible.

Brendan Rodgers will need to complete the season with the squad he began it with.

The brilliance and frustrations of Daniel Sturridge

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Liverpool’s stunning 4-0 victory over Everton at Anfield was the performance and result that dreams are made of.

All the build up prior to the game talked about how this was perhaps the biggest Merseyside derby of the last 30 years, with the two teams separated by just a single point in the table, and well in the hunt for Champions League qualification.

In fact, you could have argued the fixture was perhaps the Reds biggest league game since the title chasing season of 2008/2009.

With so much at stake, nobody could have quite imagined the manner in which the Reds swept aside an Everton team that prior to the game had lost just two Premier League matches all season, whilst not conceding more than one in a match since that unforgettable 3-3 draw at Goodison Park in November.

There was so much to be admired from Brendan Rodgers free-flowing side, who tore the Everton defence open time and time again during a ruthless first 45 minutes.

And the star of that magnificent first half showing was Daniel Sturridge.

The England striker has been at Anfield for over a year now, since arriving for Chelsea for £12million last January – and what a year it has been.

Sturridge’s statistics have often been overlooked during his first year at Anfield, as strike partner Luis Suarez has deservedly grabbed the headlines with performances that have seen him widely classed as the best striker in the world.

But Sturridge looked every inch a world class striker during the first 45 minutes at Anfield last night, and took his goal tally to 16 for the season, with two fine finishes.

Sturridge has in fact now managed 23 Premier League goals in 25 appearances since completing his move to Anfield on January 2nd 2012, including six in his last five, and five in the four games since his comeback from injury.

But whilst there was plenty to be admired from Sturridge once more last night, he was also responsible for perhaps the only negative during a match that may go down as perhaps the most memorable of Brendan Rodgers tenure so far.

Sturridge was given the opportunity to complete his hat trick from the spot early in the second half, only to blast his penalty high and hopelessly into the Kop.

All players are capable of missing penalties of course, but the manner in which Sturridge seemed to completely lose his way after the miss bought about a bit of concern.

He was guilty of another poor miss on 69 minutes, when played through by the superb Phillipe Coutinho on the left hand side.

Sturridge displayed another moment of selfishness – a trait we have witnessed a fair few times during his first twelve months at Anfield – shooting wide into the Kop, rather than looking for the better placed Coutinho, or Luis Suarez – who made no secret of what he thought of his strike partners decision.

Sturridge was replaced two minutes later by Victor Moses, and his subsequent reaction to his managers decision was another blot on what had previously been looking like the perfect evening for the Reds number 15.

But without a doubt, the roller-coaster experience he went through during last nights clash will stand him in better stead for the future.

Sturridge was often accused of being selfish, whilst teetering on the verge of arrogant during his spell at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea fans weren’t too disappointed to see the back of him at the time, despite his obvious talent.

He has come on leaps and bounds since his move to Anfield, with Brendan Rodgers decision to play him as a central striker vindicated time and again.

His overall game and attitude has also improved tremendously, almost from the moment he arrived.

His link up play with Luis Suarez has seen him labelled a part of the best strike partnership in the league, whilst he has also shown a willingness to track back and work hard for the team.

He has started the last two games wide left of a front three, with license to drift and interchange with Suarez.

One moment against Everton he was defending as a left back, the next he was racing through to lob Tim Howard with a perfectly executed finish.

All the signs have been there that Daniel Sturridge can emulate his strike partner and go on to be considered a ‘world class’ centre forward.

His manager, and his captain have both echoed those thoughts.

But his second half showing last night exposed the weaknesses he still has in his game, and perhaps the only traits holding him back to taking that next step.

His selfishness in front of goal has often been noted, and whilst you can argue it is often the mark of a great striker – you only have to look at the way Luis Suarez has changed that aspect of his game this season to see where further improvements can be made.

The other concern was the way in which he seemed to let the frustration of his missed penalty get the better of him.

It affected his decision making on the pitch for the remainder of the second half, and surely played a part in his brief exchange with Rodgers following his substitution.

He made all the right noises after the game, by apologizing to anyone who was ‘offended’ by his reaction, whilst also blaming the frustration of the missed penalty on his second half performance.

“I apologise for my reaction. I was disappointed by missing the penalty and felt I’d let myself down as well as the fans,” he said.

“The hat-trick would have been the icing on the cake and it’s unfortunate. I was disappointed with myself. It was nothing to do with the manager and I’d like to apologise for my reaction if anybody took any offence. It’s not about me, it’s about the boys and a great victory.”

His insistence it is about the team rather than personal glory has been a constant feature of Sturridge’s post match interviews during his time at Liverpool, but his second half display made that hard to believe.

Brendan Rodgers handled the incident perfectly, insisting it was simply a tactical decision.

“I felt the change balanced the team back up and there was no problem. I think he was a little frustrated after the penalty and he apologised to the group,”  Rodgers explained.

“He hasn’t done that [shown disrespect]. He was frustrated he missed the penalty. It was a brilliant performance from him.”

Whilst Rodgers downplayed the incident, you can be sure that behind closed doors he will be doing his utmost to ensure Sturridge learns his lesson, and uses it as another stepping stone on his journey to becoming the world class striker we all believe he can be.

He looked every inch that player during the first 45 minutes, before selfishness got the better of him in the second half.

Of course, exceptions can be made when chasing a hat trick in a Merseyside derby, but Rodgers is a manager insistent that the good of the team comes before anything else.

Sturridge has followed that idea 85% of the time during his first year at Liverpool.

Once he takes on that idea fully, then perhaps we will be able to consider ourselves to have two world class strikers plying their trade at Anfield.