Rodgers to Renovate Reds’ Rearguard?

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Houllier: Give Rodgers time

Following the passing of the annual January transfer window, some thoughts turn to summer with regard to who Liverpool need, who they want, who they can afford and of course, who they can get.


The first name on most pairs of lips will of course be Thomas Ince. Fitting the “profile” of being young and English and seemingly wanting to move back to Anfield, Rodgers will likely make another move for him, armed with some funds from the likely sale of Andy Carroll.

Houllier: Give Rodgers time
Houllier: Give Rodgers time

However, given the recent arrival in attacking options with Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho, the focus in strengthening the squad must now shift to reinforcing the defence.
During the past 18 months, the Reds have been rightly maligned for the failure to take chances and win games that they dominate in terms of both possession and chances created. By viewing the majority of Brendan’s buys to date (Sturridge, Coutinho, Borini, Assaidi), it’s clear that the manager identified this as the area of the team that needed the most attention.

Given the amount of focus on the misfiring attack, the defence has pretty much, until recently, managed to escape any such criticism. Looking through the entire defence, it could be argued that significant spending is needed to strengthen each position.
Goalkeeper.

Due to his latest error costing 2 points against Man City at the weekend, many have added to calls for Pepe Reina to be sold. Looking back over the past few seasons, Reina has seen world-class players such as Torres, Alonso and Mascherano leave Liverpool to advance their careers and this appears to have had a profound affect on him. Aside from such well-publicised errors against Man City and in the early-season against Hearts, Reina’s kicking ability has also suffered. Previously assured with both feet, he’s often seen berating himself after sending first-time kicks out of play when he’s been able to take a touch.

To sum Reina up in one sentence: He doesn’t look happy. A move away from Anfield, probably back to Barcelona or Atletico Madrid may reinvigorate Pepe and see him push his competitors for the Spain #1 Jersey, Messrs Casillas and Valdes (both at their own crossroads) coming into World Cup season. While it appears accepted that Pepe will leave in the summer, he’ll obviously need to be replaced and given the failure of Brad Jones to inspire confidence, it may be that 2 goalkeepers end up coming in.
Right Back

Possibly Liverpool’s strongest position in terms of numbers but still not without concerns. Glen Johnson is enjoying his best season in a red shirt; defensively he isn’t caught out of position as much and is as ever dangerous on his forward runs but what about cover for him?

Martin Kelly

No questions over his ability, but with his injury record, contract stand off and preference to play centre back, his future in the position and at the club remains to be seen.

Andre Wisdom

Solid and consistent without being spectacular Appears assured in possession, strong, quick and disciplined but another centre back by trade. Is he malleable into a long-term full back or just a stop gap?

John Flanaghan

Impressive and fearless at first but with more appearances seemed to come more nerves and with them a bunch of reckless yellow cards and looking really out of his depth. At 20, a loan season to a newly-promoted team or a Championship team next term would give him much-needed first team game time.

Centre Back

On face value, centre back appears to be well-covered, with two 28-year old established internationals with 5 years at the club, the stalwart who would run through fire for the club and the youngster who has won honours at international level before the age of 21.

Delving deeper, the problems become more evident


Danny Wilson (why is he even getting a mention?)

Came to the club a full international and title-winner, never really seemed up for the fight to get into the team, so much so even appeared overweight during pre-season. He won’t be missed when his contract runs out in the summer.

Sebastian Coates

Faced with an uphill task trying to dislodge those more experienced in front of him, Seb has had to wait patiently for his chances. When he has played, Coates has shown a lack of urgency, and despite his stature, appears easily intimidated and often bullied all to easily, especially against Oldham. With an eye on the World Cup, he’ll seek first team football and likely will move on in the summer.

Martin Skrtel & Daniel Agger

Good defenders on their day but great defenders? It was clear that when Rafa bought these he wanted to pair the fierce, strong in the tackle Slovak with the footballing, able to bring the ball forward Dane. This season, until Carragher was brought back into the fold, Agger and Skrtel seemed to be playing within themselves, as if knowing that their positions in the team were secure, regardless of how they played.

Despite having arguably his best season at Liverpool last term, Skrtel has often regressed into committing those rash challenges or trying to win those tackles that just aren’t winnable. With regard to Daniel, when people talk about his traits, usually defending isn’t the first that is mentioned. Daniel is “the new Alan Hansen”, he can bring the ball out of defence and has a good left foot and a great shot. While great attributes for any defender, surely the ability to defend should be first on any list when praising such players. Liverpool have seen better defenders in the past and should the tattooed twosome move on this summer, may see some better next season.

Jamie Carragher

At 35, Jamie is the same age as Sami Hyypia when he was allowed to leave for Leverkusen. The same cannot be allowed to happen to the player who has played more times for Liverpool than all but one man. While like Sami, Jamie may not be able to play 40-50+ games a season, he is where he should be in the squad: 3rd – 4th choice and covering for injuries and loss of form to the first-choice centre backs. You know what you get with Jamie, 100% commitment, organisation and leadership of the defence (which should have been picked up from those above) but he is not without fault. Given the philosophy of Rodgers to be able to start moves from the back, Carra doesn’t represent a long-term option here. Never the most comfortable with the ball at his feet, he’s been seen many a time and oft in doing that little skip before hoofing it up the field and for this reason, above his age, he’ll never start many games under Rodgers. That said, Carragher still has a huge role to play in the dressing room and on the training pitch, before eventually moving into a coaching role within the club.

 

Left Back

Since the departure of John Arne Riise, left back has represented a huge problem for Liverpool. Fabio Aurelio was a good defender but due to injury was never able to show his best form in a red shirt while players like Dossena and Insua were both clearly not up to the task of playing in the Premier League and have both long gone. Nevertheless, both were streets ahead of Paul Konchesky.

Although hampered by injuries this season, Enrique’s performances when he has played have gladly mirrored those from the early part of last season and not those after Christmas. He has been solid in defence and his attacking play has remained a strong part of his game, so much so that he was able to score his first Liverpool goal and only his 2nd in English football when being played as part of the front 3 early in the season. It is when the Spaniard has been injured that the problems at left back have been exposed again with the lack of quality, experienced, specialised cover has been found wanting.

When Jose is missing this actually represents the loss 2 attacking full backs. Glen Johnson has mostly been deployed to left back in Jose’s absence but doesn’t carry the same threat going forward on the left as he does on the right. In addition, there remains the task to replace England’s right back which only compromises the team in that position.

Jack Robinson

Good on the ball and with it comfortable in the attacking half, Jack has been found wanting when put under pressure on the back foot and as with Flanaghan, would probably benefit from regular first-team football.

Quite what the defence will look like next season is anyone’s guess, especially as there have been so few defenders linked with moves to Anfield but don’t be surprised if there are a number of comings and goings come this Summer.


Reds Champs League tie in match-fixing probe

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One of Liverpool’s Champions League games is part of a European investigation into match-fixing, it emerged today (5th Feb).

There are allegations that our 2009 home match against Hungarian side Debrecen, which we won 1-0 is under investigation, although there is no suggestion of any wrong doing by Liverpool players or staff.

The allegations are that Vukasin Poleksic, Debrecen’s goalkeeper, was approached by criminal gangs, to help ensure there were at least three goals in the match.

Liverpool won only 1-0 with a goal from Dirk Kuyt, scored on the rebound after Poleksic saved a shot from Fernando Torres.


The club said they had not been contacted by UEFA about the issue.article-2273180-0C66A5CC000005DC-893_634x422[1]

Poleksic was banned by UEFA for two years for failing to report an approach from match-fixers before another Champions League game against Fiorentina.

A spokesman for The Football Association said: “The FA are not aware of any credible reports into suspicious Champions League fixtures in England, nor has any information been shared with us.

“While the Champions League comes under UEFA jurisdiction, The FA, alongside the Premier League, Football League and Conference, monitor markets for the top seven leagues and three major cup competitions in England and take matters of integrity in football extremely seriously.”

Investigators said an Asia-based crime syndicate is behind the fixing of the 380 matches, along with World Cup and European Championship qualifiers and “several top football matches in European leagues”.

Manchester City 2 – 2 Liverpool

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By AmericanKopite, 03-02-2013, 18:56:56

Manchester City are still in the hunt for the title and were looking to edge closer to their rivals Man United with a win over the visiting Liverpool side who were looking for redemption after their 2 goal lead turned into a 2-2 draw at the Emirates stadium over the weekend. City goalkepper Joe Hart has yet to concede a goal in 2013 and Liverpool were victorious the last time they were at the Etihad. Referee Anthony Taylor was in charge of this afternoon fixture.

David Silva started straight away in the first minute with a shot at Reina that was tipped over the crossbar for an unsuccessful corner.

Pressure seemed to show on the Liverpool defence in the seventh minute when a poorly timed backpass lead to a corner for the home side but Liverpool regained composure and saw the corner fly over the crossbar and go for a goal kick.

Liverpool finally got something going in the 13th minute when Daniel Sturridge was given an excellent lob by Glen Johnson that saw Sturridge with possession 12 yards from goal, but a well timed tackle from Argentine defender Pablo Zabaleta thwarted the attack.

Liverpool had a sure goal on the cards when Daniel Sturridge put in a speedy ground cross to Luis Suarez who was on the edge of the box, but the ball came awkwardly off his foot and went more sideways than it did toward the face of goal. But the shots and crosses rained down for the rest of the 20th minute and Liverpool had turned the attacking tables on the home side.

But Man City were not to be outdone by the struggling visitors and Edin Dzeko made that statement in the 23rd minute. A low cross from James Milner found the Bosnian’s right foot and in stride from the penalty spot Edin Dzeko was able to score the first goal of the match and send the home fans into a frenzy.

Controversy struck in the 27th minute when Edin Dzeko appeared to be fouled and stayed down for some time. The fans were displeased as no foul was called and play resumed with Dzeko on the floor. In that time it was Daniel Sturridge who furiously fired a low shot into the bottom right corner of the goal and leveled the match at 1 goal apiece.

The temperatures rose when the first booking of the match was given to Liverpool’s U21 international Jordan Henderson for his tackle on James Milner.

Shock and relief rang around the Etihad when a backpass from Pablo Zabaleta nearly crossed the line behind an unprepared Joe Hart and would’ve gone in but for the saving grace that the ball was just outside the post. That was the last action of the half and the whistle blew to end the first 45 minutes at 1-1.

And with a bang the second half started with two shots to put the Liverpool defence on edge, but the match remained level after City came out showing their aggressive intentions.

Liverpool were hard on the attack and the frustration of not scoring set in during the 53rd minute when Daniel Sturridge took a very delayed dive in front of goal that fooled no one. Sturridge earned the second booking of the match.


The 56th minute was the time for the first substitution of the match when Manchester City sent Aleksandar Kolarov on for Matija Nastasic.

More cards were handed out, and this time it goes to one of the most experienced footballers on the pitch. Jamie Carragher made a hard tackle on striker Sergio Aguero and although he got all of the ball, referee Anthony Taylor deemed that the challenge from behind was worthy of a yellow card.

The match went back and forth with Liverpool playing the counter and City playing the high pressure attack until a brief respite when the fourth yellow card of the match was handed out in the 71st minute to Manchester City’s Javi Garcia for clipping Suarez’ heels and tripping him up in space.

Liverpool made their first change on the night when Brendan Rodgers sent Martin Skrtel on for the recently recovered Jose Enrique.

More action just minutes later. Another legendary strike from a legendary name when Steven Gerrard unleashed a curling shot from 30 yards out and directly in front of goal. Certainly one for the history books and one to turn the headlines crazy. Liverpool lead 2-1 with 15 minutes left.

City responded with great determination in their next attack when Sergio Aguero baited Pepe Reina to the very edge of the box and beyond where Aguero turned and fired a outrageously angled lob that landed just inside the post where there was no keeper for miles. Safe to say that Reina’s egregious error of judgement was the reason for the 2-2 score with 10 minutes left.

Second City substitution of the night when Gareth Barry was replaced by France international Samir Nasri in the 88th minute in the hopes of snatching a late winner.

91 minutes into the match was time for the final substitution of the evening when Welsh midfielder Joe Allen was brought on for Daniel Sturridge.

It came down to the wire once again in Manchester when a 92nd minute corner was conceded by The Reds, but to no avail and the passionate frustration of Roberto Mancini.

One last try. One last corner and it went to Liverpool after the 95th minute and there was a great header, but it was parried by the safe hands of Joe Hart and that was it. The finale whistle blew shortly before the end of the 96th minute and honours were even at the Etihad. 2 points certainly lost for both teams.

Manchester City have the week to rest and are back to work Saturday at noon when they make the trip down South to play Southampton and try to close the gap on the title race.

Liverpool have seven days of rest before the fans fill Anfield on Monday to see their side try to claim a necessary three points against West Brom in their hunt for a top four spot.

Until then
–AK

Sterling charged with assault

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Raheem Sterling has been charged with assaulting a woman.

The 18-year-old winger from Woolton, Liverpool, was summonsed to Liverpool Youth Court on a charge of common assault.

The Police said that a 27-year-old suffered “slight” facial injuries in an alleged incident in Toxteth on 2 November.”sterling1[1]

Sterling did not attend the hearing in person but his solicitor stated that he denies the charge.

He said the alleged offence took place when the footballer was a minor at 17 but, as he turned 18 in December, the matter should be transferred to the adult courts.

Solicitor Mick Hogan said: “I do have instructions to the effect that Mr Sterling will be pleading not guilty to this charge.”

“He is aware of today’s hearing and the club are very supportive.”

The move to the adult courts was supported by the prosecution and Chairman of the Bench Brian Upton adjourned the matter to Liverpool Magistrates’ Court on 22 February.

Reds wrap up Coutinho deal

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Liverpool FC have today confirmed the signing of midfielder Philippe Coutinho from Inter Milan.

The 20-year-old becomes the Reds’ second signing in the January transfer window following the arrival of Daniel Sturridge earlier this month, and has penned a long-term contract with the club.

Speaking to the official website Coutinho said: “I’m feeling very happy, it’s a very important step in my career and I’m expecting to come here and play good football to give my contribution on the pitch.philipe-coutinho-liverpool-inter[1]

“Liverpool is a great club with great players. We’ve always heard about Liverpool’s history in Brazil. They are the club that have been interested in me and that have showed this interest so I know they believe in me and my football.”

Coutinho began his career at Vasco da Gama before moving to Inter Milan in 2010, and has represented the Brazilian national team once.

He becomes the fifth Brazilian to represent Liverpool, following in the footsteps of Fabio Aurelio, Diego Cavalieri, Doni and Lucas Leiva.

Doni leaves Liverpool

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Brazilian keeper Alexander Doni has joined Botafogo on free transfer today.

The 33 year old keeper signed for the club in the Summer of 2011 for around £1.5m from Italian club Roma. He has only made four appearances since moving to Anfield and has been away from the club since the Summer.alexander-doni-620-806254691-3005312[1]

He has ten Brazilian caps and will be aiming to return to the international fold now he is back in Brazil.

The goalkeeper recently criticised the club over his position and is unlikely to be missed by many at Anfield after those thinly-veiled comments.

Arsenal 2 – 2 Liverpool

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By mowords, 30-01-2013, 23:02:09

With our new number 10 Philippe Coutinho watching on, Liverpool drew with Arsenal at the Emirates after throwing away a 0-2 lead.

The draw leaves us three points behind our north London hosts and but the performance will stoke belief among players and fans that Champions League football is a possibility next year.

The partnership between Luis Suarez and new boy Daniel Sturridge showed again that it just might deliver on its potential with Suarez snatching an early goal in the first five minutes.

The partnership almost bore fruit in the 10th minute when Suarez curled a ball, with the outside of his right foot, at speed around Vermaelen and into Sturridge’s path, but Daniel’s shot didn’t match the pass.

We were strong for the rest of the first half but couldn’t add to our lead until the hour mark when Jordan Henderson silenced doubters with a strong finish to seemingly win the match.

Just five minutes later we fell apart conceding to Giroud and Walcott in quick succession.

Clearly rocked, Liverpool clung on as Arsenal surged forward, but we grew stronger as the game came to a close.

Both sides came close several times in a hectic last ten minutes but Reds will be pleased with some of the quality we showed while lamenting not bagging full points in a dominant first hour.

Rodgers had taken the controversial step of dropping Martin Skrtel to the bench after a run of sub-par performances and his replacement, Jamie Carragher, showed how valuable he still is to Liverpool organising the back line and taking a cracking blow to the ribs for his troubles.

The match was watched by 3,000 travelling Reds and we are the first club to take up our full away allocation at the Emirates, which has been slammed for charging £62 for an adult away ticket.

Liverpool now go on to face league champions Man City in an even tougher away match on Sunday with knowledge that we can launch attacks that can scare anyone.
@mowords

Oldham 3 – 2 Liverpool

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Liverpool crashed out of the FA Cup after losing 3-2 to Oldham Athletic at Boundary Park. An early goal from Matt Smith put the Latics ahead but Luis Suarez was quick to put the sides back on even terms. Smith grabbed a second just before half time and Reece Wabara scored Oldham’s third at the start of the second period. Joe Allen made it 3-2 but Liverpool could not find an equaliser.

Brendan Rodgers opted with Suarez as captain of a very young Liverpool side whose average age of the ten outfield players was only 22. Oldham came out very attacking, a tactic which paid off very early on in the game.

With just over two minutes gone, a miss-hit volley from Lee Croft found its way to Youssouf M’changama on the left wing. He swung a ball into the middle and Matt smith met it with a directed header. The effort sent Jones the wrong way and Martin Skrtel’s last-ditch clearance attempt was not enough to prevent Oldham taking a very early 1-0 lead.

Fazed by the home side’s fiery start, Liverpool failed to find any sort of rhythm in the first ten minutes. Raheem Sterling went into the book after a late challenge on M’changama, the Oldham midfielder unable to continue from injury.

Jones recovered a save after spilling it into the path of Robbie Simpson, but the forward left his foot in after lunging for the ball. Both Jones and Skrtel were unhappy with the challenge, which resulted in Simpson getting booked.

The Reds began to play at a decent tempo and when Suarez strode into the attacking half. He aimed a ball towards Borini but Byrne turned it back into the path of Suarez. The striker knocked it into the box and smashed a low shot past Dean Bouzanis, levelling the score after 16 minutes.

Wabara jumped into a tackle on Suarez on the left side of the pitch and conceded a free-kick on the edge of the box. Jordan Henderson curled the ball into the area and Suarez flicked the ball with his head into the back of the head. The linesman’s flag went up however, denying Liverpool the lead.

After capitalising on a shaky start from their opponents, the Latics’ tempo slowed and Liverpool were able to create more chances. Sterling almost gave his team the lead when Borini played him through with a wonderful first-time flick, but Bouzanis made a comfortable save from the midfielder’s tame effort.

Jose Baxter had Jones worried when he released a low shot from 30 yards towards the bottom left corner. Jones didn’t reach the ball but it swerved the wrong side of the post. Smith tested Jones to punch the ball over when his header looked as if it was dipping under the bar.

As the first half was coming to an end, Oldham pushed the ball into attack. Wabara put in a low cross that Jones should have collected easily, but he fumbled the ball into the path of Simpson. He hammered the ball towards goal and Smith was left with a tap-in, giving his side a 2-1 lead at half time.

The Liverpool players were angry that the goal stood because they felt that Sturridge was fouled in the build-up. The Reds raced out at the first of the second half and Borini was presented with a golden chance to level the scores after seconds of the restart. The Oldham defenders failed to pick up Borini but his first time effort from close-range spun over the bar.

Athletic were also hungry for more goals and Carl Winchester turned Sterling with ease on the left wing and hit a high cross. Wabara met the cross with a header that looped over Jones and into the goal off the underside of the bar. The home side, 3-1 up just after the restart, were playing with the confidence of a team keen to cause an upset.

As the minutes ticked by, Liverpool attempted to move the ball into attack with growing urgency. The introduction of Steven Gerrard and Stuart Downing allowed the Reds to push Oldham’s back line but the home side left hardly any room for manoeuvre. Gerrard had several shots blocked and the Oldham defence were throwing themselves at anything that came their way.

It became harder to control the ball on a very slippery surface after a second half downpour. Oldham had the opportunity to close the game out when Baxter received the ball with just Jones to beat. The striker hit a volley first-time but his effort trickled wide.

With just over ten minutes left, the ball fell to Joe Allen after a half-cleared corner. Allen smashed a first-time volley towards goal and after taking a big deflection off Baxter, the ball planted in the bottom right corner, making the score 3-2.

Liverpool were relentless in attack after their second goal, desperately trying to locate an equaliser. The home side were quick to clear their lines but the Reds fired the ball straight back at them. Gerrard released a fierce shot from 20 yards which cleared Bouzanis but crashed off the cross bar.

Urgency became desperation for Liverpool as they frantically searched for a goal. They were wasteful with possession in attack and could not find an equaliser. Oldham held on long enough to confirm a big upset as well as progression into the fifth round of the FA Cup.

Coutinho Deal Agreed

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8.5 million pounds is the reported fee that Inter Milan have agreed for the sale of their up and coming midfielder Phillipe Coutinho.

Liverpool had made two previous bids for seven and eight million pounds and had to hold off fellow Premier League challengers Southampton for the Brazilian.

The 20 year old international has had 10 appearances and six goals for his Brazil youth squads and just one cap for the senior team. He was recently loaned to La Liga side Espanyol where he’s scored five goals in 16 appearances.philipe-coutinho-liverpool-inter[1]

Liverpool are reported to offer the youngster a five year deal at Anfield pending his medical early next week.

Coutinho is not the only player to be leaving the blue side of the San Siro this window as Inter Milan recently sold Dutch international Wesley Snijder to Turkish league champions Galatasaray.

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers was hinting at this deal saying, “We hope to do some business between now and the end of the month. The owners have been brilliant and supporting.”

Blackpool’s Tom Ince and Swansea’s Ashley Williams are two more reported targets that Liverpool may acquire before the 31st.

Gerrard praises Rodgers courage

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Steven Gerrard has praised Brendan Rodgers for leaving his ‘comfortable’ position at Swansea and having the courage to take over as Liverpool manager.

Rodgers took over from Kenny Dalglish at Liverpool eight months ago, prior to which he enjoyed relative success with Swansea, leading the Welsh club first to promotion into the Premier League then securing their position with an impressive first season in the top flight. The club received many plaudits for their possession-based style of play, and had a passing rate comparable to Barcelona’s last season.

It was this that prompted the Liverpool owners to make their move Rodgers, and Gerrard believes time will prove the decision to be a good one.gerrard_2920462[1]

“He gave up a top job in a comfortable situation at Swansea, where he’d done fantastically well, and had the bottle and the character to come and take this big job on,” said Gerrard.

“Our fans demand that we are successful and that we win and if you are looking for a young manager out there who has everything going for him who can help us achieve that success I think you pick Brendan Rodgers.”

Gerrard was also keen to highlight the role senior members of the squad have to play.

“Now the responsibility and the pressure is shared with the likes of myself and Jamie (Carragher) because it is a tough club as well with the demands and expectations on a daily basis.”