Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Reality Bites, Rodgers

Liverpool's shock defeat to Southampton over the weekend brought two things to the forefront:

1: The Liverpool of the 2013/14 season looks very similar to the one that finished seventh in 2012/13

2: This Liverpool team, like last season's, direly needs Luiz Suarez.

Despite investing in new players, Brendan Rodgers side never looked like winning the game against the Saints. Despite beginning the weekend at the top of the table, remaining there by Monday morning looked like a tall order. And despite the promising start the club has had this season, the match against Southampton brought Reds fans painful memories of last season's mediocracy.

True, Liverpool were without Philip Coutinho and the Brazilian's presence in attack was sorely missed.

There were other questionable tactical decisions such as fielding new signing Mamadou Sakho in the leftback position instead of Luiz Enrique who has excelled so far in that role this season. Perhaps Rodgers wanted to prove why he spent GBP19 million on the French defender.

No matter, Liverpool's total lack of inventiveness and sharpness in the final third was once again the deciding factor, as it has been for so many seasons. There may have been new faces on the pitch but the results remained the same.

Perhaps that's why Rodgers and the club fought tooth and nail to keep Suarez although it seems like a foolish decision should the Uruguayan succumb to a long-term injury or, as he is fond of doing, get himself any lengthy ban.

Daniel Sturridge has proven to be an adequate striker and finisher but by himself, he isn't capable of turning a poor performance into three points while Iago Aspas has to first find the back of the net - which is seeming to be quite a daunting task - before he can lay claim to being a worthy substitute for Suarez.

Worst of all, Liverpool's failure to sign a creative midfielder in the summer is proving to be a hefty mistake in light of Coutinho's absence which is expected to last until end-October.

There is certainly a possibility that Rodgers' team will return to its winning ways once Suarez returns and the defeat against Southampton was just a bad day. Or, this season could end up very much like it did last season. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

All's Not Well At The Bridge

After two back-to-back shock defeats, things aren't going so well for Jose Mourinho's second stint at Chelsea. And it appears as though the Special One is singling out Chelsea's style of play as the prime factor in the club's recent dip in form.

In an interview with the Daily Mirror, Mourinho said: "I feel we are going in one direction, which is the direction we want to be to play a certain kind of football, but the reality is we are not scoring goals."

"You can't say we don't score goals because we're not an offensive team and don't play offensive football and don't have ball possession, because we have an attacking mentality. Probably, if we play a defensive game and we just go on the counter-attack, probably we go there and score two or three goals."

It certainly seems odd that Mourinho is questioning Chelsea's style of play. In fact, it almost seems as though he's suggesting that he isn't the one calling the shots.

Some have suggested that Chelsea manager's comments are indirectly aimed at Blues owner, Roman Abramovich, who has long insisted that the club employ free-flowing attacking football.

Ironically, it has been long suggested that this clash in ideas (Mourinho prefers the defensive approach) led to the Special One's exit from Stamford Bridge in 2007.

Since then, Chelsea have had seven managers which include the likes of Luiz Scolari, Carlo Ancelotti, Andre Villas-Boas, Roberto Di Matteo and Rafa Benitez. And none of them have been able to fulfill Abramovich's dream to get Chelsea to play like Barcelona or, closer to home, Arsenal.

The fact that the Russian billionaire brought Mourinho back to Stamford Bridge was no big surprise. Among all the managers he's employed (and that's a lot!), Mourinho has been the one who's brought the club the most success and when the Special One returned to Chelsea in summer, it appeared as though Abramovich was willing to sacrifice attacking football for trophies.

I guess we'll soon see what his priorities are.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Carragher: Nobody Wants To Grow Up To Be a Gary Neville

Yes, Jamie Carragher actually said that but it had nothing to do with his famous on-the-pitch rivalry with former Man Utd right back, Gary Neville.

Both Carragher and Nevile are now pundits on Sky Sports and during their pre-match commentary of yesterday's Swansea vs Liverpool tie, the former Reds vice-captain suggests that fullbacks are either failed wingers or centrebacks.

"As a kid, nobody wants to grow up to be a Gary Neville," he said.

Check out the video below.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Sturridge and Rodgers Win Awards

Brendan Rodgers and Daniel Sturridge have won the Barclays Premier League Manager and Player of the Month respectively for August.

It's been sometime since Liverpool have bagged both awards in a month. Its the first such award for Sturridge while its the second time Rodgers has won it, although its his time since his appointment at Liverpool.

The Reds have won their first three matches this season - their best start in nearly two decades - and go into the weekend top of the Premier League.

They face Rodgers old club Swansea this weekend and much of the outcome of the match may depend on Sturridge's fitness level. The striker missed both of England's World Cup qualifiers this week but may start tomorrow's match.

Sturridge has scored in each of Liverpool's games this season and with Luis Suarez still serving the remaining of his 10-match suspension, much of the goal-scoring responsibilities may be left to the England striker.

While Rodgers' team have been impressive in the opening stages of this season, Liverpool still lack in the firepower department. So far, with the exception of Sturridge, none of Liverpool's other forwards have found he back of the net, making it all the more obvious why the club fought tooth and nail to keep Suarez.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Now its Ibra's Turn

First it was Zinedine Zidane.

Now, its Zlatan Ibrahimovic's turn.

Without even having officially kicked a ball for Real Madrid, both Zidane and Ibrahimovic have already cast their verdicts on Gareth Bale's world record transfer fee: he's not worth it.

Zidane was perhaps a bit more charitable in his comments when he labeled the EURO100 million Real Madrid spent on the former Tottenham star as "incomprehensible."

Ibrahimovic was a little more blunt.

"No footballer is worth paying that amount of money for. There is a lot of pressure on him," the PSG striker said in an interview with BBC Radio 5.

Ibrahimovic went further and warned Bale of the pressure awaiting him from Madrid's fans.

"I know that when Zinedine Zidane played for Madrid, the fans were whistling against him. If they can whistle against Zidane, for me one of the best players in history, I hope Bale has a lot of patience," he said.

No doubt, the pressure on Bale from the fans will be a lot more intense than what Zidane experienced.

In all honesty, you have to ask yourself just how popular Bale was in Spain prior to this summer. I wouldn't be surprised if some of them were wondering just exactly who he was. And to make matters worse, a fan favourite like Mesut Ozil had to make way for Bale's arrival.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Zidane: Bale Transfer Fee 'Incomprehensible'

France legend, Zinedine Zidane, has labeled the record transfer fee Real Madrid paid Tottenham for Gareth Bale as "incomprehensible."

Zidane's assessment is all the more surprising considering that he is Carlo Ancellotti's assistant manager at Real Madrid.

"Ten years ago, they bought me for 75 million euros and I said I wasn't worth it. Today, I tend to say a player is not worth that. Two clubs agree on a price and no-one is forcing the other to do anything.

"That's football. Unfortunately, it's incomprehensible with what's happening today to pay so much," he said, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph.

Bale's record EURO 100 million transfer to Real Madrid has baffled many and in months to come, his hefty price tag will be brought up frequently should he fail to produce the form he had at Tottenham.

But we may end up waiting a little longer before we get to see Bale in action. Its been reported that Bale may be suffering from a groin strain that could keep him out of his Real Madrid debut this weekend.

On other news, it turns out that the man who made way for Bale's signing at Madrid, Mesut Ozil, has already boosted Arsenal's jersey sales. To add insult to injury (no pun intended), Ozil's jerseys have been outselling Madrid jerseys with Bale's name on it. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Gerrard Wants To Manage Liverpool

Steven Gerrard, has revealed ambitions of one day managing Liverpool. In an interview with TwentyFour 7 Football magazine, Gerrard said he will be undergoing the necessary coaching qualifications over the next 12 months.

"The dream come true would be to manage Liverpool, when the Liverpool job becomes available.
"There are world-class managers there ready already, but we’ll have to wait and see. It would be the icing on the cake," Gerrard said.

The Liverpool-born midfielder has spent his entire career at the Reds and has captained the side since 2003.

Should he succeed in managing the club somewhere in the future, he would join an elite group of former Liverpool players who have managed the club and reboot a tradition that began with the late Bill Shankly.

Among the former players who have managed Liverpool include the legendary Bob Paisley, Kenny Dalglish, Ronnie Moran, Greame Souness and Roy Evans.