Archive for the ‘Liverpool’ Category

You know those pages on Facebook that clog up your news feeds? Annoying aren’t they. Usually pointless advertising and spamming of my own personal social media space (an oxymoron if ever there was one), however in amongst the adverts making me feel inadequate about my manhood (why these are on a Fifa banter page, god only knows) but one fan asked a question that got me thinking, ‘Who is the best left back in the Premier League?’

Firstly let me say, Ashley Cole is not going to be considered because my twenty year plan to make Cheryl Cole/Tweedy my wife will be ruined if she reads this article about what a wonderful left back he is/was.

Jose Enrique appears to be one of the bargains of the season so far at £6 million, with the Spaniard being key in Liverpool only conceding 18 Premier League goals this season, which is only bettered by Manchester City (16). The former Newcastle United player has defended with maturity and attacked with force, encompassing everything the modern day full back is about, however Enrique is yet to make his international debut which is surprising given his form and Spain’s supposed shortage at left back.

Leighton Baines, arguably the most consistent left back over the last two years or so which has started to earn the defender recognition at international level. The former Wigan Athletic man has an attribute that hasn’t been seen in a left back since Roberto Carlos and that is his ability from dead ball situations, which has proved invaluable to Everton with the likes of Louis Saha making Emile Heskey look prolific.

Neil Taylor has been one of several positives from the Premier League new boys Swansea this year, the Welsh outfit have been a great addition to the world’s best league. The Wales international has it all, the pace, the calmness when under pressure and the attacking tendencies; admittedly at 22 the former Wrexham defender isn’t the complete package but given a season or two at the top level and rumours such as the ones linking him with Arsenal will, no doubt be a common occurrence.

Admittedly I started this article thinking there were going to be five or six decent left backs but clearly I’m mistaken.

Overall, you can’t overlook consistency and Baines has been a solid performer for two seasons now. Although the Englishman may not have the Spanish flair or the ability to reach the levels Neil Taylor can, at the moment you can’t look past the Everton man.

Let me know who you think is the best or just give me advice on how to make Cheryl Cole mine on Twitter @DanielTBlazer

Loan signings are cheating.  I mean how can Emmanuel Adebayor transform Tottenham Hotspur’s season and perhaps in the long run cost his parent club Manchester City the Premier League title?

For all of the praise the Premier League receives for being the best league in the world, it is fundamentally flawed in that it allows loan deals internally within the same league.

Jamie O’Hara last season joined Wolverhampton Wanderers on loan from Spurs and was a major influence in keeping Wolves in the Premier League. When the tenacious centre midfielder joined Mick McCarthy’s side were languishing in 19th position and eventually avoided relegation by one place and one point. Although you can’t say single handedly that the Englishman pulled Wolves from the brink but you could definitely argue that would have David Edwards and Karl Henry impacted as much in the middle of the park as O’Hara did?

Birmingham City were the team to take the unwanted final place back in the Championship but not because Wolves squad was better than theirs it was because Tottenham Hotspur’s reserves were. How can Spurs influence both ends of the table?

If you can’t loan out players between one Premiership team and another, then league’s such as the Championship are the next best option. The benefits of sending the likes of Adebayor, Jamie O’Hara and Yossi Benayoun out on loan to the lower leagues of English football are huge. Players of clubs such as Cardiff, Bristol City and Watford would learn and gain so much from having players who have Champions League, Premier League and World Cup experience within their team.

At a time where the gulf between Premier League and the Championship is currently criticised as being too big of a step up, surely an influx of experienced international footballer’s within the lesser ranks of English football will help bridge that ever increasing gap?

If we ban in the Premier League surely you’d have to prevent loan deals to teams with the same tournaments too? Adebayor couldn’t join Real Madrid, Quaresma couldn’t join Chelsea and Tevez couldn’t join AC Milan on loan (If the rumours are true). However we would expect Andy Carroll to score for Liverpool before we see a swift decision made by the footballing bodies.

The conflict of interests between loan deals is massive and yet in an era that has seen Serie A basically closed down due to match fixing, the most obvious form of ‘influencing’ games is a legitimate rule within football.

Overall if the rules were to change and internal loans were banned, the team that would benefit the most is Sunderland…as they’d get to send Nicklas Bendtner back.

Reports have suggested that this week Liverpool will open up negotiations with Blackpool over their midfield talisman Charlie Adam, who enjoyed a remarkable season in the Premier League, attracting many potential suitors. Liverpool are widely expected to continue their January transfer market approach by spending big, but is the former Rangers man actually needed on Merseyside?

Well, why wouldn’t a big side want Adam’s 12 goals and 9 assists? Imagine the statistics the Blackpool man could achieve next season with the likes of Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard around him. But perhaps the reason the Scot has done so well is because he was one of, if not the, main attacking outlet at Blackpool; on Merseyside he would be in amongst several world class players in the final third. Would Adam thrive or get lost in amongst some of football’s biggest names?

Tactically Adam is an ideal signing for any manager to have, centre midfield, attacking midfielder or even a deep lying striker, but who would he replace? Kenny Dalglish appears to already be onto a winning formation, so too much transfer activity could hinder his rebuilding process. If Adam were to join though, I simply cannot see who he would replace. Lucas’ performances have improved greatly this season, and he is the only defensive minded midfielder in the starting line up, so sacrificing the Brazilian would be foolish. Steven Gerrard is obviously the first name on the team sheet (even if his influence has dropped in the last couple of seasons) and then you have Raul Meireles and the returning Alberto Aquilani to consider. The main issue I would have in signing Adam is the impact it would have on Jonjo Shelvey and Jay Spearing, both youngsters who have enjoyed breakthrough seasons and are key in what ‘King Kenny’ is trying to achieve at Liverpool, but signing another centre midfielder would no doubt force the two Englishman out on loan or reduce them to merely a few league cup appearances. Oh, and there is of course a certain Jordan Henderson to consider.

The one thing Adam would add to Liverpool’s play is his ability from set pieces. Liverpool have always relied on Steven Gerrard for his free kicks, but when the Englishman isn’t available Liverpool lack that threat from free kicks and corners. Fabio Aurelio clearly demonstrates superb technique from short free kicks too, but since Liverpool are pursuing a new left back and with the Brazilian, now in the twilight of his career, already fighting for a place at full back with the ever-improving Martin Kelly and England international Glen Johnson, he will presumably have to settle for a place on the bench for much of next season. The Scotland international has a delightful left foot, that delivered some of the best corners last season as well as scoring a couple of contenders for Goal of the Season from set pieces.

Adam’s sweet left foot surely isn’t worth £10 million though? Because in this writer’s humble opinion, that’s the only attribute Liverpool will be gaining in signing the guy who didn’t even get Blackpool’s player of the season award for the 2010/11 campaign.

This season will be remembered for the emergence of Jack Wilshere, Gareth Bale and Javier Hernandez and quite rightly so, all three players were in inspired form the whole season and became pivotal to their respective teams achievements. However you can be forgiven for thinking these three players were the only three to play well last season, such was the media frenzy surrounding them. There were several players who finally proved their worth after a couple of poor seasons or finally lived up to their price tag or billing.

Here are my Top TEN most improved players

Rafael (Manchester United)

When Gary Neville announced his retirement there wasn’t a worrying look on United fans’ faces like there is now after Paul Scholes announced his retirement, and that is all due to the improved performances of Rafael. The Brazilian was always renowned for his energetic runs up and down the right hand side flank but his defending left a lot to be desired, but this season saw Rafael become a stronger tackler of the ball and just an all round more composed defender.

Joey Barton (Newcastle United)

Love him or hate him, there is no denying that the former Manchester City player has been instrumental in Newcastle’s successful first season back in the Premier League. The Englishman’s range of passing has been his one stand out improvement, with Barton displaying the ability to find that defence splitting pass either from the centre of midfield or on the right flank.

Ben Foster (Birmingham City)

We all (quite rightly) wrote Foster off after Paul Robinson’s goal kick goal against him in 2007, but the former Manchester United keeper has come back fighting. Foster has been named man of the match on several occasions this season, most notably the Carling Cup final, where he made several world class saves to help Birmingham win the trophy. With the burden of being Edwin Van Der Sar’s under study off his back, the Englishman looks to finally be the goalkeeper we were all promised back in 2005.

grammatical

Leighton Baines (Everton)

How Fabio Capello must be regretting the decision to take Stephen Warnock instead of Baines to South Africa last summer, after the Englishman’s inspired season for Everton. The former Wigan defended strongly and looked composed on the ball, however it is his attacking exploits that have caught the eye of Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City with the Englishman helping his team’s cause with 11 assists this season.

Samir Nasri (Arsenal)

Major transfer activity is expected at the Emirates this summer but maintaining Nasri’s services should be Wenger’s priority after the season the Frenchman has just had. Outshining captain Cesc Fabregas and making Arsenal fans realise there is life after the Spaniard, Nasri’s goals’, trickery and all round work ethic have made him a joy to behold this season, a different player from the previous two rather mundane and uneventful campaigns.

Dimitar Berbatov (Manchester United)

Two years of criticism, abuse and ridcule from the Red Devils faithful, the former Spurs front man has come up with the ‘goods’ without really altering his playing style. Leading the Premier League goal scoring charts for the majority of the season is no easy feat, especially when you rarely start games, but the Bulgarian managed it and despite this is still rumoured to be on the move (how’s that for gratitude).

Johan Elmander (Bolton Wanderers)

The £8.2 million spent by Bolton to acquire the Swede’s services looked better served being spent on Michael Ricketts after a rather bleak start to Elmander’s career. However the beginning of this season saw the former Toulouse striker in free scoring form, including a contender for goal of the season. The goals dried up in the second half of the season but Elmander’s influence continued with his fantastic work rate, as well as forming a successful understanding with striking partners Kevin Davies and Daniel Sturridge.

Matthew Etherington (Stoke City)

The former West Ham United player looked a broken man after admitting to a gambling addiction but Tony Pulis showed faith in the winger and is reaping the rewards this season. Etherington’s crosses were almost as valuable as Rory Delap’s throw ins, with his continual supply of pin point crosses to Stoke’s several aerial threats.

Lucas Leiva (Liverpool)

Funny old game football, the Brazilian was deemed useless and a laughing stock at the end of the 2010 season but 38 Premier League games later Lucas is now the midfield lynchpin. With Steven Gerrard out for a fair bit of the season, someone needed to step into the middle and fill the hole the Englishman left and Lucas duly obliged. With consistent and hard working performances throughout this campaign the former Gremio player has shown former manager Rafael Benitez why he was wrong to play him out of position for a large portion of his tenure.

Stewart Downing (Aston Villa)

The former Middlesbrough player looked to be drowning under the expectations that fans’ and pundits’ alike had for him after a poor debut season. However this season the England international has turned his game around, contributing the level of assists’ and goals’ an attacking winger should, as well as forming a fantastic partnership with fellow Englishmen Ashley Young and Darren Bent in the process.

The top four over the last few seasons has come under intense pressure from the ‘lesser’ teams; firstly there was Aston Villa attempting to ruin the party, then eventually Tottenham Hotspur ousted Liverpool and got a taste of Champions League football and this season the Lilywhites missed out to Manchester City. Already, speculation has begun on who will be next season’s top four, especially as Arsenal appear to be getting weaker with each season that passes. This season, I think the Gunners became the first team ever to finish fourth in a two horse race! Liverpool’s new found resurgence saw them very nearly break back into the top four, after a horrendous beginning to this season under Roy Hodgson. Everything is in place at Anfield for a very successful 2011/12 season, starting with reclaiming their Champions League berth from Arsenal, and this is why (in this humble writer’s opinion).

Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri want to leave, and both players are exceptional talents, with Nasri taking the Spaniard’s mantle as Arsenal’s main star whilst the Spaniard sent flirty text messages to Pique from the treatment room. Both players’ decisions to openly state that they would happily leave Arsenal shows how little faith they have in the Gunners ability to challenge for the major honours; losing two influential players will rock Arsenal and no wonder kid signing from France can help fill the void or maintain their Champions League status.

Phil Jones, Jordan Henderson and, erm, Carl Jenkinson: not hard to work out who Arsenal signed is it? As Liverpool continue splashing the cash despite spending nearly £60 million on two signings in January, Arsene Wenger maintains his usual transfer policy despite all his promises that Arsenal will spend big in the transfer market. With very little happening at the Emirates and everything happening on Merseyside, Liverpool are very much a team preparing for Champions League qualification next season.

Belief is a huge part of achieving success in football and no matter what Liverpool and their fans have always believed, their club can achieve greatness and reclaim the glory days of the ’80s. Nothing has changed this season, and next season the belief will no doubt get stronger. It’s a different story over in North London; with players clearly displaying lack of belief on the pitch, the fans are quite rightly loathing their team’s performances and now many are questioning Arsene Wenger, Le Professeur, himself. Arsenal are a team heading for turmoil if they aren’t careful; missing out on Champions League football could be the least of their worries.

Arsenal shareholder Stan Kroenke has recently improved his stake in the club and has announced he intends to invest in the club, yet the Gunners’ board over the past few seasons has yet to show any signs of following this kind of ethos, and the fans will of course be reluctant to naïvely swallow this up. Liverpool’s owners Fenway Sports Group, on the other hand, have already invested heavily in the squad and the club set-up. But this is not all about financial investment, the American group has had great success with their innovation in sports management and was recently named one of the top 10 most innovative companies in sports by Fast Company, a renowned American journalism group.

It is that horrible time of year again, when us football fans try to find something to entertain ourselves with for a couple of months while the players have a ‘well deserved’ rest. The transfer window has now kindly reopened in order to give the fans something to talk about down the pub and no doubt there will be ridiculous rumours, surprising signings and barbaric amounts of money spent. However in amongst the forever changing stories, there will be a few things that will no doubt remain, but what are they?

Robbie Keane joins dream team

The Republic of Ireland left Spurs because “Joining Liverpool is a lifelong dream of mine and one I couldn’t let pass me by.” and after rejoining Spurs left again, stating “It’s a dream come true” and This is the reason why I’ve always wanted to come to Celtic.”

So where will the former Inter Milan striker be living the dream after this transfer window?

Harry Redknapp linked with everyone

The Spurs man has a bit of a reputation as a successful ‘wheeler-dealer’ in the transfer market, but also has a reputation that he can’t refuse a ‘bargain’. It is such opinions on ‘Arry that will no doubt, like every transfer window that has gone before, see the Englishman linked with every player including a surprising double swoop for Dion Dublin and Dean Windass.

Arsenal won’t sign anyone…worthwhile

“We have to strengthen the squad where it needs and make the right decision on that front. It is always on my mind, every day. Don’t think it’s not on my mind.” This was Wenger talking on the 26th April of this year, sound familiar? It should do because for the last couple of years the Frenchman has been saying this and as of yet the Arsenal fans have seen several Sebastien Squillaci’s come and go for minimal transfer fees, hardly a signing that will allow a team to win a Quadruple.

 

English talent will move for inflated prices

The rumours have already started surrounding the Three Lions talent, Gary Cahill valued at £15-20 million, Ashley Young £20 million and no doubt the same sort of prices for Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing and Phil Jones. Are these prices really representative of what these players have achieved or can offer a side? Especially when you consider Connor Wickham of Ipswich is valued at £15 million just because ‘he may become a star in the future’, it is ridiculous but with the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea willing to spend, no doubt these players will move for inflated rates.

Fabregas saga

With each transfer window that passes the ‘Fabregas to Barcelona transfer’ becomes more and more like an Eastenders storyline. Tiresome to say the least, but this episode will no doubt carry on this summer but will it finally end or will it end with ‘continued next time’?

Promoted teams linked with experience

The promoted teams always look to sign much needed experience, usually players who have plied their trade in the Premier League for years and are now looking for a couple of ‘easier’ years. This transfer window could see Joe Cole move to QPR epitomising such a deal.

Absurd transfer rumours

It is dubbed the silly season so you can’t blame the newspapers linking Barcelona’s ‘holy trinity’ with a move to Portman Road. It is just annoying because us naïve and excited fans believe the stories and already plan what our team’s shirt will look like with ‘Messi’ on the back.

Manchester City will buy everyone

Roberto Mancini has come out this week and said he feels he will need to make five big name signings…FIVE! Absolutely crazy claims when you consider the wealth of talent at Eastlands already, but no doubt it will happen, especially when you consider they paid over £20 million for Joleon Lescott.

Always that one surprising deal

Despite all the media coverage there is always one deal that escapes the rumour mill and then BAM, at two minutes to deadline it is announced and the world of football is rocked. I remember it happening with Ashley Cole’s move to Arsenal and last year it was Rafael Van Der Vaart’s move to Spurs for a mere £8 million, I wonder who will surprise us this window?

Liverpool will sign an expensive flop

It is usually around the £20 million region, first Robbie Keane and then there was Alberto Aquilani…whose next?

Liverpool are widely expected to be very active in the transfer market as they continue their rebuilding process under Kenny Dalglish. It has been reported that the Merseyside outfit are looking to bring in home grown players, most notably Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson and Gary Cahill; but over recent years the cost of English players has risen dramatically with the minimum expenditure on one player being around the £15 million mark. Is that really a good way for Liverpool’s owners to spend their money?

There is no argument that Liverpool do need to sign players in the positions they are looking at, Sotiris Kyrgiakos isn’t up to the Kop faithful’s high standards, Jordan Henderson is being lined up as Gerrard’s replacement in the middle of the park and Liverpool have been crying out for an out and out winger like Downing all season. I would argue that Juan Mata of Valencia provides better value for money than Downing, especially with the Spaniard’s Champions League and World Cup experience. Gary Cahill has had a solid season but not overly consistent season with Bolton, why not make a move for Christopher Samba who is available at £10 million and has been a solid performer for Blackburn for three seasons and Stevie G will still be around in five years time minimum, why the desire to splash silly amounts of cash out on Jordan Henderson, who has had one quality game against Chelsea.

If you look at the big money moves over the last few years of English players to the ‘bigger’ clubs, Michael Carrick to Manchester United for a reported £18.6 million, Gareth Barry cost Man City £12 million and James Milner nearly double what they paid for Barry. My point is, although we take each individual player on his own divine talent and ability to succeed, the fact that so many English players have moved for huge fees and lets face, it hardly justified such extortionate sums of money, means Liverpool would be taking a huge risk in signing the above mentioned players, despite impressive seasons.

Buying English, although commendable, just isn’t right for Liverpool or if I’m honest any of the ‘big’ teams, at the moment. Overpriced, over hyped and then ultimately they under perform…a slightly harsh assessment? Not in the slightest.