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Season 2009/10 Preview

August 14, 2009
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After our best season since we last lifted the League Title all of 19 years ago, expectations surrounding Liverpool FC has reached new heights for the forthcoming season. Last season a lot of supporters (including myself) would’ve been happy if we’d put in a genuine challenge that didn’t fall away by January. We did that and then some as we finished 2nd with 86pts (a record for us since the Premier League began), only losing two league games in the process and scoring 77 goals (the most in the league) and conceding 27 (second best in the league). The stats looked great in the end but it still wasn’t good enough to land us the elusive 1st Premier League title we all so badly want. To make matters worse, the Rags equaled our record of 18 league titles in the process.

Genuine Challenger

We are now finally seen as a genuine title challenger after so many false dawns and missed opportunities under previous managers. Rafa has built an excellent squad of players which are starting to gel together nicely and it looked as if all we needed to make the final step up was a couple of top quality additions before the new season got under way. In signing Glen Johnson and Alberto Aquilani, I believe Rafa has done that, although the latter is a bit of a gamble due to his poor fitness record over the past two seasons. Aquilani won’t be fit for around 6-8 weeks so he’s going to be up against it when he is finally able to pull on the red shirt.

Not only does he have to adjust to a new country, new language, new faster/intense league and new methods on the training pitch but he’s also missed pre-season which is a valuable time for a new player to get to know his new team mates, how they play and what the manager wants from him out on the pitch. We may not see the best of Aquilani until next season but he still has enough quality to add a new dimension to our midfield once he’s fit. He’s more mobile than Alonso and looks to be more capable of supporting players like Gerrard and Torres than Alonso was. He has a cracking shot on him and is also handy from free kicks, so overall I’m quite excited to see how Aquilani will fit into our team. He won’t be able to match Alonso’s fantastic long range passing ability but he’s not a like for like switch so I think we’ll see us play a different, more direct & faster style of football this season now that Alonso has moved on.

Run and Deliver

Glen Johnson on the other hand is under far more pressure to bring his form from 08/09 into the new season and build on it. He’s excellent going forward using his pace and strength to support and get past whoever is playing right midfield and his crossing ability is going to be a big asset to us. His defensive game has also improved over the past couple of years and I believe Rafa can improve his positional sense, awareness and tactical nous without impeding on his natural ability to go forward. With a big fee hanging over his head, he simply has to at least match his performances from last season, after all he doesn’t have to learn a new language (although Spanish Scouse can be a bit tricky 😉 ) or get used to a new league so he should be able to settle into our system quite quickly. Big things are expected from Glen Johnson this season from me, so I hope he can deliver.

As for the Alonso saga, I was pretty annoyed it took so long for a deal to be concluded for his sale to Real Madrid but I believe Rafa was right to hold out for as much money as possible for him. Rafa is clearly working on a tight budget so there was absolutely no way he was going to let Real bully him into accepting a lower fee, despite Alonso making it clear he wanted to leave at the end of last season. We will miss his ability to control the tempo of a game with his short and long range passing ability and his composure on the ball, but once a player decides he wants to leave then it becomes a case of getting the best deal for the club sorted out. Rafa has spent at the most £37m on two players and has recouped almost that from selling Alonso, Arbeloa, Leto, Anderson, Hammill and other fringe players. I’m wondering where this mythical £20m “war chest” that Rafa was supposed to get (before any player sales) has gone to! 😐

Is Our Squad Good Enough?

After injuries to Carragher, Agger and Skrtel, we are left looking very vulnerable in defense now that Hyypia has left so it’s unclear just how much money Rafa has available to strengthen other areas of the squad. We’ve been linked with players such as Slyvain Distin from Portsmouth and Hull’s Micheal Turner. Neither are better than the 3 senior center backs we already have so anyone we do sign is going to be nothing more than a squad player in reality, once our main men are fit. Before pre-season I would’ve suggested giving some of our younger players such as San Jose, Ayala and Kelly a chance but out of the 3, only Kelly has impressed during pre-season (the other two look like they have the quality to succeed but they need more time to develop) so it would be a massive gamble to go into the new season relying on kids as back up to our 3 main center backs. Then again, why spend millions on a player that will make up the numbers when we could have some very good defenders this time next year coming through the ranks. It’s a tough decision and I don’t envy Rafa having to make it.

Taking recent events into consideration, my hopes for the new season have taken a bit of a battering. If we’d signed Johnson and kept Alonso and the rest of our key players I would’ve fancied our chances of going one better than last season. Now we are looking a little short in defense and midfield (especially while Aquilani is unavailable) and with a tricky game against Spurs away on Sunday, I’m less confident that we will better what we did last season. On the flip side, I’m very excited to see how Aquilani will fit into our side. He could be just the type of player we need to make that final step…

The “Big Four” and Man City

I think we have a very strong starting XI and around 4 or 5 good subs who can contribute to the team if and when they are needed but after that, our squad is still lacking that real strength in depth that seemed to cost us last season. Saying that, none of the other teams who finished in the top four have drastically improved their squads either. On paper, Man Utd and Arsenal look weaker after the departures of Tevez and Ronaldo from the former and Adebayor and Kolo Toure from the latter. It will be interesting to see how Owen and Valencia fit into the side. Arsenal are always unpredictable due to Wenger’s insistence on bringing through the young players he’s signed but Arshavin looked dangerous last season (I will never forgive him for his 4 goal salvo against us last season 😡 ) and the return to full fitness of Eduardo could make them a very dangerous team. Chelsea’s squad is pretty much the same as last season, apart from the addition of the Russian left sided player Zhirkov. Having a fit Joe Cole back will also boost their team, aswell as a fully motivated Drogba.

Man City should cause a lot of teams problems this season too after spending big money on some proven quality Premier League players. It’s going to be interesting to see how Mark Hughes shapes his City side and whether they can handle the extra pressure that spending a lot of money will now place on the team. They are definitely going to be a threat and should be considered as dark horses to break into the Champions League places. Outside of those teams, I can’t see any other team threatening at the top of the table. Everton, Villa and Spurs should be fighting it out for the Europa League places but I don’t think any of those teams have the quality to crack the “Big Four” monopoly that currently exists.

Optimist v Pessimist

The optimist in me thinks this will be our year to finally lift the league title. We have a very strong spine to the team and with the addition of Johnson and Aquilani, we should be a more fluid attacking force. With Gerrard and Torres in the side we have two of the most dangerous attacking players in Europe who work very well as a partnership. A lot rests on keeping those two fit and avaialble. Kuyt and Benayoun have proven themselves as important players too and I’m hoping they can reproduce their form from last season.

Having a fully fit and focused Mascherano available is also going to prove vital to how we play, especially with Aquilani and Lucas being more offensive minded than Alonso was. A lot also rests on Daniel Agger’s fitness. He can make a difference in tight games at home with his runs from defense and he is probably our biggest goal threat out of our three center backs, which is one area we are going to be lacking in even more now that Sami Hyypia has left.

The pessimist in me thinks our squad is just lacking some quality players to step in when the inevitable injuries and suspensions hit. Ngog looks like a promising player but he’s a handy player to have on the bench to bring on late in the game to use his pace, rather than someone you can rely on to deputise for Torres. Ryan Babel has to make an impact this season. He’s got the pace, power and ability to succeed but I question his mentality and decision making which makes me think he’ll never make it in this Liverpool team, unless he proves otherwise. Andriy Voronin’s return from his loan spell with Hertha Berlin intrigues me a little too. He can add something to the squad with his link up play but again, I wouldn’t trust him to deputise for Torres or Gerrard at this moment in time. He’s a bit of an unknown quantity but he does make our squad a little stronger.

We have some very promising young players that can boost our squad such as Nemeth, Pacheco, Kelly, Spearing and Plessis but it may prove too risky to use them this season, cup games aside, especially if we’re fighting for the title come March and April.

Prediction?

I think we will definitely challenge for the league this season, which is a big improvement over the past 19 years. We’ve rarely challenged for the title so to now be viewed as genuine challengers has to be seen as a good thing. No team has a devine right to win the league but some Liverpool supporters have unrealistic views because of our history of winning trophies. We should be happy that we are seen as a genuine force once again and look to maintain and build from that.

I think we can win the league this season but I don’t think there are any clear favourites for the first time in a long time. It’s going to be an interesting season that’s for sure…

Rafa: I’m Staying At Liverpool

March 22, 2007
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There’s been a lot of speculation recently in both the English and Spanish media about the future of Rafa Benitez, but he has today officially denied the rumours by stating he is going nowhere:

I think it’s important the fans know I am completely committed to Liverpool Football Club and I’m going nowhere.
“I know there’s been a lot of speculation in the Spanish media linking me with Real Madrid.

“Any manager would be honoured to be associated with such a famous club, especially as Madrid is my home city and also my former club. However, I want to make it clear I am very happy at Anfield and very happy in England and I’m genuinely excited by what the future holds for Liverpool.

“I’ve had some extremely positive discussions with the new owners and share their enthusiasm and determination to take this club back to the very top.

“I will be sitting down shortly with both Mr Gillett and Mr Hicks to discuss things face to face, but an enormous amount of work is already underway in preparation for the way forward.

There has been a lot of speculation that Real Madrid would come calling this summer (for the 2nd year running) to test Liverpool’s and Rafa’s commitment to each other, as they look to replace the soon to be axed Fabio Capello.

Rafa shunned Real’s advances last summer but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly concerned that Rafa could leave Liverpool, especially if Real are the ones that come calling. The above statement has proved my fears are unfounded and I never really believed he would leave but you just never know in football.

Tom Hicks also stated that Rafa is the man they want to take us to the next level so good news all round. Rafa and the new owners are scheduled to sit down after the Arsenal match for their first proper meeting as joint owners and manager, face to face. What I would give to be a spider on that wall, as long as nobody tried to squash me. 😐

Rafa Staying At Liverpool

New Stadium Plans Halted

March 14, 2007
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BBC Sport

Liverpool’s new owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett have suspended work on their proposed new stadium and ordered a review of the plans.

BBC Sport understands the pair want to examine ways of increasing the 60,000 capacity of the arena in Stanley Park.

Liverpool have targeted 2009 as an opening date for the stadium, but if major changes are made, there would need to be a new planning application.

This could result in a delay, although the original date may yet be met.

Liverpool have yet to confirm the decision to suspend preparatory work on the £215m project.

But BBC Sport believes the club’s hierarchy regards the move to commission a review of the plans as a sign of the huge ambition of Gillett and Hicks rather than any move to back away from the original scheme.

Gillett and Hicks are fully behind the project as part of their takeover plan, and it is understood the review will take ”weeks rather than months”, allowing work on any alterations to the original design to get under way as soon as possible.

An increased capacity will be one of the plans under discussion during the review, but this is not a guarantee that this will happen.

Work on the new ground needs to start in the spring because public money has been allocated to the regeneration element of the plan, and it has to be spent by the end of 2008.

Gillett said in early February: “The shovel needs to be in the ground in the next 60 days.

“We are fully supportive of the Stanley Park development and of building a facility that we hope will be the greatest facility in this sport.

“We do work hard on design and development and making sure the quality of the fan experience is unparalleled.

“We want to make sure the newest technology is incorporated in it. It is about the comfort of fans.”

And Hicks added: “We have our own people lined up to see if, within the confines of the plans, there are any other ideas that would be good for the fans.”

Well it appears our new owners have wasted no time in trying to make a mark on the club. I’m quite pleased they’ve decided to look at the plans again as I think the new stadium’s design is rubbish, and it’s too small! It looks like many other new stadia built around the world, and I’d like to see a single tier Kop too. It’s unlikely we could get planning permission for a bigger one now without starting completely from scratch (and losing the grant money in the process), but we should change the design to make it expandable at least, as the current one is not.

Celtic fans show their support for the 96

March 12, 2007
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Justice for the 96

Memorable Liverpool Goals No. 2: Riise v Man Utd 4/11/01

March 12, 2007
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It’s always a sweet occasion when we get one over on the Rags but this beauty from John Arne Riise made the result and performance even sweeter:

It’s a shame he can’t do that more often. Any birds randomly flying by are at more risk than the opponents goal from most of Riise’s free kicks. I wouldn’t like to be standing in the wall either. 😐

Justice for the 96 A Poem: The Justice Bell

March 10, 2007
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gaz1 posted this poem here so I thought I would try and give it a little more exposure. It’s an incredibly moving poem, written by Dave Kirby in 2002, about the Hillsborough disaster:


A schoolboy holds a leather ball
in a photograph on a bedroom wall
the bed is made, the curtains drawn
as silence greets the break of dawn.

The dusk gives way to morning light
revealing shades of red and white,
which hang from posters locked in time
of the Liverpool team of 89.

Upon a pale white quilted sheet
a football kit is folded neat
with a yellow scarf, trimmed with red
and some football boots beside the bed.

In hope, the room awakes each day
to see the boy who used to play
but once again it wakes alone
for this young boy’s not coming home.

Outside, the springtime fills the air
the smell of life is everywhere
viola’s bloom and tulips grow
while daffodils dance heel to toe.

These should have been such special times
for a boy who’d now be in his prime
but spring forever turned to grey
in the Yorkshire sun, one April day.

The clock was locked on 3.06
as sun shone down upon the pitch
lighting up faces etched in pain
as death descended on Leppings Lane.

Between the bars an arm is raised
amidst a human tidal wave
a young hand yearning to be saved
grows weak inside this deathly cage.

A boy not barely in his teens
is lost amongst the dying screams
a body too frail to fight for breath
is drowned below a sea of death

His outstretched arm then disappears
to signal thirteen years of tears
as 96 souls of those who fell
await the toll of the justice bell.

Ever since that disastrous day
a vision often comes my way
I reach and grab his outstretched arm
then pull him up away from harm.

We both embrace with tear-filled eyes
I then awake to realise
it’s the same old dream I have each week
as I quietly cry myself to sleep.

On April the 15th every year
when all is calm and skies are clear
beneath a glowing Yorkshire moon
a lone Scots piper plays a tune.

The tune rings out the justice cause
then blows due west across the moors
it passes by the eternal flame
then engulfs a young boys picture frame.

His room is as it was that day
for thirteen years it’s stayed that way
untouched and frozen forever in time
since that tragic day in 89.

And as it plays its haunting sound
tears are heard from miles around
they’re tears from families of those who fell
awaiting the toll of the justice bell.

😥

My heart goes out to everybody that was effected by that terrible day on April 15th 1989. It just reinforces my hatred off The S*N, Kelvin MacKenzie and every single piece of shit that has tried to cover up what really happened. We will never forget the 96 who lost their lives and the injustices that their families have had to face.

YOU WILL NEVER WALK ALONE

Newcastle v Liverpool: FA Youth Cup S/F 1st Leg 10/3/07

March 10, 2007
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Liverpool’s under 18s have a great chance to make it to their second FA Youth Cup Final in two seasons after they beat Newcastle Utd 4-2 in front of just over 4000 fans at St James Park earlier today.

Goals from Ryan Flynn (2), Craig Lindfield and Charlie Barnett have gave our youngsters a great chance of facing the winners of the other semi final clash between Manchester Utd and Arsenal.

Charlie Barnett opened the scoring for Liverpool on 24mins with a stunning 30 yarder that Magpie ‘keeper Mark Cook, had no chance of saving. Liverpool then went 2-0 after 40mins after young Swede, Astrit Ajdarevic, chipped a lovely ball for Craig Lindfield to latch on to after beating the offside trap and he didn’t disappoint when faced one-on-one with Cook.

Liverpool weathered some pressure from the home side in the 2nd half and went 3-0 after 60mins after Ryan Flynn tapped home from 2 yards after Cook couldn’t hold on to Barnett’s shot from the edge of the box. Newcastle responded well and pulled a goal back shortly after through Andy Carroll, who headed in past Hansen from a free kick.

Liverpool scored there 4th on 68mins after Flynn was put through and lobbed a despairing Cook for his 2nd of the match to all but finish the game. Newcastle then pulled one back shortly afterwards, after a free kick from Andy Carroll was deflected past Hansen. Newcastle were unable to pull any more goals back, and face a big ask to overhaul Liverpool in the 2nd leg at Anfield a week on Monday.