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2/27/2015 04:39:00 pm

Youth Fail? Why Rodgers shouldn't be praised for the rise of Sterling/Ibe [Guest Post]

[GUEST POST] As far as debunking Liverpool myths go, I’ll gladly leave that to the proprietor of this website, but I do feel something needs to be said about all the recent raving and praising of our manager and his eye for the young talent at our club.

First of all, this is in no way intended as a dig at Rodgers. He has shown his ability and courage by making the changes to Liverpool's system, and he is chiefly responsible for the fact that we're currently close to finishing inside the top four.

However, in my opinion, the praise Rodgers receives for allegedly 'giving youth a chance' at Liverpool is undeserved, and wide of the mark.

Jordon Ibe is the latest addition to the list of young talent for whom Rodgers is credited. I don’t think you’ll find many Reds out there who will say they’re not too sure about the former Wycombe man. He’s taken the Premier League by storm and, in fairness, looks even more promising than Raheem Sterling did.

I can’t help but wonder where Ibe would be if all of our summer transfer deals were successful. I can’t shake the feeling that Rodgers was told clearly by FSG that if he wanted new players in January, he’d have to look internally and he would not be receiving any funds. With everyone else misfiring, there was little left to lose by bringing Ibe back and throwing him in the deep end.

I recently read an article naming Sterling and Flanagan as proof of Rodgers’ eye for talent. Flanagan, however, got his first chance under Dalglish and it wasn’t until Rodgers was flat out of options at left back that Flanno was brought back into the team.

Lo and behold, it worked and Flanagan did a decent job, but now that our system has changed to a back three, Ibe may actually be pushing him out of the club. Flanagan is a solid, old school right back but Daniel Alves he is not.

And then there's Sterling. When Rodgers first arrived we were in the midst of an injury crisis and he'd just blown his budget on Borini and Allen. There was little else to do but Suso and Sterling, but as soon as the underwhelming Stewart Downing was back on his feet, the youngsters fell out of the squad again. Sterling didn't re-emerge until last season. Suso is now at Milan.

Just like the managers before him, Rodgers only gives opportunities to young players when his hands are tied and his back is against the wall. He has lots of managerial qualities, but taking a chance on young, hungry, talented players is not (IMO) one of them.

Liverpool have an exciting crop of youngsters emerging right now, but past history suggests that they will only make it if Rodgers is forced (by circumstance) to give them a chance. As long as enough senior players are fit, we shouldn't expect the likes of Rossiter, Ojo, Smith and Sinclair in our lineup or the bench any time soon.


2/27/2015 09:57:00 am

Anfield-bound? Alonso tells 'fantastic' €32m playmaker to sign for Liverpool. Reds favourites to seal the deal

In November, Liverpool were linked with a move for Real Madrid midfielder Asier Illarramendi, and with speculation about the Spaniard's future mounting again, ex-Red Xabi Alonsi is reportedly trying to convince the midfielder to sign for LFC

According to the Daily Express:

* Alonso has 'told' Illarramendi to reject Arsenal and sign for Liverpool 'at the end of the season'.

* Liverpool are 'frontrunners' to seal a deal for the 24-year old.

Alonso - to whom Illarramendi is often compared - is convinced that his compatriot has what it takes to succeed at Madrid, and in a recent interview, he told Cadena Cope:

"Illarra is the future. It's a giant leap, but I have no doubts about him. Real is like a bull and you have to be ready for it, and Asier will be."

Some info about Illaramendi:

* Cost Madrid €32m.

* Plays as a central/defensive midfielder.
* 31 apps for various Spain youth teams.
* 77 apps for Madrid over the last two seasons.
* 17 apps in the CL for Madrid.
* Current deal expires in 2019.

Given the sheer number of top quality players at the Bernebeau, it's hardly surprising that Illarramendi can't hold down a place in Madrid's star-studded team. It's no disgrace to play second-fiddle to the likes of Modric, Kroos, and Khedira, and given the tough competition, a move away is probably a good idea.

The harsh reality is that the signings of Kroos and Lucas Silva will block Illarramendi's progression at Madrid; those deals are arguably a minor vote of no-confidence in the young midfielder, and if Ancelotti was happy with his options in central midfield, he wouldn't have signed the duo. It's that simple.

Unsurprisingly, Illaramendi doesn't want to leave one of the world's most successful clubs. When asked in January about his future, he told reporters:

"I want to stay at Real Madrid. I'm very happy at this club and in this city [and] I'm only looking towards [Madrid]"

Ancelotti does seem to rate Illaramendi, though. In September, he explained what the midfielder brings to Madrid:

“We put Illarra in to avoid risks. He’s more defensive-minded, and e wanted to control the game and he showed he was up to the task. He helped us come back in the game".

Italian legend Arrigo Sacchi is a big fan of Illarramendi, and when asked last season about the midfielder, he raved:

“I was blown away by Illarramendi. He's a fantastic player. He can defend, he gets forward well, he reads the game well and can go long or short with his passing. I think he has a lot to offer Real"

That's a glowing recommendation from a true legend of the game, but with Silva getting games ahead of him, Illaramendi's future at the Bernebeu is looking shaky. Indeed, according to Thursday's edition of Spanish newspaper Marca:

"Asier Illarramendi's situation at Real Madrid has taken a turn for the worse since Lucas Silva's arrival...and his days at Real Madrid look numbered".

This season's dismal European performance underlines the urgent need for Liverpool to sign a couple of quality, Champions League-experienced midfielders, but is Illaramendi a viable summer transfer target?


2/27/2015 12:45:00 am

Revealed: Rodgers explains the reason why Lovren took a penalty against Besiktas

Liverpool are out of the Europa League, and in my view, it's plainly obvious that Raheem Sterling bottled-it against Besiktas. It doesn't matter how you spin it, Sterling ducked the responsibility of taking the deciding penalty, and the Reds ultimately paid the price. Dejan Lovren - a central defender - had the guts to stand-up and be counted, but he shouldn't have been taking the penalty in the first place. Why Lovren and not Sterling? After the game, LFC boss Brendan Rodgers explained the thinking behind Lovren taking the penalty.

When asked about Lovren's penalty during his post-match interview, Rodgers told reporters:

"[Dejan] was happy to take a penalty [because] he was confident. All the penalty takers were confident. We're obviously disappointed for him, because I felt in the game he played very well."

'Confident' is the key word here, and the implication is that Sterling didn't have the confidence to take a penalty.

Given the fact he missed one against Middlesbrough earlier this season, Sterling's reluctance to step-up is moderately understandable, but that was in September, and six months is plenty of time to get over it.

By relinquishing responsibility at the most crucial point of the game, Sterling (arguably) showed that he doesn't (yet) have the mental strength to stand-up and be counted when it matters.

He may not be the best striker of the ball, but has more experience than Lovren of putting the ball in the back of the net, and with Gerrard, Balotelli, Henderson, Sturridge, and Coutinho unavailable, Sterling should've been there to pick up the slack.

He failed to do that, so why should Liverpool pay him £130k-a-week? For that obscene amount of money, the minimum expectation is guts, character, and a never-say-die attitude. Sterling gave up. It's that simple.

What would Steven Gerrard - even at the age of 20 - do in the same situation? Punk-out, or step-up to the plate?

It's all moot, though. Liverpool aren't out of the competition because Sterling refused to take a penalty; the Reds are out because the team just isn't good enough in European competition, and with the club's most experienced European performer leaving at the end of the season, that isn't likely to change anytime soon.


2/26/2015 05:06:00 pm

Europa Fail: Liverpool crash out of Europe as Sterling bottles-it against Besiktas

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has sprung another surprise tonight with his decision to start Mario Balotelli ahead of £26m summer-signing Adam Lallana.

FULL TEAM: Mignolet, Toure, Skrtel, Lovren, Allen, Can, Moreno, Ibe, Sterling, Balotelli, Sturridge.

SUBS: Ward, Manquillo, Williams, Brannagan, Lallana, Lambert, Borini

* With Kolo Toure in the team, Emre Can will almost certainly play alongside Joe Allen in midfield. Can has admitted several times that he favours a central midfield role, so it will be interesting to see how he performs.

* After recent contributions, Balotelli arguably deserves to start, but Lallana will probably feel aggrieved at being dumped on the bench for one of Liverpool's most important games of the season.

* Good to see Jordan Williams and Cameron Brannagan on the bench; the experience of preparing for a European game will hold them in good stead, and if they're lucky, one of the two may see some action in the second half.

* Martin Skrtel captains the team, which is the right decision. If he does well, then he could become a genuine option to succeed Gerrard at the end of the season.

With Balotelli and Sturridge in the team, what formation will Rodgers employ? There are a couple of options:


------------------ Mignolet

----- Toure ------- Skrtel ------ Lovren

--- Ibe ------- Can ----- Allen ----- Moreno

----------------- Sterling

---------- Balotelli -- Sturridge


------------------ Mignolet

----- Toure ------- Skrtel ------ Lovren

--- Ibe ------- Can ----- Allen ----- Moreno

----------- Sterling --- Balotelli

----------------- Sturridge

I suspect Rodgers will go with option 343, with Balotelli slightly behind Sturridge, a position the Italian striker likes to play.

My prediction: 2-1 LFC (revised from 2-0)

EDIT: 21:30

* In my view, Sterling bottled-it during the penalty shootout. He is an attacking player, and with Balotelli, Gerrard, Sturridge, and Coutinho unavailable, he should've stepped-up and taken the responsibility.


2/26/2015 12:44:00 pm

He's Out: Rodgers explains why 'outstanding' £20m star will miss Besiktas. Mistake?

After a middling start to the season, Philippe Coutinho is now in a rich vein of form for Liverpool, but the Reds will miss out on Coutinho's attacking precision tonight as Brendan Rodgers has decided to leave him in England. In his pre-Besiktas press conference on Wednesday, Rodgers explained the reason why he left the 'outstanding' Brazilian at home.

Speaking to reporters, Rodgers told reporters:

“I had to leave out Coutinho [as] he’s played a lot of games consecutively for us.

"This was a game that I’d earmarked to give him some recovery in knowing he can stay at home and get ready for the weekend".

Some may argue that it's a massive gamble to leave one a key player out of such an important game, and I can see that point of view, but for me, Rodgers is right with this particular decision.

One of the most positive things about this season is that Liverpool's forward progress is no longer dependant on one player. Indeed, in recent months, the Reds have consistently won games without Gerrard, Sturridge, and Sterling, which proves that everyone is pitching-in and making an impact.

The same applies with £20m-rated Coutinho. Like Gerrard et al, he is an important player, but it's equally important for the Reds to be maintain the ability to win games without the club's best players.

Granted, with seven other players already missing, there's an element of risk to the decision, but it's a calculated risk, and one that's arguably worth taking, especially with Man City to come on Sunday.

The team Rodgers puts out tonight will almost certainly be good enough (on paper) to get a positive result against Besiktas, and if Liverpool lose the game, it won't be because Rodgers failed to play Coutinho.


2/26/2015 05:13:00 am

Aldo tells BR: 'Sensational' LFC attacker has been 'brilliant' for Liverpool but he needs resting

With injury and suspension currently decimating Liverpool's squad, it's all hands on deck for the crunch-clash with Besiktas, but despite the fact that the Reds have 8 players missing for tonight's game, Anfield legend John Aldridge has advised Brendan Rodgers to consider leaving another player out of the team.

In his column for the Liverpool Echo this week, Aldo noted:

"Jordon Ibe has been brilliant. He’s done a lot of good things very quickly but I'd be tempted to rest him against Besiktas"

Aldo's caution is understandable. Overplaying teenagers can cause problems later on down the line, and there's no way Liverpool should be relying on a 19-year old to secure a victory in the Europa League.

I personally don't see any reason to rest 'sensational' Ibe, though. Including his stint at Derby, the youngster has averaged only 56 minutes per game this season, so he's (arguably) not being overplayed.

In any event, Rodgers is so short of first-team depth right now that even if he wanted to rest Ibe, it's not really a viable option.

That said, if Rodgers is planning to leave Ibe on the bench, Javier Manquillo is available to come in at right wing-back. The Spaniard is not the most effective attacking player, but he's solid defensively, and that will be important during tonight's game. Probable line-up without Ibe:

---------------- Mignolet

------ Toure --- Skrtel ------ Lovren

Manquillo --- Allen -- Can ------ Moreno

-------- Sterling ----- Lallana

--------------- Sturridge

Ibe obviously adds more attacking potency, but with Sterling, Lallana, Sturridge, Moreno, and Can in the team, there is - or there should be - more than enough quality in attacking areas of the field to get the job done.

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2/26/2015 12:45:00 am

Done Deal? 'Fantastic' £6m goalscorer wants Liverpool transfer and will sign in the summer

In recent weeks, Liverpool legends Jamie Carragher and John Aldridge have thrown their support behind Brendan Rodgers' pursuit of Burnley frontman Danny Ings, and new reports suggest that the Reds have won the race for the 'dangerous' 23-year striker.

In a recent interview with Talksport, Burnley legend Robbie Blake urged Ings to choose 'a club like Liverpool' over Sociedad, and that's exactly what he appears to have done.

According to The Mirror:

* Ings has rejected Real Sociedad.
* He has his heart is set on Anfield
* Ings has 'made up his mind' to sign for Liverpool at the end of the season.
* Liverpool will have to pay up £6m in compensation fees.

From what I can see, lots of Liverpool fans are distinctly underwhelmed by the prospect of signing Ings, but Carragher and Aldridge are definitely all for it. In as recent column for the Liverpool Daily Post Aldo enthused:

"Ings has got great potential, and I’d rather see us spend on [him] than on, say, Iago Aspas. Ings wouldn’t be regarded as much of a gamble. He knows where the goal is and he will improve".

Carra recently insisted that £10m-rated Ings is a better fit for Liverpool than £20m-rated Saido Berahino:

"If I was Liverpool I'd be trying to sign Danny Ings. With Ings, you hear him speak, he says: 'Let your football do the talking.'"

Jamie Redknapp is also a fan of Ings, and he's convinced that the striker is 'destined for bigger things'. In a recent column for the Daily Mail, Redknapp enthused:

“He [Ings] is a fantastic young player. He has the work-rate, technique and the temperament to became a top player and, Chelsea or Manchester City apart, he could improve any side in this League"

For £6m, I see very few downsides to this deal. In terms of scoring/creating goals - a striker's primary role - Ings is clearly an upgrade on Borini, Lambert, and Balotelli, and even if he fails at Anfield, the worst case scenario is that the club will make its money back.

Under different circumstances (i.e. no expiring contract), Ings' value would be inflated by the spurious British player 'tax', he'd probably cost £15m+. As such, this deal is an absolute steal.

Multiple sources claim the deal is done, but there's still a possibility that Chelsea or some other club will come in at the eleventh hour and trump Liverpool with a massive salary offer. If/when that happens, we'll see how much Ings really has his 'heart set' on Anfield.


2/25/2015 10:39:00 pm

LFC lineup vs. Besiktas: Huge double blow for Liverpool; surprise start for Balotelli

According to Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool's main target this season is to win a trophy, and with the Reds sitting pretty in two cup competitions, there's every chance that goal can be achieved. First, Liverpool have to get past Besiktas, and with a slim 1-0 lead from the first-leg, the club has a very slight advantage going into tomorrow's game. Can LFC build on that advantage, or will it all come crashing down?

Team News:

* Coutinho is being rested and did not make the trip to Turkey.

* Henderson has an ankle injury, and is also not in the squad.
* Gerrard, Lucas, Flanagan, Johnson, Enrique, and Sakho are also out.
* Markovic is suspended.

With so many players out, the squad is down it the bare-bones, but thankfully, Liverpool have enough strength-in-depth to cover the absentees. With that in mind:

* It seems likely that Jordon Ibe will start the game. He started the first leg, and delivered an effective performance.

* With no other viable options, Can will almost certainly move into midfield to cover Hendo.

* With Sakho out, and Toure should come into the team to replace Can on the right side of the back-three.

* The key question is will Rodgers start Balotelli. After being rested at the weekend, Sturridge is certain to start, which leaves Balotelli fighting for a place with Sterling and Lallana. Realistically, Lallana will get nod, so I expect to see the following lineup.

----------------- Mignolet

----- Toure ----- Skrtel ------- Lovren

Ibe --------- Can ----- Allen ---- Moreno

---------- Sterling -- Lallana

---------------- Sturridge

Even without Henderson and Coutinho, that's a tasty line-up, and it's more than good enough to get a result against Besiktas. Anfield legend John Aldridge certainly thinks so, and in his column for the Liverpool Echo this week, he mused:

"They [Besiktas] will have to come out and play, yet if we score they need three, so how do they approach it? They certainly can’t sit back and that may suit us. Our away form is terrific".

Sturridge didn't have the best of games last week, but he's due a goal, and one goal is probably all it will take to seal the tie.

My prediction: 2-0 LFC.


2/25/2015 07:15:00 pm

Superstar Transfer? LFC keen to sign €25m World Cup winner with shocking injury history

With Steven Gerrard leaving at the end of the season, the race is on to find a midfielder capable of partly filling the huge void in the team, and reports today claim that Real Madrid star Sami Khedira is Brendan Rodgers' preferred choice to replace Gerrard.

Liverpool were linked with Khedira during Kenny Dalglish's second spell in charge, but the speculation stopped after FSG terminated the LFC legend's contract.

Rodgers then reportedly made a €19m offer for Khedira last summer, and according to German newspaper Sportbild:

* Khedira's contract expires in June, so he's free to sign a pre-contract agreement with any interested club.

* Brendan Rodgers wants to seal the deal 'quickly' to see off interest from Manchester United, Chelsea and Bayern Munich.

What is it with Liverpool and injury-prone players? In recent weeks, the Reds have been linked with perpetual sicknotes like Yoann Gourcuff, Jack Wilshere, and Micah Richards, and now it's Khedira.

The German - who Franz Beckenbauer claims is a 'perfect' signing for Bayern Munich - is an excellent player, but like Daniel Agger, he is massively prone to injury:

* Two cruciate ligament injuries in four years.
* Missed 87 games as a result of 11 separate injuries in the last 4 years.
* A grand total of 20 injuries since 2008 (105 games missed)
* Averaged only 23 league games a year since 2006.

In a recent article, I argued that Gourcuff has the worst injury history I've ever seen, but I take it back; even he can't touch Khedira, and if Liverpool sign the midfielder, it will be transfer negligence of the highest order.

I just don't see the sense in risking big bucks on players with huge injury histories. There are lots of players out there for similar fees whose careers are not littered with endless injury set-backs.

The fact Khedira is free shouldn't come into it. Gerrard's replacement has to be someone who will play most games, and have a regular impact on the team, and Khedira's history proves that he isn't capable of doing that.

Unsurprisingly, Khedira - reportedly the subject of a €25m bid from Arsenal in the summer - is injured right now! He's suffered three separate injuries this season alone, which just goes to show that he is totally unreliable.

Avoid like the plague.


2/25/2015 03:41:00 pm

Massive Blow: £20m star injured. 7 players missing for Besiktas game including Coutinho

Despite the poor start the season, Liverpool still have a great chance of ending the season with two more cups in the trophy cabinet, and although the FA Cup remains Liverpool's best chance of a trophy this season, the Reds are also capable of winning the Europa League. LFC face Besiktas tomorrow in a bid to advance in the competition, but new injury worries mean that it's going to be more difficult than expected for the Reds to progress.

Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson are playing a vital role in Liverpool's current resurgence, but according to reports today:

* Hendo (ankle injury) and Coutinho have have not travelled to Turkey, and will not take part in tomorrow's game.

* Johnson (illness), Sakho (Hip injury), Gerrard, Lucas, and Markovic (suspended) will also miss the game.

The loss of £20m Hendo and Coutinho is a massive blow to Liverpool's chances, and it leaves the Reds with very few options in central midfield.

* To compensate, it seems inevitable that Emre Can will be forced to move into midfield alongside Joe Allen. There doesn't appear to be any other option

* This means that the solid defensive unit of Can/Skrtel/Sakho will suffer it's second enforced change in the space of two games (Lovren in for Sakho vs. Southampton; Toure in for Can vs. Besiktas)

* The other issue to consider is who will captain the team in Hendo's absence? Martin Skrtel is the obvious choice. If Emre Can gets the armband, it will be a massive snub for Skrtel, and given his imperious form (and seniority), he deserves the chance to captain the club.

With Sterling, Ibe, and Lallana in the squad, Liverpool have the players to cover Coutinho, though the Brazilian is in excellent form right now, and it's a shame that his momentum is being disrupted.

That said, after starting 19 games in a row, Coutinho's enforced absence could be a blessing in disguise. He'll get a much-needed rest, and will hopefully return fully-refreshed for Man City this Sunday.


2/25/2015 05:09:00 am

Marquee Signing: LFC prepare mega-deal for exciting £25m striker who's 'in love with Juve'

During the summer 2013 transfer window, Liverpool were linked with a move for Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata, who was allegedly sought by Reds boss Brendan Rodgers as a makeweight in any deal to take Luis Suarez to the Bernebeau. Suarez stayed at Anfield for another year, so the deal didn't happen, but Liverpool are still on the lookout for another striker, and reports today suggest Morata is back on Rodgers' transfer wish-list.

Liverpool allegedly put in a 'concrete offer' for Morata during the January 2014 transfer window, and according to The Mirror:

* Liverpool are 'lining up' a summer move for Morata.
* Rodgers sees Morata as this year's 'marquee signing'
* Madrid insterted a £25m buy-back clause in Morata's Juve contract.

This season, Morata has 8 goals/4 assists in 27 appearances for Juventus, and Anfield legend Jamie Carragher recently highlighted the 22-year old as one Europe's top prospects. He told Daily Mail:

"Morata is one of the hottest young strikers in Europe. We have seen the impact Gerard Deulofeu, another young Spaniard, has made at Everton and it would be intriguing to see Morata [in the Premier League].

Spain U21 team-mate Thiago Alcantara certainly seems to think that Morata is heading for greatness, and over the summer, he told reporters:

“Morata is an exceptional player and he’s really given us a lot in this tournament. He helped us win the games that won us our group and get to the final too – he’s a great No9"

A transfer seems highly unlikely, though, as Morata appears to be deliriously happy at Juventus. When asked this month about life in Italy, he raved:

“I am truly in love with Juve and want to spend much of my career [here]. I cannot forget Juve were the first to make attempts to sign me. I wasn’t happy at Madrid, but Juve treated me like an important player."

This doesn't sound like a player who's thinking about leaving any time soon. However, declarations of loyalty from elite footballers are often not worth the air into which they're uttered, so you never know what might happen.


2/24/2015 11:15:00 pm

Transfer Shocker: Liverpool 'interested' in 'incredible' €22m attacker with 14 injuries in 4 years

Jordon Ibe's recall aside, Liverpool had a very quiet transfer window, but it appears that Reds boss Brendan Rodgers took some concrete steps to bring in at least one new player in January.

Speaking to Sportsmediaset today, the agent of Lyon attacker Yoann Gourcuff claimed:

"Foreign clubs are always knocking at the door. This year, Liverpool and Atletico Madrid were interested...and I am sure there will be offers during the next transfer window"

Liverpool were linked with Gourcuff way back in 2009, with The Guardian claiming at the time that Rafa Benitez was interested in a swap-deal for Daniel Agger. Some info about Gourcuff, who cost Lyon €22m:

* Current contract expires in June 2015.
* Attacking mid, who can play as central-mid or left-winger.
* 19 goals/27 assists in 125 apps for Lyon.
* Goal/assist ever 2.7 games.
* This season: 3 goals/3 assists in 16 apps.
* 32 apps for the France national team (4 goals)
* Averages only 21 league games per season.

* Once nicknamed the 'new Zidane' for his elegance on the ball.

It's fair to say that Gourcuff has not lived up to the hype, and according to Lyon captain Maxime Gonalons the 28-year old attacker has not delivered the goods for Lyon. Last month, he told ESPN:

"When he arrived at Lyon he was an incredible player, capable of doing incredible things [but] he could have, and should have, contributed much more."

It's hardly surprising that Gourcuff has struggled for consistency at Lyon; his injury history is one of the worst I've ever seen, and in comparison, he makes Sturridge and Agger look positively robust:

* 14 separate injuries in the last four seasons.
* 484 days (16 months) out injured. 93 games missed.

With such a horrific injury record, it's surprising Liverpool even contemplated a deal, and if his agent is telling the truth about the Reds' enquiry, then whoever made the decision to look at Gourcuff should be summarily dismissed for negligent judgement in the transfer market.

16 months out injured in 4 years! In what universe is signing Gourcuff even remotely close to being a good idea? Clearly, Liverpool had a lucky escape in 2009, and fans should be thanking their lucky stars that Rafa failed to seal the deal.


2/24/2015 07:38:00 pm

LFC 'needed him': Boss insists Liverpool should've signed 'outstanding' £43m goal-machine. agree?

How the mighty have fallen. Despite an impeccable pedigree, one-time goal-machine Radamel Falcao is struggling to make an impact at Manchester United, and according to Monaco boss Leonardo Jardim, the Colombian made a huge mistake choosing Old Trafford over Anfield.

Speaking to reporters this week, Jardim mused:

"Other clubs needed him more. It would have been easier [for Falcao] to go to Chelsea, Liverpool or even Real Madrid"

In September, Falcao's father confirmed that the striker rejected a move to Anfield:

"Juventus, Manchester City, Liverpool also approached him and Arsenal at the last minute. Fortunately, he ended up at Manchester United, a great team that he has to lead forward."

8 goals/assists in 19 appearances for Man Utd is a creditable return, but it pales in comparison to Falcao's previous creative output, and it doesn't look like things are going to change any time soon.

Jardim claims that Falcao - recently hailed by Juan Mata as 'outstanding' - would've been better-off at Liverpool, and whilst there may be an element of truth to that, he still would've been subject to the same fitness issues that have plagued his time at Old Trafford.

Fitness problems notwithstanding, the plain fact is that Falcao has a better creative output this season than Balotelli, Borini, and Lambert:

Falcao: 8 goals/assists in 19 apps.
Balotelli: 4 goals/assists in 22 apps.
Borini: 2 goals/assist in 16 apps.
Lambert: 3 goals/assists in 26 apps.

Falcao is outperforming LFC's Balotelli, Borini, and Lambert despite the fact he suffered a major ACL injury, which doesn't say much for that fully-fit £31m striking trio.

Rather improbably, Liverpool are still linked with a possible move for Falcao. Last month, The Sunday Times claimed that:

* Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City are all 'keeping tabs' on Falcao.

* Man United have a £43m option to buy at the end of the season, but the Reds are reportedly hoping that he'll be available for a much smaller fee.

Falco fits Liverpool's system much better than Balotelli, but I can't see the Reds pursuing this deal. That said, I fully expect Falcao to return to form after he's settled back into the game. This season is just about getting back up to speed, and whoever he plays for next season will probably reap the benefits.


2/24/2015 01:49:00 pm

Yes Please: Boss confirms 'miracle' £29m goal-machine wanted by Liverpool 'will leave' if the price is right

The Jackson Martinez rumours refuse to die! Liverpool continue to be linked with a move for the prolific Colombian striker, and Porto have now confirmed that Martinez is for sale.

Speaking to reporters this week, Porto President Pinto da Costa confirmed:

"Jackson almost left last summer but we agreed he'd stay one more year. If somebody pays his value he will leave."

Liverpool's interest in £29m-rated Martinez is long established. Most recently:

NOV 2014: Liverpool's pursuit of Martinez made the front page of leading Portuguese newspaper Jornal Record, and the Daily Mail reported: "Liverpool do not wish to buy their way out of trouble but will continue to evaluate potential new strikers. Porto's Jackson Martinez has been offered to them [LFC]"

DEC 2014: Peppino Terri, an agent registered with Italy's FA, claimed: "Liverpool are in for Jackson. AC Milan? That's unlikely".

FEB 2015: ESPN reported: "Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham are interested in acquiring his [Martinez's] services".

Martinez has also confirmed that he wants to leave. Earlier this month, he told reporters:

"I'm ready to make the leap in the next window. I have my head focused only on the work I'm doing at Porto at the moment and when the transfer window reopens, we shall see what will happen."

Since arriving at the Estádio do Dragão, Martinez - described by Porto boss Julen Lopetegui as a 'miracle' striker - has racked up some formidable creative stats:

* 86 goals/11 assist in 123 appearances.
* Once scored in 10 successive games for Porto.
* At one point, scored 18 goals in 17 games.
* Broke Falcao's record by scoring 11 goals in 12 matches for Porto.

97 goals/assists in 123 games? That is a superb creative return for Porto, and it'll be a major coup if Liverpool are able to seal the deal. Martinez will represent formidable competition for Daniel Sturridge, and the Colombian clearly has the talent and goalscoring ability to keep the England man on his toes.

Sturridge is inarguably Liverpool's main-man, but the Reds should proceed as if he doesn't exist. He is an amazing striker, but he cannot be relied upon, and it's impossible to build a team around a striker who is always injured.

Martinez, on the other hand, has never been injured, which is quite amazing for a 28-year old player. Clearly, he's cut from the same cloth as Luis Suarez, and that robustness is exactly what Liverpool need up-front.


2/24/2015 05:15:00 am

Lawro raves: 'Brilliant' €12m star has made a 'big difference' to Liverpool

As I'm sure many fans will agree, Brendan Rodgers' decision to switch to a 343 formation is a genuine tactical masterstroke, and a key component of Liverpool's new-found defensive stability is the presence of Emre Can in the back three. Can has now started 15 games in a row, and he's clearly made a difference, but what is it specifically that the German brings to the team?

In a column for the BBC on Monday, Reds legend Mark Lawrenson hailed Can's impact on the team, and explain why he's such a valuable commodity at the back:

"He [Can] has been brilliant, and is able to play either side of Martin Skrtel. He can use the ball, and his passing ability from that position has made a big difference to the team".

Lots of people seem to rave about Can's alleged passing ability, but what do the stats say? Premier League this season (Correct as of 23 Feb 2015)


* Passing accuracy: 82.9%
* Passing accuracy: Opposition half: 68.3%
* 580 passes. 38.6 per game (1 every 1.8 mins)

The team average is 82.8%, so Can is just slightly above that, but his passing accuracy in the opposition half leaves a lot to be desired. Compared to Liverpool's other central defenders:


* Passing accuracy: 90.8%
* Passing accuracy: Opposition half: 69.9%
* 1163 passes. 50.6 per game (1 every 1.7 mins)


* Passing accuracy: 89%
* Passing accuracy: Opposition half: 85.3%
* 683 passes. 56.9 per game (1 every 1.5 mins)


* Passing accuracy: 86.4%
* Passing accuracy: Opposition half: 71.4%
* 926 passes. 51.4 per game (1 every 1.4 mins)

As you can see, Can's passing accuracy is not on the same level as Skrtel, Sakho, and Lovren, so is it really true that his passing ability 'has made a big difference to the team'? If it's true of Can, is it not also true Skrtel, Sakho, and to a lesser extent, Lovren?

On he subject of Sakho - when it comes to positive passing out defence, he is (arguably) far more effective than Can. Although prone to the odd hospital pass, Sakho is positive and direct, and always tries to pass forward, and into feet.

Can - who cost Liverpool €12m - is doing well for Liverpool, but his impact on the team is overstated. In my view, Liverpool's defensive resurgence is less to do with Can's personal impact, and more to with:

* Employing a system that plays to the strengths of available personnel.
* Playing the same defensive unit as much as possible to promote cohesion/rhythm.
* Solidifying the middle of the pitch by Removing Gerrard from the holding midfield.
* Removing Lovren from the defensive unit.

Picking a back-three/four and sticking with it as much as possible is one of the keys to success, and that's exactly what's happened over the last couple of months.

Plus, if, say, Javier Manquillo had been given a run of 14 consecutive games on the right-side of Skrtel, I'm sure Liverpool's results - and defensive solidity - would still be the same (or similar) as it is now.


2/23/2015 11:35:00 pm

Legend insists: BR must 'dent' £20m star's 'confidence' and stop him from taking penalties

When he's in the team, Steven Gerrard (quite rightly) takes most of Liverpool's set-pieces, and his peerless skill from a dead-ball situation has rescued the Reds many times over the years. Jordan Henderson doesn't quite have the same skill-set, and LFC legend John Aldridge has criticised the stand-in captain for taking on too much set-pieces responsibility.

In his column for Sunday World, Aldo blasted Hendo for trying to take the penalty against Besiktas, and urged him to stop 'trying to establish his authority by putting himself forward for every set-piece routine:

"Henderson wants to take every free-kick, every corner and every bloody throw-in. Well, whoever came up with the idea that he should take penalties got it wrong. If Mario is on the pitch, he takes it [the penalty]. If that dents Henderson’s confidence then so be it"

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Rodgers confirmed that Gerrard and Balotelli are the club's two nominated penalty takers, but since neither started the Besiktas game, Hendo was nominated in their stead.

As such, Aldo is clearly right - instead of acceding to Balotelli - who was on the pitch at the time of the penalty - Henderson still tried to take it himself. As such, he was arguably the architect of the kerfuffle that erupted over the penalty.

Hendo's motivation is certainly understandable. As Aldo suggests, stepping-up and taking responsibility is clearly Hendo's motivation, but he barely takes penalties, so he should've just given the ball straight to Balotelli.

As for all the other point - Hendo's insistence on taking all the set-pieces was evident against Southampton over the weekend, but the plain fact is he doesn't have Gerrard's quality at dead-ball situation.

In fact, free-kick goal against Spurs (last season) notwithstanding, I don't recall Henderson creating many goals from free-kicks and corners. As such, perhaps it's worth giving others a chance to make an impact from Liverpool's set-pieces.

Who, though? Looking through the team, I don't see any standout candidates, so right now, Henderson - who cost Liverpool £20m (and has probably maintained that value) - is probably the best of a middling bunch


2/23/2015 08:31:00 pm

Confirmed: 'Outstanding' £26m attacker will sign 'incredible deal' with Liverpool 'soon'. Good news?

'Outstanding' Liverpool attacker Raheem Sterling scored another goal over the weekend to help the Reds grab a crucial win against Southampton, but what is the latest with his ongoing contract situation?

According to The Telegraph, LFC have offered Sterling £100k-a-week 'with the promise of further rewards should certain targets be met', and when asked on Sunday about the deal, £26m-rated Sterling told the Liverpool Echo:

“We're working on it [the new deal] and hopefully it will be sorted soon"

Translation: We're 'working on' trying to get as much money as possible out of the club, and it will be 'sorted' as soon as Liverpool give-in to my salary demands.

Brendan Rodgers recently described the deal on offer as 'incredible', especially for 'a player who is still developing', and he's right - it's an obscene amount of money for a 20-year old, but apparently, it's not enough.

Rodgers has also repeatedly claimed that Sterling is 'happy at Liverpool', but if that's the case why has he not yet signed a new deal? That's the question fans should be asking. If he's genuinely happy at Liverpool, then he'd surely sign the deal on offer, and recognise how lucky he is to be given the insane opportunity to earn £100k-a-week at the age of 20.

It just doesn't compute: Sterling is 'very happy' at Anfield, but not happy enough to accept £100K-a-week. Why? There's only one possible reason: greed. Like so many others, Sterling appears to be a football mercenary, and if he doesn't get what he wants at Anfield, I'm sure he'll move on to another club without giving it a second thought.

Don't get me wrong - Sterling has every right to chase the cash, but that doesn't mean fans have to be happy about it. Actions speak louder than words, and if Sterling genuinely gave a damn about Liverpool, he would've accepted the terms of the offer that's currently on the table.

I'd understand if the Reds were offering him a pitiful, insulting deal, but that's not the case. Liverpool have offered him a contract beyond the wildest dreams of most people, and Sterling is insulting LFC and the loyal fanbase with his ongoing attempts to squeeze more money out of the club.

Sterling is only the beginning - if Liverpool give in to his demands, where does it end? Liverpool will be seen as a soft touch, and every young player after Sterling who displays a modicum of talent may follow the same game-plan.

As I've stated numerous times: I honestly couldn't care less if Liverpool sell Sterling. The obsessional deification of individual players is a huge problem in football, and, when clubs accede to player-power in these situations, it perpetuates the the pernicious trend of player-entitlement, and promotes a damaging culture of greed and rampant self-interest.

As always, football fans are the great enablers, but I support Liverpool FC, not Sterling FC, and if he leaves, the club will go on, just like it did when countless other top class players left in the past.

And yes, I will keep going on about this issue for as long as it takes. I may be in the minority here (usually as a result of apathy, indifference, or a damaging 'that's just the way it is' attitude), but I know there are lots of fans out there who feel the same way, and this site is a voice for those fans.


2/23/2015 05:34:00 pm

Confession: 'Sensational' LFC attacker admits he supported 'Chelsea' and could've signed for Manchester City

After starting four games in a row, Liverpool attacker Jordon Ibe is winning rave reviews for his performances, with the likes of Thierry Henry and Steven Gerard hailing him as 'amazing' and 'sensational'. Ibe is adapting well to the wing-back position in Brendan Rodgers' preferred 343 formation, but if things had one different in the past, the youngster could be playing for a different club right now.

In an interview over the weekend, Ibe revealed a flirtation with one of Liverpool's biggest Premier League rivals. He told reporters:

"I had a trial at Man City when I was younger but nothing came of it. It was a good choice for me to come to Liverpool and I'm glad I'm here".

Man City? Ibe had a lucky escape there as young players very rarely make it through the youth set-up and into the first team. Over the last five years, City's clear policy is to buy success, and after spending tens of millions on established players, the club has reaped the benefits.

If Ibe had been picked up by City, he'd probably be languishing in the reserves right now with zero chance of ever making it. Indeed, City is a graveyard for young English talent - just ask Jack Rodwell or Scott Sinclair. Granted, Liverpool's record of promoting young attacking players is equally poor, but things are changing under Brendan Rodgers, and - along with Sterling - Ibe's progress is evidence of that.

The young attacker also revealed another disturbing nugget of information:

"My dad is a Liverpool supporter, but when I grew up I started to support Chelsea"

Thankfully, Ibe appears to have seen the error of his ways, and he's now a confirmed Liverpool fan. You never forget your first love, though. Like Sterling, Ibe is a Londoner, and if Chelsea is the first team he ever supported, it's possible that he still has a soft-spot for the club.

Club allegiance rarely makes any difference, though. Countless LFC stars of the past supported clubs other than Liverpool, and some of the Reds' most effective players (including Carra, McManaman, and Owen) supported Everton prior to becoming LFC players.

Chelsea, though? Urgh.