4/16/2014 04:45:00 am

Rip-Off? After Agent meeting, LFC told to pay £30m for BR's 'unstoppable' top-target

Liverpool continue to be linked with a summer move for Benfica midfielder Lazar Markovic, and the Reds are reportedly taking concrete steps to secure a deal for the exciting Serb, though the price tag appears to be prohibitive.

The story so far:

* April 10th: Liverpool scouts watched Markovic in Benfica's Europa League game with AZ Alkmaar.

* March: Liverpool's Chief Scout watched 20-year-old Markovic during Serbia's 2-1 win over the Republic of Ireland.

March: The Mirror reported: "Liverpool are bidding to beat Chelsea in the £20million chase for Lazar Markovic. He has been on the Kop radar since he was a kid. Brendan Rodgers wants to land the Benfica wide man in a massive deal"

Well, it seems the Reds will indeed have to pay a 'massive' fee to land Markovic. According to reports this week:

* Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers 'has been quoted' £30million by Benfica for Markovic.
* Markovic is allegedly the manager's 'top target' this summer.
* LFC 'officials' have met with the player’s agents to talk about a deal.

Markovic is a massive Chelsea fan, and seemingly has his heart set on a move to Stamford Bridge, as he revealed recently:

"Chelsea [is] my dream. I had all the pictures on my wall at home back to when they had Gianfranco Zola. And any time they are on TV I try to watch them. Chelsea are the best".

The presence at Stamford Bridge of fellow Serb Nemanja Matic could be a deciding factor in any move to the Premier League, and the midfield is a big fan Markovic. In February, he told O Jogo:

“He [Markovic] will mature and then he'll be unstoppable. It was great to have played with this fantastic kid for six months.”

I just don't understand all the hype. How is Markovic worth £30m? What has he achieved in the game to warrant that inflated price-tag? Take this season, for example: 6 goals/0 assists in 35 appearances. Is that what £30m buys these days? Coutinho has 5 goals/7 assists this season, and he cost only £8m.

If Liverpool are going to spend that kind of money on an attacking player, he better offer a shedload of goals/assists, and that clearly is not the case with Markovic. Given the fact he's predominantly a winger, his lack of assists is especially concerning.

Massive fees should (IMO) be reserved for players who are the finished article, and will come into the team and make an immediate impact. There's absolutely no guarantee that Markovic will do that, and if he can't create a single goal in the Portuguese league, how is he going to fare in the (arguably) superior - and tougher - Premier League?


4/15/2014 08:15:00 pm

'I wondered if...' - Man Utd hero reveals doubts over Suarez being 'top class'. Fair...?

Luis Suarez was lucky to remain on the field during Sunday's win over Manchester City, and after a season of mostly excellent behaviour on the pitch, he left himself down by reverting to his old diving antics. Histrionics aside, Suarez is far and away the best attacking player in the Premier League this season, and deserves to win the Player of the Year award, but Man United legend Gary Neville admits that he had doubts that the Uruguayan could reach his current level of brilliance.

Speaking to EA Sports over the weekend, Neville hailed Suarez's performance levels as 'the highest quality', but conceded he once had doubts about the striker's overall quality. He explained:

"12-18 months ago I wondered if Suárez was really top class. There is no doubt about that now. His work rate and tenacity is just incredible".

Over the last '12-18 months', Suarez's involvement in a series of unsavoury incidents has obscured his football genius at times, but it has always been there, and now that the Uruguayan has - for the most part - left the cheating/gamesmanship behind, the quality of his football is consistently shining through.

I may be one of Suarez's biggest critics (and I make no apology for that), but I've never doubted his quality, and the Uruguayan has been top class (in terms of football performance) ever since he signed for Liverpool.

Suarez is Liverpool's Eric Cantona, and like the Frenchman, he's sparked an on-field revolution at Anfield, which has propelled the Reds to the brink of the Premier League title.

Man City is a step-backwards, though, for Suarez. The overriding memory of his contribution to that game is constant diving/going to ground easily, and hassling the referee, but hopefully it's a one-off, and we'll return to lauding his football skills next week.


4/15/2014 03:00:00 pm

Lucas Killer? Reds favourites to sign €9m powerhouse who's 'very happy to join' LFC

During the January transfer window, multiple reports claimed that Liverpool planned to make a bid for Udinese defensive midfielder Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu. Nothing came of the interest, but the Ghana international admitted that he'd love to join Liverpool, and reports this week suggest that the Reds will go back in for midfielder this summer.

Liverpool's European scouts have personally recommended Badu to Rodgers, and according to reports in Italy today:

* Liverpool are 'leading the race' to sign 23-year old Badu.

* Badu is valued at €9m, but Udinese hope the World Cup will drive up his price.

When asked in January about Liverpool's interest, Badu made it clear that he'd love a move to Anfield. He told reporters:

"It has always been my dream to play in England. We played against Liverpool in the Europa League last year so I know all about them. I would be very happy to join them. The chance to play for such a big club is something I couldn’t pass up."

Some info about Badu:

* Can play in midfield or defence, and that versatility is almost certainly an attraction for Rodgers, who seems to be obsessed with players who can operate in several different positions.

* 2011: Voted Ghana’s best player in Italy.

* 2012: Nominated for FIFA goal of the year award for his strike against Guinea in the 2012 African Nations Cup.

* 2012: Shortlisted for the Puskas Goal of the Year Award, alongside Newymar, Falcao, Lionel Messi and several others. Responding to the nomination, Badu enthused: "I was not expecting it and it came to me by surprise. I'm happy and privileged to be nominated among all these big names like Messi, Falcao and Neymar and others"

* 2012: Nominated for the African Player of the Year award by the Ghana Football Association, and praised by the GFA Chief as 'outstanding'.

* Has some lofty career ambitions, and he revealed in a recent interview: "I want to be remembered as a player who won the African [player of the year], the European [footballer of the year], or a Champions League medal. I know it is a long road but I’m ready to make the dream come to reality."

* 7 goals in 48 appearances for Ghana.

Reds fans have repeatedly called for Brendan Rodgers to sign a tough, physically imposing central midfielder, but Badu is the same height as Sterling and Coutinho, so is he the right choice for the role?

If Liverpool are to sign a defensive midfielder, perhaps it should be a big, strong unit, not another small(ish) player who can be muscled off the ball?

Having said that, Javier Mascherano isn't the biggest player, and he did a good job as a defensive midfielder for LFC, so perhaps it isn't really an issue...?

If Liverpool are planning to sign a dedicated defensive midfielder, what does this mean for Lucas? As well as being increasingly injury prone, Lucas has lost his automatic starting place to Steven Gerrard, and is now limited to camoe appearances.

Signing a new DM may be a sign of Rodgers's decreasing faith in Lucas's reliability.


4/15/2014 01:11:00 am

Secret Transfer Trip 3: BR flies out to watch €10m star Beckenbauer called 'superb'

In recent weeks, Brendan Rodgers has reportedly undertaken personal scouting trips to watch Benfica attacker Rodrigo, and Bayer Leverkusen starlet Julian Brandt. Well, it seems that the Reds boss enjoys this side of the job, and he's now made a 'personal check' on South Korean star Son Heung-Min.

According to The Mirror over the weekend:

"Brendan Rodgers is keen on South Korean star Son Heung-min and has just made a personal check on the Bayer Leverkusen forward"

Rodgers was attended Leverkusen's game with Hamburg on Friday 4th April, so it's conceivable he was there to watch Son.

Liverpool have relentlessly pursued Son over the last two years, and in November 2012, former Tottenham Hotspur playmaker Rafael Van Der Vaart claimed that the Reds put in a put in a huge offer for the attacker. He told German newspaper BILD:

"It is tempting when Liverpool informs you of a twenty million offer, but he [Son] must stay here!"

VDV played alongside Son at Hamburg, so he would've been in a great position to know of Liverpool's bid, and there's no reason to think he'd lie publicly about something like that.

Son's Agent, Thies Bleimeister, also confirmed Liverpool's 'concrete' interest. After the 21-year old signed for Leverkusen in a €10m deal, he told Bild:

"Liverpool and Tottenham were interested in concrete terms. I think, at clubs like Liverpool and Tottenham, he would also be able to play, [but] Leverkusen is the right step to develop. The Premier League could someday be the goal"

Son arguably made the right decision here. He probably would've earned more at Spurs or Liverpool - two clubs that are more prestigious than Leverkusen - but it seems he put his personal development ahead of greed, which is rather refreshing.

Despite Sami Hyypia's merciless sacking, Leverkusen are still 4th in the Bundesliga table, and Son is playing well in his maiden season at the club, and so far, he's contributed 11 goals/6 assists in 39 apps.

Son also fits the Rodgers template for attacking players. He is versatile, and can play on the left; right; behind the striker, or even as a main striker. When asked to describe his best position, Son explained:

"I don't care where I play. The main thing is I'm in the game. I can play as a second striker or behind. What the coach says, I'll do. I don't have a favorite position. I'll be anywhere and always on the throttle."

German legend Franz Beckenbauer is a fan of the exciting attacker, and in an interview Hamburger Morgenpost last year, he raved:

"He is superb player. I really like the way he plays: Fast and dynamic. He not only scores goals, but also makes beautiful goals"

Hyypia signed Son for Leverkusen, and now that he's no longer in charge, perhaps Son might consider leaving? When push comes to shove, I doubt he'll be able to turn down the champions of England ;-)

On a related note: I can't wait to see Son play at the World Cup. South Korea are always entertaining to watch at major tournaments, and I'm sure this year will be no exception.


4/14/2014 11:14:00 pm

'LFC is a dream': €19m star says he 'talked to Brendan' about Reds transfer

In February, FC Dnipro owner Andriy Rusol claimed that he is 'one thousand per cent sure' that Liverpool will 'try again in the summer' to sign coveted attacker Yehven Konoplyanka, and based on the attacker's latest comments about the club, it seems he's still interested in a move to Anfield.

Speaking to the Ukrainian press in February, Rusol blamed Liverpool for failing to tie-up the €19m deal, but suggested that a deal will be done this summer:

"I am a thousand per cent sure that Liverpool will try again in the summer and then we'll let him go. Everything will be fine. If Liverpool, in the summer, report to us, Yevhen will still go to this club."

In an interview last night with Russian newspaper Sport-express, Konplyanka once again confirmed that he almost joined the Reds, and seemed very enthusiastic about the club. He said:

"I talked to Brendan - we talked about ourselves a little, and talked about the move, but the transfer didn't go through. Liverpool is like a dream. I support them, and will keep on supporting them, and I hope they go on to win the title".

NB: I paid a professional translator to transcribe this interview

So, Konoplyanka is a Liverpool fan? How convenient ;-)

Will Liverpool go back in for the attacker this summer? Everything seems to indicate that the Reds are still interested. Indeed, two weeks ago, Konoplyanka's rep (at the time of collapsed deal), James Lippet, tweeted the following:

Why is Lippet going to Liverpool, and why did he feel the need to tweet about it? Based on the Reds' history with Konoplyanka, it seems reasonable to assume that this could be related to transfer talks over a summer resurrection of the failed January deal.

Konoplyanka clearly wants the move. In January, he told reporters:

"Liverpool? I"m so excited about it and soon you will know where I will play. It's all very serious. I'm shocked myself. It will all be clear very soon."

Then, When asked in February about the failure of the deal, he told reporters:

"Well, I will not hide it, there is a little resentment, but life goes on. I hope that everything will turn out okay."

Konoplyanka's stats for this season so far:

* 11 goals/6 assists in 28 apps.
* Goal/assist every 130 mins.
* Goal/assist every 1.4 games.

Decent creative return, but will he be able to replicate this in the Premier League?


4/14/2014 07:15:00 pm

Don't Sell Him: LFC fans urge BR not to dump €8m Anfield 'legend'. Too Late...?

Earlier this week, on-loan goalkeeper Pepe Reina confirmed once again that he will return to Liverpool at the end of the season, and admitted that his future remains 'tied to Liverpool'. Reina seems certain to leave Anfield for good this summer, but with LFC in need of another goalkeeper to challenge Mignolet, the Spaniard would be a great back-up, and could even fight to regain his place in the team. The questions is, do Liverpool fans want Reina back?

When asked about his future on Tuesday, Reina admitted that he's 'proud' to be linked with Barcelona, but once again reiterated that he'll return to Liverpool in the summer. He told Spanish newspaper AS:

"My future is tied to Liverpool because I have two more years on my contract. I will then talk about the transfer to Naples, where I'm happy and where I'm playing a good season. I'll also talk to Liverpool"

On Wednesday, I conducted a survey asking whether fans would like Reina to stay at Anfield next season:

* 13300 visitors (approx) voted in the poll.
* 51% of participants voted for Reina to stay.

Though the result is not that emphatic, it seems that Reina - recently described by Rodgers as a 'legend' at Liverpool - still has some significant support amongst Reds fans, and a very slight majority want Liverpool to keep the Spaniard at Anfield.

There doesn't appear to be the same support for Reina coming back to replace Mignolet, however. In another poll (during Mignolet's period of dodgy form over the Christmas period), I asked the question: 'Would you like to see Reina return to replace Mignolet?

* 11400 visitors (approx) voted in the poll.
* Only 20% wanted Reina to replace Mignolet.

Overall, it seems that fans want Reina to stay at Anfield, but only as back-up to the Belgian. I think we all know that Reina would never accept that as - like most 'keepers - he wants to be number one.


4/14/2014 12:43:00 pm

'Harsh': BR claims ref was wrong to dismiss Hendo for horror tackle. Irresponsible?

After a moment of madness yesterday against Manchester City, Jordan Henderson will now miss the bulk of Liverpool's title run-in. Most fair-minded fans seem to concede that Hendo deserved a straight red card for scything down Samir Nasri, but LFC boss Brendan Rodgers takes a different view, though, and according to him, the referee got it wrong.

When asked about Hendo's sending off during his post-match press conference, Rodgers hailed Henderson as 'brilliant', and made his feelings on the decision clear. He told reporters:

"Sometimes you watch images like that, and when it's slowed down, it looks really bad, but he [Henderson] actually touches the ball. He's stretching for it, but the sole of his foot touches the ball. Okay, maybe he catches Zabaleta, but I thought it [the red card] was harsh"

Rodgers' trivialisation of the incident aside, he is right: Henderson does make some contact on the ball, but that doesn't excuse the studs-up rashness of the 'tackle':

This is potentially a leg-breaking challenge. I should know - in October last year, I got taken out in a league game by an identical lunging kung-fu special, and ended up with a double fib-tib fracture (not fun!). If Hendo had properly connected with Nasri's shin, then it it could've been a hell of a lot worse.

The decision isn't harsh in the slightest. Henderson is a model professional, and although there's no malice to the tackle, it's dangerous play, and 'challenges' like this need to be eradicated from the game.

Rodgers' judgement in this issue is arguably clouded by his feelings for Henderson, who is clearly one of his favourites, and if a Liverpool player got taken out by a similar challenge, I seriously doubt he would defend the opposition player.

Rodgers' view is also (IMO) irresponsible, and slightly hypocritical. All season, he's complained about Luis Suarez being roughed-up on the field (for incidents far less serious than Hendo's tackle), and in November, he slammed Kevin Mirallas for making a similar studs-up lunge:

"I thought Mirallas should have been sent off. If you look at it in every way, real time and slow motion, it is a bad challenge. He caught him on the back of his knee and that can end your career. It was awful jumping in like that"


So, Mirallas 'should've been sent off', but Henderson's red card is 'harsh'? Granted, the Belgian's 'tackle' is worse, but the principle is the same: both tackles were reckless, and could've caused serious injury.

In my view, Rodgers should've just accepted the red card, and made it clear that such challenges are not acceptable. Instead, he's basically condoned the challenge, and indirectly argued that lunging in like Hendo is okay if there's a marginal touch on the ball.

survey software


4/14/2014 01:15:00 am

He'll Quit: Fowler sure 'fantastic' £24m star will 'leave in the summer'. Good news for LFC...?

Like many LFC fans, I felt sick to the stomach when Manchester United signed Robin Van Persie in the summer of 2012. As soon as the Dutchman signed on the dotted line, the title race was over, and United were destined to be Premier League champions. The impact of a world class striker cannot be underestimated, and SAS have proven that once again this season. Thankfully, it's all gone sour for Van Persie, and his fractured season has mirrored the the marvellous decline of Man Utd, to the extent that Anfield legend Robbie Fowler believes the striker will leave Old Trafford this summer.

Discussing Van Persie this week, Fowler - who has described the striker as 'fantastic' and 'exceptional' in the past - argued that the Rooney/RVP partnership is a 'mis-match', and suggested that the Dutchman's time at Man Utd is up. He told Talksport:

"Since RVP has been injured and out of the side, Rooney seems to have upped his game. It wouldn’t surprise me if Van Persie leaves in the summer".

Despite his injuries, Van Persie is still doing the business for Man Utd:

* 17 goals/3 assists in 22 appearances.
* Goal/Assist every 1.1 games.

22 goals/assists in 22 appearances? That's a similar creative rate to Daniel Sturridge, who has 30 goals/assists in 29 apps this season.

Clearly, Van Persie is still at the top of his game, and it will be a hammer blow for Man Utd if leaves this summer, which is why I have my fingers crossed that it happens. If RVP is fit, he will score goals regularly. If he scores regularly, Man United have a better chance of doing well, and no LFC fan wants that :-)

Why would RVP stay at Man United anyway? He's driven by success, and wants to win trophies, which is why he left Arsenal in the first place. Now, United are in decline, and RVP is now in a situation where his chances of winning trophies are severely restricted. Plus, he's the wrong side of 30, so he's running out of time to add more medals to his collection.

I also imagine RVP is miffed that the man who signed him - Alex Ferguson - quit the club just one year into his contract. Fergie's record of success probably attracted RVP in the first place, and now he's faced with a manager whose only trophy in a 16-year career is second division Championship win in 2000.

Oh, and the Charity Shield, which Moyes won in 2013. We shouldn't forget that immensely important trophy.

If RVP leaves, United will it hard to replace him, especially without Champions League football to entice top class players. In fact, losing Van Persie would be another nail in Moyes' coffin, and could send the club into a deeper downward spiral. Additionally, United will inevitably make a significant loss on £24m fee paid out.

With all this in mind, here's hoping Fowler is right, and Van Persie jumps ship this summer.

Cheeky bid from LFC, perhaps ;-)


4/13/2014 09:43:00 pm

'Ridiculous': Neville slams 'reckless' £16m LFC star. Carra says 'it's a penalty'. Agree...?

Liverpool's narrow 3-2 victory over Manchester City today puts the Reds in a commanding position to go on an win the league title, but things could've gone differently if Mamdou Sakho's careless challenge on Edin Dzeko had resulted in a penalty for City. Luckily, Mark Clattenburg decided against awarding a spot-kick, but according to Manchester United legend Gary Neville, and LFC legends Jimmy Case and Jamie Carragher, the referee got it wrong.

Analysing Sakho's mistimed tackle on Sky Sports**, Quinn called it a 'ridiculous challenge', and Carra admitted that he thought 'it was a penalty'. Neville added:

"That was a reckless challenge from Sakho. I'm not quite sure what he's doing. He misses the ball and follows through. It's a penalty"

Case agreed with Neville:

"I don't think Mamadou Sakho got any of the ball there. He's a very lucky boy".

I couldn't find a gif or a video of the challenge, but having watched the replay several times, it could've gone either way:

* Sakho - who cost LFC £16m last summer - totally missed the ball, and made contact with Dzeko, who - to his credit - stayed on his feet.

* With Sakho on the ground, Dzeko then realised that an opportunity existed to win a penalty, so he dived, which is probably what cost him the decision.

* Some will argue that Dzeko should've just dropped to the ground when he felt contact from Sakho (something that many cynical players do), and if he'd done that, Clattenburg probably would've given the penalty.

* If the contact is significant enough to force a player down, he will go down naturally. If he just falls to the floor as a result of any kind of contact in the box (i.e. contact not sufficiently strong to cause him to lose balance), then it's cheating, plain and simple.

In this case, Dzeko did the honest thing and stayed up, then dived afterwards in a bid to win the penalty. Honesty and deception in the space of a few seconds (!)

Luckily, the ref didn't give the decision, but if he had, and City scored at that point in the game, the result may have turned out differently. Additionally, some Liverpool fans would probably be screaming blue murder about the injustice of it all, totally ignorant of their own hypocrisy.

I've lost count of the times that I've seen/heard LFC fans argue that going down in the box under the slightest pressure is okay. As always, the spurious argument seems to be: It's okay to cheat...as long as Liverpool gain an advantage.

Well, if Dzeko had gone down under Sakho's challenge, and the resulting penalty led to a City victory, I sincerely doubt those same fans would be so blase about cheating, especially if it ultimately led to Liverpool losing out on the Premier League title.

All's well that ends well, though. Onwards and upwards.

 photo ScreenShot2014-04-13at210016_zps237d01b6.png

** Comments made during studio analysis at half-time.


4/13/2014 06:30:00 pm

'We Go Again' - Steven Gerrard's full speech in the huddle revealed (Video)

A few weeks ago, someone in the comment section asked where Liverpool will finish in the league this season, and I said: 'LFC will win the league. I'm sure of it'. I'm sure there are many fans who share my optimism, and after today's magnificent victory, the Reds have taken another giant step towards ending the club's 24-year title drought. There are still four massive games to go, but as far as I'm concerned, the title is already in the bag, and there's just no way this Liverpool team is going throw it all away now.

Anfield erupted with joy and emotion at the final whistle, and the elation/relief of the players - particularly Reds captain Steven Gerrard - shone through like a beacon.

The togetherness and camaraderie that has fueled the club's title charge also manifested itself again in the post-match huddle, but what did Gerrard tell the players? Here is the video of his brief speech:

Another version, which includes more post-match celebration:

SG by LFCmostar


4/13/2014 12:48:00 pm

Confirmed XI vs. MCFC: Great news for LFC as £38m star is out. Reds to 'expose' City?

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has once again named his strongest attacking line-up for today's potential title decider with Manchester City.

Many expected either Lucas or Allen to get the nod in a bid help out Gerrard in midfield, but as I hoped, Rodgers has nixed that possibility and gone with Coutinho and Sterling instead.

TEAM: Mignolet, Johnson, Flanagan, Sakho, Skrtel, Gerrard, Henderson, Coutinho, Sterling, Suarez, Sturridge

SUBS: Jones, Toure, Agger, Aspas, Moses, Allen, Lucas

MAN CITY: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy, Toure, Fernandinho, Navas, Nasri, Silva, Dzeko

SUBS: Pantilimon, Lescott, Milner, Negredo, Kolarov, Garcia, Aguero

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

Johnson -- Skrtel -- Sakho -- Flanagan

--------- Gerrard -- Hendo

------------- Coutinho

---- Sterling --------- Suarez

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

Daniel Agger is fit, but Sakho is chosen ahead of the Dane, and that's probably the right decision, for a few reasons:

* Sakho played well against West Ham, and deserves to keep his place.
* Agger is coming back from injury, so may not be 100% match-fit.

* Agger vs. Aguero is a bit of a mis-match when it comes to speed, and the Dane has been beaten for speed quite a few times this season.

* Agger has also been muscled off the ball in aerial battles a few times, and if Dzeko plays, Sakho is stronger and more suited to that kind of physical battle.

Sadly, Vincent Kompany is fit to start the game, but if he's sore from his injury, he may be a tad tentative in the game, which may help out SAS.

Pre-match analysis:

Jan Molby

"I have no doubt that this Liverpool FC team will deliver against Manchester City at Anfield on Sunday. I just think Brendan Rodgers will go for it. We’ve been successful all season playing an attacking brand of football so why change now?"

Jamie Redknapp

"I can’t see it being anything other than an open, attacking game. Manuel Pellegrini’s side have only managed to win one of their last 16 at Anfield, while Liverpool have won 10 of their last 16 there. For me, that points towards a hugely important win for Liverpool on Sunday. Liverpool are in the ascendency and I reckon they’ll just take it 2-1"

Mark Lawrenson

"Brendan Rodgers will not change his approach against Manchester City because this is a game that Liverpool really need to win if they are going to lift the title. Because of that, I have a sneaky feeling it might end up being a draw".

Dietmar Hamann

"Manuel’s Pellegrini’s selection could be decisive. If they start with Fernandinho and Toure in midfield, with Samir Nasri, Silva and Jesus Navas in front, Liverpool will expose them. If Swansea could find gaps in behind them, imagine what it will be like with Suarez, Sturridge and Sterling in that space?"

City are indeed starting with Fernandinho, Toure, Navas, Nasri, and Silva, so let's hope Didi is right. My prediction: 2-2, or 3-2 to LFC.


4/13/2014 12:15:00 am

Arsenal hero tells City: This is how £77m trio can 'exploit' LFC & stop Gerrard.

I'll admit it: when Brendan Rodgers made the decision to move Steven Gerrard into a deeper role, I had reservations about whether the Reds captain could pull it off. Visions of Istanbul plagued my thoughts, and his first couple of games in the new deep-lying playmaker/defensive midfielder role seemed to confirm these fears. Thankfully, Gerrard is performing with distinction in his new role, and Man City will have to curtail the skipper's influence if they're to have any hope of winning on Sunday, and Arsenal legend Martin Keown believes there's a surefire way to achieve this.

In his column for the Daily Mail today, Keown argues that City City 'must get behind Gerrard' and 'isolate him':

"City can have success if they flood players in behind him [Gerrard]. If Samir Nasri and David Silva can get themselves in behind Gerrard, they can use Edin Dzeko to draw out the centre halves and create space. The City midfielders can then exploit that with clever movement and work the ball in to create chances".

Several teams have used similar tactics this season, and it's true to say that Liverpool seem to struggle when opposition teams flood midfield.

With Yaya Toure in scintillating form, Gerrard will need to be at the top of his game to combat City's attacking riches, and it seems likely that Brendan Rodgers will play someone alongside him in a bid to to combat the threat of midfield being overrun.

Lucas is the obvious choice, and having gained some valuable match-fitness in last week's extended cameo against West Ham, he'll probably get the nod over Coutinho on Sunday.

Given Gerrard's influence, and the team's weakness when overrun in midfield, it surprising that more teams don't man-mark Liverpool's captain - or at least put him under constant pressure - in a bid to take him out of the game. Manuel Pellegrini is a shrewd manager, however, and I'm sure he'll have some kind of plan along those lines.

Gerrard vs. Toure will certainly be a memorable battle, and with 22 goals already this season, the Ivorian will need to be effectively shackled. Is Gerrard up to it? And who should come in alongside him: Lucas or Allen?

As always, I advocate going with the strongest possible attacking team. Forget about fear - just go for the throat, and that means playing Coutinho, Sterling, Suarez and Sturridge. Yes, there's a possibility that City may target Gerrard, but the Reds should play their own game, not show fear by kowtowing to a rival team.


4/12/2014 09:05:00 pm

Break the Bank? Carra happy for LFC to pay 'huge fee' for 'wonderful' £30m star

This year, multiple reports have claimed that Southampton left-back Luke Shaw is one of Brendan Rodgers' top transfer targets this summer. Rodgers is a confessed admirer of Shaw, and if Liverpool win the league, the Reds will have a great chance of signing the coveted youngster, who is valued at £30m. That's a huge fee for a teenaged, but Anfield legend Jamie Carragher is convinced he's worth it.

Last week, the Daily Mail reported:

"Liverpool will compete against Manchester United and Chelsea to sign Luke Shaw this summer. Ambitious [Brendan] Rodgers is determined to sign him".

Rodgers is long-term admirer of the 18-year old, and in his pre-Southampton press conference a few weeks ago, he enthused:

"It's great to see Luke Shaw doing very well at Southampton. He's a wonderful talent. It's good to see British talent progress"

In his column for the Daily Mail this week, Carra also revealed his admiration for Shaw. He noted:

"Scouts have been flocking to see Shaw in action and it is no wonder the top clubs want to prise the left back away. Shaw will command a huge fee but it will be warranted as he has consistently impressed".

With respect to Carra, I have to strongly disagree. How is Shaw worth £30m? What has he done to command a 'massive fee'? If he goes to the World Cup and has an outstanding tournament then that's something, but right now, Shaw's grossly inflated valuation seems to be based on three things: He's English; has pace; and can cross the ball.

If you listen to the press, Shaw is allegedly an amazing attacking left-back, but for all his much-vaunted attacking qualitues, he rarely scores or creates goals. In 62 games for Southampton, he's scored one solitary goal, and contributed ZERO assists. And this is worth £30m?!

Sorry, but if LFC are going to pay such a huge fee for a left-back, it better be someone capable of regularly contributing in attack. How is a non-scoring/creating left-back worth £30m? LFC already have one of those in Aly Cissokho, and he was free!

In my view, Real Madrid's Fabio Coentrao is a far more cost-effective option.

* Massively experienced at domestic and international level.
* Only 26, so his best years are ahead.
* Reportedly available for around €13m.
* Averages 6 goals/assists per season over the last five years.
* Champions League experience, which will come in handy next season.


4/12/2014 04:25:00 pm

Disaster for Pellegrini: Have Man City just handed LFC the title? SAS will be happy.....

Whether it's fortuitous penalties, Suarez staying fit despite constantly being hacked, or refereeing decisions (more often than not) going the club's way, luck has played its part in Liverpool's title March this season, and lady luck may now have bestowed upon the Reds her biggest gift yet.

Earlier this afternoon, Man City captain Vincent Kompany limped out of a training session after a mid-air collision with alleged LFC target Micah Richards.

Kompany looked to be in some distress after the incident, and although it'll be a shame for him personally if he's picked up an injury, it will be a massive boost for Liverpool if the Belgian is forced to miss tomorrow's crunch game.

Suarez and Sturridge are a threat to any defence, but Kompany is arguably one of the best defenders in Europe, and he handled Suarez with relative ease during City's 2-1 win in December.

Obviously, if Kompany misses out, a Liverpool win is by no means a foregone conclusion, but every little advantage helps, and SAS will undoubtedly fancy their chances of capitalising on City's misfortune.

Having said that, there's a part of me that hopes Kompany is fit for the game. I want LFC to beat City's strongest team, and a victory in those circumstances will (IMO) be much more satisfying.

Of course, this could be some nefarious scheme to lull Liverpool into a false sense of security; a staged incident designed to disrupt LFC's preparations ;-)


4/12/2014 10:57:00 am

'He tells us to...' Coutinho gives 4 reasons why BR is 'one of the best' in the Prem

Since 2012, Brendan Rodgers has wasted big money on a series of players who don't contribute to the cause, but he's also managed to unearth at least two absolute gems: Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge. For me, Coutinho is the Peter Beardsley of the current LFC side, and like Beardo, the Brazilian is one of those players who generates immediate excitement whenever he touches the ball. Rodgers has shown great faith in Coutinho this season, and stuck with him through some periods of indifferent form, and in an interview today, the attacker explained exactly what makes Rodgers a great manager.

'He tells us to...' Coutinho gives 4 reasons why BR is one of the Prem's 'best managers'

Speaking to The Mirror, Coutinho praised the 'happy' atmosphere at the club, and offered four reasons why Rodgers 'is one of the best managers in the Premier League':

1. “He [Rodgers] worries about his players and encourages the best from them".

2. "He worries about the players personally too"

3. "Brendan tells us to forget the excitement and the expectations when we are out on the pitch and to focus on the game".

4. "He tells us try to do our best and not to worry about anything happening around us"

Rodgers' friendly, father-figure approach is a stark contrast to the tough love regime of Rafa Benitez, but there's always a danger in being too friendly with players. Things are going well at the moment, but if players see the manager as their 'mate', or a father-figure, it could lead to problems further down the line. Just ask 'Uncle Roy' Evans (!)

From where I'm standing, Rodgers doesn't appear to have the required professional distance when it comes to certain players, and that is evident from his ceaseless gushing praise for the usual suspects. Admittedly, it was worse last season (!), but it remains a key part of Rodgers' management 'style'.

As far as the Premier League is concerned, history (arguably) proves that managers who retain professional distance are often the most successful. Prime examples in the modern era include Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho, and Arsene Wenger, tough managers who don't mollycoddle players.

Perhaps Rodgers will break the mould, and prove that the 'manager as mate' approach can work, but I'm not convinced.

What's the best approach: Matey 'father figure', or Benitez's emotionless tough-love?


4/12/2014 09:30:00 am

Sign Me: 'Flattered' star confirms 'LFC are interested' & calls Reds a 'big club'. Future transfer...?

In November, Djurgarden midfielder Daniel Amartey confirmed that he'd held talks with Liverpool over a possible £1.5m move during the January 2014 transfer window. The proposed transfer didn't happen, and the 19-year old Ghanaian has now explained why the deal fell through.

Speaking to reporters in November, Amartey claimed:

"I have been in contact with the Liverpool management. I hope we can sort a transfer out – it’s a great club to play for""

When asked about the failed Liverpool transfer today, the youngster told Expressen:

"I was invited for a trial with the club and was supposed to go there, but I hurt my hand and was forced to reject it. It is truly a big club and it feels really flattering that they [LFC] are interested."

Amartey is desperate for a move to the Premier League, as he revealed recently:

"My dream is to play in England or France. It has been my fantasy. I just love what I see about those leagues. However, I thank God for wherever I will find myself.”

Amartey is nicknamed 'The Mask' by Djurgarden fans on account of the facial mask he had to wear last season after fracturing his skull. In a recent interview, he explained:

“I had to use a face mask and let the bone heal. I was supposed to use it for just a month, but even though it was for protection, the fans took a liking to it and it became more of an identity.”

Amartey's versatility is probably what attracted Reds boss Brendan Rodgers. He can play as a centre-back, or a defensive midfielder, both positions that need cover at the moment.

It must be galling to get the chance to play for Liverpool, and then have to pull out due to injury. I wouldn't worry though - if the Reds were interested once, I'm sure they'll go in for Amartey again, and at the age of 19, he has time on his side.


4/11/2014 11:40:00 pm

Redknapp: Forget SAS - 'excellent' £16m star is 'essential' to LFC's success. Player of the Year...?

However this season ends, Liverpool's attacking players will receive most of the plaudits for the team's scintillating form, with Luis Suarez likely to win the club's internal player of the year award. However, in my view, Martin Skrtel is equally deserving, and Jamie Redknapp has hailed the Slovakian's influence on the team this year.

In his column for the Daily Mail this week, Redknapp reserved special praise for Skrtel, who put in another great performance against West Ham. He enthused:

"So much is said about Liverpool’s attacking players but I was really impressed by Skrtel, [who] has been excellent this season. There were doubts that he may not feature much but he has been essential to their success"

Like Suarez, Skrtel - recently described by Rodgers as 'exceptional' - has overcome adversity this season to become an integral part of Liverpool's title charge, and his proactive, can-do attitude is a great example to the young players in the squad. Skrtel's stats this season are also pretty formidable:

* Clearances: 356 (Best in the Prem)
* Total passes: 1460 (3rd, behind Hendo and Gerrard)
* Pass accuracy: 90.7%
* More league goals than Henderson and Coutinho (!)
* Duels won: 66.7%
* Aerial Duels Won: 69.2%
* Recoveries: 148
* Tackles Won: 77.5%

It's six years since Rafa Benitez signed Skrtel for £6.5m, and overall, it's fair to say that he's definitely been a bargain at that price. The Slovakian is now rated in the £16m range, so if the Reds were to cash-in, there's (potentially) a huge profit to be made.

On the subject of Benitez, it's interesting to note that four years after he left Anfield, five of his signings - Agger, Skrtel, Sterling, Lucas, and Johnson - remain an integral part of the current Liverpool team, and have played a huge part in the Reds' charge for the title.

Conversely, only three of Rodgers' signings - Mignolet, Sturridge, and Coutinho - have played consistently across the whole season. I haven't researched it, but I suspect that it's quite rare to have five players from a previous regime still propping up a team 4 years after the signing-manager leaves.


4/11/2014 10:12:00 pm

2nd Time Lucky: LFC want exciting €25m Brazilian hailed as 'best in La Liga'. Bid...?

Last summer, Liverpool came close to signing Brazilian left-back Guilherme Siqueira, but despite tabling a 'formal offer' for the defender, the the deal seemingly fell through, and the 27-year old went on loan to Benfica. Full-back positions remain a transfer priority for the Reds, and reports this week suggest that Siqueira remains on LFC's wanted list.

In August 2013, Sky Sports reported:

"Liverpool are locked in talks with Granada as they look to agree a fee for Siqueira. Rodgers is keen to push through a deal"

The Daily Mail further claimed:

"Sources close to Siqueira confirm that Liverpool remain the only club to have tabled an official offer"

According to the Daily Mail today:

"Liverpool have also continued to watch Guilherme Siqueira. The 27-year-old left back was the subject of a failed offer from Liverpool last summer.".

When asked this week about Siqueira's future, Granada president Enrique Pina told Radio Renascenca:

"Clubs are interested, but there is nothing signed with Granada or anybody. We respect Benfica and if they want [to sign him permanently], there isn't any problem."

When asked last summer about the Reds' interest, Siqueira - who has a €25m buyout clause in his contract - admitted the 'time had come' for him to move on. He told Brazilian newspaper Daily Catarini:

"The time has come [to move]. I have a price but it does not depend only on me. I have preference for Spain, but today English football is so advanced".

Granada boss Lucas Alcaraz certainly thinks highly of Siqueira, and in a recent interview, he hailed Siqueira as a 'great player' and claimed he's the 'best left-back in La Liga'.

Siqueira may be a good player, but at the age of 27, it's rather concerning that he's made only 200 appearances in the last 8 years, which is an average of just 25 games per season. That's clearly a below-average number of games per season for a professional footballer, but hopefully, there are no historical injury issues to worry about.

On the plus side, it looks like the Brazilian will bring an added attacking threat from the flanks. Last season, he grabbed 9 goals/assists in 35 games, and if he can replicate that at Liverpool, I'm sure fans will be more than happy. Whatever happens, Siqueira appears to be an upgrade on Aly Cissokho, who will almost certainly leave Anfield in the summer.