28 Aug 2008

Liverpool v Standard Liege: Team Ratings

After another two hours of torturous footballing tedium interspersed with (inevitable) periods of headless chickenry and a disturbing lack of creativity, here are my ratings for Liverpool FC's alleged 'team'.

Reina – 9

Man of the Match. If not for Reina’s superb saves, Liverpool would be in the UEFA cup right now. A towering performer across both legs and the only player who deserves any real credit.

Arbeloa – 4

Just what *exactly* does he bring to the team? Someone please explain to me what he does on the pitch apart from take up space? For me, Arbeloa is the footballing equivalent of the main character from the Coen Brothers movie ‘The Man Who Wasn’t There’ - You know he exists but you can never remember anything of note about him. He always looks miserable and his style of play reflects his overall demeanor: bland and unexciting. Yet again.

Skrtl – 8

Move over Daniel Agger and Jamie Carragher – Martin Skrtl is now officially the main man at the heart of Liverpool’s defence. He’s tough, uncompromising, effective and - most importantly - he doesn’t hoof the ball every time he gets it. Skrtl is comfortable on the ball and his distribution during the game was generally very encouraging.

Another thing I like about Skrtl is he appears to have a strong character. He doesn’t seem to fear competition for his place and just gets on with things in an uncomplicated, unfussy manner. Top man and a top performance. Now I just have to decide if he looks like Willem Dafoe or a puny Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Carra – 7

Marshaled the defence quite well but got caught a couple of times. Carra is nowhere near as commanding in the air as Sami Hyypia and if I had to choose a weakness in his game that would be it.

Aurelio – 5

Got forward occasionally but had no end product. Poor crossing for the most part and wasted possession too frequently with hit-and-hopes into the box. Another unexpeceptional player who will do a job at left back but won't really contribute much in an attacking sense. The astonishing thing for me was that Aurelio - otherwise known as 'Mr Glass - got through the game without being injured.

Kuyt – 4

Deserves credit for scoring another crucial goal in the Champions League but that doesn’t change the fact that for 119 minutes he produced a master class in footballing ineptitude, with his consistently poor first touch, poor passing accuracy, poor positioning and lack of any discernable goal threat.

I don’t completely blame him though – I mostly blame Rafa. After all, it is this alleged tactical genius’ decision to repeatedly pick Kuyt and play him out of position on the right.

Benayoun – 5

A poor performance but again I blame Rafa. It is not Benayoun's fault he can't play effectively on the left wing. He is not left-footed and HE IS NOT A LEFT WINGER!! I repeat: HE IS NOT A LEFT WINGER. It’s just another example of Rafa’s maddening propensity for playing square pegs in round holes.

Benayoun definitely does not deserve the abuse he is receiving on Liverpool fan-sites across the net. Ever since he arrived at Anfield he has been played in every position *but* his natural playmaker position. And like Kuyt, he is yet another player on the road to being ruined by Rafa.

If Benayoun was given a run as a Peter Beardsley-type link man just behind Torres or a centrally-based playmaker, I have no doubt he would be one of Liverpool’s most effective players.

This will never happen though under Rafa, which begs the question *why* was he bought in the first place?

Gerrard – 5

Pretty anonymous and typically miserable throughout the entire game. His performance was characterized by misplaced passes, cack-handed corners, wasted free kicks and a stunning lack of discernable leadership on the field.

The excuse this week is that he is ‘tired’ and is suffering from some kind of groin problem. Groin problem? Could that be the LACK OF BALLS on display throughout both legs of this tie? Gerrard’s curmudgeonly demeanor is really becoming tiresome. Inspirational leader? Pffft.

Alonso – 5

Another player almost ruined by Rafa over the last three years. I am not surprised Xabi is struggling for form - he has been messed about so much by Rafa his confidence is clearly shot. Indeed, it is doubtful if he will ever fulfill his potential at Liverpool.

He needs to leave and play for a Manager who doesn’t try and force him to become a defensive midfielder and allows him to do what he does best: dictate the pace of the game in a creative manner.

Torres - 6

Did his best but was fighting a losing battle as a result of the inability of *anyone* in the team to create *one* decent chance for him in over 200 minutes of (anti) football. El Nino’s effort cannot be faulted though and given his superb goal return, he is allowed an off day every now and then.

Keane – 4

How did he miss *that* chance?! The opportunity was signed, sealed and delivered but he somehow conspired to 'do a Kuyt' and completely misjudge it.

Another poor game from Keane but I expected it. I said it at the time and I’ll say it again: 20m for Keane is 20m wasted. I sincerely doubt he will get more than 10 goals this season and at some stage the inevitable will happen and he will be shunted out to the right just like Dirk Kuyt.


El Zhar – 7

Finally, someone who actually tries to take players on! Liverpool fans have been starved of players with the dribbling ability for so long that it’s almost a novelty to see it happen during a game. If he’s given a run in the team (which he won’t be) I’m sure he could improve and become an asset to the team.

Babel – 4

Good cross for the goal but apart from that he was typically ineffective. I don’t rate Babel at all and for me the 11m spent on him was a complete waste of money. He is Emile Heskey with slightly more skill but the same self-confidence problem.

Like Kuyt, Alonso and Benayoun, Babel is another player on the road to being ruined by Rafa. He is not a winger and should be played as a Striker as that is his natural position.

Team performance: 2/10

An embarrassing, creatively void display of anti-football.

Rafa: 2/10

I can’t be bothered to go into detail as I’ll just be repeating myself. Slightly off-topic, but one thing that continues to bug me is Rafa’s ‘my face will crack if I smile’ perpetual gloom. Has he *ever* smiled or shown a hint of happiness when Liverpool have scored a goal?! Not that I can remember.

And don’t give me the excuse that he’s just remaining calm and retaining his professionalism. In my view, his clinical coldness has a detrimental effect on the team.

Look at Alex Ferguson when Man U score – he jumps up and down with joy. That’s a good thing for players and fans to see. Wenger shows emotion. Gerard Houllier showed emotion, as did Roy Evans, Kenny Dalglish and every Liverpool FC Manager I can remember.

Why must Rafa be so stone-faced *all the time*? We have a cheerless killjoy on the sidelines and a miserable curmudgeon allegedly ‘inspiring’ things on the pitch.

Like Manager, like Captain. No wonder Liverpool FC is a joyless shell of a club at the moment.


  1. Yet another attack on Gerrard. No, he didn't play well but given he's going under the surgeon's knife, most fans would cut him some slack.
    You need help with your Gerrard infatuation.

  2. I see.

    It's all clear to me now - the reason Gerrard showed absolutely no sign of leadership ability *whatsoever* was due to the fact he had a groin strain.

    He was a miserable curmudgeon and barely opened his mouth to encourage and cajole for the entire night. I wasn't able to be at the game but this view is backed up by friends of mine who were at the game.

    Liverpool needed leadership on the field and they didn't get it. Again.

  3. I agree with some of your points Jamie but i dont agree that Rafa is ruining some of our players.

    The problem with the game against Standard Leige is the same problem we have had in all 4 of our games so far this season...no width! Kuyt and Benayoun are both great players in their own right (admittedly Kuyt had one of his worst games for us) but as you said they are not wingers. Neither attack down the wings. Kuyt rarely takes on the defenders and both of them are guilty of cutting inside whenever they get the ball. With everyone trying to play in the small section of the pitch a school team could probably defend adequately against them.

    Nabil El Zhar gave us another glimpse of his raw talent. Still not there yet but given some more time on the pitch this season will only help him improve. He was up and down the right touchline all night and even though he didnt show much in the way of crossing ability he certainly added some excitement to the game. The couple of occasions he linked up with Gerrard stand out to me.

    I'm not too sure about Keane myself but have been a big fan for a number of years so I hope he proves you wrong in a big way over the coming weeks.

    Would like to see El Zhar get a few more starts and Riera on the left hopefully adding some width there too. If we keep playing such narrow football every defence in the country will have our cards marked and then will have to work twice as hard to get any scrappy goals we can.

  4. Thanks for your comments, Dave. I have to disagree with you about Rafa ruining players. Yes, the problem is lack of width but the solution is not forcing players to play in the wrong position. Players who are not used to the wing will play badly; this in turn will lead to confidence dropping, being dumped from the team (possibly) and will stunt the overall progression of their game.

    Dirk Kuyt is a striker. Has he progressed as a striker in his time at Liverpool? Has Yossi improved his game? Has Xabi? No - they've all gone backwards because Benitez has forced them to change their natural game.

    Just look at the Villa game - Benitez is at it again, playing Robbie Keane on the left. If he continues this, Keane - like Kuyt - will suffer.

    I also would like to see El Zhar get more starts but even if he does, Benitez's emphasis is on defence, so EL Zhar will probably spend 70% of his time chasing, harrying and defending and only a minimal amount of time attacking.

  5. Like most fans who read your blogs Jamie, I read and comment on other blogs too. It has come to my attention under Rafa's reign that it is becoming a myth that Liverpool fans are the most knowledgeable fans in the world. I think they/we are starting to believe their own publicity. Blind faith, as it states on your home page, is all I find in the majority of fan-sites. I hear all the excuses after every bad performance that it's down to late returning Olympians, overplayed Euro2008 champions, warring owners, Rick Parry, not enough in the transfer kitty, new players bedding in, low confidence due to all of the above.

    Why can't a Liverpool fan spot that Benitez has built a constipated brand of football that will ultimately fail. We even had a better brand of football in his first two seasons with Houlliers leftovers. Why can't we spot the revolving door that he has built. He has more come-and-gone-in-no-time players than I can remember. Such as Gonzales, Bellamy, Sissoko, Kromkamp, Morientes, Fowler, (I'll forgive Nando and Robbie) Paletta, Pellegrino and Zenden.

    Admittedly, he has signed some really excellent players such as Crouch, Alonso and Babel, but they have been deployed badly, either on their wrong foot or too isolated. It's enough to make you cry when fans are defending the indefensible, by worshiping the mystical tactical acumen of Benitez, when in plain sight, he is clearly playing them out of position. "He gets more right than wrong", is what they say, but is that how a good manager is measured these days?

    He was (imho)a defeat to Inter from being sacked, and then after that, the genius happened upon the Gerrard/Torres combo, and all was well. All was forgiven. The defeat to, was it Burnley or Barnsely (says it all), the defeat to Chelsea and the draw with Havant & Waterlooville were forgotten about as if they never happened. Have fans lost their memory or something, or is it temporary insanity due to having to watch banal grey anti-football? Let the madness end.

  6. its true with a number of comments above. But its still early days. none of the teams in the PL have done much to warrant being called exciting play. Thing is the villa game was a pain to watch, but it isnt the easiest place to go to either. main thing is for us to keep improving and that villa game has been an improvement on the previous games thus far.
    lets see what riera can do? i was also starting to get hacked off with dossena and wanting to know why in gods name we spent 7mio on him. but then he started putting in some mouthwatering crosses. so perhaps there is life on the flanks. defensively i still think he is suspect.

    the system rafa is playing requires some world class attacking fullbacks. with arbeloa and dossena I dont have too much faith that those two are world class. maybe im just bitter than finnan was sold.

    having been following this page since the start of the season, i have started to view gerrard in a different light. but with him missing in the team at villa, you could see how hard it was for our midfield to create any chances and even harder to take a bloody shot. xabi is now our fifth defender. why the hell wasnt the maestro dominating. granted he doesnt have a flank player to latch onto a raking pass, but what was he up to always pushing the ball a few metres either side of him. maybe u right that rafa has killed of any attacking instinct he mite have.

  7. Jamie, I usually agree with 90% of what you write, but I feel you've let this great website down with you're latest site announcement.

    It seems that after a fantastic victory against Man Ure, where Liverpool did play good football, and dominated the match, and deserved to win, now would be an excellent time to write a good piece. Perhaps some team ratings for this match like you did for the one above?

    You are accused of constant negativity on this site by your critics. To basically proclaim "yeah great win, but I can't be bothered writing (all of a sudden) because football SUCKS" just gives your critics ammunition. If I didn't know you better, it would be easy to say 'he only wants to write about Liverpool when there is something to complain about.' (That is NOT what a fan does, even fans such as you and me who also like to cast a critical eye over our team.) Could it be because there was nothing actually negative to write about the Man U game? Well if so, say so!

  8. Jaimee

    Cat got your tongue? Great win by the reds. About time you applied some of that critical realism to yourself and your overly negative comments.

    There is lots of things to improve at LFC, no question about that, but surely you could take time out to applaud the passion, committment and skill on show against Utd.

    Well done 'Pool.

    The Merseyside Mojo

  9. I'm sure people will take the opportunity to accuse me of only writing when there is something to complain about, but that's clearly not true.

    If that *was* the case, I would have been writing about Carra's book and his unprofessional public attack on Hicks and Gillett last week. I would have been writing about how poor Liverpool were against Aston Villa. I didn't.

    If you look at the archives, I hardly wrote anything from the end of May until August. Why? The same reason - LFC fatigue.

    Of course the win v Man United is fantastic! You don't need me to highlight the obvious when everyone under the sun will singing the club's praises. It goes without saying that it is a great victory. having said that, it's just one game and means nothing unless Liverpool build on it.

    I think it's clear from the tone of my articles that I have been frustrated with Liverpool FC for a long time. I hate many aspects of the modern game and the most negative aspects are slowly infecting LFC to the extent that club is now almsot unrecognisable.

    I didn't start supporting Liverpool because of trophies and success; I became a fan because of what the club stood for. The history; the tradition; the Shankly philosophy. There was something different about LFC that set it apart from the likes of Man United and Chelsea. Something magic.

    There is no difference now and in my view, everything that made Liverpool FC so special is dead.

    Going back to Carra - Openly slagging off the board in print or in public is wrong! I don't care what grievance he or the fans have with Hicks and Gillett - it is unprofessional and not the Liverpool way.

    The fact that Carra feels he has the right to behave in such a way is a sign of how far the club has fallen. Add that onto the countless other incidents over the last 5 years (including Rafa's public slagging matches with Hicks) and this is not the club I began supporting.

    There are countless incidents over the last 5-7 years I could list that highlight (IMO) the decline of the club, but I've gone over them all in some way through most of my articles in the last year.

    Just because I feel this way doesn't make me less of a fan. If people want to think that, go ahead.

    I just have no time for the current Liverpool team and management. It's that simple.

  10. I don't believe Carra has "slagged off" the owners of the club - he wrote an autobiography, a book that is traditionally useless unless it is honest. In it, he is frank in talking about his experience and opinion growing up with the club and the managers he's worked under. (I'm reading it at the moment, are you?)

    Of course the papers will lift parts of it and brazen an attention-grabbing headline so that people are drawn to it, but when you read the actual text, Carra said nothing inappropriate or unprofessional. In fact, it would have been absurd for him to talk about his current spell at Liverpool WITHOUT mentioning the Board situation. His words were along the lines of 'the Board went back on their promises but Rafa also publically undermined them. Both parties shoud have acted better.' Which of course is all true.

    I assume your opinion of Carra's remarks is taken from your contextual reading of his book, and NOT the small quotes in the tabloids??

    As for everything else, yes I mostly agree with you - we have lost our way in terms of playing style and some of the Shankly spirit, but not all of it. We are still miles apart from United, and especially Chelsea! The suggestion that we are indistinguishable from that southern hoard of money-waving class-less culture-less mob of glory-hunting jonny-come-lately cockney wannabes is ridiculous.

    Remember how much criticism Houllier got when he would talk brazen nonsense about how well we were playing etc etc and refuse to criticise anyone or anything? Compare that to how refreshing we find the interviews given by the likes of Martin O'Neill, Gordon Strachan, and after the recent game at Anfield, Alex Ferguson. When you talk to the public you're also talking to your fans, and fans demand honesty. Not naive honesty, but realism. In fact, we also complain when players just recite the same party line like robots (e.g.: Alan Shearer and Michael Owen).

    It's hard to keep everyone happy, but you can always find something to complain about if you look hard enough. This the difference between criticism and cynicism.

  11. One ponders the consequences of Liverpool finally winning the Premier League.

    Jaimie Kanwar would be lost for words!

    [I hope this Man Utd fan doesn't get abused.]

    I enjoy this blog a lot, because the bloggers are not shallow fans. An example of a shallow fan would be one who sings the praises of a player after one good game than puts him down totally after a mediocre performance.

    However, I feel Liverpool-Kop's existence is reliant on Pool being in the sh*ts.

    Maybe the bloggers should give a more frequent analysis of the way the side plays especially in terms of tactics and personnel (not just raging against your own side).

  12. And where are your posts now?

  13. It's merely coincidence that my hiatus has coincided with LFC's excellent run. If you look through my post history however, you will see that my articles became more and more infrequent over the summer *before* the new season started.

    Furthermore. if you look at the tone of my articles in general you will note massive undertones of frustration and disappointment; The principal reason for this is Liverpool gradually succumbing to the evils of modern football and in the process, losing all the things that have underpinned my love for the club over the last 25 years.

    I basically became aware that my views about the club were being influenced by my growing hatred of everything to do with modern football.

    Having said that, LFC and the shallow excesses of modern football are not mutually exclusive. For me, LFC is no longer a unique, individual club - it is the same as every other top-flight club: A money-obsessed, corporate shelter for mercenaries, inflated egos and selfish personal agendas.

    I could write 1000 pages explaining why I feel this way but I've already done that countless times in my articles.

    It is fair to say that I have fallen out of love with Liverpool FC and football in general.

    I'm sick of it all and at this point I have no further desire to write about the club.

    The narrow-minded snipers out there will come up with simplistic accusations like 'you're just not a real fan' - well, think that. It's not true at all. I just can't support raging greed, money-grabbing mercenaries, rampant self-interest and the total disrespect of LFC's history and traditions.

    I just don't get any pleasure out of watching the club anymore. Maybe that will change in the future, but I doubt it.

    I still have Liverpool's glorious history to look back on and that is good enough for me.

  14. Is there any modern football club that Jaimie Kanwar shares common values with?

  15. The truth is Jamie, I think your concepts of "evil" and "selfish" are totally flawed. A club can have a culture and a spirit, but it IS a business at the end of the day and only naiveté and ignorance of the highest order would contradict this. If it wasn't a business, it would go OUT of business, and then any success would be impossible. Do you want an example: Man Utd. Have they lost their culture and inheritance and traditions?? Well, I won't get into that, but the facts are they manage their business brilliantly and it's a lesson we are only now learning, 20 years too late.

    There are a lot of things in modern football to hate, like Blatter and Platini and their bureaucratic ilk who are racist collectivists, who want to punish success for the sake of success, but I'm sorry, Liverpool football club is not a symptom of this. If anything, the fierce rivalry of modern football has DRIVEN UP the standard of clubs, off the field too: clubs have to manage themselves better, market themselves better, be more commercial. This is a GOOD thing, because it rewards success on and off the pitch and penalises failure.

    If you want a disney world where clubs have a kickaround on a saturday afternoon and no one cares about money or being commercial or being the biggest and best, you are not only living in a fantasy world, but YOUR view is actually evil.

  16. With all due respect, I think you misunderstand my point of view.

    I don't dispute that football is a business - it undoubtedly is - but accepting that fact doesn't change anything.

    You mention Man United - they may run their business well but they are another soulless carcass of a club - a money orientated brand with one goal: make more money.

    Liverpool are not at that stage yet but they will get there.

    But it's not just about greed and avarice consuming the game, it's lots of different things, most of which I have outlined in my articles over the last year.

    Standards are falling - Liverpool FC used to be a paragon of top flight English football; I'm not referring to trophies when I say that, I mean standards on and off the pitch: Every level of the club was run in the right way and the Liverpool way of doing things was *the* standard for others to follow.

    With rising player power, repeated ill-advised comments from players, gross disloyalty, boardroom unrest, public spats between the manager and owners and everything else in between, everything has gone to shit.

    Steven Gerrard's outrageous cheating against Atheltico Madrid is yet another symbolic example of how far standards have fallen at Anfield. Gerrard's dive was the latest in a long line of incidents in which he has blatantly cheated, but the fans just lionise him even more instead of telling the truth about what he did.

    And therein lies part of the problem: the so-called fans are willing to turn a blind eye to *anything* as long as the club is winning. I can't do that. Gerrard is a cheat. End of story. It makes me sick to see and is one of the reasons why I struggle to support the current incarnation of Liverpool FC.

    To be honest, I can't really be bothered to go into great detail about my thoughts on this issue - I'd just be repeating myself, as I've said the same things over and over in my articles.

    I just don't get excited about Liverpool FC or football the way I used to. It's analgous to falling out of love with your partner or discovering things about a friend that you just can't stomach.

    It happens. That's life.

  17. A penny for your thoughts! At the moment I feel like a lone voice most of the time when I say we've made no *real* progress in four years. It's hard to argue this case with us being top, but that just papers over the cracks. Despite us having an excellent squad, we don't have any consistency (apart from perfecting giving the ball way) or common purpose to our game. Why is this so, after four years of one tactical genius' vision for LFC.

    To look at the league table with us on top, it would be safe to assume we're playing like champions. But we're not. It's a house of cards that is capitalizing on inconsistent and spoilt rivals. Sami Hyppia getting Liverpool Man of the Match against struggling teams says it all.

  18. Strange isnt it, no "articles" from kanwar since august...liverpool top of the league, top the their champions league group...and kanwar has nothing to write about.

  19. I'm sure he'll be back now that his arch enemy and focal point for his vitriolic tongue-lashings, Steven Gerrard, has been in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.