Friday, January 8, 2016

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

photo by Carla216via PhotoRee

 
 
Scott's Liverpool side start of the New Year with a resvolution:
 
My how things have changed.  It doesn’t seem that long ago that Jurgen Klopp was gangenpressing his way to a Bundisliga championship, Stoke City were hacking down Premier League opponents under the direction of Tony Pulis, who now coaches such thuggery at West Bromwich Albion, and West Ham United were happy just not to be in the relegation zone.  But now, the Kloppmeister is reining over a stuttering (and limping) Liverpool side struggling to escape mid-table irrelevance, Mark Hughes’ Stoke City were favorites to beat the Reds, and West Ham comprehensively dismantled those Top 4 pretenders.
 
Of course, much as some things change, others remain, irritatingly, the same: Liverpool’s incessant underperforming, Daniel Sturridge’s perpetual sabbatical, and the literary aesthetic requirement that all lists be in groups of three.  Oh, and there’s also that bit about Liverpool not having the requisite world-class players to mount a serious title challenge.
 
That said, a 1-0 victory away to Stoke in the first leg of the League Cup semi-final was at least a stutter-step in the positive direction.  The first half was characterized by absolute dominance by the Reds, with a touch of poor finishing and a dash of hamstring pull.  The second half yielded less dominance, more poor finishing and another dash (and a half, if you count the hobbling Kolo Toure) of hamstring pull. 
 
I never thought an FA Cup game against lowly Exeter City could bring on such nervy anticipation.  But lately we seem to play much better against Premier League title challengers than we do against League 2 opposition.  Because no matter whom you play, you can only win if you score and goals have eluded Liverpool even as we dictate proceedings and create chances.  Even the normally reliable Benteke has squandered brilliant opportunities in front of goal. 
 
Changes are needed at Anfield and, while we can see some of them being made already under the enthusiastic German’s direction, more can’t come soon enough.
 
This is farlieonfootie for January 8th.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Two Steps Forward for Liverpool....



...but two steps backward for your editor, who was delayed in adding this post from pre-Thanksgiving. Without further ado, Correspondent Scott on the 4-1 thrashing of City:

While Mangala might have gotten the scoring started when he couldn't sort out his own feet quickly enough to prevent his own-goal, the writing was already on the wall from the first whistle that Liverpool had come to the Etihad with their tails up and ready to play. Swarming pressing, intricate and creative passing, tireless running and resolute defending made the Reds' opponents seem like a League One team at times. Sure, City's talismanic Kompany was out injured, but I doubt even the towering Belgian could have stemmed the sea of red shirts that poured forward swiftly and relentlessly.

 

Liverpool could have (should have?) easily scored a few more (kudos to Joe Hart for multiple 1v1 saves) and, were it not for some individual brilliance from Aguero, could have also kept a clean sheet away at the home of the then league leaders. Whenever you hear someone say that a coach only has a minor impact on a team's performance, look no further than a quick comparison between the last couple Liverpool games under Rodgers and this game against Manchester City.

 

Of course Klopp is managing expectations (as he should after the Crystal Palace debacle) and saying a top 4 finish will be difficult.  And, indeed it will.  But the flurry of games over the next few weeks should be a pretty good barometer as to whether a return to the Champions League is actually attainable or merely a momentary glimmer of hope, much like Leiscester City’s 1st place standing in the table.  The keys to ongoing success will be to maintain the defensive stoutness spearheaded by the very-in-form Skrtl and the resurgent Mignolet, while continuing the replenishment of confidence that has imbued Firmino, Moreno and others.


This is farlieonfootie for November 30. 



Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Clapping Klopp at the Kop

photo by kevinzimvia PhotoRee

With Scott's prodigious output, we may have to re-fashion this as a Liverpool blog:
 
Despite the recent stumble to Crystal Palace, the Kop is still wildly clapping for Klopp. It does look like there has been an injection of enthusiasm and belief into the squad, but will it last?  Ever the optimist, I like to think so and, with a couple quality transfers in January, I think Liverpool will be challenging for the Top 4, notwithstanding their current mid-table position.

Winning the ball back in dangerous positions can always turn a game and Jurgen has the Reds swarming frenetically in the offensive half. Of course, such effort is not sustainable over 90 minutes so the key will be for Liverpool to learn to toggle on and off in unison - if one goes they all go - no lone hunters who will invariably be picked apart by even mediocre passing.

We may need to re-fashion this as a Liverpool blog with Scott's continual writing: 

Naturally, there is more to Klopp's system than the Gangenpress. The formation has changed from the Rodgers days, alternating between the  Christmas tree 4-3-2-1 and the 4-2-3-1, which allows more width farther up the pitch. Either setup allows for a chance to control the midfield, which integrates into Klopp's passing system.
 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Curious Visit from George

photo by A National Acrobatvia PhotoRee

 We're back, with our once a month post -- from Correspondent Scott:
 
With Liverpool’s recent results having slapped me into some type of disbelieving stupor, the confluence of (1) coaching my daughter in a tournament this past weekend and (2) a delightful visit from my boyhood soccer coach, George Merrin, brought me to my senses, such as they are.  Of course, Liverpool’s 3-2 squeaker over Aston Villa helped too.  Long-time readers of farlieonfootie will remember I paid homage to George when he last visited in 2011, thankfully not his last visit as thought at the time.  George hails from England but now lives in Australia and was my soccer coach when I lived in Saudi Arabia – the most influential coach I ever had, as you can probably tell by the fact that we have stayed in touch for the last 30 years.  It was so meaningful to me for him to visit and see just how far his influence extends – An English coach training an American in Saudi Arabia fostered a passion for the game that led to my humble coaching efforts with 9 year old girls (and often shambolic literary efforts hereon).  The very definition of a legacy. 
 
As some may recall, George is a life-long Canaries fan and fate would have that Liverpool played Norwich City on his first weekend in town.  He was very pleased with the 1-1 result and I suppose watching with him and seeing his enjoyment took some of the sting out of a draw we were supposed to win.  Or I should say temporarily took the sting out since Liverpool’s poor play has swelled to such proportions that Brendan Rodgers has every reason to fear for his job.  In fact, it could be that only Daniel Sturridge’s return has saved the Liverpool gaffer….for now.
 
At least Philippe Coutinho is back from suspension to bamboozle opponents and James Milner seems to be hitting his stride.  Injuries to Christian Benteke and Jordan Henderson certainly don’t help but Mamadou Sakho back in the lineup seems to give some assurances over the schizophrenic Dejan Lovren.  However, no injuries or lineup changes can excuse needing penalties to send off Carlisle United in the League Cup.  Liverpool is like a misfiring engine that may or may not get into gear.  We’ll see if a Merseyside derby this weekend can spark it to life.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Liverpool Self-destructs

photo by Steve Puntervia PhotoRee

It could be a long season for Scott:

It all started so well with narrow wins over Stoke City and Bournemouth, followed by a tough nil-nil away draw to Arsenal. Win the points at home against the "lesser" competition, and pick some up on the road against the Heavies, and Liverpool would survive the early season Schedule of Death. Alas, the script got torn up at Anfield this weekend after a gruesome 3-0 capitulation to West Ham, made possible by some truly asinine defensive blunders.  Sure, there was a strong scent of misfortune wafting about each of the three concessions, but that was barely noticeable due to the spectacle of self-immolation put on by Liverpool's defense. I had not yet jumped on the Joe Gomez bandwagon, nor the Dejan Lovren comeback car, and certainly won't now. 


On the first goal, Martin Skrtl was blamed by the announcers for a headed clearance that did not exit the danger area. Ok, maybe, but where were the midfielders to help gather it or at least pressure the turnover? But most concerning to me was the sight of Gomez, practically with a consoling arm around Manuel Lanzini, ushering him toward the goal and politely standing aside while the Argentine turned in the pass from the aforementioned turnover. Merely putting his foot a few inches forward would have blocked the shot. And, yes, poor Gomez is not left-footed and does not have much experience on the left but, come on, does he have to cut in to use his right every time?  He attempted only one left foot cross that I noted and that one floated into the stands behind the goal. Gomez might work better in another position, and will surely improve, but his performance is just not good enough when you have one of the best headers of the ball in the game (Christian Benteke) starving for service in the penalty area. 

 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Voldemourinho Suffers Irony Poisoning: Arsenal 1 - Chelsea 0

photo by jonathan mcintoshvia PhotoRee



Scott kicks off the season with excessive use of ironic metaphors:
 

"Arsenal defended with 10 players, they put everybody in front of their own line and they had good organization - congratulations to them."  Cough, cough

"They had a couple of chances in counterattacks, but we had ours in organized football." 


Jose Mourinho, nay Voldemourinho, that provocateur of the Dark Arts, went on to slightly dig himself out of the ironic hole that threatened to implausibly smother his preternatural ego.  But scoff as he may at the meaninglessness of the Community Shield, even as he flicked his loser's medal to a surprised fan, have no doubt that the Dark Lord will now redouble his manufacture of belittling comments as he is haunted by his hypocrisy and scalded by hot irony.  Or perhaps he will simply seethe in egomaniacal solitude along the River Thames stirring a cauldron of eyes such as: "I don't want the medal.  I don't keep the ones when I win, imagine the ones when I lose."
 

Friday, July 10, 2015

For Everyone, Everywhere: Scott on the USWNT's World Cup Triumph

photo by Nabeel Hvia PhotoRee



Scott reflects on a remarkable run:

With the Women's World Cup trophy safely ensconced in team USA's display case, a reflection on the tournament feels in order. I must admit, I was captivated by Team USA's unwavering march to the Final and found myself swept up in the excitement that made that Final the most watched US soccer event in history, men's or women's, drawing more viewers than Game 7 of the World Series or the final games of the NBA Final and Stanley Cup Final. If there was any doubt before that soccer is in America to stay, such thoughts were smashed by the Women’s World Cup Champions.

 

For me, once I mentally accepted that I was not watching the men's World Cup, and just accepted the differences, I found the whole tournament very enjoyable. It is clear that the women have more time on the ball which often means a more thoughtful progression of play. I subsequently watched the US Men v Honduras and the increased speed of play was very apparent. What I've come to appreciate is that the differences in the women's game make it just that - different - certainly not worse. Exhibit A was the breathtaking Final which was exhilarating to watch as an American soccer fan, regardless of the gender of the players.

 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Appreciating the Women's World Cup



S
cott certainly does
:

It may not be on a par with Caitlyn Jenner, but I'm going through a womanly transition of my own. Up until last Monday, I had only ever watched 2 or 3 women's soccer games in their entirety, compared to the hundreds of men's games I've watched, discussed and written about. But we are all evolving and transforming (some more than others), so with the confluence of the Women's World Cup and my daughter being almost 9 and very excited about soccer (she has played since she was 4 and just finished her first competitive season of Club soccer with Fort Lauderdale Select), I have now watched 2 women’s games in the last week and parts of several others.  And, I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed getting in touch with my feminine side of soccer.

 

Right away, I was surprised at how fast the speed of play was.  It’s not as fast as a men’s game, nor would I expect it to be, but it was, indeed, faster than I remember.  I was also a little surprised with the high level of skill, perhaps showing a bit of chauvinism there since there’s no reason a woman can’t be as skilled as a man if she were to practice the same amount.  But before I’m pilloried for sexism, or worse, let me go on to say that I found myself so drawn into the games that I forgot it was “women’s” soccer and enjoyed it as just “soccer.”  Quite frankly, in my mind, that’s the highest compliment I can give.

 

There were also some observations I was very pleased to make.  For example, I didn’t see nearly as much diving as the men do.  Nor did I see injury faking.  When they were fouled they just got on with it.  Of course, I do know that women are, indeed, capable of such chicanery – remember the Brazilian Erika in 2011?  So, perhaps my sample size is still too small to draw any conclusions about diving or faking, but I was pleased with what I witnessed.  Although, it must be said, Americans generally don’t engage in the dark arts nearly as much as other countries (I say proudly) so it stands to reason that the games I’ve watched, each involving Team USA, would contain fewer examples of such antics.

 

Also with respect to on-pitch behavior, it was almost surreal to me how placid the women players were after being fouled.  There was none of the “how dare you?” or “I’m going to kick your ass for that.”  Rather, as I said, they pretty much just got up and got on with it.  As a former player who played a bit physically and wasn’t afraid to let someone know if I was unhappy with their reciprocal efforts, I’m not exactly sure how to feel about that.  But, as a current, aged player who only fouls completely by accident and, even then, is overcome by remorse and spouts apologies, I do see the benefits.

 

The biggest difference I noticed with respect to the actual flow of the games was how much space there seemed to be for players out wide and how much time the player with the ball seemed to have before being closed down.  Logically, perhaps both are due to the speed of the players themselves as they aren’t able to close down an attacker as quickly or cover as much ground as quickly.  What that does, though, is make it all seem (to me) a little more thoughtful rather than nearly instinctive.  I usually see in advance how the play is going to develop and rarely find myself surprised by a choice made by the player with the ball.  It’s certainly not worse, it’s just different.  It’s kind of like watching a good movie you’ve already seen before.  And what I am coming to appreciate is that it’s just a different flavor of soccer.  A little more vanilla but very tasty.

 

I can see myself growing into women’s international soccer as my daughter grows up.  I stress international because I’m not sure I’ll every watch women’s club soccer.  And before the stocks are measured for me please note that I don’t even watch MLS because there are only so many hours I can devote to my fandom and Liverpool plays a lot of games.  But as much as I enjoyed the last couple of games, there was something else missing: the history and the familiarity.  There have only been 6 women’s World Cups, dating back to 1991.  By way of comparison, there have been 20 men’s World Cups (and would have been two more were it not for World War II), dating back to 1930.  I grew up hearing about the magic of Pele and witnessing the marvels of Maradona.  In contrast, I was graduating college during the first Women’s World Cup.  I know every player on the men’s national team but only knew a handful of players on the women’s team.  I could name several players on the majority of teams in the men’s World Cup but could only name Marta when it comes to the women’s.  I turned on the England vs. Slovenia Euro qualifier today and knew every single English player and even a couple of Slovenians, but wouldn’t be able to name a single player on their women’s teams.

 

Maybe I’m a bad USA fan or, worse, maybe I really am chauvinistic when it comes to soccer.  But, no, I don’t think so.  I think I, like so many other soccer fans in every country around the world, am only now beginning to acquire a taste for the flavor of women’s soccer.  I will, no doubt, learn more of their names and follow more of their careers and, inevitably, be more interested and vested in their future exploits.  I will more consistently see it as “just soccer.”  And for that, as much as anything else, I can thank my precious daughter.


This is farlieonfootie for June 16. 

 

 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Goodbye Stevie G

photo by StewieDvia PhotoRee


Correspondent Scott's final love song to Steven Gerrard:

In the end, it all unraveled so tragically. Ousted from the FA Cup by Aston Villa before collapsing at the end of the season in the league, Steven Gerrard certainly deserved a better swan song. So anemic were Liverpool's performances at the end of number 8's time at Anfield that, instead of the celebratory send off the Liverpudlian Lifer deserved, his legacy stumbled to the finish in cringe-worthy fashion, his late goals notwithstanding.

 

Fortunately, the broom of time will sweep away the refuse that was May 2015 and, left behind near the Shankly Gates, will be the shining moments of a truly brilliant career, spent entirely at the club of his boyhood, the club of his birth.

 

While the league title evaded Gerrard during his illustrious career, that fact must balanced against the respect and esteem he has garnered for his loyalty to one club during an era of ever-increasing short-cut transfers for riches and glory. Saying no to the likes of Chelsea and Real Madrid, Liverpool's long-time captain chose to remain a Red and fight for the title with them. That he fell short of that goal takes none of the shine from his sterling career. And, that his powers began to fail toward the end of his stay at Anfield, similarly, subtracts nothing from his achievements or legacy.

 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Ins and Outs



In which Scott is judgmental:

With only half a handful of games left in the current season, most Liverpool eyes are cast forward with anticipation to the summer transfer window, now that Top 4 is but a shiny toy yanked from reach just as the Reds leaped to claim it. Rather than futilely jumping again and again, now is the time to build the ladder, with fresh players, that will climb to the summit of the Premier League once more.

Who will stay and who will go?  Much has been written on the topic, but a few things stand out:

Balotelli just didn't work out and needs to be moved on. His style doesn't fit the current system and, despite flashes of brilliance, his frustration gets the better of him too often and his work rate barely registers at times. I still believe he is too often unfairly maligned, but his skill set is better suited for a different style of play.

Given that I was ready to write him off two years ago, along with most others, I can't believe I'm saying this but Henderson should be Gerrard's heir apparent to the Captaincy. The example of his work rate alone would be a fine contribution to that position, but his increasing ability to score and make the incisive pass puts him over the top. And with Gerrard gone next year, he won't have to captain sheepishly from the shadows.

Gerrard going to MLS is one of the blessings of this season. He was going to have to be more and more marginalized, so difficult for all parties when such a legend is involved. And the team can certainly use his wages for in in incoming talent.