Wednesday, November 12, 2014

What's it All About, Gylfi?!

Two days in a row; what's going on here?  Correspondent Ed is what's going on:

Spurs looked horrific this Sunday against Stoke, but sadly they are playing pretty much as I would expect them to play.  In short, the line up is pretty poor.  Uncle Harry had Kaboul playing pretty well at Spurs, but that was a long time and a long injury ago.  Vertonghen also seems to play as if he cares little.  At left back, Danny Rose has proven fast, quick, and otherwise mediocre, and the same can be said of the right back position.  Walker may have been reckless but he could also provide a lot of pressure from that side.  At midfield, Capoue is just about a step down from Huddlestone, and Mason is a poor man's Tom Cleverly (I know, that's too mean).  Townsend is a super fast one move pony, and on the other side is Nacer Chadli (great name!), whose proven to be pretty good, but not that good.  Finally at striker we have "I'm not in a contract year" Adebayor, the $28MM bust from La Liga named Soldado, and of course, the home town boy who is these days the best of the three, Harry Kane (plus he plays goalie).

Here's a ray of sunshine though:  Kane, Rose, Mason, and Townsend all came through the academy and all started against Stoke.  I get it and I like it, but right now they're not enough and the rest of the team is even less of enough.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Better But Not Enough: Chelsea 2 - Liverpool 1

Correspondent Ed's gone AWOL, but never fear -- Scott remains on the Liverpool beat:

Liverpool played much better today against an undefeated and in-form Chelsea side whose tactics were unrecognizable from last April's parking lot display. Right from the start the energy on both sides was frenetic and the Blues pressured way up the pitch.

The Reds played better than their previous few Premiership outings but it was not enough.  But had they played like this last week, against "lesser" competition, they might have fared better. And I feel with just that little more that Daniel Sturridge could bring to the side, they might have fared better today too.

Alas, instead, Liverpool conspired against themselves when, after a fortunate deflection of Emre Can's shot, they conceded on yet another sloppy jumble in front of goal. Ugly goals are the bane of football fans, unless they benefit your team, of course. So, when 6 red shirts are mostly watching the 4 blue shirts to their goalside, it's time to really shake the defensive snow globe. Perhaps a certain Ivorian could help in that regard given his mid-week display in Madrid.

Yet, it wasn't just sloppy defending that hampered Liverpool. Especially at the end of the first half, the number of errant passes in dangerous locations was staggering. Only several fortunate blocks, especially by Glen Johnson who actually had a very solid game, spared the Reds a darker shade of blush. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Chaos and Capitulation: Newcastle 1 - Liverpool 0

Scott is searching for answers, and he may want to begin by looking in Barcelona:

What has happened to Liverpool?  Perhaps the rose-colored glasses impaired (most of) the collective Kop vision, but only the most pessimistic of supporter would have predicted the current state of affairs.

Sure, Newcastle have refound their form and their speedy strikers are bound to give any team reason for pause. But the complete lack of creativity in the forward third was mind-blowing. You would have thought that Chelsea had loaned the Toon team their two buses, so impenetrable was (New)castle.

Then to concede on yet another sloppy melee in front of goal, when just a right foot could have made the difference. Like a newly-declawed cat, the Reds stumbled and swatted their harmless paws, seemingly both confused and bemused by their impotence.

Monday, November 3, 2014

You're As Good As Your Front Two (or One)

photo by emdotvia PhotoRee

Ed sums up the current state of the Barclay's Premier League:
You're As Good As Your Front Two (or One) -- Is it true?  Well, in this year's Premier League it seems to be.

Take Manchester City.  They are a completely different team with Sergio Aguero in the lineup.  He put four up on Spurs and another on United though he could have had another in the first game and two more from PK's in the second.  Dzeko is an excellent player but Aguero may be the best in the BPL.

Take Liverpool.  Without Sturridge and Suarez they've looked completely ordinary.  Or maybe worse than that.  Everyone's picking on Stevie G, but the bottom line is they've had 50 premier league goals on the bench or playing for another team.  Good luck making the top four without them.

Take Chelsea.  Diego Costa has put them on top; Fernando Torres and Samuel Eto were never going to get it done.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Getting in Gear: Liverpool 2 - Swansea City 1

Scott on the Capital One Cup and Not-So-Super Mario:

Well, after a dismal performance against Hull City last weekend, Liverpool looked largely lethargic in their Tuesday Capital One Cup game against Swansea. It was the Swans who looked most likely to advance, especially when they went ahead in the second half and, with only 11 min of regulation left, Brendan Rodgers replaced the ineffectual Rickie Lambert with the recently equally ineffectual Mario Balotelli. But within minutes the industrious Fabio Borini's pinpoint cross found Super Mario's lunging foot and breathed life into Liverpool's lungs. After a controversial red card, Swansea were without a key defender in injury time for a last gasp freekick, allowing Dejan Lovren to nod in after the Swansea 'keeper misjudged the cross. Lucky Liverpool seems to be a familiar refrain of late, and one that surely won't last. Get in gear Liverpool!
Surely the Reds have missed the injured Daniel Sturridge, his hereditary fragility apparently manifesting of late. But the squad has enough talent to compete against all but the very best teams even without their star striker. Rodgers must piece it together, become more creative in the final third and plug their defensive holes. 
A word on Balotelli. It seems the Italian would no doubt benefit from having a strike partner and this fan would like to see more setups with that in mind, even before Sturridge's return. And while he has not scored as often as we would like, aside from the dreadful, no-effort outing against QPR 2 weeks ago, Mario has worked decently hard and been a pretty good team player, with many of his teammates backing him to succeed. Yes, he has taken some ill-advised shots and needs to be mindful of his teammates with questioning hands in air after yet another low-percentage shot. And he has gone down very easily a few times and stayed down. But all in all, he is just a talented striker struggling to find form with a new team, shouldering nearly all the goalscoring burden, and resulting criticism.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Really?: Liverpool 3 - QPR 2

Scott checks in on a scrappy contest:

Liverpool limped to 3 points at Loftus Road on Saturday, courtesy of two QPR own goals, after stumbling through yet another uninspired performance.  Mario Balotelli, in particular, was underwhelming despite padding his attempted shots stats.  And Brendan Rodgers' attempt to push Steven Gerrard higher up the pitch missed as badly as the Balotelli shot that knocked the bejeezus out of the woman in the 42nd row.

Despite their relative positions in the standings, it was the home side who had the more and better chances throughout the first half as Gerrard rarely touched the ball and the rest of the squad grasped for creativity.  The lone creator was not at all a surprise - Raheem Sterling.  His penetrating runs and speed with the ball were the only dangers to unsettle a QPR team who otherwise had a relatively comfortable first half as they rattled the cross bar on two occasions and otherwise showed the visitors whose house it was.  Nothing short of pure luck and a goal-line, studs-up lunge by Glen Johnson, followed by a goal-line clearance by Martin Skrtl, kept the score level at the interval.

But, true to form, Rodgers made adjustments at halftime and Gerrard dropped deeper from the second-half kickoff.  That led to more possession by the Reds, especially in the offensive half, and a handful of opportunities as they began to press for the winner.  The pressure ultimately led to an unlikely scorer - Richard Dunne.  It was Sterling, again, who was causing the fits for QPR that resulted in the free kick that was quickly taken, crossed by Johnson and directed toward goal by Dunne who, like most of his team mates, was caught napping.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Why Always Controversy?

Scott with some thoughts on Liverpool's weekend win:

This is starting to remind me of two seasons ago when it was always two steps forward then one or two back.  Liverpool played well enough to win against West Brom on Saturday but can they repeat that week in and week out?  Losing to “lesser” teams was beginning to define this season so let’s hope that has at least stopped.  In any case, 3 points were dearly needed and finally won, even if controversies continue.
For one thing, it is always troubling to see a penalty called when it is the incorrect call.  In this case, however, I’m willing to give Michael Oliver a pass.  Admittedly, this is probably easier to say given that Liverpool eventually won the game, but when a foul happens that close to the area at full speed, it can be difficult to adjudge the exact spot of the infraction.  And I thought the young referee did very well otherwise.
The larger “controversy” of course was the fact that Rickie Lambert started over Mario Balotelli.  ESPN’s Steve Nicol can claim that the move was just a natural rotation as Brendan Rodgers wanted to rest the Italian, but I’m not buying it.  If Balotelli were scoring goals, and maybe if he ever managed a facial expression that wasn’t a scowl, Rodgers would have had him starting that game.  How the Super Mario will react to the benching will tell a lot about how his tenure at Anfield will go.  Fortunately, upon entering the game in the second half, he was industrious and solid with his hold-up play and passing.  But, still, his shots weren’t particularly threatening.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

On the Spot: Ed on Spurs, Arsenal, Jurgen Klopp and More

Ed's on the spot with some timely commentary on Spurs vs Sunderland, Jurgen Klopp and Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund:

As you all know, Spurs tied Sunderland this weekend 2 to 2.  That's three two's if you're counting. But despite the let down in the score, Spurs were dominant.  Dembele got his first start of the season with Benteleb just returning from international duty -- or at least that's what was said.  In my opinion, Dembele is the better of the two, but Benteleb certainly deserves considerable time this year in the middle.
Erikson also seems improved; in fact, he seems a step faster.  And Lamela and Chadli (Chadli!) both continue to impress.   
In some ways Spurs coughed up this game, giving up a cheap goal quickly after their first, and choking one past in the end.  But they were also unlucky; a cross bar and a post were squarely hit after good attempts, and they dominated possession and the game.  One might say Sunderland Manager Gus Poyat was just looking to score on counters such as this, but the reality is he had no choice.  His team could only win if they took advantage of the very few opportunities they were given, which of course is exactly what happened.  All in all, a good day for Spurs as they look a team headed in the right direction.  And all in all, a Premeir League that's still looking a bit of a mess at the top.
#          #          #
Is this man the best coach in Europe?  

It seems to me he's in the running.  Dortmund not only ran Arsenal out of the building, they looked man for man to be the far better team.  Examining the enormous changeover at Dortmund and the loss to injury of many of their starters, it's amazing how the team hasn't missed a beat.  It would seem that no one does more with less than this guy year after year.  Again, it's strange that he has less imitators -- though I'd say that Pochettino's style is similar.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Uninspiring: Aston Villa 1 - Liverpool 0

photo by Lucas Baissovia PhotoRee

Scott is just not feeling it:

Liverpool welcomed Aston Villa on Saturday and proved to be too gracious as hosts, allowing Gabriel Agbonlahor to skewer in a loose ball in the 6 yard box that was not appropriately cleared from a corner.  That goal ended up being decisive as the Reds, sans the services of Daniel Sturridge, were unable to equalize despite controlling the entire second half.
The first half, however, showed the Villans to be a high-energy, disciplined side as they had the greater share of possession for large periods of time and threatened repeatedly.  Philippe Senderos, in particular, should have widened their margin but was unable to put his open header on frame.  Perhaps his mind was elsewhere given his bullying of Mario Balotelli throughout the game.  The Swiss defender’s antics were shameful as he repeatedly harassed the Italian defender, resorting on more than one occasion to literally kicking out at him when the ball was nowhere close.  Understandably, the referee did not see these incidents so they went unpunished.  And while Balotelli did not retaliate, it seems the damage might have been done nonetheless as he was rather impotent on the day and was eventually substituted at the 70 minute mark. 
Raheem Sterling started on the bench, which to me seemed a curious decision given Sturridge’s absence.  But with a Champions League match on Tuesday and the lessons of Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen still echoing, Brendan Rodgers chose to rest the youngster at first before sending him on to inject some creativity for the last half hour.  It was too little too late and Liverpool’s teen sensation was unable to work any brilliance to equalize.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Humble Pie: Ed on Spurs

photo by The Gifted Photographervia PhotoRee

Just when Spurs thought they were good, just when they thought they could run with the big boys, just when they thought top four might actually be possible . . . . . down comes the hammer.  Oh what a tease this team is.

Not unlike last year, Spurs were pretty much violated by Liverpool.  Mario Balotelli really should have had 3 in the first half, but somehow blundered them.  For some reason this is always the case with this guy -- tons of raw talent that almost but never really materializes.  Wonder if that will happen at Liverpool.  Wonder if at the end of the day he's really just not that effective . . . . .

But, wow, Sterling and Sturridge were just way too fast for sSurs.  As was their new defender, Alberto Moreno, who promptly took the ball from Andros Townsend and rampaged 70 yards down the field before putting it in the back of the net.  These Spurs fought hard in the first half -- Lamela in particular -- but again showed that they were a cut below this tier, even if Liverpool isn't quite top tier.