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

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. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Ode on (a Melancholic) Liverpool

photo by Zest-pkvia PhotoRee

In which Scott waxes lyrically about the reds:

Historians may disagree, but I think Keats may have been a Liverpool fan. Still, despite his admonitions, I'm tempted to go to Lethe, hand in hand with the downy owl, sucking the ruby grape of Proserpine all the while. Such is the weeping cloud of melancholy that has fallen as quickly as Liverpool's Top 4 chances and FA Cup Dreams.

My very last post, granted some time ago, waxed on about the Rising Reds and all that was right in their footballing world. Yet Joy's hand was, indeed, at his lips bidding adieu to the Beauty that died by the feet of Manchester United and Arsenal in the league.

Then, in the very temple of FA Cup delight, Melancholy unveiled her sovereign shrine, and Aston Villa hid the green hill in an April shroud. There aren't enough globed peonies in all the world on which to glut the collective Liverpool sorrow.

So, with a half-dozen games left to play, while the English poet may have aptly described our sorrow, he also explains that Melancholy and Joy are inextricably intertwined, each needing the other. Joy's grape of previous success was burst on palate fine and we now taste the sadness of Melancholy's might. Until she's veiled again in Delight's temple...

Whether she be shrouded by a Top 4 finish or a successful 2015-2016 season remains to be seen.

This is farlieonfootie for April 23.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Upward and Onward: Scott on Liverpool's Run of Form

photo by extranoisevia PhotoRee

Absence is said to make the heart grow fonder and my brief absence from posting to this prestigious blog has found me smitten with how Liverpool are playing, that Blackburn black eye notwithstanding. Brendan Rodgers tinkered with formations and lineups to help the Reds emerge from their late 2014 downward spiral and now sees his charges conceding fewer goals, scoring more and, most importantly, winning. No losses so far in 2015 and, aside from the aforementioned FA Cup debacle at Anfield, they have played some of the best soccer in the EPL of late. Exhibit A was their comprehensive victory over a Manchester City side that was beginning to hit full stride with a healthy Sergio Aguero. One can only hope that Blackburn was a hiccup and this improving run of form can carry them to a Top Four finish.

Still, there are issues to resolve. For one, how does Rodgers rotate and rest players like Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling, especially with the injury bug ravaging several key players like Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva? Getting bounced from the Europa League, after the sting passes, should actually be helpful to the long-term financial fitness of the club as fewer games and less travel bodes well for a strong finish and a coveted UCL place, with its monetary benefits.

In the meantime, the return of Daniel Sturridge, while undeniably giving the team a boost, has presented Rodgers with a new puzzle to solve - how to fit last year's 20 goal scorer back into the squad without upsetting the equilibrium so recently restored. Statistics have been put forth illustrating that Sturridge does best with a strike partner up top but the formation that righted the ship plays with only one. Decisions, decisions...

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Shaping Up

More to the point, it's been a while since Ed has written anything
It’s been a while since I’ve written on Spurs, and a lot has happened.  First and foremost, Harry Kane put us past Arsenal with two magnificent goals.  Kane continues to play at a high level and pundits are wondering if this run is real or if he’s doomed to return to the norm or something below that.  We shall see.  Regardless, he seems to look like he knows how to play even if he’s not scoring, and Kane and Eriksen have become a terrific punch for Spurs.

The following week despite some good play int he first half, Spurs lost on a Mario Balotelli goal in the final minutes.  What are the odds of that happening?  Well, prior to his snatching the penalty kick ball out of the hands of his captain this week, Balotelli had about one goal for Liverpool, so I’d say the odds were pretty low.  But to be fair, this shot was really just a tap in for Super Mario, so it would have been hard to mess it up.  But what I liked most about this game was that Spurs seemed extremely annoyed and frustrated at the end of the game — as if they felt they should’ve won the game.  I can’t recall seeing a Spurs team react like that to a loss against a big Club.  Interesting, and I think a good sign.  (On an unrelated note, I’m still not sure why Brendan Rodgers thought bringing this guy in was a good idea; clearly a desperate move by a desperate manager.  But while Rodgers has Liverpool playing well with the return of Daniel Sturridge, it seems that the number of players he brought in that didn’t work out seems a luxury that only could be afforded the bigger clubs.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Stoking a Blazing Hearth: Scott on Liverpool

Scott is admiring Liverpool's form of late:

With that nail-biter of a victory over Spurs on Tuesday, I'm ready to say that Liverpool are firmly back on track and the team is starting to gel and acclimate to this season's formation and personnel changes. Yes, it all started happening far too late for a shot at the title (which was probably never a real possibility anyway) but a top 4 finish and another go in the Champions League is well within reach, present form continuing.

That Tuesday's victory was achieved without the services of Raheem Sterling is another plus. And that super-sub Mario Balotelli provided the tap-in winner is the icing on the cake, post-goal scowl notwithstanding.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Stevie G is Tired: Ruminations on the FA and League Cups

photo by twobvia PhotoRee

...from Correspondent Ed:

The League Cup and the FA Cup have taught us some lessons.  First, the difference between the top tier of English football and the middle tiers isn't that much.  Part of this is the higher level of play in the lower leagues than in the past.  Part is also that the premier league teams just aren't that good.  And of course there's that difference between teams that want it more and teams that don't. It's amazing how far hustling will get you.
But again, let's not diminish the abilities of some of these lower level teams.  Bradford City at times looked phenomenal against Chelsea-- consider their last goal, patience in a tight spot, a terrific run, and clean finish.  And so did Middlesbrough.  Dare we also say Cambridge?  Well maybe not, but they did seem to reveal the overall weakness of the fourth place team in the league.
And what if that pesky Liverpool team? Well, they looked pretty good at times against Chelsea in the league cup, even for a team without a striker.  Had that team included Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, would it have even been close?
And what of MLS bound Stevie G.?  Did he look old?  Did he look slow?  Well, in my opinion he looked the smartest man on the pitch, making great passes and runs out of an unfamiliar right forward position.  On defense, he effectively closed down Nemanja Matic on several occasions.  Consider also Steven Gerrard's replacement at the holding position, Lucas Leiva.  Lucas was certainly all over the field but his reckless tackles gave him one yellow and could easily have had him tossed out with a second yellow at least three times thereafter.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

And Now for Something Even More Boring-er

photo by Petteri Sulonenvia PhotoRee

In which Correspondent Ed questions whether Red Devils' bossman Louis Van Gaal knows what he is doing:

What happened to Manchester United?  My son can still watch them but I sure can’t.  How did a team with Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie, Radamel Falcao, and Juan Mata become so ugly?  The best part of any United game these days is watching David De Gea save them from losing to teams like, say, QPR, by launching himself all over the pitch.  No really, that IS fun.

So is Louis Van Gaal the problem?   Is his system so inflexible that it’s taking the joy out of United even though it’s resulting in wins?

According to the press, LVG has commented (or at least tried to comment — someone needs to send him a Rosetta Stone asap) that the team scores more from a 4-4-2 than his chosen 3-5-2, but that the team also doesn’t set up well in the former.  I think he means that the defense isn’t too good, and that they don’t have a good enough midfield.  I could have told him that before they dropped a ton of jingle on that loan deal for Falcao.  But I also think that the 3-5-2 doesn’t help on either side of the ball.  Is that okay to say?  I mean, this isn’t David Moyes we are talking about.  LVG may just be beyond criticism.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Stamford Bridge is Falling Down?

photo by Free-ersvia PhotoRee

Correspondent Scott may not be so happy by this time next week:

Liverpool thoroughly outplayed Chelsea in the first leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final leg at Anfield.  Unfortunately, of their 19 shots (6 on target), they only converted one, largely due to the heroic efforts of Thibault Courtois.  Meanwhile, a lackluster Chelsea squad managed only two shots with only one of those on target.  Yet, theirs being a penalty, the final score ended even and sets the stage for a must-score situation for the Reds in the return fixture.  Scotland Yard needs to investigate this most outrageous of stolen victories.
I can happily write that reports of Liverpool’s demise this season were premature.  They may not consistently keep this form through the end of the season but they are winning games and dominating top competition.  With a more settled back three of Can, Skrtl and Sakho, a re-found Lucas, the surging Moreno and Markovic, the sparingly used Gerrard, the workhorse Henderson, the shifty Coutinho and the speedy Sterling, Liverpool gave the visiting Blues much more than they could handle.  They attacked, they pressed and they eventually starting picking the locks on Chelsea’s defense.  Were it not for an unfortunate error by Emre Can who then overcommitted and bundled Eden Hazard, it would be the Reds now in pole position.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Kandy Kaned, Glovers and Stevie G.

Ed is still in the holiday mood:
Spurs are usually a team on decline in the festive season.  Too many games for too thin a squad.  But not this year.  After a scoreless draw against Manchester United (we’ll take it against that payroll), Harry Kane went big and busted up Chelsea for Spurs best win in the BPL perhaps . . . ever?

The emergence of Kane has dramatically changed Spurs.  With 17 goals in about as many games in all competitions, Spurs seem finally to have found their striker.  His emergence from the Spurs own academy makes it even sweeter.  One might be tempted to say that the team is finally catching on to Mauricio Pochettino’s direction — and I’d say there is something to that — but correlation is not equal to causation and it still remains difficult to tell.  Recall that the same was said of Brendan Rodgers brilliance when he had Suarez and Sturridge, but now that they’re gone the press would say he can’t get anything right.

Kane is not merely scoring, but he’s playing the target man especially welll, and he’s also taking the space aggressively with the dribble like few strikers I’ve seen in the league.  Kane isn’t that fast, but he’s fast enough and clever enough to use leverage and positioning to keep him in front of defenders.  He’s a pleasure to watch operate and will most certainly be called up for England in the future.

*    *    *

I should note my sorrow at the loss of the Yeovil Town Glovers at the hands of a somewhat fortunate Manchester United.  The Glovers gave 110%, and for most if not all of the match made me wonder why players like Rooney and Falcao were paid so much more than some of the players on the mid-third division team.

The FA Cup is a great competition, but at no time is it greater than the third round when premier league clubs have to play at tiny grounds throughout the country.  It’s simply a pleasure to see top tier players go against what appear to be true club teams on un-pampered (and sometimes awful) grounds.  There’s simply nothing more fun than watching Eden Hazard kick a ball into a tree behind the goal, or Steven Gerrard put one into a busy road next to the pitch.

*    *    *

Wait, did I mention Stevie G?  His departure from Liverpool will, I suspect, mark the

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Liverpool's Luck, Stevie G's Decision, And a Truly Tragic Departure

photo by Ben Sutherlandvia PhotoRee

Scott with his weekly musings:

Where to begin?  Well, I suppose I could start with the shocking news that Liverpool's luck lasted all of another 45 minutes after the Swansea game.  An unearned penalty and then an earned one, both converted by Stevie G., dictated the 2-0 scoreline at halftime.  But then the Reds conspired against themselves as they continued to play half-assed at best, allowing the last place team in the league look like the better side.  After conceding in rapid succession, they did manage a foray or two forward, but even then they managed to thwart themselves, literally shooting into each other on two separate occasions.  With several other teams dropping points, being two goals up at halftime seemed like a great way to start the new year.  But instead of being only 5 points out of 4th place, Liverpool now sit 7 points out and Champions League football next year, while still possible, seems to be fading away.  Can this all change so quickly with the return of Daniel Sturridge?  We'll know the answer to that as well as find out how the Englishman can handle pressure, hopefully within weeks.  I still have my rose colored glasses on but one lens is definitely cracked.

Just a few hours ago I had to deliver the news of Stevie G's season-end departure to my children.  Never knowing a Liverpool side without the Legend, they are still unable to comprehend a future without him.  But after I allayed their fears of a transfer to another EPL team, I was able to offer hope in the form of the conventional wisdom that says Gerrard will end up in MLS.  Not having a South Florida team, nor any tremendous pull to the league until now, they are now excited about being able to cheer an American club at some point.

As I have written before, Gerrard's influence in games has been waning and the consistent quality has not been there.  Some will point to his flashes of brilliance or his willingness to play out of position.  But, for me, with where this team is headed, it was always going to be a struggle to fit Gerrard in.  Maybe it was a coincidence that we played so well against Swansea without him and so poorly against Leicester with him.  But at the very least it is a talking point about how accommodations must be made to insert him in the lineup now.  He is still a tremendously talented player with physical attributes to spare and, of course, Brendan could make it work by limiting his games and his role so that those flashes of brilliance are the norm instead of infrequent sightings during a 90 minute shift.  But aging gracefully has never been the forte of the best of competitors.  And given that Gerrard is one of the best there has ever been, I salute his decision to move on rather than cling on. You'll Never Walk Alone, Stevie G!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

You Make Your Own Luck

Scott's rose-tinged spectacles are fully polished up for this entry:

With 2014 behind Liverpool, a brighter 2015 awaits. Glimpses of the quality football to come have been seen over the past 4 games against Manchester United (I'm still scratching my head over that loss), Bournemouth (a deserved Capital One Cup victory), Burnley (a scrappy win over an under-valued club) and Swansea (with more than just a bit of luck).

Yes, there is still quite a way to go and the champagne I crack tonight will be solely to ring in the new year and not to toast Liverpool's completed turnaround. But with several players beginning to click and Brendan Rodgers finally finding a formation that seems to best utilize the talent available, it may not be long before another bottle is uncorked.

As ridiculous as it seems, in addition to the 2 quality goals against Swansea, the two lucky ones also boost my hopes. We all know that the best teams get "lucky" more than others and, in my estimation, shared by many, that luck is the product of a self-belief and confidence that manifests itself in the fortuitous block of a goalie's clearance or a generous own-goal. The best teams just KNOW they are going to win and play hard expecting that result, completing that self-fulfilling prophesy when that same expectant effort shakes a goal loose from the opposition. For too long this season, Liverpool have been playing scared, waiting for the other shoe to drop in the form of another crossbar rattled on one side before a mistake on the other leads to a depressingly familiar billowing of net. But at Anfield recently the roles were reversed and may it be a sign of things to come.

Helping, the “luck” along are several players who seem to be getting traction in the side as they gel with their teammates.  Adam Lallana was a revelation against Swansea and is beginning to look like the confident, dangerous player that pillaged so many defenses for the Saints.  His vision, control, work-rate and finishing (OK, maybe not the left footer he skied over the crossbar) were excellent.  Add to that the on-again off-again Philippe Coutinho, who flipped the on switch again, and you have a dangerously offensive midfield.  The Brazilian’s mazy runs repeatedly put defenders on their heels as he breaks forward to shoot or distribute.