Transfers in the pipeline for Reds

Rick Parry has decided to speak out about transfers in the wake of the much-publicised decision by the owners to block Rafa from negotiating the buying or selling of players.

The disagreement between the owners and the manager came about after Rafa was told in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t allowed to negotiate transfers. Rick Parry is often accused of letting deals slip through his fingers due to a continual lack of urgency when it comes to transfers. He nearly let Steven Gerrard join Chelsea when he chose to go away on holiday instead of speaking to the player, and he’s alleged to have lost out on other deals by simply failing to answer his phone or fax offers through.

The owners, despite this, still felt Rafa shouldn’t do his own negotiating. They feel Rafa should identify targets and inform the owners of them, then if the owners agree, Rick Parry can go and do the deal. At least that’s what they say, however their decision not to sanction the deals Rafa had in mind – telling him to try and win with the players he has – meant that the club missed out on deals Rafa clearly felt were worth doing.

As is often the case these days with statements coming out of the club, it doesn’t all quite add up. If the owners only felt Rafa had done wrong by trying to negotiate transfers himself, why did they not allow Parry to take over the negotiations so that the deals could go through? According to Parry, it’s not because of a lack of funds: “Money is always available if we need it,” claimed Parry. “We’re not going to give our plans away, but if we need to do something, we’ll do it.” Continue reading Transfers in the pipeline for Reds

Result: Man City 0 Liverpool 0

Barclays Premier League – December 30th 2007 – Result

Manchester City 0 Liverpool 0

Only one team were looking for a win in this game, and it wasn’t Manchester City. Liverpool will be frustrated at the chances they wasted in the match, City delighted that they kept the Reds out in a game where they set out to play as if they were the away team.

Liverpool keep hold of fourth place, but the dropped points are more frustrating given Manchester United’s defeat yesterday. However Manchester City were never going to be an easy team to beat, but the frustration is added to in that City could have tried to win this, and in turn make the game more entertaining.

Rafa was forced to play Alvaro Arbeloa in the centre of defence due to injury problems, but the Spaniard was rarely tested, certainly after the first half-hour. Unusually for Rafa he used only one substitute, and left it late for that: Ryan Babel on for Kewell with little over 15 minutes left. Steven Gerrard had an off day by his standards, as did Fernando Torres who never seemed to get into the full pace of the game after an early clash with Micah Richards.

Manchester City: 25 Hart, 4 Onuoha, 2 Richards, 22 Dunne, 3 Ball, 7 Ireland (28 Gelson, 61), 21 Hamann, 16 Corluka, 15 Petrov, 11 Elano (10 Bianchi, 70), 12 Vassell (8 Geovanni, 74)
Unused subs: 1 Isaksson, 24 Garrido

Liverpool: 25 Reina, 3 Finnan, 23 Carragher, 17 Arbeloa, 12 Aurelio, 11 Benayoun, 8 Gerrard, 20 Mascherano, 7 Kewell (19 Babel, 74), 9 Torres, 18 Kuyt
Unused subs: 30 Itandje, 6 Riise, 10 Voronin, 14 Alonso
Bookings: Torres 85

BBC Stats: (City – Liverpool)
Possession: 54% – 46%
Shots on target: 4 – 11
Shots off target: 2 – 8
Corners: 3 – 9
Fouls: 4 – 7

Sky Stats: (City – Liverpool)
Possession: 40.3% – 59.7%
Shots on Target: 0 – 6
Shots off Target: 2 – 10
Corners: 2 – 9
Fouls: 7 – 9

Referee: Uriah Rennie

Attendance: 47,321

Aurelio at CB for Man City game

Liverpool’s injury crisis at centre-back sees Rafa Benitez forced to play full-back Alvaro Arbeloa in the centre of defence in place of the injured Sami Hyypia. Hyypia has been outstanding in the place of the injured Daniel Agger, who has been missing for some time with a metatarsal injury. It was hoped Agger would be available today but he’s still not ready, and Rafa seems unwilling to put Jack Hobbs into the fire of what will be a difficult game.

Arbeloa was unable to play against Derby on Boxing Day due to a virus. His usual full-back positions are taken today by Steve Finnan and Fabio Aurelio, with Riise on the bench. Rafa’s gone for Kewell and Benayoun out wide, either side of Steven Gerrard and Javier Mascherano. Fernando Torres is partnered by Dirk Kuyt for this match.

A worrying name on the City team-sheet from Liverpool’s point of view is Didi Hamann. A real hero for Liverpool down the years, the German midfielder is one that the Reds will need to be wary of.

Manchester City: 25 Hart, 4 Onuoha, 2 Richards, 22 Dunne, 3 Ball, 7 Ireland, 21 Hamann, 16 Corluka, 15 Petrov, 11 Elano, 12 Vassell
Subs: 1 Isaksson, 29 Bojinov, 8 Geovanni, 10 Bianchi, 24 Garrido

Liverpool: 25 Reina, 3 Finnan, 23 Carragher, 17 Arbeloa, 12 Aurelio, 11 Benayoun, 8 Gerrard, 20 Mascherano, 7 Kewell, 9 Torres, 18 Kuyt
Substitutes: 30 Itandje, 6 Riise, 10 Voronin, 14 Alonso, 19 Babel

Referee: Uriah Rennie

Hicks just does not understand

When rumours spread, rapidly, and from many separate directions and sources, that Liverpool’s co-owners had made plans to sack Rafa Benitez before the start of next season, Liverpool’s supporters rallied around the Spaniard.

Not all fans agree all the time with the manager’s tactics. Certainly in the aftermath of a draw or a defeat, fans know how their idea would have worked better. Others don’t agree on rotation, feeling that picking the strongest side available for every game is how Liverpool should be preparing for games. The reasons for that vary – picking the same team allows players to build up an understanding, and ensures we’ve more chance of getting three points from every game. And also, why should the Mighty Reds have to pick players to suit our opponents, surely it should be the other way round?

Rafa is a manager who does rotation though. It’s part of what he is. Given the funds, he’d rotate for every game and nobody would really notice, because given the funds he’d have as strong a team for every game, but without using the same players for every game. He’d not have one striker of the class of Fernando Torres in his squad for example, he’d have at least two at that level, and so every opponent would have to face the threat of at least one world-class striker, even if he rested one of them. And he’d rest them from time-to-time to ensure he always had eleven players on the field who were 100% fit.

The problem with rotation is that with the level of squad Rafa has at his disposal, he’s always forced to find a balance between fitness and ability. He can’t play eleven 100%-fit top-class players for every game; his squad doesn’t have enough top-class players in it. He hinted at this recently, comparing how many £20m players his squad has compared to other top sides. If the owners did decide to give him time – they obviously don’t want to give him money – then in a few more years this may be less of a problem. He’s assembling a squad of youngsters that may well include players worth £20m each by the time they make it to the first team. Continue reading Hicks just does not understand

Reaction: Derby 1 Liverpool 2

Steven Gerrard’s late winner against Derby at Pride Park saw the Reds move into fourth place in the league, leapfrogging Manchester City. City play tonight, and so are able to move back ahead of the Reds, but that would leave Liverpool with a game in hand.

Liverpool went ahead thanks to £18m Fernando Torres, who scored another individual goal that showed why top sides need top players. Liverpool should have killed the game off, but chances were missed and at half-time Paul Jewell knew he had a way of motivating his players for the second half. They’d been beaten 6-0 at Anfield under different management earlier in the season, and here they were a goal away from a draw. They seemed to put more aggression into their game for the second half, and were eventually awarded a goal from a free kick. Xabi Alonso was penalised for handball, when replays showed it hit his chest, and the Reds defence seemed to switch off as the free kick was taken.

Gerrard hit the bar and Aurelio missed by a whisker as Rafa’s side kept on fighting for a winner, which eventually came from the captain in the last minute of normal time.

Rafael Benitez reflected afterwards: “In the first half we were really good and controlling the game, but we couldn’t score the second goal. We had possession, we created some chances but we’re not finishing the game or killing the game and I’m not sure why. The second half was more difficult for us – they were more physical and aggressive, we gave the ball away two or three times, and when they got the free-kick for the goal we looked nervous and conceded. They were more compact by that time and were working really hard. We were giving the ball away too much and the pitch was not the best either but we still needed to create more.” Continue reading Reaction: Derby 1 Liverpool 2

Result: Derby 1 Liverpool 2

Barclays Premier League – December 26th 2007 – Result

Derby 1 Liverpool 2

Derby: 1 Price, 24 Mears, 5 Leacock, 23 Moore (22 Feilhaber, 45), 4 McEveley, 16 Teale (10 Earnshaw, 56), 28 Barnes, 25 Pearson (6 Johnson, 26), 15 Lewis, 9 Howard, 14 Miller
Unused subs: 29 Hinchliffe, 11 Fagan
Bookings: McEveley 71
Goal: McEveley 67

Liverpool: 25 Reina, 3 Finnan, 4 Hyypia (11 Benayoun, 54), 23 Carragher, 6 Riise, 19 Babel (18 Kuyt, 72), 8 Gerrard, 14 Alonso, 12 Aurelio, 9 Torres, 10 Voronin (21 Lucas, 90)
Unused subs: 30 Itandje, 20 Mascherano
Goals: Torres 12, Gerrard 90

Stats: (Derby – Liverpool)
Possession: 44% – 56%
Shots on target: 4 – 10
Shots off target: 5 – 12
Corners: 2 – 7
Fouls: 9 – 9

Referee: Alan Wiley
Attendance: 33,029

Result and reaction: Liverpool 4 Portsmouth 1

Barclays Premier League – December 22nd 2007 – Result

Liverpool 4 Portsmouth 1

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez:
“First of all it was a great performance from the team. In the first half we were really good. We started really well and were creating chances and scoring goals. We were a little nervous when Portsmouth scored their goal and we needed the third goal. Torres provided that for us. You know Torres is always a threat when he runs in behind defenders. He has a very good mentality and he has no problem with the physical aspect of the Premier League. He showed his quality and his pace.

“It was important to win this game and there is a long way to go in the title race.”

Portsmouth boss Harry Redknapp: “We can’t afford to give away the goals that we did. We didn’t play very well in the first half but then we got ourselves back in the game. We then went and conceded two poor goals – it was bad defending. Continue reading Result and reaction: Liverpool 4 Portsmouth 1

Teams: Liverpool v Portsmouth

Barclays Premier League – Saturday 22nd December 2007

The stats will show Rafa rotated his team for this game, but that’s because the last game was in the Carling Cup. This team is the one that beat Marseille eleven days ago and then got beaten in the last league game against Manchester United last Sunday.

Liverpool: 25 Reina, 17 Arbeloa, 4 Hyypia, 23 Carragher, 6 Riise, 11 Benayoun, 8 Gerrard, 20 Mascherano, 7 Kewell, 9 Torres, 18 Kuyt
Subs: 30 Itandje, 10 Voronin, 12 Aurelio, 19 Babel, 21 Lucas

Portsmouth: 1 James, 5 Johnson, 23 Campbell, 15 Distin, 7 Hreidarsson, 17 Utaka, 8 Diop, 30 Pedro Mendes, 11 Muntari, 19 Kranjcar, 25 Benjani
Subs: 31 Begovic, 4 Lauren, 10 Nugent, 14 Taylor, 27 Kanu

Referee: Mike Riley

Kick-off: 3:00pm GMT

Reds draw Inter in Champions League

Liverpool have been drawn against Inter Milan in the first knockout round of the Champions League.

The Reds knew they would face either Italian or Spanish opposition before the draw was made, and it was Arsenal who drew Inter’s groundsharing rivals AC Milan.

The last time Liverpool met Inter was in August 1998 at Anfield in a friendly. Liverpool won 2-0 that day, goals coming from Paul Ince and Steve Harkness. It was the final of the Coppa Pirelli mini-tournament, with Paul Ince playing against his former club. Continue reading Reds draw Inter in Champions League

Chelsea 2 Liverpool 0

Carling Cup Quarter Final – December 19th 2007 – Result

Chelsea 2 Liverpool 0

A strong Chelsea side managed to overcome Liverpool in the Carling Cup tonight in a game that probably drew more headlines for the officials than the players.

It started with a linesman having to limp off, replaced by the fourth official who had almost not even made it to the game. The referee himself seemed unable to bring himself to blow for fouls from Chelsea, whose players didn’t receive a single card. That was a contrast to the referee’s treatment of Liverpool’s players, with him booking three for innocuous challenges.

There was also a red card, for Peter Crouch, who seemed to lose his head in an incident following on from where he received a massive amount of persistent kicking.

Rafa had chosen what was pretty-much a second-choice team, in what was generally a 4-5-1 formation. Andriy Voronin seemed once again to be out of position on the right-hand side.

Chelsea’s team meanwhile was strong – even first-choice goalkeeper Petr Cech was a starter, and he did manage to stop the Reds from scoring when they actually managed a shot on goal.

Chelsea had managed couple of shots on goal but reserve keeper Charles Itandje was equal to them – until Lampard pulled one of his goals out from his repertoire. Yes, Lampard scored with a deflection. Crouch was sent off a minute later and so Liverpool’s chance to get anything back was gone, and it was no surprise that a stretched Liverpool side let Shevchenko score a goal in the last minute.

Before the game there was more tirmoil at Anfield, with Liverpool’s pre-match press conference not taking place. The club were said to be concerned that their shackles on Rafa would be questioned at the conference, and that would not fit in with their policy of covering up the truth at every opportunity. The only pre-match quotes from the manager were through the official site, where we’ve already seen examples this week of quotes being changed to suit the owners’ and Parry’s agendas.

How much this turmoil is playing a part in the problems for the boss is hard to say – but it’s certainly not helping. It’s the least important of all the competitions Liverpool play in, hence the experimental side, but it still hurts supporters to see the side go out.

With the owner’s intent – still – on sacking Rafa before the start of next season, regardless of performance, it’s only the start of what looks like being a lot of hurt for Liverpool supporters in the coming months and years.

Continue reading Chelsea 2 Liverpool 0