For those of you on a puter
Brendan Rodgers has conceded more goals in two seasons than any other Liverpool manager in history
After all, the team this season is riddled with Catch-22 situations.
Let’s start with the building block of the team.
When Simon Mignolet was bought, he was coming off a pretty decent season with Sunderland and had built up a reputation as a solid shot stopper. Mignolet, as a replacement to Pepe Reina, evoked mixed emotions from the fan base as they had differing strengths and weakness and thus replicating the same style desired by Rodgers with Mignolet in the team was seen as a challenge straight away.
Mignolet’s first season with Liverpool had multiple peaks and troughs in terms of form, with the highlight being his penalty save in the opening game (and the celebration with Kolo and Stevie, you might add).
A common trait seen during last season was his insistence in staying rooted to his goal and trusting his defence to swat away any aerial deliveries in the six yard box. Depending on one’s preference, it might be for good or bad, but one thing that cannot be disputed was the consistency of his policy, which succinctly put was ‘anything on goal is mine, everything else is yours’. Fair enough.
Then slowly, but more frequently we started hearing sound bites from the manager about wanting his goalkeeper to be more ‘commanding’. For me there started the problems. Asking a goalkeeper to change his core strength and belief is no mean feat. But due credit to Mignolet, he started stepping out a bit more often, to mixed end results.
Coming into the current season, Liverpool purchased Dejan Lovren, supposedly the panacea to all defensive issues, as he was seen as the leader that the defense desperately needed.
With the hindsight of quite a number of games, we can safely say now that the problems have just been magnified, or to put it correctly, shown up in face of duress.
So where is the Catch-22?
The Catch-22 is in the relationship between the centre-backs and the goalkeeper. The centre-backs not being aware whether the keeper will step up or not is a big issue. To compound the issue, they also don’t seemingly know when the keeper will step up. With no clear pattern in Mignolet stepping off his line, there seems to be an absolute lack of communication in that aspect, leading to the team conceding some hilariously bad goals.
Mignolet has problems that I would term as the asynchronous behavior of his centre-backs. Dejan Lovren is reputed to be a front footed defender and prefers stepping up to the opposition striker, but what we have consistently seen is that he seems to lose that duel, thus leaving a yawning gap right where his starting position is.
Martin Skrtel is someone who is a ‘neither here, nor there’ type of defender, sometimes he prefers to retreat until there is no more scope for retreating, which leads to the now infamous last ditch slide tackles. At other times he prefers to step up to the attacker to nip out the prospective attack.
This asynchronous behavior between the centre-backs ensures that offside traps aren’t that easily executable, and that through balls also seemingly look easier to penetrate the defense.
Thus the keeper does not seem to know whether the centre-backs will handle the balls in the 6 yard box, and the centre-backs do not seem to know if the keeper will sweep it up. Meltdown.
Where do we start with the midfield, the shape? Personnel? Form of the individuals? I would say it is a mix of everything.
In Steven Gerrard, you have arguably the greatest player the club has had. The number of exhilarating moments provided by him are innumerable and will be cherished always. But what about the current Steven Gerrard? Where does he actually fit? If it is indeed the deep controlling position, then what is his role exactly? Is it to be an auxiliary third centre-back, is it for him to cut down on swift attacks by the opposition by a combination of interceptions and tackles, or is his primary role actually to swiftly transition defence into attack with his range of passing?
If the last role is indeed what his game role is , then that should not be his primary role in that position, or he should not be left alone in that position doing it. But with Rodgers seemingly very clear in using a 1-2 triangle in the midfield, there does not seem to be a probable solution which Rodgers prefers executing.
The most worrying aspect is that solutions seemingly exist; just that Rodgers is choosing not to execute them. Sticking to a philosophy is admirable, but the lack of a flexible approach with respect to usage of players available is worrisome.
With Gerrard playing as controller, one of the other midfielders often needs to support him by tracking the runs of the opposition midfield, as Gerrard does not seem capable of doing it on his own. This additional midfielder often happens to be Henderson. But we are also in need of midfielders making late runs into the box as our current available strikers do not seem to understand the word called ‘goal’. The catch-22 is that the player who has the best ability for making such runs also seems to be Henderson. Poor Sod. Though with his sheer ability to keep running, he can do both roles, it’s just not practical in the long run, and also is definitely not using his capabilities to the fullest. So what is the solution?
- Is it playing a double pivot?
- Is it not playing Gerrard at all?
- Is it not playing Gerrard in that role?
In recent weeks, we have seen option 1 and option 3 being executed to mixed results. It is time we give option 2 a fair go. It would be beneficial for both Gerrard and the club. Gerrard can be fresher and thus have the legs to control the game a bit more, it also gives the chance for the club to identify a man for the role and try out all possible options.
There is a serious temptation these days to talk about Mario Balotelli, and this article, fortunately or unfortunately will fall prey to that temptation.
Mario Balotelli is lazy. Mario Balotelli is selfish. Mario Balotelli shoots unnecessarily. Mario Balotelli cares only for Mario Balotelli.
The interesting thing about these commonly mentioned opinions, is that these aren’t new. Some of his playing strengths/styles have been well known and discussed quite often, one recent case being the Anfield Index pod . His long distance shooting, his profligate conversion ratios aren’t new and were seen during his time at Manchester City and AC Milan. So this expectation of a radical transformation from Balotelli, just because he happens to play for Liverpool is like asking for the stars. Mario Balotelli needs time to adapt to Liverpool’s players and their style. Liverpool’s players also need time to adjust to Mario Balotelli and his strengths. The common factor is time, which unfortunately we do not seem to have and hence the call for his head. Catch-22.
The pressure is truly upon Rodgers to resolve these issues, but also continue to produce results during that time. We can only think of the cardiologist vs mechanic joke at this time and smile wistfully at the relevance of that joke here.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has categorically ruled out bringing a defensive coach to Anfield.
Although Mario Balotelli was the target of much of the headlines and criticism after the side’s chastening home defeat to Real Madrid in Wednesday’s Champions League clash, the flakiness of Liverpool’s defence was again the main reason for the defeat.
Having conceded 50 goals en route to second place in last season’s Premier League, Liverpool’s defence and the lack of cover provided for it by captain Steven Gerrard was a huge problem.
Now with the reduction in goals at the other end owing to Luis Suarez’s departure and Daniel Sturridge’s injury, the Merseysiders’ deficiencies at the back are being exposed again but Rodgers does not believe a defensive coach is the answer.
“There is no chance of us bringing in a defensive coach,” he said. “We have conceded a large number of soft goals, there’s no argument about that, but I think it is just a lack of coaching time that is hurting us. We need to reinforce basic principles at defensive set pieces, but we know that already.
“We have to get better and we will be working on it.
“When I first came in I was asked whether I would bring someone in to help the strikers score goals. I didn’t, and we got goals anyway. I think what we have this year is more games to carry, which takes a slight intensity out of us. We are in the big competitions now and there is an added expectancy on us, which there should be. We are Liverpool.
“When you concede the goals that we have been conceding there will always be questions asked of you. We need to answer those questions and I believe we can. In terms of bringing someone else in, we don’t need it.”
Jamie Carragher: I want to return to Liverpool
JAMIE CARRAGHER admits he would return to Liverpool if the right job came up.
Carragher said: “If I was offered a job in Liverpool in a good coaching role, it would be difficult to turn down.
The former England defender earlier this month revealed on Twitter how he drove to Liverpool’s Melwood training ground – by accident.
Carragher forgot he’d retired more than a year ago and was supposed to be heading to the gym.
I think you are all thinking the same as me guys!!! – Come back Jamie and sort our awful defence out!
Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport claim Borini feels like an outcast at Anfield and is hardly speaking to Rodgers.
Rodgers coached Borini as a teenager at Chelsea before bringing him to Swansea and making him his first signing as Liverpool manager.
But the relationship between the pair has reportedly broke down so much that the 23-year-old frontman now wants out.
He has started just once this season and made just two appearances off the bench despite the current strikers struggling.
I think guys what we are seeing here is the bloody mindedness of our manager. After that display and the off field antics there is no way Bloitelli should be ahead of Borini. once again Rodgers is showing who is the boss. I personally don’t call that man management.
Germany and Borussia Dortmund winger Marco Reus will complete a move to Liverpool if the Anfield club meet his £180,000-a-week wages.
Reus, who has turned down the chance to renew his contract with Dortmund, looks set to leave the Bundesliga outfit with the Reds currently in pole position according to The Metro.
Fellow Bundesliga outfit Bayern Munich were rumoured to have first refusal on the stars €25million release clause, however, it is unclear if the German international would be able to make the first team with Dutchman Arjen Robben and last season’s European player of the year Frank Ribery.
Bayern have a recent history of nabbing Dortmund stars with Mario Gotze’s controversial transfer before Polish striker Robert Lewandowski’s summer move.
The German international reminded Liverpool fans why the club are trying desperately to sign the25-year-old with a superb 25-yard screamer against Galatasary in the Champions League group stage this week.
Your move Liverpool!!
Mario Balotelli an easy fall guy for the problems at Liverpool
Brendan Rodgers will give Mario Balotelli another two months to prove himself at Liverpool but all the indications are that contingencies are already being drawn up as the manager’s frustration with the striker builds to critical levels.
As tends to be the way with players like Balotelli, with poor form comes other issues.
This week has not just been about a disappointing performance against Real Madrid and a half-time substitution, it has also been about his half-time shirt-swap and stories that police are investigating whether Balotelli threatened a woman taking photographs of his Ferrari.
This is a modern footballing tale, a story as much about celebrity and media coverage as it is about sport.
Balotelli did not play well on Wednesday but, for all his head-down running and occasional passes to imaginary teammates, he was not terrible.
He was not the reason Liverpool lost. The far bigger issue was the failure of Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson to get tight enough to Toni Kroos and Liverpool’s continuing inability to defend set pieces.
Yet the headlines were all about Balotelli and the shirt-swap, something that has been painted in some quarters as a deflection technique by Rodgers.
In fact, Rodgers claimed not to know it had happened when he was asked and stated simply that he was against the practice and would speak to Balotelli about it.
It was a measured, proportionate response. There is something slightly distasteful about players exchanging shirts at half-time, the premature performance of the post-match gesture of goodwill somehow undermining the second half.
At the same time, it is an utterly trivial issue and, in this case, it should be noted that it was Pepe who approached Balotelli.
So in a game in which Liverpool’s defence was again found wanting, Balotelli became the lightning rod for discontent.
He should not be exempt from criticism, but he is low-hanging fruit. It is easy to attack him, in part because his demeanour, his apparent solipsism, the thing that makes him a charming eccentric when things are going well, makes him insufferable when they are not.
“We brought in the player to give him a chance and we will continue to do that,” Rodgers said. “He is working hard to try to fit into the team ethos here but only time will tell. We will see come January what the team needs.”
That Balotelli is “working hard” is a trope to which Rodgers returns again and again, almost as though he is hoping if he says it often enough it will become true, or at least that it will head off criticism from those aggravated by his diffident on-pitch manner. Yet Rodgers is losing patience.
The first time Leroy Fer struck the bar during the fortuitous win over Queens Park Rangers on Sunday, Balotelli was bent over on the halfway line, clutching his ear after a challenge from Richard Dunne.
Rodgers berated him from the touchline, clearly feeling Balotelli was not so badly hurt that he could not have tracked back and helped shut down the attack.
Two minutes into Wednesday’s game, Marcelo was dispossessed and the ball came to Balotelli. The stage was clear for the sort of rapid transition that was so characteristic of Liverpool last season, but Balotelli, with Raheem Sterling in support to his left, stuttered with his head down, allowing the full-back to recover.
Rodgers rocked back on his heels and shook his head. The days when he cheerily spoke of how he had persuaded Balotelli to defend corners seem a long time ago.
Perhaps it will be different when Daniel Sturridge returns to fitness and to the attack. Or perhaps Liverpool will find a way of playing that does not expose the myriad ways in which Balotelli is not Luis Suarez.
But the feeling always was that if Balotelli were going to be a success, he needed to get off to a rapid start. In the past, once confidence has dipped and he has been criticised, he has tended to sulk.
Maybe he has matured and will emerge stronger from this, but already this feels as though the endgame of his time at Liverpool is being reached. His next opportunity to show otherwise comes at Anfield today against Hull City.
The comparison with Cristiano Ronaldo on Wednesday felt almost cruel.
They are the players who have had the most shots in Europe’s top five leagues this season, but where Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 15 league goals for Madrid, Balotelli has yet to get off the mark domestically for his new employers..
Ronaldo has similarly peacockish tendencies but where he has expended every possible drip of energy to be the best he can possibly be, Balotelli remains a talent disaffected and unfulfilled.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes that the club does not need a defensive coach after shipping three more goals in midweek.
Rodgers revealed the defensive problems were due to the lack of time the Reds get on the training pitch.
Due to how badly Liverpool have been defending, there have been calls for the Reds to hire a defensive coach but Rodgers is sticking to his guns and believes they don’t need it.“It’s not a case of needing to bring in another coach, a defensive coach or anything like that,” Rodgers told the Liverpool Echo.
“Our problem and the issue we have which we need to find the solution for is our lack of coaching time. Take this week, we played Wednesday night, the players physically recover on Thursday, and that leaves us with only a short period of time on the training field before we’ve got the game on Saturday.
So what all of our rivals were saying about us being lucky to finish 2nd due to us not being in the CL is true then?
Reports are circulating both here and the Spanish media that Manu are putting in the groundwork for a massive bid for Gareth Bale. They want him at Old Trafford at any price.
A source said that the club will never again allow their standard to drop and will invest heavily to keep Manchester United at the top.
Ha a bit like us then!!
Liverpool target AC Milan fullback Abate
Liverpool could make a move for AC Milan fullback Ignazio Abate, as they chase a replacement for Glen Johnson.The 27-year-old Italian international has enjoyed a superb season thus far for the Rossoneri, but is continually being linked with a move away from the club.
The Daily Express report that Liverpool are targeting a move for Abate, who despite wanting to stay with Milan, has a contract expiring at the end of the season and is still far away from agreeing a new deal.
Abate could agree a deal with the Reds as early as January if he does not reach a compromise with Milan.
Liverpool fullback Johnson also has a contract expiring at the end of the season and has been linked with a move to Roma.
Wednesday’s comprehensive defeat by Real Madrid negated much of the positivity and forward momentum created by the fortunate victory over QPR masterminded by Philippe Coutinho, but the player himself remains positive about the next match.
There are various levels of confidence and self-possession. It’s a kind of spectrum on which one can find everything from the most introspective, publicity-shy wallflower to the brashest, attention-craving, flesh-baring extrovert. (Hi José!) Footballers are typically closer on the scale to our scantily clad friend than his socially inept counterpart. As a genus, they are blessed with a talent that elevates them from the ordinary and as a regrettable result, the history of the game is littered with individuals who took that talent as a valid excuse to ride roughshod over societal conventions, considering themselves above the hoi polloi — a breed apart.
In a week where Liverpool were unceremoniously handed their posteriors on a platter by the astonishingly talented Cristiano Ronaldo, this idea has been resonating in your scribbler’s troubled facsimile of a mind. The Portuguese force of nature is rightly considered to be in a Rodgersian conversation with Lionel Messi as to who might be considered the world’s finest footballer, and a failure to admire his unique combination of skill and athleticism says more about your own partisan leanings than you might care to admit, but the unctuous manner and absurd posturing of this thoroughly modern sporting icon renders him very difficult to like.
Recently, in a comically botched attempt at false modesty, the Madrid man dismissed talk of the forthcoming Clásico as simply a face-off between himself and the Argentinian maestro. “I am not going to play against Messi, I am going to play against Barcelona,” he insisted. It sounds good until you give it a second glance. He is going to play Barcelona. Him. A perfect illustration of the kind of casual egotism that is only matched in the modern game by his countryman and fellow narcissist, Jose Mourinho.
By contrast, Liverpool’s best performer over the last two games, the impishly gifted Phillipe Coutinho, is a far more amiable and humble character, giving the lie to the unfair categorization of modern footballers and illustrating, along with the falsely maligned likes of Daniel Sturridge, that dismissing them all as egomaniacal preeners is a lazy red top stereotype. Coutinho, although affable and unassuming, is more than aware of his value to the team and has a fierce conviction about his ability in his preferred position. Whilst subtly reminding his manager of where that position is, he also soothed the angst of those inclined towards panic, insisting that this new side is very much in the evolutionary stage.
“I’ve always felt confident,” the tonsorially impressive 22 year old averred. “Football is a team game and everyone has their own responsibilities. My role encompasses creating goal-scoring opportunities and scoring goals myself. Many people may see it as a task of higher responsibility. However, I’ve always been ready and prepared for it.
“We’ve been getting to know each other little by little. Each striker has their own style and training sessions help me understand how they prefer the ball to reach them. In my position, it’s important that I create clear opportunities for them. I have to adapt my style to all strikers – as does any player who is in charge of playing in the No.10 role. We have to create open chances regardless of who the strikers are.”
The creative Brazilian is not, however, blind to the problems that have become glaringly manifest so far this campaign. His own form, imperious in the comparative ease of the team’s pre-season fixtures, took a dramatic and inexplicable nose-dive which resulted in him losing a starting berth. Against Harry Redknapp’s side and against Carlo Ancelotti’s charges, Coutinho looked a man transformed, adding a vigour and strength to his silken skills in possession. If Liverpool are to shake off the current malaise which has dogged the club, they will surely be reliant on the uncanny vision and well-timed goals of their number 10.
“We haven’t had a good start to the current season. We all acknowledge the team are not currently in our best form. It’s very important that we find the same tempo and intensity from last season and the Hull game will be an opportunity for us to show that we can have a solid and convincing performance. This game will be really important for us and everyone is focused on playing better and winning again.
“We’re all concentrated on having a good display on Saturday. It would be important to have a run of games like last season’s, when we won 11 consecutive matches, as this would give the squad confidence. Our first step to achieve that is by delivering good performances again – this is, in fact, the main thing and wins will come naturally when it happens, as they did last season.”
On Saturday, Liverpool will look to shake off the embarrassment of the comprehensive midweek defeat and the ensuing Balotelli-centric negativity that has dominated the media’s coverage since. With the squad’s defensive cohort currently bidding to out do each other in the ineptitude stakes, this will be no easy achievement. The club seems utterly best by myriad issues and we can only hope that the stultifying negativity of many fans does not infect the already skittish players.
Brendan Rodgers seemed to signal his seriousness about extending the run of wins in the Premier League to a modest three, when he withdrew both Coutinho and Henderson from the proceedings with a considerable chunk of the Champions League clash remaining. To symmetrically conclude with a reference to the theme of egotism, all fans of the Redmen will be hoping for some brilliance from those two and their under-pressure teammates lest Steve Bruce finish the day with a head as metaphorically inflated as it is in all it’s literal corpulent glory.
Valdes’ Liverpool snub should pave way for audacious Cech bid
Simon Mignolet has proven he’s not quite up to the task at Liverpool
While the Belgium stopper is not solely to blame for the Reds’ inability to keep clean sheets, it’s no secret that Liverpool fans and manager Brendan Rodgers were banking on Valdes’ arrival to offer much-needed competition for the number one jersey.
That competition will now have to be sought elsewhere and with Chelsea’s deposed first-choice keeper Petr Cech angling for a January exit from Stamford Bridge, Rodgers must be prepared to make a bid.
Jose Mourinho would naturally be opposed to selling the 32-year-old to a Premier League rival, especially given the amount of interest on the continent, but that shouldn’t prevent Liverpool from a move.
Real Madrid, Paris St-Germain and Besiktas are thought to be the current shortlist vying for Cech’s signature, but providing the player himself was open to staying in the Premier League, and the money was right, it’s a plausible deal.
To the dismay of their fans, Liverpool have quickly morphed from concerted title contenders of last season into top-four hopefuls during the opening stages of the current campaign.
Rodgers’ pale imitations face Hull in the Premier League next at Anfield, looking to put nine consecutive points on the board for the first time in 2014/15.
One has to ask oneself just exactly whats gone on over the Valdez deal? – Why would he want to go to the Mancs as a backup keeper in a team without CL football? Coming to Liverpool would ensure him as the regular keeper. Could it be that FSG are up to their nonsense again over money?
Jan Molby has warned Liverpool that their midweek defeat by Real Madrid showed just how far the team still needs to go.
The Reds lost the Champions League tie 3-0 at Anfield, with two goals from Karim Benzema and one from Cristiano Ronaldo putting the game beyond doubt before half time.
And Molby, who played 292 times for Liverpool, scoring 61 goals, was critical of their recent defensive record, particularly against balls into the box.
“The first goal was outstanding but the second and the third goals should have been dealt with,” Molby told the Liverpool Echo.
“QPR’s two goals last weekend came from crosses as well and it’s a real problem area.
“The marking was non-existent and Benzema took advantage. Mistakes at the back keep happening. Why was Pepe allowed to chest the ball down in the box? There was far too much space.”
Molby saved his praise for Real Madrid, whom he described as having played within themselves in the game’s second half.
“We put a lot of energy into the opening stages against Real but we simply lacked that bit of quality.
“It was almost like after 20 minutes they thought ‘is that all you’ve got?’ and then decided to show what an excellent side they are,” he said.
Wednesday was a reminder for everyone about how far they have to go. For the likes of midfielders Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen it’s a huge step to the next level whre they need to be at”
Afraid both these players are now at their peak and what you see is what you get – mediocracy!
Real Madrid’s Luka Modric has admitted that the Spanish giants were saving themselves for Barcelona when playing against Liverpool on Wednesday.
The second half was easier than we thought and we tried to sail thru without injury with the big one in mind.
Modric completed a massive 94% of his 95 passes.
Well I guess that’t the ultimate humiliation!
Borussia Dortmund star Marco Reus is willing to move to Liverpool if they meet his £180,000 per week wage demands, according to reports.
Despite his current contract running until 2017, the 25-year-old attacker has a £20m release clause and has turned down a new deal with the German club.
The former Borussia Mönchengladbach man is keen on a move to England, and Liverpool have been strongly linked with a swoop for his signature since the summer.
However, a move was not possible at the time as the Germany star was recovering from an injury which saw him miss the World Cup and the start of the domestic season.
But with Reus now back to full fitness and in good form, the Merseyside outfit are keen again and are preparing to trigger the release clause as they look to provide manager Brendan Rodgers with some world-class options after a disappointing start to the campaign.
Reus, who made the most goals in the Bundesliga last season with 14 assists, has scored 44 times in 95 games for Jurgen Klopp’s side.
If anyone here thinks FSG will sanction this and move us up to the level we should be at then you’ve lost the plot
Liverpool’s decision to walk away from Victor Valdes seems like an error
The Liverpool Echo have taken a break from demanding that Mario Balotelli make a formal apology after Wednesday night – yes, really – and claim that Brendan Rodgers has passed on the opportunity to sign free-agent goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
The former Barcelona player has, of course, started training with Manchester United on a non-contract basis as he continues rehabilitating from a serious knee-injury. With David De Gea clearly the long-term goalkeeping option at Old Trafford, this seems to be little more than a gesture on Louis Van Gaal’s part – so the chances of Valdes becoming a full-time United play seem remote.
So, back to Liverpool: why pass on a player who can do so much good?
Valdes is evidently some distance from being first-team ready, but Brendan Rodgers has enormous problems with Simon Mignolet and Valdes would have provided him a neat upgrade from – possibly – January onwards. The Spaniard has played and won at the very highest level of club football and, at just 32, he has four or five good years still ahead of him.
His wage demands would likely have been very high, but it’s rare to have the opportunity to sign a goalkeeper of this calibre at this stage of his career.
By the tone of the Liverpool Echo’s reports, it appears as if this decision not to offer him a contract was predicated on medical concerns. That’s understandable, because why would you pay a player before you’re convinced of his fitness, but why not do what Manchester United have done? Monitor his fitness, allow him to rehabilitate at Melwood and then he would have at least been within the club’s fold when the time was right to definitively judge his conditioning.
Simon Mignolet is still young in goalkeeping terms and there’s no reason to believe that the weak parts of his game (aerial command, distribution, control of his defence) won’t improve with time, but he looks like someone at the moment who is playing on a stage which is too big for him. He’s a very talented shot-stopper, but barely a game passes at the moment without him making a noticeable error and accentuating the palpable anxiety which exists at the heart of Liverpool’s defence.
It’s really important to be patient with players who are suffering and there’s no immediate need for Liverpool to give up on Mignolet permanently, but signing Valdes could have given them an eighteen-month to two-year window within which to remove the Belgian from the spotlight and take whatever steps are necessary to improve his game.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that the goalkeeping position is the beginning and end of Liverpool’s defensive problems – far from it. This is front-to-back issue which is being caused by myriad issues – a lack of forward pressing to a dysfunctional centre-back pairing – but Valdes would have been an improvement and the combination of his technical attributes and organisational skill would have been an asset.
There’s more to this – obviously – but it does seem like a missed chance. Liverpool have a very shaky first choice goalkeeper, no credible alternatives at the club and the January transfer-market doesn’t traditionally offer much in that position.
Reds not only have defensive problems. They have only managed to get their attempts on target with one in three of their shots, worse than all their rivals Chelsea, Everton, ManU, Spurs and City.
Brazil coach Dunga has announced his squad to take on Turkey and Austria in friendly matches in November, with Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho keeping his place.
Chelsea stars Oscar, Willian and Filipe Luis are also called up, along with Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho.
Gonzalo Higuain has no desire to leave Napoli for Liverpool this January, according to his brother.
The Premier League side has been heavily linked with the Argentine hit-man over the course of the past few days, with reports having suggested that £30m+ bids are in the pipeline for this winter.
But it seems even though he is not happy with things at Naples he does not want to play for Liverpool.
He probably knows we won’t be in the CL next season!
Today Lucas Lieva said …
“I must think about leaving as there is no room for me at Liverpool.” I feel marginalised by the manager.
To me this should start ringing alarm bells given that Reina and Agger were also given marching orders after minor spats with Rodgers. Other players have also voiced concerns. Suso will surely be the next one.
Rodgers reputation for his man management skills is seriously being questioned.
Liverpool ditch plans to sign Valdes as keeper heads for United
Former Barca shot-stopper to train at Old Trafford
Champions League Second Round Second Leg – The Nou Camp, Barcelona, Spain – 13/14 – 12/3/14 Barcelona’s Victor Valdes Credit: Action Images / Jason Cairnduff
Victor Valdes will train with Manchester United after Liverpool FC ditched plans to sign the former Barcelona goalkeeper.
The Reds had been heavily linked with a move for the Spanish international, who has been a free agent since his contract expired last summer.
However, Liverpool’s desire to sign Valdes, who has been sidelined since he suffered a cruciate ligament injury in March, waned in recent days following discussions with the player’s representatives.
The ECHO understands they wanted guarantees about both salary and contract length prior to Valdes proving that he had made a full recovery. Liverpool were unwilling to agree and walked away.
United have now announced that the 32-year-old is heading for Old Trafford. A statement read: “Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has offered Victor Valdes a chance to complete his rehabilitation from a knee injury and to work his way back to fitness with the club.
“Valdes will have his recovery supervised by the United medical staff before training with the first team, as he bids to regain full fitness.”
Liverpool will now look at alternative goalkeeping options ahead of the January transfer window as Brendan Rodgers eyes greater competition for No 1 Simon Mignolet.
Read my previous after match articles and as I stated everything is about money and not the team.
Jordan Henderson may be a England international and has developed a bit over the past two years, but when compared with the likes of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric he comes out as extremely average and has a long way to go.
Last night Henderson won a meagre 33% of his midfield tackles compared to 88% & 91% of the Real Madrid pair
What has gone wrong with the Liverpool FC defence – and how can the Reds fix it?
The Reds have spent nearly £100m on defenders in five years and are projected to concede 57 league goals this season. We look at what’s gone wrong in the Reds back five
Liverpool dejected after Real Madrid score
A defeat against the champions of Europe is nothing to be ashamed of. But for Liverpool FC, to concede defeat in such a manner is frustrating and embittering.
Increasingly, there appears to be no case for the defence. Cristiano Ronaldo’s strike was magnificent, but Karim Benzema’s double were simply gifts from the Reds defence.
The three goals against Real Madrid took their goals conceded tally to 19 in 12 games. They have kept just two clean sheets in 21 games – both against Tottenham – and average 1.27 goals conceded per game under Brendan Rodgers.
What the manager has achieved at Anfield has been well-document and rightfully commended – but the defence is undoubtedly a problem, and one which has persisted throughout his reign.
There are plenty of questions being asked of the defence. Here they are.
Liverpool can’t defend set pieces
The Reds have conceded seven goals in 12 games this season. It would be an unbelievable statistic if not for the image of the Liverpool players panicking upon the toot of the referee’s whistle.
Seven goals conceded, but countless scares on most occasions the ball is plunged into the box. Simon Mignolet struggles to command his area, an opponent can lose Martin Skrtel with a drop of the shoulder, Dejan Lovren gravitates towards the man far too much.
Opposition managers will spend time in training launching high balls throughout the week, so Liverpool must do the same. Only hard work will fix this. Pigeons of Hull, be prepared.
Mignolet is struggling in goal with almost every facet of what is required to play in a side like Liverpool’s.
He is good at stopping shots, and did make some good saves on Wednesday night against Real. It’s also worth noting his save average is up this season, though that also shows how porous those in front of him have been.
But he continues to look weak with distribution, his floating balls out to the full backs a constant source of frustration for fans.
He looks like a player trying to be something he isn’t. Like a centre back can’t play in the no.10 role, the Belgian cannot be the sweeper keeper people want. His attempt against Real, flying out towards a moving ball on the six yard box and missing, encapsulated the problems he faces.
More money, more problems
Liverpool have spent £63m on defenders since 2012, and nearly £100m since 2009. Such an investment should see strength-in-depth at the back; instead, the back five might as well wear hard hats given how it always seems under construction.
Of the eight defenders signed since 2012, only Alberto Moreno looks to be a true success – although it is still early days for him, Lovren and Javi Manquillo.
Approximately £17m was spent on Mamadou Sakho, a French international, yet he played just 19 games last season. As a left-sided defender, direct competition was bought for £20m this summer, with Croatian Lovren joining from Southampton.
Tiago Ilori, meanwhile, was bought for £7m – and is yet to make a competitive appearance for the Reds.
The outlay of money has not resulted in an increase of quality on the pitch.
Cost of Liverpool defenders
Dejan Lovren and lack of leadership
The defender was so impressive against Borussia Dortmund in August’s pre-season friendly. Though it was only a friendly, there were signs of him bringing something the Reds back line were desperately lacking – leadership.
He had been the central part of an impressive Southampton side in 2013/14, and came to Anfield with a big reputation. Not only could he defend, but he could communicate and organise effectively as well.
So where is it?
A good competitive home debut against his former club offered hope, but he has since looked troubled. Having two partners – Skrtel and Sakho – hasn’t aided his settling-in period, but he is too overeager to challenge and is often caught misjudging the flight of the ball.
His statistics this season and last season aren’t too different. He made more tackles last season, but has made more interceptions this season. The Reds need him to start justifying his summer move – and fast.
Defending from the front – and system problems
The way Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez played last year was a joy – both in defence and attack. They were belligerent, dedicated and always knew when to press the opposition.
But despite that, the Reds still conceded 50 league goals last season. So too much importance can be placed on what the front men do – although both Mario Balotelli and Raheem Sterling seemed unsure on how to press Real on Wednesday.
It hints at problems elsewhere. With a three-man midfield, and with full backs given the licence to move forward with the ball, Steven Gerrard is left isolated. If he is pressed, and if he is not given enough help from others, Liverpool can be suffocated in midfield with the opposition’s extra runners not being tracked.
It leaves Gerrard with a lot of running to do from side-to-side.
Will it get better?
Liverpool have kept just eight clean sheets in the past 38 games, conceded 55 goals. If the Reds were to replicate that form over the whole season, they would hope to do better than Sunderland in 1999/2000 – the best-placed side to concede over 55 goals in the Premier League.
But after the Reds conceded 43 in 2012/13, and 50 in 2013/14, they are now projected to concede 57 goals this season.
Against Real, the defence contained two of the summer signings. Manquillo has also featured heavily this season. A settling-in period is expected – but it now feels as if it has moved on from that, and the back five’s jitters have become the norm.
It isn’t a case of whether it gets better. Without the goals of Suarez and Sturridge to assist, it simply has to. Now is the time to step up and for them to do what they were bought to do – defend.
LFC goals conceded
Can the Reds rectify it?
They have to, but it is something that has flummoxed Rodgers since his arrival at Anfield.
Perhaps the more powerful Emre Can could replace Joe Allen, with Gerrard and Can sitting deeper and allowing Jordan Henderson to flourish up the field.
Perhaps the return of Jon Flanagan, potentially at right back, will solidify the defence and bring some more front-foot defending to the side.
Perhaps Sakho will replace Lovren, Lovren will replace Skrtel, or Skrtel will be replaced by another big-money buy in January.
But they have to figure out the solution, and soon.
Gary Lineker: Time to stop ‘pretending’ that Premier League is strongest in the world
La Liga is stronger than the English top-flight says the Match of the Day pundit
Gary Lineker says La Liga is stronger than the Premier League, with Real Madrid’s 3-0 annihilation over Liverpool providing the proof.
England’s top-flight has styled itself as the best league in the world, however the humbling of Liverpool at Anfield suggested a gulf in quality between the teams from the two divisions is appearing.
Liverpool finished second in the Premier League last season but after a decent first 10 minutes, they were totally outclassed by their Spanish opponents in every department at Anfield with Cristiano Ronaldo and a Karim Benzema putting the visitors three goals ahead by half-time.
Liverpool FC likely to snub Sydney for Brisbane
The English Premier League giants are appearing more likely to shun Sydney to play in Brisbane next year – and the angry fingers of blame are already being pointed.
Despite some premature chest thumping from the NSW Government in the past week, it’s understood Queensland Premier Campbell Newman has thrown the bank at Liverpool to ensure they play Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium.
Nothing has been secured yet. Negotiations are continuing and some hope remains for Sydney.
But major footballing stakeholders were on Thursday of the belief that the Queensland deal was close to being done.
Why the deal has started to unravel for the NSW Government depends on who you talk to.
This column was told one of Liverpool’s prospective opponents, Western Sydney Wanderers, baulked at a nominal fee of $200,000 if they were to be the Reds’ opponents – which is understandable given Melbourne Victory is said to have received $700,000 for playing Liverpool at the MCG and Liverpool themselves make more than $10 million out of such one-off matches.
That was met with claims FFA had wanted too much of the pie, insisting they should receive a healthy cut if Liverpool played the A-League All-Stars.
Playing the All-Stars, after all, would ensure a TV ratings bonanza because of its national appeal.
More likely is the fact that Queensland is prepared to reach deeper into their own pockets, and ensure all the profits go to Liverpool.
It means the likes of Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling are now more likely to play against the Roar, with Tourism and Events Queensland prepared to throw a rumoured $5 million at the EPL powerhouse – with all of it going back to Liverpool.
That’s significantly more drinking silver than the $3 million needed to entice Manchester United to ANZ Stadium next year.
Liverpool are also tipped to play at Adelaide Oval against Adelaide United. Again, all proceeds will go directly to Liverpool, which features a team worth more than $800 million.
So where does that leave the ardent footballing fans of Sydney and the Premier State of NSW?
Fret not, we’re assured another headline side will be playing at ANZ Stadium next July.
It’s just unlikely to be Liverpool, which is a great shame given the massive support they have in Australia.
Why brainless Balotelli is just part of Brendan Rodgers’ greater struggle at Liverpool
The Italian grabs the headlines but the Kop boss must know that there are bigger problems at Anfield – starting at the back
There was a growing consensus in late August as Liverpool concluded their summer business by bringing in a certain mercurial forward from AC Milan.
“Mario Balotelli – an absolute no-brainer for £16million.”
They were right, it seems, but little did they know were more accurately talking about the player himself rather than the deal to buy him.
The Italy (well, recently-dropped Italy) forward has become the symbol of Liverpool’s malaise this season. He is, if you hadn’t noticed, no Luis Suarez. In fact, him and Luis Suarez are poles apart in an ever-apparent number of ways but that he is underperforming is not the reason for the Reds’ wobbly start to this campaign – merely one of many contributory and, probably, resultant factors.
As far as last night goes, swapping shirts is probably a stupid idea when your side is getting humped at half-time. Especially when you’re not even down the tunnel. Especially when you know your manager won’t like it. Especially when you know how it could look. Especially when you’ve had a stinker. Again.
Analysis: 5 things we learnt from Liverpool 0-3 Madrid
Fairly typically for Balotelli it was a stupid and naive move, and evidently from the substitution and talk of fines it was a problem for Brendan Rodgers – but it won’t be one of the problems being analysed in the video suite at Melwood on Thursday.
Nope, that should probably begin with a look at that defence. That defence who, despite being strengthened with new arrivals of increasingly eye-popping fees, still can’t keep a clean sheet. Well, one. One in their last twelve games, that is.
Their defending on set pieces, featuring hapless miscommunication and Martin Skrtel’s bid for Slovakia’s Greco-Roman wrestling team, has been at the heart of it. Five of twelve Premier League goals have come this way. As many as three of five in Europe.
It’s not unlike blaming their failure to win the title on Steven Gerrard’s slip and Demba Ba’s goal. Of course it was a pivotal moment, but if they hadn’t shipped goals so easily – including three infamous ones at Selhurst Park against a side who averaged less than a goal a game – then they would have won the whole shebang. Now those heights seem a million miles away.
Brendan Rodgers admitted this week in an interview that last year his side were ahead of schedule in his three-year plan, but in truth the reset button was pressed this summer. The Northern Irishman compromised on his principles to get the best out of Suarez – not that adaptation is a bad thing, but when you build around an individual, removing him from the team affects its structural integrity.
This is a team that needs to feel its way back into confidence and stride, and so much of last year’s swagger was built on knowing they could outgun sides in spite of their poor defence. Now they don’t feel that, a nervousness pervades the back four and the result is the mangling of legs and hapless decision-making we have seen so much of.
They would probably benefit from some protection, and Steven Gerrard, with his powers on the wane, is not providing that anymore. After an impressive enough renaissance in the quarterback (eugh) role last season there is the support for continuing to deploy him there. But what he did so well there was pass the ball long and trigger rapid attacks – while struggling sometimes with the covering play and defensive aspects.
It is like the ‘Brendan Rodgers Gerrard’ is the personification of ‘Brendan Rodgers Liverpool’ right now: at their best and most exciting going forward but a liability at the top level when it comes to the other end.
You started to feel that this had been noticed by Anfield figures when Gerrard popped up in a cameo behind the striker against West Bromwich Albion. He then began the game against QPR there, only to turn in an ineffective performance – not the only one, in honesty – and get moved to somewhere he could make more of an impact.
It’s not the only problem in midfield, mind. Noticeable against Madrid was the lack of bite. The lack of confrontation. Worse Liverpool teams have flown into battle against giants of the European game. It is hard to remember one that was so short on snarl and fight.
Another creeping issue has been Simon Mignolet. It is not exactly a state secret that the Reds’ notorious transfer committee have been looking for a new goalkeeper, and Victor Valdes had seemed the perfect option for them on a free. Yet with that deal seemingly hitting the kerb, the Belgian continues to struggle. His stats are down, his confidence is down and that affects everyone around him – most notably that leaky backline that has benefitted from Mario Balotelli’s diversionary tactics.
Of course, none of these issues in isolation are causing Liverpool to fall way below the standards set last year.
The lack of protection from midfield exposes a fragile defence, who in turn are tested (and breached) more, where an low on confidence Mignolet is put on the spot. And with no superhuman forward to bail them out, the inevitable has happened.
Fortunately for Liverpool there is hope. Brendan Rodgers did sometimes appear early on in his Anfield reign to be something of a fundamentalist, glued to his principles. But the Reds’ embrace of counter-attacking last season, in place of sterile possession, saw him build a team around its strengths and compromise his own strongly-held beliefs. That shows that he is evolving and improving as a manager, but sorting this team out – starting at the back – has to be his next task, and his biggest test.
Many managers create one good team, the ability to regenerate them and improve performances sets the best coaches apart.
(Courtesy of The Mirror)
Ancelotti has now defended the Liverpool striker, insisting other Reds’ players turned in worse displays.
“He wasn’t the worst performer,” Ancelotti told Sky Italia. “Have we completely lost Balotelli? I thought in the first half he was the player who most attacked the space and tried to create problems for us.
“Can he give more? I don’t know, but he wasn’t the worst performer on the evening.”
Rodgers not Balotelli should be taking brunt of Liverpool anger
The manager has ultimate responsibility for the team’s performance, not one player
Liverpool were well and truly schooled by holders Real Madrid in the Champions League, but given the way Brendan Rodgers hauled off Mario Balotelli at half-time, the manager has unfairly deflected fans’ scorn away from himself and onto his striker.
Aside from a rallying first 20 minutes which failed to yield that all important first goal for Liverpool, Cristiano Ronaldo and co ruthlessly exposed the hosts’ deficiencies, putting the match out of sight at 3-0 by the interval.
There the scoreline stayed, leaving the holders home and hosed in Group B, while the one piece of good news on a black night for Liverpool was that point-less minnows Ludogorets had beaten Basel 1-0.
But rather than the Liverpool post-mortem focusing on yet more calamitous defending for two of Real’s goals – now an endemic symptom under Rodgers’ stewardship – the Northern Irishman has created an easy scapegoat in Balotelli.
It’s true that Italian has now created a rod due to his ill-advised shirt-swapping actions at the break, but he should still have been on the pitch when the Reds ran back out for the second 45.
Despite a poor decision not to play in Raheem Sterling early on and another notably errant pass when misreading the same player’s movement, it was actually one of Balotelli’s brighter displays for his new club.
His penetrating run down the right and pinpoint cut-back to Joe Allen shortly before half-time was particularly encouraging and could easily have provided Liverpool with a lifeline.
As it was, Rodgers chose to hook his best available striker off for ‘tactical’ reasons and in doing so risked widening the growing cracks in their relationship and unduly made Balotelli the fall-guy for his bungling defence.
Rodgers has frequently told the press that defensive frailties are being addressed on the training pitch, yet every time a ball is delivered into Simon Mignolet’s box it’s as if someone hits the big red button labelled panic.
The blame is a collective one on the defensive personnel, not just Mignolet’s, but ultimately the way they are instructed to deal with such basic defending falls on the coaching staff and the manager.
Questions over Rodgers’ recruitment policy in such a critical area remain and no matter whom he points the finger at, Liverpool will always be vulnerable to defeat until they sort out the defence.