Friday, 30 December 2011

Liverpool - What do they need?

By Lee Jaundrell   30/12/11

In a couple of days the transfer window opens, and all sides have the chance to improve their teams, put right what’s going wrong. You hear from managers that January is a bad time to buy players, Chelsea bought Torres last January which has been an undoubted failure, and also bought Sideshow Bob (Bob would be much better than David Luiz). 
Liverpool bought Suarez and Carroll. Up to a point Suarez has been a brilliant success, he is a superb talent always involved in the game, loved by the fans, but whose finishing could be better. He is currently banned for the game against Newcastle, and is about to be banned for a further 8 games for his confrontation with Evra (plenty has been written elsewhere which I’m unqualified to really add to). Suarez is no good to anyone sat on the bench. Carroll, to me, has been a failure, and not lived up to what was expected of a big money signing. But that could of been so much different if his last minute efforts against Man City and Blackburn had not been impressively saved by Hart and Bunn respectively.  
Liverpool are currently 6th in the league, just 3 points behind Chelsea in 4th place. They would be 4th now if Carroll’s late efforts against Man City & Blackburn hit the back of the net. Liverpool would be more than happy with 4th place at the end of the season, which they are very much in the hunt for, but something isn’t quite right. The summer signings haven’t quite hit off. Enrique has been excellent at left back, possibly the best player in the league at that position at the moment. Adam has been inconsistent so far, for every good game (Chelsea away) there are two poor games (Swansea & Blackburn at home). Downing has generally been poor, for a player who was bought for his creativity, he hasn’t had one assist or one goal this season. Henderson has been moved around the pitch by Dalglish, sometimes wide, sometimes central. His best position is probably attacking centre midfield, which he has shown flashes of good play, he is hard working but sometimes as is normal for young players he goes missing. 
Other players haven’t contributed what they should, Gerrard has been injured, while Kuyt, who would normally contribute 10 - 12 goals a season, hasn’t got any in league this season. Fortunately the defence has been impeccable, and the foursome of Enrique, Agger, Skrtel and Johnson are as good as anything around. The team are creating chances, apart from poor performances away to Tottenham and at home to Swansea, Liverpool could argue they had enough chances to win all the other games. They have produced more crosses than any other team, and hit the woodwork more than anyone else. So have they been unlucky? Or is there something fundamentally wrong? What does the team need to improve and can this be done in January.
If only Ian Rush was 25 years younger. With the number of chances created and crosses provided, is it only an out and out goalscorer needed? This would mean playing 4-4-2, with a goalscorer playing alongside Suarez. But with Lucas missing for the season, defensively this would underman the central areas, unless the wide players tucked in and the full backs provided the width. Liverpool has performed well in recent years with Torres up front  on his own, supported by 3 attacking players (generally Gerrard, Kuyt and A.N Other). Could Suarez drop deeper, solidify midfield, while provide creativity in the final third. Is he capable of that position?
With Lucas missing for the remainder of the season, a defensive midfielder would be preferable in this window. Spearing is ok, but not top class. If the Champions League is a genuine target, 2 from Adam, Spearing, Gerrard and Henderson is not strong or disciplined enough for me. It will be interesting if Liverpool show an interest in Tiote of Newcastle. Newcastle don’t need to sell, but as the Carroll deal showed money speaks volumes.
Downing and Kuyt have underperformed this season, Henderson though showing willing is not suited to playing wide. While Maxi and Bellamy have played well, they have been underused, though they are both 30+ and may not be able to perform to high standards week in week out. Is a new wide player needed? Or will the width be provided by the excellent Enrique and Johnson from fullback. A new strong defensive midfielder would release these two more, meaning a wide player not as necessary as a holding midfielder.
The next few weeks will be interesting from Liverpool’s point of view. They have played well in patches, created lots of chances but not always been ruthless enough. Major surgery of the team isn’t needed, but the odd tweak, and maybe 1 or 2 key signings could push them forward in a very open race for Champions League places. Do the owners want to make that push now? Are there suitable players available?

Monday, 12 December 2011

Luis Suarez - The Tony Soprano of Football

By Lee Jaundrell   12/12/11
Tony Soprano really isn’t very likeable. He is a gangster mafioso who kills people, cheats on his wife and is extremely (as Daffy Duck would say) despicable. But don’t ya just love him!?
Jimmy McNulty is a character from The Wire, he is ‘good police’, who drinks, cheats on various women, and even, to keep police funding up, fakes a serial killer who attacks homeless people. But don’t ya just love him!?
Luis Suarez is a footballer for Liverpool, who allegedly cheats by diving,  who may be racist, though probably not, and was insulting towards Fulham fans. But don’t ya just love him!?
Suarez is the bad guy that you’re actually routing for (though I am biased). He has cheated Ghana out of the World Cup, and bit an opponent in Holland before he even arrived in England. But right now, he is the most watchable player playing in the Premier League and possible the world. He is always involved, continuously on the move, trying to win at all costs, both legally and by the Dick Dastardly rule book. 
He gave a performance against Q.P.R on Saturday which was amazing, turning and twisting everywhere, creating chances, shooting on goal, how he came away with only 1 goal and no assists is bewildering, though if he could finish he would already be on 30 goals for the season and Liverpool would be riding much higher in the league. He has given this type of performance numerous times this season without due reward. One such performance came for Uruguay against Chile where he scored 4 goals, and could have scored 10, there will be games like that this season, and I pity the opponent it comes against.
There are currently two FA charges against him, one of racism towards an opponent, and the other for an insulting gesture towards fans. Liverpool fans will tell you it’s a witch hunt, while opposing fans will want him banned for their game against him. Now I don’t condone double standards but it really would be a shame if Suarez was banned for several games, as everyone loves a good villain, a good bad guy, a Tony Soprano, a Jimmy McNulty. The racism charge is fraught with enough language difficulties and nuances that it would be difficult for the charge to be upheld by the FA, though the insulting gesture charge will end with a ban, and that would be a bad thing for everyone, because as I said he is the most watchable player around. 
You wouldn’t watch The Sopranos without Tony, and The Wire without McNulty would just be like watching Treme! English football would be much less enjoyable without Luis Suarez.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Newcastle!?!.... Harry Hindsight is Back and Living Right Here.

By Lee Jaundrell   4/11/11
Where were you in August? When there was all the doom and gloom around Newcastle. They had sold Andy Carroll a few months earlier, and sold key players Joey Barton, Kevin Nolan and Jose Enrique in the summer and did not replace them. You, yes you sat there, you were saying “RELEGATION FOR NEWCASTLE”.
But, in the summer Newcastle added the classy Yohan Cabaye to compliment the excellent Chiek Tiote in midfield. A midfield which already consisted of the solid and consistent Jonas Gutierrez. On the other wing Gabriel Obertan has looked an excellent signing from Man Utd, showing pace, directness and a clinical presence when in good positions. In the wings for a starting place on the wing (see what I did there?) is Hatem Ben Arfa, slowly coming back from his horrendous injury, and the injury prone Sylvain Marveaux, who apparently (I haven’t seen him play much) is quick, skillful and a good passer. That barring injuries is a decent midfield, and is proving so. 
Up front they bought Demba Ba for free, yes they have changed strikers for a profit of £35 million. Ba scored roughly a goal every other game while playing half a season at bottom of the table, relegated West Ham. He is scoring hat-tricks now almost as quickly as Lionel Messi (well 2 to Messi’s 4 this season). Along side Ba is the utter rubbish Leon Best. When I say utter rubbish, I mean I always thought he was a championship player at best (that’s an accidental pun!), but this season, he is scoring goals, creating goals, working hard and causing a general nuisance of himself.
They also have an experienced manager, one who has had reasonable success, Alan Pardew did after all come within a Steven Gerrard special of winning the FA Cup with West Ham, after taking them to promotion from the Championship. He also did decent jobs at Reading and Southampton. What struck me, was how well organised they were as a unit against Stoke on Monday night, the back four being very tight, and if they didn’t win the first ball coming into the box they crtainly won the vast majority of the second balls. This is credit to Pardew and his team. They remind me a little of Liverpool under Gerard Houllier, organised two banks of four, tough to get in behind, and pace in attack on the break.
Now, I don’t want to sound like Harry Hindsight, but I probably will. Newcastle were predicted by all and sundry to struggle this season. They were given an insulting 37 points start on the Premiership Handicap Market, which I helped myself to at 16/1. They are currently top of the league in this market, a point clear of Norwich, and 25 points ahead of Man City. It is still early days, if there is one problem for the Toon, it is their strength in depth. Guthrie played instead of Tiote on Monday night, and equipped himself well, but you wouldn’t want him playing there for 15 to 20 games. If Ba gets injured, the Ameobis will get a game. But, with Newcastle sitting in the top 4, the Carroll money still in the bank, maybe they will spend in January, on a striker, a midfielder and maybe a right back. If they do, they could just hang around near the top for a very long time.
Newcastle take on Everton at lunchtime today, it won’t be a game for the purists. Two pragmatic teams, who will both think about keeping it tight to begin with. The game could go either way, Everton could easily come away with a slender victory, and if they do it’s how Newcastle react to a defeat that could decide their season. Whether they whither away to a safe mid-table position, or whether they keep up a top 4 challenge. 
They have already passed a number of tests this season, as we know, the litmus test of any team or player is, can they do it on a cold wet night at the Britannia, and the answer in Newcastle’s case is a resounding yes.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Carroll or No Carroll - That Really Is THE Question

By Lee Jaundrell   13/10/11
Saturday lunchtime Liverpool will take on Man Utd in what is still THE fixture of the English football calendar. The two most successful sides in the game up against each other for the first time this season. A rampant free scoring Man Utd against a resurgent Liverpool. It promises to be an excellent encounter, but the main question that puzzles me is whether Andy Carroll should, would or could play.
Big old Andy Carroll, a guy who promised so much rampaging through defenses for Newcastle like some big, old rampaging thing. But is he all that? Was his performances a myth, or was that Newcastle team just designed to bring the best out of him?
He has scored a few goals since arriving at Liverpool, and put in a couple of good performances, most notably against Man City last season with a couple of excellent goals which were typical of his time with the Geordies, and also at home to Wolves a couple of weeks ago, when his performance really deserved a goal. He also scored the important first goal against local rivals Everton, which could just be the catalyst to better things.
These performances and goals have so far been few and far between. Why is that? Liverpool paid an enormous amount of money for him (though in the context of selling Torres and making £15million it isn’t quite as bad as it seems), and you expect there to be a plan to incorporate Carroll’s talents. He is strong, good in the air, a cracking shot especially with his left foot, and with a bit of coaching his hold up play will become genuinely excellent. So why has it not happened for the Geordie hero?
Liverpool’s football has flowed much better when Carroll has not been on the pitch. A combination of Suarez, Kuyt, Maxi, Downing and before he left, Meireles buzzed with movement and intent. Is the problem for Carroll that Suarez is just so bloody brilliant, that the team demands to be built around him rather than Carroll? And Suarez is that good. He dominates games, with his movement, skill, touch and sheer effort, and needs to be involved continuously. 
Dalglish has a real dilemma. Does he persevere with Carroll and Suarez together, with the long term goal that the more they play together the better the combination becomes. Or does he play Suarez up front on his own, with Kuyt, Gerrard and Downing behind, which at the moment would give the team a much more balanced threatening appeal.
This dilemma comes to a head this weekend, Liverpool play their biggest game of the season, a win will put them just 3 points behind their rivals from up the East Lancs road.  At around 11.45am on Saturday we will know the answer, and Dalglish’s selection will tell us all a lot more about the direction his Liverpool team is heading.
Carroll or no Carroll, that is the question.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Say ‘NO’ To The International Break

By Lee Jaundrell   4/10/11
I love football, I love Premier League football and I really love Liverpool fc, and I have to wait 2 weeks for our next game. Liverpool have just won their last 2 games, against Wolves and away to Everton, our form is decent and maybe we could go on a run. Our next game is at home to our biggest rivals Man Utd. This International break is an inconvenience to the players and an inconvenience to us fans.
Why can’t all international football be played at the end of the season?
Surely this would benefit everyone, and for a number of reasons. Firstly, from an England point of view, since the poor performance in the World Cup last year, numerous fans have fallen out of love with the national team. Capello’s tactics along with several key players underperforming have left fans disaffected. A qualifying tournament every odd numbered year, with 6 to 8 games played over a 4 to 5 week period in May/June would bring international football to the forefront of everyone’s minds. It would allow managers time to get their players to gel as a team, and hopefully produce better football.
Secondly, injuries would affect the national teams and not their clubs. Liverpool over the years have suffered more than most. I remember John Barnes rupturing his achilles in 1992 playing for England, and was out for 6 months, Jamie Redknapp always seemed to get injured playing for England, Steven Gerrard recently messed up his groin in an England game which he is just coming back from, and Fernando Torres got injured 3 or 4 times while away with Spain. Obviously major injuries affect everyone, but the odd strained calf or pulled hamstring would not affect the clubs paying the players wages. There's nothing more annoying than your star player or players coming back from international duty injured.
Thirdly, and most importantly, the Premier League season would not be interrupted. I don’t know about you but I’m bored and it’s only Tuesday. I’ll have to watch rugby and other sports at the weekend and I may even have to talk to the wife.
While we’re changing international football, we should change the European Qualifying format. There are just too many games. Too many pointless games. What do Andorra, San Marino etc. gain from being thrashed every match? A 2-0 defeat for San Marino against, say, Austria would be treated as a victory. Surely, San Marino would gain more from a ‘competitive’ match against Andorra, than 8 games losing 5-0 in each. San Marino’s current record in qualifying for 2012 Euro is played 9, lost 9, scored 0, conceded 49.
24 teams will take part in the 2016 European Championship, bear with me while I explain how I think the qualifying should work;-
The hosts France qualify, well as hosts.
Leaving 23 places. There are 52 teams wanting to qualify, and I propose breaking this up into 11 groups of 4, with 8 teams missing out. Therefore, first and second in each group qualifies and the best third place. The teams that finish forth (last) in each group would have to enter a preliminary qualifying round against the 8 teams who missed out to gain entry to the qualifying for the next major tournament.
The 8 teams missing out will be the worst performing teams in the previous qualifying tournament, currently the 8 worst teams are;- Andorra, Cyprus, Faroe Islands, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg, Malta, San Marino and (sorry) Wales.
This leaves every team a 6 match qualifying tournament, which should be played in a 4/5 week period at the end of the season after a couple of friendlies as preparation.
The Premier League season wouldn’t be interrupted, and interest at the end of the season for international football would be immense compared with fans reaction towards the current qualifying tournament.

'Football is a simple game complicated by people who should know better' Bill Shankly

Monday, 3 October 2011

Four Four F*****g Two

By Lee Jaundrell   3/10/11
Before I start rambling about football tactics, I would just like say that I am not really qualified to write about tactics, I am not Jonathan Wilson of the Guardian and author of various books nor am I Zonal Marking of In fact, the following analysis will most likely be a load of tosh not worth the paper err Internet thingy it’s written on. And now that I have lowered your expectations, I shall begin;-
4-4-2 used to be the default tactic of pretty much every team in England, nowadays the most common formation is 4-2-3-1, but are we heading back to the old fashioned 4-4-2? A number of Premier League sides have played 4-4-2 this season, from Man Utd at the top of the league to Bolton at the bottom. 
Man Utd have obviously done well so far this season, playing Young & Nani either side of Anderson & Fletcher/Cleveley in a 4 man midfield with Rooney up front with either Hernandez or Wellbeck. Going forward it has been very successful but defensively they haven’t been as strong as recent years, although this could have something to do with Vidic being missing and Ferdinand coming to the end of his playing days. 
Liverpool have varied their tactics and formation this season and last, but with Carroll and Suarez so expensively put together, it looks likely that 4-4-2 will be the future of this reds team. Liverpool’s form has been indifferent, so far, with a poor second half against (a 4-4-2) Wolves and also a shocking performance away to (a 4-4-2) Tottenham, but they are currently on target to finish in the top 4.
Also playing 4-4-2 is Tottenham who now they have Parker and Adebayor in their team have performed very well and look very likely to carry on this way having beaten their two main rivals (Arsenal and Liverpool) for a Champions League spot. 
But Bolton, accepting their difficult start, have underperformed, and West Brom having played very well with a 5 man midfield and 1 up front under Hodgson (and Di Matteo) last season, have struggled this season with the addition of, the very good, Shane Long playing Hodgson’s two banks of 4 and 2 up top.
Will this be the norm as this season goes on? Man Utd have given up plenty of chances to the opposition, but have the players to change their tactics. Liverpool haven’t dominated games as they would of liked, and also have a strong squad this year with options to revert back to 4-2-3-1. Bolton and West Brom don’t have as many options to change things. Once the excellent Stuart Holden comes back from his injuries Bolton’s midfield is strengthened, while West Brom have tried Odemwingie wide in a midfield 5 away to Everton in the Carling Cup and probably played some of their best football so far this season.
It would appear that 4-4-2 isn’t dead just yet......

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Jordan Henderson - Is he all that?

By Lee Jaundrell   1/10/11
When I first read Liverpool were likely to be signing Jordan Henderson for around £16million, I wouldn’t say I was unimpressed rather I was kind of indifferent. He was a player I had heard of, I player I knew I had seen play when watching Sunderland matches, but I couldn’t really say what kind of player he was. He never stood out in the games I saw. The thing I hear most about Henderson is that he goes missing, and I can’t disagree with that view.
I tried to take more notice of him during the Under 21 tournament in the summer, but found myself drifting away from actually watching him, and yes he went missing. He is still young, turned 21 in the summer, and has two full Premier League seasons in the bag. Also, Kenny Dalglish and Damien Comolli both know more about football than I do, so I have to give young Jordan a chance.
Having now seen him play several times in the red shirt of Liverpool, I can say the lad has ability. He has a good touch, plays with his head up, and has plenty of energy. He scored a quality goal against Bolton, with his wrong foot, and although he missed a couple of chances when through on goal against Stoke, he had the pace, energy and awareness to make the run and get himself in the position to score. Yet the majority of Liverpool fans would have Dirk Kuyt in the team instead.
At 21 does Henderson just need time in the team, another season playing 30 odd games at this level, helping him develop into the player Dalglish obviously believes he can become. There are plenty of examples of players taking time to settle in top teams, some taking half a season, such has Evra and Vidic, or even a full season such as Pires at Arsenal. Looking closer to home a good example of a player taking time to settle is Liverpool’s very own Lucas Leiva, who was a target for the boo boys for a number of seasons, before finally looking very adept last year, and winning the supporter’s player of the season award.
Lucas came out in defence of Henderson recently saying,"I don't blame the young players because I have been in their position for a few years," the Brazilian said. "He is English and has already adapted to the Premier League.
"But to change your club and move to a big place like Liverpool is difficult. I think he is playing well. He will get confidence when he gets more minutes and understands the role he needs to do more.
"We just have to keep encouraging him and give him the confidence to keep improving."
Also, would Henderson get more time to adapt, from the fans, if he had been born in Bootle, and come through the Liverpool ranks. The likes of Jay Spearing and Martin Kelly have not been criticised in their fledgling careers to the extent that Henderson has been in just a few games.
In conclusion, Henderson obviously has plenty of qualities, yes he goes missing, but he is still young and learning the game. He will get the best coaching possible at Liverpool, and us fans must put our trust in Kenny Dalglish and get behind the lad, who could just possibly become a Liverpool great, or at least a very good dependable player for years to come, just like Lucas Lieva. A good place to start would be at Goodison Park today.

Friday, 30 September 2011

The 10 Best Premier League Players Right Now

By Lee Jaundrell   30/9/11

An unbiased view (well I tried to be unbiased)
No.10 - Yohan Cabaye - Newcastle
When everyone predicted a tough start, the former captain of the French Champions settled everything down and help move the geordies into the top 4. I’d have him in my team ahead of Nolan or Barton any day.
No. 9 - Edin Dzeko - Man City
Did you see the 4 goals against Spurs?
No. 8 - Nani - Man Utd
A bit of a pansy but sure knows how to light up a game with skill, flair and finishing ability
No. 7 - Ramires - Chelsea
A slow start to his Chelsea career last season, but looks every inch a Brazilian international now. Hard working box to box midfielder who is scoring his fair share of goals too.
No. 6 - Sergio Aguero - Man City
Scoring goals for fun in the new look attacking Man City team, and looking worth every penny of the £38million they paid for him. An off game against Bayern keeps him out of the top 5
No. 5 - Ashley Young - Man Utd
Young has fitted straight into Man Utd. He looked a good player at Villa, but looks a great player at Utd, linking brilliantly with Rooney.
No. 4 - Vincent Komany - Man City
Unsung hero (though not to me) of Man City’s great start to the season, a rock in their defence. The guy is achieving everything Football Manager 05 predicted for him.
No. 3 - Luis Suarez - Liverpool
Every Liverpool fan I know would have him at number 1, and they wouldn’t swap him for any other player in the world with the exception of Messi. The guy is just mental. An example of Suarez’s character can be epitomised by one moment in the game against Bolton, leading 3-0 the game done and dusted, Jaaskelainen picked up what looked to be a back pass. Suarez claimed profusely to the referee, the linesman, to everyone he could, like it was the final minute of a World Cup final poised at 0-0, and the Liverpool fans loved him for it.
No. 2 - Wayne Rooney - Man Utd
Held off from the number 1 spot due to currently being injured, though a return is imminent. Rooney is in the form of his life, scoring goals for fun, and dominating every opposition he is coming up against. This isn’t a vintage Man Utd team around him, which makes his achievements so far this season even more remarkable. 
No. 1 - David Silva - Man City
Just watch him, just watch him play football. The movement, the passing, the vision. He is delight to watch and I would presume a delight to play with. How good is the Spain midfield if this gem of a player isn’t guaranteed a place in their starting line up?
He is scoring goals, he is creating goals, and he is a constant menace. The way he floats across the field, always looking for space between the opposition’s defence and midfield is astounding, head up searching for that little pass, or a sway of the hips to open up a shooting chance for himself. Class
And the worst... Carlos Tevez - Man City
No matter how good a player you are when you’re on the pitch, you’re no better than me (I’m not even good enough to be described as a pub player) when you’re sat on the bench refusing to play.