Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Mark Lawrenson: Results Must Ensure The Laughter Is Put To Bed

Mark Lawrenson got a depressing snapshot of the turmoil Liverpool are in at the JJB Stadium on Saturday. Lawrenson was in the Press room before the Wigan v Chelsea tie and the half-time score flashed up from Anfield – Liverpool 2 Havant & Waterlooville 2. Cue uproarious laughter.

He can’t ever remember Liverpool being a laughing stock, certainly not to the extent they are at the moment. It encapsulates just how much events off the field have made the club look and how much they need to be sorted out and quickly.

But more importantly, things on the field have to become the priority now, if only to avoid more embarrassing scorelines than we saw after the first 45 minutes of that FA Cup tie on Saturday. And it’s now down to Rafael Benitez to ensure that happens.

Benitez is probably no more convinced than Lawrenson is about what Tom Hicks said over the weekend. It’s all very well the American giving his backing but after the Jurgen Klinsmann episode, Benitez knows he can take that with a pinch of salt.

As for saying he wants him there for another two years, well who’s to say Hicks will still be there? No matter what he or George Gillett says (not that the latter is saying much of anything at the moment!) the Dubai group aren’t going to go away. And Lawrenson think it’s safe to say who the supporters will want in charge of their club when push comes to shove and concrete offers start appearing on the table.

So Lawrenson think the off-field uncertainly will rumble on for some time yet. But the difference this time is, Benitez and his players can’t let it affect them. They just have to accept it and get on with the business of getting the results back on track once again. The manager has to get his head down, pick his best team and really get this season back on the rails before Liverpool fall off them completely.

No wins in the league since Boxing Day isn’t good enough and things in the boardroom will hardly settle down if Champions League money isn’t guaranteed for next season. That fight for the top four is suddenly looking far more interesting than Liverpool ever wanted it to. It all needs to be put right and fast, starting tomorrow night at West Ham. Three points there will be the ideal confidence boost, especially with Sunderland to come to Anfield on Saturday.

And the FA Cup has also thrown up a genuine chance of a trophy. The draw on Monday has given Liverpool another home game against lower-league opposition and a great opportunity to get to the quarter-finals. Take into account the fact that one of Arsenal and Manchester United has to go in the next round and it’s suddenly opening up nicely.

If it all pans out successfully then Liverpool will be making headlines for the football they are playing – that’s the way it’s always been and it doesn’t seem right that they are in the news for anything else. That’s why a good run of results is now the immediate priority. Achieve this, and people will soon be laughing on the other side of their faces.

John Arne Riise Stays At Liverpool

John Arne Riise will not be joining the Kevin Keegan revolution at Newcastle.

The Liverpool defender has been linked with both Newcastle and Aston Villa during the January transfer window but the Norweigan's agent Jan Kvalheim insists his client will not move.

"There has been a lot of speculation, but Riise is not leaving Anfield," he said.

"He still has one-and-a-half years left on his contract."

Riise, 27, is in his seventh year on Merseyside but has increasingly found himself on the sidelines this season.

Lucas: Rafa Rant Turned Things Around

Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva has explained that Rafa Benitez read the riot act to his players during half-time of their FA Cup clash with Havant and Waterlooville on Saturday, and that it worked.

The Reds went in at the break being held 2-2 by the Conference South side at Anfield, with the home fans and manager hardly believing what they were seeing.

The Premiership giants eventually fought their way to a 5-2 victory, but all the plaudits went to the non-league side.

Brazilian midfielder Lucas began the Reds fight back in the first half with a well taken equaliser. But the 2006 signing from Gremio revealed that Rafa Benitez gave the players a rocket at the interval back in the dressing room.

"Rafa said a lot of hard things to us at half-time and told us clearly that we had to improve, because we had conceded goals too easily" Lucas told the Daily Mirror.

"We knew we had to win the game because we are in the top division and they are five divisions below us. We didn't play well enough in the first half.

"The manager told us that. He told us some hard words to make us understand we had to improve and not make any more mistakes.

"We know the first half wasn't good enough, but at least in the second we played much better and we won, so now we must prepare for the next one."

That next test is another home tie in the fifth round against Barnsley.

Juve To Go For Mascherano In The Summer

Juventus are considering trying to sign Javier Mascherano in the summer, according to Tuttosport.

The 23-year-old is undoubtedly one of the best defensive midfielders in world football, however it seems very likely that he will be leaving current club Liverpool at the end of the season.

Mascherano's contract is owned by the international fund of investors, Media Sports Investments (M.S.I), who are demanding a reported €27m for their client to stay at Liverpool permanently.

The Anfield club's owners Tom Hicks and George Gillet are refusing to pay such a sum, thus making it inevitable that the player will leave the club.

Tuttosport claims that Juve are weighing up their options, and may present an offer ahead of this summer.

Head of M.S.I, Kia Joorabchian, has put a starting price on offers at €20m, however the dynamics of the market will determine how high the eventual transfer fee will be.

Juventus have identified their midfield department as the area that most needs strengthening.

The signing of Momo Sissoko, also of Liverpool, is set to be announced any hour soon. The Malian international was in Turin on Sunday and Monday, and there are just a few minor details that need to be concluded before the deal becomes official.

A drawback to the Sissoko move for Juventus is that there are some reports that suggest that Liverpool may in fact use the €13m transfer fee they receive in order to meet M.S.I’s demands to sign Mascherano permanently.

Torres Reveals Rafa Relief

Spanish striker Fernando Torres has revealed that he and the rest of the Liverpool players are relieved that boss Rafa Benitez will be staying with the club following a period of uncertainty.

The summer signing from Atletico Madrid also admitted that he may have considered his own position had Benitez left the club.

Weeks of uncertainty reigned at Anfield following an alleged disagreement over philosophy between Benitez and the club’s American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillette.

With the problems now reportedly in the past, Torres has revealed his personal relief that the situation has been cleared up satisfactorily.

"I could not imagine a Liverpool without Rafael Benitez” Torres said.

“I do not know what would happen if he left.

"It is not just the Spanish players who were worried for Rafa.

"The manager has signed many players and has stood by them all. We hoped that everything would be resolved in the best way possible for him and the club - that is what we all wanted."