Friday, November 07, 2008

Liverpool FC Boss Backs Misfiring Robbie Keane

Rafael Benitez is backing Robbie Keane to rediscover the luck in front of goal that his hard work deserves.

The Liverpool manager could be faced with a selection dilemma tomorrow if Fernando Torres declares himself fit for the Premier League visit of West Brom.

If Benitez welcomes Torres back into the fold following his hamstring injury, a decision to go with two central strikers is likely to see Keane retain his place.

The Irishman has not completed a full 90 minutes for the Reds since the 2-1 win over Manchester United on September 13, but he has featured in all 12 Liverpool games since, either being taken off or used as a substitute.

And his only two goals since his £20m summer move from Spurs have come in Champions League group games as he endures a frustrating wait to open his Premier League account.

However, Benitez feels Keane can’t be judged solely on goals and has no qualms about his contribution to the team.

“Robbie is working really hard,” said the Spaniard despite Keane’s removal for David Ngog 20 minutes from the end of the 1-1 Champions League draw with Atletico Madrid at Anfield on Tuesday.

“With strikers, people talk about goals but sometimes it depends on luck, positioning and good delivery.

“Sometimes you want to change things when you are creating chances, in the hope the other strikers can have a bit more luck.”

Torres’ return is yet to be confirmed as the forward continues to wait until he is fully fit before making his comeback.

The original prognosis of the hamstring injury he sustained playing for Spain last month was four games, but Torres has subsequently missed another two, the midweek meeting with former club Atletico and Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Tottenham.

And captain Steven Gerrard is in no doubt about how urgent the top scorer’s return to the side will be in light of the struggles of the past week.

He said: “Hopefully Fernando will be ready come the weekend, we have missed him. He has been training all week and things look hopeful.

“We need to take three points against West Brom, but last week has been our only defeat this season and we are more than happy with the way the season has gone.”

Meanwhile, Andrea Dossena has admitted that he needs to improve his game in order to pressurise Fabio Aurelio for the Liverpool left-back slot.

Aurelio’s time at Anfield has been plagued by injury but he has edged ahead in the race to be John Arne Riise’s long-term replacement since he came back into the side at the start of the season.

He played a key role in the 1-0 win at Chelsea two weeks ago but Dossena returned to the side last Saturday for the loss to Spurs before giving way to Aurelio again in midweek.

“I am not fully happy with my level,” said the £7m summer signing from Udinese. “With Fabio in my position the manager has the option of a player more in tune with the team right now.

“I am learning all the time. I knew coming to Liverpool and a new league would improve me as player and I knew that John Arne Riise was leaving and I would have the chance to play.

“But I also knew that in Fabio I had excellent competition for my position. It’s not a rivalry as such, it is merely friendly competition. He’s a great guy and a great player and having him here will help me.”

Our Full Backs Are Not Up To Standard

Before Wednesday night’s game there was a real sense that Liverpool would come out wanting to kick the cat after losing to Spurs at the weekend.

But it never really happened for us against Atletico Madrid.

Of course, Steven Gerrard has gone and got us out of jail in the dying seconds and as we all know it’s not for the first time.

Okay, so the penalty was a tad controversial but while the Madrid players protested vigorously, Stevie kept his cool brilliantly and hammered it unerringly into the Kop end. So for me he deserves enormous credit yet again for staying focused when he could so easily have been distracted by the rumpus going on around him.

But there were a couple of things in particular which struck me about the side last night and which are niggling causes for concern, I feel.

Firstly, I remain worried that our full backs are not showing up to the standards we expect to see at Anfield.

First and foremost defenders have got to be able to defend. But for Madrid’s goal Fabio Aurelio found himself caught upfield and he never recovered the ground as Madrid countered quickly.

In fact it was Albert Riera – a left winger – who tracked back to try and block the attack.

Aurelio and Andrea Dossena are clearly vying for the left back slot at Anfield yet it’s clear neither have convinced Rafa Benitez. And I can understand the reasons for that.

I’m afraid I still have doubts too about Alvaro Arbeloa. He’s tidy enough at times but when you think of some of the great right backs we’ve had at Anfield – the names of Chris Lawler and Phil Neal spring to mind – well, let’s just say he’s got a lot to live up to.

Those two were famous not just for being top defenders, but for adding an incredible number of goals too.

The other big concern is that without Torres, we look like we’re struggling to get goals.

Robbie Keane works his socks off but isn’t a target man and will be disappointed he isn’t getting on the score sheet more regularly.

Up front I wonder whether we do, Torres aside, have an out and out striking alternative of the quality we need.

That said, we kept battling away on Wednesday night.

Madrid played with typical European style, sitting deep and taking us on in their own half, which made space difficult to find and chances hard to come by.

Thankfully, when you’ve got the thrust of your captain at hand, there’s always hope.

Credit him and Liverpool for, once again, showing they never know they are beaten. But we can do much better.

Rafa Benitez now has a few clear days to work with the first team squad ahead of another home game and it will be valuable time.

It looks like Torres will be back for the visit of West Brom on Saturday evening and that’s what we all want to see.

There’ll still be a sense of frustration after the Tottenham defeat and the failure to win the Champions League group at Anfield last night.

So while we didn’t quite get it out of the system against Atletico, the visit of the Baggies will give us another chance. This time I expect us to take it.

An emphatic victory and three points safely acquired is what we need right now.

Back to winning ways, please boys!

Supporters Wants George Gillett And Tom Hanks To Sell Them Liverpool

Liverpool co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks have been urged to sell the club to supporters.

The ShareLiverpoolFC Group, who are attempting to recruit 100,000 shareholders to buy the club and take it into the ownership of the fans, has written an open letter to Gillett and Hicks pleading with them to sell their respective stakes to the fans.

Gillett and Hicks continue to deny that they are looking to sell Liverpool but the pair were reported last month to have engaged Merrill Lynch, the investment bank, to find a buyer.

While the latest development does not represent a concrete offer, it is a sign that the group, which is supported by John Aldridge among others, is serious in their intentions.

However, despite their clear ambition it remains unlikely the group could raise the £600million needed to match the Americans' asking price.

The letter, published on The Times website, reads: 'We understand you have decided to relinquish your ownership of Liverpool FC and are actively looking for a buyer. Along with the vast majority of Liverpool fans, we agree with your decision to withdraw.
'We would like to buy the club on behalf of the fans, and invite you to sit down with us to agree a deal.We are confident that if you're willing to sell to us for a fair price, we would have sufficient backing [either from the fans alone, or with a suitable partner].'

It continued: 'We want the club we love run solely in the best interests of a successful team, the fans and the community.

'We believe we represent a real opportunity for both of you to bring to an end a troubled period of ownership; an 'exit strategy' which would lead to admiration and respect from many.
'Doing the honourable thing and selling the club to the fans would return it to the values that made it the most successful football club in England and one of the best supported in the world.

'We'd also like you to be able to leave with dignity. George, in an interview last March, you said, "our goal from the beginning was to add … to the lustre [of Liverpool FC]", at this point you can only achieve this by doing the right thing – and that is to offer the club to the fans.'

Liverpool Must Seek Foreign Cash To Compete

A former Liverpool player said on Thursday the Premier League club should target foreign investors for cash to compete with rivals Manchester United.

"For Liverpool and the supporters it really doesn't matter who the owners are," Hansen told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference in Dubai on Thursday. "They're only interested in financing of new players and how well it (the team) is doing."

"If the Americans haven't got the money then if DIC came in and bought it and guaranteed a new stadium then that would be great," the former defender said in reference to Dubai International Capital, a state agency of the Gulf emirate.

DIC was outbid by Americans George Gillett and Tom Hicks when the Moores family sold the Merseyside club for 219 million pounds ($348.1 million) in 2007.

DIC in September ruled out a fresh bid for Liverpool or other clubs after mounting speculation that Gulf Arab investors would look to emulate an Abu Dhabi-based group that took over Manchester City on Sept. 1 by buying into British teams.

"If you are a Manchester City supporter you're in dream land ... City have been in the doldrums for such a long time ... now with the transfer window in January, you don't know what's going to happen. They might buy the world."

Hansen said the most important focus for Liverpool was funding a new stadium. "You cannot compete with Manchester United if they've got 76,000 (seats) and we've only got 44,000."

Another Dubai state firm, Zabeel Investments, in October called off its proposed takeover of Charlton Athletic, which plays in the English Championship (second division).

In 2007 Zabeel tried to buy Liverpool.

Boss Benitez To Open Talks On New Contract

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is to meet with the club's owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks in the next week to discuss a contract extension.

The Spaniard's relationship with the two Americans has not always been good and has often resulted in him being linked with other clubs in the last couple of years, significantly Real Madrid.

However, they appear to have patched up their differences in recent months and with the club having their best start to a Premier League season, moves are afoot to keep Benitez at Anfield.

'I received a phone call from Tom Hicks on behalf of George Gillett also. They are talking about a meeting with my advisors and a contract extension. This is very positive news,' he told the club's website,

'We decided to meet in the next week and now my advisors are in contact with them. We haven't spoken about the length of the contract but we talked and we all want to find a solution as soon as possible.

'For me it's easy. I want to stay here - I am where I want to be. It's very simple.'

Benitez signed a new four-year contract in June 2006 but the club are keen to secure his services on a longer deal - and the manager is equally eager to extend his stay.

'My family and I know how good the fans have been with us. The club is going forward and we have the new stadium project. There are a lot of positive things," he added.

'I want to stay here for a long time. Clearly I would like to be here when the new stadium opens. The other day I was joking that if they offered me a 20-year contract I'd be really pleased.'

Benitez also hopes that by agreeing a new deal he - and everyone else - will be able to concentrate on the team, which is currently second to Chelsea on goal difference in the Barclays Premier League.

'The team is in a very good position, so if I do not have to talk about my contract from now on it will be perfect,' he said.

'The last two or three press conferences I have been asked and asked, so the stability is really important.

'The owners know we are doing well. The atmosphere is really good, we are at the top of the league and our Champions League group. The team is playing well.'

Gillett and Hicks are known to be delighted with the team's form so far this term and a statement on behalf of the pair said: 'Rafa continues to do a great job, we are really pleased with the progress of the team and we look forward to talking to him and his advisors about extending his contract.'

No9! Another Liverpool Player's Home Is Burgled As Lucas Leiva Becomes Latest Victim

Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva has become the club's latest in a long line of players to be burgled while on the pitch.

Raiders struck at the Brazil international's home in Woolton while he was playing at Anfield against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday night.

The 21-year-old returned home to find raiders had stolen an Olympic bronze medal he won in the summer as well as a collection of Brazil and Liverpool shirts.

The raid follows burglaries in the last 18 months at the homes of England dynamo Steven Gerrard, Dutch forward Dirk Kuyt, goalkeeper Pepe Reina, defender Daniel Agger and Robbie Keane, who had a watch and jewellery taken from his penthouse in August.

Former players Peter Crouch, Florent Sinama-Pongolle and Jerzy Dudek were also burgled during their spell at Anfield.

A Merseyside Police spokesman said crime scene investigators attended the address and house-to-house inquiries were conducted.

Acting Detective Chief Inspector Peter Parry said: 'I would like to empathise to Mr Leiva and his partner for what must have been an upsetting experience.

'As with every burglary victim, we will be carrying out a thorough investigation and offering them crime prevention advice.

'Taken from the address was an amount of jewellery and some very distinctive football and sports memorabilia.

'These items have significant personal importance to Mr. Leiva and they were associated with some very cherished memories. I'd ask members of the public to be on the look out in case they are offered such items for sale either on the street or in pubs or see the items for sale on the internet.'

Dossena Not Happy With His Form

Andrea Dossena isn't happy with his form for Liverpool since his arrival from Udinese. I don't think that he will find many arguments from the fans, as he has been disappointing on the whole since Rafa Benitez brought him to the club for £7m over the summer.

Fabio Aurelio is currently in possession of the left back berth, but the Italian is looking to reclaim this position but concedes that he needs to up his game to be successful at such a club with a rich history and the expectations of him, as he explained:

'I am not fully happy with my level and, with Fabio in my position, the manager has the option of a player more in tune with the tactics of the team right now.

'18 months ago I would not have expected to be playing for one of the most famous clubs in the world.

'I do not have silverware in my collection in my career but signing for Liverpool I have a real chance to win medals in every competition we enter.

'There are new demands on me. At Udinese, my place in the team was more secure than it ever will be at Liverpool, where there is so much ability in the squad.

'I must now get to a high level and maintain that, but first I have to battle to win selection. I am learning all the time. I knew that coming to Liverpool and a new league would improve me as a player.'

There have been some reports that Rafa could be looking to offload him already in an attempt to raise funds in January, if he could, and for the amount we paid (or near the amount) at this point in time I don't think that many would be unhappy. If the 27-year-old wants to prove himself then he needs to work hard, and if given the chance take it, if not he will prove an expensive failure.

In other Reds news Rafa has said that Robbie Keane, struggling himself (for goals at least, his work rate can't be faulted) since his big money move from Spurs, needs some luck to get going. However Rafa feels that when he gets this he will not look back, telling

'Robbie is working really hard. With strikers, people talk about goals but sometimes it depends on luck, positioning and good delivery.

'Sometimes you want to change things when you are creating chances, in the hope the other strikers can have a bit more luck.'

I'm not sure, although I'm sure Spurs fans could tell us, but I don't think that his season really got going goals wise until around this time last season and then he didn't look back, ending the season with twenty-something goals.