Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mascherano Talks Up Liverpool Solidarity

Liverpool’s midfield enforcer Javier Mascherano believes that the side’s team mentality can be cited as the primary reason for the club’s best start to a Premier League season.

Newly installed Argentina captain Javier Mascherano believes that the club’s togetherness has been of major importance to their impressive start to the current League campaign.

The Reds share top spot with London club Chelsea, and have only lost once in the Premier League – to lily white side Tottenham Hotspur.

Mascherano thinks that the squad is performing on the pitch because of their amicable relationships off of it.

"All the players are giving everything for us and that is very important," Mascherano told the club’s official website.

"This is why the team is playing so well at the moment, it is because of our teamwork which has been fantastic.

"We are all very happy after the Bolton game because we were able to win another game and go back to the top of the table.

"We know how difficult it is to win at the Reebok because they are a very strong and a very physical team,” he concluded.

Mascherano’s Argentina side play Scotland during the international break before Premier League business resumes on Saturday afternoon with a trip to west London to take on Fulham who, under the tutelage or Roy Hodgson, have turned Craven Cottage into a formidable arena.

Yossi Benayoun Moves Closer To Liverpool FC Exit

Yossi Benayoun has hinted he will consider leaving Anfield in the New Year if he remains a bit-part player for Liverpool.

The Israel international, a £6million signing from West Ham United 18 months ago, has always claimed he is content to stay and fight for his place in Rafael Benitez’s side.

But the 28-year-old, who was tracked by Ajax, Spartak Moscow, Manchester City and Roma during the summer, has admitted his patience is wearing thin at being left on the bench.

“If the situation remains the same over the next few months, and I’m not getting more time in the middle, I will not want to continue as a Liverpool player,” Benayoun told Israel’s Channel Five TV station.

“The fact that I have spent so much time on the bench, while there has been a winning formula on the pitch, tells you everything.

“I hope it changes for me, because I want to stay and prove myself, but it won’t be easy. I know I’m at one of the biggest clubs in the world, and that there are many good players like Ryan Babel and Jermaine Pennant who sometimes aren’t even in the squad, but it’s not much fun sitting on the bench all the time.

“I always wanted to prove myself good enough for Liverpool, and I thought I did well last season to contribute so many goals and assists. But there seems to be more competition for places this time, and if I continue to be on the sidelines, I would not want to stay, even though it is Liverpool.

“Maybe I will have to accept that and start learning another language, such as Italian or French or even Russian.”

Meanwhile, Liverpool are keen to open talks with Alvaro Arbeloa, whose current deal expires in 2010, over a new contract to stave off interest from Atletico Madrid.

Rafa Benitez Reveals Secret To Liverpool’s Success

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has praised a team effort among his backroom staff after being named Barclays Premier League manager of the month for October.

“I am really pleased to be named manager of the month but the award is not just for me, it is good for the club and also my staff,” said Benitez. “I think that all managers need to have good backroom staff.

“Everyone is doing a very good job and that is important. It allows me to concentrate on different things because I know that they will do the job properly.”

Benitez had particular praise for Mauricio Pellegrino, who was brought back to Anfield in the summer as first-team coach after spending a short stint on the playing staff in 2005.

“When I decided to sign Pellegrino as a player it was because he is very clever and tactically he could help the other defenders,” said Benitez.

“He wasn’t at his best because he was at the end of his career but he is showing now as a coach how brilliant he is tactically.

“I think everyone has been impressed by the things he has done since he arrived. He is a winner, he is very clever and he has a real passion for football.

“The only concern for me is maybe he will leave in the future because he can be a fantastic manager.”

Liverpool are enjoying their best-ever start to a Premier League campaign with only goal difference keeping them behind leaders Chelsea.

And Fernando Torres believes the Anfield outfit have laid the foundations of a genuine title challenge.

“This season has seen us get off to a good start, and that is very much appreciated here,” said the Spain international.

“If you are still up there by December, then you have serious options of staying there.

“The big name sides rarely slip up, especially during the first half of the season.

“If you fall too far behind, you leave yourself very few, if any options.

“The Premier League is the title which everyone wants, even more than the Champions League, especially considering that the club lifted the title three seasons ago.

“The players who have been at the club for longer have won every title possible apart from the Premier League, and the players and all also especially the fans want to win it.”

Styles Was Right, Rafa Was Wrong

KEEP CALM’ is the mantra coming out of Anfield these days; players and fans alike have been urged by Snr. Benitez to focus solely on winning the next game, and not to get too excited about beating Manchester United and Chelsea and opening up an eight-point gap over the former.

Yet listening to the ‘Rafatollah’ after last weekend’s win over Bolton, it would appear that the man himself might shortly be reaching for the Tamazepan.

How else to explain his extraordinary exposition of an imaginary Law of the game, the one apparently stating that goalkeepers cannot be challenged in the six-yard box, which ‘belongs’ to them? According to Rafa, this is clearly set out ‘in the rules’.

Presumably this is the same rule book which makes it compulsory for managers to wear goatee beards, and to play without wingers for four years.

Gary Megson also blotted his copybook by claiming a penalty for Reina’s push on Nolan, even though the ball was not yet in play.

Leaving aside for the moment the curious ignorance of the Laws of the game displayed by almost all who make a living from it, this incident did raise an interesting point (at least for those of us who care about this sort of thing) about the correctness of Rob Styles’ decision to disallow Cahill’s ‘goal’.

Nolan clearly did just stand his ground, and in theory there’s nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, it was a clear attempt to impede Reina, with no attempt to play the ball. So which way to blow?

The truth is that most of the Laws of the game are open to interpretation – hence the endless analysis of decisions we see on the TV all the time.

And though they might be technically permissible, some tactics cannot be allowed to stand for the good of the game as a spectator sport.

If what Nolan did was legal, then every time there’s a corner we’d be treated to the unedifying sight of players clustered and jostling round the goalkeeper. I’m not paying to watch that.

It’s a similar situation to the practice of nicking the ball off the goalkeeper’s toe just as he’s released it to clear upfield, as memorably demonstrated by George Best against Gordon Banks so many years ago. Let this go, and we’d never see the ball in play again.

So, dislike Styles as you may, on this occasion he got it right, and we’re all the better for it. And we don’t need to make up rules to justify it.

Those of us who are fortunate (that’s not the word my missus uses) to follow Liverpool up and down the country may have cause to doubt the alleged commercial culture which saturates our game, respecting our rights as ‘customers’ first and foremost.

In the last few weeks I’ve been frisked for concealed weapons despite being ‘of a certain age’ and, I like to think, of mature countenance; paid over the odds because I support Liverpool rather than, say, Stoke; and been presented with half-time highlights on a large video screen which seemed to be have been purged of any Liverpool activity at all (even the goal we had scored). Forgive me if I don’t feel valued for parting with my hard-earned cash.

And it really doesn’t help when the likes of Gordon Taylor, the PFA chief executive, pleads for the end of the recent spate of coin-throwing, saying we don’t want to ‘return to the 80s when fans were searched entering the ground’. Perish the thought.

Liverpool Boss Benitez On Robbie Keane Reaction

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez claimed that he did not mind the way that Robbie Keane reacted after being replaced in their 2-0 draw to Bolton in their Premier League fixture.

The Reds won the match after scoring once in each half, with Dirk Kuyt opening the account in the 28th minute of play and then skipper Steven Gerrard scored in the 73rd minute.

Keane had a disappointing day at the Reebok Stadium and was replaced by Fernando Torres in the second half, which angered the former Tottenham Hotspur star.

Benitez said: "A player has to be disappointed at coming off, which is what I want to see. The response always has to be that you work even harder for the next game.

"It has to be like that in a winning team, you have to compete for the positions and that is a positive thing. Robbie knows the team will always be the important thing so I don't need to speak to him about it (being substituted)."

Carragher Key To Title Bid

Former Liverpool midfielder John Wark believes keeping Jamie Carragher fit will be key to the Reds maintaining their Premier League title challenge.

Carragher, 30, along with keeper Pepe Reina, has played every minute of the Anfield club's league campaign so far.

Wark told BBC Radio Merseyside: "Jamie Carragher has been so consistent it's unreal, for me he deserves all the accolades he gets.

"He's our main defender and when he is not playing we will struggle."

"He's a great organiser, he gives his all and the fans love him," said Wark.

Due to fellow centre-half Martin Skrtel's knee injury and Alvaro Arbeloas' suspension last weekend Carragher filled in at right-back for the 2-0 win at Bolton on Saturday.

Carraghers' commitment to the cause pleases Wark.

"He throws his body into some tackles, I just love the way he plays football and the spirit he plays it with."

Manchester United Target Only Has Eyes For Liverpool

Mohammed 'Moa' Abdellaoue has revealed that he is an ardent Liverpool supporter after Manchester United were credited with an interest in him.

The Valerenga striker has been linked with a move to Old Trafford in some quarters after being compared to Red Devils great Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The fact that Solskjaer was also a Liverpool fan is not lost on the Norwegian media but Moa has not heard of any prospect of a trial in Manchester with the European champions.

"It's nice to be noticed," the 23-year-old told Nettavisen. "It means I am doing a lot right with my football.

"Liverpool are my club. I am a Liverpool supporter, although not a member of the supporters' club.

"Of course it is great to be compared to Solskjaer but I am only Moa.

"I am the person I am. I play football and enjoy myself.

"I have not heard anything directly from United and got the news through the Norwegian media. I have not received any information from my adviser and do not know anything about the trial.

"But I cannot go around thinking about that sort of thing."

Rafa Tips Keane To Tackle Cottagers

Rafael Benitez expects Robbie Keane to be fit for the clash with Fulham, but says it is too early to know if Steven Gerrard will be available.

Keane was forced to withdraw from the Republic of Ireland squad to face Poland after sustaining a shoulder injury in last weekend's win over Bolton.

Benitez insists the injury is not serious and admits his withdrawal from international duty was more of a precaution.

"Robbie Keane's injury is not serious," Benitez told the club's official website. "He had a problem but [withdrawing from the international duty] was just a case of prevention. I think he will be okay."

Gerrard is expected to be sidelined for between seven to 10 days with a groin problem, which forced him to pull out of the England squad to tackle Germany.

Benitez is unsure when Gerrard will be available for action, but it is expected he will miss the Fulham clash and return for next week's Champions League tie with Marseille.

"Steven had a scan and he will be out for seven to ten days, depending on how he progresses," added Benitez.

"He could be back for the Marseille game but each player is different. We have to start working with him and see how he does."

Benitez also revealed that he had spoken with the medical staff of the Spanish national team in an attempt to prevent further injuries for Fernando Torres.

Torres has only recently returned to action after picking up a hamstring strain on international duty and Benitez is keen to avoid a recurrence this week.

"We have spoken to the Spanish medical staff and they know our idea and we know that they will take care of him. They know it could be a small risk so they will try to protect him," concluded Benitez.

Rafael Benitez Watches Liverpool Reserves Defeat Wigan Athletic At Warrington

Rafael Benitez joined Gary Ablett on the bench at The Halliwell Jones Stadium this evening as Liverpool Reserves ended their run of four successive defeats with a 1-0 win over Wigan Athletic.

Ablett revealed that the Reds’ first team boss offered some words of encouragement at half time and the Spaniard would have been delighted to see his compatriot Daniel Pacheco score the only goal of the game in the 66th minute, after converting an inviting cross from Vincent Weijl.

The Dutch winger was a constant thorn in Wigan’s side, linking up effectively with the impressive Argentine left back Emiliano Insua and supplying a steady stream of accurate crosses and shots on goal.

Yet it was Wigan who threatened to take all three points in the first half of the Barclays Premier Reserve League North clash, forcing Liverpool’s Australian goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis to make a string of vital interceptions including a point-blank save from Joe Hart.

Despite the Latics’ early dominance Liverpool had enjoyed plenty of possession and they carved out their best opportunity of the half in the 33rd minute.

Weijl tore down the left wing, planting a cross on Jordy Brouwer’s head only to see the former Ajax star head weakly into the arms of veteran custodian Mike Pollitt.

Ablett was forced to withdraw his captain Stephen Derby at the end of the first period after he picked up a knock – an injury which may cause some concern for Benitez as the Liverpudlian right back provides the only natural cover to Alvaro Arbeloa in his squad following the long term injury to Swiss fullback Philip Degen.

The managerial duo’s halftime pep talk certainly galvanised the young side, with Liverpool taking command after the break.

Weijl continued to shine, seeing a shot deflected just wide on 51 minutes, and Insua was unlucky not to open the scoring four minutes later with a 35-yard piledriver that sailed just inches high of Pollitt’s goal.

Brouwer missed another golden opportunity on the hour, failing to score from close range after brilliant work from Pacheco.

Fortunately for Liverpool the pint-sized playmaker was not so merciful moments later as he finished a move of his own instigation.

Driving into the box Liverpool’s number 10 found Weijl with a pass that bobbled into the winger’s path.

The 18-year-old managed to control the ball before delivering a dangerous cross that Wigan were unable to deal with and Pacheco slammed the ball home.

Liverpool squandered several further openings, Pacheco and substitute Andras Simon, on for the disappointing Brouwer, somehow contriving to waste a two-on-one situation.

But the Reds held on to secure their second league victory of the season, providing an early birthday present for Gary Ablett, who turns 43 tomorrow, in front of 785 fans.

Liverpool Reserves: Dean Bouzanis, Stephen Darby (Daniel Ayala 45), Emiliano Insua, Mikel San Jose Dominguez, Martin Kelly, Damien Plessis, Gerardo Bruna (Francisco Duran 65), Jay Spearing, Jordy Brouwer (Andras Simon, 73), Daniel Pacheco, Vincent Weijl. Unused subs: Peter Gulacsi, Steven Irwin

Wigan Athletic Reserves: Mike Pollitt, Lewis Field, Adam Buxton, Jon Routledge (Callum McManaman 80), Andrew Pearson, Luke Ashworth, Craig Mahon, Matty Hampson, Tomasz Cywka, Joe Holt, Tomasz Kupisz. Unused subs: Jonathan Breeze, Keenan Gracey, Daniel Barrie, Stephen Chiocchi.

Warrington Guardian man of the match: Vincent Weijl. A name to watch over the coming year - he bewitched Wigan’s defence for 90 minutes.