Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Dalglish Praises Liverpool Season

Former Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish believes the Reds have closed the gap on champions Manchester United and can go one better next season.

Liverpool are set to finish runners-up to United this season.

He told BBC Radio Merseyside: "They've pushed them a lot harder than they have in the previous three or four years.

"They can certainly be proud of their efforts this season. This year there has been a lot of optimism and we can look forward to next year."

Dalglish added: "It would have been very positive to win the Premier League but I think there's a lot of stability at the football club now. Maybe that wasn't here in October and November.

"Rafa [Benitez, manager] has signed a new contract and have Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Dirk Kuyt, Daniel Agger and a lot of the younger players.

"I'm sure they'll be some people coming in and some going out. But the stronger [players] we get the better chance we will have."

Dalglish could have a role to play in the future success of the club as Benitez would like him involved in some way in the Liverpool set-up.

He said: "We'll just have to wait and see. If I can be of any help to this football club then I will be.

"If it's more helpful for me to be a supporter then fine. It's no problem, I don't have any grievances with anyone."

We Have The Spirit To Catch Manchester United Next Year, Says Liverpool Goalkeeper Pepe Reina

Pepe Reina believes that Liverpool's onfield bust-up was merely an example of the spirit that will be required to overhaul Manchester United.

The Anfield keeper watched in horror as team-mates Jamie Carragher and Alvaro Arbeloa almost came to blows after a heated exchange during the win at West Brom.

The pair have been criticised for the very public show of disharmony in the Reds camp but the Spaniard insisted they were just showing the passion needed to challenge at the top of the table.

"It showed our mentality and our motivation to win the game and not to concede a goal," said Reina.

"It is normal and it can happen on the pitch so let's forget it. We are trying our hardest to catch Manchester United and it just showed the mentality we have in trying to be the best."

Liverpool are desperately frustrated they failed to catch United despite a club record haul of points.

If they win their last match, they will finish on 86 - their biggest total ever, and will also become the only side to lose just two matches and not win the league.

Carragher's show of spirit threatened to spill over when he raged at Arbeloa for failing to get back to cover the right back position.

But Reina believes that Liverpool must continue to show that sort of desire if they are to take the final step and actually get past United and win the Premier League.

"We have already beaten the club record in terms of points but it wasn't enough," he said.

"United didn't slip at any time so we have to congratulate them and keep pushing for the next few years.

"We are really proud to be closer but we will be even prouder to win it. That's the next step.

"We are becoming a stronger team because when I first joined Liverpool we were something like 30 points behind them and now it is only three or four points."

Many people were surprised with the strength of feeling shown by the two Liverpool defenders in a game that didn't mean as much once United secured their third Premier League triumph in a row on the Saturday.

But Reina explained: "Knowing that Man United had become champions on Saturday meant that we had to give everything to try and finish second and also to be as professional as we can."

Olsson Plays Down Gerrard Spat

West Brom defender Jonas Olsson has played down his on-field spat with Steven Gerrard in Liverpool's 2-0 win at The Hawthorns.

Olsson hit out at the England international in first-half stoppage-time on Sunday as he thought the Reds' maestro had dived under a challenge in search of a penalty.

The 26-year-old Swedish stopper says the incident has not diminished his respect for the Liverpool playmaker, saying he still regards him as one of the world's best.

Olsson has conceded his display at the back end of the game was not quite up to scratch, although he feels defenders are always going to come off second best against the likes of Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Dirk Kuyt.

"I screamed at him, 'You're too good to dive like that'," Olsson told Aftonbladet. "He said that he didn't dive and that it was a penalty.

"There is always banter going on during the game, especially in the heat of the moment. But I have the utmost respect for Gerrard. He is one of the best players in the world.

"It is one-on-one at the end. During the last half hour, I faced Gerrard, Torres and Kuyt, that means there will be chances. When Kuyt made it 2-0 I wasn't perfect, but it is a tough situation."

We Will Aim For More Than 86 Points Next Season - Liverpool Midfielder Lucas Leiva

Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva has revealed that planning has already begun on Merseyside for next season, and has promised that the Reds will come back after the summer a much better and stronger outfit.

"We have showed that we have the quality to fight for the title and we will desperate to go one better and win it next season," he told the club's official website.

"We have 83 points and if we could finish the season with 86 points that would be a record for the club. Next season our challenge is to get more than 86 points and try to win the title."

Manchester United's title celebrations were obviously viewed somewhat enviously at Anfield as well, with Lucas going on to reveal that he had to switch the television off when the trophy was presented to the Red Devils.

"I watched the game but when they were about to receive the trophy I switched off my TV," he added.

"Manchester United deserve the title because they have been consistent but we know we can do it next season. Last year in January 2008 we were out of the fight for the race for the title but this year we were right up there challenging, so that shows we are a good team.

"We have to believe in ourselves next season and we have the quality to win the title."

Liverpool's downfall this season has not been their away performances but rather their displays at Anfield which have often lacked the discipline and vibrancy shown away from the Shankley Gates.

"Our away form has been really good," Lucas added.

"We have scored a lot of goals and won a lot of games, but the main disappointment for us this year was drawing too many games at home.

"We knew that drawing those games could be the key and cost us at the end of the season and unfortunately we were right. We dropped too many points against teams who came to Anfield playing really narrow and deep."

Sloppy Anfield Form Cost Us Title Challenge, Admits Dirk Kuyt

Dirk Kuyt has admitted Liverpool's home form undermined their title challenge even before they defeated Manchester United in March and that Rafael Benítez's team "were not quite good enough" to stop their fierce rivals drawing level on 18 league championships this season.

Liverpool have dropped only two points from a possible 30 since losing to Middlesbrough in February to deliver their strongest title challenge of the Premier League era and elevate expectations for next season. Their one slip in that sequence was the 4-4 draw with Arsenal at Anfield, but Kuyt believes the six stalemates at home before then – against the likes of Stoke City, Hull City and Manchester City – had left Benítez's men with an insurmountable task ahead of their 4-1 victory at Old Trafford on 14 March.

"It's a shame that the season is ending now," said the Dutch international, whose goal at West Bromwich Albion on Sunday ensured his highest return – 15 – as a Liverpool player. "The performances we have shown in the last couple of months have been very good. If the season had gone on for another month then maybe we could have been even closer to United. The problem was when we went into the game against United the gap was basically 10 points [seven points plus a game in hand]. We beat them and pushed them really, really hard but that was a very big gap for us to try and make up. If the gap had been closer then, the run-in might have been even more interesting but United won all their games anyway."

Swans' Bid For Winger Accepted

Liverpool have accepted a six-figure bid from Championship outfit Swansea City for 20-year-old winger Paul Anderson.

The Anfield prospect spent the 2007/08 campaign on loan with Roberto Martinez's side before joining newly-promoted Nottingham Forest last season.

Chairman Huw Jenkins is keen to agree personal terms with the youngster, but has stressed he is not the club's only target.

Anderson, who is believed to also be interesting Championship rivals Forest, will now travel to Swansea to discuss the move.

"We have had a six-figure sum with Liverpool accepted,'' chairman Huw Jenkins told the club's official website.”But I must stress that Paul is one of a number of options we are pursuing.

"Roberto has highlighted a number of players he is interested in and we have been pursuing them while he has been away scouting various players in various countries.

"The offer has been accepted by Liverpool, but it is still subject to us agreeing personal terms and Roberto sitting down with the player for further talks.

"Whoever we sign, we want players who want to play for Roberto and Swansea City. That attitude is vital - however good they are."

Dirk Kuyt: We Can’t Wait For Another Crack At The Title

Dirk Kuyt has warned newly-crowned champions Manchester United that Liverpool “really can’t wait” for the start of next season and another crack at the Premier League title.

And the Dutchman is convinced the Anfield outfit would have finished even closer to their bitter North West rivals had the current campaign a few more weeks left to run.

United equalled Liverpool’s record of 18 league titles over the weekend after holding off a strong challenge from Rafael Benitez’s side during the run-in.

Sunday’s 2-0 win at West Bromwich Albion moved Liverpool on to 83 points, their record tally in the Premier League era and their highest total since their championship season of 1987-88.

The Anfield outfit have won nine and drawn one of their last 10 league games, scoring 31 goals and conceding only six, four of which came in the home draw against Arsenal.

And Kuyt said: “In some ways it’s a shame that the season is ending now. The performances we have shown in the last couple of months have been very good.

“We tried and did everything we could, and we’ve shown the supporters that we really can’t wait for another go at the title next season. If the season had gone on for another month then maybe we could have been even closer to United.”

Kuyt admits that Liverpool had fallen too far behind the leaders by the time they travelled to Old Trafford in March and secured an historic 4-1 victory.

“The problem was when we went into the game against United in March the gap was basically 10 points (seven points plus a game in hand),” said the Dutchman.

“We beat them and pushed them really, really hard but that was a very big gap for us to try and make up. If the gap had been closer then, the run-in might have been even more interesting but United won all their games anyway.

“We tried to put them under pressure and I think we did that, but in the end it wasn’t quite enough.

“People might look back to the defeat at Middlesbrough, but the season always has moments like that. United dropped some points, we scored some last-minute goals, United did the same, but you get what you deserve and we weren’t quite good enough.

“But we’ve shown that we can challenge for the title next season and push harder than we have done this time.”

Kuyt netted his 15th goal of the season at the weekend, ensuring his best tally since arriving at Anfield in August 2006.

And he said: “I have really enjoyed this season. I’m glad I can play an important role for the team with goals and assists. My role in the team is different than the first season I was here, I’ve been playing mostly on the right and I really enjoy it there.”

Liverpool’s win at the Hawthorns on Sunday was the 13th on their league travels this season – equalling a club record set in 1905.

“That shows the strength of the team,” said Kuyt. “We’ve done really well away from home this season. I think the only area in which we can blame ourselves is that we have drawn too many games at home. But having said that, we haven’t lost a home game in the league.

“We’re happy with how we’ve played, but at the end of the day we want to win trophies and hopefully we can take this season into the next one and build on it.

We want to take our good form into next season because we have shown that we are progressing, and we can push hard again for the title next season.”

Agent: Alonso Future Up For Debate

Xabi Alonso's agent says Liverpool will decide the midfielder's future at the end of the season, amid claims Real Madrid are keen to sign him.

The Spanish international's future has been the subject of speculation in recent weeks with a number of clubs thought to be lining up summer moves for the player.

Real Madrid are thought to be leading the chase for Alonso with the 27-year-old thought to be one of presidental candidate Florentino Perez's top transfer targets if he gains control at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Alonso's agent Ignacio Ibanez has refused to confirm the player will remain at Anfield next season, admitting Liverpool will have the final say on any possible transfer.

"Many things could happen in the summer," Ibanez told the Daily Star.

"The first is to finish the season and after that to attend to other matters.

"Xabi has signed for three more years and his future depends on Liverpool."

Gunner Legend Tips Barry For Title Success With Liverpool

Former Arsenal, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and Portsmouth star Paul Merson has tipped Rafael Benitez to bring title glory to Liverpool next season so long as he secures the signing of Gareth Barry.

The Reds look certain to pip Chelsea to second position behind Manchester United with only Tottenham Hostpur standing in the way of their best season since 2001-2002.

Speaking to Skysports.com, Merson revealed:

“As for Liverpool, I expect them to be a right force next season. It's been a long time since they've been in a title race and it takes a lot of getting used to.

“Last year a young Arsenal team capitulated when they had a chance of winning the league, but Liverpool have stayed there - and they have progressed in the Champions League too. They've done great.

“If they can get players like Gareth Barry in over the summer they could possibly nick the title next year.”