Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Clarke: It's The Way He Talks

Steve Clarke believes the way Kenny Dalglish talks to his players has been a key factor in Liverpool's revival in 2011.

Manchester United is the only team to have tallied more points in the Barclays Premier League since the Scot re-took the reins on January 8.

And the Reds have continued to gain positive results of late despite a lengthy list of injuries.

Clarke points to Dalglish's treatment of teenage defenders Jack Robinson and John Flanagan at the Emirates on Sunday as an example of how the gaffer gets the best from his players.

"Before Jack went on Kenny was making a joke and trying to relax him going onto the pitch," said the first-team coach. "Obviously it's a very nerve-racking moment for a young player and Kenny was trying to take the edge out of the situation. It was the same with John.

"When you've got someone as experienced as Kenny who says the right words at the right time, it can only help.

"Every manager I've worked with - you pick up good qualities from all of them and so far, in a short space of time, I've seen a lot of great qualities from Kenny. I hope to continue the work into the future."

Dirk Kuyt fired a penalty with the last kick of the game to clinch a point for Liverpool against Arsene Wenger's title-chasers before being mobbed by every one of his teammates.

For Clarke the scenes were another illustration of the team spirit within Liverpool ranks.

"The way our lads responded, they knew they had very little time left but they still wanted to get the equalizer," he said.

"Anyone watching us play right now can see the spirit is high, the confidence is good and the performances have been decent. Now we need to continue it.

"If you are working well as a group and working well day in, day out in training - you can see they're taking that onto the pitch right now. If you've got that togetherness it goes a long way in any team sport - especially football."

Liverpool's comeback - secured just minutes after a Robin van Persie spot kick put Arsenal in front - was all the more laudable from the fact Andy Carroll (knee), Jamie Carragher (concussion) and Fabio Aurelio (hamstring) had to be withdrawn due to injury.

Clarke added: "Fabio has picked up another little strain. Hopefully it's not too bad. We have to keep positive with him because he's a terrific player, as he showed in the Man City game.

"Carra seems okay and with Andy Carroll, at the moment we're waiting on some news from the medical department."

Liverpool Close To Agreeing Deals For Young And Enrique

Liverpool are on the verge of securing deals for two long-term transfer targets in Aston Villa winger Ashley Young and Newcastle United defender Jose Enrique, according to reports in the Guardian.

The Metro reported at the weekend that Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish would be handed a 'significant' transfer budget in the summer and while many expect a host of arrivals it is more likely the money will be used to fill two crucial areas.

The Reds are currently short of cover at left-back, with Fabio Aurelio the only recognized left-sided defender at the club, while Dalglish has also made a winger a priority.

Newcastle seem destined to let Spanish defender Enrique leave at the end of the season, but are still negotiating with Liverpool as to the type of deal that is eventually agreed.

Liverpool would prefer to pay around £15million for the 25-year-old, while Newcastle boss Alan Pardew is desperate to try and force the Reds to offer a player-plus-money deal.

The former West Ham and Charlton boss has been keeping tabs on the impressive performances of midfielder Jay Spearing and is reportedly going to test Liverpool's resolve by asking for the tough tackling player plus around £6m.

Meanwhile, Liverpool seems intent on landing England international Young at the end of the season and could be prepared to match Aston Villa's expectations with an offer of £25m.

The midlands club are aware that Young wants to leave in the summer and with just over one-year left on his contract realize that they will have to cash-in on their prized asset at the end of the season.

Manchester United have also been heavily linked with the former Watford winger, but it seems the revival of Liverpool under Dalglish may be turning a few heads.

The Scottish manager wants to build a squad around young players and big money signings and could ditch the likes of Paul Koncheskey, Christian Poulsen and Milan Jovanovic to make room for the likely new arrivals.

Liverpool's director of football Damien Comolli has also admitted in recent weeks that the Reds will be doing business in the summer and that he has already had contact from a number of agents.

"We are very attractive for a lot of players because of what we did in January and a game like that [the 3-1 defeat of Manchester United] is fantastic publicity for us around the world.

"Since the day after I was getting phone calls from agents telling me that their player would love to come and that we are going to compete next year if we get it right.

"We are attractive to a lot of top players and we want to bring top players to this club."

Top Three Kop Summer Targets

These are the men Liverpool want to usher in a new era under Kenny Dalglish at Anfield.

Liverpool's technical director Damien Comolli has targeted Lyon keeper Hugo Lloris, Paris St Germain centre-half Mamadou Sakho and Rennes midfielder Yann M'Vila.

All are French internationals and would cost the Reds between £45million and £55m.

Comolli has earmarked enforcer M'Vila to add steel to Liverpool's midfield, and the Reds, along with Bayern Munich, have stolen a march in the race to sign him.

M'Vila, 20, has attracted interest from all of Europe's big-hitters after breaking into Laurent Blanc's France team this season. Rennes will want at least £18m for their most prized asset.

The Reds will hope to finance the deal by recovering some of the £20m former boss Rafa Benitez wasted on flop Alberto Aquilani.

Aquilani has spent this season on loan at Juventus and although the Italians are keen to reduce the £13m agreed fee, Liverpool will need all of that money to help capture M'Vila.

Comolli was in Paris on Sunday to watch PSG's 1-0 win over Lyon and he ran the rule over both Sakho and Lloris.

The Reds have contacted Lloris, who is considered the best keeper in Europe outside of England, Spain or Italy. The move was a clear indication Liverpool fear they will lose unsettled Pepe Reina.

They received a positive response, although Lloris has to decide whether to sign a new deal at Lyon.

He has two years left on his current contract.

He would cost around £20m, which means Liverpool would spend the entire fee they receive on Reina to replace him.

Spain No 1 Reina has a £20m get-out clause and speculation has been rife that Alex Ferguson is interested.

Lloris has attracted interest from AC Milan, Bayern Munich as well as Arsenal and Fergie's Manchester United in the past.

Sakho has been a target for Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger but the Gunners were priced out of a move last season as Paris wanted £15m.

He has two caps for France and is considered to be the long-term replacement for William Gallas at the heart of Les Bleus' back line.

Sakho, 21, has recently signed a new three-year deal but Paris will listen to offers of around £15m if they fail to grab a Champions League spot.

They are fourth in Le Championnat, a point behind Lyon after beating them on Sunday.

Arsenal, Spurs and Borussia Dortmund are also trailing Sakho closely, but it is understood the Gunners are Liverpool's biggest rivals for the centre-half.

Liverpool Lining Up Udinese's Armero

Kenny Dalglish is checking on Udinese’s exciting left-back Pablo Armero.

The Liverpool boss is desperate to land a left-sided defender, having been forced to play rookie Jack Robinson in the key position in Sunday’s draw with Arsenal.

And he has sent scouts to rustle up reports on Armero after hearing impressive things about the 24-year-old Colombian.

The 14-cap star only joined Udinese from Palmeiras last summer, but his pace and ability to deliver crosses have prompted Liverpool’s interest.

Dalglish is also keen on clinching a deal for Newcastle’s Jose Enrique.

He has made obtaining a left-back a summer priority after deciding Paul Konchesky was not up to Liverpool’s standards.

Teenager Robinson is viewed as a potential first team star, but the club wants to give him time to develop.

Liverpool Linked With Danijel Pranjic Swoop

Liverpool has been linked with a move with Bayern Munich’s left back-cum-left winger Danijel Pranjic.

The 29-year-old is expected to quit the Allianz Arena this summer for the right price and has been attracting glances from a number of clubs. However, news that Liverpool are pondering a move for his services will be a subject of great interest for the Croatian.

Under contract until 2012, Pranjic could be moved on as part of Bayern’s expected revolution to catapult the Bavarian side back to the top of the Bundesliga. And with just a year left on his contract this could be the perfect time for the Germans to cash in.

The Croatian has benefited from his ability to play anywhere down the left flank at the Allianz Arena and so far has started 22 games for Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga. Despite no goals to his name in those appearances, Pranjic has nevertheless notched up six assists in a generally decent campaign.

An international for Croatia, Pranjic could help the Reds to solve their left sided problems where full back Fabio Aurelio is still suffering regular injury niggles, Jack Robinson is considered too inexperienced and Paul Konchesky, currently on loan at Nottingham Forest, is expected to be sold.

Ajax's Christian Eriksen 'Not Ready' For Big Liverpool Move

Liverpool target Christian Eriksen is in no rush to leave Ajax as he settles to develop his career with the Dutch club, despite reports linking him with a summer departure to Anfield.

The 19-year-old Danish midfielder has enjoyed a stellar campaign with the Amsterdam-based giants, scoring four goals in 27 league games this season as he continues to earn regular first team status under Frank de Boer.

Eriksen has been attracting attention from the Premier League with Liverpool tipped as being in the running to launch a summer move, but chances of leaving soon are unlikely.

"I'm not ready yet for a transfer. I feel like I only just arrived here," he told voetbalmagazine.nl.

"The step to a bigger club would be too big right now. I'm simply not ready yet.

"I've been here for only two years and am very happy at this club. Things are going pretty well at the moment and I want to keep that form going."

Hughton Hails Carroll Class

Former Newcastle manager Chris Hughton has backed Andy Carroll to be an England international 'for many years'.

The pair worked together at St James' Park until Hughton was sacked earlier this season, with Carroll going on to join Liverpool in the January transfer window.

Hughton feels the 22-year-old reaped the benefits of a full season with the Magpies in the Championship last term and is backing him for a bright future at the highest level.

He has nevertheless urged Carroll to keep working hard after a promising start to his Anfield career.

"Andy has definitely developed and what was good for him was being able to play a full season in the Championship," said Hughton.

"That was a big positive for him and he has gone on from there and adapted well to Premier League football.

"Even in Newcastle's first game of the season, when we lost 3-0 at Manchester United, he was a big positive.

"Now he has gone to Liverpool and is playing well alongside [Luis] Suarez and I'm sure those two will complement each other very well."

Hughton added: "There is no doubt that Andy is capable of being an England international for many years but whether he does is down to a lot of factors.

"You have to deal with the highs and lows, steering clear of injuries, improving his game, working with other players and being adaptable."

Hughton also confirmed that he is itching to return to management after being out of work since December.

He had initial talks with West Brom before they appointed Roy Hodgson in February and is now desperate for a fresh challenge.

"When you're away from the game for a while, you have got to use the time the best way you can," said Hughton.

"I've been watching an awful lot of football but now I'm just looking to get back as a manager because I enjoy the responsibilities that go with the role.

"The spell at Newcastle whetted my appetite. There are a lot of challenges that come with being a manager but I'm looking for an opportunity to get back in.

"The talks I had with West Brom were just initial talks.

"They spoke very well about the club and did everything correctly.

"I'm delighted to see them doing well and Roy is a very good and experienced manager."

Liverpool Goalkeeper ‘Backflips’ On Move

Goalkeeper Pepe Reina is happy at Liverpool, despite his insistence that he’d like to see out his career playing in the Champions League, according to Kenny Dalglish.

“I can't speak for Pepe Reina on how he sees it and believes it's going,” Dalglish said.

“I can only tell you about how me personally and the club as a whole feels about him.

“Whatever he feels about us going in the right direction or not is up to him, but he doesn't look too unhappy to me.

“I have always believed he is one of the best in the Premiership, if not the best, maybe even in football.”

Reina had made his intentions to leave Liverpool in the summer clear, citing a desire for Champions League qualification as his reason.

But in an apparent backflip, Reina appears to be happy to stay at Liverpool, if Dalglish’s opinion is anything to go by.

“Whoever's got someone better than him is very fortunate and I haven't seen anyone better than him. I don't think I can improve on that statement,” the Liverpool manager said, in a show that Anfield will do whatever it takes to keep the star.

Title Bid Over As Reds Pay Penalty

Liverpool's hopes of topping Barclays Premier Reserve League Northern Group B are over following a narrow 1-0 defeat at Manchester City on Monday night.

A 45th minute penalty from John Guidetti was enough to give the hosts the victory in what proved to be a dour affair at Hyde United's Ewen Fields.

The result means Pep Segura's side remain four points behind leaders Blackburn Rovers with just one game left to play.

Ahead of the contest the Spaniard had spoken of the selection dilemma facing him following the injuries at first-team level and the back log of U18 fixtures.

It meant the second-string were short of key personnel and their hopes were further hampered by a lack of attacking options that saw Nicolaj Kohlert start in an unfamiliar role up front.

The Reds had beaten their hosts at the same venue in a Lancashire Senior Cup clash back in January but a repeat was always going to be a tough ask against a powerful City side.

The home team enjoyed the lion's share of possession but struggled to trouble Martin Hansen in the early stages with Abdul Razak's poorly executed volley the best they could muster.

Jeremy Helan then crashed a long range effort well wide of the near post before Hansen was finally called into action when he did well to parry Guidetti's shot on the turn.

Chances had been at a premium but Suso threatened to bring a halt to the banality when he cut in from the right and brought a fine save out of Tobias Johansen in the City goal.

It had been a somewhat forgettable first 45 but just as it seemed the two teams would go in all-square City were awarded a spot-kick.

Andre Wisdom was adjudged to have pushed Guidetti to the floor on the far side of the area, leaving the Swedish front man to step up and calmly strike the ball into the bottom left-hand corner.

Segura would have urged his charges to offer more in the attacking third following the interval and they did show more urgency in their play without causing the City rearguard any real trouble.

Once again opportunities were few and far between with efforts from Conor Thomas and Thomas Ince the closest the visitors came to troubling the scoresheet.

With time running out Segura introduced both Conor Coady and the semi-fit Nikola Saric from the bench but it was City who looked more dangerous with Hansen forced to keep out Guidetti's venomous strike.

Ince then curled a free-kick over the top and Suso tested Johansen as Liverpool pushed in the dying embers of the game but it was not enough to salvage the draw that would have kept their title hopes alive.