Friday, June 24, 2011

Dalglish Finding The Balance Between Congestion And Versatility In Liverpool’s Midfield

With some haste, a majority of Liverpool supporters will tell you what their side require this transfer window: a centre-back, a left-back, a striker and some natural width. Far from that list would be another central midfielder.

Few loyal to the Merseysiders would dare question Kenny Dalglish but it would be fair to say there have been slight whimpers of uncertainty following the Jordan Henderson signing. Questions are being posed as to why he is continues to bolster the already over-populated central midfield area, when there are other departments in need of investment. However, Dalglish represents a figure of trust for those faithful to the club, and perhaps it is he being held in such high-esteem, which grants the Scot unquestioned licence in the market.

There is an abundance of central midfielders competing for places at Anfield. Steven Gerrard, Raul Meireles, Jordan Henderson, Lucas Leiva, Jonjo Shelvey, Jay Spearing, Christian Poulsen, Joe Cole and even forgotten man Alberto Aquilani will grapple for games - although the futures of that final three are unclear. No secret has been made of an underlying British foundation being laid at Liverpool, but there is also an emphasis being placed on adaptability and rotation. These players surely offer scope for a 4-4-2, a 4-4-1-1, a 4-3-3 with three central playmakers or even a 4-5-1 away from home, to stifle an opposition’s creative midfield.

Henderson is a young, hungry and talented English footballer, some say over-priced, but a separate valuation policy has developed for home grown Premier League players. He is considered a central midfielder because Steve Bruce used him to plug an injury enforced gap at Sunderland, but many would argue he is naturally more right-sided. Although not an outright winger, his passing range and crossing ability will offer his new side something fresh. He is not the finished article, and although his price tag may suggest otherwise, don’t be surprised if Dalglish primarily nurtures him into the first-team.

To succeed in modern football a manager needs varying tactics and formations at his disposal, and to lack a plan B, or indeed a plan C, is a fundamental flaw. The flexibility of Dalglish’s side in the second half of last season was evident, and his transfer strategy apparently looks to compliment this. The evidence implies then that Dalglish is building an interchangeable midfield. Most will agree that Gerrard defines flexibility and Meireles showed last season, although not as effective, if needed he could play on the right. Some suggest if the perennially linked Charlie Adam also arrives, then the Portuguese should make way, but surely such a move negates the notion of strength in depth.

On the surface it may look like an over-congested area of the squad, but look no further than Manchester United’s failure - and equally Barcelona’s success - in the recent Champions League final, to demonstrate the importance of a vibrant midfield. There are few better weapons as a manager than having versatility at your disposal.

Steven Gerrard Could Miss Start Of Season After Injury Recovery

Steven Gerrard, the Liverpool captain, is in a race to be fit for the start of the new season but says he is feeling "as good as ever".

Gerrard is currently undergoing a program of rehabilitation - the club's physios have been working with him every day at his holiday home in Portugal - after groin surgery in March.

He said: "I've had time to get my body right, get my body strong. I'm still four or five weeks away from playing a game but I believe I'll come back in better physical condition than I've ever been."

"I want to come back with a bang, I want to have a big season," Gerrard said.

"It's been non-stop football for me since I started when I was 17. I've never had a period of more than four or five weeks out of the game, so it's been nice to rest mentally.

"You don't want to miss games but when you're watching them it gives you that edge, that buzz to get back."

It is has been the longest spell on the sidelines of his career but the England midfielder is confident he and Liverpool will feel the benefit when the new campaign kicks off in August.

"I'll come back hungry and hopefully there's a very productive season ahead for me," Gerrard added.

"I've had a rest mentally, my injury's coming on well and I can't wait for the season to start.

"There's still a lot of time for me to achieve bigger and better things. I'd like to finish my career with a few more trophies.

"I always look at the 35 marker. If I get there and I'm still involved with Liverpool I'll be delighted but at the moment I'm feeling as good as ever."

Two Liverpool Scouts ‘Watching AIK Trio

According to Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, there were two Liverpool scouts watching AIK Solna’s match against Norrkoping.

They were believed to be watching AIK’s Alexander Milosevic, Per Karlsson and Niklas Backman.

AIK’s sporting director Jens Anderson confirmed that they were at the match:

“It’s a situation we are very pleased with. This means that our business has been good, that all three develop in AIK’s colors. It is a favorable situation.”

Anderson went on to suggest that Arsenal target and defender Milosevic may have been the primary reason for their visit:

“I think that means that they could be interested in any of our players. Alexander Milosevic is wanted by many clubs across Europe.”

Juan Mata 'Will Listen To Liverpool Transfer Offer'

Liverpool target Juan Manuel Mata will ‘listen to all offers’ after the European Under-21 Championships, according to his dad.

The Valencia winger is currently on international duty with Spain’s youngsters in Denmark, and Barcelona are the latest club to have expressed an interest in the £20million-rated midfielder.

But the player’s father and agent, Juan Snr, has said all transfer talks will be put on hold until after his son’s Euro participation in Scandinavia.

‘Until after the Euro, we won't listen to anybody. After that, we're willing to listen to all offers we receive,’ said Mata.

‘Interest Barcelona? From next Monday on, we'll analyze what is the best option for the future.’

The Reds held talks with Mata’s representatives some time ago, but Valencia were adamant that they would not sell.

Now though, it appears their hand may be forced after Mata’s agent’s recent comments, and an auction will probably ensue for the 23-year-old's services.

Dalglish Keeping Tabs On £20m Real Madrid Wing Wizard

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish is keeping a close eye on the situation at Real Madrid with regards to the future of winger Angel Di Maria.

Di Maria enjoyed a successful debut season at the Bernabeu, however according to reports in Marca, he has infuriated Real Madrid bosses by going public about wanting a pay rise at the club.

The 23 year-old who is currently on duty with the Argentina national side ahead of the Copa America tournament, was heavily linked with a move to the Premiership last summer with Manchester United, but he decided to join Jose Mourhino at Real Madrid for £20million.

Whilst on international duty, Di Maria said: "I'm anxiously waiting for the renewal. I was told upon arrival that if I did well in the first year, I was going to improve my contract. I am nervous about waiting for this."

It is believed the Spanish giants will listen to offers for Di Maria if they are able to sign Brazilian star Neymar, who is on the verge of agreeing at deal in the Spanish capital.

That has opened the door for Reds manager Dalglish to make an offer. Liverpool are desperate to acquire a natural winger, having lost out to rivals Manchester United for the signature of Ashley Young.

Both Dalglish and Liverpool's director of football Damien Comoilli feel Di Maria will be the perfect solution in their quest to find some natural width, and feel he will be able to create chances for strikers Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez, as well as chipping in with goals himself.

During his first season at Real Madrid, Di Maria made 53 appearances in all competitions and scored nine goals while proving 20 assists.

Terry McDermott Tips Jordan Henderson To Rack Up Goals

Former Liverpool and Newcastle player Terry McDermott thinks that Jordan Henderson can become a star performer and a regular goalscorer if he applies himself at Anfield.

Henderson moved to Merseyside from Sunderland for a fee in the region of £20 (€22.5) million and the former great believes the midfielder has the ability to live up to his price tag.

The England international has only scored five senior goals in his career but McDermott thinks with time and practice he can improve that aspect of his game.

He told LFC Weekly: "I never scored many for Newcastle and if you look at my record you'll see I didn't get many in the first few seasons at Liverpool.

"I think it's definitely something you can learn to do. You adapt as you get older and you become a wiser footballer. You learn about what you can and can't do. I was a daft sod off the pitch but on it I wanted to win and cared about becoming a better player. I studied those around me and watched what they did. That helped me a lot.

"I began to realize what I needed to do to score more often. I was good at getting forward and knew that I could score more goals. The coaches at the club encouraged me to do it and that helped too. All of a sudden I was getting 15 to 20 goals a season.

"I think if Jordan works on that side of his game, there's no reason why he can't get double figures too. He's definitely capable of it. I think he has shown that with the goals he has scored for Sunderland."

The former Newcastle man thinks Kenny Dalglish is the right man to get all he can out of Henderson and fellow big-money signing Andy Carroll.

He added: "Kenny is the master. I'm sure he'll work with Jordan on what he needs to do. Any player who signs for the club now will learn plenty from Kenny. Andy Carroll's the same. I'm sure Kenny will help him become an even better centre-forward.

"As well as Kenny, Jordan will also have Steven Gerrard to look up to. I think he's spoken about how he admires him already. If he listens to him and puts in the effort that's required, there's no reason why he can't be a great player for the club. I think he's a very astute signing.

"Any time I have seen him play it has been on the box. I recently watched him for England under-21s at the European Championships. It's clear to me that he's a good player. He's very energetic and can function in more than one position.

"That versatility is a great asset. It gives the manager options if he has players who can slot in to different positions. It's great for Jordan too became it gives him more chance of playing.

"When everyone is fit, Kenny will have a lot of options in midfield and that's got to be a good thing."

Andy Carroll Hit By Second Twitter Hoax Over Arrest On Holiday

Poor Liverpool were at the centre of another web hoax, this time by someone claiming striker Andy Carroll had been arrested.

Rumours started circulating on Twitter that the Geordie hitman had been locked up during a holiday in Ibiza.

The gossip turned out to be false, but generated enough attention and jokes to keep it trending on the social network for the majority of the afternoon.

One fan quipped: ‘BREAKING NEWS: Andy Carroll arrested. Sources reveal he was part of a syndicate who swindled an elderly Scottish man out of £35m.’

Reds 60-year-old boss, Kenny Dalglish, shelled out a British record £35million to take Carroll to Anfield from Newcastle back in January.

The England striker has subsequently made just eight appearances for the Merseysiders, mainly due to injury, and scored two goals.

This latest viral con comes hot on the back of another hoax involving Carroll and Aston Villa winger Stewart Downing.

A picture emerged on the internet of the pair holding a Liverpool scarf in a Spanish bar.

It was later proved to be a mock-up, as the hand holding the scarf had too many fingers.

Ian Ayre Defends Ticket Sales Change For Official Members

Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre has defended the club’s decision to change the way tickets are sold to LFC official members.

Next month members will be able to buy tickets in advance for all of the Reds’ home league games to be played prior to December 31. Tickets for all home games in the second half of the season will go on sale in November.

Last season the week-long window for fans to take advantage of priority access to the 8,000 seats for members was restricted to around four weeks before each fixture.

Some supporters have expressed concern that to secure tickets for each game they will now have to shell out a large lump sum of cash months in advance of matches or risk missing out.

However, in response to questions from supporters union Spirit of Shankly, Ayre insisted the change will benefit rather than hinder most members.

“There is an enormous demand for season tickets at Liverpool FC – we have over 70,000 people on a waiting list,” he said.

“That number alone provides a very clear indication that there is an enormous appetite for people to attend as many games as possible, and an enormous base of fans indicating that they are prepared to pay in advance for tickets.

“I’m not sure there could be any clearer message. In addition we have very clear data that shows the mix of people travelling from local and non-local addresses to games is equally varied.

“We are a globally supported club so we need to provide solutions that work for everyone.

“This indicates that the ability for those travelling outside Merseyside post codes to have greater and longer term visibility of the certainty of having tickets to matches is a great benefit and provides a greater ability to book transport, hotels and other such facilities in advance, often at more preferential rates.

“The combination of those factors provides a clear indication of a demand to buy multiple tickets in advance.”

The sale period for LFC official members covering home league games in the first half of the season starts on July 11 depending on attendance at matches last season, but to buy tickets memberships must be renewed or purchased prior to July 7.

Members will be able to buy either for individual games or for all the games available and the members sale will remain open until all tickets have been sold or 21 days before each fixture.

Spirit of Shankly spokesman James McKenna said: “Some fans will be happy about the changes because it allows them to plan for future games but others not so happy. The club are clearly trying to progress and improve things for supporters.

“However, in future supporters would like greater consideration given to the time scale and the cost which comes with buying eight or nine tickets in one go. It shows the importance of dialogue between supporters and the club to ensure potential issues which would arise are addressed.”

The changes don’t have any impact on general sale with the number of tickets available to LFC members unchanged from last season. General sale tickets will still be available from around three weeks before each game.

Kopites Set For Eurofan Tournament

A team of Liverpool fans have arrived in Ukraine ahead of the annual Eurofan International Football Fan-Festival.

This is Anfield FC are made up of a number of players from the This is Anfield internet forum and will take part in the annual pan-European football competition in Lviv for the third year in succession.

The team was originally founded to play a series of friendlies against Everton supporters, but officials from Ukrainian Premier League club FC Karpaty Lviv contacted them via the TIA forum and invited them to compete in the tournament.

Ian Pankhurst, a member of the travelling This is Anfield squad, said: "Going there for the first time was, in every sense, a voyage into the unknown; with crashed cars, dubious border guards and Polish country roads.

"After arriving in Lviv, we played three 70-minute matches in the space of 24 hours, winning our first but losing our second and third games to crash out.

"This feat was repeated in 2010, due to a combination of lacklustre finishing, alehouse fitness and poor goalkeeping.

"Nonetheless, we've strengthened in areas, played a bit more together as a team and are going back for more.

"This year in our group we face fans of Polish team Lechia Gdansk and the national team of Slovenia.

"As both sides are first time entrants in the competition, we've got no idea if they're Europa League or Sunday League contenders. Nonetheless, we intend to batter them!"

This is Anfield have arrived in Lviv after a gruelling 12-hour train journey from Krakow and will spend today acclimatising.

Later, a couple of team members will field questions from journalists in the tournament's press conference.

Their first match takes place on Friday morning against Slovenia, before they take on Lechia Gdansk later in the day.