Monday, August 29, 2011

Dalglish Struggling To Fit Carroll Into Reds' Blueprint

Three games, three shades of red. Kenny Dalglish enters the international break with the first skirmishes of the season behind him and with much to ponder.

That he does so with a revitalized Liverpool breathing hot on the necks of the Premier League's leaders means a club used to contemplating the existential can consider issues rather more aesthetic.

The biggest of those issues, metaphorically and physically, spent 77 minutes seated behind Dalglish on the Anfield bench. The Scot must work out how to solve the Andy Carroll quandary.

The striker, all £35m of him, had started both Liverpool's draw with Sunderland and the victory at Arsenal, first alongside Luis Suarez and then alongside Dirk Kuyt. Here, it was his turn to miss out. Of all three combinations, it is hard not to argue that Suarez and Kuyt worked best.

The Uruguayan and Dutchman provide endless intensity, affording a side built to Dalglish's energetic, pressing specifications the sharpest of edges.

Both were involved in Jordan Henderson's opener, Suarez playing the most sumptuous pass of the season thus far, Kuyt scrapping and scrabbling to tee up the midfielder.

Suarez won the corner which led to their second, from Martin Skrtel, while the pair's running dragged Bolton's defence apart to grant Charlie Adam the chance to kill the game off.

Both, indeed, might have scored themselves: Suarez had three gilt-edged opportunities -- the best of them a chip which landed on the roof of the Anfield Road end net -- and the industrious Kuyt one.

The contrast with Owen Coyle's side's last visit, when only a late Joe Cole winner -- "an offside winner" to quote the Bolton manager -- salvaged a victory, granting the doomed Roy Hodgson the most temporary of reprieves, was stark.

"If you want to compare Liverpool today with back then, they look a very good side," said Coyle, Ivan Klasnic's late strike offering little consolation. "They can score goals. Having said that, if you gave me £110m I am sure I would have a team that look dangerous every time they walk on the park."

Coyle may soon have money -- he insists he "will not buckle" on his valuation of Gary Cahill, a target for Arsenal -- but he knows there is more to building teams than finance.

There is philosophy and thought and vision. Dalglish's is not a revolution so much as a restoration and it seems Suarez and Kuyt are at the vanguard, in more ways than one.

As the Uruguayan was replaced by Carroll, Dalglish's old No 7 shirt granted its now customary deafening ovation, the Scot must have wondered, and feared, that he had hit upon his winning formula.

Kuyt and Suarez certainly seem most suited to what he is trying to achieve; that much was clear even last season. They offer the movement, the versatility and the remorselessness Dalglish demands.

"The way he wants us to play is pass and move and with a high tempo," said Daniel Agger, no less a spectator than the 45,000 inside Anfield for vast swathes of the game. "It is not just one thing, it is a combination -- a strong squad, a good manager, good coaches around him.

"You saw that there was some quality passing in the team now, we are playing it on the ground, and that is what people like to see.

"Results are the most important thing but if you can get them playing like this, that is a bonus."

The issue for Dalglish, of course, is that such a style seems to flow more naturally with Suarez and Kuyt on the pitch and Carroll on the bench.

It is a problem Dalglish will welcome -- being forced to find a way to accommodate an England international is the sort of issue managers generally enjoy -- but it is one that will offer him no little trouble too.

The issue is not with Carroll himself, but more his consequences. The 22-year-old's presence inspires Liverpool to adopt a more agrarian philosophy, one they are ill-suited to and one which does not, in truth, elicit the best from the striker.

Against Sunderland and Arsenal, Carroll has appeared isolated, instructed to challenge for aerial balls with little cohesive support for his knock-downs and lay-offs.

That is the challenge facing Dalglish. His outlay on Carroll now totals £66m, such has been the cost of the striker himself, Stewart Downing and Jose Enrique to provide the requisite width and Adam to create the space.

This is a side built for Carroll. The irony is that it does not appear to need him in it.

Liverpool Look To Vargas

Fiorentina could still release Juan Manuel Vargas this summer, as Liverpool and Bayern Munich are showing interest.

The winger had been a long-term target for Juventus over the past year, but that move did not go through.

It is now reported that Liverpool is looking to bring Vargas to the Premier League and the Reds have enquired after him.

There is also interest from the Bundesliga, as Bayern Munich is considering the Peruvian international.

Dalglish Mum On Coates Transfer

Kenny Dalglish refused to discuss the imminent arrival of Sebastian Coates at Liverpool after watching his side return to the top of the Premier League table for the first time in over two years.

Uruguay international defender Coates was at Anfield on Saturday to witness an easy 3-1 win over Bolton which maintained the Merseyside club's unbeaten start to the campaign.

The 20-year-old is set to complete a £7 million (7.9m euros) move from Nacional before Wednesday's transfer deadline, and his arrival will take Dalglish's spending to £115 million since he returned to take charge of Liverpool last January.

Dalglish, however, was reluctant to talk about the transfer until it is completed.

"When we have something to say then we'll tell everyone at the same time," said Dalglish after goals by Jordan Henderson, Martin Skrtel and Charlie Adam earned Liverpool a second straight league win that sent to the top on goal difference for the first time since May 2009.

"It's early days but it's better than being bottom of the table. It's a well deserved win. I think we were fantastic," added the Liverpool manager.

"It doesn't surprise me on how well the new players have gelled. This club is a friendly place and a fantastic place to play. We've got a really good squad and that's very important."

Craig Bellamy Ready To Snub Liverpool Transfer And Join Spurs

Craig Bellamy is ready to turn his back on the chance to return to Liverpool in order to sign for Spurs.

Manchester City's forgotten striker was reported to be on his way to Anfield on a free transfer, after Reds boss Kenny Dalglish indicated he could be the right man to provide cover for Luis Suarez.

But it seems the Welshman has decided against having a second spell at Liverpool, as he would prefer to challenge for a starting role at Spurs.

Bellamy has now told Tottenham officials he is happy to move to White Hart Lane and the deal should be completed in the next few days, reports the Mail on Sunday.

The 32-year-old could find himself linking up with another City outcast in London, as Emmanuel Adebayor recently joined Spurs on a season-long loan.

The two formed an unlikely friendship at Eastlands - mainly in response to their similar treatment at the hands of Roberto Mancini, who refused to select either for extended periods of time last season.

Chelsea Set To Offload Yossi Benayoun To Liverpool Or Lille

Yossi Benayoun may make a surprise return to Liverpool with Chelsea set to sell him to his former club or the French champions, Lille. A decision could be made this afternoon on which club has succeeded in acquiring the Israeli international.

If Benayoun returns to Anfield then it might pave the way for Raul Meireles to leave Liverpool. It’s understood the Portuguese international, currently out injured, wants to quit Merseyside because he believes his first-team opportunities will be limited by Kenny Dalglish’s summer signings.

Chelsea has expressed an interest in acquiring Meireles and it’s understood the two clubs are discussing the possibility of Benayoun being included in a player-plus-cash exchange.

However Liverpool would prefer Meireles, if he is to leave, to move abroad and not remain in the Premier League. With the midfield signings made by Dalglish, Meireles has lost his place in the starting XI for now. He was injured in the Carling Cup last week.

Meireles is thought to be available for around £11m – although Liverpool may demand more from Chelsea – and is admired by Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas who worked with him briefly at Porto.

Benayoun has indicated on his Twitter site for the past couple of weeks that he is likely to leave Chelsea, who he signed for last summer, and recently gave up his number 10 shirt to new arrival Juan Mata.

Espanyol In For Reds Wantaway

Liverpool expects Christian Poulsen to bring an end to his Anfield nightmare by completing a move to Espanyol this week.

The Danish international joined the Reds last summer when Roy Hodgson was in charge but failed to impress under the former manager and found himself out in the cold once Kenny Dalglish took over.

With Liverpool having a plentiful supply of central midfielders following the arrivals of Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson this summer Dalglish is keen to get rid of Poulsen.

Spanish side Espanyol are now thought to have made an offer to take the 31-year-old on loan for the rest of the season, with a view to a permanent move.

However, the only sticking point could be Poulsen's £40,000-a-week wages, with Espanyol reluctant to cough up for his whole pay package and Liverpool unwilling to subsidize.

Agger Happy With Life Under Dalglish

Liverpool defender Daniel Agger is enjoying a new lease of life under Kenny Dalglish.

Agger, 26, has been blighted by fitness problems in recent seasons but has started all three Premier League games this term and is showing good form.

The Denmark international is not only happy to be back in the side but has been energized by Dalglish's approach, his new signings and an unbeaten start to the season.

Agger said: ''It is enjoyable, I think everybody will say the same. When you play good football and when things are going the right way, everyone enjoys themselves more.

''For a team like Liverpool, that wants to go forward all the time, it has been so good this year that so many quality players have come in. To make the team stronger we need players like that, we need them all the time. It has been really good and it is a joy to go into Melwood every day to train.''

Agger joined Liverpool in 2006 and feels the football they have played this term has been as good as anything he has experienced. The Reds impressed on Saturday as they swept Bolton aside 3-1 at Anfield.

Agger said: ''That is the way we want to play - ever since I joined this club that is the way we want to play. It is not always like that, but if we can keep playing like this I think we can get some points.''

After his own fitness problems of the past, Agger feels he is starting to get back towards his best.

He said: ''I am getting there but I still think I have a lot more to give. You learn to enjoy every single game when you have been out so long and I am definitely doing that now. I love playing football and I want to show that, but I know I have a lot more to give.''

Skrtel: Anyone Can Play Now

Martin Skrtel believes Liverpool finally has a squad capable of competing at the top end of the Barclays Premier League.

The Reds have collected seven points from their opening three games and temporarily went top of the league this weekend.

Their latest victory against Bolton on Saturday was secured with record signing Andy Carroll on the bench, while a week ago Kenny Dalglish left Luis Suarez out of his starting XI for our trip to Arsenal.

For Skrtel this is an illustration of the strength within the squad.

"For this season we signed a few new players and we have a really strong squad now," the Slovakian told

"It doesn't matter who is playing now. We have maybe 22 players and everyone can play in a game. That's very good and we can compare to the best teams in the Premier League.

"I can say we are playing in one of the best periods since I came to the club.

"We had a target at the start of the season. Now we'll just try to win every single game, get as many points as possible and qualify for the Champions League."

Skrtel scored his fourth goal for the Reds in Saturday's 3-1 win having previously netted against Tottenham, West Brom and Man City.

This after replacing the injured Martin Kelly to operate in an unfamiliar role on the right of a back four.

"I'm delighted because it's only my fourth goal for LFC, so I'm happy," he added.

"Right-back is not my position but if the manager needs me there, I'm happy to play there. It's quite different from playing in the middle but I'll be happy if I play every single game for the club - it doesn't matter which position! I will always try to do my best for the club."

Skrtel now departs for international duty hoping to collect his 50th cap versus the Republic of Ireland before a game against Armenia.

'We Just Watched The Suarez Show'

Jamie Redknapp cannot wait to see Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez on the same pitch.

Both Redknapp and the injured Gerrard were at Anfield on Saturday as Liverpool swept aside Owen Coyle's resilient Bolton.

Several home players could have claimed the match champagne afterwards, but it was Suarez who had our former midfielder purring.

"I could pass a bit as a player and I love to see a playmaker open a defence with a pass," explained Redknapp. "Luis Suarez can do it too.

"The most difficult pass to execute is with the outside of the foot, because it's harder to establish the correct contact and weight. When Suarez bent a drifting, right-footed in-swinger from the left to Stewart Downing that inspired the first goal, it was stunning.

"I bumped into Steven Gerrard on Saturday as I was leaving Anfield and, while he hasn't played this season after a miserable run of injuries, he was in very good spirits.

"Like me, he'd just been watching the Luis Suarez show and Stevie will be excited about the prospect of playing alongside Liverpool's new star again.

"I can't wait to see the two of them together, either. They will be on the same wavelength."