Monday, January 02, 2012

Dalglish: What I Want In 2012

Kenny Dalglish is hoping the New Year will bring Liverpool the fortune he believes their impressive display so far this season deserve.

While delighted with the manner in which his side has performed in 2011-12, the boss feels the Reds haven't enjoyed much luck - a point highlighted by the 17 efforts they have seen come back off the woodwork already this term.

However, Dalglish is hopeful fate will shine more favourably on his charges in 2012 - starting at Manchester City on Tuesday night.

He told his pre-match press conference: "As I've said many times before, I don't think the players have had their reward for the performances they deserve.

"Maybe January 3 is going to be the game we get the little bit we deserve for the great play, effort and commitment the players have put in. We'll keep our fingers crossed.

"To get 2011 out of the way was good for us because I don't think we've had too much luck in the matches we've played in the first part of the season."

Liverpool will aim to become the first team to win at the Etihad Stadium this season when they take on the Barclays Premier League table toppers.

The Reds were unfortunate not to inflict defeat upon City when the two teams met at Anfield in November as they played out a 1-1 draw.

Nonetheless, Dalglish knows his side faces a tough test.

He said: "We'll have a look, see how we're going and how we're going to play.

"We've got the utmost respect for what they've done. It's all very well and good saying they've got a lot of money, but they've also got a good team.

"We'll just go and play whatever 11 they put on the pitch. It doesn't matter what they cost. We'll give a lot for the football club and try and get a result."

The trip to Manchester will be the first of three clashes with City this month, with the two-legged Carling Cup semi-final to follow.

Journalists quizzed Dalglish on whether the return of Steven Gerrard was even more timely given Januarys' fixture schedule.

The manager replied: "We're delighted to get any one of our players back. Everyone of our players we value.

"They're all very important to us and we'll respect and appreciate everything they do for the football club.

"Some will get more credit than others, some might get a bit more stick than others, but they all put in a good shift and we're delighted with the efforts of every player that's been here, especially in the first part of this season."

Meanwhile, Dalglish was quizzed for his thoughts on City's fixture list, with Roberto Mancini's side due to face Liverpool just two days after travelling to Sunderland on New Year's Day.

"I think Roberto made a great point here after the game when he said the players' union should be the ones canvassing for the players," he said. "If you think the games are coming up thick and fast, then what do the players' union think of it?

"I think television has been massively helpful to many people in the Premier League, so we cannot cut off the hand that feeds us.

"There has to be a bit of common sense and I think a game on January 1st and 3rd is a bit unreasonable. In general, there has got to be a reasonable amount of time for the players to recover.

"I know people have said he has a massive squad and enough to field two teams, but the players still have to be taken into consideration because, after all, they're the ones that are the attraction."

Fit-Again Captain Can Help Reds Snare Champions League Berth

Steven Gerrard's return from injury can help propel Liverpool into the top four.

That's the view of former Anfield stars Nigel Spackman and Don Hutchison who told Goals on Sunday that the Reds skipper's dynamism and ability to inspire those around him will stand the club in good stead for the rest of the season.

Gerrard, 31, made his comeback from an ankle problem to score in Liverpool's 3-1 win over Newcastle on Friday night.

And both Spackman and Hutchison think he can drive the Merseysiders into a Champions League spot come the end of the campaign.

"It's great that Steven Gerrard is back, especially with Luis Suarez set to be out for a while," said Spackman, who made 51 league appearances for the Reds between 1987 and 1999.

"I think Liverpool have been really good defensively this season and now getting Steven back, the focal point, the energy of the team, they can push for that fourth spot."

Hutchison said: "Andy Carroll is a fantastic footballer but he's going through a period at the moment where he is a little bit short of confidence.

"But as soon as Steven Gerrard came on (against Newcastle) Carroll hit the crossbar and had a chance that he should have done better with. Carroll looks at Steven and trusts him."

Liverpool are vying with Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea for a spot in the top four and could have been higher than their current position of sixth had they not spurned a plethora of goal-scoring opportunities so far this term.

Hutchison, though, thinks he knows the antidote to the Reds attacking problems: they should swap their widemen around and snap up a proven goal-getter during the January transfer window.

"Liverpool is improving," said Hutchison, who joined the Anfield club from Hartlepool in 1990 and left for West Ham four years later.

"The issue I've got - and I'm not going to tell Kenny Dalglish what to do - is that Liverpool are playing Stewart Downing down the right-hand side and Craig Bellamy down the left. If they had switched them, I think they could have had a lot more goals."

Hutchison added: "It will be interesting to see if Kenny does anything in January with Suarez missing for eight games.

"They could possibly sign a centre-forward - a Darren Bent, a Jermain Defoe - someone who can guarantee you 15-20 goals a season."

Steven Gerrard Keen To Put Miserable Year Behind Him

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard admits he will be glad to see the end of a year which has seen him sidelined with injuries for long periods.

Last season ended prematurely because of a groin problem in March which required surgery and his comeback in the new campaign was delayed by an infection.

The England midfielder eventually made a return as a substitute in the Carling Cup second-round tie at Brighton in September but after just five appearances he picked up an ankle infection in late October which kept him out for two months.

Gerrard made his long-awaited comeback against Blackburn on Boxing Day and is now looking forward to 2012.

“Without doubt I’ll be glad to see the back of 2011,” Gerrard said.

“It’s been tough but that’s all in the past now.”

“I’m looking forward to 2012. There’s still so much to play for this season.”

“If I can just get a bit of luck and stay fit hopefully I can really enjoy the final five months of the season.”

Gerrard said his latest lay-off had been “absolute torture”.

“It’s just great to be back involved again,” he added.

“When the surgeon said I would miss another eight weeks it took me weeks to get over the news.

“It was a freak injury and coming so soon after being out for so long with my groin it’s been torture.

“I’ve just had to work so hard to get back again and now I’m looking forward to playing games.

“There have been a lot of lonely days in the gym this year when you struggle to motivate yourself.

“I have worked my socks off over the past eight weeks and I feel really good. All I need now is minutes under my belt to get the sharpness back.”

Reds Warned Over Suarez Stance

Football Against Racism in Europe has warned Liverpool against appealing Luis Suarez's eight-match ban.

Piara Powar, executive director of the group, says Liverpool risk further damage to their global reputation if they appeal the suspension.

Powar, also a former director of the Kick It Out anti-racism group, believes the Anfield club have already sullied their image because of their stance in support of a player found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra

He said: "Luis Suarez and Liverpool FC have the right to appeal, however we would call on the club to think again about their public campaign to dispute the charges and contest the principles involved in the case.

"As a club with a good international standing, the vehemence of their campaign is unquestionably causing them reputational harm."

The Football Association has published a 115-page report listing the reasons behind the judgment of an independent commission, in which they said Suarez had used the words "negro" or "negros" seven times in a two-minute period of the Anfield clash.

The finding is potentially embarrassing for the Anfield club, who has been unwavering in their support of the 24-year-old Uruguay international, who was also given a £40,000 fine.

The Liverpool players wore T-shirts showing their support for Suarez before last month's game against Wigan the day after he received the ban while manager Kenny Dalglish tweeted that fans should not let him walk alone.

The FA's case, according to the report, was that Evra asked Suarez why he had kicked him, to which the forward replied: "Because you are black." When Evra challenged him to repeat the answer and said he would "punch him", Suarez said: "I don't speak to blacks."

Powar believes racial abuse between players remains an "unspoken taboo" in the English game, and hopes the Suarez case will prove to be a watershed moment.

"The Football Association's published judgment from the Suarez-Evra incident is welcome," Powar said.

"It appears the FA have taken their time to initiate a process that was both fair in its implementation of football rules, and in accordance with the principles of British justice.

"As an international non-governmental organization we think the investigation and judgment sets the bar for governing bodies globally.

"Racial abuse between players on the field of play has been an unspoken taboo for too long, an area that has been unsatisfactorily dealt with by English football despite many cases over the past 10 years."

Liverpool has been given until January 13 to respond, meaning Suarez will be free to play in their next three games, including their Carling Cup semi-final first-leg trip to Manchester City on January 11.

Liverpool Alerted By Arsenal’s Wing Wizard Contract War

Arsenal winger Theo Walcott’s astronomical contract demands could lead to him move to one of The Gunners’ Premier League rivals, according to The Daily Star.

The England international is requesting a new four-year deal worth £85,000 a week.

The likes of Liverpool and Chelsea are reportedly being alerted with Arsenal so far stalling over completing a deal.

Walcott joined Arsenal in 2006 for an initial fee of £5 million from Southampton.

His contribution to the four-four chasing Gunners has been limited this season, having netted just once in his last 19 appearances.

Goals will have to arrive more readily in the New Year, with Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh both leaving for the African Cup of Nations later this month.

The clubs being linked with Walcott are Liverpool and Chelsea, along with big spending Paris St Germaine and Juventus, long-term reported admirers of the 22-year-old.

Despite their reported interest, a move from either Liverpool or Chelsea for Walcott is unlikely, not least because of their rivalry in the Premier League.

Liverpool To Bid For Bent

Liverpool is preparing a £24 million bid for Aston Villa striker Darren Bent as they seek to put an end to their low-scoring ways.

The Reds have found the net just 24 times in their 19 Premier League matches this season. Leaders Manchester City has scored more in nine away fixtures.

Bent as the ideal solution to the problem and is set to test Villa's resolve with a bid.

They know they will have to cough up £24 million - the fee the Midlands club paid Sunderland for his services last January.

But that could be no object to the Anfield club, who has splashed out more than £100 million on players over the last 12 months.

According to the Sunday People, Bent is unhappy with a lack of service at Villa, following the summer departures of Ashley Young to Manchester United and Stewart Downing to Liverpool.

He would jump at the chance of a move to the five-time European champions, where he could link up in attack with the likes of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll.

Bent scored for Villa in their 3-1 win at Chelsea recently, but had previously missed the last three games with a thigh injury.

McLeish Insists Darren Bent Will Not Leave Aston Villa

Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish insists that striker Darren Bent will not be sold in the transfer window.

Following his team’s 3-1 victory away to Chelsea in which Bent scored the third goal after appearing as a substitute, he told reporters: “He won’t be leaving.”

The England international has been linked with a move to Liverpool after exit rumours intensified when he was photographed out shopping during his team’s 2-0 defeat to the Reds.

The Anfield club may be tempted to move for Bent in light of Luis Suarez’s eight-match ban, which leaves struggling Andy Carroll to lead the line.

Villa signed Bent from Sunderland last January for a fee that could rise to £24 million, and it has been suggested that Liverpool's owners, Fenway Sports Group, would sanction a big-money move this month.

Bent has scored six goals so far this season, and it has been suggested that he was unhappy with the service at Villa following the sales of Ashley Young and Stewart Downing.

The 27-year-old missed the club’s last three matches prior to the Chelsea game, and commented: “It has been a frustrating time for me with injuries but I am now going in the right direction.

“Long term I don’t think it was anything serious. I probably need to do a bit more work in the gym to get things stronger and just take it from there really.

“Hopefully that’s the last of my injury problems and I can look forward to some more time on the pitch and scoring goals now.”