Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dalglish: Reds May Need Change Of Style

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish has suggested his side will need to revert to a more direct style of play if they are to improve on an underwhelming Premier League season.

The Reds are currently mired in seventh in the league table - closer to West Brom in 14th than Newcastle in sixth - after a desperately inconsistent season that has been characterized by poor home form and off the field distractions.

That continued on Saturday, as Wigan stunned their hosts at Anfield to win 2-1 - just days after the Merseyside club had thrown away a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 against another relegation-threatened side, QPR.

Despite this, Dalglish believes the criticism his side have attracted has been unfairly warranted - although he did suggest that he will be changing his tactics in the search for an upturn in fortunes.

"It's amazing," Dalglish said of the criticism of his team. "You can pick out our league form and then you can look at someone else who has been knocked out of three cups, yet they take that as a good season for them.

"It depends how you depict it. We are not saying we were at our best [against QPR and Wigan] but there were circumstances, with three games in [seven] days.

"We have got a problem winning games in the league. We have to educate ourselves and maybe we have to not play the lovely football that we have been."

When pressed on that last statement, the Scot added: "Maybe we have to change our philosophies a wee bit."

Continuing to defend his side, Dalglish suggested that injuries had savaged his squad's strength in depth and made it difficult to cope with a fixture pile-up - hinting that he would ask for further reinforcements in the summer.

"If we hadn't had as many injuries, we could have freshened it up a bit but we have not got that luxury at the moment and we have to get on with it," Dalglish said. "The body was willing but the mind just wouldn't take them there. We can look at every game and we can find valid reasons - and we are not looking for excuses, we are looking for reasons.

"That was [Jamie Carragher's] third game, Steven Gerrard's third game, there were a few of them had their third game in seven days and that is a long run, especially when you have travel in between.

"Maybe that is the price you have to pay for success but for us, if we want to be successful, we have to be able to handle it. The best way we can handle it is if we have more players to choose from but at the moment we are not blessed with that."

Reds Eye African Trialists

Liverpool is understood to have offered trials to three of Ghana's brightest young talents, Sky Sports understands.

Bright Gyenfi, James Akaminko and Nurudeen Amed are all due on Merseyside next month.

The trio hails from Prampram Mighty Royals Football Club, who recently produced starlet Masahudu Alhassan and has just made the breakthrough at Serie A outfit Genoa.

Gyenfi, 16, is a right-back, whilst 18-year-olds Amed and Akaminko are midfielders.

The trio is set to arrive at Liverpool later in April, with the hope of impressing the Reds' youth coaches.

Liverpool are understood to have been one of a number of Premier League clubs alerted to the teenagers, and they have been the first to make a move.

Charles Amankwah of Asante Kotoko is also believed to be of interest to Liverpool and could also join his fellow countrymen for a trial stint in England.

Liverpool In Race To Sign Anderlecht Striker

Liverpool are rumoured to be preparing a move for Anderlecht star Matias Suarez, after technical director Damien Comolli was spotted watching the player in action.

According to reports in the Mirror, the 23 year-old has emerged as one of the club’s top transfer targets, as they look to make adjustments to their squad over the summer months.

Comolli is believed to have watched the striker a number of times this season, but is wary of Anderlecht’s hefty price tag.

Anderlecht manager Herman van Holsbeeck confirmed that a number of clubs have registered interest in the player, with Liverpool and two other Premier League clubs believed to be included, but that nothing concrete has come of it yet.

“There are 15 top clubs prepared to pay the money we want for Suarez and the fee could be higher than the money we received from Chelsea for Romelu Lukaku last year. Matias could have gone to Russia in the winter and also Juventus, but his wife Magali did not want to go.

“Do I think Suarez is worth more than Lukaku? Well, technically he is a better player,” he said.

While Liverpool’s owners, Fenway Sports Group, no doubt have the finances to bring in Suarez, they are wary about over-spending, having already forked out an estimated £115 million on recruiting new players during Kenny Dalglish’s short reign as Liverpool boss.

Martinez Deal Denied

The agent of Colombian international Jackson Martinez insists that no deal has been agreed for the striker to join any club.

Reports in Portugal claim that Porto has won the race to sign the Jaguares striker - ahead of a number of other clubs including Liverpool.

Martinez and his agents have both previously claimed Liverpool were keen on securing his signature.

And now his agent Diego Cativa insists that the 25-year-old, one of the top-scorers in Mexican football, is yet to decide his future.

Asking whether the Porto deal was agreed, Cativa told Ojogo: "This is not true.

"Until the end of the season, there will be no developments on the future of Jackson."

Cativa also insisted that they are not holding talks with Porto.

Liverpool Set To Miss Out On PSV's Goal Scoring Winger

Liverpool could miss out on one of their summer targets after it was suggested that PSV-Eindhoven winger Dries Mertens prefers a move to Germany.

According to a report in The Sun, Liverpool have sent scouts to watch the winger on a number of occasions this season as manager Kenny Dalglish looks to add balance to his squad.

The Reds already have Stewart Downing on the left, but this season have looked out of shape when playing either Dirk Kuyt or Jordan Henderson on the right hand side of midfielder.

Mertens has been in sensational goal-scoring form for the Dutch side this season as he has scored 18 league goals in 26 games, including netting four ties in a 7-1 win over Roda JC.

The 24-year-old was signed by PSV from Utrecht in a joint deal with Kevin Strootman, the duo costing €13million in the summer.

However, a source told The Sun that the Belgium international would prefer a move to German league leaders Bayern Munich. "He has been asking his friends about life in Germany and he has been encouraged by what he has heard."

Coates Remaining Patient

Sebastian Coates knows he will have to bide his time before earning a regular place in Liverpool's first team.

Despite his stunning scissor-kick goal in the defeat by Queens Park Rangers, last summer's signing from Nacional was dropped to the bench for Saturday's loss at the hands of Wigan.

But Coates accepts he faces a battle to fight his way ahead of Martin Skrtel, Jamie Carragher and the presently injured Daniel Agger.

Liverpool's Premier League campaign has been a disappointment, but only Manchester City and Manchester United have conceded fewer goals and Coates recognizes the competition for defensive places.

He told Liverpool's Official Matchday Programme: "I feel more settled now. As the months and the time goes by, the period becomes a lot more easy.

"I am enjoying the football and I know I have to be patient to play more games, purely because the other defenders have been so consistent for a long time.

"That is the nature of defence. Especially in that position, when it is working, you don't change it.

"I gained this attitude when Diego Godin had an injury before the Copa America and I got a chance. Because I did well, I stayed in the team.

"So you must respect your team-mates when they perform. There can be no arguments."

Throughout the season, Coates has been watching Skrtel, Carragher and Agger in order to develop his game, but he has also been in awe of captain Steven Gerrard.

"His reputation is worldwide," Coates said of the England international. "When I was younger in Uruguay, I would see a lot of the Champions League games that Liverpool was involved in.

"He was always so influential, putting in some fantastic performances. He is the kind of player that everybody hopes to one day call a team-mate. It is an education to be on the same side as him."

Lucas Hopeful On Fitness

Liverpool's injured midfielder Lucas Leiva is hopeful he will be fit again for the start of next season.

The Brazil international has not played for the Reds after suffering a campaign-ending knee injury in their Carling Cup success at Chelsea at the back end of November.

Lucas is an integral member of manager Kenny Dalglish's team and results have declined during his absence, even more so since the turn of the year.

The 25-year-old has now delivered an upbeat bulletin on his progress, stating his injury was so severe that it was never going to be a speedy return to action.

"My rehab is going well and hopefully I will be fit for next season," he wrote on his Twitter account.

"It was a bad injury so I need to recover properly to be strong again."

The pressure intensified on Dalglish on Saturday following a 2-1 defeat to Wigan at Anfield and Lucas has called on everyone to try and stay positive

He continued: "I know everyone is disappointed about (Saturday's result), but we need to move on and keep working."

Liverpool Kids Have Earned Their Chance

The future at Liverpool is looking bright. When you consider that the Reds went down to a 2-1 defeat against Wigan Athletic at the weekend, and have lost five of their last six games in the Premier League, it seems like an odd statement. But, looking past the first team’s recent struggles in the English top flight, a core of young players are slowly emerging from the club’s famed academy.

After producing the likes of Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, it’s been a relatively baron spell in relation to players graduating from Melwood to Anfield. A third-place finish in the inaugural NextGen Series, an Under 19 tournament aimed at reflecting the Champions League, suggests that times could be changing though, with a couple of players who’ve represented the young Reds already getting a recent senior chance.

Raheem Sterling made his first team debut in Saturday’s defeat to the Latics, introduced as a second-half substitute and impressing despite the reverse, whilst Jon Flanagan, who featured last season under Dalglish, was also in senior action for the first time this term over the weekend.

And, whilst the result was a negative over the weekend, neither player was out of depth at the older level. For that, credit must go to Rodolfo Borrell, who is constantly working to get the club’s young players up to scratch.

"The NextGen Series has been a great experience for the lads. We have a young squad and we have played against strong and experienced teams. They have a learned a lot for the future," he told the official Liverpool website.

It hasn’t been all success in the competition for the young Reds, who progressed to the semi-finals on a technicality after a defeat to Tottenham Hotspur. They then lost the semi-final 6-0 against a resurgent Ajax.

However, a string of players have shown that they can’t be far from breaking into the side, and it would seem like now is the perfect time.

Liverpool have already booked their place in the Europa League with victory in the League Cup, and will be hoping to make it a domestic double in the FA Cup with a potential all-Merseyside semi-final to look forward too at Wembley.

But, in the Premier League, the Reds literally have nothing to play for. The obvious response is that the players’ pride is on the line, and finishing above Newcastle in sixth would be a positive in terms of morale. It also has a small financial benefit, as each higher place in the table adds a few hundred thousand pounds.

That’s relative chump change in today’s modern football climate, and for a club the size of Liverpool, there is much more important things to worry about now a top four finish is realistically out of their reach.

Developing young talent should be one of those priorities, but it seems to be something ‘King Kenny’ is not so keen to try and do this season.

"You just need to draw your horses back a bit. He (Sterling) wouldn't have been there if we weren't in the position we were in. It is nice to see the kids get a game but it is also better for us to look after them and manage them,” said the Scot post-match on Saturday.

"We are not going to throw kids in and destroy them, but it is nice to see them on the pitch."

From the outside looking in, it seems like a disappointing assessment of the junior players trying to make their way to the very top on Merseyside. The likes of Connor Coady, Adam Morgan, Jack Robinson, Flanagan and Sterling have been talked about for over a year now, but are clearly not judged to be ready for the big-time.

That is where complete trust must fall to the manager – supporters are desperate to see more of Sterling in particular, whose attacking style quickly captured the imagination during 16 great minutes against Roberto Martinez’s side.

More frustratingly, the senior players at the club aren’t playing well. The simple fact is that Liverpool are currently under-performing, and whilst Dalglish won’t criticize any individuals at the club, he will privately be disappointed with a number of his players.