Thursday, May 03, 2012

Dalglish Prefers Cup Glory

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish believes an 'obsession' with the Premier League has reduced the value of winning cup competitions.

The Reds go into this Saturday's FA Cup final against Chelsea looking for a second piece of silverware this season, having already lifted the Carling Cup in February.

But for some, Liverpool's poor league form has overshadowed these cup successes with the Anfield club losing eight of their last 12 games in the Premier League.

The Reds currently lie in eighth place in the table, well below pre-season expectations after spending a considerable amount of money in the summer.

And while Dalglish accepts the club's league form must improve, he insists cup wins bring their own satisfaction.

"Any competition you enter you want to do the best you possibly can in," said the 61-year-old Scot.

"In the league it is 38 games and at the end you finish in a position which tells you how successful it has been.

"In cup competitions there are obviously not as many games and if you get beaten you are out.

"There is an obsession with the Premier League simply because of what it holds for every club and the value financially for every club, the rewards you get for finishing in the top four and getting in the Champions League.

"But there is a satisfaction from winning a cup competition which you don't get from finishing fifth or sixth in the league.

"We have already tasted a cup final this year, albeit the Carling Cup, and getting to the FA Cup final should never be under-estimated in any way.

"It is a fantastic day out for everyone and is great reward for the efforts and commitment of the players and the respect we have paid to the competition.

"We think we deserve to be there and we are happy to be there. We will see what happens. We are in the cup final and there is no guarantee we will win but there is a guarantee we will give everything we have got to try to win.

"The season will be assessed when it's finished."

Match Report: Liverpool 0 - 1 Fulham

Fulham recorded a first win at Anfield in their history as Liverpool's FA Cup final warm-up felt decidedly flat.

The Cottagers' previous 30 visits had failed to produce a victory and Merseyside, in general, has been an unhappy hunting ground.

Saturday's woeful 4-0 defeat to Everton at Goodison Park extended Fulham's run in league matches to no wins in 48 trips to the city of Liverpool.

But all that changed courtesy of Martin Skrtel's fifth-minute own goal and a severely-weakened Reds line-up as manager Kenny Dalglish made nine changes to protect his major stars in the pursuit of a second domestic trophy of the season on Saturday.

Liverpool was without the likes of top scorer Luis Suarez, captain Steven Gerrard, Daniel Agger, Craig Bellamy and goalkeeper Jose Reina.

But the absent players only enhanced their reputations as their team suffered back-to-back home defeats - having lost to West Brom last time out - and a fourth loss at home.

They have now dropped an astonishing 30 points at Anfield in the current campaign, having won just five times in 18 matches.

Prior to the game Dalglish had insisted cup final places were up for grabs but on the evidence of this performance only Skrtel and Andy Carroll stand a chance of starting.

Fulham had an absentee of their own, with manager Martin Jol missing his second successive match with a chest infection, but it did not seem to affect them.

Early on the name of Roy Hodgson was chanted by the small number of visiting fans, who have fond memories of the newly-appointed England manager after he took them to a Europa League final two years ago.

It was difficult to assess whether it was a celebration of his promotion to the national team job or a taunt to Liverpool fans - who never took to the man who succeeded Rafael Benitez and lasted just six months and Anfield.

Liverpool's problem has stemmed from dominating games but not scoring goals but they did not even have the chance to get into their stride before they were behind.

It was a goal created by two former Reds as left-back John Arne Riise crossed to ex-youth team player Alex Kacaniklic, who deflected the ball on to captain-for-the-night Skrtel who diverted it past Doni.

Clint Dempsey and Damien Duff were Fulham's brightest players in the opening exchanges and when the former chipped the ball forward the latter poked in a shot which the Liverpool goalkeeper turned behind.

It took until midway through the first half for the home side to get going with Maxi Rodriguez shooting well over before Dirk Kuyt volleyed wide from Carroll's lay-off.

They would have equalized in the 28th minute had Brede Hangeland not stopped Jonjo Shelvey's shot on the goal-line.

Carroll, returning after a minor groin complaint kept him out of the weekend win at Norwich, looked fresh and did well to make his aerial threat count in the first half, although it was mainly in providing knock-downs for team-mates.

He proved equally adept with his feet in sending Shelvey through the inside-left channel but the midfielder curled a shot wide of the far post.

Carroll had one headed chance of his own just before the interval and although his effort was straight at Mark Schwarzer, the Fulham goalkeeper almost made a mess of it before collecting his fumble.

The second half brought a change with Stewart Downing replacing Jordan Henderson and the England winger was soon into the action firing a long-range shot just wide.

Liverpool's tempo also increased but it was the visitors who created the first real chance after the break.

The woodwork, struck 30 times, has been Liverpool's nemesis this season but it rescued them just past the hour when substitute Kerim Frei's shot hit the post with Doni at full-stretch.

Carroll was continuing to put himself about up front and a great side-step beat Hangeland in the penalty area. But, with the ball on his weaker right foot, Aaron Hughes did enough to deflect his shot behind.

The introduction of 17-year-old reserve-team prodigy Raheem Sterling with 15 minutes to go gave the crowd a lift but they were holding their breath when Frei cut open the defence only for Doni to deny Dempsey with a sharp save low to his left.

But there was no sign of a rousing finish as Liverpool signed off before Wembley with a whimper.

Liverpool Flops Face FA Cup Axe

Kenny Dalglish has warned his Liverpool flops that some of them may have blown their chances of starting Saturday’s FA Cup final against Chelsea.

The Reds, who have only won five league games at Anfield this season, fielded a much-changed line-up in Tuesday night’s clash 1-0 defeat to Fulham, and Dalglish has slammed the approach of his stars.

‘Their attitude was not right and if you get a bad attitude you are going to get a bad performance and that is what we got,' he said.

'I think that is an accurate appraisal.

'I am culpable as well as I changed a lot of players to try to give everyone an opportunity to get in the frame for Saturday.

'I suppose by doing that it was a contributory factor to what happened but you can only be fair. I tried to be fair and give everyone an opportunity - maybe I was wrong.

'There were one or two positives but there were too many negatives. We cannot play at that tempo, we have to play at a quicker tempo than that. We deserved nothing.'

Jordan Henderson, Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing, Dirk Kuyt and Skrtel all played a significant part in the defeat, while Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard and Pepe Reina were all rested.

Liverpool Legend Criticises Dalglish Selection Policy

Former Liverpool star Steve McManaman has criticized Kop boss Kenny Dalglish's selection policy, after they slumped to a 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Fulham.

The result marked the 14th time that Liverpool have failed to win at Anfield, and McManaman questioned Dalglish's decision to rest players ahead of the FA Cup final against Chelsea on Saturday.

As reported by, McManaman said on ESPN post-match: “Why not win [on Tuesday] and on Saturday? It’s only rotation if you have the quality.”

Dalglish opted to rest Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez ahead of Saturday's final, and McManaman called into question the ability and desire of the line-up which was fielded against Fulham.

“You have to do yourself justice in front of the fans, who pay very good money while the economy [continues to decline]. You have to give them something and they [the players] have given them nothing.

“If you are going to go down, go down with the fans thinking ‘at least they had a go’. But there was none of that. Fulham were deserved winners.”

Despite winning the Carling Cup in February and having the potential of adding to that with the FA Cup, Liverpool have endured a disappointing league campaign.

Defeat to Fulham was their fourth at home and 13th overall this season, and the club could face their worst Premier League finish ever if they fail to get out of their current slump.

Liverpool Identify Two Prolific Strikers

Liverpool's struggles in the league continued on Tuesday night as they were beaten 1-0 at Anfield by Fulham who are now level on points with the Merseyside club.

The Reds have struggled all season at home and it seems as though manager Kenny Dalglish may well be in the market for another striker after seeing yet another wasteful display.

Dalglish and assistant Steve Clarke travelled to France last Friday to watch Montpellier in action where they will have been able to watch forward Olivier Giroud in action.

The French striker is the top scorer in Ligue 1 this season with 19 league goals and has impressed so much that he is almost a certainty to travel to Euro 2012, despite having just three caps to his name.

The Daily Mail has reported that Giroud has a release clause of around £13.5million, but believe that a stumbling block to the move could be the lack of Champions League football.

Another striker that is known to be on the radar is FC Twente forward Luuk de Jong whose agent yesterday admitted that Liverpool are one of the clubs interested in signing the Dutch forward.

However, Liverpool will face plenty of competition for the striker with his agent also claiming that there are believed to be 15 clubs interested in signing the forward who has scored 23 goals in 28 league appearances.

Tottenham And Liverpool Alerted As Robben Threatens To Quit Bayern

Liverpool and Tottenham are just two of the names being mentioned after it was reported that Arjen Robben may decide to leave Bayern Munich at the end of the season.

The fiery Dutch winger was involved in a bust-up with fellow midfielder Franck Ribery during the Champions League semi-final with Real Madrid and now he may decide to quit the club.

The Daily Mail has reported that he is unwilling to renew his contract which expires in the summer of 2013 and he may choose to walk out on the club who are set to play Chelsea in the Champions League final.

Reports in Germany have claimed that Ribery went as far as slapping Robben over an argument about who would take a free-kick against Real Madrid.

Robben moved to Bayern Munich for £20million when he left Real Madrid but he does have experience of the Premier League where he won the league title with Chelsea under Jose Mourinho.

The Mail believes that Liverpool and Tottenham have been alerted to the news of Robben's possible departure and may be interested in trying to sign him over the summer.

Bayern president Uli Hoeness has revealed that Robben was all set to sign a new contract with the club but suddenly he has delayed.

"All I know is that he was just about to put pen to paper, and now that has all been postponed," said Hoeness.

Italian Giants Join Arsenal And Liverpool In Chase For Colombian Star

Arsenal and Liverpool target Pablo Armero is now attracting the attention of AC Milan and Juventus, according to Italian TV station Mediaset.

The 25-year-old Udinese defender has been one of the Serie A side's most consistent performers this season, with 28 appearances and a single goal.

The left-footed Colombia international has become a mainstay in Udinese's backline since he joined from Brazilian side Palmeiras in 2010 and can play at left-back as well as left midfield.

He has even deputized as a holding midfielder at times this season - a fact not lost on his long list of admirers.

His contract expires in the summer of 2015 and Udinese would want around £8m to tempt them into a deal.

Liverpool Face Threat From Milan In Bid To Land Barca Star

Liverpool target Seydou Keita could be about to snub the Anfield side and agree to a switch to AC Milan.

The Mali international has been looking for a new challenge away from Barcelona after falling behind their long list of midfield stars and becoming a sporadically used substitute.

The 32-year-old is looking for a contract that will take him to the end of his career and Russian super-spenders Anzhi have also made their interest known.

But Barca is prepared to use Keita as a makeweight in a deal to refresh their squad and are considering offering him plus cash to AC Milan in a deal for Brazilian centre-back Thiago Silva.

Keita has previously described Liverpool as "a great club with great players", but he might now prefer a move to the San Siro, according to Spanish newspaper Sport.

Liverpool Fifth Most Costly Premier League Side

One of the arguments trotted out to defend the high transfer fees paid for some players last summer—right after the one about how British players with Premier League experience would take less time to settle and because of this pay back the higher fees with a better chance of returning to the Champions League—was that the players coming in would be on lower wages than the men they were replacing. The fees might seem high at first glance, then, but the total cost to the club would be less over the longer term.

If that was indeed the intent, then something has gone rather wrong: The average weekly wage paid out to first team players at Liverpool Football Club has risen 6% this season to over £80,000. This takes Liverpool from being the institution with the 20th highest wage bill in global sport to number 18 on the list. While well behind Manchester City (3), Chelsea (4), and Manchester United (11), and slightly back of Arsenal (16), this still makes Liverpool the fifth most costly side in the Premier League by salary.

After Liverpool, in fact, another English club doesn’t make the list until Aston Villa in 41st place. Of sides ahead of them in the table today, Tottenham rank 51st, Newcastle 127th, and Everton 108th in wages paid. Fulham, who are now level on points, are 104th. Whether or not this played a role in Damien Comolli’s recent dismissal, it’s damning to learn that Liverpool is in fact shelling out 6% more to its players this season compared to last in addition to the heavy fees paid for many of those new signings in the summer and yet the club remains on pace for their worst finish in over half a century.

League results may have improved slightly in recent weeks—at least relative to what they were a month ago—but regardless of cost the bigger picture isn’t all that pretty. At the beginning of March, the club had managed only 0.8 points per game in the previous ten games, while the form since the second half of the season began in January sat at 0.73 points per game. It meant the club stood 19th in the table in the second half and was on relegation form.

Now, Liverpool has managed to raise their form to an even point per game over the past ten matches, with their second-half form rising to 0.88 points per game as a result. The second half form remains in the relegation zone, only moving the club up to 18th from 19th, but at least their form over the past ten matches is slightly above that—over the entire season, a point per game would see Liverpool in 17th place today. On only that most recent form, Liverpool would be 0.03 points per game back of Aston Villa—another side under-performing heavily compared to the wages they pay.

So there has at least been some minor improvement in the league in recent weeks, though it’s very much a relative thing as over a season that improvement would still see the club’s performance at a level far closer to relegation than to the top four. It’s also worth noting that following last night’s disinterested loss to Fulham, Liverpool now need all six points from their remaining two league matches against Chelsea and Swansea to avoid their worst finish in the top flight since relegation in 1954.

As problematic as league performance is even separated from wages paid, what’s most damning about where the club currently finds itself is that the outlay on players—with the numbers taken from the start of the 2011-12 season, when all summer transfers but Raul Meireles’ had been completed—has actually gone up. As such, it isn’t a situation that can be blamed on past regimes and their Joe Coles. For years, Rafa Benitez wildly outperformed his spend in the league table, with European dominance thrown into the mix. Since 2009-10, however, the club’s results have plummeted past something resembling a fair return to the embarrassing place they now stand.

Two things are clear here: Liverpool are wildly overpaying many of their current players based on return on the pitch, and bringing in the likes of Carroll, Downing, and Adam has in fact done the opposite of reducing the wages paid to the average Liverpool player. What also seems apparent is that if Liverpool want to have a legitimate chance of competing near the top of the league and in Europe, then there isn’t just a clear need to spend smarter on players—they also plain need to spend more. The financial numbers make the degree to which Liverpool has misspent in the transfer market over the past year and a half all the more clear, but they also make it clear that even with smarter spending the current outlay isn’t anywhere near enough to compete with the top sides in England.