Sunday, September 02, 2012

Match Preview: Liverpool v Arsenal

Liverpool and Arsenal on Sunday lunchtime meet at Anfield when both clubs will be looking for their first Premier League wins of the season and Nuri Sahin could make his debut.

Neither side have yet to collect a three-point haul in the wake of eventful summers, which have set both clubs into new eras.

Hosts Liverpool have undergone vast change following the arrival of Brendan Rodgers and their new boss will be keen for a Premier League win after the defeat by West Bromwich Albion and last Sunday's draw with Manchester City.

Meanwhile, a Robin van Persie-less Arsenal, who have also sold Alex Song while Theo Walcott's future was thrown into doubt before the transfer deadline, have yet to score in the top flight since parting with their former captain after stalemates with Sunderland and Stoke City.

Both clubs will therefore be determined to win on Merseyside in a game which can be seen live on Sky Sports HD 1 and it promises to be another engrossing encounter between two of the game's heavyweights.

The potential Liverpool debut of Sahin, who almost joined Arsenal on loan from Real Madrid before instead switching to Anfield, is an added element for this weekend's match amid all the hype regarding the midfielder.

Last season's correlating fixture in March saw Arsenal come from a goal down against the run of play to stun Liverpool with a superb injury-time, volleyed winner from Van Persie.

The Merseysiders' league season subsequently unravelled, costing Kenny Dalglish his job, and remaining players will be keen to settle the score.

Liverpool defender Daniel Agger is available for Sunday's Premier League clash against Arsenal after serving a domestic suspension.

Sebastian Coates replaced the Dane in last week's draw with Manchester City.

Brazilian midfielder Lucas has been ruled out for two to three months with a thigh injury but Rodgers otherwise has a fully-fit squad.

Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny returns to the squad for Sunday's Premier League clash with Liverpool.

Koscielny has recovered from a calf injury, but goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny faces a fitness test on his rib problem.

Midfielder Jack Wilshere (ankle) and defender Bacary Sagna (broken leg) continue their rehabilitation.

Reds Set To Bring Yossi Back

Sky Sports understands Liverpool is hopeful of signing Yossi Benayoun from Chelsea on a season-long loan.

The 32-year-old is desperate for a move away from Stamford Bridge after being told by manager Roberto Di Matteo that he was not part of his plans.

Benayoun has a year left on his £70,000-a-week contract, but is determined to exit Stamford Bridge after dropping down the pecking order with the club bringing in Eden Hazard and Oscar.

The Israeli international spent last season on loan at Arsenal, and with the Blues seeking as much as £3million for the midfielder, it seems likely a loan deal will be accepted.

Liverpool has now emerged as favourites to land the player who enjoyed three years on Merseyside from 2007-10.

He made more than 90 appearances and scored Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup hat-tricks during his time at Anfield.

Sahin Rejects Greed Claims

Nuri Sahin has hit out at suggestions he joined Liverpool for the money by outlining the reasons for his switch to Anfield.

Turkish midfielder Sahin has come to the Reds on a season-long loan deal from Real Madrid and is in contention to make his debut against Arsenal on Sunday.

He says he had offers from elsewhere but decided to make the move to Merseyside because he has faith in Brendan Rodgers and wants to play regularly.

The 23-year-old, who struggled with injuries last season after joining Madrid from Borussia Dortmund, is angry at claims his switch was financially motivated.

"You don't know me very well if you think I would go anywhere for money," he said.

"If it was about money, I wouldn't be here.

"I had a lot of offers that would have allowed me to earn three times as much as I will earn here.

"I don't care about money. I know that I will earn a lot of money in my career, if everything goes well.

"The only reason I'm here is that I know I can play football here. I have a manager who trusts me and the way I play, and that I'm at a huge club."

Sahin is confident Liverpool can improve under Rodgers after working in a similar set-up during Jurgen Klopp's reign at Dortmund.

"We were successful at Dortmund because we were a team," said Sahin. "In the first season under Klopp we were sixth, then fifth.

"Then we were champions and last season Dortmund did it again.

"That's because we had a long-term project. Brendan wants to improve Liverpool the same way and I think there will only be one way under him and that is up."

Adam Explains Reds Exit

Newly signed Stoke City midfielder Charlie Adam has revealed that he left Liverpool to play regular first-team football.

The 26-year-old joined the Potters in a £4million deal on Friday after realizing that he did not fit into the playing style professed by new manager Brendan Rodgers at Anfield.

"When a new manager comes in, he's going to want to change the way he's going to play," Adam said in The Sun. "That's the way it goes, that's football.

"At my age, I wanted to play every week. I owe a lot to Liverpool and those who brought me there.

"But I respect Brendan Rodgers, he's a top manager."

Adam joined Liverpool from Blackpool last summer.

Liverpool Manager Rules Out Move For Dutch Forward

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has ruled out a move for Dutch striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar.

After sanctioning Andy Carroll’s season-long loan move to West Ham United last night, the northern Irishman confessed that the club would be looking to sign at least one more forward before the transfer window closes.

Rodgers has remained secretive when quizzed on which strikers Liverpool are looking at, but explicitly denied reports that the club was considering a late bid for Schalke’s free scoring Dutchman, Huntelaar.

When the subject of a bid for the former Ajax, Real Madrid and AC Milan forward came up, Rodgers was brisk in denying it. “No. Definite no,” Sky Sports report.

When questioned on bids for Arsenal’s Theo Walcott and Chelsea’s Daniel Sturridge were brought up, Rodgers refused to deny moves for the pair, remaining coy on the issue.

Reds Face Anzhi Trip

Liverpool have been drawn against Udinese, Young Boys Bern and FC Anzhi Makhachkala in the group stages of the Europa League.

Brendan Rodgers' side ensured their place in the group stages of the competition with a nervy 2-1 aggregate win over SPL side Hearts on Thursday and went in Friday's draw in Monaco as top seeds.

However, despite that seeding they have been dealt a tricky looking draw in Group A with Italian side Udinese, Swiss outfit Young Boys and big-spending Anzhi - who are perhaps the most intriguing side for the Reds.

The club is based in the Russian Republic of Dagestan and is owned by billionaire Suleyman Kerimov, who has invested heavily in the club in recent seasons.

Former Holland coach Guus Hiddink arrived as their manager earlier this summer while they can also boast the highest-paid player in the world in their ranks - Cameroon legend Samuel Eto'o.

Newcastle are back in Europe for the first time since 2007 following their fine fifth place finish last term and qualified for the group stages with a 2-1 aggregate win over Atromitos.

They should be reasonably pleased with their draw in Group D, which pits them against Bordeaux, Club Brugge and Maritimo.

Toon boss Alan Pardew will also be relieved that those fixtures will not involve lengthy journeys across the continent.

Tottenham, who exited this competition at the group stages last season, face trips to Greece, Italy and Slovenia after they were drawn with Panathinaikos, Lazio and Maribor.

The clash with Serie A side Lazio is perhaps the stand-out tie for Andre Villas-Boas' men, while Maribor played Championship side Birmingham City in the group stages of last year's competition.

The group matches begin on September 20 with the final set to take place in the Amsterdam Arena on May 15 2013.

Brendan Rodgers In Despair

Liverpool failed to fill the void left by Andy Carroll’s departure because the club’s owners refused to sanction a £7 million deal for the former Fulham player Clint Dempsey.

Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool manager, spent transfer deadline day trying to convince his hierarchy of the need to secure the American international.

Fenway Sports Group were unwilling to meet the price – understood to be £1 million above that quoted to other clubs – and now Rodgers faces the improbable task of leading Liverpool back into the Champions League with Luis Suárez as the only experienced striker at the club.

As the clock ticked before the closure of the transfer window, it emerged that Rodgers was not just frantically negotiating with Dempsey’s club Fulham, but also his own board as he argued his case on the merits of signing the 29-year-old.

Dempsey had earlier rejected the chance to join Aston Villa, desperate for Liverpool to re-open negotiations, before finally holding talks with Spurs. On another difficult day in the tumultuous recent history of the Merseyside club, it became apparent that one of the main stumbling blocks to a deal was FSG’s new, restrained transfer policy and determination to enforce more prudent financial management.

Despite slashing the wage bill by millions, including offloading Carroll on the presumption it would free funds for a replacement, Rodgers was informed the fee for Dempsey was too high and that he could offer only up to £5 million. FSG were reluctant to spend significant money on a player in his late 20s entering the final year of his contract.

They have stated previously they would rather invest in young talent than those who will have no sell on value at the end of their contracts, and they are still reeling from the millions wasted by the previous management regime.

It seemed inconceivable as the deadline approached, having allowed Carroll to join West Ham on loan, that Rodgers would be left with only Suárez as a senior striker, but that is the hand he has now been dealt until January. Should Suárez suffer an injury in the next few months, Rodgers will have only Fabio Borini — signed predominantly as a wide man – as a realistic alternative.

The transfer window has provided a thorough education for the latest Anfield incumbent on the financial reality gripping the club. He may feel it has little in common with the public pronouncements when he joined Liverpool.

Chairman Tom Werner suggested last season that Liverpool could match the top clubs in Europe. “I would say we certainly have the resources to compete with anybody in football,” he said on April 12.

At Rodgers’s unveiling in June, a club statement went even further, suggesting the high spending of the previous management regime would not impact on the new coach’s transfer plans.

It read: “The owners are always willing to provide funds where necessary to strengthen the squad.

“There will be no requirement to sell players this summer in order to fund new purchases.”

These claims do not seem to tally with Rodgers’s failure to get the green light to sign Dempsey, particularly given the number of senior players who have left since he was appointed, many of whom he was helpless to prevent departing. Numerous high-earning players have departed since the end of last season, including Dirk Kuyt, Craig Bellamy, Alberto Aquilani, Andy Carroll and Maxi Rodriguez.

Fabio Aurelio, Charlie Adam and Jay Spearing have also been moved on, equating to a conservative estimate of £20 million slashed in wages, and yet Rodgers still found himself pleading in vain for the funds to force through the Dempsey deal.

Liverpool also held talks with Chelsea for the loan signing of Daniel Sturridge, but the England international wanted to make the transfer permanent.

Rodgers possessed neither the funds nor the inclination to bid £15 million for his services and Sturridge was a substitute in Chelsea’s Super Cup defeat in Monaco.

The early part of the day at Anfield was spent offloading players. Adam moved to Stoke for £4 million, Spearing headed to Bolton for a season’s loan and youngsters Danny Wilson and Nathan Eccleston headed to Blackpool on loan. Dani Pacheco moved to Real Valladolid.

Liverpool Hunt New Managing Director After Disastrous Deadline Day

Liverpool will restart their search for a new managing director next week following a disastrous transfer deadline day at the club, can reveal.

Owners Fenway Sports Group have revived their plans after Ayre was deemed culpable for Brendan Rodgers being left with only two recognized strikers when the transfer window closed on Friday night after their pursuit of Clint Dempsey fell through.

Ayre was charged with negotiating with Fulham for the striker, who had made no secret of his desire to move to Anfield and was greatly admired by the club's American owners, but refused to match Tottenham Hotspur's £6 million valuation which saw him move across the capital.

Rodgers was assured prior to allowing Andy Carroll to join West Ham United on a season-long loan that a deal for a replacement attacker was in place but the move for Dempsey, as well as that for Chelsea hitman Daniel Sturridge, failed to materialize. understands that this latest setback is the final straw for Anfield chiefs and has validated the long-standing concerns of principal owner John Henry and chairman Tom Werner, the club's senior figureheads about the Merseyside-born businessman.

The pair both harboured misgivings about appointing Ayre to oversee the day-to-day running of the club following Christian Purslow's departure in late 2010, but were won over by his work within their commercial department, which saw him promoted in March 2011.

However, his controversial quotes on plans for Liverpool to lead a breakaway from the Premier League's overseas television rights deal prompted strong disapproval from their peers and set in motion what soon became a season-long PR blunder last term.

At the height of Luis Suarez's race row, Ayre sanctioned the publishing of a forthright statement on Liverpool's official website in response to the striker being hit with an eight-game suspension for abusing Patrice Evra, which contained several inaccuracies and was widely criticized.

His refusal to intervene in the infamous T-shirt debacle which took place before Liverpool's visit to Wigan the following night continued to plant seeds of doubt in the minds of the owners, who forced him to join Suarez and then manager Kenny Dalglish in issuing a public apology after the Uruguay international refused to shake hands with Evra ahead of a 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford.

It is currently unclear whether Ayre will be allowed to return to his original role as commercial director at Anfield, where he has been succeeded by Billy Hogan, who arrived from subsidiary Fenway Sports Management at the end of May, despite helping successfully negotiate deals for Liverpool's array of new commercial partners this summer.