Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Brendan Rodgers Must Escape The Trap Of Anfield History

No matter how strong the temptation, never allow yourself to be infected by the chronic delusion that has plagued Anfield for too long. It is utterly debilitating.

Ahead of this sobering defeat by Aston Villa – a comprehensive and deserved 3-1 win for Paul Lambert’s side – there was a hint Rodgers was falling into a familiar trap of presuming too much, too soon, hastily talking about this club in terms of the Premier League top two places.

Liverpool history seduces, hypnotizes and imparts an unjustified sense of entitlement in those who should know better, even when contemporary reality has nothing in common with the past.

Rodgers sounds like a rational, shrewd young coach when he embraces the truth of Liverpool’s situation. A brief diversion to talk about the aim of bridging an 11-point gap to Manchester City – now 14 again – when the gulf is nearer several million miles, and pounds, is counter-productive.

It was as if, after an encouraging few weeks on Merseyside, the footballing gods empowered Aston Villa to issue a sobering reminder of how far this club still has to go.

Villa exposed the deficiencies with expert counter-attacking. Christian Benteke bullied and bewildered the Liverpool defence, scoring twice and creating the second goal for the equally impressive Andreas Weimann. The discussion about the out-of-favour Darren Bent, absent here through injury, should be over.

Lambert described Benteke as “brilliant”, adding: “He can be anything he wants. He might not hit his peak until he is about 28, you never know. But he has been incredible for us. Everyone loves playing alongside him. His goals were outstanding.”

There is a broader problem for Rodgers, which none of his publicised January transfer targets will resolve – as well as a new striker, he needs another central midfielder.

Not for the first time, there was a lack of intensity, malevolence, and downright aggression in the way Liverpool played in the centre of the park. The midfield was timid, wilting whenever belligerent qualities were demanded.

Slow and un-combative, the weakness was demonstrated most clearly when Benteke waltzed unchallenged from the middle of the Liverpool half into the penalty area to score Villa’s third after 50 minutes.

Lucas, only just back from injury, is a good player but he is absurdly overrated by some as much as he was unfairly underrated by others a few years ago, while Joe Allen has endured a recent dip. Even at their best, the balance has not been right as Steven Gerrard tries to find his best role in a new system.

Talk of Anfield traditions too often neglects the legacy of Tommy Smith, Jimmy Case and Graeme Souness. They need a spiteful piece of work (on the pitch) who will earn his side the right to play and make sure the opponent cannot. Liverpool’s cordial style sometimes gives the impression of docility. Great if you are far superior to the opponent, but not when they are capable of taking advantage of the time and space you offer them.

Villa could have scored more and most of Liverpool’s most encouraging moments were squandered before Brad Guzan had to make a save. In the final third, Liverpool’s passing lacks the precision that wins admirers in less dangerous areas.

Johnson Demands Response After Villa Defeat

Liverpool defender Glen Johnson has called for his team mates to bounce back from their 3-1 defeat to at home to Aston Villa.

The Reds went into this fixture winning their previous three matches but were put to the sword by an inform Aston Villa side who are now unbeaten in five, but Johnson wants his side to focus on next weekend's clash with Fulham.

"Any game you lose is disappointing. I think we were lacking a bit of tempo. It was difficult and it was just one of those games," Johnson told the Liverpool Echo.

"It was a great opportunity to pick up three more points and we missed out. We have to put this behind us. It's gone now and there's nothing we can do about it.

"We have a lot of games coming up and we have to look to put things right next weekend."

Johnson was disappointed to taste defeat after making an impressive start to the game, "Early on we had so much of the ball and dominated the game. They went in front completely against the run of play.

"When we were 1-0 down, we still had a big chance as there was plenty of time left in the game. But the second goal before half-time left us with a lot to do.

"You can say we needed to pass the ball that bit quicker, but sometimes it's difficult to play too quick because you have so much room. When you're in loads of room then you are supposed to move into that space.

"When the opposition are so compact around the edge of the box then your little passes have to be perfect. When you have a day like we did when your passing isn't perfect, that makes it very difficult to break them down."

Liverpool Boss Plans To Rest Sterling & Allen

Brendan Rodgers plans to give young starlet Raheem Sterling and summer signing Joe Allen rests in the upcoming weeks, despite Liverpool’s hectic Christmas campaign.

18-year-old Sterling has already featured for Liverpool on 25 occasions this season throughout Liverpool’s campaign that began back on 2 August in the Europa League. The promising youngster has transformed into an integral part of Liverpool’s attacking component, progress that was also recognized at international level when he received his first England cap in November.

But the former Swansea City manager has revealed that he needs to rest Sterling, in a bid to keep him fresh for the entire season. "There is no doubt Raheem is one who does need that breather," Rodgers said, speaking to Liverpool’s official website.

"I've thought about it over the past couple of weeks. In order to do that you need to have that depth to take him out and put somebody else in.

"That's something I'm thinking about - who to put in. He's a naturally very, very fit boy but he needs that mental rest as well. That time will come and he will get the breather soon enough.”

Rodgers also identified the necessity to rest midfielder Joe Allen when the opportunity arises.

"There is no doubt after working with Joe and seeing him, he's another one. If we're honest, there are a few who could do with that breather, especially mentally,” Rodgers continued. It's something for sure I need to have a wee look at."

Reds Eye French Youngster

Liverpool is believed to be interested in signing Valenciennes centre-back Nicolas Isimat-Mirin in the January transfer window.

Reports in France say the 21-year-old's representatives have already held talks with Liverpool about a potential move in the new year, that could initially see him returning to the French club on loan before a possible permanent switch to Anfield in the summer.

Boss Brendan Rodgers and his scouts are on the lookout for exciting young talent in Europe and Isimat-Mirin has caught the eye with some solid displays in Ligue 1.

He first forced his way into the first-team reckoning at Valenciennes two years ago and has gone on to make 31 appearances for them, while Isimat-Mirin has also recently been called into the France Under-21 squad, winning three caps.

He is under contract in France until summer 2014 but, if Liverpool were to offer at least £1million for his services, a deal could reportedly be struck in the new year which would eventually see him make a permanent move over to England in the summer.

Liverpool & Spurs Face Competition For Sporting Lisbon Striker

Liverpool and Tottenham will have to move fast if they want to sign Dutch star Ricky van Wolfswinkel after Fiorentina emerged as the strong favourites to sign the Sporting Lisbon striker.

Van Wolfswinkel is rated one of the hottest strikers in Europe and has been earning rave reviews in the Portuguese League.

The 23-year-old forward has scored 34 goals in just 66 matches following his arrival from Utrecht back in 2011.

Both Brendan Rodgers and Andre Villas-Boas have been strongly linked with a move for the talented forward as they look to bring in another striker in the January transfer window.

But they face a major battle to clinch his signature as reports in Italy claim Fiorentina are preparing a £10m bid for Van Wolfswinkel and are hoping to open talks with the player when the window re-opens next month.

Chelsea & Liverpool Fight For French International Striker

Chelsea and Liverpool striker target Bafetimbi Gomis believes a firm decision on his future is just around the corner – with both clubs ready to fight for his signature.

The Lyon star has been linked with a move away from Ligue 1 in the January transfer window, and Canal Plus reports that the Blues and Reds both sent scouts to watch the talented 27-year-old in action against Paris Saint-Germain at the weekend.

And, whilst the 10-cap French international admits he could sign a new contract at the Stade de Gerland, he knows that a move would be on the cards if an offer isn’t forthcoming.

"I have heard it, the president said I will get transferred or will renew my contract before the end of the January transfer window," said Gomis, according to SkySports.

Chelsea is in the market for a striker, according to The Daily Mail, with Rafael Benitez looking to strengthen in the position in the New Year.

The goalscoring burden currently falls on Fernando Torres at Stamford Bridge, with a lack of options increasing the pressure on the Spaniard in west London.

Gomis, who has scored 10 goals in 17 games this season, would certainly add an extra dimension to the Chelsea attack, and push Daniel Sturridge further down the pecking order.

Liverpool also lack options in attack, with Luis Suarez the only senior striker currently available to manager Brendan Rodgers.

Ironically, the Reds have been linked with a move for Sturridge in recent weeks, but if they fail to land the England striker, then Gomis is another name on the radar, according to The Daily Mail.

Were he to move to Anfield, Gomis would be the only Frenchman in the current Liverpool squad.

Liverpool Told To Pay £6m For England Goalkeeper

Liverpool have been warned that they will have to make an offer of more than £6million if they are to sign Birmingham City goalkeeper Jack Butland in the January transfer window.

The England international has repeatedly been linked with a move to Merseyside in recent months, with the Mirror suggesting that both Liverpool and Everton are keen to sign the goalkeeper in the New Year.

Butland has only become first choice at Birmingham this season after earning plenty of plaudits for his performances for Team GB in the summer, which also helped earn him a call-up to the England squad under Roy Hodgson.

The 19-year-old was the subject of a £6million bid from Southampton in the summer, but Birmingham manager Lee Clark has made it clear that his value has increased after his excellent performances.

"By the time the window opens he'll have played 25 or so ­Championship games," said Clark, as quoted in the Mirror.

"We would be looking for an even more substantial figure than we were offered in the summer - even though I certainly don't want it to come to that."

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has handed reserve goalkeeper Brad Jones a new contract, but it does seem as though he is keen to add a younger stopper to his ranks. It is also believed that he is unconvinced about Pepe Reina and may be looking to find someone suitable to challenge the Spaniard for the number one jersey.

Liverpool's Merseyside rivals Everton are also believed to be interested in Butland as their number two, Jan Mucha, is out of contract in the summer and could decide to leave on a free transfer.

With some serious interest from Premier League clubs, Clark has admitted that Birmingham may be forced to sell if an offer is simply too good to refuse.

"Ultimately, it's down to the board," Clark added. "He's the future and the type of player I'd rather build my team around."

Liverpool Target Says He Wants To Quit Madrid

Liverpool target Arda Turan looks set to leave Atletico Madrid - but Brendan Rodgers may have to wait until the summer to land him.

The Reds have tracked Turan in the past and the Turkish star has previously claimed he would be open to a switch to Anfield.

And now Rodgers has been boosted by news that the 25-year-old is considering leaving Spain at the end of the season.

Turan, who joined Madrid from Galatasaray in 2011, has netted four goals in 15 league appearances to propel Diego Simeone's side to second in the table but it looks as though may well be off in the summer.

"I have wanted to see [Arda] play for another team in another league and Arda also wants to play for another club," his agent Ahmet Bulut told Turkish television channel TRT.

"He wants a different experience. We are working now to try and do exactly that.

"Atl├ętico know of our intentions. If successful, Arda will leave Atleti at the end of the season."

Liverpool Excited By Future Asian Prospects

Frank McParland thinks it will be very soon that an Asian star becomes one of the key players at Liverpool.

The Academy Director saw Liverpool’s U18 side take part in the NextLions Cup in Singapore and witnessed how Asian football is ever-improving.

“I was impressed by both the skill and the physical presence of the Singapore team,” McParland told Liverpool’s official club website.

“Every time I come to Asia, I’m more and more impressed with the standard of football I see – particularly from the younger age groups.

“We’re always looking at players when we play. We always look at the opposition and if someone does really well, you can be sure they’ll be scouted properly.

“I’m sure it won’t be long before we have an Asian star at Liverpool.

“It’s just great to have top players from anywhere in the world, whether it’s Australia, Asia, America or Allerton. We just want the very best players for Liverpool Football Club, so it’s important that we don’t just look in Allerton, we look in places like Asia as well.”

Liverpool’s new reserve team manager Alex Inglethorpe echoed McParland’s thoughts as he took a one-hour training session for the Singapore national academy and admired the talent on show first-hand.

“They played with such natural ability, it was very impressive,” he said. “They had a freedom to how they played and that probably comes from the fact that they are street footballers. They haven’t had that natural flair coached out of them.

“Some of the things they were trying were outrageous but they had the courage to try those things and sometimes they came off. It was a real joy to spend an hour with them and they were incredibly hungry to try the drills and tasks I was putting to them. I hope they got something out of the session because I know I did.”