Friday, 24 October 2014

Woeful Liverpool

Yet to set the world alight in the early stages of their league campaign, stuttering in the Champions League, Liverpool’s season so far its fair to say has been disappointing especially considering the highs of the previous campaign, nothing, however will have worried Liverpool fans as much as the frankly woeful 3-0 defeat to Real Madrid in Anfield.

It was the game Liverpool fans have been looking forward to since the draw took place, the type of tie they dreamed about for the past few years of Champions League exile, an Anfield occasion that would rival the very best, despite the stuttering form Liverpool expected a performance, Liverpool always turn it on in the big nights at Anfield right? Well based on Wednesday’s performance no, this Liverpool side is in trouble.

Many fans and pundits alike were not getting carried away before the match and were predicting a tight match with the most likely winners being Madrid but a draw well within the grasp of Brendan Rodgers’ side, the manner of the defeat was contrary to most predictions, a shambolic defensive performance saw the Merseysiders concede all three goals in the first half Ronaldo and co.

It would be unfair to take away from a good Real Madrid performance but nevertheless they were very much assisted in their win by some below par performances by many men in red. A lot of the criticism has been thrown at misfit Mario Balotelli, but he is only one of many problems that need urgent addressing.

Balotelli has been slated and justly for his poor performances so far this season, against Madrid it was no different, he continued to show a lack of movement up front while also completely ignoring any responsibilities of tracking back or pressurising high up the field, his substitution at half-time was no surprise but maybe put all the attention on him rather than on the whole teams poor outing.

Luckily you might say for Dejan Lovren, Balotelli has been under the most media scrutiny because it has taken away from the fact he has in no way justified his £20 million price tag, he was brought in to shore up the Liverpool defence that was so poor last season but based on Wednesday’s showing he has in no way shored things up and if anything he has added even more nervousness and uncertainty at the back.

Lovren is not alone with his poor form in the defensive side of things, goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has been making the art of goalkeeping seem very, very difficult as of late, his inability to deal with crosses was shown up again against Madrid and the third goal was an example of some of the terrible decision making he shows all too often for a top class goalkeeper.

Some of the blame for the poor form of Liverpool must be accredited to manager Brendan Rodgers, some of his tactical decisions so far this season have been questionable while his inability to sort out his side at the back is very worrying. None of his summer signings have shone as of yet and the jury is out to whether last season was a flash in the pan for both him and his Liverpool side.

Rodgers’ stubbornness in his tactics have been a particular annoyance to many fans, his persistence with playing Balotelli up front on his own is not reaping rewards and he might be better off trying to play someone like Borini alongside Mario Balotelli, with Borini offering a high work rate leaving Balotelli to roam free and maybe begin to find his form.

The situation at Anfield is no crisis, they are still in touching distance of the top few teams in the Premier League and although it will not be a walk in the park, progression through to the next stage of the Champions League is still salvageable. Rodgers has a big job on his hands to get the team firing again but he’s going to have to if they have any ambitions of success this season.

photo credit: thesportreview via photopin cc

Friday, 19 September 2014

5 things to watch this Barclays Premier League weekend

 1.      European hangovers

It’s the first set of Premier League fixtures after teams performed in the group stages of both the Champions League and Europa League and one can expect the games to have an impact on these sides’ domestic performances.

Both Liverpool and Chelsea played their European ties at home and despite Liverpool snatching a late win in what was supposed to be a routine victory over Ludogorets and Chelsea only drawing against Schalke you would not expect either side to be feeling the physical effects going into their respective weekend fixtures against West Ham and Man City. Similarly Everton played their Europa League clash at home to Wolfsburg, a game they won 4-1, the confidence gained from this win is sure to make it more of a benefit than a hindrance.

Two teams who potentially could experience the hangover will be Manchester City and Arsenal, both of whom travelled to Germany and came home with demoralising defeats. Arsenal, who played on Tuesday, you would expect to have recovered physically from their exerts as they succumbed to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Dortmund, the mental effects of this loss will be Arsene Wenger’s only worry ahead of their Aston Villa clash. Manchester City on the other hand will be feeling both physical and mental fatigue after their heart-breaking loss to German champions Bayern Munich, conceding a last minute goal after an energy sapping display, they will however have to get over the loss quickly as they face league leaders Chelsea on Sunday.

Spurs made the long trip to face Serbian side Partizan Belgrade, after being held to a goalless draw Spurs will be hoping they have a squad to deal with the fatigue from travelling such a long distance for the game with West Brom.

1    2.      Liverpool’s response

After last weekends home defeat to Aston Villa and a below par performance mid week against Ludogorets where they scraped a win, all eyes will be on Upton Park on Saturday for the late kick-off to see if Liverpool will bounce back and return to winning ways.

Having scored his first goal for the club on Tuesday night, Brendan Rodgers and the Liverpool faithful will be hoping Mario Balotelli can push on and set them on their way to another away win.

The game comes too early for star man Daniel Sturridge who is in contention to return for the derby the following week. With it being the fifth game of the Premier League season it is time for this Liverpool side to start gelling before its too late and they find themselves miles behind the Premier League frontrunners.

1    3.      Mesut Ozil
Arsenal’s record signing has come under increased scrutiny this week following another below par performance in his home country against Borussia Dortmund, in one German newspaper his performance was rated the lowest on the pitch adding to the calls that he has been another big Premier League flop.

Much criticism has been put to Arsene Wenger about his use of their most expensive asset, Ozil has increasingly been played on the left side, a position he is neither comfortable nor capable of performing to the best of his ability in.

After the poor performances of late, interest is high on whether Ozil will start or will he be finally dropped for their trip to Aston Villa, should he start it will be interesting to see if Wenger listens to the pleas of many and plays him through the middle or whether he continues to try the German on the left.

 4. Pardew and Newcastle

A week on from Newcastle’s embarrassment at the hands of Southampton, Pardew and his men play host to Hull in a game you feel they must win should Alan Pardew still be in a job by Monday.

In a week where Pardew admitted he is fighting for his job and the Newcastle fans continued to voice their discontent at the team’s current form, Newcastle will be looking to get their season back on track and start climbing the table.

Currently lying bottom of the table, a home game is exactly what Newcastle need and despite the good start to the season made by Hull, all of Newcastle will be expecting three points or else we could see the first Premier League sacking of the season.

1    5.      Manchester City vs Chelsea 

Last but certainly not least, the biggest game of the weekend and season so far takes place on Sunday at the Etihad Stadium as rampaging league leaders Chelsea travel to champions Manchester City in what is being billed as an early title six pointer.

With both sides having ambitions of winning this seasons Barclays Premier League this game promises to be a classic, being at home Manchester City will try to take the game to Chelsea who similarly will want to exert their dominance early on in the game hopefully resulting in an entertaining game.

Chelsea main man Diego Costa will be hoping to continue his great run of 7 goals in 4 games while Man City poacher Sergio Aguero will be hoping to add to his 3 goals this season, one would expect which ever team can stop the opponents striker will take a giant step to winning the game.

Already five points behind, a defeat for City could be vital, a win however will see them close the gap to two points, no matter what this game promises to be a cracker.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Welbeck can flourish

In a hectic transfer window one of the most surprising deals was that of Danny Welbeck as he swapped Manchester for London in a sixteen million pound move.

Like fellow teammateTom Cleverley who also headed for the exit door on deadline day, this move could work wonders for Welbeck and his career, he could progress from the average player he is to the star that was expected of him when he burst onto the scene.

"He played three seasons for the first team, but he doesn't have the record of Robin van Persie or Wayne Rooney. And that is the standard," Van Gaal said when explaining why he let the young Englishman go.

His 29 goals in 142 games is not a glamorous record when put up against his replacement Radamel Falcao who possesses a phenomenal record of 220 goals in 356 games, this does not truly reflect the impact of Welbeck who for much of his United career has been played on the wings compared to Falcao who has been a number nine for his entire career.

The move to Arsenal could see Welbeck blossom into the goal-scoring striker that he has for so long threatened to become, especially now that we would expect he will be the main man up-front for the Gunners due to their lack of depth in the area and the lengthy absence of Giroud through injury.

You can’t help but feel a sense of de-ja-vu with this transfer thinking back to fellow Englishman Daniel Sturridge’s move from Chelsea to Liverpool, while at Chelsea Sturridge was not seen as a main striking option and was played frequently on the wing, hence his poor goal-scoring record of 13 goals in 63 games.

Since his move to Liverpool in January 2013 Sturridge, while playing in a more central role, has scored a total of 36 goals in 52 games, his International career has also benefited becoming the main striker and scoring 5 goals in the 12 games sine his Anfield move.

Welbeck will hope to follow in these footsteps and following his double against Switzerland last week he has already shown if given the chance he can score goals at the highest level.

Arsene Wenger is known for developing young players and pacey 23-year-old Danny Welbeck will be hoping he has made the right move at the right time to further his career.