Wednesday, 26 September 2012


As the new soccer season in Europe cranks into gears, the stereotypical fan is bound to go through a range of emotions  that gravitates between ecstasy and morose. Top of the World one day, down at the bottom the next.  It's a symptom of the insanity  that soccer and it's zero some nature evokes. The game is inherently volatile due to it's "only results matter " configuration.  I have been to grounds to  watch matches  a few times in my life, and only after the did i realize what a primal scene ; and was i really part of that ? the atmosphere is raw, intoxicating, and bestial, and yes, i did scream crudely too.

Perhaps against this backdrop, you can see why Club Presidents, Chairmen, and  Owners  can be brutal and merciless when it comes to dismissing coaches if expectations are not fulfilled ; conversely a manager is viewed with rose tinted spectacles, when he delivers "success ". He is elevated to epiphanic status. He made "useless" players become better than ever, he got the players to play "as a team once again ", and all the accompanying drivel from fans, pundits, talk shows, and the newspapers, saturates the air. It presents a juxtaposition of the wild extremes that mutually reinforce parochialism in the game

I watched PSG ( Paris Saint- German ) play away to Bastia at the weekend,  primarily to view a coach i admire and respect, and who so happened to be  one time,  a Chelsea manager. Remember Carlo Ancelotti ? I can vouch  some Chelsea fans reading this would be scratching their heads, and probably break into a wry smile. He was on Roman Abramovich's radar for a long time. Carlo Ancelotti had been at AC Milan for 8 years,  winning the  Italian league championship ( in 2004 ) , the champions league twice ( 2003 and 2007 ) plus the FIFA Club world championship in 2007. Under his reign, AC Milan were arguably Europe's most attractive team to watch, particularly between 2002 and 2004. Ancelotti got the side playing with flair, and the entertainment value was five star.  In the summer of 2009, Roman Abramovich got his man.  It was a tremendous capture, and a testament  to the grand ambitions of Chelsea,  to lure such a high profile name to Stamford bridge.  In his first season (2009 /2010 ) he won the Premiership and FA cup, becoming only  the second foreign manager to achieve that feat (winning the double ) in one season. He was hailed as a miracle worker. Through all of the adulation, and hysteria about his achievements,  the Man maintained a gracious and modest aura. He was measured, unswerving, and forthright in his assessment of his team and the opposition. Above all, he conducted himself honourably.  The following season, (2010 / 2011) his assistant coach - Ray Wilkins was sacked in controversial circumstances by Roman Abramovich  with only one-third of the season played. Many Managers would have cut and run at such a decision, whether from the owner or not, seeing it as undermining his authority. Carlo Ancelotti was too modest to rock the boat, and he got on things, hardly ever making excuses which would have been the natural thing to do as a self sustaining ploy. The mega signings of David Luis and Fernando Torres by Chelsea's owner in the january transfer window of 2011 was probably designed to kick start Chelsea's push for the premiership, but in hindsight was counter productive move. Chelsea's hopes of retaining the premiership was dying in installments even with the new acquisitions. Carlo Ancelotti got sacked by Chelsea's owner over poor results in May 2011. It was done in such an unceremonious and nasty manner, almost immediately after the defeat to Everton on the last day of the season. Man united had knocked Chelsea out of the champions league in the quarter finals, and beat them to the premiership crown ; so, i concur that  was a blow to the kidney, but to sack a manager of such pedigree in cold blooded fashion, two hours or less after a game, was obnoxious and unforgivable. That underlines the myopic extremes that shape the game. Decent men like Carlo Ancelotti deserve better. I doubt he would ever have disdainful things to say about how he was treated - such is the man.

Carlo Ancelotti is rebuilding his career  at a Club whose stock is on the rise. Watching his PSG team over the weekend brought back memories of his all conquering AC Milan team. Easy on the eye, they play with flair and panache,  high in work rate and tenacity too. He stood looking intently, but never the sort to perform histrionics on the sidelines, neither does he bellow instructions incessantly. He exuded calm authority. In a very hostile stadium, PSG snuffed out Bastia, to emerge 4-0 winners, and keep them  joint second in LIGUE 1.  PSG had been through a rough patch in recent years, but with Qatar Investment Authority gaining full control over the Club in 2011, things are looking up. Carlo Ancelotti was hired at the end of 2011, and the new owners have splashed the Petro dollars about.... They promised to spend well over £80 million, and have so far lived up to their promise. Brazilian defender Alex(from Chelsea) Javier Pastore ( from Parlermo) Ezequiel Lavezzi( from Napoli ) Thiago  Silva (from AC Milan)  Mohamed Sissoko ( from Juventus) Thiago Motta (from Inter Millan)   Gregory Van der Wiel ( from Ajax)  Zlatan Ibrahimovic  ( from AC Milam ) and  the icing on the cake Lucas Moura ( joins in january 20213 from  Sao Paulo ) amongst others, have been recruited to team up with the  hitherto established players like Mamadou Sahko and NENE.  If  Qatar Investment Authority continue to flex their financial muscle, it won't be too long before Carlo Ancelotti brings in a haul of silverware to PSG. When that happens, this dignified coach would have completed  his rehabilitation after the cold treatment Chelsea handed him. Soccer has it's fairy tales, and who can bet against Chelsea bumping into PSG in the champions league this term.  Revenge would absolutely mean a dish best served cold. Carlo Ancelotti, i can imagine would play that down, but i believe it's in the stars some where. I'll remind you about it later....... 

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Man City Charred in Jose Mourinho's Firestorm...

 Jose Mourinho leapt out of the dug-out, raced pitch-side, unabashedly slid on his knees to celebrate Ronaldo's winning goal.  Do not be fooled thinking he was solely having a moment of unbridled joy for the three points his side had seemingly gained at the expense of their group rivals;  nor was it about Ronaldo's brilliance. It was Jose Mourinho stroking his ego. A revelation of the inner workings of a self-possessed, but highly motivated and ultra successful coach.

There was a sub-plot to the Real Madrid V Man City encounter at the Bernabeu, and it was contrived in the mind of  Real Madrid's coach. For starters it was a clash of two ex- Inter Milan managers, and Jose Mourinho would have wanted to prove he is top dog. After all, he replaced Roberto Mancini at Inter Milan, and succeeded where he failed - winning the champions League. There is a foot note if you like - his public feuding with former Inter Milan, and now Man City Striker Mario Balotelli, with his comments ( a few years back ) about the composition of his ( Balotelli's ) brain cells. More to the point, Jose Mourinho seized the gravitas of the occasion and the opposition, to breathe life into his Real Madrid team, in the throes of inertia with their start to the season. The self styled special one got his team focussed, motivated, and fired up for the champions league tie; and in my analysis, scorched Man City through and through ; and he would be hoping it is a lightning rod to spark Real Madrid's season going forward. You can see why that moment was as much a vindication of his principles to his players, as it was beating a team, and a coach he would have well and truly seen as an adversary and a threat to his superiority.

INTENSE : Is a word you associate with the Real Madrid Manager's approach. His team played with purpose and drive. They gave that extra effort, and most of them were on top of their game. Angel Di Maria was mesmeric and pungent. A master at making distracting diagonal runs across a defense, a warrior at the heart of the forays to dislodge the opposition. Then there was Left back Marcelo - who got forward so often, and so much into shooting positions, i was least surprised he scored Real Madrid's equalizer. The game served as a classic demonstration of 11 players pulling together, and delivering on all cylinders. Credit Jose Mourinho with that. His pugnacity may be putrid, but i have to hand it to him, he can galvanize a team to play with an indefatigable and relentless spirit. It was a firestorm that engulfed the big spenders from the North of England.

TIMID CITY: Manchester City Manager, Roberto Mancini ought to be embarrassed at his team's timid psyche. I have no hesitation in asserting they reflected their manager's tentative nature. If  i was his boss, he would be summoned to my office the following morning to explain not the team's loss, but their cowardice. It would have been tough for the uninformed observer to agree they were champions of England. Simply because they played without the requisite passion for such an occasion, and predominantly suffered stage fright. Yaya Toure displayed his usual tactical and technical prowess: executing his swashbuckling runs from midfield ; but there was hardly any figment of imagination from Javi Garcia, Gareth Barry, Alexander Kolarov, and Silva from midfield. When Dzeko came on to assist Tevez upfront,  was there the desired ignition. Having said that, City were flattered by the two goals they scored - one against the run of play ; the other fortuitous from Kolarov's free kick.  In many ways, 3-2 was a kind out come to the game. The dichotomy in quality and performance between the two teams was bigger than the score line reflects.

TEST: Roberto Mancini has an abysmal record in the champions league, and this is trial by fire time for him. Observers must be at a loss as to why Maicon played ahead Zabaleta; or why Maicon was recruited when they have an England International called Micah Richards who can play at right back also. Not so sure they have the right combination in central midfield to succeed in Europe. Yaya Toure aside, you'd have to speculate if Jack Rodwell, Javi Garcia, and the fit again Garreth Barry possess sufficient attacking and creative impetus to generate the pedestal for champions league success. They are  building themselves a mounting to climb, because it's now a must win game against Borrusia Dortmund, and pressure is not what champions league neophytes need.

BROAD VIEW : Man city are approaching a slippery slope. Not even in the premiership do they look steady and consistent. Yes, there have been injuries here and there, new signings, and the international break punctuating the flow of events,  but the manager's fretting and lack of conviction is evident ( even last season ). He has attempted tactical innovations at the wrong time, consequently changing personnel far too often at inauspicious times.  His reaction to Joe Hart's comments underlines his nervous tension. The keeper was hurt and raw from the manner of the defeat against Real Madrid, and spoke subjectively, but only about the team's failure to hold out at the Bernabeu, when they had a lead with a few minutes to go.  Mancini's orders to Joe Hart was churlish and conceited. Players at different Clubs echo the keeper's sentiments regularly after a loss, hence Mancini's reaction to it was staggering to say the least. Joe Hart was his best player on the night. Why slap him down ? The next few weeks would shape the story line for Manchester City this season.  If they fail to get a grip of their League form and concession of goals ; or find themselves in a parlous position in the champions league,  their manager's cautious and tentative predilection would stick out like a sore thump.
Who knows what fate brings, but Mancini definitely needs to sail his ship over calm waters from here on. Keep your fingers crossed, Roberto.

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Friday, 21 September 2012

Raheem Sterling - A hypothesis for England.

Liverpool's Raheem Sterling got called up to the full England squad last week owing to injuries, and  did give most people a jolt either because of his low name recognition, or consternation about what the 17 year old  signed by Rafa Benitez represents.  I make my assertions on this blog with all due respect to Jamaica, the youngster's land of birth. I am not trying to be presumptuous here, the lad has the option to play for Jamaica, and sources say that remains his mother's wish. Anyhow, if he does end up choosing to play for England, he surely would open up the prospects of England having a sort of weapon they have not had in their armoury for a very long time.  I remember watching a certain Ashley Cole play for Arsenal F.C eleven years ago. He had just returned from a loan spell at Crystal Palace, and straight into the Arsenal team in the 2000 / 01 season ; I had no doubt when i first watched him that season he was going to play for England. There was such effervescence to his game, that made predicting he would have a successful career pretty easy. I have not seen an England International prospect replicate that sentiment in me, till Raheem Sterling came along in the last  four weeks. His performances against Manchester City, Arsenal, and and Sunderland have been sterling indeed.

QUALITIES : Like many of his ilk, Raheem Sterling has been started out by the manger  on the flanks. The assumption no doubt is that given his velocity in full flight, he would tear full backs to shreds. I reckon that's serving the youngster half measures. He certainly is no clone of Theo Walcott. He has above all, two outstanding qualities - Immaculate Close Control of the ball. And secondly,  what many great players have : an ability to look up in the heat of the moment, to spot a team mate in a better position, and make a pass at the right time. It's referred to as awareness. Typically, Players at 17 have these elements in relatively much lower doses. Anytime you watch Raheem Sterling play, observe how he mixes the technique of close ball control, interspaced application of velocity, and the highly sought after stealth of keeping his marker(s) guessing his next move ; he works on the defender with shimmies and feints, with that split second glance for a team mate in the box, before the delivery. The Liverpool player is tactically top notch. In each of the three games he started this season, he would have easily scored an 8/10 in  terms of tactical application. He was hardly out of place in his efforts because he played so much for the team. Playing on the right or left flank, he's excelled. In the Liverpool V Arsenal game, he performed better than Alex Oxlade Chamberlain in the battle of the teenagers. Overall, using the ball better, and playing to a terrific rhythm. How about the role he played in Luis Suarez's goal against Sunderland last weekend. It had a lot to do with patience and poise,  before delivery.

ENGLAND : I have followed England Long enough to know about upstarts. More over, Raheem Sterling has only starred for four weeks, not four seasons. His development is nascent, and unfolding, but there are times in this game you have to build a very quick hypothesis around players of special qualities, and certainly pray they go on to fulfill your hopes, and make what was a mere hypothesis, an applicable theory. Has anyone wondered why England has rarely produced a number 10 ? Like currently Germany have in Mesut Ozil ; Spain have in Fabrigas ; Belgium have Eden Hazard ;  Argentina have Lionel Messi.  The Italians eulogize such players, and they refer to them as the "the fantasy player". The last time England produced such a talent, they were playing in the world cup semi finals, ( never since then, Italia '90 ) he's name is Paul Gascoigne. Trust me, it's an illusion to see Raheem Sterling as a player for the flanks, long term. If he decides to play for England, he is naturally suited to play behind the striker, in-between midfield and attack. He is a team player,  He has a low centre of gravity, tenacious, has a bag of dribbling skills, possess direct running power, and equally important - plays as a creative and inventive player. Raheem Stirling has the talent and potential to make things happen through the middle. England have lacked such a commodity for so long ; overly dependent on the flanks, hence the everlasting struggle to break down the opposition ; and the scandalous failure to retain the ball. Everyone nags about it, but the key solution is having players with the technical flair for that to happen, and building a team around players of such genre. If England are to cure the possession problem, players good and comfortable in possession have to be fast tracked into the team. It's a benchmark of modern teams to play in a concerted format, particularly in the middle. England need revamp it's playing methods. It's sterile and antiquated. When the likes of Gerrard and Lampard are done in a few years, fresh impetus is needed. An infusion of players with the aura associated with the latest paradigms in the game.

Raheem Stirling can be the progenitor of such players to the England team. He may be only 17, but i won't fear playing him in the number 10 role. I am not saying he eradicates all of the national team's woes, but an emerging talent like this must spark fresh thinking, and enhance doctrines, particularly to the England coaching staff. The Liverpool Lad primarily represents a vision to be built, and not a panacea of the current ills. Mr. Roy Hodgson need be clear on that when he sends the next letter of invitation to Raheem Stirling. His playing and England career mustn't be a false start nor contaminated by the drudgery of the past and the unrefined of the present.

Monday, 10 September 2012

A Sneak peak at Belgium's golden generation

I Cleared my desk, and boarded a fast train home to catch a glimpse of the Group A World Cup qualifying game between Wales and Belgium in Cardiff. The main objective was to watch the much vaunted golden generation of players that comprise the Belgian National team these days. In truth, it was a soporific game of pedestrian quality. Yes, Belgium got their World Cup 2014 qualifying campaign  off to a 2-0 victory over Wales, which  is the most important thing for them ; but expectations are so high for this generation of Belgian Players, and they will be robustly scrutinized as to whether they posses the credentials to satisfy expectations of observers.

Coach Marc Wilmots played to a 4-3-3 system. There was coherence and fluidity between midfield and attack, but in the aspect of penetration and clear-cut openings, the disappointment was weighty. Kevin Mirallas, Eden Hazard,  Dries Martens were in attack ; while Axel Witsel,  Moussa Dembele and Marouane Fallaini hosted midfield. Even though they controlled the game from start to finish, It was a non event, and a tough one to make a call on how Good Belgium really are. Goals from captain Vnicent kompany and Jan Verthongen were enough to see off Wales, who were poor, and depleted due to injuries to key players.

Croatia is next up for Belgium, and it will be a bigger test. They have to dare to be the best team in Europe. It should not be just about qualifying for the World Cup. It's important to gain momentum and create the fear factor to other teams. Typically, it takes about two years of the cycle ( about 20 games ) to forge the fundamentals towards any sort of lasting dynamism. I see goal scoring as an potential problem. Mirallas and Lukaku will need to raise their game, so too that cherry in the pie, Eden Hazard. He was not potent against Wales, and perhaps the strangest thing of all is that Marc Wilmots did not play with two strikers against a team of ten men.

The golden generation are a talented bunch undoubtedly. Young and inexperienced. Let's wait and hope that this latest installment of hype and expectation in the soap opera called soccer, provides thrill seekers the adventure they desire. For now,  Spain comfortably remain kings. It's up to Belgium to provoke a contest..... it might take a while to reach the lions' den.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Deposits of social culture on spanish success

Spain are Current World Champions, and Double European Champions, and the last four years has brought them Spectacular success. Soccer fans across the globe have been riveted by their dazzling display, technical innovation, and their pioneering tactical approach. They have upped the standards.

A lot of postulations have been espoused as progenitors for Spain's stunning success story over the last four years. It's sounded like an intersection of post Franco politics, the seeds of total football sewn by Rinus Michels, and Johan Cryuff at Barcelona; Pep Guadiola's sprinkle of magic dust on Barcelona's Spanish players; brilliant planning; investing in youth, communicating and emphasizing skill, as well as technical work with the ball. Certain aspects of these postulations are universal truths, and not peculiar to Spain alone. France has it's famous INF Clairfontane soccer academy, which has continued to produce wonderful players ;  and total football was popularized by the Dutch, and even at it's apex in the seventies did not quite generate the levels of success Spain have managed recently. Spain have drawn parallels with the swaggering Brazilian sides of the sixties and seventies. There are nuances, but the fluidity, rhythm, and propensity to dominate and overwhelm the opposition is similar.

In International Soccer, getting the team to play to the standards exhibited by Spain takes some doing. It's actually ironic, or an aberration to have a  national side play in such a fused way. Players come from different clubs all over the country, and some play for clubs abroad, so, forging social bonds can be challenging. The mind set has to be right. I remember the lean times of Spanish international soccer, when it was an enigma a Nation could have teams of the calibre of Barcelona and Real Madrid; Produce a plethora of fabulous players, and still remain in the wilderness. It was assumed the rivalry of Barcelona and Madrid precluded the national team from reaching it's potential in tournaments. Zubizareta, Michel, Chendo, Butragueno, Jose Maria Bakero, Guardiola, Baraha, Luis Enrique Martinez,  Raul e.t.c were not necessarily less talented than the current generation, but perhaps there was insufficient rallying points.  Brazil were in the past referred to as the samba boys. This metaphor meant their soccer was played to the beats of their cultural music. Same for teams from sub-saharan Africa: Makossa music is the socio-cultural backdrop, and a key element to the performance of the Camerounian players for instance, when they turn-out for the national side, especially in international tournaments.

While soccer analysts, sports psychologists, soccer historians, dissect the reasons for Spain's invincibility, and draw a myriad of conclusions, one aspect commonly overlooked is how social and cultural norms play a potent role in Spain's rise to the top. With so many of the Spanish players from Barcelona F.C,  the Spanish team has for once amalgamated under the "tiki-taka"mantra, but crucially in my opinion, they have been greased by bonds that is derived from social cohesion hitherto latent. As diverse as the country maybe politically and in cultural identity, they still share a common passion for CELEBRATION and FUN. These traits are very transparent in how they play right now. The team is a cornucopia of artistry, celebration, fun, epicurean and play with fiesta, which is a prerequisite in the daily life of the average Spaniard. The players have found their natural social rhythm through the fluidity of their style of play. The fact that they are winning, and the best, make them enjoy themselves even more. In other words, winning and being the best, in combination with being within their social element is mutually reinforcing.  It makes for an invincible, dynamic and resilient group. Spanish players are enjoying a new lease of life as a result of this, and it has been a vital contributing factor to their success, which is most often understated.

It does not always follow that players replicating their social habitat is a recipe for success. Sven Goran Ericksson generally stretched boarders to enable England Players feel relaxed enough to perform. It achieved nothing. Brazil and Spain have proved their kind of  social fusion, pertinently has a positive  effect on the playing side, and team morale.

Saturday, 8 September 2012


So, Ronaldo has had a very public falling out with the Real Madrid hierarchy, and the readings indicate it's more to do with remuneration and contractual terms than anything on the playing side of his "profession". The crux of the matter centers around Real Madrid's cold response to contract extension proposals submitted by Ronaldo's agent. The driving force behind the contract proposal is that Ronaldo seeks a steep augmentation of his wages, and he has done so taking the impending tax hike in Spain into consideration. In other words, he is making sure of a remuneration increase in real terms, after the debilitating effect of taxes. I do not imagine for a second Real Madrid do not figure their top scorer and star player does not deserve a pay rise, but they are certainly wincing at the total outlay which sources say would have the portuguese player on a £20 million gross annual  salary.

To be fair, Ronaldo is not alone in this.... This Class of Human Beings referred to as Sports Stars are never too shy to ask for more. Reward is an integral source of motivation for them, and they often see financial reward as synonymous with their value. In their ego driven world, they adopt a single minded and narcissistic approach to matters of such ilk. Sports stars are ferociously competitive, and it's a necessary trait to be at the top of their profession. The drawback to that is they then get churlish, and excessive. Ronaldo has been an unqualified success story so far. The World thought Real Madrid were bunkers signing him for £80 million from Man Utd three years ago, but it's been one of those few times when such vast sums have been splashed out on a player, and the gamble paid off. Ronaldo has exceeded everyone's expectations, scoring a staggering  150 times in 149 games, and was instrumental  to Real Madrid's La Liga triumph last season. He has been awesome, outwitting scores of opponents, sending keepers frequently to retrieve the ball from the back of the net ;  and the adulation from fans and the media has been deserved, his stock has risen, and shows no sign of flat lining.

One thing Ronaldo would fail to see to his own detriment, is that as much as he deserves a salary rise, he had better put into context a few factors before putting on that glum look..... the infantile petulance does not help his cause, neither is it edifying of his image when the fans learn that his "sadness" and refusal to celebrate scoring goals was for reasons of financial advancement, at a time when majority of the fans who pay to see him play in Spain are going through socio-economic struggles of their own. It would be a mortal blow if such rumblings of discontent is not  echoed in the camp of his arch-rival  Lionel Messi, whose salary is marginally higher. I doubt you will hear Messi squabbling with Barcelona over money publicly, which leaves Ronaldo vulnerable to vituperations, and accusations of an absence of class and dignity to his personality. Such a contrast with Messi will stick, and would cause a potentially damaging interpolation to his career biography. Messi's image is more clean-cut, in addition to surpassing Roanldo in the goal scoring and personal award stakes. The sub plot to their rivalry was played out over the last one week when they blanked each other in the Spanish Super cup; they looked ill at ease standing close to each other during the European Footballer of the year awards ceremony. Messi had the advantage of having Andreas Iniesta, a team mate on the podium, while Ronaldo looked stiff and aloof, and overall  playing to this script of a bad loser. If he wants to be recognized as the best, he ought to get a grip, and realize his self-possessed nature is an antithesis to his ambitions.

There are other reasons why Ronaldo must start the process of thawing not only his image, but his frosty relationship with his employers, and that is if the politics of his salary demand causes a strain or dichotomy in the Madrid dressing room, handing Barcelona the advantage to win the league title this season, he would have done his cause more harm than good. He would be the poster child for Madrid's failure.  He is the highest earner at the Club already, and the Spanish press would taunt him all the way  on this issue,  knowing how fragile his temperament can be. Being a foreigner, you sense the natives coalescing around their scorn for Ronaldo, even as single minded as he can be, his form will be affected if cranks the pressure any further on his Madrid pay masters. He will unwittingly be handing a nation ammunition, and the Madrid Fans sticks for his back.

Ronaldo needs to double down on the verbals and innuendo, and concentrate on matters that drive him where he wants to be. He has an £800 million buy out clause inserted in his contract, which  is unachievable for any Club. If he concentrates on playing well, scoring as many, if not more goals, stay silent and cheerful, with three years to run on his present deal, Real Madrid would be seeking peace talks in two years time, which potentially presents him with two advantages.  A. the wages for top earners would be even higher than what his hankering for now. B. There would be the prospect of him leaving for free, and consequently being parachuted into the top earners bracket in real time, as there would be a clutch of big Clubs on his trail, with a package to sign him easier to afford. In my view, Ronaldo should prime himself for long term gain rather a short one.  Spain's economic woes won't have peaked in three years, if taxes are set to rise in two years time. On the other hand, taxes for high earners in England is set to come down, and would further so before the 2015 general elections. If those on his negotiating team do the arithmetic, they would see where i am coming from. This calculations are preponderant on at least maintaining current form, which implies focussing on his football. Who knows, Man Utd might just be watching events at the Bernabeu i suspect....

If Roanldo wants to be the best, and earn the most, blustering is of no benefit right now. Playing better and seeing out his contract is the leverage he needs. A bit more decorum and courtesy would be nice too......  can anyone with the yellow pages find him a proper public relations agency?

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Monday, 3 September 2012


Liverpool are in  crisis management.  The years of profligacy and  incoherent signings are having a damaging effect on the club right now, and it's going to take a while before it's toxicity clears.  It's fans ogle the past, when the winning glory filled the air like the scent of an attractive woman.

The team is not all that bad. It retains it's solidity in defense from the  Rafa Benitez phase ; it's midfield is plausible, even if scarce in quality personnel ; the weakest segment of the team is it's attack -owing to systemic and personnel flaws. In my postulation, there are two players who are largely responsible for their sterility - Captain Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez. These two lack the gravitas to act as the fulcrum of Liverpool's attack.

Steven Gerrard is the heartbeat of the team, especially when he plays through the middle in their 4-3-3 system. He is the one with the  prerogative to join the front three, especially in tandem with Luis Suarez.  My impressions of him, and corroborated by evidence from Liverpool's last game is that he is a square peg in a round hole. A misnomer if you refer to him as the playmaker ; not intrinsically designed for the pseudo-playmaker role. Players who have to play behind the striker need to be measured in play, less prone to the long diagonal  pass, and play at a slower pace to carve out openings and achieve penetration. Effective combinations with the striker is derived through subtleness, stealth, and angles of approach with the ball.  Gerrard is predictable, and over reliant on speed of execution to be effective in a that position. It's a specialist position that also requires a high dose of technical skill. It makes Liverpool pretty basic to deal with when they attack. Gerrard's mundane repertoire of technical invention is a stultifying factor in Liverpool's attack.  To compound matters, his goal scoring ratio is mediocre. He is actually better of in the role as the second  man in the midfield base of a 4-2-3-1 formation. That way his athleticism, tackling, speed,  and long range passing skills, and broader vision are put to best use. Liverpool have been ineffective with Gerrard in the advanced midfielder role, and that illusion needs rooting out. 

Luis Suarez has loads of skill, clever on the ball, achieves penetration, but a lousy finisher. It's a waste of time relying on him to get 20 goals a season, due to his inconsistent finishing. He takes loads of touches in the box, and results in him being inefficient, over-elaborate, dramatic, and self-indulgent to be taken seriously as a goal scorer. Luis Suarez would be much better suited to a 4-4-1-1 system, as the man behind the striker with the freedom of movement, dropping grenades in every corner, making life impossible for the opponents. If he could curb his selfish streak, there is no doubt he has the capability to be a highly creative influence.  These two players are not fit for purpose in the Liverpool system, hence the lack of end product and goals to Liverpool's play.

The Andy Carroll debate is a storm in a tea cup. It was queer seeing SkySports pundit Jamie Redknapp so melodramatic about Andy Carroll's loan move to West Ham. What did Andy Carroll contribute to Liverpool last season ? is he the clinical finisher Liverpool need right now ? Can he play effectively in  Liverpool's 4-3-3  system ?  moreover, is he even fit  right now? after his rumbustious display for West ham at the weekend, he picked-up a hamstring injury. Typical.  Jamie Redknapp's eponymous declaration of  Falcao as the " best striker in the world ", after the Atletico Madrid Man slaughtered Chelsea in the Super Cup, gives an indication of a pundit who is as simplistic as he is histrionic. Mr. Redknapp was outlandish in the way he was using his position to promote a move by Liverpool for Michael Owen. The way he went on about Liverpool's striker crisis, one would have thought they were on the edge of an abyss. Liverpool require a rational approach to their goal scoring issues. Be that a change in system / or recruiting the right personnel, it's pretty clear loaning out Andy Carroll represents the best way for Liverpool's owners to mitigate the impending  financial loss on the £35 million investment. If he does well, Clubs would see reason to Pay Good Money. Keeping him at Liverpool when the manager does not want him, nor believes he makes sense to his tactical approach is watering down Andy Carroll's valuation, and a potential bigger loss for FSG.

For Brendan Rogers, delinking and re-constructing Liverpool as a team post and Rafa Benitez and Kenny Dalglish is going to be the hottest challenge he ever handles. It would be fair if he gets time to do the necessary restructuring and rebuilding  involved. Liverpool Football Club are about to embark on a steep detour. The Club is broke, and in debt, no windfall from the Champions League for a while, and an eroding capacity for attracting the big names. Time for calm heads - it's grim.