Friday, June 27, 2014

The Suarez Situation

So, Luis Suarez has been banned for 4 months from 'all football-related activity' by FIFA. If FIFA had acted half as swiftly as it did on Suarez on allegations of corruption against itself, then there wouldn't be hundreds of workers dying in Qatar as well. But who am I to judge the all-powerful FIFA right? This ruling is just yet another example of the footballing world and governing bodies living in a cocoon and a law unto themselves. FIFA doesn't have a clue about it's own ruling. It is unprecedented and they are making up laws as they go along.

Should we really be surprised? In a way, FIFA's decision is symptomatic of everything that is wrong with the modern day world. Everyone loves the drama. Everyone loves the fall. It's a big, bad world out there and everyone is out to judge you instantaneously. And everyone wants to pander to the media. Danny Mills says FIFA's punishment is insufficient. That Luis Suarez should be "jailed and locked up forever". For biting a opponent. Yes, it is obscene, yet hilarious in a way. I don't really get why Suarez would want Chiellini's sweat in his mouth. But it didn't draw blood, was benign compared to other atrocities that have happened on a football pitch, leave alone the world. Take Marlon King for instance. It is pretty fucking clear as day that the media, especially the British media, are only reacting the way they are because it is Luis Suarez. Diego Maradona says he thinks Suarez was "crucified" by FIFA. Newspapers in Brazil are treating it as a joke. Newspapers in Italy are focusing more on their team's group stage exit, as newspapers in England should be doing. But then, Suarez did say he was happy at knocking England out. This is the media's form of revenge. Get him banned for 4 months. Newspapers in Spain, oddly, seem to have intensified their clamour to get him there.

I do fear for Luis Suarez's career from here onwards. It is pretty clear that he has let down a lot of people with this latest biting incident - Brendan Rodgers, both Uruguay and Liverpool fans, the club, who have stood by him and, most importantly, his wife. It is pretty clear that he does not WANT to go out on a football pitch with the intention of injuring an opponent. If he did, he wouldn't be biting them, he would be elbowing their skulls and ending careers. It is also pretty clear to me that he, more than anyone, would want to solve this problem that he faces when the red mist descends over him. In such a scenario, what would work? The carrot or the stick? Would FIFA have been better off by banning Suarez from playing football and instead arranging for him to attend therapy? Is not their role as the governing body to nurture players and solve their problems rather than punish them for outrageous, but ultimately minor infringements? Yes, your 3 year old doesn't go around biting people. So are FIFA going to ban Joachim Loew for chewing on his own booger as well? I'm sure your 3 year old doesn't do that either. The fact is, plain and simple, Luis Suarez doesn't know himself how he will react in the heat of the moment. He probably has both anger and stress management issues. FIFA should have offered, even forced, therapy upon him for that. Not gotten him more frustrated by even banning him from training and asking him to sit around twiddling his thumbs for 4 months. That might even exacerbate the problem.

Now, onto Liverpool FC. What course of action must we follow? I, for one, trust FSG to make the right decision. They've shown enough times in the past that they are good at studying legal situations and taking an appropriate course of action. They've shown the street smartness, notably in the fight against Tom Hicks and George Gillett, to handle a legal fight swiftly. We also know that Suarez was exemplary last year, not just in terms of playing football but also in terms of behaviour. It may be true that Suarez needs a day to day psychologist to work with and LFC have that in Dr. Steve Peters. But it is not LFC's fault or problem that Uruguay don't. If I were in Liverpool's place right now, I would be getting together a bunch of lawyers who are Harvard Law School grads (no less, givenFSG's connections to Boston) to fight our corner. I am no lawyer, but I see one of three scenarios developing assuming we decide to not sell him and if we take legal action:

1. Liverpool fine Suarez for breach of contract and don't pay him for the duration of his ban - While entirely fair if Suarez actually IS legally in breach, this only serves to alienate a world class player who, let me remind you, has been impeccable for Liverpool.

2. Liverpool take FIFA to court over the domestic ban - Again, I am no lawyer, but I would be interested to see how FIFA's law hold up in a real court of law like CAS. We could question why the ban translates over to domestic games. At the very least, FIFA should pay Liverpool damages to the tune of Luis Suarez's wages for the duration of his ban.

I think it's fair to say Luis Suarez has lost the affections of many of us by his antics, which some of us see as a mechanism to get his move to Barcelona or Real Madrid. Let us all leave that aside for moment. Remember, the club is faultless. We are faultless. The only two entities at fault here are Luis Suarez and FIFA. Let us wait and watch what happens. The most important thing for all of us is to put the club first. LFC is bigger than any individual but we do not let one of our own walk alone. It is a fine balancing act and I trust the owners to do it right, whichever way it goes. They haven't failed us with the big decisions yet. Leaving aside the question of what is right or wrong, IF Liverpool decide to stick by Luis Suarez yet again, he probably owes us with his career, and by extension, his life. 30+ goals every season at the very least. No more sneaky transfer talk. Career ends here unless the club don't want it. No more diving. No more biting.

PS: Sorry if this post doesn't come across as coherent or 'in flow'. I'm absolutely seething at the injustice.

Saturday, February 8, 2014


That was exhilarating. Sublime. Swashbuckling.Unbelievable. Fantastic. That's it. I've run out of adjectives. Help me out with more in the comments! We scored five, but we could have scored SO many more! Suarez hitting the post, Hendo's dink over Sczezny that went wide, Sterling missing two chances to beat the goalkeeper, Suarez's free kick that caught everyone except an alert Sczezny out! That means 10. TEN. We could have scored TEN goals at Anfield against the league leaders!

This wasn't just like the Liverpool of old. This was a brand new Liverpool with their own unique and devastating counter-attacking style. Credit goes to all the players, but more importantly, to the manager. All around the team, there are examples of his brilliant man management and coaching skills. Skrtel, Flanagan, Henderson, Gerrard, Sturridge, Coutinho, Suarez and Sterling have all benefited from it. I would not be able to fit our attacking fearsome foursome of Sturridge, Suarez, Sterling and Coutinho into the starting eleven even on Football Manager! Playing Coutinho in the number 10 yesterday and shifting Suarez out wide was a masterstroke. And oh, remember when we thought set pieces were useless for Liverpool? Good times, eh? With Gerrard, Coutinho and Suarez, our set piece delivery is now more lethal than ever!

As Brendan Rodgers said post-game, let's not worry about a title challenge or the race for a Champions League spot. Let's talk about winning as many points as we possibly can. We might have just dismantled a team that has been at the summit of the Premier League for almost all of this season, but it will count for nothing if we don't get all three points against Fulham in midweek.

Based on this though, I can NOT wait to see Liverpool dismantling teams in the Champions League next season! Fingers crossed!
PS: Photo credit @MostarLFC
PPS: Also read this on Empire Of The Kop.

Saturday, November 9, 2013


4 goals. 68% possession. 32 shots. 10 shots on target. You would think this was Pep Guardiola's Barcelona playing, not Liverpool. Especially not the Liverpool we've become accustomed to seeing and moaning about for the past three years.

Except it was, wasn't it. That was an absolutely magnificent performance. There was no dropping off of performance in the second half, no being pegged back for long periods (or at all), no late penalty heroics from Miglonet to ensure the points, no scruffy 1-0 and then ride out the game. This WAS death by football as envisioned by Brendan Rodgers. When we didn't have possession, we were pressing for the ball constantly. When we had possession, we knew exactly when to play it forward and when to play keep-ball. We exploited the full width of the pitch and cut them through the middle. We kept a clean sheet and our goalkeeper had absolutely NOTHING to do in the entire game. We finally scored from a corner thanks to an exquisite corner by our Captain Fantastic. This was THE complete performance. Yes, I know, it was only Fulham, but Liverpool has struggled to put away teams at Anfield since 2008-09.

Jordan Henderson was absolutely royally, regally magnificent. He was sharp with his passing, grabbed an assist for Suarez's goal with a slide-rule pass that left Fulham defenders for dead and crucially, pressed the opposition high up the pitch ceaselessly, covering probably every single blade of grass! Glen Johnson was magnificent on his return from injury, providing a constant goal threat and outlet on the right and offering genuine width. Steven Gerrard was at his imperious best, setting the tempo of the game like only he can and delivering some absolutely blinding balls into the box. Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger looked back to the pairing of two seasons ago, when they were probably the best center back pairing in the Premiership. Coutinho was a vital cog in midfield, always available to receive the ball and making those little darting runs behind defenders. And obviously, we have by far the finest front two in the league. The SAS, cheesy as the term sounds, is giving defenders throughout the league nightmares!

But yesterday's magnificent performance was even better than it actually was. One simple reason - bouncebackability. The memories of three painful seasons are yet to go. Rodgers alluded to it himself after the game, saying, "when I first came in here, there was vulnerability in games like this - there seemed to be nervousness around the group for some reason." Well, has he gotten rid of that and how! Liverpool have now won the league game immediately after a league defeat for the ninth time in a row! That speaks volumes about the character of the side Rodgers is trying to build. It is also key to all hopes of turning Anfield into a bastion of invincibility yet again.

Rodgers is also playing it extremely smart in trying to avoid all talk of Liverpool being in the running for the title. We all know it is wildly optimistic, to say the least, but we  need to at least keep taking advantage of slip ups by others. By neither ruling Liverpool in or out of the title race, Rodgers is not only keeping pressure off the players, but is also not displaying a lack of ambition. This is a fantastic manager, if I ever saw one. Rodgers will the first to admit that he needs a better record against the top sides in the division, but winning the remaining games should itself get us into the top 4. For a start. Another utterly pointless international break and then roll on Everton!

PS: Photo credit to @MostarLFC
PPS: Read this post on Empire Of The Kop!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Thank you for watching the Luis Suarez show

How good was that? Just how good was that? It wouldn't be too much comparing it to Benitez's team in its heyday. That was our best performance this season. By far! I honestly expected West Brom to provide us with more of a challenge considering Steve Clarke's teams are usually very well organised defensively. But when you have a player like Luis Suarez, sometimes even the most well organized defences don't stand a chance.


We were well organized in defence, strong in midfield and absolutely lethal in attack. Sakho is an absolutely inspired signing, in my opinion. He is an excellent tackler and brings strength to the back that we have lacked previously. Agger might be better suited in defence than Skrtel, but not to take anything away from Skrtel. He has been absolutely top drawer of late. As expected, Glen Johnson's return to the side offered us visibly more in an attacking sense down the right.

Our midfield looks extremely strong - Hendo, Gerrard and Lucas were really dominant on the ball in the middle of the park. Their combination seemed to be offering complementary strengths and it actually seems a matter of debate if Coutinho will even get into the side next weekend or not! Personally, I'd keep Coutinho on the bench and start with the same side that started today. We will need Hendo's endless running against Arsenal.

And now onto our attack. I cannot wax eloquent enough about our forward line. Suarez and Sturridge were absolutely lethal. Suarez seems to want to make up for lost time with his fantastic hat-trick that included a logic defying header from just outside the penalty box. His first goal was a pearl, with a typical nutmeg and his final goal was a world class delivery from our top, top player - Steven Gerrard. And what can I even say about the Daniel Sturridge goal? He looks up, sees the goalkeeper off his line and plants a sublime chip over him into the back of the net. Absolutely world class.

The best part about the Suarez and Sturridge partnership is that they seem to be inspiring us to greater heights. There is an feeling of 'anything you can do, I can do better.' There is a fantastic team spirit running through the team and we have got the balance right in most areas of the pitch. I can NOT wait for top of the table clash with Arsenal game next week! Come on you big Redmen!

PS: Read my post on Empire Of The Kop!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

I just can't get enough!

So this is what we've been missing. This, in my opinion, is what has caused Liverpool to sit back deep and soak up pressure for entire second halves of earlier games. Old Trafford was all about the return of Luis Suarez, but he showed us why he is so important tonight. He, quite simply, gives the team an astounding number of options up front. In Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool have two extremely good strikers with complementary skills. Complementary being the key word here. Suarez is undoubtedly a much more complete player than Sturridge, but he does not offer us what Sturridge does. Add Philippe Coutinho into the mix, and we potentially have the best attacking trio in the league.


Let us compare tonight's game with the game against Aston Villa, Liverpool were camped in their own half for probably the entire of the second half. Simon Mignolet had to make a couple of heart stopping saves to deny Christian Benteke. How many heart-stopping, "here we go again" moments did we have tonight? The problem against Villa was that we did not have an outlet up front. Sturridge is not the kind of player who can hold the ball up for you. But tonight, when we were under pressure at the back and our defence had to kick it up front, who was there to hold up the ball or do one of his clever turns around defenders? Luis Suarez. He eased the pressure on the defence time and time again and that was exactly what the third goal came from. Yes, Sturridge had a goal and two assists, but Suarez was the more complete player.

For me, our defence was also quite pleasing to see. Toure, Skrtel and Sakho seemed brilliant at the back. I don't quite remember seeing a Liverpool center back in the recent past who has looked quite as assured with his tackling as Mamadou Sakho. He will be an asbolutely inspired signing for Liverpool! He is a beast in the air, tackles confidently and solidly all day long and passes the ball to Lucas/Gerrard. Good enough for me. I just feel the return of Agger in place of Toure will give us greater stability at the back and add an extra body to midfield with his runs.

Despite what people think, the 3-4-1-2 formation seems to be suiting the players we have at our disposal quite well. We have excellent center backs to choose from. We seem a little short in midfield with Lucas, Gerrard, Henderson and Allen though. I just feel we haven't quite gotten our midfield formula right yet. Lucas and Gerrard does seem our best pairing in the center of the park as of now though. I am eagerly awaiting the return of Glen Johnson though. He will give us that extra attacking threat in the final third which Henderson, for al his running, does not currently from the wing back position. And believe it or not, Jose Enrique does seem a better player when Suarez plays! That cross to Suarez between the two Sunderland center backs!

Onto Crystal Palace next week! Win that game, and we will be in a very, very good position going into the international break indeed and two weeks closer to Philippe Coutinho's return. Top four aspirants? I'm starting to think that Rodgers' Revolution is taking shape!

PS: Read this post on Empire Of The Kop!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Lack of cutting edge costs Liverpool

How many sides can truly go to Old Trafford and say they dominated them for long periods? Because we really did, didn't we? More possession, almost the same number of shots on and off target and hitting the post. We dominated them for long periods of the game and were only let down by a lack of quality in the final third. That was probably or best 11, though I expect Coutinho to come in for Henderson in midfield when he is fit again. Despite the loss, there were several aspects that I was extremely pleased to see:

1. A 3-5-2 formation - I really do believe this is the best formation for us to play with the personnel we currently have. Having said that, we drastically need Aly Cissokho to get fit as quickly as possible. He has a very realistic chance of displacing Jose Enrique on the left. Enrique was defensively poor again last night, leaving Hernandez loose in the area from a corner, which is as open an invitation as is needed for the Mexican to score from inside the box.

2. The defence - Enrique's error aside, how good did that defence look! The only thing I would change is throw in Agger in place of Martin Skrtel. We do need a play who can bring the ball out from the back.

3. Lucas - I thought Lucas was absolutely excellent yesterday! He did his job well, and even got involved high up the pitch once in a while!

4. SAS - The looked really good together, didn't they? I think Brendan Rodgers has done a brilliant job in supplementing the talents of Luis Suarez since arriving. Now, we have a front three (Suarez, Sturridge and Coutinho) which is on par with the best in the league. Let's just hope they all get enough games starting together soon!

Suarez looked short of match fitness. That will improve over time. But the real concern for me was how tired Daniel Sturridge looked last night. We know he hasn't missed any games for Liverpool, he's played a couple with niggles, and the one break he did get (international weekend) he spent working hard to get upto match fitness for Liverpool. Could it be that this is finally taking a toll on him? I certainly hope not, because we will need our front three players fully fit and firing to have any sort of chance of gatecrashing the top 4.
Onwards and upwards to managerless Sunderland next weekend! Though that is exactly the kind of game we have known Liverpool to lose in the recent past!

PS: Read this post on Empire Of The Kop!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Well that was dire, wasn’t it?

Should we call it a bad day at the office? Maybe, but how bad was that?! We are lucky that Suarez is back for the next game or we could have been in very, very serious trouble over the short term. The side lacked creativity of any sort in the absence of our two attacking talismans and frankly speaking, Wednesday's trip to Old Trafford doesn't fill me with confidence even with Suarez returning. I'm not trying to be overtly negative. I know we can only get better than this because that is the worst I've seen us play for a long, long time.

Our troubles were apparent the moment I looked at the team sheet. In the absence of Philippe Coutinho, I was looking forward to Henderson playing in his position, Sterling starting to provide pace down the right and Joe Allen alongside Lucas and Gerrard in the middle of the park. Instead we saw a yet again ineffectual Iago Aspas and four center backs in our back four. As soon as I saw Sakho and Toure at full back positions, I knew that we would have no penetration from the flanks, which is a very key part of our game with Enrique and Johnson. With our full backs taken out the game as an attacking threat, it was left to just our front three of Sturridge, Henderson and Aspas to provide the spark in front of goal, but that was never going to happen without the usual numbers that we get into attacking positions and without a creative player to create goalscoring opportunities.

Simon Miglonet - Can not be spoken of highly enough. The triple save in three seconds was an absolute blinder as was a finger save from an Osvaldo shot. Is reinforcing my belief of him being a brilliant shot stopper and may well be Liverpool's best bit of summer business.

Mamadou Sakho - Anonymous at left back. Made an absolutely fantastic last ditch tackle to deny a goalscoring opportunity after being shifted to center back. Seems like a typical slow but extremely powerful defender. I enjoyed a brilliant and perfectly clean tackle by him ending up with a Saints player on the deck.

Daniel Agger - Was at fault for the goal. Defensive set pieces have been our Achilles' heel for what seems like time immemorial now!

Martin Skrtel - After a beast of a performance against Manchester United, I would say he was our poorest player in defence yesterday. Game was typified by a moment in which he let the ball run behind him from a back pass and turned only to find it had run out of play.

Kolo Toure - Struggled at right back even though he fared better than Sakho at left back. Made one or two decent attacking runs but not enough to pose a constant threat.

Lucas Leiva - Did what he always does well. completed 43 of his 45 passes in the game. Can't fault him for the midfield looking very weak.

Steven Gerrard - Probably the poorest player on the pitch last night, the Liverpool captain will want to banish this game from memory with a win against Manchester United in the League Cup. 1-0 down, chasing the game, he gave the ball away constantly and needlessly and invited unnecessary pressure at a time when Liverpool should have been the team applying pressure.

Jordan Henderson - Had an ok game. Nothing special. I was looking forward to seeing him in this role seeing how well he linked up with Coutinho behind Sturridge in the last game but nothing to shout about here.

Victor Moses - Being billed as someone who would provide and strong and pacey option up front upon his signing, Moses really didn't do enough for me. There were flashes of potential, but nothing that would make anyone sit up and take notice of him in this game. Chelsea won't be too disappointed with having sent him out on loan.

Iago Aspas - Nondescript.

Daniel Sturridge - Tried to do it all by himself and ended up trying too hard at times. Was selfish, which I didn't like. I understand that he is on fire, but there were occasions when he could have passed to a teammate in a better position rather than going it alone.

Raheem Sterling - I thought he was bright after coming on. Definitely injected pace on the right and cannot be expected to turn the game on his own at this stage in his development.

Jose Enrique - That he is a better option than Sakho at left back speaks volumes of the paucity of our options in full back positions. Is decent defensively, but is a real liability going forward. The overriding image I get in my head when I think of him in an attacking position is either a backwards pass or a cross that goes over everyone's head and out.

Luis Alberto - Might have been a decent starting option. Not given enough time to show what he can do after scoring a hat-trick for the U21's.

MANAGER REVIEW:Two simple points of concern.

1. This may be in hindsight, but tactics were way out of order. Four center backs made no sense right from the word go and took too long to introduce Enrique and a measure of normalcy to the lineup. Square pegs do not fit in round holes.

2. I'm just speculating here, but Steven Gerrard recently said that this is the most gruelling pre-season he has ever had. Look at our players who have been injured or played with niggles so far this season - Johnson, Coutinho, Toure, Cissokho, Coates, Agger, Sturridge, Enrique. Enrique supposedly didn't start yesterday because he had a knock to his knee. Coincidence? I pray to god not else we will tail off very badly because the games will keep coming thick and fast.

I don't feel entirely confident for the United match because I don't think the problem of width will have been addressed by then. However, let's all just take a moment to remind ourselves that Manchester United have David Moyes as their manager and laugh!


PS: Read this post on Empire Of The Kop!