-While I don’t know if he cares, I can’t help but wonder what Torres thinks as he watches Suarez. I am pretty sure the Spaniard would have had a few more goals to his name by now if he had stayed in the Red shirt with Suarez’s movement, trickery, and ability to set up his team mates. He was exactly what we have been missing and there is a chance their partnership could have been the next big star pairing in the EPL. Who knows, Carroll and Suarez may end up becoming that anyway, I just think it will take more time.
-Speaking of Carroll, I still am not sure how he will end up fitting in the line-up for LFC. I tweeted with SI’s soccer editor Jen Chang about this and he seems convinced (as does Kenny) that Carroll has good enough feet to play a pass and move game. I agree he has good feet for a big man, but to me they are much less developed than his heading ability and whether they will get much better is unclear. Don’t get me wrong, I think he can be a real force in the EPL, I’m just not sure LFC’s playing style will prove it.
-Rumors are that FSG’s plans for Anfield will supposedly be announced soon. What a difference some new owners make after the dragged out affair around the new stadium. As an American based fan who hasn’t been able to make the pilgrimage to Anfield yet, I personally hope for a renovation so I can experience the magic and the history.
While not an instant classic by any means, our win over Chelsea was a tactical master-piece. It also boosted us within striking distance of the European places and provides us with further momentum forward. Liverpool are now the hottest team in the EPL and no one is going to want to play us in this mood. All of this is even before adding our 57 million pound strike force to the regular line-up. On a personal level it was particularly satisfying to see Fernando totally ineffective and to watch him leave without really impacting the game was icing on the cake.
Liverpool showed off its new 3 in the back formation which worked like a charm, although it may not be a permanent fixture. It does get our 3 best defenders on the field at the same time, while allowing Johnson to play to his attacking assets without needing to defend as critically. The down side of course is that it takes away a supporting striker leaving the target man a bit isolated and in general our attack was sporadic at best. With a better front man like Carroll it could have been much more effective. All in all, it was a hugely satisfying win with good performances across the pitch.
1 - Waste of space. We would have done better with 10 men than have him on the pitch.
2 - Not his best night. Maybe didn’t ruin the game for us but certainly didn’t help.
3 - Average. Neither was bad nor great or do anything of note.
4 - Played a key part in the game - added punch, pace, passing, assists or even goals.
5 - Man of the Match
Any subs who were on for less than 30 minutes will probably not get a rating (NR) unless they prove themselves particularly important or impotent.
Reina - A solid game but surprisingly un-needed. He had two important stops in the second half but did not need to pull off any spectacular plays. His passing out of the back was good as usual. Rating: 3
Kelly - He continues to impress with solid defensive performance and good wing play. His service into the box is very good and will only improve as he learns when to play in the ball and when to take on his defender. He shows his age from time to time but still justifies his place. Rating: 3
Carra - An amazing performance considering he was out of action for 2 months - he wins my Man of the Match. He marshaled the defense well and his block on Torres in the first half may have saved a damaging early goal. Rating: 5
Skrtel - As a whole, the back 3 performed very well. Martin has struggled of late and may be the biggest loser with Carra back in action if we revert back to a 4 man back line. However, he did well against Chelsea. Rating: 3
Agger - Solid as usual. Didn’t really do much of great importance beyond flattening Torres first, which is what gives him his rating. A classy passer and all around good back, I’m really glad he is getting his chances under Kenny. Rating: 4
Johnson - Much more involved this game, he really adds a nice attacking dimension in this formation. Relieving him of some of his defensive duties is bringing out the best in his attack - which is a good thing too since the way Kelly is playing, the right back position looks to have waved him bye-bye. Rating: 3
Maxi - Had a bit of a nightmare out there - Passing was lacking, his shooting boots were apparently both left footers, and he forgot Torres was now on the other team. His miss was comical to say the least. I would like to see Suarez in his place sooner rather than later. Rating: 2
Lucas - Another really solid outing. He won a few balls and generally his distribution was tidy if not uninventive. Rating: 4
Gerrard - Played with his usual passion. He did a good job pushing forward and locked down Lampard well. He got the assist but it should have really gone to the comedy duo of Cech and Ivanovich. Rating: 3
Miereles - Got a goal with some good running. He still isn’t the guy to unlock defenses but his runs and general energy go a long way. His shooting boots are making him a Kop hero. Rating: 4
Kuyt - Worked very, very hard for the team. However, I couldn’t help but think how much better this line-up would work with Carroll up front, but that is for another day. I can’t really fault Dirk for anything but can’t really think of anything he did that stood out. Rating: 3
Aurelio - Came in and did his usual bit part at the end. Could have had a clinching goal on a nice break away but hit it right at Cech with his weaker foot. Rating: NR
Poulsen - Did ok… or at least didn’t make any mistakes. Rating NR
Sorry to any of you looking for my regular updates. Recovery from the plague + business at work = little blog time. So I’m going to skip the Stoke player ratings this week and will have Chelsea ratings out soon. With so much going on right now I have to share a few of my most recent LFC thoughts though:
-The Carroll Gamble - I, along with a lot of other football heads, thought 35m was a ridiculous amount to spend on this guy. It made me doubt FSG’s football intelligence that they would throw that kind of money at such an unproven player. However, Henry was quoted as saying that the Fernando Torres sale price was Carroll plus 15m. Apparently Carroll had already been seen as LFC’s primary off season target and the Torres deal allowed it to happen early. While the price was over the top, it wasn’t a case of terrible business for FSG, just a case of two screwball billionaires (Ashley and Abramovitch) screwing each other. In the end Henry stood back and watched Ashley drive up the price and leave Liverpool standing with two new, shiny, promising strikers and only in the hole 2m. This has the potential to be the deal of decade and hopefully means there will be more money in the coffers come summer.
-Suarez - He couldn’t have had a brighter start to his career at LFC. He brought pace and trickery that has been sorely missing from this team for years. As he finally gets his conditioning and some games, I think he could easily make us forget that pasty blond kid, what was his name….oh, Torres.
-And on that subject…I still hate that we traded him to an EPL rival but now that I know he won’t hurt us after his limp performance on Sunday, I don’t feel so bad. I still can’t help but think he will ultimately regret his choice as Liverpool are arguably the hottest team in the EPL right now. Chelsea is clearly in a slow skid and El Nino may have jumped a little prematurely just to try and get a Champions League run in right now. If Chelsea don’t right the ship they could see the Reds nip them for the last CL place. Their loss to us this weekend probably ended their title hopes. So, good luck Fernando, you looked a hell of a lot better in red.
-King Kenny - Well, the dream run seems to be on. I don’t think we can rest easy yet, but we are playing better, smarter football and a chance at salvaging this season suddenly seems real. With this run has come the cries for Kenny D to be made permanent manager, and if he does make something of this year he should get it. His chances got a huge boost from John Henry who spoke glowingly of what he has done to FoxSoccer this week. With this groundswell of support, Henry may not have a choice as sacking him at the end of the season could see a revolt of epic proportions.
-Player of the Year - Lucas? - I may have to eat my hat with this one. I have never been a great fan of the kid but he has really come to life over the last season and could rightly have a go at LFC player of the year. He has become much more consistent defensively and his passing rate is always very impressive. Of course his passing isn’t very incisive or positive but it shows that he isn’t making mistakes. With him coming into his own, it allows Kenny a lot more freedom to make changes to his midfield, knowing Lucas will mop up ably.
-The thing that stood out to me most was how much better the team movement was. The passing was generally crisp (especially when we had 11) and the team moved forward and defended as a unit. This was noticeably absent from our last two league losses when players were all over the map position wise. You could almost feel the team say ‘Ahhh’ as they were finally allowed to play the kind of football this team was built to play. The remarkably fewer number of random hoof balls was welcome as well. This to me dispells a lot of the questions about whether it was Roy to blame or the players since the only thing that changed was Roy and Kenny didn’t even have a training session with them.
-Shelvey really impressed. Other than an ill advised attempt to beat the keeper from 40 yards when a pause to push people forward would have been a better choice, he barely put a foot wrong. His passing was on target and early and he even got in a few nice tackles, one where he dispossessed Johnny Evans in the corner and turned it into a half chance was particularly impressive.
-Torres’ mood seemed better as well although something still doesn’t look right with him. The fact that Ngog comes on and appears more dangerous is disconcerting. Hopefully now that Kenny has us pressing higher up the pitch he will get more support, earlier service, and eventually goals to prop up his confidence.
All in all it was probably the best I have ever felt about a loss to the Mancs. Lets hope Kenny can work even better wonders now that he actually has had some training time with the boys. A good beating of Blackpool could be the perfect thing.