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A Little Concerned…….

We are now 4 games into the Premier League and already there is a familiar pattern and feel to how we are playing, predictable, slow and lacking of any imagination in the final third. After the first game against Arsenal where the team showed passion and commitment there has been a complete lack of the same since then. In my previous blog ‘Return of the Mojo’ I praised the team and in particular Mascherano so before I go on and following the events of the Argentine midfielder moving to Barcelona I want to make it clear that I want to retract the ‘legend’ status I attributed to him and in my eyes will only be known as a someone who used to play for Liverpool. So since the Arsenal game what has gone wrong? The senior players have come out and said they are enjoying what Roy Hodgson is bringing to the club so is it the players not performing or is it the tactical awareness of our new manager? I have written previously that I had ‘mixed feelings’ about Hodgsons appointment and wasn’t sure if he was the ‘right’ person to manage our club but with some good signings during pre-season and how we played during the Arsenal game he had started to win me round. However since then the signs have been less than encouraging with a heavy defeat to Man City (where no substitutions were made until the last 10 minutes and even though the system clearly wasn’t working the shape was never changed), an unconvincing win in Europe, a very unconvincing win at home  to West Brom and a grateful draw away to Birmingham on Sunday. We have only scored 2 goals in 4 games and have conceded 4 which again is a worrying sign and the way the team played on Sunday we only ever looked liked adding to the conceded column. Is this the fruits of Hodgsons tactics or simply players off form? Well for England Gerrard has been in great form but in a Liverpool shirt he hasn’t been able to recreate that form so far. So therefore is it the tactics? The game against Manchester City concerned me, yes because of the result and poor performance, but more so because even though it was clear to everyone watching that the tactics were not right and City were controlling the midfield the management did not feel (even after 2 nil down) the need to change it or bring on substitutions. It felt to me that after going 2 nil down the management conceded there was no chance in coming back and that a defeat was the only outcome of the game. Something on the same lines that Fulham would accept…. Since that game the team has been set up with 2 holding midfield players who between them seem to struggle to find a forward pass and therefore limit any creativity through the midfield area. Don’t get me wrong I think that Lucas and Poulsen as players do a good job but in my opinion should never play in the same team together. Admittedly Hodgson has been without Joe Cole who if had been available may have meant only one holding midfielder being played. We will find out in the next game at home on Thursday in the Europa League if that theory becomes reality. The lack of goals is also a concern – Torres is becoming increasingly isolated and because there is a lack of urgency and creativity in our play he is also becoming frustrated. If Torres (or Gerrard) isn’t scoring then the team struggles. There is a distinct lack of goals from the rest of the team and I don’t see that changing any day soon. However I was impressed with Miereles when he came on against Birmingham – he maybe the player who will get into the positions to score goals but can only be accommodated if we stop playing with 2 holding players As a passionate Liverpool fan I want Hodgson and more importantly the team to succeed but I am worried that we are becoming a a clone of Fulham and comments such as ‘I am very pleased with a point at Birmingham’ is not what I want to hear or expect from a Liverpool manager. We are Liverpool Football club not Fulham FC. Being realistic I am not expecting us to be challenging for the title come May but I do expect us to be and perfom better than a mid table team so for the moment and even at this early stage of the season I am a little concerned…… YNWA

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Same Players, Different Team……

Posted by Spencer | Posted in Liverpool FC | Posted on 24-01-2011

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Remember the date, 22nd January 2011, the day all Liverpool fans thought would never come again not alone this season, but always lived in hope of seeing again that our beloved club was not only winning away from home but playing football again, the Liverpool way.

 I’m sure that although it was great to see a 0-3 scoreline away from home most fans (including me) would admit the most pleasing aspect of the match against Wolves was indeed the performance as a whole. It wasn’t perfect and I am not ignoring the fact that we are a team that is still miles away from the levels seen  2 seasons ago but in comparison to what we have seen so far this campaign it is a massive improvement (and that is not an exaggeration).  

So why the huge improvement?

An obvious question gives an obvious answer, Kenny Dalglish.

If Roy Hodgson was going to be replaced during the season then the one person  the majority (if not all) of Liverpool fans would have wanted was ‘king’ Kenny Dalglish. As a fan who used to watch The King play andalso watched his Liverpool teams play I for one think his appointment as manager for the second time is a stroke of genius by the new Liverpool owners. They have clearly listened to the fans and quickly understood how the club should be run and the importance of having a manager that understands the roots of Liverpool FC. There is no better person in my opinion than The King.

What he has achieved in a matter of two weeks has certainly surprised the ‘experts’ in the media who were very quick to point towards the fact he had been ‘out of the game’ for far too long. What they failed to report was that Kenny Dalglish had been around the club for the last few years as an ambassador, he was also a regular fixture in the Liverpool crowd for home games and of course still heavily involved within the club generally. I am not sure that is the correct definition of ‘being out of the game’.

However the improvement since his appointment has been clear to see. The team are now showing more passion, commitment and self belief which has been significantly lacking all season, the work rate of every player has improved 100% and that includes Christian Poulson! The 4 games played under ‘The King’ have all showed this with the best being the recent game at Wolves. Simple things such as players playing in their correct positions (apart from Glen Johnson who has had to play at Left Back) has made a huge difference. We only need to look at Raul Meireles for example - bought as an attcking midfielder but deployed on the right of midfield for the majority of the season, has now been given the chance to play behind Torres which has also allowed him to roam and as a result able to get more involved and deliver that much missed creativity.    

His man management skills have also made a significant impact – we only have to look at Torres for this example. Here is a world class striker that this season has looked frustrated, unhappy and unable to control a football. Within the last 2 weeks we have seen hunger, desire and glimpses of his undoubted quality that have previously terrorised defences. Yes the player should be giving his all week in week out but when a player is out of form and quite obvioulsy down then they need to be told how good they are, given a hug and that it will all come good in the end. The evidence of this is for all to see and the team are now benefiting with 3 goals in 2 games.

The most obvious reason in my opinion for the improvement is the tactics that are now being employed. For most of the season and especially away from home, the team has been set up not to lose with a five man midfield protecting the defence and Torres left alone up front to chase down the scraps he may be fed. Now we see  a system being adapted which looks like 4-1-3-1-1 with the the 4 players in midfield interchanging when the team is attacking. What we saw on Saturday was the midfeld players getting beyond the striker and threatening inside the opponents penalty area which obvioulsy meant a bigger threat in front of goal. The system has also allowed the team to play to individual players strengths  including Torres and as a result we are starting to see the qualities of the players we have.  Pepe Reina is another example,  he is being allowed to pass the ball out of his area instead of ‘hoofing it’ like he was instructed to previously and as a result is now creating more attacking opportunities for the team. 

As I have said previously we are not at the levels seen under Rafa Benitez quite yet but in the short space of time Kenny has been in charge we have seen the potential of whats to come in future games.  We are still shaky in defence but I believe this will improve and we are still in need of additional quality players to join the squad but with the appointment of Kenny and that of Steve Clarke, which is also a shrewd move by the owners, I believe such improvement will continue to happen in the coming weeks.

We have been told previously by football experts and the media that we don’t have good enough players to compete at a high level, and that the reason Roy Hodgson had such a poor record was because of this, but in the short time Kenny has been in charge and his ideas being adopted by the players, it appears that this may indeed not be the case. 

What we all know is, yes we do have the same players, but are now a completely different team………

 Y.N.W.A

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