Archive for the ‘Team Talk’ Category

‘Do you know what I don’t understand?’ I said to the other half, in a serious monotone. ‘Quantum physics!’ she laughed; probably more out of pity than anything else. My jokes have never been the best.

It makes sense that I don’t understand quantum physics – hence why my joke was so funny. But what doesn’t make sense (and what I also can’t comprehend) is this feeling of optimism I get at every ‘new season’s eve’.

I even had it last year. Well! It was a little different last year. Maybe more along the lines of ‘it won’t be that bad’. Even the signing of Joe Cole made me wonder if we could push our way into the top four. Maybe he’d just gone stale at Chelsea and he’d be rejuvinated in red. Oh, how wrong was I? Poor misguided fool.

It’s not wrong though, is it? It’s perfectly normal to get questions running through your mind:

What if all the signings turn out to be first class, can we push for top four or maybe even better?

Will it make a big difference with us not playing in Europe, while others around us are?

Have Arsenal blown their chances of top four, with two of their best players on the way out of the door? (obviously not the best of poets either!)

Can Kenny Dalglish carry the team to silverware, given the form he got out of a weaker team at the end of last season?

Despite my current optimism my brow has become increasingly furrowed with each signing we’ve made. I’m not sure I understand the logic of paying such a premium for English players. The signing of Andy Carroll still makes my head spin. Not that he’s a bad player and not that he can’t become a great one. Just because the level of improvement we’ll need to see to warrant such an expensive investment is vast.

There is clearly a strategy in play. A plan has been formalised and is being followed with great rigour. Inexorably leading us to fielding the highest number of british players a Liverpool side has seen in a long time. After harping on so many times last season about the need for Fenway Sports Group to plan fully and think differently. I would be a hypocrite to start complaining now.

You can’t help but feel that we’re at a tipping point though. The last chance saloon? If the plan doesn’t work, worse – if it backfires completly, the top four could be a long lost forgotten dream. Our owners don’t appear to have the same financial clout as the clubs we’re competing against, they’ve even admitted as much. So if this doesn’t work – is there money for a plan B? Doubtful.

And yet, I feel optimistic. That optimism is bourne out of trust. Trust in Fenway Sports Group, Damien Commolli and in particular Kenny Dalglish. Three parties all pointing in the same direction, singing from the same hymn sheet with the same goal in mind. What would we have given for that at the start of last season?

No European football will undoutbtedly have a telling impact on how the season unfolds. How many times did we see strong European performances followed by lacklustre domestic showings a few days later. European games put an additional pressure on squads, which in the past has been quite telling. Let’s face it none of those teams in European action are going to want to face us a few days after a trip away.

As for the signings. Well I have to trust those who make such decisions. I’ve been puzzled by them, but I believe those, who know far more than me, believe in why they have made them. Even at a premium. None of them are bad signings, just expensive ones. But if we get greater team cohesion from the outset (and into the future) who’s to say what might actually happen next season.

Cards on the table time. The bit I’ll probably cringe at come the end of the season. But I am going to be brave and set it in cyberspace stone. I think we’ll finish top four, probably with a cup. That will be a platform to build from for the future.

With a dose of good luck, or maybe even just avoiding the dose of bad luck we’ve been known for, I think we could possibly achieve even more. There’s a plan – it’s different and seems to be getting followed meticulously. Put that together with our great club’s key figures all pointing in the same direction and the worlds greatest fans behind them – who knows. Maybe we’ll just skip straight past the platform step.

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We can only assume the risks of keeping Fernando Torres outweighed the benefits. In today’s modern football it is after all the players who usually hold all the cards. Had Torres’ performances deteriorated further, beyond the lacklustre, then it is possible any momentum gained recently could have stalled. Personally, I always felt we should have negotiated a deal which would have seen him leave in the summer; with the fee agreed in advance. Not being privy to all of the facts though it’s hard to make any judgement, which I accept.

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Surprisingly, no one started a book on the first real challenge John Henry and co. would face at Liverpool Football Club.  The odds would have been very short on stadium funding, newly surfacing fan frustration or financing problems. None of these would have been too surprising, given the preceding three years under American ownership. Although tarring Fenway Sports Group with the same brush as Hicks and Gillett would have proved unfair, based on their performance to date.

Some may of course point to the Hodgson era, as short-lived as it was, being a big test. Realistically though it wasn’t. There was no battle in the face of such damning evidence. The troubles faced under Hodgson were always going to be easier to fix compared to the loss of our talisman. In fact the removal of Hodgson and appointment of Dalglish were very good reasons for the odds on any player slapping in a transfer request lengthening.

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Cometh the hour…

Posted: January 9, 2011 by mcdonaldtaf in Manager Talk, Team Talk
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I could go and find the specific date, but if I’m honest I don’t remember it. I don’t remember the date. I do remember the day. I remember where I stood, who I was with and who told me that Kenny Dalglish had stepped down as manager of Liverpool Football Club. Rushing inside to a friend’s house, even before the days when 24 hour news coverage had taken over our TV’s, it was everywhere. There I stood – 14 years old, in the house of a family of Manchester United supporters feeling lost.

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Deeper Running Problems?

Posted: January 5, 2011 by mcdonaldtaf in Liverpool FC, Manager Talk, Team Talk
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One of the supposed benefits of Roy Hodgson’s arrival was his ability to get closer to players and re-invigorate their on the pitch performances. Despite what he has eluded to, or (some of) Fleet Street will spout, we do have  a squad of players and certainly a first XI which should be competing for fourth place – as a minimum.

Carragher, Gerrard and Torres

Data utilising TPI from Pay as you Play (Tomkins et al, 2010, GPRF Publishing) has shown that we still retain the fifth highest squad value (without taking account of free transfers such as Gerrard, Cole and Carragher). We’ve also utilised that squad to provide for the fourth most expensive team put out this season to date, on average. So the players have been at Roy’s disposal, which begs the question – what exactly is going wrong – to the extent that we are losing to minnows? (more…)

That fine purveyor of wind up Patrick Barclay was ‘at it’ again after the Wolves game. His tweet of “‘Hodgson for England’ is the new Kop wit. They might equally have tried a twist on the Brighton replay classic…” was followed by “”Stevie Gerrard, Stevie Gerrard, what a difference you have made, what a difference…”” There’s no doubting who Paddy thinks should shoulder the blame. Although it is fair to point out that he did acknowledge things hadn’t progressed as he expected under Hodgson and that Rafa was a good manager – SHOCK! There were little glimmers of sense until “But naturally I hope Roy survives. Good man, good manager. Gather he’s said sorry to fans. Tis the season for apologies, apparently.”

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The Return of Rafa Benitez?

Posted: November 25, 2010 by mcdonaldtaf in Manager Talk, Team Talk
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I never wrote about Rafa’s departure at the time, I think it would have just been a post full of expletives. But as Roy continues to struggle at Anfield I see tweets about Rafa’s return, while he also struggles at Inter. So now seemed a good time to get my thoughts out.

I was tweeting with a journalist last week, when he asked me who I’d like to see take over from Hodgson (should NESV decide to replace him). My immediate reaction was to say that Benitez should never have been sacked, and should return. His response was to suggest that too much water had passed under the bridge for that to happen. On reflection I had to concede he was probably right.

However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t think about ‘what if’ whenever I hear Rafa talk about his connection with Liverpool, or how he’ll one day return to the UK. It’s the same ‘what if’ when I see that his Inter Milan side is struggling and their fans are getting restless.

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Yesterday’s performance has been blown out of all proportion in some quarters. A game which saw effort applied and a goal scored against (as much as it pains me to say it) the current Premiership champions in their own back yard. The champions who are, unfortunately, very much in the hunt for this season’s title as well. While we have seen a mini surge over the past few games United have been dominant. Since their loss at Goodison they have won six on the trot and more recently thumped Fulham 3-0 and AC Milan 4-0. Just because we have had the better of them in recent seasons yesterday’s game was never a given. The game after an initial flurry became very tactical and ironically in the run up to Park scoring many United fans were calling for him to be taken off. While Park is basking in the glory of Ferguson’s platitudes today the truth is he did very little in yesterday’s game (other than scoring of course).

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Bring on the Robots

Posted: March 9, 2010 by mcdonaldtaf in Post Game, Team Talk
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Reading my latest T3 magazine (which is for us nerdy gadget guys) there is a section dedicated to robots and how close (or far) we are from achieving the ‘utopian planet living model’ (where robots do all the hard work). I couldn’t help but think how well it might work if robots replaced football players. Yes of course other clubs would still have more money to spend on their technicians, engineers and scientists, but at least there would be some consistency in results. Robots can repeat thousand of processes accurately and fluently so it would surely make sense that if you put together a team of robots, which according to the spec. sheets were better than the majority of other teams, we wouldn’t lose games like last night.

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I’m not naïve and I didn’t think it was going to go away. There is a rattle in the LFC dashboard though. They drive me mad, especially these types of rattles. We’re not doing badly enough for the rattle to get any worse so we can ‘locate and destroy’, but we’re not winning every game so it sorts itself out, or you can enjoy driving enough to ignore it. It’s so frustrating. Despite only losing once in the last 9 premiership games (to a title contender) the undercurrents remain within certain sections of our fan base. Some things don’t change… while others quite obviously do.

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