The Search For Adventure

Adventure, a word which has started to have been thrown around with great frequency in articles, arguments and discussion, describing a style that a lot of critics say is missing from Liverpool’s play at present. Truthfully, it’s not adventure that is missing from Liverpool’s play, it is pressure and control that has suddenly disappeared.

Most fans would agree that Sunday’s performance was very much below par, and in the league (the Arsenal match apart) this has been the norm. Given the circumstances of that Arsenal game, Liverpool were fairly comfortable, defended well, created chances with 10 men and were desperately unlucky not to have taken all 3 points, since then Liverpool have failed to do all those things equally in the same game.

Against Manchester City they never really threatened and failed to defend as a unit, against West Brom, Fernando Torres was the hero (sorry Mr Redkanapp JR) in a game where they failed to create genuine clear cut chances and were put under pressure from a spirited but inexperienced side. Last weekend’s game against Birmingham was in some ways the worst performance of the season so far, the home side were just plain unlucky to find a goalkeeper on top of his game, at times the defence was pulled all over the place and failed to defend set pieces with any great deal of conviction and the attacking threat was almost null & void, which was a team thing rather than individual.

Sunday’s game against Manchester United while poor, did offer some hope. Yes the pressure on the ball was missing and the failure to defend set pieces again reared its ugly head but at times Liverpool had good possession, controlled possession too, despite (Sky co-commentators) Alan Smith continually bleating on about their failure to do so. Chances were at a premium and it might be easy to overlook the fact that both Liverpool goals came from set pieces and were the only two shots on target.

The adventure that many pundits keep on mentioning can only come from good controlled possession in advanced areas, or from pressure high up the pitch. It could be noted that with maybe two or three exceptions the team put out on Sunday was our strongest 11. Poulsen, Gerrard and Merieles all worked hard and looked a good midfield trio, yet Maxi and Joe Cole didn’t really get into the game which negated the effectiveness of the team as an attacking force.

Sunderland up next at home, in a game which Liverpool need to dominate like they did last season, a performance that had controlled advanced possession, great pressure on the ball and excellent individual performances, something which has sadly been lacking since, this game may be the real litmus test for Hodgson’s team, you can only be a work in progress for so long.

(Photo provided by Nigel Wilson) 

Anfield expectations falling as uncertainty looms over Liverpool

An outsider may look at Liverpool Football Club and say that the switchover of managers was incredibly smooth. 

Roy Hodgson has come in, quickly made changes, getting rid of some players and adding others, and he’s getting favourable comments from a number of Liverpool players, including club captain Steven Gerrard.

In the Europa League performances have been good, with Roy’s record now five straight wins in a row when taking in to account both the qualifiers and Europa League proper. Domestically things have been harder, with just one win recorded out of a possible four and a trip to Manchester United scheduled on Sunday.

The former Fulham boss seems to be a straight up and honest guy, with no ulterior motives other than to do the best he possibly can this season in order to bring success to Anfield.

The question is what is considered success this season?

Last season anything below Champions League qualification was considered a failure, with many predicting – following the fantastic 08/09 campaign - Liverpool may well be able to push for the title.

For various reasons, which will be debated by many but is not the point of this article, the Reds failed to qualify for Europe’s top competition and thus Rafael Benitez’s time on Merseyside was brought to an end six seasons after he arrived.

Hodgson has been very friendly with the media since his arrival, talking seemingly daily about the goings on around the club and what he feels he needs to do to improve the way Liverpool are playing and bring some exciting football back to Anfield this season.

But after Liverpool’s clash with Birmingham at St Andrew’s Hodgson spoke of the Reds putting on a fantastic performance and the game as a whole being an “Entertaining nil-nil”.

Maybe the boss was trying to show respect to a formidable opponent, who have now managed to go unbeaten at home since this time last year. But the comments gave the impression that this is our level now, that the performance, which was poor by anyone’s standards, was an acceptable one.

Hodgson received a mixed reception from Liverpool supporters when he arrived, with some seeing it as a step in the wrong direction, bringing in a journeyman with a wealth of experience but ultimately no major success around Europe in the form of silverware.

That, coupled with his comments after recent bouts in the Premier League, seem to have shifted the goalposts in terms of what is considered success at Anfield this season.

Many supporters have talked about being fairly happy with a finish in the top seven this season, a stark contrast to last season when anything below fourth place was unthinkable.

But maybe this is what, as Liverpool fans, we’re slowly getting used to.

Another transfer window has past and once again Liverpool have made a profit on selling players. Not only that but more players have left the squad, which was already lacking strength-in-depth, than have been brought in. Check out here the recent transfer odds.

As the penny pinching continues and other clubs – such as Chelsea and Manchester City – continue to spend big this constant lowering of standards may well continue.

Roy Hodgson is isn’t the problem, he came here with the best of intentions, but his appointment, as an older manager with limited success, gives a clear picture of the troubles currently surrounding Anfield and if Tom Hicks is allowed to refinance the usually high-standard set by us as supporters may well keep slipping.

(Photo provided by Andy Nugent) 

A united fan base is essential - join Spirit of Shankly

A statement that is often used in today’s media is that Liverpool have one of, if not the, best set of supporters in the world. 

Stand at the front of the Kop on a European night, watching the flags glistening in the floodlights that immerse the famous ground whilst listening to the inhabitants of this great mountain of sporting tribalism belting out the iconic ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and it would be hard not to agree.

Yet it’s a great shame that Liverpool’s support is all cast under one sweeping generalisation. As with all football support the idea that Liverpool’s fan base is united by the same beliefs and opinions is incredibly wide of the mark.

A trip to one of the notable pubs close to Anfield on a match day, or logging on to a Liverpool forum, will provide anyone with enough evidence to suggest that Liverpool supporters are very diversified in their opinions of what is best for Liverpool Football Club and provide you the latest Liverpool odds.

Even when sets of supporters are in agreement on a given topic often an argument can break out on how to reach this situation. Most Liverpool fans will tell you of how they want rid of Tom Hicks and George Gillett, yet there are many different ways of doing this offered by many different supporters, all of which are open for debate.

Some supporters are mainly concerned about what's happening on the pitch, others are worried about what's going on at board level, some may even be worried whether the next away kit will be white, black or yellow. All supporters care about the club but all are different.

These differences are why it’s incredibly important that Spirit of Shankly – The Liverpool Supporters Union – exists. The Union offers somewhere to bring these debates and have them discussed in a reasonable manner amongst a large number of Liverpool supporters.

Union meetings are a democratic environment in which a solution can be voted upon by paying members and, thanks to the strength in numbers the Union has, can then be taken to the highest officials at Liverpool Football Club and discussed with them.

It’s often been said that Spirit of Shankly is a collection of local, match going, supporters and only their opinions are the ones that count to the committee. Of course this is not true, in fact it’s far from it. If you’re a member of the Union you have as much as say in what action is taken as the next member. That, for me, is why it’s essential every Liverpool supporter becomes a member.

Look on the Union’s Facebook page, check their Twitter followers and you’ll stumble upon a huge number of supporters from all around the globe, all with different views, all from different back grounds and all united in their belief that, as a group, Liverpool supporters can work to improve the quality of the club and community.

A lot of the publicity the Union has received, the primary source of their popularity, is from their work with the current ownership situation. No other organisation has taken part in so many talks with high-level officials at the club, no other group has held more rallies and demonstrations to further publicise the cause and no one else has forced the club to listen more than Spirit of Shankly.

Yet for me their efforts on forcing Tom Hicks and George Gillett out of Anfield are just a small part of what the Union has to offer. Their work in the community is commendable, most notably their free football training sessions with local children, many of whom may not have the means to pay for the shockingly expensive days that professionals, including our club, offer.

Affordable travel to away games is another fantastic and useful service which the Union has worked hard to offer its members. Whilst the club have looked to raise ticket prices whenever possible, and teamed up with profit-hungry companies such as Thomas Cook, the Union has battled to offer amazingly cheap travel options so the average fan can afford to watch their team away from home.

That’s not to say the Union is faultless, a very well publicised occurance took place during an end-of-season party run by the Union which had many up in arms, The Union handled this as well as they could, making changes for the next event of similar style. But every organisation that grows this fast has similar problems, so long as they are handled properly, which they were, they can forgiven.

During a time of such negativity at Liverpool Football Club, having a united fan base is essential. Everyone has a difference of a opinion, everyone believes their way of doing things is right but the main thing is with the Liverpool Supporters Union everyone has a voice.

Europa League important for development of young prospects


Martin Kelly and Jay Spearing look set to start in Liverpool’s clash with Steaua Bucharest tonight.

It’s a good move by Roy Hodgson, not only does it give two of our younger players the chance to gain some experience against quality European opposition, it also allows some of our more senior players the chance to rest before the all-important clash with Manchester United on Sunday. 

It’s been said that Liverpool FC exists to win trophies, and of course I agree with that. But what’s more important is that Liverpool strives to win the biggest and the best competitions, even if that means neglecting some of those considered less prestigious along the way. 

One of the trophies that should be put low down in Roy Hodgson’s ranking of importance is the Europa League, especially with the current problems surrounding the club. 

Liverpool saw more players head out the exit door than came in over the summer, once again leaving the squad looking incredibly thin on the ground, and when a squad is lacking strength-in-depth it’s important to save the best players for the biggest competitions. 

For Liverpool this season that competition is the Premier League. After the poor show last season, and the current negativity surrounding what’s going on at boardroom level, it’s important the Reds finish as high as possible in the league in order to secure the long-term stability of the club. 

Whilst this means neglecting the Europa League, Carling Cup and to a lesser extent the FA Cup, it means Liverpool are more likely to clinch a place back in the top four, and that’s all important if Liverpool want to be back up there with the crème de la crème of football in the Champions League. 

That’s not to say that the Europa League doesn’t serve a purpose for Liverpool. The competition is a great way in which to offer our young prospects the chance to play first team football, against strong opposition, in a competitive environment - something which will allow these players to develop their skills and offer us more promise for the future. 

By playing in the competition the younger players will no doubt build-up their confidence as well as giving the hope they do have a future at Liverpool, something which is crucial after very few youth team players broke in to the first-team over the last decade. 

Dani Pacheco was rumoured to be interested in a move away from Anfield in the summer, primarily because of a lack of first-team opportunities despite his consistently brilliant performances at reserve level.

Offering players like him the chance to get regular first-team football will no doubt make them feel they have a chance of breaking in to the squad and will hopefully see a number of junior players make the jump in to the first-team on a regular basis. 

Liverpool can’t boast a squad large enough to send out a world-class team in every competition, but what Roy Hodgson can do is be smart in his team selection, ensuring players like Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard are rested in less important matches whilst also offering the youngsters the chance to prove themselves on a big stage.

Liverpool's mentality must change before Old Trafford clash

For many supporters Liverpool’s trip to Old Trafford is one of the biggest games of the season, with not just three points at stake but also North West bragging rights.

The media also jump on the bandwagon, after all the two clubs set to clash on Sunday have two of the biggest, if not the biggest, fan bases in English football.

The build-up is normally packed with stats, form and results checking in order to try and predict who is in the best shape going in to the fixture.

This season though, it’s all a bit different.

The honeymoon period is over for Roy Hodgson and after a run of uninspiring performances from the Reds the slight air of optimism surrounding his arrival at Anfield is all but gone.

As a group of supporters we could be accused of being slightly impatient this season. After a poor campaign last year it’s easy to see why supporters find it frustrating to see Liverpool start a season in such an unpromising way and ultimately the manager is going to be the one to take an ample amount of scrutiny.

Hodgson didn’t help himself after the game against Birmingham at St Andrew’s on Sunday. The Liverpool boss stated his pleasure at Liverpool’s performance against tough opposition after the Reds walked out, thanks to Pepe Reina, with one point.

The result was far from poor, Birmingham are an incredibly hard team to beat at home, as evidenced by their record of just under twenty unbeaten games at St Andrew’s, but the performance was another thing altogether.

Birmingham looked close to dominant against a Liverpool side that looked shaky at the back and completely lacked in creativity, with the two central midfielders rarely looking forward and the two wide players offering little other than the occasional run in to the box.

Gerrard tried his hardest but, after a string of solid performances, it was a bad day at the office for the skipper, whilst striker Fernando Torres was left isolated as the lone striker, feeding off scraps from an unimaginative midfield.

The script reads like one of our many poor away performances last season, the difference is after those games the manager never came out and praised the team for putting on an “entertaining” performance.

Look to next Sunday and you can see why a lot of that analysis mentioned earlier simply isn’t needed. A quick look at how both sides are playing could easily tell you that United should walk away with three points easy as that.

Both Cole and Meireles should be available to start on Sunday, whilst both will no doubt give a boost to Liverpool’s efforts going forward, they’re no miracle cure. Liverpool’s conservative mentality has to change if we’re to walk away from the game with even our pride intact.

The message needs to be conveyed that a performance like what was offered at Birmingham simply isn’t good enough. This is Liverpool Football Club and when travelling to teams who are supposedly worse than ourselves we shouldn’t be sitting back, hoping for the best and holding out for an “entertaining” nil-nil draw.

Will this happen? I doubt it. As much as I want to like Roy Hodgson it seems as though he’s set the bar a lot lower than what most Liverpool fans expected at the start of the season.

 It’s never good to think you’re better than you are, but praising a poor performance makes the team think it’s acceptable, and if that mentality exists amongst the players the trip to Old Trafford could be a very depressing one.

(Photo provided by Mikhail Slain)

Is David N'gog good enough?


''When you play instead of Fernando people will always talk but I have confidence in him", said Rafael Benitez in April 2017.

Our ex-gaffer was right, we all know this. Replacing Fernando Torres never is easy, especially for such a young lad as David N'gog (21 years of age). Some do not believe in him. They think he lacks strength, and he’s not a Liverpool quality player. But the truth is He’s still a young player , he’s still developing his skills, and it is observable, you have to admit. That is pretty important.

David N'gog arrived from Paris Saint Germain for a fee of £1.5 million in the summer of 2008. He was described as one French football's hottest young talents, despite only scoring one goal in 18 league appearances for PSG during the 2007-08 season and caught the eye playing for the French Under-19 side.

A hell of a goal: David N'gog against Arsenal

He may not cover himself in glory when filling in for Torres and did not win over the Anfield faithful with his five goals in 24 starts in his second season, but proved himself capable of playing in the top flight.

Last season, where he had the opportunity to play more often, due to Torres injury problems, he scored 17 times; 10 were League goals.

Like I said: he’s developing. He’s taking his chances and is trying to improve and to show his qualities. He may lack the coolness in front of goal of more experienced strikers, as some say, but didn’t he prove himself for Liverpool in the Europa League clash against FK Rabotnicki, and scored the two goals which gave us the victory? This season he has already scored the only goal in the opening League encounter against Arsenal. Even more, he did it at home, in the front of the KOP, where the pressure is massive. Doesn’t that count?

David is quick and powerful. Just think of his brilliant run against Arsenal; many pundits had to look twice, as they were astounded by his performance.

He may not be the first-choice striker. Fair enough. He surely will have to dismount his time on the bench, when Fernando Torres returns to the squad, but, as he said lately, he does not mind, as he’s glad Torres is back again. An attitude the likes of Ryan Babel can learn from, right? In this hard time for our club we need team players like N'gog, with his attitude, talent, commitment and learning ability.

He may not have shook the league like Torres did, but every player is different. However, since we are broke, and expensive players are more out of reach than the Premier League title, we have to invest time and patience – particularly patience - in developing the ones we have. They need chances to play as this is the only way they can develop properly.

David N'gog scored important goals for us, and we won matches thanks to his goals. So let’s stick with him, and let’s support him. We shouldn't hurry with criticising, and looking for negatives where there aren’t any. The development is there, and with patience and support David Ngog can prove the critics wrong, and become a great Red.

Thus, we have quality in our squad. N'gog is a quality player. There is always a lot of talking with less patience, and no understanding. Our job is to support our players. So let’s do it properly.

(Photo provided by Liverpool FC)

Joe Cole's signing a false dawn as Liverpool's transfer window ends in disappointment

Joe Cole’s arrival at Anfield was no doubt a promising beginning to Roy Hodgson’s tenure in the Anfield hot seat, but at the end of the transfer window Liverpool supporters would have been forgiven for thinking the signing was just an attempt to paper over the cracks. 

When the former Chelsea star posed in front of a collection of photographers, Liverpool shirt in hand, the clubs supporters, including myself, will have no doubt seen the signing as a step in the right direction, even if he was brought in on a free.

Not only did Cole’s signing add creativity to a team noticeably lacking it over the past twelve months, it also acted as a catalyst to speed up the commitment to the club of both Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard, with the Liverpool skipper being very forward about his admiration for the Reds new signing.

With Cole signed and Torres and Gerrard committing at least their short-term futures to the club it would be fairly easy for some to think Tom Hicks was actually coming good on his promise of a “big summer” in the transfer market at Liverpool.

Of course Tom Hicks and George Gillett had form and yet again they broke promises and another summer of players heading through the exit door has left Liverpool in a similar predicament to last season – seriously lacking in strength in depth.

While 17 players were shipped out of Anfield this summer only nine were brought in, leaving Liverpool thin on the ground but, to the glee of the current owners, £17.15 million to the good with more savings to be made over the course of the next season in a reduced wage bill.

Maybe the most disappointing thing for Liverpool fans was the clubs inability to sign a new striker on deadline day, despite calls from all corners for some back up for the injury-prone Fernando Torres, who suffered a torrid season on the sidelines during the last campaign.

The club reportedly sent Ryan Babel to London in a helicopter to try and lure West Ham into a deal for Carlton Cole, whilst also offering Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva.

The one thing the club apparently weren’t willing to do, despite the profits made over the summer, was offer more cash for the England striker, despite the fact Roy Hodgson had, just days earlier, publicly stated the need for extra firepower at Anfield.

Just as worrying was the players that walked through the exit door at Anfield, Javier Mascherano was the most prominent departure, closely followed by Chelsea-bound Yossi Benayoun, who headed for London for a reported fee of over £ 6 million.

Along with these big name departures the club also allowed a number of promising, young players walk out of the club, with highly-rated Lauri Dalla Vale heading to Fulham along with  Alex Kacaniklic in a deal for Paul Konchesky - a player who arrived on Merseyside to understandably mixed opinions from the Liverpool faithful.

Out of the 17 players who left Anfield nine could be consider as young players, with many of them showing promise. Liverpool has never been a club to sell off its youngsters, especially not in order to finance the signing of journeymen such as Paul Konchesky who are in what could be considered the latter stages of their career.

But under the Penny-pinching regime of Tom Hicks and George Gillett anything goes and if a player can be brought in without the need to fork out a big transfer fee it will be done, even if it does potentially damage the future of the club and undo the hard work by many in the academy and reserve setup.

Amongst this ‘fire sale’ Alberto Aquilani, who has thus far failed to make a major impact at Anfield, was also shipped out on loan to Juventus, who have agreed a fee to buy the Italian should they wish to at the end of the season.

Yet not long before the players agent had talked of how Roy Hodgson had given the player assurances that he had a future at Liverpool. Something seriously contradicted by what happened in the months following. You have to feel this deal may well have been taken out of the managers hands.

With Aquilani’s departure Liverpool’s creative options were considerably weakened, wit Roy Hodgson’s experienced central midfield options now only Steven Gerrard, Lucas, Raul Meireles and Christian Poulsen, with the latter two having no experience in English football.

Liverpool also lack in depth and varying options on either wing. Whilst Milan Jovanovic and Dirk Kuyt are very talented players what they are not is out and out wingers. Ryan Babel is also yet to prove himself to the Kop faithful, with Maxi Rodriguez being one of the few to spend a considerable amount of time out wide and show positive results.

So, going into this summer Liverpool lack creativity in the middle of the park, have no out and out wingers and have no back-up striker in case Fernando Torres does suffer yet more injuries, or doesn’t recover from his current problem.

Looking at everything that has gone on at Anfield in the past two months you have to wonder just how much the squad has improved, if at all. Some might even say the squad has become smaller and slightly weaker, as stated by Barcelona’s Xavi recently.

One thing’s for certain, Roy Hodgson will have to once again show his ability to work with limited resources as thanks to the broken promises of a “big summer” by Tom Hicks Liverpool face a struggle to keep up with the high-spending, quality packed, squads that we look to compete with.

(Photo provided by Kevin Walsh)

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