Friday, May 27, 2011

Liverpool target Charlie Adam wants Premier League return

Potential Liverpool target Charlie Adam has declared his desire to make a quick return to the Premier League in the summer transfer window.

The 25 year-old was Blackpool's standout performer throughout the 2010/11 Premier League season and was the target of both Liverpool and Spurs during the January transfer window.

Now that Blackpool, who Adam captained during their time in the Premier League, have been relegated the Scottish international is keen on securing a move back to England's top flight.

"My future is that I want to play in the Premier League." Adam stated

"I want to play at the top and hopefully the opportunity comes.

"At the end of the day, my future will get sorted one way or another. It's not me who makes that decision.

"The club will make the decisions about what it wants to do. It isn't down to Charlie Adam. I have got a year left on my contract so we will see what happens." The midfielder added.

"The club have been fantastic with me and since I went there I've thoroughly enjoyed it.

"It's important that, whatever happens, I will always remember my time at Blackpool."

During the January transfer window Blackpool demanded in excess of £10 million for their star player, though whether they would be able to ask for such a fee again is questionable due to the Tangerines relegation from the Premier League and the short length of Adam's contract.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Anfield Opinion end of season awards

It's been a mixed season for Liverpool both on and off the pitch, with the time spent at the club by Roy Hodgson, Tom Hicks and George Gillett now seeming like a distant memory as Kenny Dalglish, with the help of new owners Fenway Sports Group, looks to take the Reds' back to the top of the Premier League.

To celebrate the climax of the campaign editor of The Anfield Opinion, Michael Owen, and match report Lewis Cubbin have compiled their choices for the best and worst parts of the season.

Best Player:

Michael Owen: Lucas Leiva

Even when the going was tough for Liverpool in the early part of the season the young Brazilian stepped up and put in some performances many thought he wasn't capable of in his early days at Anfield. Over the course of the season Lucas has proved he is not just a hard-tackling holding midfielder but also an intelligent passer of the ball with great positional sense who has been the foundations of many of the Reds' attacking moves, particularly in the latter part of the campaign.

Lewis Cubbin: Lucas Leiva

The landslide victory on the official website tells an awful lot of the story. Between early July and late January (a period that you still have to consider in such an awards process, regardless of who the authorities were), the Brazilian international was simply the least poor in an underwhelming squad. Since the return of Dalglish, Lucas has gone from a hardworking-yet-awkward midfielder, to a permanent fixture with a lengthy contract extension. Long may this brilliant form continue.

Worst Player:

MO: Paul Konchesky

When Paul Konchesky arrived as one of Roy Hodgson's summer signings fans were naturally disappointed and concerned. These concerns proved to be valid as a series of errors from the full-back proved costly for the Reds under Hodgson, and when Dalglish was finally appointed the 30 year-old was correctly sent to Notts Forest.

LC: Joe Cole

I can already hear the calls of "That's harsh!", but it's important that you consider my reasoning here. In my opinion, Cole is the worst player to feature in all quarters of this season. We've arrived at the point where Christian Poulsen wouldn't get a game if we were Garston Woodcutters (he hasn't played since we were in the Europa League), and Paul Konchesky's time as Liverpool's number three was cut short as soon as we got the chance. Their quality of performances were probably lower than our apparent marquee signing of last summer, but my choice was still being selected and playing poorly in the last game of the season.

Best Signing:

MO: Luis Suarez

It's easy to forget that when Luis Suarez joined Liverpool in late January his transfer was one which broke Liverpool's spending record on a single player - at around £23 million - as the signing of Andy Carroll shortly after shattered the record once again with a staggering fee of £35 million. But out of the two the former Ajax man has been the quickest to make his impact on the side, becoming a crucial part of the way the Reds' play, assisting many of their goals in the latter part of the season and bagging a few himself in the process. Suarez has the potential to be one of the best in the world and that's why, for me, he's our best signing of the season.

LC: Luis Suarez

I was mulling over Raul Meireles, but he spent half of the season tremendously out of his natural position, and didn't really settle into his own expected levels of performance and consistency until managerial changes were made. It's difficult to question the following statement; Luis Suarez has been sensational since his deadline day arrival. Speed-of-thought, purposeful movement and industry all couple in with that physiological edge to his game that makes those who he plays for love him, and those who he plays against the contrary.

Worst Signing:

MO: Joe Cole

When he arrived on a free transfer in the summer Joe Cole was set to be the marquee signing that brought the feel good factor back to Anfield as Roy Hodgson was unveiled as the new manager. But aside from the length of his stay Cole's time on Merseyside has been about as successful as that of the former Fulham boss, with the midfielder rarely making it into the starting eleven under both Hodgson and Dalglish. Even when the former England international has played he has failed to show the talent which he was heralded for during his time at Stamford Bridge. The sooner Cole, and his £90,000 p/w wages are off the Reds' books the better.

LC: Paul Konchesky

When ranking your signings, you need to take into account the supposed contents of the transfers and the end product. First of all, we won't be getting our money back on a Konchesky who is just one year into a long term deal. We also won't be getting two players back in the form of Laurie Dalla Valle and Alexander Kacaniklic, who went the other way. The former Fulham left-back was simply out of his comfort zone, having spent his career plying his trade with sides who tolerated his tactically inept style of defending.

 Most Improved:

MO: Raul Meireles

At his age, it seems a little strange giving the award for most improved to Meireles. However during his time at Anfield the Portuguese midfielder has come on leaps and bounds, growing from an awkward who was struggling to adapt to the league and was playing out of position into a dynamic box-to-box midfielder who was a wicked shot which has seen him back a number of crucial goals.

LC:  Jay Spearing

Merely a fringe player when on loan at the Championship's Leicester City, Stevie Heighway's claims that Spearing could play in the Liverpool first team at seventeen were looking increasingly far-fetched. Even upon Hodgson's arrival, with appearances in the Europa League, I saw an energetic midfielder with little idea of where to position himself and no real future at the club. As I've mentioned a couple of times though, the change of manager has helped. Tidy performances and a deserved extension to his current deal are testament to Spearing's willingness to succeed and the management's believing of his abilities.

 Best Match:

MO: Liverpool 3-1 Manchester United

It was a game that started in disappointment as it was revealed, despite much speculation, that Andy Carroll wouldn't be making his debut for the club against bitter rivals Manchester United at Anfield. However that was the end of the bad and the start of the good as Liverpool cruised past United in what was a comfortable game in which Luis Suarez put in a magnificent display as Dirk Kuyt netted a hat-trick.

LC: Liverpool 3-0 Manchester City

In my opinion, our best team performance this season. The fluidity of our attacks were a joy to behold as what loosely seemed like a 4-2-2-2 formation swung into full effect. Andy Carroll opened his account at Anfield with two sensational goals, whilst Dirk Kuyt eventually ended a flawless move for Liverpool with a composed finish past the impressive Hart. Defensively, with a certain youngster to be mentioned later on featuring for the first time, we never looked like being breached by Roberto Mancini's £111 million forward line. A superb Monday evening (for once) all round.

Worst Match:

MO: Blackburn Rovers 3-1 Liverpool

it was a game Liverpool should have won. Roy Hodgson's side had been struggling away from home up to the fixture and had the perfect opportunity to bounce back with a win against a team who had only recently been rocked by a change in ownership and management, with Steve Kean inexplicably taking the place of Sam Allardyce. However Liverpool were once again miserable on the road and with only a Steven Gerrard goal to show for their trip to Ewood Park the fixture will go down as one of the games which sealed Roy Hodgson's fate.

LC: Liverpool 0-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers

 If you don't laugh, you cry. For me, the lowest point of the unfortunate sixth months spent with Roy Hodgson. The winless travellers that were Wolverhampton Wanderers, occupying the bottom position in the Premier League table at the time, arrived at Anfield, scored a goal and looked comfortable. A game remembered for those who, like me, have a thing for the Guardian's chalkboard feature; just have a look at Reina's distribution and Torres' shots. You certainly won't think we needed time to adapt to Hodgson's system after that.

Best Youngster:

MO: Martin Kelly

Despite rarely being mentioned during Roy Hodgsons time at Anfield, Martin Kelly, like many others, has prospered under Kenny Dalglish and, despite picking up an unfortunate injury during the Reds' defeat at West Ham, has looked every inch a top quality full-back since being brought into the side, getting England Under 21's call-ups and being touted as a potential candidate for a place in the senior national squad.

LC: John Flanagan

Not just for his promising stint in the first team. Flanagan's been a key player in both the Under 18 and Reserve set-up this season, and he's the kind of full-back I like. Hard in the tackle, tidy in the pass and comfortable in the opposition's half. As eighteen-year-olds go, he's a specialist in his trade already.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Aston Villa 1-0 Liverpool: Downing goal ends the Reds' European hopes.

Liverpool's season ended without European qualification on Sunday afternoon, as a first half Stewart Downing goal gave Aston Villa a 1-0 victory at Villa Park.

The defeat, coupled with a 2-1 win for Tottenham Hotspur over the relegated Birmingham City at White Hart Lane, means that Kenny Dalglish's side will not be plying their trade on the continent in 2011-12, having finished in sixth place.

Prior to the match, the visitors made three changes from the team that had been beaten at Anfield by Harry Redknapp's men last time out, with Joe Cole, Raul Meireles and Fabio Aurelio replacing the absent Glen Johnson, Andy Carroll and Maxi Rodriguez.

With four teenagers making up the Liverpool bench (including a debut appearance in the first team squad for Andre Wisdom), there was certainly an end-of-season feel to the game in terms of personnel.

Early on in the match, Jay Spearing's afternoon was over, having failed to recover from an untidy Nigel Reo-Coker challenge. Jonjo Shelvey replaced him in the centre of midfield.

The Reds' went close to taking the lead in the 15th minute, as Lucas Leiva's half volley was blocked on the line by Ashley Young following a Meireles corner.

Not long after, the impressive Brazilian midfielder's lofted pass caught the hosts' back four napping, sending Luis Suarez through on goal. Brad Friedel was quick to shift from his position and remove the danger.

Besides a bloodied Jamie Carragher head, little occured between the Suarez 'chance' and the only goal of the encounter. Patient build-up play in the Villa midfield resulted in space on the right for Marc Albrighton. The youngster's deep cross found the chest of Downing, who showed composure to rifle home a 33rd minute lead for the Midlands outfit.

The goal didn't disrupt the pattern of the game; neither side asserted dominance on proceedings. The ever-present Martin Skrtel almost found an equaliser from a narrow Aurelio free-kick, but couldn't get the necessary touch on a smart cross.

After the interval, it was much the same. Joe Cole was presented with an opportunity to draw Liverpool level, but failed to hit the target with his volley in the 55th minute.

The vistors' best chance of the game arrived just after the hour mark. A wonderful turn in the box by Suarez sent two Villa defenders sprawling. The Uruguayan looked to square the ball to Meireles who, with the goal at his mercy, somehow didn't get the ball past the desperate lunges of Brad Friedel and Richard Dunne.

The Portuguese midfielder probably should have done better with an opportunity just moments later as well, as his attempt to divert the ball across the face of goal was easily quashed by Reo-Coker, before an Aurelio dead ball crept just wide of Friedel's right hand post.

At the other end, Darren Bent's audacious shot from the edge of the box was kept out by Pepe Reina, as the season came towards its conclusion.

Liverpool's search for an equaliser was prolonged with minutes remaining, as smart build-up play from John Flanagan and Meireles set up a deep Suarez, who sent a thumping effort into the stand.

With 10 minutes left, Birmingham equalised at White Hart Lane - but it proved too little, too late for Liverpool who won't be competing in Europe next season.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Fulham 2-5 Liverpool: Another Maxi hat-trick helps down the Cottagers.

A second Maxi Rodriguez hat-trick in three games helped Liverpool climb back into a European spot on Monday evening, as Fulham were soundly beaten 5-2 at Craven Cottage.

The Argentinean international bagged his second treble in as many weeks having opened the scoring after 36 seconds, with Dirk Kuyt and Luis Suarez also netting in what was a fantastic performance.

Goals from Moussa Dembele and Steve Sidwell proved only consolation, but denied Jamie Carragher a clean sheet in what was his 666th appearance, a haul that takes him second in the all-time list (now behind Ian Callaghan).

The result means that Kenny Dalglish's are now two points clear of rivals-for-fifth Tottenham having played a game more. The sides meet at Anfield on Sunday.

Prior to the match, it became apparent that Andy Carroll would be unable to feature, so the same side that beat Newcastle at Anfield last Sunday started the game.

And Fulham were to suffer similar woes to that of the Magpies, in the form of an early Maxi Rodriguez goal. A sharp, powerful ball down the left hand channel by Lucas Leiva found the advancing Luis Suarez. His low cross then ricocheted off Carlos Salcido towards goalkeeper Mark Schwarez, who couldn't keep out the Maxi rebound.

Sometimes, breaking the deadlock so quickly can be viewed as too early, particularly in a match which the hosts expected something from. However, Liverpool had other ideas, and the advantage was doubled after just seven minutes, with Glen Johnson's high run being spotted by Lucas. The England full-back made the most of the space given to him, teeing up Rodriguez for a composed finish, much similar to his second at home to Birmingham in late April.

Just after the quarter-hour mark, it was three. A deep, diagonal ball from Johnson found a largely unchallenged Dirk Kuyt, who turned and smashed through the hapless Schwarzer in an instant.

Suarez attempted a spectacular fourth after turning Brede Hangeland but failed to hit the target; a rarity thus far in his time at Anfield.

Next, an accurate throw from Reina set Suarez on his way. The centre came to Maxi, whose volley ended up in the stands.

Liverpool's second period started badly, as Raul Meireles left the field clutching the back of his thigh, with Jonjo Shelvey replacing him.

Fulham's performance after the interval improved dramatically, and their proud unbeaten record at home in the 2010/11 season was suddenly airing its legitimacy. They got the goal that they deserved just before the hour, as Moussa Dembele arrived at a smart Bobby Zamora lay-off to reignite the majority within Craven Cottage.

But the fight-back lasted minutes before Liverpool ended the game as a contest; it was Maxi Rodriguez for the third, yet again. A smart one-two with the impressive John Flanagan almost paid off, but the loose ball was picked up again by Rodriguez, and thundered in from outside the area.

Shelvey then set Suarez up for a fifth with fifteen minutes remaining, threading the ball between two defenders before the Uruguayan rounded Schwarzer and slotted into an empty net.

The scoring wasn't complete though, with the hosts getting their second through a wonderfully executed half volley from Steve Sidwell.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Liverpool 3-0 Newcastle United: Reds leapfrog Spurs as Kuyt strikes again.

Liverpool rose to fifth on Sunday afternoon, as goals from Maxi Rodriguez, Dirk Kuyt and Luis Suarez completed a 3-0 victory over Newcastle United at Anfield.

The result means that the Reds have leapfrogged Tottenham Hotspur into the one remaining Europa League place, though it must be noted that Harry Redknapp's side have a game in hand.

Liverpool were buoyed by the long awaited return of Glen Johnson at left back, having spent four weeks on the sidelines with a hamstring injury. However, Andy Carroll was only deemed fit for the bench against a club where he managed 33 goals in 91 games.

It wasn't long before the hosts had the deadlock broken, with Maxi Rodriguez maintaining his fine goalscoring form at the Anfield Road end. With just ten minutes on the clock, a lovely sequence of passing ended with a half-volley from the Argentinean being deflected off the leg of Danny Simpson and past the stranded Tim Krul in the Newcastle goal.

Liverpool spent the opening third of the match in control, with Jay Spearing's speculative effort coming in between some smart passing play. The visitors' first real opportunity came on the half hour mark, as one of many dangerous Joey Barton free kicks met the head of Shola Ameobi, who probably should have done better.

The hosts responded when Lucas got on to the end of a John Flanagan cross. His attempt was good but Krul was aware.

The second half began with Alan Pardew's side squandering easily their best chance of the game, as a Kevin Nolan centre found Barton with quite a lot of time and space; his effort managing just the side netting. Luis Suarez's quick feet almost made them pay, as his shot was deflected agonisingly past the post by Mike Williamson.

Just before the hour mark, Liverpool had a penalty. A ball out by Pepe Reina looked set to trickle out for a goal kick, but the willingness and hassling nature of Luis Suarez helped get around Williamson and advance towards the goal. In a bid to recover, the Newcastle defender grabbed hold of the Uruguayan's shirt and pulled him down. Referee Peter Walton didn't hesitate to point to the spot, and Dirk Kuyt slotted home his fourth goal in as many games to double Liverpool's advantage.

The Dutchman then turned provider just moments later, cleverly slipping in Suarez who confidently dispatched from six yards out to all but seal the result.

With the points secure, Dalglish introduced Carroll to a standing ovation from the Kop.

But it was Meireles who was next to threaten, coming within inches of making it four from a Glen Johnson ball from out wide.
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