Tag Archives: Martin Skrtel

Liverpool lackluster in Stoke draw

14 Jan

On the positive side, Liverpool can control the ball pretty well. But other than that, it was a pretty poor performance from the home side.  In a drab 0-0 draw with Stoke, the Reds dominated possession, but failed to create enough chances.

Liverpool came out in a 5-4-1 formation with Sebastian Coates, Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel anchoring the back line and Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique providing the width up and down the field.  Dirk Kuyt was the lone forward.  I don’t really understand the reasoning coming out in such a defensive formation, especially against a team like Stoke.  This is a game Liverpool could have and should have won, but the players seemed slightly off-put and confused by the formation change.

The Reds were able to dominate midfield play and kept Stoke from getting much of anything going offensively.  However, there was a severe lack of connection between the midfield and Kuyt and more often than not, there was no one in box to receive a dangerous cross. Kuyt pulled back to chase the ball and as a result, there was basically no one playing up top, which would be fine if the object of the game was to not score goals.

Liverpool introduced Andy Carroll early in the second half, but like many of his appearances as of late, he had little influence on the proceedings. Craig Bellamy came on shortly afterwards and was unable to provide much of anything as his corners and crosses constantly found the head of a Stoke player.

Liverpool looked much like they did in the loss to Manchester City, although thankfully, Stoke doesn’t have the same kind of offensive threats. The inability to create any good chances today stems partially from the fact that there simply weren’t ever enough people getting forward.  Once LFC got to the edge of the box, it was all lateral movement and no one looked to make cuts through the box to create space.

It’s odd how Liverpool went from creating a ton of chances and simply not being able to finish to a complete dearth of decent looks recently.  The absence of creative force Luis Suarez obviously hurts, but the rest of the squad has to figure out a way to get good chances without him (at least for four more matches).  However, even with Suarez in the lineup, Liverpool has struggled to find the back of the net consistently.

Can you imagine if Liverpool had won even half of the games they’ve drawn?  They would be sitting pretty in the top four, that’s for sure.  It’s incredibly frustrating to watch them struggle so mightily in front of the net (or the final third in general) when they are playing well defensively and through the midfield.  There are still a couple weeks left in the transfer window and I think that buying a proven striker would be a good call at this point.  Carroll is still young and inconsistent and Suarez is obviously suspended and can be flaky in his own way in front of goal.

 

 

Lots of promise for Liverpool

12 Aug

So now that the Premier League season is about to start, I’ll be doing a better job of blogging (I swear!).  I can’t stand writing about summer transfers because it’s all just a giant cluster and you never know what the hell is going on, thank you Cesc Fabregas. Anyways, it’s that glorious time of the year again when anything is possible and everyone can dream of beating Manchester United.

Oh, what a difference a year makes for Liverpool Football Club.  There’s new owners,  a new (well, in a sense) manager, a pretty much completely new midfield, and new optimism.

Kenny Dalglish reinvigorated the team after an awful start last year and that energy carries over to the new season.  Liverpool’s new owners (thank god) showed that they were willing to spend money both in January and over the summer.  January signings Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll made an immediate impact, specifically on the mentality of the fans.  Suarez in particular was a creative spark that Liverpool was missing.  The team wasted no time this summer signing every midfielder possible including Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson, as well as defender Jose Enrique and goalie Alexander Doni.

Much has been made of all the options that Liverpool has in the midfield and who will play where. There’s a multitude of strong possibilities and in all honesty, it’s a good problem.  Depth is not a bad thing.  I, for one, am intrigued by what formation the team will play in the opener tomorrow to try to accommodate the best team possible.  With all the possibilities, I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes a few games to figure out the group with the best chemistry.  (And as a quick side note, the ridiculous amount of options made it incredibly difficult to figure out whether to pick an LFC midfielder on my fantasy team.  I didn’t, at least not until there’s some semblance of a regular starting lineup.)

At the forward spot, LFC will rely heavily on Suarez and Carroll.  Suarez is coming off an MVP performance for Uruguay in their Copa America title run.  While the duo did not get much chance to play together last season as Carroll was still recovering from injury, their chemistry will be key to success this season.

The defense was bolstered with the signing of Enrique from Newcastle, but the center back spot in particular is still a little on the thin side.  Martin Skrtel is hurt and Daniel Agger is probably going to get hurt tomorrow because that’s just how he rolls, which leaves old man Carra in the middle.  The team will likely make use of young players like Martin Kelly, John Flanagan and co. and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, although there might be some growing pains along the way.

After the way that Liverpool ended the season (minus the last two results), fans have every reason to be optimistic about this season.  The Reds are more than capable of putting together a strong season and making a run back into the top four.  I am so pumped.  Is it Saturday yet?

Kuyt, Suarez shine in win over United

7 Mar

Liverpool’s recent addition Luis Suarez had his coming out party against Manchester United yesterday. The Uruguayan dribbled circles around three United defenders before sending the ball across the goal for Dirk Kuyt to sweep home for the game’s opening score. His vision and ball skills are something that Liverpool had been lacking until his signing. Dirk Kuyt benefitted from the presence of Suarez as he notched his first hat trick for Liverpool.  The duo caused problems all day for United with their movement around the field.

Liverpool was the better team by far in this clash. Their passing has improved drastically and they are able to pass the ball out of tight spaces now where before they would simply hoof it clear.   Steven Gerrard was not as involved in the attack as he has been in the past, but along with Lucas, they made it difficult for United to work though the center of the field.  Even though Fabio Aurelio went off early with an injury, the back four adjusted well as Jamie Carragher moved to right backm Glen Johnson went to the lef and Sotirios Krygiakos came in to partner Martin Skrtel in the center.  Raul Meireles also played a very good game, proving his value at both ends.  He cleared a Berbatov shot off the goal line (definitely no hand ball there) and made some good runs on the offensive end.

Other than the fact that Liverpool clearly dominated the game from start to finish, the other main talking point was Jamie Carragher’s poorly timed challenge on Nani at the end of the first half. Old Man Carra caught Nani high on the shin with his studs showing and was only shown a yellow card. As much as I love Carra and LFC, I’d have to say it was a red card tackle since Carra got him high on the leg and was nowhere near the ball. However, Nani didn’t help the situation by writhing in pain and then getting up and pushing the ref and yelling about the foul and then falling over again. It made the whole thing look like theatrics. Moments later, Rafael came flying in studs up at Lucas, but only earned a yellow card as well. The first half ended on quite the heated note, but the tension did not carry over into the second half.  In a lame move, Alex Ferguson did not speak to the media afterwards nor did any of the players.  Poor sportsmanship at its best.

The team played with the fire that they lacked against West Ham last week.  With the season coming down to the wire, Liverpool has to put the same effort and intensity into all its games, not just against the big guys.

Oh, how could I forget, Andy Carroll made his debut as a substitute.  He did not have much to do, but the partnership of the big Carroll along with the small and speedy Suarez has potential to make some waves.  Kuyt will probably drop into the midfield once Carroll is fit for the starting lineup.

Carra returns as Liverpool does the double over Chelsea

7 Feb

Liverpool’s clash with Chelsea would’ve been a big game regardless, but the transfer of Fernando Torres from Merseyside to London made it that much more intense. Here’s my thoughts and observations on the game and the excellent 1-0 result for the Reds.

  • After the astounding amount of goals and ridiculous games on Saturday, it would have been hard for Sunday’s game to match the craziness.  The super-hyped match was not particularly exciting, especially in the first half.
  • Fact: Fernando Torres looks bad in blue. Although I must admit, it wasn’t as disturbing as I thought it would be to see him line up for the opposition.  Weird, yes, but disturbing, no.  His craptastic day was nice to watch though.
  • Welcome back, Jamie Carragher, we missed you.  Carra might not be the youngest guy out there, but his leadership and smart tackling made the difference yesterday.  His tackle on Torres’ shot was beyond clutch as he helped the Reds earn their fourth straight clean sheet.  Having Carra back in the lineup will make a difference as Liverpool continues to build momentum.
  • Kenny Dalglish’s 3-5-2 stymied Chelsea and Carlo Ancelotti.  Chelsea’s forwards (Torres, Drogba, Anelka) could not do anything to penerate Liverpool’s back three of Carragher, Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger.  Liverpool was also able to dominate in the midfield, thanks to the strong midfield diamond of Lucas, Maxi, Gerrard and Meireles. Lucas is quickly becoming a vital part of Liverpool’s success.  He’s starting to play with more confidence and makes fewer bad mistakes than he did even a season ago.
  • Maxi Rodriguez did not have the best of games for Liverpool.  He came close to making Torres an instant hero for Chelsea after gifting the striker a poorly placed pass only 90 seconds into the match.  Thankfully, Torres fired well over.  Rodriguez also missed a sitter late in the first half after a cross found him unmarked at the back post.  I already had my hands raised in celebration…but then he somehow managed to hit the crossbar from two yards out.
  • Thankfully, Raul Meireles ensured that Maxi’s miss did not cost Liverpool with his fourth goal in five games.  Meireles has come to life for the Reds as of late.  Meireles played more like an attacking mid yesterday, forming an integral part of the diamond that kept the Chelsea midfield in check.  He was all over the place, tracking back to make tackles and sprinting forward to provide an option at goal.  On his goal, you can see that he started his run from about 30 yards out and comes streaking towards the far post unmarked.
  • Chelsea was actually more effective going forward after Torres came off the field.  The change allowed Anelka to push up further and created more space.  Ancelotti has a difficult task ahead in trying to integrate Torres into the game plan.  The removal of the totally ineffective Spaniard was greeted with raucous cheers (and jeers) from the Liverpool fans and the Reds scored four minutes later.
  • Luis Suarez did not see the field for Liverpool, despite scoring a goal in his debut Wednesday.  To be honest, the Reds were clicking without him and once they scored, there was no need to bring on another striker.  It’s a good move by Dalglish though as Suarez is still adjusting to the team and how they play and Dalglish saw no reason to upset the balance.  I’ll bet that Suarez will see the field against Wigan at the weekend.
  • I loved Daniel Agger’s elbow to Torres’ face.  Cheap? Of course.  Did it deserve a card? Probably. Worth it? Definitely.
  • With the win, Liverpool moves up to sixth place, only six points out of fourth.  (Chelsea and Tottenham both have 44 points, but Chelsea is fourth on goal difference.)  There are still 12 games left in the season and the resurgence under Kenny Dalglish has fans (including myself) thinking that Champions League might not be such a pipe dream after all.
  • The arrival of Kenny Dalglish has clearly reenergized and revived a floundering, passionless side. Liverpool is playing with fight and passion and playing possession football. What a concept.  I loved what Dalglish said after the win, “It’s four games now and we’ve played different systems and got no goals against. That’s not down to any system – it’s down to them and their great pride and work and fantastic respect for this football club.”

YNWA.

Liverpool is consistently inconsistent

14 Dec

After thrashing Aston Villa earlier in the week, one would think that Liverpool would go into a game at Newcastle full of confidence and ready to earn another win, especially with all the manager drama at St. James Park.  Apparently that wasn’t the case as the Reds were justly flattened, 3-1.  That’s been the story all season – they’ve either been good or rubbish. There’s not much middle ground.

If Liverpool has any aspirations of ending up in the top seven, they will have to get points out of games against teams they should be beating.    Oh, and they will have to start converting clear chances at goal (cough *Torres* cough) and playing some defense would probably help too.  The Skrtel/Krygiakos combination failed rather spectacularly on Saturday and we are likely to be subject to the same central defense pairing again this weekend against Fulham.  However, Liverpool could be boosted by the return of Steven Gerrard this weekend. 

Before the Reds take on Fulham, they’ve got to play Utrecht in a meaningless Europa League game.  Liverpool should still be able to get a victory over the winless Dutch side to ensure finishing top of the group.

Liverpool dominates Aston Villa

6 Dec

Liverpool showed that it can put on a strong performance without stars Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Fernando Torres on Monday, defeating Aston Villa, 3-0.  Torres was not scheduled to miss the game,but his wife went into labor, which clearly takes priority.  It was a comprehensive victory for the Reds, who dominated much of the game.  LFC wasted no time in scoring as David N’Gog and Ryan freakin’ Babel netted goals two minutes apart in the 14th and 16th minute, respectively.  In all fairness, Aston Villa did not exactly put up much of a fight.  The visitors were disorganized, especially on set pieces.  N’Gog was unmarked in the box off a corner kick when he scored.  Martin Skrtel and Sotirios Krygiakos both had chances off set pieces as well.

The French teen also added an assist in the second half, setting up a goal from Maxi Rodriguez in the 55th minute.  It was a solid performance for Liverpool, who moves up to eighth with the win, topping West Brom on goal difference.  Pepe Reina did not have much to do, but his touch on a cross in the second half kept a sure goal from Villa out of the net.  With the shutout, Reina earned his 100th clean sheet in 198 league games.  That’s a pretty impressive stat.

The Reds play at Newcastle next week.  Yes, the same Newcastle that sacked Chris Hughton earlier today.  I think Dan Snyder has taken over ownership at St. James Park as this is exactly the type of stunt he would pull.  Why did they do this?  The man only led Newcastle back to the Premier League and has the team sitting in 12th place and has notched wins over both Chelsea and Arsenal.  Yeah, the team lost to West Brom over the weekend, but guess what, every team has bad games.  It’s not yet clear who the new manager will be, but hopefully if there’s someone in place by Saturday, Liverpool will start his tenure off with a loss.

Group F preview

8 Jun

Group F
Italy
New Zealand
Paraguay
Slovakia

Oh Italy, how I loathe you. It’s no secret that I hate Italy. Or more specifically, Italian soccer. (I’m looking at you, Daniele de Rossi and your flailing elbow to Brian McBride. Oh yeah, and the excessive, dramatic diving. Hate.) Anyways, the Italians are the defending World Cup champions. Although this tournament’s squad is not as young or strong as the 2006 edition, it still has the ability to make a decent run. This time around though, the age of the squad is more of a worry as there are concerns about being able to keep up with the speed of some of the younger players on opposing squads. Antonio Di Natale has the potential to make some waves after leading Serie A in goals with 29.

No one expects much from New Zealand. This is only the team’s second World Cup appearance with the first coming in 1982, so it’s an accomplishment for them to even be here. The squad will come into South Africa with confidence though as they defeated fellow Cup participant Serbia, 1-0, in a riot-sparking friendly. Center back Ryan Nelsen (former DC United player!) is the leader of the team and the squad’s performance will be greatly influenced by his presence (he might miss a game or two for the birth of his first child).

Paraguay tied for second in South American qualification, tying with Chile and only a point back from Brazil. The team returns a solid core of players from the 2006 squad that failed to get past the group stage. The biggest name for Paraguay is Roque Santa Cruz, who made a big $$$ move to Manchester City last summer, but he had a rather crappy season and has been hampered by injury. Paraguay will turn to more than capable duo Nelson Haedo Valdez and Oscar Cardozo for goal production. The back line and goalkeeping are both solid.

Welcome to the World Cup, Slovakia! 2010 will be Slovakia’s first trip to the tournament as an independent nation (previous trips have been as Czechoslovakia). Liverpool’s Martin Skrtel suffered an ankle injury in a friendly win over Costa Rica, but he should be fit in time for the team’s opening game against New Zealand. Skrtel will help anchor the team’s stingy defense. Slovakia also has a potent offense, scoring 22 goals in 10 qualifying games. Stanislav Sestak was the team’s leading scorer through qualification.

The Soccer Wall’s picks to advance: Paraguay, Slovakia