The Return of King Kenny

January 11, 2011 by

Quite a lot has happened at Liverpool Football Club since I last graced this blog. Quite a lot has also developed in the long running feud between myself, Mufti of the Magnificent Stubble, and Pastor, putrid purveyor of persnickety perfidies. After long years of avoiding him, he finally dared to come and visit me here in my humble abode. He had this cohort of his in tow, a woman of bewitching powers that held sway over me the whole weekend, all the while proclaiming her desire for certain prohibited nourishment from something known as a “food cart”. I could not resist her encouragement, and ate some strange concoction of Korean and Mexican food to which I am now hopelessly addicted. Pastor, you win again! How, even in my own backyard, literally, you can destroy me is beyond my comprehension, but this you have done, and your pestilential paramour only added to my misery.

Speaking of misery, what a season it has been for Liverpool. Actually, I will go ahead and be profane, since my mother stopped checking to see if this blog had been updated a few months ago. It has been a fucking bitch of a season. The worst in my memory as a Liverpool fan, which I have to admit can be hazy. Which leads me to a digression, an exploration of what it is to be a “sports fan”. Let me take you to about an hour ago, when people were over at my house watching a game of football. I hasten to add this was football of the American variety, a bowdlerized rugby if you will. This was a major game, the final of the collegiate form of the game, and it so happened that the team belonging to the biggest university of the state I reside in were involved. Everyone was excited, not least the people at my house. They were loud. They screamed as things happened. They clutched their heads. They called out names at the television. This is behaviour that I regularly engage in when watching Liverpool. Somehow, seeing these same actions from an outsider’s perspective in which I did not care about the sport or the teams playing, I saw how utterly absurd being a sports fan really is. The Pastor, in another one of his ploys to make me tear out my stubble in frustration, has suggested that we abandon our team-focused blog and decide to follow the ups and downs of one team per season, randomly chosen from one of the big leagues in Europe. We would then renounce our respective allegiance to Real Madrid and Liverpool and be termed as fans more of the game, instead of supporters of a team. It’s certainly an idea with legs, comely legs even. Hmm, legs, yes, where was I? Howard Webb! You fucking arsewipe, you have betrayed me! Agger was nowhere near, nowhere near Berbatov. Berba looks like he’s about to float down to the ground most of the time he plays in any case. And 30 seconds in, you give him a penalty!? (For those perhaps not in the know, referee Howard Webb, him of the bulging muscles, awarded a penalty within 30 seconds of Liverpool’s FA Cup match against Manchester United, which was also the first match in charge of club legend Kenny Dalglish, more of which later).

All right, as you can tell, the Pastor will have to do some work on me before I stop being a Liverpool supporter. Somehow, I adopted a team in my youth that I only saw on television, that to this day I’ve only seen on television. I suppose it gave some sort of direction and meaning to my love of the sport of football, which I truly do think is a simple yet chaotic, balletic yet brutal amalgamation of all that is good about sport in general. It is the best team sport, bar none, in the world, the most fun to play and watch. And supporting Liverpool was my choice as a child, and now if I don’t stick with it, how am I different from the people I now see at the bar sporting the light blue of Manchester City? Shall I just switch allegiance any time a team starts to make waves? Unlikely. I stick with the mess I inherited.

And what a mess it is. Luckily, after a titanic legal wrangle, we were rid of the comedy duo of Hicklett. Roy Hodgson promised much but delivered, erm, not much. There was the win over Chelsea at home, a two-goal performance by Fernando Torres that hinted that perhaps his desire had returned. There was the solitary away win at Bolton, a team doing much better than us this season. There was…well, I think that really was it. Yes, yes, we won other games, and there were signs of life from Torres and Gerrard, but overall the feeling that it was inevitable Hodgson was going to lose his job just grew and grew. The Kop had never really accepted him. After all, we were used to coaches that had won things elsewhere. Hodgson had a well-travelled CV (and a weather-beaten look about him) but winning titles was not really his forte. He had come in to be a steady hand. Instead, teams weren’t really afraid to play us at Anfield any longer, with such luminaries as Blackpool and most recently Wolves conquering us on our own turf. This really was unconscionable to the Kop, and rightly so. Hodgson did not seem to have that ruthless, winning quality that a big team like Liverpool demands. He often said things like, “it would be nice to win” or “it would be good if we get the three points.” How as a fan, let alone as a player on the team, are you supposed to gain confidence from such statements? Plus, he spoke a bit too much to the media. He seemed to always be on, saying something or other that seemed completely unnecessary and beside the point, instead of getting on with the job at hand. It didn’t help that only one of the players he brought in showed any signs of promise, that being Raul Meireles. The others, Cole and Paulsen, were next to useless, and Konchesky, I don’t even want to admit that he is a Liverpool player.

So now Hodgson is gone, and we have appointed the legend, King Kenny as he’s called. I have to admit that he is a sentimentalist’s choice. The Pastor knows my weaknesses, and one of them is that I am a sentimentalist, but perhaps since I never saw Dalglish play, his time at the club having come in the years when I flirted with Nottingham Forest and (shudder!) Everton (more truthfully, in the years when I barely knew what a football looked like), I don’t feel any kind of attachment to this appointment. The man has been out of football management for a long time and as he is only been given the role in a caretaker capacity, probably does not have a big say in any players coming into the club during the current transfer window. That said, he is one of only five men on the planet to have won the Premier League. He has enormous respect among the English players at the club; Gerrard and Carragher will be more than honoured to be working under him. He also commands a healthy amount of respect from the Kop, who will no doubt give him much more leeway if things go awry than they ever did to Hodgson. These are important psychological factors. But the truth of the situation is that Liverpool are a team saddled with mediocre players, some of the fault of Rafa Benitez and some Hodgson, and further burdened by the low confidence of their few world-class players. After Gerrard’s sending off against the Scum in the FA Cup, Dalglish will also be without our inspirational captain for the first three league games of his tenure.

It would be remiss of me to not give the man a chance, but I fear that Kenny Dalglish is about to take the helm of a floundering ship. Liverpool have been in a bad way for two seasons only, but that is enough to bog us down in mid-table for perhaps another two to come. There are not a lot of avenues left this season. The best that can be hoped for is a fading of the challenge of the teams currently in the Europa League spots coupled with an improvement from us to at least enter that European competition again. If Dalglish can mount a challenge in our current campaign in the Europa League, all the better. To me, this season is already a loss. We have to prepare for next summer, with maybe a new coach. We could raise a lot of money by selling Torres and Reina. Gerrard and Carragher are too old now to be of much value and their loyalty and passion might make them stick around for another season, especially if the new coach is someone they trust. Using the money from sales, plus getting rid of the mediocrity weighing down the squad (Konchesky, Paulsen, Ngog, Konchesky, Babel, Konchesky, did I already say Konchesky?) would do wonders for us. Get in some new players, some solid Premier League performers, some youngsters from the ranks, some more from astute purchases abroad, and then build on that. Who knows, with the right coach and the right amount of money spent, we could even challenge for a Champions League spot again. My feeling though is that we will need at least one more season of struggle before we get back to where we were two seasons ago.

Well, the Pastor will probably laugh at my misplaced optimism. Six seasons, he will say, six seasons of changing coaches and further struggles before we even begin to dream of the Champions League. Maybe he’s right; he often is. But I hope with the last tug on my stubble that he is wrong. As they say, you’ll never walk alone.

(Except if you’re Roy Hodgson. Sorry, Woy old boy, you were never for us. Good luck to ya.)

Darkness approaching?

October 10, 2010 by

On 8 May 2001, Leeds United met Valencia in the second leg of their Champions League semifinal. They lost 3-0 on the night, but it was quite an achievement for the club nonetheless to make it so far in the world’s premier club competition. On 2 May 2004, Leeds lost 4-1 to Bolton and confirmed their relegation from the English Premier League. The club was millions of pounds in debt and had been forced to sell off its major players to service that debt. In 2007, the club entered administration, and the subsequent 9-point deduction led to relegation to League One, two tiers below the Premier League, only gaining promotion back to the Championship this past season.

Is this the nightmare scenario for Liverpool? Yes. Could it happen? Definitely. Leeds aren’t alone among clubs that have recently been awash with big-name players and apparent success that suddenly were shadows of themselves. Portsmouth won the FA Cup in 2008 and even reached the final last season, but now languish one spot above the relegation zone in the Championship. Their coastal rivals Southampton aren’t doing much better. Liverpool, saddled with about 280 million pounds of debt due to the Royal Bank of Scotland in less than a week, are in the process of being bought by NESV, the company that owns the Boston Red Sox among other sporting enterprises. This move is being blocked by the current owners in court, and if they succeed and the debt is not repaid, Liverpool might well enter administration. The Premier League would probably have no choice but to dock us 9 points. Seeing as we are already in the relegation zone having garnered a scant 6 points from 7 matches, this could condemn us to a battle to stay in the Premiership. Gone will be the memories of second place in 2009 and the swashbuckling victories over the likes of Manchester United and Real Madrid. The reality could be trips to such hallowed grounds as occupied by Scunthorpe United, Doncaster Rovers, and, yes, Leeds United.

Harry Redknapp might disagree, but most fans have placed the blame for our current predicament at the feet of American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks. Even with my admittedly forgotten business school training, I’m not sure I would have managed to explain a leveraged buyout to anyone, but now I know what that term means. It really is too bad that I had to learn that as a football fan, instead of worrying about the efficacy of a left-back or discussing the merits of a formation. Soccernet‘s current homepage headline is about how the new owners of Liverpool, if and when they do manage to control the club, will convince Fernando Torres to stay. Down below, there’s an article on what formation the aforementioned Redknapp might use for Tottenham to best make use of Rafael van der Vaart. Just like during the transfer window when Tottenham were looking at Van der Vaart and we were in the process of buying Paul Konchesky, it shows how far we have fallen.

And we will fall further if the legal move by the current owners succeeds in blocking any new investment. I’m not positive about NESV but they have done a good job with the Boston Red Sox. At the moment, I’m on tenterhooks every morning as I wait on news about the takeover. The Premier League has already given its blessing and the new owners seem ready to throw some money into buying players. I wonder though if that will be the answer to our on-field woes. I’m not convinced by Roy Hodgson and some of the players he has brought to the club, so even if the specter of administration dissipates and we get new owners, we still have a long way to go back to a Liverpool team that commands respect on the field and off it.

It can’t happen soon enough.

what a week!

October 3, 2010 by

i wrote this post over two matches but watched three. the first match was against Levante where Real avoided a disaster. the second one, against Auxerre, was extremely frustrating as you will read. the third, against Deportivo, is going on as i write. i didn’t change what i had written earlier in the week so most of you can see what it’s like to be a supporter of the merengues.

against Auxerre:
i know most supporters of the dark lord’s coached teams understand how i currently feel but for the rest of you let me try. the team started the midweek game with three, yes three, defensive midfielders. Benzema was the point. Higuain, yes impotent Higuain, started on the right. so for those following you have three ball gatherers: one do-it-all in Xabi Alonso, one pretty girl with a tough guy attitude in Khedira, and finally one superb defender who couldn’t pass if his life depended on it in Lass Diarra; we also have three attackers: one #$%! in Benzema, one who’s shot to goal ratio is 1000 to 1 in Higuain, and one of the best players in the world in C Ronaldo. so please explain to me oh master of the dark arts of anti-football how do you expect your counter attacking style to be fluid? how do you expect your team to transition? how do you $^%$&^*&@&()^^!!!!!!!!? oh you take Benzema and Lass out and introduce Ozil and Di Maria. you think that would help moving the ball forward? for those who aren’t watching the game the dark lord made the substitution deep in the second half! fucking eh!

one tie, one victory, two bottles of wine, and one mean headache since i last wrote. the game on saturday almost ruined my weekend. the one today certainly ruined my day. it was not necessarily the tie against Levante or the sneaky win against Auxerre but the way they went about either. i found it very difficult to root for Real. naturally it isn’t the first time i have found it difficult to root for the evil empire but with all of last year’s failures to win a trophy i enjoyed watching them play. not so much so far this year. i honestly don’t know if winning is really worth a headache every week. look at this shit of a stat: 162 shots and 9 goals! that’s one hundred and sixty two shots that yielded an incredible nine goals! they play at home this weekend and NEED to become better. not losing is not good enough. i miss Pellegrini

against Deportivo:
my main complaint from the midweek’s game – yes, yes it sure sounded like i had several complaints but whatever – was the defensive tactic and players used: too many defensive midfielders and no attacking spine. the defensive tactics in the midweek might have had something to do with the tough times Real had playing french opposition in the past but it is now clear that the lineup was a temporary state of insanity.

quick thoughts during the depor game:

  • that was quick… third minute and a goal already!they seem to settle into the game after the goal. Deportivo is happy to sit back and break their attacks.
  • when did Pepe become one of the best defenders, if not the best, in europe? i have no problem seeing him one on one with anybody. he is superbly composed and tackles with the best of them.
  • Highuain is a little bitch. last year seems like a fluke… i will reluctantly give him more time to get the scoring touch back. but he whines a little too much! his arms keep going up every time a movement ends without him getting the ball. sell high Florentino!
  • i am in love with di Maria. he gives this squad speed on either wing, mostly right, and a lethal scoring and insane dribbling ability.
  • Ozil is making me wonder why Kaka is still on the squad – from a footballing standpoint that is, Kaka is still a cash cow. no wonder they sold van der Vaart.
  • when it rains, it pours. it’s raining in madrid and pouring on the pitch of the bernabeu: 3-0 Real with a header from a corner by Ronaldo, a nice team move and finish by Ozil, and just now a nice header by di Maria to cap a quick attack.
  • one half time switch from Khedira to Lass. maybe giving the pretty girl a breather? i’ll have to look into this one…
  • higua-INZAGHI! another good movement by Real. am i starting to believe in the dark lord? NOOOOOOO!
  • 5-0. this is a rout. i’m out.

Mufti being in San Francisco does not improve team

October 3, 2010 by

I just stepped into Danny Coyle’s, a little Irish bar on Haight Street in San Francisco where the Liverpool vs Blackpool match is being streamed over the internet. A little choppy but a few fans here and of course, a little after I got here, a Blackpool counterattack led to Glen Johnson giving away a penalty, which was promptly scored. So we are at home and 1-0 down to a promoted team. Will this season get better or is it just going to be like the last one?

Half-time: Of course it does indeed get worse. Liverpool are playing like full-time is approaching and attack, attack, attack, leaving themselves open to the counterattack and on one of them, Luke Varney is played onside and makes no mistake in slipping the ball past Reina. It’s 2-0 to Blackpool, at Anfield, and my club is spoiling my vacation. I got up at 6 30 am after a night on the town for this?

Full-time: 2-1 to Blackpool. Well, it’s gotten this bad that now I’m at a cafe a little bit down the street after getting laughed out of the bar by the dumb Arsenal fans (why should they laugh? What have they won in the last few years? I know I know, they play much better football than us, but I’m bitter right now. I hope they lose to Chelsea.). Where was I? Bah, so confused by this horrible start to the season. Where I was was that I’m embarrassed right now to take my jacket off since two Arsenal fans just walked in, probably at half-time in their match against Chelsea. Sheesh. Never have I understood the chant “You’re not fit to wear the shirt” better than now.

So Pastor says that it’s time for me to do some Hodgson bashing and lay off Rafa and blaming him for our current woes. Perhaps it is indeed time for Hodgson to stop making excuses about ownership, about the previous regime and start to actually motivate the players. We were all very excited when Rafa managed to keep Torres and Gerrard, which made losing Mascherano more palatable. But if I think about it, keeping those two wasn’t that great of an achievement. Torres had a bad World Cup and is still struggling with injuries. Nobody made a bid for him and he probably knew his value would be down, so he stayed. Gerrard, subject to some Real Madrid speculation, is probably too old to be a good investment and perhaps wouldn’t be able to recreate his passionate Liverpool form when he’s not the king somewhere else. (Okay, the Arsenal fans are gone, I can take my jacket off.) Kuyt would not have been a great loss if he had gone to Inter Milan but was valued too high and regardless, I doubt Benitez wanted him that badly.

Just read that Arsenal are 2-0 down to Chelsea now. Take that, laughing Arse wankers or whatever English insult is best-suited!

Hodgson’s now coming out with the “honest” assessment that we’ve had a really bad start to the season and he’s very confused. Well, so am I. The caliber of players he has at his disposal belie the results he’s conjured. There isn’t much in the play to tell me that he’s having an effect. Last year under Benitez our attack was similar: without ideas, without penetration and the age-old weakness on the wings. This year is going much the same way. Perhaps selling defensive midfielders and buying inadequate replacements (Benitez: Alonso for Aquilani, Hodgson: Mascherano for Poulsen or Meireles) weren’t the best coaching decisions. Sure, sure, teams take time to gel, coaches take time to settle, blah, blah, blah, but how long for these excuses before the owners think that maybe they made a mistake with Hodgson? Maybe he’s similar to other coaches that did well with small teams with limited budgets and then went on to fail at bigger clubs where they could buy big name players (off the top of my head? Mark Hughes when he went to Manchester City, Sam Allardyce when he went to Newcastle back when they had money). Maybe he’s best at being a stable presence; let’s give him a promotion and make him director of football! Let’s hire, I don’t know, Manuel Pellegrini. That’s an idea that even the Pastor might appreciate! We might lose a few games but at least we’ll play exciting football. Not only are we losing, we’re boring to watch.

Last year I kept waiting for the Liverpool revival. This time I’m not sure if there will be a revival. Seven matches in, six points, 18th place in the league. We lost to a team that was in the relegation zone of League Two in the Carling Cup (yes on penalties but that is no excuse for losing at home to a team so far below us). Europa League? Whatever. There really are no positives left. At least Arsenal lost so those arseholes’ day might also be spoiled a bit. I don’t think I’m going to go to that bar again.

What does one do when one is depressed in San Francisco? Read some Beat poetry I suppose. Time to go to City Lights bookstore.

Scum 3 Liverpool 2: Waaaahhh!

September 19, 2010 by

Before I address that horrible scoreline above (and I’ll admit that it could have been much worse), I will chastise the Pastor for not believing in the magic of Boreinho the Magnificent. I watched the highlights of the slopfest the Pastor is referring to, and Boreinho seems to have come up with the best way to motivate his players: The You-Are-This-Water-Bottle-I’m-Kicking Method. I think I saw a bit of that during the Champions League game against Ajax too when Mourinho, obviously livid about something, showed a nearby water bottle just who was boss by giving it an almighty kick. During the Real Sociedad, there was a moment when Sociedad should have scored but didn’t, but that didn’t mean that Boreinho didn’t start hitting out at something which might have been a water bottle. Maybe he labels water bottles in the technical area with players’ names before the game? “Hm, this one is Higuain, this one is Marcelo…” The Pastor in one breath criticizes the club’s regime for changing coaches too much leading to inconsistency and then advocates another coaching change. I think Boreinho will take this team far. Perhaps they had a bit of a European hangover, but they still won. Give the poor angry man a chance, Pastor!

Not that Berbatov gave us much of a chance against his team at Old Trafford today. Despite having a reputation for being rather lazy and useless, the Bulgarian (or as one blog calls him, the Continental) has started the season in blistering form. The Scum dominated the match apart from our little comeback spell when Gerrard knocked a penalty and a free kick in to level matters at 2-2. Berbatov completed his hat-trick later on and there wasn’t another comeback for us. I had some mild hopes of us maybe sneaking something away from this match since the Scum had been struggling a bit, having given away last-gasp equalizers against Fulham and Everton and suffering a bore draw at home against Rangers in the Champions League. We had our own bore draw against Birmingham City but had stuffed Steau Bucharest 4-1 in the Europa League. I was a bit surprised that Hodgson didn’t start with Lucas after his wonder strike against the Romanians and instead opted for Christian Poulsen, who has not been impressive so far. I didn’t see much from Joe Cole or Fernando Torres (apart from winning the penalty), and without Gerrard’s dead ball abilities we would have been no where. The scoreline reflects a much closer match than it was, sadly. I won’t jump the gun and ask for a change of coach but Hodgson needs to bring some new ideas. The team looks sluggish and lacking in endeavour, and that’s not something you could say of Hodgson’s Fulham team from last year.

Oh well. Two losses now to the supposed “big” teams (I have to include Manchester City in that now) and we are probably no where near where we need to be to challenge for a Champions League spot. Although we still have Chelsea to play, it might be good to have gotten rid of Arsenal, Man City and Man Poo this early in the first half of the season. If we can string a few wins together in the league against lower opposition with a draw against Chelsea, I can start being optimistic again. But it sure has been a depressing time to be a Liverpool fan and it doesn’t look like it’s going to end anytime soon.

witnessing a slopfest

September 18, 2010 by

yesterday, while we were out having drinks with acquaintances, my significantly better half murmured in my ever attentive ear: i miss the world cup. mind you she knows very little about football so the world cup she misses is the party that comes with the event. i have been on world cup withdrawal, both the electric atmosphere and the passionate football, ever since the anti-climactic final. her murmur got me thinking though: there was something about that final i couldn’t put my finger on until i read a transcript of the 1974 world cup finals. it’s time to share that tangent.

tangent: we knew coming into the 2010 final that the way to beat the spanish was to play them physically and not let them settle into their passing routine. the dutch did just that. they forced the spanish to play from the back by trying to destabilize their midfield. De Jong kicking Alonso in the chest and six million yellow cards also come to mind. they played the counter and had two wonderful chances to take the lead but the football gods, and a hot reporter, were rooting for Casillas that day. what the 2010 dutch team might have not realized, or even planned for, was playing against the reincarnated 1974 dutch team. see, Rinus Michel and Johan Cruyff developed total football into an art form. then Johan Cruyff introduced the concept to spanish giants Barcelona from 1988 to 1996 where he relied on an astute defensive midfielder, Pep Guardiola. in 2008 Pep becomes the manager of Barcelona and quickly implements parts of total football to his team. Barca win everything the first year with unbelievably free-flowing football centered around the world class spine of Valdes-Puyol-Toure-Xavi-Busquets-Iniesta and of course Messi. Replace, laterally, Valdes with Casillas, upgrade Toure with Xabi Alonso, and downgrade Messi with David Villa and you find yourself with the european and world champions Spain. a stretch? maybe a little but isn’t this how football tactics work, passed on through a coaching tree? the 2010 dutch had to figure out a way to stop a modern version of the 1974 dutch. their answer to total football was anti-football. maybe the football gods disapproved of such tactics. maybe they thought by allowing the dark lord to claim the champions league with Inter they could keep the coveted world cup to themselves, clean and pure. maybe the football gods didn’t care either way. one thing is for sure though, a football legend disapproved.

you might be wondering what the title of the blog is referring to. i am watching the Real Madrid slopfest against Real Sociedad. i am tired of saying this team needs time to gel. by changing managers routinely the team never has a chance to get going and ends up playing sloppy football against significantly weaker opposition. Real Sociedad had the better chances of the first half and should have lead by at least 2-0. Real might have won the game but this was one sloppy affair. they are completely out of sync. i say they need to change managers.

Jibber Jabber

September 12, 2010 by

I will probably be jibbering and jabbering as the Pastor has predicted if Liverpool somehow manage to eke a victory out of this current match against Birmingham City. It’s half time right now, and I am very sleepy after going to bed for some insane reason at 5 am but I managed to watch the last 10 minutes of the half and despite one decent penalty appeal, that’s all we have. We have Reina to thank for a series of stunning saves (unlike his performance for Spain against Argentina, which must have made Iker Casillas happy) to keep the score 0-0 but Birmingham City have dominated the match so far. Again, the team is lacking creativity and good final balls. Under Hodgson, they seem to improve in the second half so that would be my current hope, but at the moment, jibber jabbering’s all I’ve got!

What does the Pastor know about happiness? Perhaps both of us will have to get used to 1-0 wins against lowly opposition. Only difference being his team will be doing it with millions of euros of talent, while mine with millions of euros of mostly no-talent. I also enjoyed how Boreinho described his 1-0 victory over Osasuna as “easy“. I have to commend Hercules for their win against Barca in the Nou Camp. I absolutely love it when this happens. Maybe we’ll think back to this match when Real win the title Spain-style with a series of 1-0 victories.

All right, return to the match and I’m sincerely hoping I won’t have to clutch at the You’ll Never Walk Alone straw and give the Pastor more ammunition. Although I must say that the video he linked to did indeed make me very happy. It’s not often I thank Everton, but what they did in the last minutes to Man Poo had me in raptures.

Update at full-time: Well, it ended 0-0 at full-time although it was far from a boring game. Luckily, Liverpool did improve in the second half, or perhaps Birmingham City failed to capitalize on the chances that they created. If you watched the first half, this was a loss for us if not for Reina’s saves. In the second half he did not have to do as much, and Liverpool had some good spells but really no great chances. Torres again seemed off the pace and the commentator was concerned about his body language. Gerrard was energetic but ineffective, and even though we had encouraging debuts from Paul Konchesky at left back and Raul Meireles in midfield, Poulsen and Lucas as the two holding midfielders were not a pretty sight. The team had trouble going forward, albeit against a very committed Birmingham team that had no trouble in getting behind the ball in numbers. I wonder if that was more due to the slowness of our attack or the speed of their defense? I fear that it was probably the former. I’m not sure what kind of play Hodgson is trying to instill into the team. Are we a build-up team? Are we a counter-attacking team? Do we grind opponents down with possession? I feel like the players might be trying to figure out the same questions. I may have made a crack about the no-talent on the team, but there is talent on this Liverpool squad but communication seems to be a problem. And Glen Johnson, first-choice England right-back, is often sleeping. I must have seen him and Lucas give the ball away cheaply 20 times.

We’re lucky to get away with a draw here. Birmingham City are a tough team at home, losing only twice last season, but Liverpool’s manner of play is still of concern. With Man Poo as our next league match, we are dangerously far away from being a team. At this rate, Liverpool, or at least Hodgson, will definitely be walking alone.

pep gets pipped

September 11, 2010 by

how does it feel to be beaten by neon bumblebees? by tron prison inmates? by a team that just won it’s first liga game since 1997? i just finished watching the barca game and all i can say is everybody has an off day but that was one hell of an off day! i wouldn’t be too concerned if i was a barca fan. i mean, sure, it stings but remember pep has been pipped before early in the season only to go on and win everything he played for!

Onto the Real Madrid – Osasuna game

notes from the first half:
– the new jerseys are really ugly. they’re a bad attempt at a futuristic… thing! ugh!
– Ozil is going to be a beacon of creation, a source of inspiration for years to come. his balance, composure, and tact remind me of a young Zidane just not as aggressive, which happens to be one of Zidane’s biggest strengths. he’s also a bit faster than zizou. ok so he’s not much like zizou…whatever man i just wanted to compliment the guy!
– i don’t know where this team would be without Xabi Alonso. he’s everywhere you want/need him to be!
– i told Mufti early last season that Benzema was a beast in the making: physical, aggressive, takes chances, etc… he just wasn’t there mentally because of the whole move away from home thing. this year will be his coming out party. that’s if he stays away from teenage girls!
– i forgot how frustrating it was to watch Higuain play. Messi made him look good during the world cup. his shot to goals ratio is 1000/1. i feel like punching him several times a game.
– Khedira might look like a girl but he’s pissing opponents off with his frustrating pressing. i love it! i can see why darth vader wanted him.
– the free flowing football that was evident last year is dead… this is the third half in a row without scoring a goal…… what the fuck!

notes from the second half:
– how does a dark lord – which is interchangeable with darth vader by the way – team score? a counter attack you say? you are correct! a defender you say? you are correct! Carvalho is officially the best signing in the history of Real Madrid! am i getting carried away? you are correct! but it sure feels good to watch them finally celebrate a goal!
– i thought Ramos looked subdued in the first half but he seems to be taking his defensive responsibilities a lot more seriously especially that Benzema has been switching with Ozil to man the right wing.
– i want to punch Higuain in the nads every time he misses an easy shot!
– how Marcelo didn’t make it onto the Brazil team is a mistery to me… but then again Dunga is out of a job.
– this team is very stout on defense… not that Osasuna is anything to write home about but still.
– i just punched Higuain in the nads again. honestly though, Ricardo has done an excellent job for Osasuna today.
– Ozil got a standing ovation. watch out kid, next week you might get booed.
– in the words of my all wise better half: this was an anti-climatic ending. to which i replied: this whole season will feel anti-climactic with darth lord in command.

Here’s how Mufti would have celebrated if this was a Liverpool victory: This was a very satisfying victory, jibber jabber. Hodgson showed a lot of poise with his tactical accumen and substitution policy. Jibber? Jabber! Pastor tried to quash my happiness but I needed this victory. Jibber jabber, jibber jabber. You’ll Never Walk Alone!

i’m just kidding of course… what?! you don’t believe me? allow me, then, to put a smile on your face.

Underwhelming Sunday

August 29, 2010 by

There he is! It’s the Pastor! I thought that perhaps Supercat had finally managed to silence him, but nothing like a new La Liga season to bring him out of the woodwork.

Although he seems somehow confused by Ricardo Carvalho’s usual position, the Pastor’s breakdown of Real Madrid’s upcoming season is pretty much spot on. There were certainly no superstar purchases at Madrid this season. I have to admit that I had to look up Sergio Canales on Wikipedia. And as the commentator kept repeating during Real Madrid’s opening 0-0 draw with Mallorca which just ended, Jose Mourinho himself is the biggest signing of the season. There aren’t many managers left in the game that can overshadow the big-name, highly visible stars but Mourinho can.

Or shall I term him Boreinho? That 0-0 draw that I just sat through in front of my computer was, if not utterly boring, still not much to blog home about. The team clicked better in the second half but Mallorca put up a good fight and could have even won the game. Still, if not for bad decision-making from the likes of Higuain and Ronaldo and a bit of luck, Mallorca would have lost this match. Mourinho won’t make the fans happy until the latter stages of a season when he starts bringing in the trophies as he almost inevitably will. I saw some of the second half of the Barcelona-Racing Santander match earlier, as David Villa scored on his league debut and Messi and Iniesta also got on the scoresheet in a 3-0 win against poor opposition. It will be a fascinating battle between them and Real for the title. As a neutral, I am looking forward to seeing what the rest of the teams might do this season. Mallorca were the surprise package last season. Sevilla and Valencia can always make things interesting by providing tough places to visit for the Big Two. And it’s always nice to see an Atletico Madrid or Getafe do decently in the league or go on a cup run.

As for my own battered and bruised team, Liverpool managed to pick up their first win of the season against promoted West Bromwich Albion. Torres scored, which is good, but his was the only goal, which isn’t as much. In better news, we have captured Raul Meireles from Porto to bolster the midfield as Alberto Aquilani, probably the worst Benitez purchase, is now gone to Juventus on loan and Mascherano’s move to Barca is imminent. Meireles had a good World Cup for Portugal and I think he’ll be a decent replacement for Mascherano. I do have to admit that when news comes in of us buying Paul Konchesky or Carlton Cole, that is one of the clearer indicators of how far we have fallen down in the pecking order of English football. Those are mid-table players, surely. Well, at least our conquerors from last weekend, Manchester City, contrived to lose 1-0 to Sunderland, giving everyone a chance to heap manure on Money City.

Oh, I should mention Liverpool’s Europa League victory over Trabzonspor in Turkey. With the match tied on aggregate at 1-1, and without Torres or Gerrard, we managed to come away with a late 2-1 win (3-1 on aggregate). Definitely satisfying after the drubbing we received in Manchester, especially since we played away against a team that doesn’t lose very often at home without some of our major stars. The Pastor was trying his best to quash my happiness at the win (he’s a bad man) but after that demoralizing loss to Manchester City, I needed this. Hodgson’s going to take some time, and I’m not sure what’s going to happen with our ownership situation, so I have to feed on these scraps until things settle into some semblance of normality. And in another positive, Dirk Kuyt, subject to some speculation regarding a move to Inter Milan, committed his future to the club after the match.

I had a strange experience watching the Barca-Santander game earlier online. I somehow picked up Al-Jazeera Sports, commentated by someone who was definitely a big Barca fan. Listening to his Arabic commentary made me feel like I was 12 years old, sitting back home in front of some gawdawful local league match on a Wednesday night. I wonder how that league’s doing these days.

the day they win it all

August 29, 2010 by

sports are inherently unreasonable. that’s what i tell myself every season before i resume rooting for Real Madrid. how else can i explain the new manager? or the endless roster of redundant quality players? or the purchasing of similar position players? and on and on… i can’t…

tangent: this is quickly becoming a game of money. football is the byproduct. money not necessarily in the more money to purchase sense, but in the lifetime value of the ‘asset’ sense. the purchase of Kaka last year didn’t make too much football sense. the guy was past his prime. he had been nursing a nagging injury for years. he played a similar position to Sneijder, who at the time was a significantly more impactful player. what i forgot about was the financial viability of the Beckham plan. if you ever visit the Real website or happen to travel to a developing country you will not see the majestic face of C. Ronaldo on billboards but the one of the gifted Kaka. see, Kaka might sell less jerseys than Ronaldo in europe, but the latter does not open up the latin american market or endear himself to the christian football fan market. every time Kaka wears a ‘i belong to jesus’ shirt under his jersey he is advertising to a particular demographic by appealing to a greater identity than just football fanclub. and that has monetary value. Real has been among the best at tapping the lifetime value of a player, i.e. their ‘asset’. what other club can win zero trophies in two years yet still dominate the revenue race among all european football clubs? i’m not saying the, extremely unfair, television revenue Real and Barcelona are getting at the expense of the other Liga clubs doesn’t contribute significantly but moves like the Kaka one significantly increases financial viability. whatever you think of Real, they haven’t recently purchased necessarily to win but to diversify revenue streams. i bet theypurchase player’s rights based on a top 20 most marketable lists by continent and demographic regardless of football implications. Mahamadou Diarra cost them over 25 million euros and subsequently allowed Real to set up training camps, friendlies and other marketing ploys in what is considered a relatively untapped football frontier: africa. in other words Diarra was a success in increasing Real marketability worldwide although his football contribution was certainly not worth the price tag. my tangent is significant to this season for one reason: name one marketable player Real purchased this summer. i thought so.

review of the summer: i talked previously about the necessity of a left back. check. i talked about the necessity of wingers. check. i talked about depth in the attacking midfield. check. i talked about not purchasing Maicon. check. i talked about finding a ruthless center back. not checked. in other words i am pretty happy with the summer haul from a football standpoint. Carvalho is much better than Arbeloa on the left primarily because he is a natural left back whereas Arbeloa is not. his presence will allow Real to possibly promote from within in the next couple of years, a strategy Florentino Perez seems to be gunning for. the attack was loaded last year and just got significantly younger and more talented. even if of Ozil, Khedira, di Maria, Canales, and Leon (the last two being spanish, another strategy of the new Perez regime) only one or two succeed to have a long term impacts, this class of signings will be considered a success.

expectations: it’s difficult to top a season you won more than 90% of your games in. the difficulty isn’t in winning more, it’s in winning the right ones. Barca will falter in a couple of games and so will Real. their home and away should once again decide the title unless Barca cannot replace Toure adequately with the likes of Mascherano. if that’s the case i can see them faltering in a couple more games than Real rendering their home and away a mere formality. for the champions league i am speechless. could the draw have been any harder? i doubt it. even the Auxerre matchup will be difficult to manage. getting out of the group stages is not only expected, it is mandatory. i expect darth vader to succeed but not without difficulty. i doubt they will win the champions league this season but i can see them challenging for the next two. as for the Copa Del Rey, well, hmm… Real doesn’t treat that competition with enough respect to actually put a decent effort forth but i can see darth vader focusing on it especially if Barca continues its indomitable form in La Liga. he will need to produce a trophy or make a strong showing in all competitions.

the truth is however many times i mumble something about reasonable expectations or Mufti wants to sing ‘you’ll never walk alone’, one thing is absolutely true: today our teams are in the running for every trophy. today i can unreasonably say: they win it all.