Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Newcastle started this season strongly, confounding critics and pundits in the process. When Andy Carroll left for better pastures with Liverpool, everyone predicted the end of the road for Newcastle. Alan Pardew had his detractors and now he is actually being considered to be Capello's successor as England manager.
However you look at it, Newcastle, being a historical and colourful English club, they are exactly where they should be this season. The Toon Army are where they are this season due to the superb efforts of three foreign players.
Tim Krul's performance this season has been sensational. Against Manchester United, he was the reason Newcastle salvaged a 1-1 draw. 45 saves this season with six clean sheets marked him out as one of the outstanding keepers in the Premier League this season. Krul's stellar performances again shunts the unlucky Steve Harper into his all-too-familiar no. 2 spot.
Liverpool huffed and puffed once more but came up against another excellent goalkeeping display. A feat that Mark Bunn probably will and could not repeat even if he tried. The journeyman goalkeeper showed far better reflexes than Paul Robinson have had this season to deny Andy Carroll a confidence-boosting goal. As if to add insult to hurt, Blackburn defence only had Chris Samba as the experienced defender, the rest were youth team players elevated to emergency first team action!
SIX home draws have surely dampened Liverpool's hopes for a Champions League spot. Drawing against the Wigans, Fulhams and Blackburns of the Premiership are of course nothing new for the mighty Reds. We should remember that home draws against inferior opposition costed Liverpool the Premiership title. There is a strange Benitez resonance to this season's results and this problem to kill off the lesser Premier League teams at home is rearing its ugle head again.
The Reds need to be ruthless like Manchester United if they want that fourth Champions League spot.
Sunday, December 25, 2011
The Christmas fixtures brought about a change in team line ups. Clubs which could afford to rest key players relied on their bench to tide them over this hectic time. This meant first team starts for a trio of Premier League superstars who have somewhat faded from this season's football action.
Dimitar Berbatov, Fernando Torres and Yossi Benayoun made the most of rare starts to remind the Premiership world what they are all capable of. In a word, these forgotten men impressed during the Christmas period.
Friday, December 23, 2011
Joe Cole was the flagship signing of the ill-fated Roy Hodgson era, and he was a Rafa signing that Hodgson inherited. For me, like Bellamy, Cole was not given chances to impress at Anfield. It was also unfortunate that he got sent off in his very first game for Liverpool against Arsenal. His Liverpool career seemed to go downhill since then. Hodgson clearly preferred a method of play that stifles any kind of flair and creativity hence Joe Cole watched as Liverpool faltered under Woy.
Alberto Aquilani was brought in (was it a rash Benitez signing?) in the hope of appeasing the Anfield faithful after the sale of Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid. Then from Roma, Aquaman walked into Liverpool, still nursing an injury. It took the Italian a while to get accustomed to the pace and strength of the Premiership but at the tail end of 2009/2010, Aquilani showed glimpses of why he is nicknamed "Il Principino" with some masterful performances.
Both these players have grabbed their chance for a new start with relish. Cole and Aquilani are now mainstays with Lille and AC Milan, becoming vital cogs as the two clubs chase trophies in their respective leagues.
Liverpool have been terribly unlucky this season in front of goal. This fact all Liverpool fans know. 17 shots against the woodwork and four saved penalties testify to the Reds' dominant and yet strange lack of goals. Also Luis Suarez is the Premiership striker with the most number of attempted shots to goal (75) but only scored five goals. Nevertheless El Pistolero is Liverpool's top scorer this season with just eight in all competitions, underlining why Liverpool's supremacy in matches are not being converted into three points.
There is one other reason that has dented Liverpool's Champions League ambition. Excellent goalkeeping displays by the opposition has kept the Reds from winning at least five of their six drawn matches thus far. Under Kenny Dalglish, Liverpool have taken the game to the opposition whenever possible. And it has only been fantastic goalkeeping displays which have stopped Liverpool from winning against Manchester United, Norwich, Swansea, Manchester City and Wigan Athletic.
This is how these clubs' outstanding goalkeeper have kept out the rampant Reds...
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Liverpool have taken more points off Aston Villa than any other team in the Premiership, 68 points to be exact. Villa have let in seven goals through opposition setpieces prior to their match against the mighty Reds. And so, it was inevitable that Liverpool would get three points against the toothless Villans and that the goals came from corners meant that Liverpool exploited Villa's weakness.
Bellamy was fantastic throughout the match and poignantly in that 15-20 minute first half spell, Craig Bellamy was involved in everything that was good about Liverpool. He created one and scored one, Kenny Dalglish could not have asked more from the veteran Welshman.
He even took on the role of a playmaker as he sprayed passes left and right in that dominant Liverpool first half spell. The Reds have been excellent away from home, winning five of their eight away matches.
Friday, December 2, 2011
Leroy Lita had the chance to cover himself with glory against Villa last week. After superbly turning the Villa defender, he dragged his shot just wide of the post. That sums up Swansea's problem in their first Premiership season. This lack of a cutting edge may eventually drag the Swans back into a relegation dogfight.
Against Blackburn, Swansea must sought to make their customary lions' share of possession count. This is the sort of game that City must try and score a handful to improve their poor goal difference. Blackburn has the second worst defence in the Premiership and Lita will get another chance to bury a few this time round.
Other than against Bolton, Liverpool played their best football of the season against an out-of-sorts Manchester City last weekend. Due to their physical exertions in the Champions League, the Citizens looked short of match fitness and were sluggish against the mighty Reds. But that does not take away a great performance by Liverpool at Anfield. Another draw at Anfield though sooner or later, the Reds will put things right at home no doubt.
It is Liverpool's away form that has been awesome this season and even without Lucas, if Kenny Dalglish gets his lineup right, it will be another three points. Maxi and Bellamy have been excellent every time they have started and Suarez clearly enjoys playing with these two as they create space with their intelligent movement.
Maxi scored a hattrick against Fulham last season and he could well do it again if he starts. A repeat of the 5-2 result of last season may be wishful thinking but all the omens are there to suggest Liverpool are peaking in time for the Christmas schedule.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
This season has been special for many reasons, one of which is the chance to watch Manchester City emulate the great Arsenal "Invincibles" and get through the season undefeated. The second reason has been the insane results, the 8-2 Red Devils win over the Gooners being the highlight. The third reason and focus of this article is how some Premiership players have embraced the "Big Hair".
Not since the time of Kevin Keegan have players sported "Big Hair" with such aplomb. This season of 2010/11 is truly the season of "Big Hair".
Leading the way in terms of skill, controversy and divided opinions is the much maligned David Luiz. The Brazilian was bought to be the new Ricardo Carvalho and he almost succeeded until last season's match against Manchester United where Ancelotti blamed him for the defeat. Since then, Luiz has been a walking timebomb in the Chelsea defence. A shame, as Luiz and Torres were meant to be the new faces of Chelsea future.
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