Thursday, December 31, 2009

Let's be Realistic: Happy New Year 2010

Happy New Year 2010.

For the past week, there was so much to write about our team and the ongoings with our club that it was going to be a heavy task to even start writing. But then I saw an article which pretty much stated what I wanted to say and then more. It is very long and would need much patience to read but it is worth it. Many of the points are repeated and we have probably read them, but it at least sums up most of the circumstances that have surrounded us.

The win against Villa showed our team having almost all players available and we can forsee in not to distance a future we will be able to field our strongest side again. The way we bombarded Villa reminded me of our display at the end of last season. The back to back wins would also have surely gave us the much needed confidence against Spurs next week. Among the positives in the game against Villa  includes Torres' record-breaking 50th goal, Insua having a hell of a game again (what a bright future this lad has in him), Lucas without Mascha around seems to play better (I am really glad Rafa believes in him), Aquilani getting more English football experience under his belt and showing enough glimpses of an awesome player he could be for us (no wonder Rafa mentioned a fit Aquilani is worth much more than what we paid for him -- 5M first payment makes sense now). And I am sure Rafa will mould him into a better player than he was, as was done to our other players.

The downside of the game was the knock on Johnson and I understand it is a ligament tear, which at minimum is 3 weeks and the worst 2 months in the sidelines. Seems like our injury jinx this season is very much still around.On the poor performances of some players, I feel they are very much overplayed so far  and need some rest (Kuyt comes to mind). Maybe with some new inclusion during the January break (no harm being optimistic here), these players could be rested and used sparingly to ensure we keep on fighting to the top of the league. 

One thing that really put a smile on my face last week was Rafa's reply to the journalists. This is after his apt reply to the Souness and Klinsmann slatings towards him a few weeks back. This time, when asked ‘Will you resign if you don’t make fourth place?’, he replied ‘You Journalists, when you say something or make a mistake, do you resign?’ Something like that. Haha! 

Below is the link to the article mentioned above (if you have not read it yet). Have fun reading!


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Here is something good to read during this festive season: 


Monday, December 14, 2009

Frustrating Times at LFC

There is no denying that the loss against Arsenal last night was frustrating for the majority of us. Many of us had expected that we would win this game because, at long last, we had players coming back from injuries and Rafa had almost his best players at his disposal. It was also a great opportunity to close the gap at the top, especially when the other contenders for the top four faltered in one way or another.

Well, personally it had slipped my mind that players who are back from an injury would be rusty, as what we saw in Torres who would have easily scored that one clear opportunity he had in the first half. Torres' display last night was clearly an indication of rustiness because we all know what he is capable of. The same goes for Aquilani who came in in the second half, and asking him to salvage us the game was in a way asking a bit too much.

Our first-half performance was a good indication of our team being back to its best form. If our finishings were better or if Torres were fully-fit, I am sure our display in the first-half itself would have assured us a win. My major complaint last night was Benayoun having to play on the right because if we had Reira fit, he would have provided us with more crosses. Benayoun, as we saw, had to always cut in as I am sure his left foot for crosses would have been as good as to Aurelio's right-foot.

Motivational wise, Arsenal had a good cause to go all out since a win for them would have taken them 3 points off the Mancs with a game in hand, which they managed. I am not saying that we didn't have that motivation but clearly what happened in the second half was something we were not prepared for.

After all the onslaughts we put unto Arsenal, to see the ball deflecting that a many times before Johnson's own goal was devastating in a way. Although it would have been difficult to read it in the players, I am sure they would have thought "WTF! With all the effort of having an almost full squad that played some decent football, after only 5 mins in the second half this happens. Did we deserve this?" This after having a call for a clear-cut penalty denied by the ref. Then 8 minutes laters, Arshavin who hardly had a game, scored from the only half-chance that he got. It would not have been easy for the players to be so composed after that. Hence we saw a wee bit of desperation afterwards when the balls were most of the time quickly knocked forward in hopes it would fall to our forwards. The rest is history. Playing against Arsenal is of course never easy, and that is an understatement.

I have been called a Rafalogist by some quarters and again I would like to state again that I am against those who thinks by removing Rafa out now, all our problems will be solved. They call me Rafalogist and I call them Anti-Rafa Brigade. I would like to think that some amongst the Anti-Rafa Brigade are just frustrated while some fail to see what Rafa has done for us since taking over. They would rather listen to SlySport and the likes of Souness (don't you love Rafa's response to both Souness and Klinsmann?) and Redknapp jr. Well, there is no point in repeating what I have been thinking so far because it has been stated many times over. 

What really mindboggles me is some of these fans are actually happy when we falter because it proves their argument. They do not want to listen to the facts that for a team to succeed nowadays, it needs strong backing of funds, not only for buying players but also for paying high wages to make them happy enough to warm the bench. 

What we have suspected a long time ago was mentioned by Rafa Benitez himself that the priority this year was to take care of the debt situation in LFC. That means Rafa needed and will need to sell to buy and to sell to increase the players wages when we offer them new contracts. That means Rafa would need to sell to service the debts. And I will not be surprised if Mascha is sold in the summer (extend his contract before that so that we get a better price for him when Barcelona come knocking) because we need to pay our debts. Debts which was not there before the American Jokers took over. And when Rafa sells, making a profit in the process, he will only receive a paltry sum for the players. Just like in the case of Alonso.

Well, here we have a manager who just signed a new five-year contract knowing the situation beforehand and agreed with the owners. So, even if Rafa did not sign the extension, some other manager would have done the same and that manager would have been facing the same kind of problems Rafa is facing in relation to funds for players. So, how different would things be then? But what is important in this aspect is we do not become another Leeds United. And we should be backing the team and the manager to ensure we qualify for the CL next season. Clearly this added pressure on the team is not needed at this moment.

Some might argue Rafa's tactics and approaches to games are wrong, hence we are not performing (forget about the injuries we have had because some of these fans do not want to hear that). Last season Rafa showed what the team is capable of and his tactics, if they were wrong, wouldn't have taken us so close to the title. Some fans argue the players he has brought to the club are not good enough. Well, we know the sort of players he wanted but could not get them due to either lack of funds or Parry's blunders. But look at the line-up we have at the moment and count how many players are good enough to be playing for their international teams. If Rafa is blind to talent, then you need to also accuse the international managers to be blind too.

In a nutshell, if we were to give Michael Schumacher a Proton Saga he will also falter. Then we ask for the head of Schumacher because he failed to deliver and ask Jensen Button to drive the car. And it will go on and on.  Bad analogy, I know, because clearly these drivers will never ever be able to improve the Proton Saga into a Ferrari, but in the case of Liverpool, Rafa will be able to at least take us close to the finishing line ahead. Something he almost did last season, against all the odds facing us in the face. And I believe, given enough time and patience, he will eventually find the balance he is seeking and deliver us the Holy Grail.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Unlucky Liverpool FC

After beating Drebecen and Everton in away games, we could only 'manage' to hold Blackburn to a 0-0 draw at their turf. The last fixture was a disappointing game for Liverpool fans because clearly we could have won that game if only lady luck had decided to throw even a wee bit of the Mona Lisa smile towards us. Because in reality, she has shunned us since the start of this season.

There was so many positives from that game that I have decided to focus on. While some fans keep on harping about "Rafa this and Rafa that", I would like to see it as another clean sheet against a formidable opponent (check Blackburn's home record) after the many problems in our back four that have been haunting us since the start of the season look to have finally been overcome. We seem to be back to our best in keeping clean sheets which has been our strength since Rafa took over.

While some fans continue to moan about our midfield, and how Rafa is still to blame for Alonso departure (yeah..right) and how it has cost us the shot at the title, I would like to focus on how Lucas has been transformed into a so much better player from last season. I admit I used to be quite pissed off at Lucas last season and was occasionally guilty of giving the stick to Rafa for keeping his faith on Lucas, but now I happily accept the humble pie. That's why Rafa is the manager of the greatest club on earth.

Of course Lucas was never ready to carry the responsibilities Rafa put on his shoulders (people tend to compare him to a 30M player), but when we needed him to do the job with Aquilani sidelined for much longer than it was thought at first, Lucas has delivered. We don't see him giving away stupid freekicks in dangerous areas anymore. He looks to have much more confidence in him now and outshining half-fit players like Gerrard everytime, doesn't give away the ball that easily and most importantly, and marshalls the midfield when we go forward. He has more composure nowadays and doesn't 'only give sideway passes' as fans used to complain but tries to execute the telling and penetrating passes and gets closer to the opposition goal areas than before. And yes, he is not the finished article yet and needs to continue to learn the trade, especially his shots at goal, but we can see how he has played the man-of-match role in so many games in lots of fans' eyes. And the best thing is he is still young and had never complained about the sticks he has had to endure during his dark-days both from fans and the media and looks to be thankful with the faith Rafa has given him and in keeping his head down to continue to improve on his game. Classy lad I would say. Let's hope he goes on and improves further for years to come.

As for Aquilani, we will at last see him start against Fiorentina tomorrow and I really can't wait to see him play. I have read lots of comments from fans in Italy on how good he is and, as Rafa has said, a fully fit Aquilani is worth much much more than the 20M we paid for him. This is a perfect game for him to start, unlike the previous ones when he was not match-fit and when the stakes were high, not to mention the condition of the pitch not favouring a player that has just come back from injuries like him. I trust Rafa because he knows the actual condition of the player after seeing him in training everyday. I won't make the mistake of expecting Aquilani to immediately play like Maradona or score 6 goals in this game, all from 30 yards away, because a player in his condition will take some time to fit into the jigsaw puzzle. But this game will somewhat prepare him for the cruncher against Arsenal this weekend and that game is one hell of an important game for us.

Another positive so far this season is our young striker who had to endure, just like Lucas has had to, the responsibility of headspearing our attack in the absence on Torres. It is a pity that N'gog had to be thrown into the games in this fashion but with Rafa's hand tied at the back due to lack of quality options upfront, we shouldn't be asking for so many miracles although N'gog has shown enough class to become a great player. His touches are sublime and his ability to hold the ball upfront is remarkable for such a young player. His positioning and his finishing is definitely better than Kuyt's or Voronin's and hence understandably Rafa, given the circumstances, prefers him over the others. N'gog should be applauded for having to do what he had to do so far, mostly for facing the expectations of the fans in brave fashion after what Fowler and Owen (the prick) had done for us at similar age in the past.

It is December and being 12 points off the pace from leaders Chelsea and only 4 points off third place Arsenal is not such a bad thing, given the circumstances. Circumstances in which Lady Luck has not been so kind to us. We have been unlucky to have had the american owners taking over our club in such pitiful manner. I would take the 20M Moores would had thrown to us every season over the lies and promises made by the dreadful cowboys. We have been very very unlucky with the unseen-before injuries, up to 12 players at one time, that we have had so far this season because I always believe had our team been fully fit since day one, our position in the CL and the league would have been better. We have been unlucky that Rafa could not buy players of his choice and favourable covers for our first team players and had to throw in young guns when they got injured. We have been unlucky that we had to play unfit and half-fit players. We have been unlucky that so much pressure has been put on the club by fans (blame Rafa here for creating the expectations amongst us by taking the 2nd spot last season) and the unfriendly media not to mention the beachball and the referees. And the list goes on and on...

So, it is quite mindboggling that some fans choose to go after Rafa's head as if he purposely hexed the team to mediocracy when the writings on the wall is so obvious of his achievements so far at our club. He has shown what we are capable of last season against the odds in which so many other teams spent more money than us. And I believe when all our injured players are fit again, we will again go on our winning ways and the realistic top 4 position at the end of the season is not that far-fetched. I have argued with some fans when they said we should be winning the title this season and not aiming for top 4 and when I asked why we MUST win it this season, most of them hit the wall in their arguments. Granted that not all LFC 'fans' on the net are actually LFC fans (I believe there are many fans of the opposition clubs having a laugh at our expense and probably some are planted as CyberTroopers by certain quarters to achieve their agenda), it saddens me to see some fellow fans continue to read and believe the lies spewed by the media and choose not to listen to blatant arguments, some based on statistics. And in doing so, for some reasons only they know, they go against the traditional view of Liverpool fans being the most knowledgible fans in the world.

We are still in the running for two cups that I hope we lift this season no matter what they say about how unimportant those cups are. And I feel we will at last have a streak of unbeaten run and hopefully when all the injured players are back, we will again strike fear in our opponents when we score goals for fun. It was not such a long time ago that we saw what we are capable of.