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Premier League preview No9: Liverpool | Sport | guardian.co.uk

 

Premier League preview No9: Liverpool

 

Anfield's nearly men won't get any closer to the title this season

 

Paul Doyle

 

August 8, 2008 7:52 AM

 

guardian.co.uk writers' prediction: 3rd Odds: 6-1

 

Everyone has one: a mate who spends ages in front of the mirror before heading out on Friday evening, dousing himself in deodorant and preening like a wannabe Casanova despite the fact that it's obvious to all that he's not going to pull. He'll return home later that night, alone as always, and, ahem, get a grip of himself. His whole sorry routine is an unwitting tribute to Liverpool in the Premier League.

 

But this time it will be different! It really will!

 

Well, it might be.

 

Certainly Liverpool seem intent on playing more attractively than at any other time under Rafa Benítez. Anyone who doesn't expect Fernando Torres and Robbie Keane to strike up a joyously fruitful partnership is a begrudger or a fool. They are both highly intelligent and hard-working performers whose different skills should prove perfectly complementary.

 

Of course, if they are to sustain a challenge for the title beyond Christmas, Liverpool will have to develop the offensive diversity and unpredictability to turn last season's costly draws against smaller teams into victories. It would have been useful to keep Peter Crouch as an extra option, but the club's finances forbade that and instead the cameo role of lanky frontman who's not very good in the air will have to be entrusted to David Ngog, who does have abundant potential (and speed), even if PSG primarily used him last season as a substitute or a right-midfielder. Liverpool, then, will still find themselves resorting to the sort of improvisation that is beneath Chelsea and Manchester United.

 

But are they really forced to? Could Benítez really not make better use of the money available to him? The case of Gareth Barry suggests he could. Liverpool's pursuit of the wannabe former Villan is puzzling. Presumably the manager doesn't intend to buy him just so he can boast to United and Chelsea that he can afford £18m squad players (when he clearly can't); similarly it seems improbable that he envisages using him as a left-back (that'll be Andrea Dossena's role, surely). Which means Barry will be deployed in midfield alongside Javier Mascherano, with Steven Gerrard edging closer to the right in a 4-2-3-1. The thing is, that will aggravate Liverpool's biggest problem: they will have even less width.

 

Granted, the gifted Ryan Babel can be expected to progress even farther this season (once he returns from the Olympics) and carry a growing threat from the left - even though he seems more suited to a central role - but the right will be rendered even more inadequate. Jermaine Pennant and, in particular, Dirk Kuyt have hitherto offered a partially effective sort of nuisance value but, obviously, not enough to win the Premier League; neither is likely to start regularly if Barry comes (indeed, Pennant may be about be sold) but putting Keane there would be to restrict his interaction with Torres. Gerrard can be very effective out there but lacks the discipline or inclination to actually stay there.

 

The full-backs won't compensate. Alvaro Arbeloa is a tidy defender but he's no raider in the style of Bacary Sagna, Jose Bosingwa or even Wes Brown; Philippe Degen, as you might expect from a freebie, is not up to their class either, though he would offer more going forward than Arbeloa does, albeit at the cost of slack defending. On the left, Dossena is an improvement on Jon-Arne Riise but, again, inferior to Patrice Evra, Gaël Clichy and Ashley Cole.

 

In short, Barry's arrival, while introducing greater thrust and variety through the middle, would spell even more limitations out wide. It's not easy trying to overtake United and Chelsea when you have to sell to buy, but if Liverpool do manage to flog Xabi Alonso for the inflated fee they seek, or if the owners manage to piece together £18m despite the credit crunch and uncertainty over the club's new stadium, wouldn't Benítez be better off buying at least one top class wide man, particularly for the right? Instead of bringing in Barry, who, accomplished though he is, isn't really that much of an upgrade on Alonso anyway.

 

Defensively, at least, Liverpool will again be sound. As hinted above, suggestions that Barry's arrival would mean a switch to 3-5-2 are probably misguided, though that would at least have the merit of showcasing the club's three solid centre-backs. More likely, Benítez will deploy a back four safe in the knowledge that he can't go far wrong regardless of which two he picks from Jamie Carragher, Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel. Behind them, of course, is Pepe Reina, a quality keeper who has the concentration level required for the least busy custodian in the division: last season Liverpool restricted opponents to just 90 shots on target in the entire league campaign, the meanest rate in the country. They also allowed less crosses than any other team (go on, guess how many - and go out and get some fresh air if you knew it was 653). But this season must be all about attack for Liverpool.

 

If taking a respectable tilt at the title means squashing all the small fry, then actually winning it entails doing something else Liverpool failed to do last season (albeit because of obscene refereeing when Chelsea came to Anfield): namely, beat at least one of the big boys in the league.

 

They'll have a prime early opportunity to do just that in Game 4, when Manchester United will travel to Anfield without Cristiano Ronaldo (and possibly also Wayne Rooney). Victory for the visitors, even another fluky one, would intensify suspicions that this is going to be another fruitless domestic season for Liverpool.

 

IN: Philipp Degen (Borussia Dortmund - free), Andrea Dossena (Udinese - undisclosed), Vincent Lucas Weijl (AZ Alkmaar - undisclosed) Diego Cavalieri (Palmeiras - undisclosed), David Ngog (PSG - £1.4m), Robbie Keane (Tottenham - up to £20.3m)

 

OUT: Peter Crouch (Portsmouth - £11m), Harry Kewell (Galatasary - free), John Arne Riise (Roma - £4m), Anthony Le Tallec (Le Mans - free), Scott Carson (West Brom - £3.25m)

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I actually agree with most of that. But his full back analysis is shite. He's probably barely seen dossena or degen play, but he's just casually dismissed them as inferior. They may be, but there's no way he can make statements like that. Good analysis of the rest of our team though.

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I didn't like the analogy at the start, but other than that, there's not too much wrong with that.

 

That was my take on it. I thought he was a little harsh on Arbeloa and Dossena. We still don't know how good Dossena is and if the he's going by last season's form he won't have much to surpass Ashley Cole's performances as he was shite.

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He seems to have hit a lot of nails on their hand and missed some as well.

 

I'm in disagreement with what he said about Dossena, Degen and I think he knows too little about n'Gog to state that he can't head a ball.

 

He seems to have re-iterated a lot of the main criticisms that we direct at Rafa, but I can't help thinking that Rafa has already answered these questions even though he hasn't told or showed us how yet.

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paul doyles always been a good writer when it comes to liverpool, has a good unbiased opinion on most football matters. also i think he would know what hes talking about with n'gog as he follows french football really closely and does a regular column on it in the guardian. think hes right on most points here apart from the dossena one as many still don't know how good he will/won't be.

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paul doyles always been a good writer when it comes to liverpool, has a good unbiased opinion on most football matters. also i think he would know what hes talking about with n'gog as he follows french football really closely and does a regular column on it in the guardian. think hes right on most points here apart from the dossena one as many still don't know how good he will/won't be.

 

Agree with that and especially the point being have we the players to turn those draws into wins.

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Overall very fair.

 

Predicts 3rd which is almost certainly where we'll finish.

 

Interestingly has sensible points from both the pro-/anti Rafa camps:

i)We spend far less than Chel/Mancs & the difference shows up in the squad players "Presumably the manager doesn't intend to buy him just so he can boast to United and Chelsea that he can afford £18m squad players (when he clearly can't);"

ii) Even so why are we going for another DM at £18m?

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Bang on the money

 

 

it isn't bang on the money at all.

it assumes dossena and arbeloa are automatically worse than the rivals even though neither have had a sustained run in their favoured position (dossena brand new/arbeloa used on the left), it assumes the fullacks wont be given licence to get fowards and it assumes keane and gerrard wont swap positions during the game pulling the opposition defense around.

 

basically he is saying liverpool are going to play a ridgid 4-4-2 and will struggle width a lack of with because the players in wide midfield aren't wingers, all bollox. the forwards will stay close to torres and fullbacks will provide width with more freedom than they have ever had before, if they weren't going to be given licence to venture forwards rafa wouldn't have bought attacking fullbacks as that makes no sense.

 

in closing the writer has said 'well, liverpool played this way last season (insert cutting remark about turgid football) and didn't challenge and will play that way this season and thus not challenge again.

 

bang on the money? its bollox from top to bottom.

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Am I the only one who doesn't get the hype around Sagna?

 

He's got great hair though...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOT!

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it isn't bang on the money at all.

it assumes dossena and arbeloa are automatically worse than the rivals even though neither have had a sustained run in their favoured position (dossena brand new/arbeloa used on the left), it assumes the fullacks wont be given licence to get fowards and it assumes keane and gerrard wont swap positions during the game pulling the opposition defense around.

 

basically he is saying liverpool are going to play a ridgid 4-4-2 and will struggle width a lack of with because the players in wide midfield aren't wingers, all bollox. the forwards will stay close to torres and fullbacks will provide width with more freedom than they have ever had before, if they weren't going to be given licence to venture forwards rafa wouldn't have bought attacking fullbacks as that makes no sense.

 

in closing the writer has said 'well, liverpool played this way last season (insert cutting remark about turgid football) and didn't challenge and will play that way this season and thus not challenge again.

 

bang on the money? its bollox from top to bottom.

 

You should have gone to Specsavers

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You should have gone to Specsavers

 

sorry I don't share his opinion, you may share his opinion if you choose but I observed us last season and seen the people rafa has brought in this season and so my opinion differs from the original writer.

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Also i'd disagree about arbeloa. He may not be as good as evra or clichy but i know i'd prefer him at RB to fucking wes brown.

 

Wes Brown has been solid for them all season. And bagged a goal for them against us if you remember. Arbeloa looks cagey sometimes especially in big games. Going on last seasons performances, I'd take Wes Brown over Albert.

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Wes Brown has been solid for them all season. And bagged a goal for them against us if you remember. Arbeloa looks cagey sometimes especially in big games. Going on last seasons performances, I'd take Wes Brown over Albert.

 

arboloa hasn't had a sustained run in his favoured position, that's like get ashley cole, sticking him on the right hand sided, chopping and changing him and then judging his performance.

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Am I the only one who doesn't get the hype around Sagna?

 

Remotely average.

 

His hair is quite shite too.

 

Clichy is fucking class though. Best LB in the world at the moment imo.

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arboloa hasn't had a sustained run in his favoured position, that's like get ashley cole, sticking him on the right hand sided, chopping and changing him and then judging his performance.

 

I thought in his first half season Arbeloa didn't have a bad game, started off last season great, but then lost his form. I'm not sure it was anything to with being chopped and changed, more that he'd never really played that amount of games before.

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arboloa hasn't had a sustained run in his favoured position, that's like get ashley cole, sticking him on the right hand sided, chopping and changing him and then judging his performance.

 

Arbeloa is a right back. Cole is a left back. Cole plays left back. Arbeloa plays right back. But Arbeloa played centre half for one game. What's your point?

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