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Posts Tagged: "arsene wenger"

Match Report: Chelsea vs Liverpool (29.12.13) L 2-1

- - Match Report

Eden Hazard

Liverpool adjusted their defence: Mamadou Sakho moved out to left back and Daniel Agger came in at centre back, Aly Cissokho losing his place and dropping down to the bench. Martin Skrtel and Glen Johnson retained their defensive positions. I can remember when we tried a non-specialist wing back earlier in the season and I’m not overkeen. Let’s hope the formula works today. The rest of the side was the same as it has been for a few games, the upper triangle of Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez taking responsibilities in attack. Two minutes in and we won a free kick in a nice position out on the left. Jordan Henderson was tackled heavily by Samuel Eto’o and needed treatment. The set piece was floated in and Luis Suarez, meeting his bite victim, Branislav Ivanovic with football skills and not barbecue skills, neatly beat him to the ball, heading it towards goal where the hungry Martin Skrtel was waiting to knock it over the line. A goal up in the third minute: A perfect start! And a fine way for Suarez to avenge his ban.

Chelsea didn’t take it lying down. They were attacking us straight away and making headway. The ball was floated into the box a lot, far more than it has been from other opposition. Glen Johnson made a vital goal line clearance. Gary Cahill headed a good header wide. Simon Mignolet’s dexterity in goal was tested by a decent Frank Lampard shot. Our midfield wasn’t holding up well at all and Chelsea were cutting through us like butter. The defence looked haphazard too and, when Eden Hazard broke through with a lucky rebounded pass from Oscar that had rebounded off Sakho, the Chelsea danger man curled it nicely past Mignolet and the Blues were deservedly level. The defence was on a back foot and disorganised. Daniel Agger had actually fitted into the side at left back, not in the centre, and he was found out of position for the goal. I don’t think that, as a team, we had settled well. We weren’t controlling the game as we usually do. Perhaps Chelsea were effective in breaking up our pattern of play, or maybe something just wasn’t clicking at Stamford Bridge? Ivanovic had to call it a day and went off injured for Ashley Cole to come on in his place. Our whole formation was being pressed and our possession stats must have been unhealthy. In the 33rd minute, defensive mishaps and a failure to tackle and clear properly led a cross to be converted by Samuel Eto’o – He was lucky to reach it and Mignolet half-saved the effort, but i had enough momentum to trickle over the line.

For the second time in a week and early goal lead against had been turned completely around by the home side. 2-1 Chelsea and we will have to sort our whole effort out in this game. Before half time Joe Allen had another good shot at goal, after a rare decent attacking move from us. The Chelsea defence was set up in two fluid banks and their movement was aggressively dictating to our front how to play, rather than being passively affected by our passing and movement. It was confusing the hell out of us and was a credit to Jose Mourinho tactically. I haven’t seen a side dominate us so well as Chelsea this season, except for Arsenal. Chelsea weren’t using Arsene Wenger’s total football, but had rather a more messy, physical, ball-off-the-ground header and volley game, though their discipline and set up was very well-managed. Let’s see what Mourinho’s former apprentice can pull out of the hat in the away dressing room at half time. I’d drill Lucas Leiva and Joe Allen to turn the tide in midfield somehow, maybe remove some of the freedom Jordan Henderson is allowed and get him to help shore up our problems in terms of possession.

At half time Mourinho used as second substitute: John Obi Mikel on for Frank Lampard. Something seemed to have changed in the second half. We were having more time on the ball and looked a changed side. Mamadou Sakho rose in the box to loop a headed cross past Peter Cech, but unfortunately it clipped the corner of the goalposts and rebounded away to safety. Chelsea were resorting to very physical tackling, roughing it up a bit, John Terry leading the way. The game was a lot more open now. Luis Suarez had a long distance effort but it was kept out. He had been quiet but there were signs that Liverpool were gaining momentum.

Our weaker squad was demonstrated when Joe Allen had to retire from the game, injured. He was replaced by a 19 year old academy-trained rookie, Brad Smith, his first cap. In a game of such magnitude it isn’t the time to be breaking in new, young players, especially with the problems already manifesting themselves in midfield. We had a good appeal for a penalty with Luis Suarez getting completely clattered in the box. We were firing in free kicks regularly and there were all sorts of tussles going off in the box. Chelsea are physically large and powerful in defence. It will be hard to beat them in the air, that is for sure. The physicality of the game gives it more the flavour of a typical Merseyside derby. It’s getting quite heated out there.

Glen Johnson had a nice long effort in the 73rd minute, Cech saving at his near post and conceding a corner. No joy from the set piece though. In the 79th minute a very cynical challenge by Gary Cahill on Luis Suarez resulted in a caution for the England defender. Cech parried the free kick away harmlessly. Into the last ten minutes and another penalty call. Samuel Eto’o clearly fouled Luis Suarez and it was a penalty but Howard Webb failed to call it. I’d hate to think that two of the season’s most critical fixtures can be affected by poor refereeing. It’s easy to whinge about officials and seems an excuse for poor results: I don’t like it. However, the refs should not be impacting the league in the way that they are.

Glen Johnson was sacrificed for Iago Aspas. We need to throw all we have at the game. Eto’o limped off with Fernando Torres coming on for the last part of the match. Torres, sporting a new Coutinho-style haircut, made a move on the goal but finished weakly. Half the player that we sold. More injury woe for Liverpool as Mamadou Sakho was next to hobble off. The January transfer are getting pricier, the nearer we get. We will need many signings just to replenish our depleted squad. Kolo Toure came on. Chelsea moved the ball into the corner and started to waste time. There should be significant injury time at the end. They slowed everything right down.  A messy Brazilian clash went off, Oscar following through on Lucas Leiva. Our samba man responded with quite an aggressive push to the face and a brief scuffle broke out. Howard Webb diffused the situation without issuing any further warnings.

The final whistle came and a frustrating fixture concluded; the end result a 2-1 defeat. We are the first side to be top at Christmas and out of the top four by the New Year. These last two games were never going to be easy and unfortunately we have had the worst possible outcome to them. We can cancel out the relative points deficit by victories and Anfield against both sides but relying on this is no way to justify losing.

Man Of The Match: Howard Webb had significant influence on the outcome though the scorer of Chelsea’s winner, Eden Hazard, was probably the best player. He was a constant problem down the left hand side.

Match Report: Manchester City vs Liverpool (26.12.13) L 2-1

- - Match Report

vincent kompany

For Liverpool, the lineup was forced into making one change from its successful one in recent matches. Jon Flanagan didn’t make his fitness test and the talented young left back was replaced by Aly Cissokho.

The game was lively from the start, to and fro, both teams looked set out to play a good open game of football. Jesus Navas hit the post with a header after five minutes. The Manchester City defence looked very disciplined and our early attack moves were thwarted as rigorous pressing, good tackling and a very wide formation stopped us in our tracks. Other teams have not forced us to use the whole width of the pitch and have left room to manoeuvre for our wingers down the sides. City stretched us to the max. I thought Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho looked the main danger men. Luis Suarez was being held on a tight leash by the strict Vincent Kompahy, who commands the Man City defence.

After 19 minutes Sterling latched on to a Luis Suarez through ball. Behind the defence he did well in his one-on-one with Joe Hart but unfortunately the linesman flagged him offside so the goal was disallowed. At twenty-five minutes Sterling and Coutinho combined, the Brazilian hitting the ball into an empty net after Hart was rounded by Sterling. One-nil and Liverpool haven’t lost a game when they’ve scored first this season and only one of those games has ended in a draw.

The lead only lasted five minutes. Vincent Kompany totally outmuscled Martin Skrtel as he rose to head a corner past Simon Mignolet in the Liverpool goal. Joe Allen failed to clear from the goal-line emergency defensive position. Philippe Coutinho almost scored a fantastic response in perhaps our finest move all season. Sterling, Suarez and Coutinho all worked well together and intelligently threaded it through the City centre only for the on-form Joe Hart to deny.

On the stroke of half-time Alvaro Negredo gave the home side the lead. Aly Cissokho was out of position and our centre halves were nowhere to be seen. Negredo broke through and with a fairly weak shot, caused Mignolet to make a rare mistake and fumble the ball into the net. Not the best of times to start making unforced errors. Perhaps our luck has run its course? It’s been end to end for the first half and the game could still go either way> Luis Suarez needs to find a way to escape from Kompany’s pocket.

Manuel Pellegrini had obviously been doing his homework on our Uruguayan marksman. Luis Suarez was being closely controlled, which allowed the other Liverpool players a bit more freedom. Our best move early second half saw Jordan Henderson almost latch onto a lovely deep through-ball. Suarez assisted in getting the rebound into Henderson in a goal-line clamour, but Henderson was given offside. Our attacks now have the finesse of a decent Arsene Wenger side – high quality and well-orchestrated total football.

We were dominating possession, having 70% of it early second half. The game was end to end, but no clear chances were developing. We almost had another nightmare in defence, this time Mignolet coming to the rescue as Mamadou Sakho made a shady pass back which was almost intercepted. Glen Johnson became the first player in the ref’s book. Brendan Rodgers made the first use of his bench with a surprise change: Philippe Coutinho making way for Victor Moses, who we haven’t seen in action for a while. I though Coutinho had been more effective than usual today.

Our persistent possession started to pay. We had three clear cut opportunities in the City box. Glen Johnson, Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling all going very close. Sterling’s chance was a real gilt-edged chance and he should have really scored it. Luis Suarez seemed to be getting muscled out away from the central areas and was cropping up down the sides. Pellegrini turned to his bench to try and turn the tide a little. James Milner came on for Samir Nasri and Edin Dzeko was brought on for Alvaro Negredo. With ten minutes left, Brendan Rodgers sacrificed Luca Leiva for Iago Aspas.

The referee Lee Mason seemed to be making some erratic decisions which were costly for Liverpool. He failed to award several free kicks and Luis Suarez had two good penalty appeals shunned away. He did manage to put Pablo Zabaleta in the book and Luis Suarez also entered it for a high challenge on Joe Hart.

The last ten minutes drifted away with us getting no closer to bridging the divide. At the final whistle the score stood at 2-1. Yes, a disappointment, especially in a game where we dominated possession. We should have done better with our chances, though there were far fewer of them today. Manchester City dealt with Luis Suarez very effectively, keeping him silenced for the first time in ages. Their winning goal was ultimately lucky and perhaps they didn’t deserve victory but a victory to the Sky Blues it was and their title challenge looks a strong one. Our bench lacked the depth of their much stronger CL squad. It could be a telling factor later on in the season. We still have a home game to come against this side and three points at Anfield will not be beyond us. We drop off top spot. A few sour cranberries perhaps to dullen our Christmas party. It’s a Blue Moon on Boxing Day. Let’s get back on the road against Chelsea next…

Man Of The Match: Vincent Kompany – The Manchester City marshalled a well-run defence, dealing with Luis well and also scored a vital goal. The difference between the two teams and a quality player.

Match Report: Arsenal vs Liverpool (02.11.13) L 2-0

- - Match Report

aaron ramsey

It was immediately clear from the start that we were facing high quality opposition. Whereas there are other premiership sides that pass the ball and retain possession well, Arsenal are masters. Their passing is not just quick and clean, it’s incisive. They play very creatively and recovering possession is difficult. We have to make our attacks count as they will be fewer and far between. A surprise to me was the starting of Jon Flanagan at right back. Him and Cissokho out on the wings will most probably both face a tough game.

The early possession was divided up roughly 60/40 in Arsenal’s favour. It was back and for and Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson broke through into the box well yet was unable to finish off properly. Liverpool had a few early free kicks in the opposition half but nothing productive seemed to be resulting. In the 19th minute Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla hit a flying shot which luckily rebounded off the post. Not so luckily the rebound fell right back to his feet and he comfortably slotted the goal into the net past a fallen Simon Mignolet. Arsenal were sharp and now had managed to maintain their record of scoring in every premiership game so far. It was 1-0 and our challenge had become a lot harder.

Bacary Sagna entered the book for a challenge on Luis Suarez, who had started to motor up against the Arsenal defence. Steven Gerrard lifted a lovely free-kick into the box and the keeper made a cracking stop to a Liverpool header but it would have all been in vain anyway as it was given offside. At the other end of the pitch Aaron Ramsey forced a good save from Mignolet. Sagna managed to outwit Aly Cissokho and he received the second booking of the game. Arsenal, when attacking, were really making us look uneasy. If Liverpool want to get anything from the game we need to focus on maintaining possession and allowing our attack to devastate.

The first half finished and Arsenal were clearly on top with a goal, more shots on targets and 60% possession. Brendan Rodgers decided to act at half-time and our Brazilian dynamo, Philippe Coutinho, was brought on, with Aly Cissokho being replaced. A very positive manoeuvre and hopefully the impetus we need to get back into the game.

Early second half and Liverpool began well, putting Arsenal under pressure. Suarez took a slight knock which was worrying. However, a couple of minutes later and he was delivering a quality ball into Jordan Henderson, only for him to volley narrowly wide. The change in formation certainly did seem to initially work.

We were very luck when Kolo Toure made a terrible defensive error. He passed the ball across the goal towards Martin Skrtel, but it fell short. Olivier Giroud jumped onto it and with a clear sight of goal, he looked nailed on to score but slipped it wide. It was a really lucky break and in all honesty we should have been two down. Arsenal started their incisive attacks again and Mignolet was being called into action. In the fifty-eighth minute Aaron Ramsey collected the ball at the edge of the box and with superb control he unleashed a tremendous strike which left Mignolet for dead and spun into the top corner. It was easily the best goal we’ve conceded all season and was pure class. He has ten goals so far this season and is on form and dangerous.

Rodgers decided to sacrifice the other wing back, Flanagan going off for Victor Moses. We have to throw everything at the game and it was a sensible move. Despite our tactical changes the game still looked well beyond us. We were being outclassed. It’s a step up and as the game wore on I felt a bit hollow. Was it really beyond us to be true title challengers? The Emirates is not an easy place to get a result for anyone.

Arsene Wenger made his three changes, bringing on Nacho Monreal, Thomas Vermaelen and Carl Jenkinson. Liverpool kept up pressure and seemed to do well territorially but we just couldn’t break down the solid defence properly. It seemed like our biggest problem last season, the lack of goalscoring opportunities.

Luis Suarez had a good chance late on but couldn’t finish properly. Daniel Sturridge was berating him for not passing. Our SAS failed to function properly and it was the quietest I’ve seen Sturridge in ages. Brendan Rodgers looked quiet and subdued on the touchline and his sombre dark suit and black tie made him fade into comparison with the lively experienced Arsene Wenger. Tactically, Wenger’s experience shone through. Arsenal are the dark horses this season and look good, by far the best team we’ve faced. It’s back to the drawing board for our team and hopefully we will rebuild and stay in the top four. A lesson in class today and our boys will need to step it up. Arsenal 2-0 Liverpool

Man Of The Match: I like to pick Liverpool players for man of the match. Out of our lot Jordan Henderson, I feel, put in the best performance. But the man of the match has to be Aaron Ramsey, whose devastating strike really finished us off. It was a spectacular goal.

 

 

Match Preview: Arsenal vs Liverpool (02.11.13)

- - Match Preview

Arsenal FCLiverpool Crest

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, this is the big clash. Ever since the fixtures list was published I’d been eyeing up today’s date as one to watch. Arsenal are a very testing side, one of the most consistently best sides in the Premiership and an away fixture against them is always a challenge. I think our current form and good league position has been helped by a kind fixture schedule so far. Today’s clash will be a big challenge, probably the first time all season we have faced a team residing ahead of us in the league. For all our good cheer, Arsenal have been grinding away and have been top for the past month, with few really acknowledging their almost flawless campaign. For all the criticism of their summer transfer market policy and action, Arsene Wenger’s side are actually having their best run in years. A stable side can often outwit a team full of changes and Arsenal are no slouches. Since the departure of Ferguson, Wenger takes over as the most experienced league manager. He is as cunning as a fox and tactically few can match his astuteness. Brendan Rodgers will face a true battle today and should we overcome Arsenal, then maybe talk of us winning the league can be actually taken seriously.

The timing of the fixture is actually quite good for Liverpool. Arsenal were defeated at the hands of Chelsea midweek in the Carling Cup, and at the Emirates. OK, it was a second string side, but a defeat is a defeat and it will have hurt morale. Liverpool have skipped through their dip in form and last week against West Brom was, perhaps, our best performance all season, with the resurgent Luis Suarez really standing out. Of course, the transfer market controversy will be on the tip of everyone’ tongue and Luis today will be under the spotlight. Hopefully he will prove his true value to us today and be keen to demonstrate to his suitors that they really did miss out on a legend.

The Gunners did make one key signing and German attacker Mesut Osil has been proving himself to be deadly, although perhaps with fewer headlines than our notorious SAS. Both sides will be welcoming back key players. Mikel Arteta, the former Evertonian will be back to boss their midfield after a suspension, and we all know how anyone linked to our derby rivals likes to up their game when they face Liverpool. For Liverpool, the much lauded Philippe Coutinho will be back available. Will Rodgers throw our Brazilian star back into the mix from the start or maybe he will have to have some impact from the bench? Aly Cissokho will continue deputising for the injured left back Jose Enrique, and the game could be a big challenge for the premiership newcomer, who has looked a bit shaky in adjusting. Theo Walcott could prove troublesome down that side. Last time out against Arsenal him and Oliver Giroud scored two early goals in a game where we luckily salvaged a 2-2 draw. Arsenal, however, won the two games prior to that against us.

The fixture is likely to be exciting, with both sides playing open, passing football. It is the clash of the early titans and the pressure is on for both sides. For, Arsenal it heralds the start of a mini-run of key games against us, Borussia Dortmund and Manchester United. They will be hoping not to slip up. Equally, everyone is suggesting it is the true test of Liverpool’s ability to infiltrate the top four. We had a good home result against Manchester United in the league, but to take 3 away points today would be a genuine achievement.

I think that Suarez and Sturridge will be the key to our ultimate victory though the defence will have to be extra cautious. The new defensive system is far from fallible and today it will come under a lot of heavy pressure. Let’s hope all our players can step up and that we can start to prove our true pedigree for title contention.

The game kicks off at 5.30pm and will be televised on Sky Sports 1.

 

The Return of El Pistolero: Luis Suarez

- - LFC News, Players

Luis Suarez

The ten match ban which has dragged on since last season is finally over. Our star striker, El Pistolero, will be back available for selection this week for our critical clash with Manchester United in the fourth round of the League Cup. After the dismal results in the league for the past two games, hopefully Suarez will be very welcome back at his club. Will the fans support him as vociferously as they have done since he signed from Ajax in January 2011? I for one found the summer particularly frustrating. I love Suarez and especially the goals he scores for us. He is the club’s star player and was unlucky not to have outshined Gareth Bale in all the major player awards last season. Big players do attract interest from other top clubs and Suarez is no different. I can remember how distraught I was when the Gerrard deal to Chelsea was almost done and dusted. This summer brought back those terrible memories. OK, Steven Gerrard finally had a flash of common sense and decided to stay at his boyhood club and the supporters rallied even further behind our iconic club captain. But, will the case be the same for Luis Suarez?

At first, I dismissed the early summer transfer talk as pure speculation, but then it slowly started to emerge that the rumours were rooted in truth. Suarez used the press he claimed he hated so much to try to engineer his dream move to Real Madrid. Here we have a player claiming how he wants to leave England because of the press hounding he gets and then in almost the same breath, he uses the very same press to express his discontent at Liverpool. OK, he had a point on several issues. We didn’t qualify for the Champions League yet again, not even the mediocrity of the Europa League can indeed be promised this season. Our league finish was very poor and we finished a country mile away from our targets. A trophyless season leaves both players and fans disappointed. But, stick with the program, Luis. You are our talisman, our lead goalscorer. At Anfield you have the total support of the best fans in the world. Can the likes of Arsenal offer the vibrant crowd action that the Kop generates? Not even Madrid have the dedicated support of Liverpool. As the summer wore on, the player I initially supported became a burden to me. He hardly left the trending Tweets section of Twitter. Every day a new story broke. Would his agent, the brother of new Bayern Munich boss, Pep Guardiola, favour a nepotic deal to the new European Champions? Would the giants at the Bernabeu flash their cash? What about Chelsea? And then there was the Arsenal saga… The irony of a move to another English club, having stated how uncomfortable his family are with british press intrusion was not lost on the fans. Suarez, as talented as he may be, is not the most sensible of characters. Politically he is very inastute. He seems driven by emotion and off the pitch he must be a nightmare to handle, perhaps more so than when he’s fleecing defenders on it. The Latin American flair raises up and he seems to speak without thinking. There was talk of promises from Brendan Rodgers and he obviously misunderstood the exact conditions of his contract. I didn’t like the way details were being leaked out to Arsene Wenger, telling him exactly how much he needed to bid so that the Gunner skinflints could get an absolute bargain. In the end I gave up hope in keeping Suarez, like the majority of supporters. I got fed up. We had a few decent possible targets in the sights and the transfer window was still wide open. We could take the cash and splash it out on maybe 2 or 3 quality replacements, one of which would surely come good. As the window dragged on and on, the dire situation slowly began to reverse. John Henry and Brendan Rodgers made strong statements that clarified that Luis Suarez was going nowhere. He would be a Liverpool player for the foreseeable future. Ultimately Real Madrid broke the world transfer record in signing Bale and there was no further room at the Bernabeu, for this year at least. Arsenal were laughed off as their approach totally warranted. And preseaon came and with Suarez back in training,, he manged to fit in a few preseason games and the global supporters turned out in their droves to pay homage.

When the window finally closed for the summer, I breathed a sigh of relief. We could keep Liverpool Lu for at least one more season. Perhaps if we don’t qualify for the CL again this year, he will get his wishes and be shipped out. But with the amazing start we’ve had (at least for the first four games), the top four looks a very realistic target. Suarez will return to a confident side and will line up next to an absolutely firing strike partner in Daniel Sturridge. Indeed healthy competition between the two could produce one of the greatest strike partnerships at Liverpool since our heydays in the Eighties. I couldn’t pick at present who the club’s top goalscorer will be this season. Sturridge has settled well and is on top form. he doesn’t carry the same pricetag as Luis, nor indeed all the emotional baggage.

I think he will emerge from the stalls like a hungry wolf and devour defenders with ferocity )no pun intended). He has served two length bans now during his time as a Liverpool player. Whereas on the first occasion I was totally supportive and disagreed entirely with the technicalities of the Evra racism row, his second ban was stupid and he was at fault. As a football superstar he is an ambassador for the game as a whole and more importantly for Liverpool Football Club. With a Liverbird upon your chest and an audience of millions, players have responsibilities to live up to their status as role models. What will children watching the game feel when they see Suarez sinking his teeth into a defender. It is not a good image for Luis himself nor the club. Hopefully during his time out and what must have been a traumatic soul-searching summer for him, he has had the chance to mature a little and get over some of this rashness which envelopes him periodically. He is a fiery character and to extinguish even the tiniest flame from his soul might render him fruitless in front of goal. I don’t want him to change on the pitch. He is a clear and present danger. But his behaviour off it needs to be looked at.

I think he’ll be scoring straight away and hopefully he can lead us to an early season double over our arch rivals at Old Trafford on Wednesday. It would be a dream and a challenge for him to become the Premiership’s top goalscorer. He can guide us to that top four finish he so craves and let’s hope and pray next season we get to see him lead the line at Anfield on some memorable European Cup nights. If he does live up to expectations we will see a changed side up front, with much heavier firepower. The fans I think will forgive him totally for his close season misdemeanors. Welcome back, Luis. Keep your chin up and boots laced up tight. We are on a journey this season and you have a key role to play.