October 11, 2007

Liverpool inconsistency not caused by Rafa's rotation but by Gerrard's lack thereof.: I've blamed the former. Scott Murray of the Guardian makes a compelling case for the latter. He points to recent results, Gerrard's swashbuckling but undisciplined performances (a la Beckham) and the resulting observations that you can't build your team around Gerrard and, as much as Stevie wants to be the midfield dynamo, he really can't. With the quality of players we've bought and the results where Stevie didn't feature this season, I'd have to say it's hard to argue against.

posted by worldcup2002 to soccer at 01:35 PM - 18 comments

Weren't 'Pool fans clamouring for Gerrard to play in the middle of midfield last season?! Admittedly, he hasn't been playing well the last few matches. When they snatched a draw from the mouth of defeat against Tottenham, and when the French scousers (weren't there 2 of them?) beat the Spanish scousers at Anfield. And is Mr. Murray saying that Sir Alex is a better manager than Rafa?

posted by georgieB at 04:00 PM on October 11, 2007

I can see the argument that you can't build your central midfield with him, but it also seems silly to play him on the right if the expectation is that he's just going to cut-in/roam wherever the hell he pleases because that's just setting yourself up to have insufficient cover on the right. Besides which, true as the arguments made may be, a healthy, in-form Alonso can cover up for a lot of Gerrard's weakness which IMO is the main reason for the current problems.

posted by juv3nal at 04:03 PM on October 11, 2007

They could have off-loaded him to Chelsea a couple of years ago for a few million quid. Nowadays 'Pool are possibly regretting they didn't.

posted by owlhouse at 07:31 PM on October 11, 2007

Sorry. That second sentence is redundant.

posted by owlhouse at 10:37 PM on October 11, 2007

I read all the comments in that Guardian blog post. Here's what I think: I'm not against Gerrard. He's great for what he does. I'm not about selling him. I'm not even arguing for playing him on the wing. I think where he's really good is roving free behind the strikers, picking off loose balls, slamming in long-range goals, and messing up the opposition before they can release the ball from defense to midfield. He's also the guy you can count on to drop deep to help clean up or pick up the loose ball and bring it back up. He's the option if you need someone to hold the ball for the strikers or wingers or overlapping defenders. He's your release pass on a counterattack if you don't have strikers free or a long-ball option. He's your wildcard. But you don't build your team around this kind of player. You build it around your playmaker. The article mentioned the same in reference to Beckham vs Roy Keane. Sir Alex chose the latter over the former, against popular pressure. Didn't do too badly. I'd argue Wenger did the same when he sold Henry and look where the Gunners are now. Yossi Benayoun is the same kind of player, but probably not as strong or fast as Gerrard. I'm going to wager Benitez realizes this and brought Benayoun in to be Stevie's cover, and also to give Stevie a close-up look of how he himself can best be utilized. So, if Gerrard can realize this himself, then the question will be what is the right formation and resulting team? First and foremost, center midfield. You've got to have two solid midfielders to free up Gerrard. Candidates: - Alonso (the passer, long-range maestro) - Mascherano (the hard man) - Sissoko (the hard man) That's really all for now. Everyone else is just a stand-in midfielder. (I think we need cover for Alonso, and it ain't Stevie.) If you play Alonso (who's currently knackered), you have more motion, more options, because you have someone with a wider passing range. With Mascherano or Sikokko, you better have two wingers who will run their legs off to provide more options to pass to. Your game will be much shorter in midfield because you have fewer pass selections. Formations: 4-3-1-2 (or 4-3-3): Finnan*, Carragher, Agger (hurt!), Aurelio Alonso, Mascherano, Riise Stevie Torres, Kuyt** * Finnan is the unsung one of the lot. Probably the most reliable crosser of the ball that I've seen, and has to cover a hell lot more territory than the wingers. ** Kuyt has just shown himself the wiliest, most mobile option of the bunch vs Crouch or Voronin or Babel. Babel's just young and needs to get settled. Voronin is a harrier and could also cover for Gerrard. Crouchie is there to scare the defenders at setpieces and long-ball games. Almost brought tears to my eyes to see them do 4-3-3 for the Derby match. Pennant and Babel started in place of Stevie and Riise. Look how that turned out. Of course, it was Derby, but it was just a joy to watch the freedom and movement with which the Reds played. 3-4-1-2: Finnan, Carragher, Arbeloa Babel, Mascherano (or Agger), Alonso, Riise Stevie Kuyt, Torres Almost too aggressive to hope for but one can always dream. Finally, Rafa's rotation policy may not be the THE problem, but it still is a problem. Just because I posted this article doesn't mean I've forgotten that.

posted by worldcup2002 at 11:11 PM on October 11, 2007

Finally, Rafa's rotation policy may not be the THE problem, but it still is a problem. The "rotation policy" is really a misnomer. Rotation implies there is a strategic and consistent change among players of similar talent. That is not what Rafa does. He constantly plays people out of position, or just flat-out picks the wrong players. Bolo Zenden for the Champions League Final?? Leto and/or Bable for EPL matches at home?? Sitting Torres against teams that will be competing for the top four, then playing him in the Carling Cup?? Riise at left back for one match, (IMHO his best position) then midfield, then on the wing...?? The team I want to see take the field: Finnan-Agger-Carragher-Riise Mascherano Benayoun-Alonzo-Aurelio Gerrard Torres Babel, Kuyt, Arbeloa, Pennant, and Voronin on the bench I think Momo should have been sold to Everton when the offer was made, and as much as I like Crouchy, he is not one of the fifteen best players on the squad. Hopefully he can move on to a side that needs his services in January.

posted by r8rh8r27 at 09:49 AM on October 12, 2007

As for the article itself, I suspect Mr. Murray is just a red devil-worshiping wanker. Gerrard is the Pool's talisman. He wins game(s!) for his team in spite of Rafa's inadequacies, arrogance, and hardheadedness. If Gerrard wants to play the center, that is where he plays. How many times over the last four years has Gerrard singlehandedly brought his team back from certain defeat? 10? 20? There is a certain amount of leeway a player of his caliber must be granted He wasn't on the wing in the FA Cup Final vs. West Ham. He played the middle of the park against Milan in Istanbul where Rafa's tactics put them 3 down by halftime. Rafa's so-called tactical brilliance didn't win at Villa Park to open the season, Gerrard's superb freekick accomplished that. If forced to chose between Gerrard's desire to play the middle and Rafa's commitment to play Mr. Potatohead with the pieces of his squad, I'll take a currently-off-form Gerrard without thinking twice. In general I think managers are more often responsible for losses than wins. Players play and managers should try and not muck it up too bad.

posted by r8rh8r27 at 11:53 AM on October 12, 2007

Rafa should pick the best team for each match but that doesn't mean some rotation policy, based on a formula on he can compute. I do mean that he should understand that for certain types of games (home v. away, EPL, CL, cups) different formations and combinations make the best use of his deepest ever squad. I'm torn over the best place for Gerrard and how that sets out the rest of the places. He seems to me to be very similar to Landon Donovan (though of higher quality), who Bruce Arena and Bob Bradley have had difficulty best utilizing on the US team the past few years--though for LD part of the cause surely has been lack of healthy quality forwards, not at all a problem at Anfield. I think WC's 4-3-1-2 is a good choice even though I'd worry about winding up with a too narrow offensive push. The biggest factor IMO in the problems Liverpool have had this season overall, though, are the injuries, especially to Agger and Alonso, in that order. Hyypia is 34 now and just no longer at the level he was in the glorious 2005 run to Istanbul. Unfortunately PhysioRoom shows that neither will return until early November so--happy, happy, joy, joy--we'll miss them for two league games (at Everton, Arsenal) as well as Bestikas (UCL) and Cardiff (Carling Cup). As long as Alonso remains out I'd love to see Babbel as the other midfielder.

posted by billsaysthis at 12:21 PM on October 12, 2007

Also amusing to note: Liverpool v. Everton is the early game next weekend, which will certainly annoy Rafa and keep his paranoia at table-topping levels.

posted by billsaysthis at 01:16 PM on October 12, 2007

Of course, it was Derby I resemble that remark.

posted by owlhouse at 02:27 PM on October 12, 2007

owlhouse, thanks for your good-naturedness. It's hard to know nowadays who you're going to piss off with what you say (I'm thinking of another recent thread and flame-out) so it's nice to know people who don't take things too seriously. btw, r8r, I like that 4-1-3-1-1 you put up. Very clever and forward-thinking 4-4-2. Mascherano cleaning up in front of the defence, and behind "midfield" allows those clever playmakers like Benayoun and Alonso to play further up the park. I was thinking it would be too narrow, but having Benayoun and Aurelio allows them to switch from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3 or even 4-2-4 very quickly. Having Gerrard so advanced also let's him focus on attacking, which is where he's best. I'd love to watch the match that has that setup. And bill, I'm looking forward to watching that Merseyside derby. Go Reds!

posted by worldcup2002 at 10:12 PM on October 12, 2007

Of course, the derby isn't being televised on FSC. Drats and double drat!

posted by worldcup2002 at 10:24 PM on October 12, 2007

Is any EPL on FSC anymore?

posted by yerfatma at 09:37 AM on October 13, 2007

There's four live and delayed EPL matches on FSC every match weekend, plus the Super Sunday and EPL wrap-up shows. It's enough for me, especially with the wrap-up shows where you can just see the highlights for all matches. I just like to bitch when Liverpool's matches, especially the derbies, don't get featured. EPL on FSC (this month and next) FSC schedule for this week

posted by worldcup2002 at 12:34 PM on October 13, 2007

Rafa discusses his rotation "policy" in Soccernet interview on October 12.

posted by worldcup2002 at 05:37 PM on October 13, 2007

FSC, under the terms of the totally fan-unfriendly contract under which they subcontracted certain rights to Setanta, gave up the early game, the one starting at 4:30 a.m. PST Saturdays, and of course the Setanta package is only available through Direct or Dish. So besides Rafa's whinging over getting put in this slot after nearly every international break (and plenty of other weekends too) I'm pissed at FSC since it means we have very few chances to see the Reds.

posted by billsaysthis at 03:07 PM on October 14, 2007

I'm pissed at FSC since it means we have very few chances to see the Reds. You can come watch it at my house Bill and WC2002, I picked up Setenta this season. But if Colorado is too much of a hike, and you have a highspeed connection at home, try ITVN. It is a smallish cable box that turns broadband into cable TV for like $14 a month. http://www.itvn.com/index.html?s=12&p=4&w=101747&t=0&c=

posted by r8rh8r27 at 08:19 AM on October 15, 2007

Yeah, WC and I live in the same vicinity but Colorado is probably a 20 hour drive one way. Thanks though ;) The ITVM looks interesting but will have to wait for poor old Bill to get a job again.

posted by billsaysthis at 04:41 PM on October 16, 2007

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