The Liver Bird  

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Reds Off To Wales

Liverpool travel to Swansea on Saturday afternoon and depending on which story you believe Jurgen Klopp could be lining up against one of three managers: Francesco Guidolin, Ryan Giggs or Bob Bradley.

Guidolin has got off to a terrible start with Swansea this season with the Swans collecting four losses in their last five matches. A good performance against Manchester City wasn't enough to stave off the mounting pressure on the Italian manager and I personally will not be surprised if the Liverpool result is the end of his tenure in Wales.

Image via skysports.com
Guidolin will probably be pretty pleased though, according to the Italian press when he signed the deal with Swansea he actually thought he was going to manage Watford...

Jordi Amat of Swansea said this week that the players believe in their manager and are fully behind him but it's going to take a lot more than belief to get a win over Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool this weekend. The Reds have got off to a flying start and have lost just one match in all competitions so far this season. With a multitude of goal scorers along with pace and surprise in attack, I don't want to jinx it but Liverpool are looking like a very hard side to beat.

Swansea are currently 17th in the table having collected just four points so far this season, in the process they have also conceded 10 goals. Liverpool on the other hand are sitting pretty in 4th with a total of 13 points.

The last time the two sides met was in May this year, Swansea beat the Reds 3-1. In the last six meetings between the sides in the league the Reds have won on four occasions.

I'm doing this preview a bit earlier than usual so don't have any real injury news to add in this time around however it was interesting to see that Mamadou Sakho was included within the under 23 squad this week. Is there a way back for him? Who knows.

Enjoy the match folks, wherever you are watching!

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Friday, 23 September 2016

Klopp Asks For Anger

This week in his press conference Jurgen Klopp asked for a greedy and angry performance from his Liverpool side because Hull apparently want our points. While I immediately envisaged Roberto Firmino storming at the Hull defence turning green and shouting "You won't like me when I'm angry", in all seriousness, it is a very good point.

Image via theguardian.com
Last season Liverpool lost to sides associated with the lower half of the table such as Crystal Palace, Newcastle United and Watford. This season has been no different after the Reds slipped up at Burnley so Klopp's comments make real sense. The passion and fire we see from the lads against the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal needs to be transferred to a Saturday afternoon fixture against Hull. On paper, of course it's hard to get excited about but if they don't set out for these games with the right mentality, then we will continue to falter.

Hull are no mugs of course and have been unlucky in some of their opening games. Beating Swansea away 2-0 to kick off their season led them on to a match against United which they lost 1-0. However they put in a solid performance with Rashford only able to grab the points for Mourinho's side in extra time.

Injuries for Liverpool mean they may be unable to call upon Daniel Sturridge due to some fitness issues however Jurgen Klopp seemed confident the forward would feature in a recent update. For Hull they can welcome back Livermore who returns from serving a one match suspension.

The last time the two sides met was in April 2015 when Michael Dawson scored the only goal of the game giving Hull the win. Hull's last visit to Anfield was also a positive result on their part after the game ended 0-0 in October 2014. The last six meetings between the two sides have resulted in two wins for Liverpool, two wins for Hull and two draws.

Enjoy the match folks, wherever you are watching!

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Saturday, 17 September 2016

Five Things We Learned From The Chelsea Game

1) Best ever finish with a black eye?

Who knew Dejan Lovren had it in him?! Opening up the scoring after 17 minutes, the defender pulled off a finish any striker would have been proud of. Not only this but his positioning and decision to remain up top meant he was in exactly the right place at exactly the right time.

I was pretty merry last night after several ciders in celebration but I still found myself questioning at 2am this morning in the taxi home "How'd he do that though? As if Lovren scored that".

I'm going to stick my neck out and say that is the best goal scored by somebody with a black eye. If you have any other entries please feel free to tweet me.

2) Jordan Henderson can get it right

I love Jordan Henderson, I honestly do but I find him extremely frustrating at times, none more so than when he tries to have a pop at goal from 25 yards out and ends up sending his effort out the ground. That wasn't the case on Friday night though after the ball splayed to Hendo in plenty of space he perfectly executed his long range effort sending the ball high to the right of goal.

It was a brilliant goal and the expression on his face when celebrating signalled what it meant to him. Jordan Henderson has always had and continues to have the potential to be a Liverpool great I just hope he can increase his consistency levels and maybe grab a few more goals because it's fantastic to see!

3) Antonio Conte met his match

As mentioned in the preview post here on The Liver Bird, I suggested that Conte may face a tough test against Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool on Friday and he certainly did. Up to yet, Conte hasn't had to face any huge sides and Klopp's fast paced and pressing style completely caught the Italian off guard.

In the opening half Chelsea were made to look bang average by a confident Liverpool side. The Reds did fade in a similar fashion to the game against Arsenal however they managed to hold their nerve, even when Conte in what I felt was a very desperate act, decided to make a triple substitution late on. I still feel Conte will do pretty well with Chelsea but he needs a lot more than David Luiz in his transfer pocket to make any real damage in my opinion.

4) Diego Costa is overrated, yes I said it

Bias creeping in here definitely but honestly, is Diego Costa all that good? He's brilliant at what he does, don't get me wrong. If hanging around and being a bit of a brute apparently constitutes the making of a top class striker then fair enough but Friday proved that Costa can go utterly missing in a game unless he is served correctly by his team.

We've seen this ourselves at Liverpool especially with regards to Christian Benteke and for me, this is why Costa is slightly overrated. If he was a truly great striker he would bring more to his game, Chelsea would be able to rely on the Brazilian to create chances for himself and bring his teammates into the game with some box play but he doesn't, he just hangs around and annoyingly always seems to find the back of the net. If it works, I suppose it's all good.

5) Cracking start from the Reds

We're just five games in to the 2016/2017 season and I think we need to praise Liverpool's performances so far. Granted we messed up against Burnley, but if you think back to when the fixture lists were released and almost everybody was worried with our difficult start?

Ten points from five games that included a trip to the Emirates, a trip to White Hart Lane, a trip to Stamford Bridge and welcoming the league champions Leicester to Anfield... Well, that's not all that bad now is it?

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Thursday, 15 September 2016

Liverpool: Conte's Toughest Test Yet?

Antonio Conte isn't the type of manager to shy away from a fight and looking back at Chelsea's run of fixtures it looks as though Liverpool are going to be the first real test for the Italian. Up to yet Chelsea have faced West Ham, Watford, Bristol Rovers, Burnley and Swansea.

Conte has steered his side to four wins in the process and one draw in their most recent game against Swansea which ended 2-2. Despite hailing from a country renowned for its defensive capabilities (put on show during his time as Azzurri boss) Conte has been unable to shaw things up at the back with Chelsea only managing to keep one clean sheet so far this season (Burnley 3-0).

Conte, Klopp, Chelsea, Liverpool

Conte may have the answer to some of his back four issues though as he announced in Thursday's presser that David Luiz would be brought in for Friday night's game. Most on Twitter however laughed at the fact the man Chelsea sold and then bought back from PSG is supposed to be the remedy.

It's no secret that I'm ever the optimist as a football fan but I honestly feel the change in line up will be good for the Reds on Friday. I fancy Mane to cause Luiz some problems.

Looking at Liverpool's recent results we also have our own defensive woes. It's for this reason that several fans have been calling for Loris Karius to start between the sticks for this match but I can't see it happening to be honest. If it was a side other than Chelsea then maybe, but I don't expect to see him start tomorrow which is a shame.

Despite being leaky at the back, in their last four Premier League games the Reds have scored nine goals. I fully expect us to find the back of the net at Stamford Bridge, the lads definitely appear to have clicked, especially when looking at the Leicester game and the bonus is even during that match we still had Philippe Coutinho on the bench to call upon. Jurgen Klopp has stronger options available to him this season and it's clear to see that he likes to tailor his side to the situation so it will be interesting to see which set up he goes for on Friday.

Injury news means John Terry is unable to feature for Chelsea. For Liverpool Dejan Lovren could return after suffering an eye injury.

An interesting stat to mull over before kick off:

Conte has not lost a match at home in a league set up as a manager since January 2013...

I still think we'll have um.

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Friday, 9 September 2016

How Exactly Do You "Do A Leicester"?

So just how exactly do you "Do a Leicester". The phrase is destined to remain within footballing folklore for years to come but what were the factors? Why did Leicester, the 5000/1 shot storm the league in 2015/2016?


Jamie Vardy, having a party?

It's the classic Roy of the Rovers fairytale that every young person playing football dreams of. Jamie Vardy was (as I'm sure you are all well aware) released by Sheffield Wednesday as a youth. In 2007 he started playing for Stocksbridge Park Steels and by 2010 he was with FC Halifax. In 2011 he signed for Fleetwood Town, helping the club win the Conference. Finally, after many would have given up, Leicester came calling.

Without Vardy, it's simple, the Foxes would not have won the Premier League. The striker played 36 out of 38 games in the league scoring a massive 24 goals in the process (not forgetting his consecutive record for scoring in 11 games on the trot). His consistency was unrivalled and no matter who the opposition Vardy proved time and again what a threat he was to the defence. Goalkeepers had almost resigned to the fact that he would find the back of their net.

To "do a Leicester" you definitely need a Jamie Vardy type.

Italian Style

Most of you will be aware of my soft spot for anything Italian, even more so when it concerns Italian football, so when I saw Claudio Ranieri had been named Leicester manager in 2015 I was elated for them. Most fans however appeared pessimistic. By no means am I saying I thought he'd win the bloody league but I knew he was an intelligent manager, a boss able to work with little but somehow make that work.

Many argued at the start of last season that Ranieri was simply following on from the work of former boss Nigel Pearson but the Italian did make several key changes including returning to four at the back, playing Vardy perfectly and getting the best tactically out of players like Riyad Mahrez.

His super cool demeanour and ability to remain calm under pressure acted as a catalyst for Leicester.

Ranieri, also definitely required in order to "do a Leicester".

Leicester's Jamie Vardy
Images via skysports.com

Riyad Mahrez

Touched upon earlier when discussing Claudio Ranieri, one of the main reasons for Leicester's success was the deployment of Riyad Mahrez. Completing a total of 48 dribbles over the 2015/2016 season its no surprise Mahrez left many of his opponents in his wake. Nigel Pearson didn't utilise Mahrez to his full potential and at one stage of the 2014/2015 season it looked as though the Algerian may even become a bit part player.

Thankfully for Riyad, he was very much within Ranieri's plans. Playing 37 out of the 38 league games, Mahrez netted 17 goals and provided 11 assists.

Obviously, you can't "do a Leicester" without Mahrez.

Fearless away from home

I've often watched promoted teams or even sides that lull about in the bottom half of the Premier League table and wondered "why don't they just go for it?". I get it, of course I do, sometimes the risk is too great, it's suicidal to go for it away from home when you need all the points you can get...

But is it? Is it really such a bad idea? Leicester for me proved that in order to really shake things up you need to go for it. Away from home Leicester beat some big sides like Man City (not us though muhahaha) and for me, part of the reason they were successful is because they were fearless away from home.

Playing on the counter attack would catch teams off guard, particularly at the start of the season when Leicester still had the element of surprise. Even when teams did start to suss out Ranieri's tactics, the speed at which they could turn on an attack along with the pace of their star players was too much for most sides to handle.

Being fearless is almost certainly how you "do a Leicester".

Preview

Here's hoping for our own sake that Leicester don't "do a Leicester" tomorrow as that would very much spoil the unveiling of the new Main Stand party. Anfield capacity is now just over 54,000.

Injuries for this one mean Liverpool are unable to call upon Emre Can or Ragnar Klavan. For Leicester Mendy and Schlupp are both unavailable but record signing Slimani could feature.

The last time the two sides met was in February this year when Leicester won 2-0 thanks to a brace from Jamie Vardy. In December 2015 Liverpool picked up a 1-0 win thanks to a Christian Benteke goal. To find a victory for the Foxes at Anfield we have to go back to 2000.

Enjoy the match folks, wherever you are watching!

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