The Liver Bird  

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Ranieri Who?

It was just bound to happen wasn't it? A managerless Leicester turn up at the King Power having failed to find the back of the net in 2017 yet manage to put three past Liverpool with absolute ease. 

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It would have been a bad time for any side to face Leicester to be honest but as mentioned in the match preview, this fixture had all the makings of a banana skin for the Reds. After two weeks off and a trip to La Manga, a win was the only acceptable result on Monday night but after some dodgy team selections and tactics in general Jurgen Klopp has a lot to answer for. 

The obvious first question being, why the hell was Lucas Leiva in defence? I love Lucas, always have, he'll give you his all no matter what but he's not a defender. Leicester from the whistle knew to pile the pressure on the Brazilian and he was caught off guard on several occasions. Lucas doesn't have the pace or the height to deal with the counter attacks and set pieces that the Foxes threw at us for the majority of 90 minutes.

Then, for some unknown reason, at 2-0 down Klopp thinks sod it, let's try three at the back. I can see the theory but in principle it was never going to come off in Liverpool's favour. 

An injured Jordan Henderson undoubtedly played a bigger part than any of us could have predicted but that still doesn't excuse the fact that five of our key attacking players went missing. Wijnaldum has been known to spray a ball or two and unlock a key pass but there was none of that on Monday night. Adam Lallana aside from a very close effort in the second half went missing for most of the game. Mane was a shadow of his Spurs self. Firmino... well what did he even do? Coutinho scored, thank god, but on the whole he was also relatively subdued. 

I just don't understand how those five names can be on a pitch yet massively struggle to break through a defence. These are all talented players who can apparently do the business against the likes of Spurs and City, so what's the issue?

Every time I look at it I can only find one potential answer, the set up. Liverpool for a while now under Klopp have been afraid to leave their favoured formation (usually with Firmino as a false striker) and try something more traditional. In games like this, particularly when the opposition is playing 4-4-2 and opting for a strong defence, is playing a high line with Lucas at the back and hoping your starlets will somehow walk the ball into the net the solution? I don't think so.

I think we need to play these sides at their own game. Chuck on Origi from the off and even Sturridge when he's available. Focus on the crosses and the long ball, find your target men. If a gap opens and Coutinho or Firmino can weave into it for a shot, bonus. If they can't? At least they actually have somebody to aim for in the penalty area. 

It's not rocket science. It's not necessarily Liverpool's style of play either but every successful manager has to sacrifice his preferred style of play in order to adapt to the ever changing opposition. 

It is no coincidence what so ever that teams without managers who are more likely to play cautiously, defensively and are more likely to deploy a 4-4-2 have beaten us this season and quite frankly I'm sick of it. 

Next up for Liverpool is Arsenal, in the apparent parallel universe of top six games, watch us absolutely batter them. 

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Sunday, 26 February 2017

MATCH PREVIEW: Leicester V Liverpool

Finally, Liverpool are back playing football. It feels like it's been an absolute age since the last match, bloody boring! The Reds travel to Leicester on Monday evening to face the managerless foxes. 

As soon as Claudio Ranieri came to Leicester I was immediately on his side. I have a huge soft spot for anything Italian and Ranieri almost instantly worked his charm, it was like he'd never left.

What Ranieri did with Leicester in 2015/2016 is nothing short of a miracle. An unbelievable feat that will never be matched. For him to then be unceremoniously sacked? Well it's a real shame. There's no hiding from the fact that Leicester have been poor this season but is that all Ranieri's fault? I don't believe so. Some of that blame lies squarely at the players door and I don't personally think any new manager will have the time or the magic touch to get enough out of the players now, but I suppose we will have to wait and see.

In bocca al lupo Ranieri! 

Claudio Ranieri sacked by Leicester
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Despite the fact Leicester are without a manager and very much in a rut you can almost guarantee that Liverpool will be made to suffer on Monday. The Reds have slipped up against all sorts of sides this season and Leicester have all the makings of another banana skin. 

For Liverpool, it looks as though Jurgen Klopp will be unable to call upon Dejan Lovren and Daniel Sturridge. Lovren has a knee injury to contend with while Sturridge has a virus.

Leicester have failed to win any of their last six games but the Reds have only managed to win one themselves. The victory over Spurs gave Klopp's side a much needed boost but the result came at an awkward time for the Reds who have had to wait a long time to try and continue their momentum in the league.

The last time the two sides met was in September 2016 when Liverpool put four past Leicester. Two goals from Roberto Firmino, one from Lallana and one from Mane made for a fantastic result at Anfield. Jamie Vardy also found the net for his side in the 4-1 loss for Ranieri. 

The Reds' last trip to the King Power was definitely a day to forget after an absolute worldy of a goal from Vardy. The spectacular long range effort left Simon Mignolet dumbfounded. The game ended 2-0.

With no cups to concentrate on and no matches in Europe, Liverpool now simply must focus on the top four. On far too many occasions this season we have dropped points that in some cases should have been a dead given. Monday night is no different, Leicester are there for the taking, Liverpool need to make sure they get all three points.

Enjoy the match folks, wherever you are watching! 

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Friday, 10 February 2017

MATCH PREVIEW: Liverpool V Spurs

Can Liverpool beat Spurs? After a string of disastrous results (bar a pretty decent draw with Chelsea) that is the big question hanging over manager Jurgen Klopp this weekend. The fact is though, the Reds have had a funny old season and despite having lost to the likes of Hull and Wolverhampton Wanderers in recent weeks, they will probably go on to beat Tottenham.

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So what do the stats say?

Well, Liverpool have amassed a total of 52 goals so far this season, that's eight more than Spurs. On the flip side, the Reds have conceded 30 goals while Tottenham have only let in 16.

The stats show what we all know to be true, Liverpool have a massive defensive issue. A back four consisting of a makeshift leftback and an alternating centre back partnership of Lovren, Klavan, Matip and even on the odd occasion Lucas Leiva creates an unfavourable situation for the Reds. 

Frustratingly, Matip and Lovren who are probably the top partnership when everyone is fit have not had many opportunities to play together so far this season. It remains to be seen whether regular game time for the both of them could ease some of the defensive woes.

Liverpool have scored 16 goals from set pieces so far this season. Positively, Spurs have only scored eight. The Reds have been extremely susceptible to set piece goals and the stats for Spurs show that this may not be a huge issue for Klopp's side. You can however guarantee that Spurs will aim to penalise on the counter attack, yet another thing Liverpool have been struggling to deal with.

Team News

For Liverpool, Dejan Lovren will be subject to a late fitness test after he missed the Hull game with a knee injury. Also a doubt is Adam Lallana who apparently has an Achilles issue.

Tottenham are unable to call upon Vertonghen who has a knee injury. Manager Pochettino is also without Danny Rose who has an ankle problem leaving a significant gap in his defense.

Previous Meetings

The last time the two sides met was in October last year in the League Cup. It was a good result for Liverpool after Daniel Sturridge found the back of the net twice. The game ended 2-1.

The previous three matches all ended in draws. A 1-1 at White Hart Lane in August saw James Milner convert a penalty. Another 1-1 this time at Anfield in April 2016 included goals from Philippe Coutinho and Harry Kane. Finally there was a 0-0 back in October 2015.

Liverpool have won five out of the last 10 meetings between the two sides in the Premier League.

Final Thought

Just one week after the disaster at Hull to me it actually feels a hell of a lot longer, hopefully it feels that way for the players too because if their focus remains on that performance, it won't be a pretty result on Saturday.

For me, despite our pitfalls this season, the Reds have always been stronger against teams like Spurs, teams that play openly and come to Anfield to attack. I am completely aware that we've been utterly terrible of late but I would not be at all surprised if we beat Spurs 2-1 or even 3-2 on Saturday. The more likely result is probably a score draw but Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp seriously need to get three points on the board to stop the rot.

Unfortunately I don't think I'm going to be able to catch the match tomorrow as I'm out all day for a mate's birthday so I'll be relying on all of you lovely Twitter folk for updates!

Enjoy the match folks, wherever you are watching!

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Wednesday, 1 February 2017

The Draw Is Not Enough

On another day in another season a 1-1 draw with Chelsea would have been a fantastic result but after 90 minutes on Tuesday evening Reds fans were left thinking "what if?" 

What if that free kick which wasn't a free kick wasn't actually given? What if we'd of beaten Swansea? What if Sadio Mane had of been around for a few extra games? 

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It's so frustrating because there was definitely improvement from Jurgen Klopp's side. A lively start to the game was quickly diminished after said free kick was awarded and David Luiz left Simon Mignolet dumbfounded. Maybe I've got a bias head on but it was never a foul to me, just a coming together. In fairness though even after the free kick was awarded there is no excuse for the way Migs was caught so off guard. 

With the visitors in the lead the remainder of the first half saw a somewhat deflated performance from Liverpool who had let that Luiz goal go straight to their heads. 

The second half was far better. It was clear we were still in this game but I once again found myself annoyed at the amount of touches being taken outside of the box. Trying to break straight through the middle just clearly wasn't going to work and it was no coincidence that when we did score on 57 minutes the goal was thanks to a cross and a header back over goal. If you put dangerous balls in like that you create dangerous chances and it just really frustrates me that we don't opt to do this more when our initial set up fails. 

The header from Gini was wonderful but credit to James Milner who also worked hard to cause the initial melee. At 1-1 it definitely began to feel like we could take all three points, that was until Diego Costa was awarded an extremely soft penalty. 

Costa is an absolute arsehole to play against, funny how he remains on his feet when it benefits him but is down like a sack of spuds if it doesn't? Thankfully Simon Mignolet was in the mood to redeem himself and made a fantastic save to deny Chelsea a second goal. 

The Reds fought but they just could not find that all important winner. It's a difficult match to round up really because as I said at the start, on a standard occasion this would have been a great result and a great performance but really, in order to have any serious hope of somehow clinching the title, it had to be a win last night. 

We can always be positive and pray that Arsenal do some damage to Conte but they lost to Watford on Tuesday evening so err... yeah... 

Next up for Liverpool is Hull away. 

P.s. If you've been under a rock and missed the transfer news Mamadou Sakho has gone to Palace on loan. 

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