The Liver Bird  

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Baggies Knock Reds Out The Cup | VAR Yes/No?

Liverpool were absolutely atrocious on Saturday evening as they were knocked out of the FA Cup by West Bromwich Albion. In a game that was overshadowed by VAR technology, the Reds had no excuses for what was a pathetic performance in defence. Alan Pardew’s side, on the other hand, were resilient and thoroughly deserved to progress to the next round.

Video Assistant Referee
Image via Sky Sports

I can’t write this post without offering my thoughts on VAR, a system which actually aided my own team during the match, for me, it’s just not worth it. For all those arguing that it will take incorrect decisions out of the game, will it? To an extent it will of course but in its place will be the poor decisions when the referee decides not to call upon VAR, even when he does utilise VAR (apparently on every occasion according to last night) that still does not ensure the correct decision will be made, it makes it more likely, but it by no means guarantees a correct outcome.

If you can’t guarantee a correct outcome anyway then is the hassle really all worth it? Is killing the momentum in a game, forcing your players to hang around sipping Lucozade for three minutes while the powers that be somewhere near Heathrow decide whether Bobby Firmino has actually got to gear up for a spot-kick actually worth it? At the moment, in its current format, I don’t think so. Add to this that the system completely takes away the joy of scoring a goal, it’s hard to get behind it, I was very much on the fence regarding VAR but after watching it create absolute farce in a Liverpool match I’ve moved further into the “no” camp for the time being.

Some argue that we should go and speak to the rugby boys, and I agree, the sooner the better but rugby is a stop-start game, football is not. I honestly feel that the only way I will come around to the idea is if it operated on a sort of hawkeye basis, three challenges per manager perhaps? This brings its own challenges too and however it’s incorporated there will always be issues but a fan of the system or not, you have to agree that last night was just preposterous.

Away from the VAR, Liverpool didn’t exactly give a lot back to the utterly confused fans at Anfield. Firmino obviously missed the VAR awarded peno but his other goal was a lovely chip. Salah found himself on the scoresheet yet again but other than that there was nothing to write home about.

A defence arguably weakened by the re-introduction of Alberto Moreno, struggled immensely to deal with the West Brom attack. It wasn’t just Moreno having issues though, Matip, van Dijk and Mignolet all had their problems and quite frankly it just isn’t good enough.

I understand that Klopp is a manager who prefers to stun with the attack, that’s fine but if you can’t get your defence to deal with the basics, you haven’t got a cat in hell’s chance of picking up any silverware. Virgil hasn’t been here long but for the price tag on his head (whether that’s his fault or not) he simply must begin to consistently command his defence and make those clearances. I can highlight at least three occasions last night where he was poorly positioned or delayed in action.

On top of this, the defence doesn’t always begin at the back four, Liverpool were pounded in the middle of the park last night and Danny Murphy on Match of the Day correctly highlighted that some of the lads just weren’t putting the work in and tracking back on Saturday night.

Then, of course, we have the bench issue, the three substitutions last night were Danny Ings, James Milner and Jordan Henderson, all three of whom can certainly “do a job” but is that really a strong enough bench for a team like Liverpool? I don’t think so. The Reds have money in the bank from the massive sale of Coutinho but it doesn’t look as though any of it will be spent in January.

Liverpool may be doing well in the league but the only glory from that run is securing a place in the Champions League, nobody is going to remember us finishing second if we follow up in the 2018/2019 season with no improvements to the side and no challenge for the title.

With Huddersfield next in the league Klopp needs to find a win to avoid what could be a very slippery slope in the second half of the season.

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Monday, 15 January 2018

No More Invincibles

Arsenal Fan TV may have had a bad weekend but at least they can thank the Reds for halting City's chances of creating another team of invincibles. Liverpool at times on Sunday afternoon looked unbeatable themselves and thankfully, despite conceding in quick succession late on, Klopp's side did what no other has done this season and beat Pep Guardiola. 

Mo Salah Manchester City Goal
Image via skysports.com
A line up that was missing Coutinho for the first time and also had no van Dijk may have struck fear into some fans' minds but I was never in doubt of this victory. Nothing would shake the thought that we could outscore them. I knew we'd concede but with the way City play, so openly, we were certain to find the net multiple times. 

And it was a cracking set of goals from our four attacking stars. 

First up was Oxlade-Chamberlain, the boss has asked him to shoot more and it paid off when he chanced a long-range effort, a great finish put Liverpool 1-0 up after just nine minutes. 

A dominant first half for the Reds was somewhat tainted when Sane found the back of the net just before half time. Some people on Twitter disagreed but for me, it was very poor from the apparent new first choice keeper Karius. To be beaten like that at his near post? But also to choose to try and save with closed fists? Bizarre. 

The second half would produce three stunning goals within a period of ten minutes for Liverpool. City were left absolutely dumbfounded but would eventually regain their footing late on. 

Firmino's goal at 59 minutes was superb. The set up was perfect but the strength he showed to face off Stones was brilliant, then the Brazilian followed up with a stunning finish. 

Next, it was Mane's turn on 61 minutes, not long before he had smashed an effort off the post but his pin perfect rising shot was no match for under pressure Ederson. 3-1.

At this point I was delirious, I knew we'd beat them I just knew it but I never expected such a mad period of play! 

At 68 minutes Salah got on the score sheet (of course he did). This time it was a rare mistake from keeper Ederson who's clearance came back out to Mo, the Egyptian took full advantage of the mistake and lobbed the keeper from long range. Awesome. 

70 minutes passed, even 80 minutes passed and Liverpool had somehow still not conceded another. In part, this was thanks to the magnificent Andy Robertson. I've always been a lover of a good defender and my god does Andy look the part, classic defending of old, just the way he stands up the attacker and times his tackles, it's lovely to watch. He had Raheem Sterling well in his pocket and clearly wound up the ex-Red, add to this the fact he literally closed down the opposition left back at one point and you're on to a winner. 

Liverpool though did concede, twice. We can never make things easy can we? Bernardo Silva netted on 84 minutes and Gundogan followed in extra time. Klopp looked furious but he can't be surprised? This is typical Liverpool but to be honest I don't really care. As long as we get those three points, I'm not arsed how we go about it this season. 

A brilliant game for the fans but also a fantastic spectacle for the neutral. Don't tell me Liverpool aren't exciting to watch. 

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Friday, 12 January 2018

Can Liverpool Stop City's Unbeaten Run?

Liverpool welcome Pep Guardiola's unbeaten Manchester City to Anfield on Sunday but can Jurgen Klopp's team be the spanner in the works? City don't exactly have the best of records at L4 and it's no secret that the Reds play better against open, attacking sides.

Nicolas Anelka penalty
Image via mancity.com
I honestly think we're going to beat them, I very often am overly optimistic in a jokey, rose-tinted manner but I genuinely think we're getting those three points this weekend. I just can't shake the feeling and I'll definitely be popping a couple of quid on a 3-2 victory. I can just picture it now, Mo Salah in the dying moments nets the winner...

Enough about what I think though, what do the previous fixtures say? Well, the last time the two sides met in September was a day to forget for Liverpool, City put five goals past the Reds without return and to make things worse, Sadio Mane was sent off.

The last fixture at Anfield in December 2016 ended more positively with a 1-0 win to the home side thanks to an early Gini Wijnaldum goal. Over the past 10 meetings between the two sides at Anfield in the league, Liverpool have won on six occasions and there have been four draws. 

In fact, to find a City win at Anfield in the league, we have to go way back to 2003. Milan Baros scored for the Reds but two penalties from Nicolas Anelka, one on the 90th minute of the game, sealed the win for the away side. This is Manchester City's only win at Anfield since 1981.

Injuries for this match mean Liverpool are still without Henderson, Clyne, Moreno and Sturridge. The latter of whom is highly linked with a move away from the club this January. For City, Vincent Kompany is still unavailable and a doubt remains over the fitness of Jesus.

Enjoy the match folks, wherever you are watching!

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Saturday, 6 January 2018

Van Dijk Knocks Everton Out The Cup

Unbelievable. That man is worth every penny of that £75 million for the header alone. Absolutely brilliant, Everton at one stage actually thought they were on for a win at Anfield...

van Dijk goal Everton
Image via The Guardian
In a Merseyside derby filled with questionable refereeing decisions, controversial incidents and eventually goals, it was Liverpool who ended the game victorious and Klopp's side progress safely to the next stage of the FA Cup.

The manager started a strong side but notably missing were Mo Salah and Philippe Coutinho, the former had just returned from receiving his African Player of the Year award in Ghana while the latter as I write this has just agreed a £142 million deal with Barcelona... sad times.

Everton, predictably started the game in true Allardyce fashion, set up to protect and try to nick something on the break. Liverpool, on the other hand, retained a lot of possession in the first half but didn't actually create anything with it until a penalty was awarded on 35 minutes.

James Milner converted the spot kick, calmly as ever, but was it even a penalty in the first place? When I first saw it I definitely felt as though we were lucky to receive the decision, it looked very soft. However, what you have to ask yourself too is, was Holgate impeding Lallana? I think he was, I think he prevented Lallana's turn to continue his run with the ball and therefore, hindered his attack illegally. Despite this, I still think Lallana went down very theatrically. With the benefit of replays and angles, I believe it was a penalty but I can see why it wouldn't have been given.

Shortly after the spot-kick, Everton's Holgate let the red mist descend and pushed Firmino with both hands over the advertising hoardings and into the crowd, for no reason whatsoever. Firmino, rightly disgruntled at the situation, ran fuming back to Holgate and clearly an exchange of words occurred. I have no idea what was said and wouldn't want to speculate but it truly baffles me that all on-air analysis and a lot of social media analysis was focused on the argument and what may or may not have been said. Not on Holgate's ridiculous act to force Firmino off the pitch.

Not long after the hour mark, Everton found themselves an equaliser, with the Reds caught completely off guard, an impressive break involving Jagielka surprisingly, allowed Sigurdsson to find the back of the net.

After a brave decision to take Wayne Rooney off (obviously they didn't want to give us the satisfaction of watching him get a red) I didn't actually think the Toffees had enough left in the tank to find a goal. A period of improved pressure from the blue shirts though was enough to get them right back into the tie. Liverpool had to find a winner from somewhere, a replay would not be helpful with the number of fixtures already played and ones coming up in Europe.

Step up Virgil van Dijk, the man from Southampton, so highly sought after for his defensive abilities and what does he do? Net the winner with a leap like no other against Everton to knock them out of the FA Cup in the 84th minute. Brilliant.

You couldn't write it as they say unless you're Danny Murphy who predicted exactly that on the BBC prior to KO. It was a solid performance from the defender and the goal was simply the icing on the cake, I still hold my reservations but if you start your career at Anfield like that, you've got to be on to a good one?!

Finally, I would like to highlight the performance of Andy Robertson. When Klopp bought him, I can't say I was massively excited but I was definitely keen to see him play, it became frustrating when Alberto Moreno continued to be selected in his place and it's a real shame in my opinion that it took an injury to the Spaniard for Robertson to get more regular game time.

People argue that Moreno had improved and deserved to keep his place but I tried the whole giving Moreno a chance a while back, I stuck by him whilst others had already given up but for me, he's just not a defender. Show me a reel of perfectly timed tackles from Moreno like the ones Robertson completed last night? On top of that, the lad has got a killer cross and is also extremely impressive on the attack. He was all over Bolasie yesterday and showed an impeccable understanding of the game, I for one can't wait to see more of him.

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