Tag Archives: Season so far

Season so far – Part Three; Liverpool, Man City, Man Utd, Portsmouth, Stoke

Liverpool 

The start of Liverpool’s season has been the most talked of. Questions concerning the defence, midfield and the attack have yet to be properly answered and Rafa Benitez has come under criticism for the poor start in the league and Europe.

 

But where has it all gone wrong? At the beginning of the season Liverpool were many people’s tip for the title; continuing the good form shown at the back of last season into this. Firstly it is important to recognise where the title was lost last season. The home draws against West Ham, Hull, Stoke and Fulham were the reason cited for Liverpool failing to win the league. Converting two of those into wins would have given enough points to be level with Man Utd.

 

This season Liverpool has beaten Stoke and Hull at Anfield, thereby rectifying the mistakes of last year. At this point it is worth noting that the draws come with Alonso in the team and the wins this season obviously did not.

 

However, this season there have been defeats to Fulham, Sunderland, Aston Villa, Spurs and Chelsea. Against Villa, Sunderland and Chelsea Liverpool did not take their chances; against Fulham Liverpool had plenty of possession but did not create enough. The Spurs game was a poor performance and a justified defeat.

 

The argument that Liverpool needs Gerrard and Torres is justified to an extent. The remainder of the attacking players could not command a place in most teams first XI. Kuyt is an average right winger; Benayoun is tricky but wasteful and can try too hard in certain situations, Riera likewise. The third man in the Gerrard, Torres triumvirate, Aquilani, has been injured so judgement cannot be passed. However, Benitez’s wisdom needs to be questioned – was spending 20m on an injury prone player (who was injured at the time) a good idea?

 

Defensively the team is at sea. The players seem to have no confidence in each other and are almost waiting for one of them to make an individual mistake. Furthermore, it is very difficult to join a back four that defend zonally from set pieces. This is found out when Arbelloa replaced Finnan, goals from corners were being leaked with regularity. Johnson and Insua joining Carragher and either Skrtel or Agger has not helped. Particularly Insua who is looking a worse player as each week goes by. For a 20 year old he looks far too slow.

 

The answer is not to sack Benitez. However, he should not be allowed to purchase players. Mourinho said during this time at Chelsea that he wanted a squad of 25; three goalkeepers and two players in every other position. Liverpool have three left backs, three right backs, four central defenders, four central midfielders (I don’t include Spearing), four wide players and three strikers. The lack of quality in some of those positions is the reason Liverpool did not convert the defeats this season into positive results.

 

Manchester City

 

A good start to the season which has tailed away after the succession of draws. City certainly has the quality to challenge for the league and the Champions League places. Alan Hansen explained the difficulty City have right now is the defence. It’d be too easy to pick on Bridge after what we saw on MOTD.

 

I feel that City need to play with more strength in the middle of midfield. Currently the side is playing an orthodox 4-4-2 which I don’t think affords enough protection to Lescott and Toure; particularly if either full back goes on a run up field. Playing a Christmas tree or 4-5-1 and having De Jong, Barry and Ireland in the middle would give more balance to the side. This unfortunately means dropping Wright-Phillips but giving Bellemy and Tevez the license to roam behind Adeybor will cause enough problems to any defence so the attacking potency will not be lacking.

 

Manchester Utd

 

I might be speaking too soon, given the very important match coming up, but this is how I am viewing the season so far. It has been a good start, minor blips against Liverpool, Burnley and CSKA but nothing aside from that.

 

However, a theme of Utd’s season has been the late goals scored, most notably against Man City and Sunderland. This points to the fact that Man Utd need late goals to secure or rescue results. Neither the defence nor the attack has been firing on all cylinders but yet both have been at full strength, player-wise.

 

The reason for the success so far has been Rooney’s form. He has been far and away the best player. Only Berbatov looks like coming close to matching Rooney for the quality he brings to the side. Unfortunately for Utd Rooney is a form player, when on form he scores goals for fun but they a tendency to dry up in patches. The success of the season depends on keeping Rooney fit and others filling his boots when he is not scoring as freely as he could.

 

In January there has been a lot of talk of Villa or Silva and I think at least one needs to be purchased in order to remain on course to challenge.

 

Portsmouth

 

I still maintain that this is what needs to happen on the pitch in order to fix Pompey this season https://thoughtsonfootball.wordpress.com/2009/09/28/portsmouth-fixed/

 

However, off the pitch needs as much attention. Players need to be assured that they are at a club for the foreseeable future and that they will only leave if their performances are so good someone buys them or so bad Pompey sell them.

 

Survival is paramount for the future of the club and Hull’s victory against Stoke will not help Pompey.

 

Stoke

 

Tony Pullis deserves so much credit for what he has done at Stoke. He has developed a squad which has enough quality in each position. There is nothing I would change if given the chance.

 

One potential addition in January which could start the side nicking a few more goals could be a true goal poacher. At the Brittania Stoke are going to have more of the ball than they did last season. Having someone like Michael Owen (obviously not actually Michael Owen) in the side could open up defences which come to Stoke and sit in for a draw.

 

Actual names to consider could be Chopra from Cardiff (if they need to sell) or Leeds’ Jermaine Beckford.

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Season so far – Part Two; Burnley, Chelsea, Everton, Fulham and Hull

Burnley

 

At the start of the season if you would have said to Owen Coyle or any Burnley fan that the club would be 11th after ten games they would have bitten your hand off.

 

The home defeat to Wigan would have caused some concern for Coyle but I’m sure that it will serve to galvanise them for the next home game. I think that the danger for Burnley and the reason why I think they’ll struggle this year is due to depth of squad. This is not necessarily due to not having enough quality but rather a lack of experience. Also, it has to be questioned how long Graham Alexander will be able to survive into a Premier League campaign. He is a leader in the team and hugely experienced. Unfortunately he is 38 and it is difficult to play 80% of games at the intensity of the Premier League.

 

In January I think Coyle needs to get someone with experience of a Premier League relegation fight in the team. Someone along the lines of Robbie Savage would be the right type of player. Obviously not Savage himself as I don’t think the Blackburn connection will help, but someone of his ilk.

 

P.S. The Beast is looking to be a liability

 

Chelsea

 

They look by far and away the strongest contenders for the title; very fluid in midfield and attack and lots of options.

 

Two things will stop Chelsea from winning the league. One is the African Cup of Nations, particularly if they can’t buy players as a result of Kakuta. However, which player would want to go to Chelsea knowing that if the transfer bans happens then they will not be sold under any circumstances. For example, David Villa moves to Chelsea in January. They lose their appeal at CAS and the transfer bans kicks in, running until summer 2011. Villa finds life in the Premier League or England difficult and wants to go home. Chelsea can sell but can’t buy a replacement; would they sell?

 

The other factor is the appalling defending continues. Chelsea may be able to score at least two against most teams but two decent set pieces from the opposition will see a draw come out. The trouble with the defending is that it is not a problem which is easily fixable. Chelsea’s defenders are not kids and it will be tough to teach them how to defend set pieces. I would think that Carvalho has to be dropped once Alex is back up and running.

 

Everton

 

A stop start season so far with a lot more stops than starts. Everton started quite badly last season as well but had picked it up by now. All Everton fans will cite the Phil Neville tackle at Manchester Utd and the catalyst.

 

Everton are playing with a few new players which always disrupts a team which is built on organisation. The squad is strong, well balanced and I think it is a matter of time before results start coming their way. Questioning what has gone wrong is difficult as it is not just one big problem but lots of minor problems.

 

Clean sheets should be the priority for the next couple of games and ensuring that Phil Neville is replaced adequately. I would play Moyles favourite 4-5-1 for the next couple of games and resist the temptation to play two of three good strikers available. This should grind out some results and but Everton back on track.

 

Fulham

 

I have written about my thoughts on Fulham’s season overall (see previous post) and I have to say that so far the start has gone contrary to my expectations.

 

The goals have been following from a number of different areas of the pitch and the defence, whilst not watertight, is holding its own.

 

My concern, alongside those mentioned in the earlier post, is that the goals being scored are not ‘standard’ goals. By that I mean that not enough goals are being scored in a calculated way, most are being scored from distance, after ricochets in the penalty box or an opponents mistake. Contrast that with Chelsea’s goals, most come from a predicable move. That type of goal dries up a lot quicker than others and when they do I see Fulham starting to falter.     

 

Hull

 

Words cannot describe the trouble Hull are in. To all Hull fans…be thankful Portsmouth exist so that at least you have someone to mock.

 

In January Hull need to sell players and prepare for the Championship. Don’t start to think you’ll get out of this mess and spend even SOME money. How Phil Brown is still in a job is beyond my comprehension.

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