Player Focus: Daniel Sturridge

Lethal left-foot, unplayable on his day, big time finishing, natural goalscorer.

But what’s wrong with him?

We all know DS15, the best striker in our squad currently, but he seems to have fallen down the pecking order, and I could argue that it’s his insistence not to adapt, not to be a team player that, who knows, might be shipped out by Kloop sooner rather than later.

His injury record is a record in itself, let’s be fair, we shouldn’t blame him for that. However, because of his injuries over the years, he, you can say, isn’t the player alongside Luis Suarez during the 2013-2014 EPL season.

He used to have a acceleration that takes him past centre-backs easily, or even a trick or two. Nowadays he’s relying on his finishing ability alone to get a spot in the starting lineup.

When a newcomer, young striker from Ligue 1 comes in with several newspapers voting him in the worst XI, and now replaces you as the leading striker to be called upon, you know something’s wrong.

I would say it’s Sturridge insistence not to adapt to Kloop’s style or putting in a shift for the team: pressing from the front, starting that press, which is key to us getting the ball back high up the pitch (reference to Firmino doing it so regularly and efficiently).

You might also argue that Sturridge isn’t the most athletic player during his career, but I would say that goes with Lallana. We all know Lallana isn’t the fittest player, yet he’s one of Kloop’s first names on the teamsheet, because he puts in a shift, he hustles, he press, he sprints, he adapts.

And that’s all credit to Lallana himself. Sure, he might not last the full 90 minutes, and might not get the credits he deserves for the shift he puts in, but teammates, the coach and fans alike all know his importance. How many times have him won the ball high up the field?

It’s fair enough that Sturridge voices out his frustration on being played out wide, so had Milner. But Milner, again, did his part. Yes he was at fault for Spurs’ goal, but I thought he did well and improved compared to the game he played against Burnley.

Now, back to you Sturridge. It’s now or never. Adapt to become part of the team, or you might be plying your trade elsewhere.

Tottenham 1 Liverpool 1

The 1st half of the match was simply what EPL is all about. End to end football, non-stop.

Kloop might have feel it’s 2 points dropped, especially considered he outsmarted his Argentine counterpart at Spurs, with our front 3 (or 4) told to speed forward once we won the ball, exploiting the high-line of Spurs’ defence.

It could be a much different game had Coutinho scored, although it was obvious he wasn’t 100% for this match.

I doubted Kloop when I saw the lineup, with Henderson again in the holding midfield role and Wijnaldum starting yet again in a withdrawn role.

I thought Henderson did pretty well in this match, minimizing the space, he seemed to have improve his tactical positioning in defending key spaces, while he was mostly calm in possession.

Wijnaldum looked lost still I have to add, hopefully that improves with time. Lallana’s end product is still missing, as he did nothing noticeable in the final third, apart from the counter (which I thought he was onside). I do hope Kloop can work on his final balls.

Defending wise, I had to admit Kloop was right to start Matip, who was rock solid alongside Lovren, apart from the one incident (which leads to Rose scoring the equaliser where both went for the same ball).

Solid in the tackle, he kept Harry Kane quiet the whole afternoon, and almost scored a good header at the other end on a receiving corner. Hopefully it is signs for better things to come.

Spurs equaliser showed again why Milner shouldn’t be playing in the leftback role, or any other midfielder for that matter. When the long ball was played to Eric Dier, he was out of positioned, and should be forcing him wide rather than trying to win the ball when he saw the ball being played to Dier too late.

Have to mention that Mane was a beast, yet again, and Firmino did well too. Mane really looks like the real deal, giving Rose and Vertoghen a torrid afternoon.

With players like Lucas returning, Karius back in training, our squad is certainly looking better and better.

Now, back to Melwood to work things out for Kloop, and prepare for next weekend’s clash, at Anfield, against the champions Leicester City.

Starting eleven for LFC:

Mignolet, Clyne, Matip, Lovren, Milner,

Henderson, Wijnaldum, Lallana,

Mane, Coutinho, Firmino

Subs: Manninger, Grujic, Moreno, Lucas, Sturridge, Origi, Stewart.

Totteham vs Liverpool

A 5-0 win against Burton to warm up our clash at White Hart Lane against a young and energetic Spurs. Are things really getting better?

Well, it depends on how you see it.

Emre Can seems certain to miss the match with an ankle injury, with Origi and Coutinho doubtful as well.

Which, again, leaves us short of quality in midfield.

I do hope that Grujic is selected to start, since he’s nowhere to be seen for the matchday squad against Burton. And same with Kevin Stewart as well. The young lad, a natural defensive midfielder, should be perfect as the anchorman, to free Henderson to roam box-to-box.

Lucas might be also available, however I believe that he would be fit enough for the bench, and certainly a good option to call up in the dying minutes to preserve a lead (hopefully).

My guess is Sturridge getting the nod to start up front centrally despite the fact that he voiced out his opinion on being played on the right wing, and we all know Kloop right? Mane is certain to start as well (who can leave him out of the starting eleven?), leaving the left flank to either Lallana, Firmino or WIjnaldum.

Reason why I don’t put Wijnaldum, starting in the deeper midfield slot I have explained in my previous article, he’s no tactical positioning and awareness (especially defensively).

Likelyhood Kloop will start with Firmino on the left, and Lallana might just start deeper as a No.10/No.8 role in midfield in place or Grujic?

Defence wise, apart from left-back, it picks itself, although I feel Klavan’s experience will be vital against Spurs, Matip is still very young and raw, but his ability to contribute at set-pieces at both ends might put him ahead to start alongside Lovren.

Who to start at left-back, Milner or Moreno? I shall not be drawn into the discussion. Either way it will be too much to talk about.

 

Burton vs Liverpool

Finally a mid-week game, and one that I really look forward to.

It’s never a good feeling losing to Burnley, but Kloop’s side can raise the moods for those LFC fans worldwide with a solid win in the League Cup/Cola-Cola cup/Mickey Mouse Cup, or whatever cup you wish to call it.

It is expected a host of changes would be made, and I am sure many would use it to stake a claim in the starting eleven with a point to prove.

Alexandra-Trend-Arnold (a.k.a ATA) is one young lad I who love to see starting, likely at right back, alongside summer signing Matip. I expect Lovren to partner him if Lucas isn’t deemed fit to start. Moreno/Milner at left-back, because no one else can play there.

In midfield is where it gets a little more interesting.

Kevin Stewart impressed me in pre-season, with him aiming his tackles perfectly, and when he wins the ball back, he lay it off to a forward player, rather than playing the safe option going back to a defender or square to his midfield partner.

He did play a few good through balls against Barcelona if my memory didn’t fail me, and I think it is one trait that Kloop has worked with him during the pre-season.

Grujic should start to gain much needed match fitness, I have very high hopes for him, potential wise as good as Gerrard I would say.

Can might start as well, so it might be Stewart and Can holding with Grujic having the license to push forward.

On the wings, I do hope Markovic gets the chance to prove his worth, he seems to drop out of favour with Kloop as the pre-season progresses.

Wijnaldum could start on the other flank, or even Origi or Ings. I do hope both the strikers start though, especially Ings as he missed a hell lot of football last season, and would love to see him regain that confidence.

The only player who I think shouldn’t be starting is Wisdom, he was so poor against Mainz and looked out of depth. Expect Kloop to ship him out soon if there are suitors around. But as usual, I may not be right always.

Let me know your thoughts below.

 

Burnley 2 Liverpool 0

Same old story? Exactly.

So what’s the root of the problem then?

  1. Wijnaldum is a weak link

No tactical positioning for a midfielder. There’s reasons why even with 10 goals last season, Newcastle fans doesn’t rate him. It’s the same reason why Rafa played him further up front as a wide man or No.10 where he has the license to roam, because his awareness in midfield is poor, and doesn’t know where to go and be without the ball. And Kloop might be starting him because Can and Grujic are not match-fit yet.

2. Scrambling to media/fans pressure

Milner started ahead of Moreno for a match whereby you know the opposition will sit back deep in their own half, where you know full-backs will be needed to provide the width, to spread the play wider, to open up the pitch so that the forwards have more space to play their game. Hmm… You judge own your own.

3. Front 4 don’t have a clear idea of their roles

Firmino, Coutinho, Lallana and Sturridge. Who’s the No.9? Who’s covering the right and left flank when we don’t have the ball? Of course we all know that Kloop likes his front man to have the freedom to roam, to press etc. But Sturridge wasn’t doing his job defensively, Coutinho too (2 matches in a row), and Firmino doesn’t know if he should be running the channels, or dropping deep to look for that killer pass.

What’s next for Kloop and Liverpool then?

  1. Grujic and/or Can starting ahead of Wijnaldum in the CM role.

Both provide different qualities, but they are both seasoned central midfielders, they know where to be, whose runs to track, when to attack and when to defend. That’s what Wijnaldum lacks. Wijnaldum should be starting as a No.10 or wide man to get the best out of his ability.

Hopefully, Can would be deemed fit-enough to start next weekend, I would love to see a Can, Henderson and Grujic midfield trio. I believe it is one that is balanced and perfect for us. Can as a holding anchorman, Hendo and Grujic as box-to-box, with Grujic able to get into the final third to join attacks more often. He can score goals, and if given license to run late into opposition’s box, can score a good header as well. Not to mention, he isn’t shy about using his left leg to crack a long range goal.

2. Know when to start Milner, and when to start Moreno

In games where you know the opposition will sit back, Moreno’s attacking prowess will be needed more than Milner’s adaptability. Sounds simple enough.

3. Origi/Firmino over Sturridge

Controversial I must say. But my patience with Sturridge is getting near zero. He as top notch finishing ability, but is never a team player. Decision making is really poor as well. And not to mention he can only play 25% of the time. (He has only started 1/4 of all LFC games since he joined us)

His injuries meant he lost that pace he used to have, and isn’t willing to test a centre-back’s pace one-on-one where he used to do so often. Insistence and dependence of his left leg to fire a shot. All top goalscorers know when to use their weaker foot when given the opportunity. Look at Aguero, Costa, etc. They know when to use their left leg to strike goals. Not to mention Sturridge can’t hold a ball up, like seriously, after so many years playing in EPL. He’s poor at that. Origi took 1 season in EPL to learn that. He can now do it so much better, and gives midfielders time to catch up with the play, to make runs, to relieve pressure for the team in the dying minutes.

Firmino is needed when you face teams that are vulnerable to intricate movement, off the ball diagonal runs to create space for team-mates, and to confuse a well-organised back four. You saw the likes of Arsenal and Man City unable to cope with our front four last season with Firmino leading the line.

4. GET A DEFENSIVE COACH

IE:JAMIE CARRAGHER. I have no idea how many times I have said it. Since I started supporting Liverpool I guess. We really have no idea how to defend properly. High balls, balls from wide areas, set-pieces whatever. Can’t emphasize the importance of this point.

5. Get a Plan B

Kloop’s teams doesn’t have a plan B, lets just face it. Because not many teams know how to handle their plan A.

If pressing doesn’t work, then what? Maybe we can throw on Balotelli. And play with Markovic and Milner/Mane as genuine wingers. So no Coutinho/Lallana and Firmino on the pitch. Just 2 box-to-box midfielders Can/Henderson/Grujic, 2 wingers and 2 forwards. Good old style soccer maybe. The current England manager will certainly agree. And it works.

Burnley vs Liverpool

Tired of waiting for the weekends. 6 or 7 days before Liverpool is playing again.

What to expect then?

Of course, the main issue now is, who starts at left-back.

After Moreno’s horrendous performance against Arsenal, it is quite certain that Kloop will start Milner, if he’s deemed fit for the match.

I honestly think Kloop isn’t the man to blame for our left-back woes. He’s tried going for Hector and Chiwell, only to be demanded by their clubs to bid for higher price. I think this is because of FSG’s policy of keeping our net spending low, which is why Kloop is trying his best to get rid of deadwood at the club, including Beneteke, Balotelli and maybe even Markovic.

It is thought that he has to sell to raise funds to purchase a left-back, but now with Hector signing a new contract, and Leicester demanding 20million for a young unproven English Ben Chiwell, I highly doubt Kloop can find another decent one out in the market. We shall see though.

Of course, the biggest news is that Mane had a shoulder injury, which is likely to keep him out Burnley’s clash. It would be interesting to see who Kloop choose to replace him though, he can either put Lallana up on the right flank with Can/Hendo and Wijnaldum in CM, or put Wijnaldum on right flank.

I fancy him to start with Firmino up front again, but wouldn’t be surprised if Origi started to hold up play and run the channels more often, which would be a good option to have against a side that’s typically going to sit deep on their own path.

That would allow the likes of Coutinho Lallana and Wijnaldum to have more space in the final third to cause havoc.

This is the kind of matches that we ought to win to challenge for top-4, against ‘beatable’ teams, but it would definitely take some magic to unlock defences like this.

An early goal would definitely open the game up for us.

Predicted starting line-up: Mignolet, Clyne, Lovren, Klavan, Milner, Can, Henderson, Coutinho, Lallana, Wijnaldum, Origi.

Share your thoughts with me below. Cheers!

Player Focus: Simon Mignolet

Horrible keeper, aura of panic, poor one-on-one, erratic, and the list goes on.

What we expect from a top class goalkeeper – commanding, BRAVE, confident, organisational, composed.

So, what is exactly wrong with our Belgian goalkeeper.

He’s not a bad GK, let’s admit it. There are times where he rescued us – big saves, including fingertip ones, penalty saves, and the occasional  one-on-one brilliance.

Honestly, he’s a good shot stopper. In fact, I think his reflexes are up there with the rest of the top GK in EPL. He improved on his ability to clear balls from wide areas, especially high balls, either by catching or punching them away, although, like any other human being, he would misjudge one or two once in a while.

The main problem with Mignolet, is bravery, or a lack of bravery. I am definitely not saying he’s a coward, because cowards can’t play goalkeepers, and certainly can never make it to the top level. When we talk about a top GK, bravery is always up there as one of the highest trait that one has.

Why? Simply because 99% of the time, if a GK goes for a ball knowing he will collide with an opposing player or even his own player, he and his team will get the foul, and more importantly, relieve the pressure on his defenders. Such sacrifice is selfless, and taking one for the team.

These decisions whether to go for the ball or not had to be made by the goalkeepers in split-second, almost like an instincts reaction, and any minor thought of backing out midway will show, and affect his team of defenders.

Unfortunately for Mignolet, his weaknesses are both of them. He is not the bravest keeper out there, and sometimes when he goes for the ball, he’s hesitant, or he backs out of the challenge midway if he doesn’t think he gonna be able to get the ball cleanly.

This, in turn, makes defenders playing in front of him, especially with the likes on Lovren and Moreno who had played with him for a couple of years, emit uncertainty around and onto them.

I guess it is not easy and rather impossible to coach or teach players to react in split second, because it is more of an instinct reaction, which I think is hard to change. Maybe that is one of the reasons why some goalkeepers are deemed solid, but never reach being a top-class quality.

And of course, is it even possible to coach players to be brave? Mental attributes are the hardest to coach, that’s for sure.

So maybe, just maybe, Mignolet might never be a top class goalkeeper because of his mental attributes, but definitely good enough to be a solid goalkeeper for a mid-table team.

Let me know what you think about goalkeepers and Simon Mignolet, and share your thoughts with me below. Cheers!

Arsenal 3 Liverpool 4

1 missed penalty, 7 goals, utter nonsensical defending, end-to-end football. That marks the return of EPL.

4 goals against a top-4 rival team, 3 points in the bag, dominating performance away from home win, sounds perfect eh? Not quite.

Had Walcott not missed the penalty (No idea why he’s chosen to take it in the first place), or rather, Mignolet not saving his penalty, we might be slamming Kloop for playing Henderson in the DM role, Wijnaldum starting, Firmino being useless etc.

It began with a pretty life-less 1st half from Liverpool, with Arsenal having most of the chances. Wenger saw a weakness in our left flank, and with a better game plan and more specific tactical instructions, the game could be over for us by half-time.

The thought of just typing his name makes my blood boil. Alberto Moreno. Barely a minute earlier, he took out Walcott’s legs in the penalty area, which Mignolet saved. Wake up call? Not quite.

Next minute, he thought he’s a left winger, left a big space in his area, and Walcott punished him(or us rather) dearly.

I just hope his performance gives Kloop some thinking to do, to get a defender, to get a left-back who, makes knows how to defend. That’s a job of a defender.

Coutinho’s unwillingness to track back playing on the left flank left gaps for Bellerin and Ramsey to exploit, and with Wijnaldum looking lost and nowhere to be found, it was sure, a damn frustrating 45 minutes to watch for me.

Then just before half-time, Coutinho, out of nowhere, delivered. I have to say that wasn’t expected. Even Gerrard would have been proud of that free-kick goal. Perfect placement.

Kloop might have given a half-time wake up call for the Reds, with them coming out of the blocks pressing further up the pitch, stringing up passes in the final third (finally), doing what we do best and what we are capable of, scoring goals.

And of course, our little magician was the main man again. A deft touch, a run to the new post for a cool finish, and making the team tick in the final third. Pity he couldn’t get his hat-trick and was forced off with an injury.

And Sadio Mane. What a player. His goal just sums up why Kloop wanted him. Done.

The heavy metal football seems to surprised Arsenal, who couldn’t cope at all, and ended up chasing shadows for a good 15-20 minutes.

And the stats showed too. 117.6km covered over 90 minutes, the most by any EPL team since camera tracking was introduced. Not too shabby for the 1st game of the season eh?

3 points is 3 points I suppose. Back to the training ground for Kloop, and maybe a few more last minute arrivals coming?

LFC line-up: Mignolet, Clyne, Lovren, Klavan, Moreno, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Lallana, Mane, Coutinho, Firmino.

Subs: Manninger, Can, Origi, Matip, Stewart, Grujic, ALEXANDER-ARNOLD #LFC #YNWA

Let me know your thought in the comments below. Cheers!

Getting Ready for EPL 2016/2017 season

 

 

It’s been a long break from soccer, let’s face it. Horrible Euro 2016 tournament (apart from Iceland doing a ‘close-to’ Leicester, transfer rumors here, there and everywhere, with ridiculous money spent by clubs for over-rated players.

With a little less than 24 hours to KO at Emirates for Liverpool’s first game of the season, I am so glad we can focus on soccer. Proper soccer.

Arsenal facing a defensive crisis while Liverpool lamenting not (yet?) signing a left-back, or even a proper defensive midfielder.

So, what to expect then?

I fancy Liverpool to beat Arsenal, but much would depends on how our defence performs. Namely, Moreno and Mignolet.

It is quite clear that Mignolet(not Mongolia as my mate loves to pronounce as) will start due to an injury to new signing Karius. Pity though, I would love to see how the new man cope with the pressure, making his debut away against a rival team.

Kloop seems certain that he can get the best out of Moreno, which means improving his tactical discipline, positioning, decision making (especially when we are without the ball) and learning how to defend properly.

With Coutinho most likely to be starting on the left-flank cutting inside ahead of him, Arsenal would definitely try to exploit our left flank. The thought of Sanchez, the Ox, and Ramsey would rampaging down our left flank isn’t that promising.

Klavan is likely to start alongside Lovren due to his experience and leadership quality. Matip seems a little too raw for me, not to mention he needs some work in the gym and he’s still very young and inexperienced for a defender.

In midfield, Emre Can should be destined to play in the deeper midfield role alongside Henderson, which will be key to pressing the Arsenal midfielders for the ball in their own half. I would be surprised to see Lallana playing alongside both of them, albeit with the freedom to roam further up the pitch in the final third.

There’s only 2 options for the front three, as Mane and Coutinho will be starting, which leaves the No.9 role either for Origi or Firmino. It is highly unlikely Kloop will hand Sturridge a spot in the starting eleven given how he insisted Sturridge to complete a consecutive set of training sessions before getting the nod to play. Ings isn’t ready yet as well after his ACL tear last season.

Personally I would prefer Origi starting up front to stretch the Arsenal’s defence a little bit more, his diagonal runs down either side of the channels can leave room for the likes of Coutinho Mane and Lallana to thrift in. However, I think Kloop with go for Firmino, having worked with him for the whole of pre-season, which leaves him a favorite to start. Origi might be useful impact sub off the bench if needed.

Predicted starting XI: Mignolet, Clyne, Lovren, Klavan, Moreno, Can, Henderson, Lallana, Coutinho, Mane, Firmino.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments. Cheers!