Liverpool, Awoken from a Dream into a Dream

May 8, 2014 — by Rob Kirby


On the eve of the final weekend of the 2013/2014 Premier League season, we’d like to thank Bryan Belyea, heart-on-sleeve Liverpool supporter, for breaking it down and sharing his thoughts on the heels of Liverpool’s crushing draw with Crystal Palace on Monday night, when the fairytale title challenge may have faltered at the last.

What to make of Monday night? Pain, disappointment, nausea.

Having time to reflect I pondered why does this hurt so bad?

Who likes being slapped in the face whilst in the midst of a beautiful dream?  Being slapped by reality. The reality we all knew was lingering over our heads amidst this improbable title run. The reality that a team that panics in defense the way we do under pressure has no business making a title run. Yet our beautiful dream went on for so long that we thought it was becoming reality. That despite our fatal flaws we were going to make the impossible possible. We were going to shirk all the doubt and give those that have suffered so much for 25 years a little joy. Our captain was going to get the last feather in his cap that he so richly deserved after years of spilling his blood and guts for the team. A city beaten by economic turmoil was once again going to be home of the league champions.

The loss to Chelsea made us feel desperate. desperate to make the dream come true. Cruising along up 3-0 to Palace we persisted with the urgency of that desperation. The desperation created naivety. Naivety to our fatal flaw. That if left exposed our defense could be cut to shreds.And so it happened.. Palace made it 3-1. But we were still desperate. Desperate to overturn a large goal differential in the title race. So we pressed on with our naive urgency, forgetting about the critical 3 points we needed. Then it happened again… so quickly… 3-2. Now we finally realized what broth we were conjuring… the points were in danger now. But now our flaw was there once again for all to see… a defense shaken… was now shaking. Under pressure like this all season our defense has panicked. Panic begets mistakes. Mistakes provide the unavoidable. 3-3. The blood drained from the supporters in a collective flash flood. Silence. Confusion. That lost feeling of being slapped awake while in the midst of the most beautiful dream.

Now what? We are awake in reality now. Sobering reality. But as the pain subsides and the brain can start making sense of it all we still find ourselves in a place that is amazing given where we started from. If I told you in August that we would be where we are you would have told me that I was dreaming. The best we could hope for was a valiant run at 4th and if we finished 5th with good effort it would be the growth we needed. Yet here we are. Awake in a dream still. A dream that has become reality. The dream that would see Liverpool once again vying for titles. Qualifying for Europe’s most prestigious competition. No playing to get in. Direct qualification for the group stages of the Champions league. European nights at Anfield on the horizon. Money to spend on the 1st team for the summer. Transfer targets being drawn to beautiful attacking football and European competition. And lastly… still hope. Still a chance… a chance at the title. Could Agbonlahor or Carroll become legends to us? Could they now make our biggest dream a reality?!  Who knows? Anything is possible this season. A season in which we have been awoken from a dream into a dream.

No matter what… We HAVE dreams and songs to sing. Of the glory, round the fields of Anfield Road.

CommentaryEnglandWorld Cup

Suárez Scores Goals, Rocks Boats, Alienates People—–Breaking News

December 6, 2013 — by Rob Kirby


Liverpool striker Luis Suárez is in amazing form, the kind of form that makes a Big Red fan forget about the summer past. That whole lark about the Uruguayan wanting to leave the club, doing anything to leave the club, saying he had a verbal agreement with the club that he could leave, and then the manager Brendan Rodgers essentially called him a liar. None of this matters now at LFC, because he’s in the form of his life, leading the goal charts in England despite missing the first six matches of the season by dint of violent conduct (with his teeth).

Suárez’s run has displayed the sort of impeccable form you can’t help but admire, possibly with jealousy, as an opposition fan, though it doesn’t remotely trigger the Red Liverpuddlian amnesia regarding his back-to-back biting incidents at Ajax and Liverpool. Nor his alleged punch on a Chilean defender in World Cup qualifiers, unseen by the ref at the time, left to slide afterwards. The deliberate handball to block an extra-time inbound header, denying Ghana a goal and ultimately (with a missed penalty) passage to the next round of the 2010 World Cup. And lastly, the man who said that what he said to Patrice Evra wasn’t racist in Uruguay but, upon learning the English connotation of “negro” (Spanish pronunciation), still decided to blank Evra in the next Liverpool-United handshake. He intentionally dumped fuel on the fire in now-full knowledge, he refused to back down despite the fact that both club and manager ordered him to shake Evra’s hand.

Anyhow, just watching the 90 minutes in the midweek match against Norwich, 4 goals and an assist for the fifth, the first and third goals of the most insanely incredible quality, leaves you convinced. Luis Suárez has undoubtedly ripped the mantle of best striker in the league from whomever held it last (Robin van Persie has a hurt shoulder socket in addition to his ongoing groin and/or toe problem). He receives nothing like the service of Agüero, but it doesn’t matter. He ultimately scores when he wants. Despite missing the first six matches of the season through suspension, he’s the league’s high scorer, at 13. He’s scored more goals than games played.

Liverpool fans see his work rate, his final product, their place in the table, and assorted clips of him as warm and fuzzy with his young family and generally think, serenity now, summer water under the bridge. And Suárez does give a hundred percent in everything for the team. He’s just not necessarily as tied up in what that team is at the moment. The Suárez agitation in the press was first portrayed as possibly mistranslated words to the Uruguayan press. That is, until he gave an interview with the Guardian officially announcing a desire to move and a supposed reneging on a verbal promise with Brendan Rodgers and the management. Brendan Rodgers outright denied the claim, declaring Suárez would have to apologize to the team and the manager about what was presumably a bald-faced lie.

All this, of course, transpired through not only an interminable summer with bizarre £40,000,001 bids but also during his 10-game ban for unprovokedly and inexplicably biting Branislav Ivanović in the late Spring matchup against Chelsea. Which followed a November 2010 chomp on a PSV player while at Ajax. Ajax promptly sold Suárez–he had, after all, come to them after a highly-public, acrimonious departure from his former club Groningen, whom he took to an arbitration court but against whom he lost as the court found against him. Everyone recognized a genius with a trouble streak. And with the genius came the occasional Mike Tyson special.

If Suárez gets a pass for a different original cultural connotation to what began the furor with Evra/FA racism charge, he can’t claim that for directly countermanding the orders to club and manger to shake Evra’s hand–a question of interminable interest to the prematch proceedings. He served his eight-game suspension, he coughed up an £40,000 fine, but he chose not to shake Evra’s hand, despite now knowing the public opinion, which ranks as insubordinate, if nothing else. It smacks of acting bigger than the club, something Liverpool fans perennially claim the club will never tolerate, despite all present evidence to the contrary. Yet, as with Stoke and the fans’ continual booing of Ramsey for appallingly forcing Shawcross to act recklessly, break Ramsey’s leg and sideline Ramsey for over a year, club loyalty can cloud the vision, especially with regard to a far-and-away star player like Suárez. The man literally creates goals out of nothing. Who doesn’t love a magician?

Suárez and his goalie’s instincts helped Uruguay claim 4th at the 2010 World Cup. (He later said of the goalmouth handball, “I made the save of the tournament.”) After steering Uruguay to its 15th Copa América in 2011, he won player of the tournament. He’s Uruguay’s all time highest scorer and leads the Barclay’s/English Premier League in goals with 13, despite having missed the opening 6 matches thanks to his summer-spanning biting ban. Uruguay go the the 2014 World Cup in Brazil on his shoulders, and Liverpool’s top-four ambitions rely on him just as pivotally.

As a serial disciplinary case and goal muncher, however, he has no compare. But unlike John Terry, he’s not sleeping with wives and girlfriends of best friends/teammates. So, there’s always that. And he scores more goals, slips less hilariously, has a better pistolero goal celebration.

He’s a great player who acts periodically violent/dirty towards opposition players and has an on-again, off-again relationship with his club. He will almost undoubtedly turn on Liverpool again at some point. If and when that happens, we’ll see how everyone feels about the man who currently divides so much opinion. Liverpool fans may then remember a couple things that bugged them at the time, something naggingly disloyal, perhaps, which at present they can’t quite put their fingers on.


What to Watch This Weekend, Part 1: FA Cup Final, Atlético Madrid vs Málaga, El derbi barceloní

May 5, 2012 — by Suman2


A few picks for today, Saturday May 5:

FA Cup Final: Liverpool vs Chelsea (12:15pmET, FSC & Fox Deportes): Two teams that have been underwhelming in the league but surprisingly successful in cup competitions.  Liverpool has already won the League Cup, while this is the 1st of two cup finals Chelsea will be competing for this month.

As outlined in this Telegraph column, these two clubs developed a heated rivalry over the past decade, playing in each other a remarkable 39 number times in the aughts:

One club was a product of its time, the other traversing a long road of redemption towards former glories.

Chelsea had Abramovich’s millions and the charismatic and calculating Jose Mourinho. Liverpool the tactical nous and organisational skills of Rafael Benitez that had been missing under the admittedly exciting stewardships of Gerard Houllier and Roy Evans.

Liverpool had capital-h History. Chelsea were rich upstarts. The pair were never likely to get along.

Their rivalry was ignited by ignited by Luis Garcia’s phantom goal at Anfield in 2005 [pictured above] which sealed qualification for the Champions League final. Jose Mourinho is still whingeing about it.

La Liga, Atlético Madrid vs Málaga (3pmET, Málaga sits in the crucial 4th place in the league, which would lead to Champions League qualification.  That is one of primary goals of the ambitious–although so far somewhat rockyQatari-funded Málaga project.  They’ve spent a fair amount of petro-euros on transfer fees over the past couple years–most prominently the €19m they spent last summer to lure Spanish international midfielder Santi Cazorla away from Villareal–“the crowning moment in Málaga’s transformation” Sid Lowe wrote at the time.  Other Málaga players who’ve caught our eye: Venezuelan striker Jose Rondón, attack-minded Portuguese fullback Eliseu, and two young attacking players in Argentine Diego Buonanotte and Spaniard Francisco Román Alarcón, aka Isco. The former is a 24-year-old who starred for River Plate as a teenager, before he barely survived in a horrific car crash 3 years ago–see FiveInMidfield’s account.  Isco, who just celebrated his 20th birthday a couple weeks ago, was born in Benalmádena, just outside Málaga, but came up through Valencia’s youth system.  He made just four La Liga appearances for Valencia last season before Málaga paid €6m last summer.

Atlético–who will be travelling to Bucharest this coming week to take on Athletic Bilbao in the Europa League final on Wednesday–still have an outside chance of catching up with Málaga.  Los Colchoneros (“The Mattress Makers“) sit in 6th place, 5 points behind Málaga (with Levante in between in 5th place).  The player to watch on Atlético is without a doubt Colombian striker Falcao, who has ably replaced Kun Aguero. One of Atlético’s challenges this summer will be to keep richer clubs from luring him away after just a year in Madrid.  Falcao also starred for River Plate–he played for the Argentine giants from 2001-2009, including under current Atlético Madrid manager’s Diego Simeone‘s stint as manager there in 2008.

La Liga, Barcelona vs Espanyol (3pmET, The Derbi barceloní, and Pep Guardiola’s last match at the Camp Nou. Espanyol held Barcelona to a draw on their ground in January, after which Sid Lowe wrote:

Created as a conscious rejection of Barcelona – not, as is often assumed, of Barça’s Catalanism but of their foreignness, founded by Hans Gamper, who was Swiss, and full of British ex-pats – Espanyol’s identity has shifted over the past century. So, even, has their name. From the consciously Spanish club they became, rejecting the growing identification of Barcelona with Catalanism, to their recent reinvention, staking their own claim to being Catalan, there has been a constant: they don’t like Barça. Just as Barcelona’s narrative evokes their status as a kind of resistance to the state, so now does Espanyol’s – only this time the “state” is the Catalan one. Barcelona is more than a club; so too, as the banner at Cornellá pointedly put it on Sunday night, “is Catalunya”.

We took a look at Espanyol’s youthful talent in a previous what-to-watch feature, here.


What to Watch This Weekend (Aug 20-21)

August 19, 2011 — by Suman

It was shaping up to be a packed weekend, with some interesting EPL matchups and the start of the La Liga season in Spain.  But alas, Spanish football is still in shambles, with the players on strike over unpaid wages.  Hopefully that will be resolved over the coming week so that we’ll see those interesting fixtures next weekend.  In the meantime, let’s take a look at the EPL games that we’ll be watching–along with the FIFA U20 World Cup final:

Saturday, August 20

EPL, Sunderland-Newcastle (7amET, An early kickoff for this edition of the Tyne-Wear derby.  Last year this fixture resulted in a Sunderland suffering an embarrassing 5-1 thrashing–though Kevin Nolan scored 3 of those goals, and Andy Carroll was on the pitch for Newcastle as well.

This year Sunderland is probably picked my most to finish above their cross-town rivals.  See Coach Larry’s thoughts on Sunderland following their draw with Liverpool last Saturday.

Arsenal fans would be happy if Arshavin scored even 1/4 as many tomorrow

EPL, Arsenal-Liverpool (7:45amET, ESPN2/ Another early morning game for those of us in the US–is it worth waking up for? Liverpool supporter & observer Coach Larry weighs in:

I think for the fans of the two teams it is. Both teams are trying to adjust to their new players still, and with the high stakes involved for the two, I’m not sure either will be too adventurous.  They did do this in 2009.

Suarez might just have the full run of the middle of the pitch with Arsenal without Wilshere (injured) or Song (suspended) in the midfield. Stuart Downing and Enrique taking on Sagna should also add some fun. We should get more info on whether Dalglish has in mind rotations/matchups or starters/subs for his eight MFs at least.

RVP will give Carragher and Agger a rough time, and the Gunners should try and attack in spaces behind both left and right back. But the usual question remains, if they do, will they convert the chances into goal attempts. And they also have to solve a left back issue considering Gibbs’ and Djourou’s balky hamstrings.

From the numerous Arsenal-supporting branch of the CultFootball family, Tyler opines that Gunners fans and pundits are overly pessimistic. (Case in point: longtime Arsenal supporter Eddie wrote in: “I have to say, this is the most depressing start of season for Arsenal. I will feel compelled to watch the game, as I would video-clips of a tsunami disaster..”  Last week while watching Newcastle-Arsenal together at the Chip Shop, Eddie mentioned how he started following the Gunners as a young lad in Singapore–actually he converted from supporting Leeds United, back in the days of Don Revie and Brian Clough.  Naturally we immediately commissioned him to write the 2nd installment of our “They Reminsce” series.  Look for that in the coming weeks.)  On the other hand, Kirby joins Tyler in his cautious optimism: “I truly believe that it could be both a good match, and if Arsenal wins, a huge boost for the challenges ahead. A depleted squad goes in, but Robin, Vermaelan, Sagna. Who knows, maybe Arshavin will decide the time is right to be kickass again and bag 4 goals. Looks like Nasri may be playing tomorrow, btw.  That just made the game a bit more star-powered.”

EPL, Chelsea-West Brom (12:30pm, FSC): Our resident Chelsea supporter, who prefers to go by the nom de plume The Cunning Linguist, writes in with these thoughts on the Blues after their lackluster scoreless draw opener against Stoke: “I hope people start giving ManU some stick for spending money. I’m sure no one will forget the 50mm quid on el niño, who looked very sharp and dangerous. Too bad his supply line is crap; Salomon still hasn’t got a kalou and Malouda is, well, he’s French. I prefer Anelka on the right as a wide man and would like to see Benayoun in the mix. Chelsea don’t impress me and doubt they’ll do much this season. May have to start cheering for QPR.”

FIFA U20 World Cup Final, Brazil-Portugal (9pm, We have to admit, we haven’t been watching the U20 World Cup.  So we might as well tune in for this all-Lusophone final.  We’ve variously heard over the past week that the best teams in this tournament were ones that didn’t make the final (Spain, according to Jonathan Wilson, and Mexico, according to Tommy, who also had some unflattering comments about Portugal: “they start that flopping crime in Portugal early. I’ve been watching a lot of the U20 Cup, and the final 30 minutes of Wednesday’s Portugal showing vs France was humiliating. Apparently France had several snipers posted in the stadium because the Portu-gals were going down like they were on an adult film set.  Bad news for the US – the Mexican U20s look great. They may have lost to the Brazilians in the semis, but they were the best team I saw. Gddmmit.”)

Sunday, August 21

EPL, Bolton-Man City (11am, FSC): Both teams put in 4 last weekend, albeit against newly promoted sides (QPR and Swansea, respectively), and hence are at the top of the table after one week.  All eyes will be on Kun Agüero’s after his Premier League debut performance–two goals sandwiched around a spectacular assist to David Silva, all after coming as a substitute in the second half.


Liverpool to meet Arsenal, and the Gooners are…optimistic?

August 19, 2011 — by Tyler1

Tears of joy from the masses

It’s easy to predict Liverpool running all over Arsenal, what with all the Reds’ new signings and the Gunners’ injuries, suspensions, and defections. Both teams will be cautious as they try to gel and avoid slipping further behind Manchester Red and Manchester Blue. Liverpool, with a couple injured exceptions, is stocked to the gills with players anxious to impress, while the news and the media—not always one in the same—would have you believe that Arsenal is decimated, dejected, and demoralized.

(How a draw on the road and a win at home in 4 days, in the midst of so much speculation and criticism and supposed turmoil, are the signs of a damn crisis, I’ll never know…)

My guess is that pundits and fans alike are, from a Gunners point of view, much more pessimistic about Saturday’s match than the Arsenal players and coaches are. One doesn’t have to look too far into the past, no further than last season even, to be reminded that Arsenal is not in a new predicament. The Gunners’ present situation isn’t great, but I see it as just a bit worse than the status quo for the last 3-4 years. Can anyone tell me how many times in recent years have their first choice XI been healthy at the same time? Isn’t this team accustomed to Band-aids and patchwork?

The argument against me would be: “That’s exactly the problem. For too many years, Arsenal have had so many injuries, too few signings, and they always come up short.” Point taken, but I’m writing about Saturday, not the entire upcoming season.

Rosicky and Arshavin provide experience, suffocatingly quiet leadership, and a sense of nearly hypnotic, “day at the beach” calm. They list as their hobbies: “dribbling directly into opposing legs”, “appearing exasperated”, and “falling down a lot”. But both are capable of a few strokes of brilliance once or twice a month, and younger players are going to look to them for answers, so I expect them to rise to the occasion.

The Sagna-Walcott-RVP connection can be lethal on ANY given day. Vermaelen is back (and don’t forget, he can score). Aaron Ramsey’s stock is rising almost daily. Perhaps Bendtner will even make an appearance before jumping ship to one of the unnamed teams who don’t seem to exist and who really aren’t that interested! (Better him than “Bambi”, aka Chamakh.)

For now, let’s forget Cesc, Nasri, the other absentees, and the lack of “big name” transfers coming in. Granted, left back and defensive midfield are HUGE concerns for Saturday, as is the frightening lack of depth on the bench. (Sure would be nice to have Eboue back right now.) But come kick-off, viewers might expect to see 9 familiar Arsenal faces, plus one Frimpong and one Jenkinson. That ain’t so bad, is it? Add to that the notion that, save for Bendtner, every Arsenal player at the Emirates this Saturday will be one who actually WANTS to be there, and we might just have ourselves a game!

These guys are good. They’re coming off a win, unlike their opponents this Saturday. It’s the home opener. I’m not worried.



Coach Larry’s Thoughts on the Opening Weekend

August 16, 2011 — by Larry1

Liverpool's Strikeforce: Luis Suarez & Andy Carroll

I should have spent more time on Sunderland in my preview of their match versus Liverpool, but I didn’t want to make it a season preview. They definitely need to add attacking options and put a leash on Lee Cattermole. But Stéphane Sessègnon is impressive; Ahmed Elmohamady, Kieran Richardson & Gyan are all big factors, and their back line was well organized, essentially making Andy Carroll irrelevant. Think they will finish 8-10.

Liverpool still has a cutting edge problem, though they are more balanced then before. Suarez is a beast to play against. He uses his speed so well to play inside-out, and then he also has the “craftiness” to win penalties and kicks. He will for sure make a lot of enemies around the league. Dalglish played Luca Leiva, Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson, and Charlie Adam (the latter three all newly arrived in the squad), with Kuyt and Meireles only subbing in late once things got urgent after Larsson’s flying side-volley that pulled Sunderland even. Again looks like its gonna be hard on Merseyside to strike the right balance.

After watching the first 40 minutes of Man City and Swansea’s Monday night football match, 3 observations: Swansea did well to purchase a young athletic GK as he will be needed to make more than a few reaction saves. YaYa might be my hero. And MCFC are right back to playing with two defensive MFs, despite being at home and against a team that has advanced 4 divisions in 6 seasons.

Which leads me to a last point. Can we abandon the idea that they and others play a 4-2-3-1? Look at how they play, not how they line-up for the kickoff. Two defensive central midfielders sure. One central attacking mf in Yaya. One wide mf who cuts inside as much as possible in Adam Johnson, one trequartista in Silva, and one forward in Dzeko.

Liverpool played the same: Adam and Lucas. Henderson. Downing. Suarez. Carroll.

Chelsea does it too. Mikel and Ramires. Lampard. Malouda. Kalou. Torres.

Arsenal last year did it too, at least when Walcott didn’t play.

This really counts on their full backs to get forward to provide most of their width, otherwise there just is not enough space on the pitch.


Fernando Torres, (Previously) “Hero of Anfield” (+ Anelka as Trequartista?)

February 6, 2011 — by Suman1

YouTube is littered with overdramatic Liverpudlian tributes to Torres.  To add to the buildup for today’s Chelsea-Liverpool match (kicking off at Stamford Bridge at the top of the hour), here’s one that is a highlight reel of El Niño when he was at the top of his game, in 2008-09–primarily Liverpool highlights, followed by a coda of Spain national team clips (set to an Akon soundtrack):

Meanwhile, the teams are in, according to the Guardian’s liveblog:

The teams are in:

The Team With Torres: Cech; Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole; Mikel; Essien, Lampard; Torres, Drogba, Anelka. Subs: Turnbull, Paulo Ferreira, David Luiz, McEachran, Sala, Malouda, Kalou.
The Team Without Torres: Reina; Carragher, Skrtel, Agger, Kelly; Johnson, Gerrard, Lucas, Maxi; Meireles; Kuyt. Subs: Gulacsi, Aurelio, Suarez, Jovanovic, Kyrgiakos, Ngog, Poulsen.

So Suárez isn’t considered ready to start despite impressing in midweek. Torres, as expected, starts for the Team With Torres. Very, very interesting to see how those two line-ups dovetail.

Worth reading in preparation for the game is ZonalMarking’s note on “Nicolas Anelka as a trequartista?” (trequartista, which means “three-quarters” in Italian, refers to a withdrawn forward/attacking midfielder–a player who drops deep to receive the ball from his defenders and defending midfielders and serves as a playmaker in attack):