Sunday, 17 April 2011

Kenny Rocks Arsene

Dirk earns a deserved point....again!
It was a game where Liverpool defended, defended and defended says Arsene Wenger, the truth though is that it was a game where the wannabe Barcelona failed to convert their possession into goals.

Possession does not win you games, goals do - Barca have overwhelming amounts of possession in games, but they also have the goals to go with it, Arsenal do not. Their football may be attractive to watch at times but the reality is it is becoming far too tedious, predictable and the excuses afterwards - boring.

Liverpool are in a real transitional period there is no mistaking that, real changes are needed but the fight that Kenny Dalglish has instilled into the players since January is outstanding. Against Arsenal there were notable absentees, not fringe players but first team players. Teenagers stepped into the gaps and looked like naturals.

After a commanding performance against City at the start of the week an away game at Arsenal was perhaps not the best game to go in to but it wasn't all about defending as Wenger suggests. The starting 11 was not the first choice Liverpool 11, it was the best available, the injuries sustained disrupted the flow even further. It was a game about patience, concentration and discipline - without these Liverpool would have lost this game hands down - evidenced by one lapse that led to a penalty.

Liverpool lack width and pace, the whole world knows it, they know too that these are attributes that Arsenal have a plenty. Liverpool were never going to compete with Arsenal on their level, all they had to do was keep it cool and wait for the mistakes - mistakes that Arsenal are prone to give away. And in their search for the perfect goal they left space behind that a pacier team would have exploited - indeed their were times when Liverpool did break but could do nothing.

At the start of the season Arsenal got a lucky point at Anfield following on from a rare Pepe Reina mistake, at the Emirates Liverpool earned a deserved point and there is nothing anyone can say to deny that. Arsenal may have dominated possession but they had about as many decent chances of a goal as Liverpool did - and towards the end it was Liverpool who looked more likely to score as Arsenal became more impatient and left more space for the reds.

Every Liverpool player had a good game, and worked tirelessly to keep Arsenal at bay, but special mention must be given to the youngsters Flannigan and Robinson, the future of LFC? perhaps and on this showing it will be a good future, neither looked out of place, both played as players with far more experience than their young years should allow - just hope that Robinson lets Walcott out of his pocket before he goes home.

Lucas was immense as always, far often his contributions slip under the radar, he has been in all honesty probably Liverpool's best and most consistent player this season, and his performances see him as one of the best in England - he gets far less praise than he deserves.

Another player who often comes in for some criticism is Soto, but he came on in place of the flat out Carra and was like a brick wall, a quick glance down the twitter timeline an there was a whole host of negative and disparaging remarks immediately before his introduction but he was commanding, aware, quick to react, gave nothing and took everything in his challenges - was as if Carra had never left the pitch and the big Greek deserves big praise for this - not easy to come into a high profile game against unrelenting opposition and settle so quickly but he did.

Like i said all played well but had to give some mentions there.

Cant really argue too much with the penalties, didn't think there was too much intent from Spearing to bring the man down but that doesn't really matter much, there was contact in the box the man went down the ref really didn't have much choice. Now Arsene might moan but a considerable amount of time was wasted after the awarding of the pen, to the taking of the pen right through to the celebrations - the ref has to add this on.

And he did, and in that time Liverpool got a free kick, and there is a matter of seconds from Suarez striking the ball to Eboue bringing Lucas down - how fast does Wenger expect the ref to blow up?? as soon as the ball is kicked?? The referee didn't purposely set out to award a pen in the 100th minute.

Arsene Wenger has no one to blame but his own players - they went to pieces after their penalty, they got slop, they made rash challenges, they made 2 critical mistakes, the first to give away the free kick which could so easily have been a pen anyways, to Eboue bungling Lucas over - architects of their own downfall, didn't make their possession count and made mistakes - look closer to home Arsene.

What happened on the touch line is poor sportsmanship from Wenger, firstly to kick off at Kenny, feelings are charged up but when all is said and done its just a game and managers and players should have respect for each other - their is was no bad blood between the two before hand and during the game Kenny didn't do anything malicious to Wenger. Secondly there was a refusal to shake hands again poor from Wenger, words exchanged and Kenny told him what for and rightly so. I half expected Wenger to tell the press he didn't see the incident when they quizzed him on it - that's his usual line when he's in the wrong.

Next season the duels between these two clubs will be different, all indication is that Liverpool will strengthen, introduce some pace and width, and with a much more settled squad it will not be, as Arsene puts it, a case of Liverpool defending, defending and defending.

Arsenal however, don't seem to be going anywhere, Wengers stubbornness and (Barca Envy) will see them near again - just like this season - but not on top, a change is needed at the Emirates, they need to be more direct, they play good football but they lack belief especially when it counts and sometimes its better to just fire off the shots rather than walk the ball in, especially in the Premier League.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Kenny Gets His Dirk Out As Mancs Flop

What a game, what a performance.

There can be no doubts at all as to the result, quite simply the best team won, not only did the best team win, they did it in superb fashion and made their opponents look rather ordinary.

The team of course was Liverpool, and the victory is one that will live long in the memories of supporters around the world. There was not one aspect of the performance that we would change, even the goal, lets be honest, if we had a choice at the start of the game for 3-1 we would all have taken it in a heartbeat, and whilst after the game we can be quite certain that the consolation was not deserved, it takes nothing away from our performance and if anything flatters our opponents - who quite simply weren't good enough.

Lets get the main talking points out of the way with first. The rough end to the first half. Should Jamie have walked for what he did, of course he should, whilst i do not think for a second that there was any real intent to hurt Nani, he was late and he was high, and i think Jamie himself would admit that there are plenty of refs out there who would not have been so lenient. The reaction of Nani to the challenge was ridiculous, and I'm not talking about the crying - that was pathetic - I'm talking about the way he got up, chased after the referee, complained about the damage to his leg and then collapsed in a heap after that sniper took him out. I mean, come on, what is that all about really? He could not have been hurt even half as bad as has been made out if he was able to get up and run, all it was, was a clear attempt to try to get the referee to send Carra off. Carra was fortunate not to walk.

Then moments later there is Rafael, now Maxi did go in on him a bit, probably could have got a yellow for it, but it was only a graze, wasn't enough to bring the player down or cause him to lose the ball, Rafael's own heavy touch presented the ball on a plate to Lucas, his response to go in with studs up, two footed and airborne was well worth a red, if Lucas hadn't been wise to it he could well have ended up with a broken leg or two and be forced to miss the rest of the season. Absolutely shocking play from the Utd defender. But, i have to say, i never expected Dowd to send him off, all we ask from refs is consistency, and that's what we got from Dowd, he never sent Carra off for a single footed but late lunge on Nani, so i don't think he was ever going to send Rafael off for two footed lunge when no contact was made - even though the intent was there and it was very dangerous play.

You could argue that Dowd was consistently poor, but the fact is he was consistent and neither side or their supporters should have any real cause for complaint on this.

Interesting too, how all the fuss has been about Carra's challenge and there has been very little mention of Rafael's at all in the media, but then again that shouldn't surprise us now, should it?

And perhaps if players had to wear proper shin pads and not the small lightweight things that they seem to wear then Nani would not have been hurt as he was - just a thought.

Something which bothered me in the build up to the game, and more so afterwards, was all the talk about this depleted Utd side. Hardly a day, never mind a week goes by when we are not reminded of Utd's strength in depth, how their bench is the envy of teams across Europe and how they can cope with even the most numerous and long term of absences. That's a load of rubbish really. Take out Vidic, and the defence is useless, and we all know that the team is made up primarily of players who are distinctly average - Carrick, Fletcher, Brown, O'Shea, Smalling, Rafael (both of them) to name a few. And really with the exception of Hernandez they don't have any youngsters coming through who have the footballing world looking forward to their progression to the big stage. Giggs and Scholes are best there best and Van Der Sar is calling it quits at the end of the season. Fergie may have conquered the 90's unopposed by building up a young attacking side, but they're all old men now and he simply has been unable to replicate the success in bringing youngsters through that he achieved in the early to mid 90's. This is undoubtedly the worst Utd side in recent history and one that will surely come undone in the near future, the signs are there - but what baffles is how they have cruised through the league an cup competitions this season with relative ease despite being so poor, but that's life i suppose.

Now Dirk will get the plaudits for his hat trick and rightly so, it's not every day that a player scores a hat trick against Utd and certainly not every day that a player scores his first hat trick for his club against Utd. All i can say Dirk is that you certainly picked a good time to bag your first hat trick mate! Take nothing away from him, for the first it was a gift, and he did what all good strikers should do, he made certain of the goal, he doesn't know who's behind him, and the ball hasn't crossed the line, there is a chance, however slim, that the goal could be prevented, but he made sure and that was vital. The second, again probably a gift, this time from Utd but he was in an advanced position and was alert and able to take advantage of the complete hash of a clearance from Nani, easy finish but again a vital one. And for the third he was the only player alive to the possibility that if the keeper saves it or it hits the post that there is a chance of a rebound, and his awareness of this is key, he gets there first, he pokes home in front of the Kop and he pretty much wraps up the game.

The only other player I'm going to give a mention too in any great detail is Luis Suarez. What an amazing game he had, there aren't many players out there who can say that they single handedly made the Utd defence look like complete fools, now it has been said that they stood off an let him through, not wanting to give away a penalty blah blah, the media can say what they want, the truth is that they simply couldn't bring him down and not through lack of trying - superb piece of skill. But throughout the whole game, he was everywhere, he never stopped, his work rate was immense and long may it continue, his passing, vision, determination, he is already half way there to becoming a reds legend, and i can guarantee that no one will ever forget what he did to the Utd defence in the build up to the first goal.

It was however a team performance and there was not a single player on the pitch who did not have an excellent game but to name them all and roll off there achievements and contributions to the victory would take me all day and i don't think people would stick around for a post of that size! But like i said, everyone was superb.

The King even got his own Birthday song, something which I'm sure went down a treat with the visitors, its one thing to be humiliated on the field, but another for the humiliation to be compounded from the stands, pure quality. And if that wasn't enough, with a three goal lead against Utd most teams would be bringing on a few extra CB's but we bring on a huge CF!! Love it.

The best thing for on the day though, was that our most unwelcome guests from the other end of the motorway had to stay and watch til the very end, not like the hiding we gave them at their place a few seasons back when there was hardly a sole to be seen apart from the travelling supporters come the 80th minute. There was no early escape, the torture must have been unbearable, well, i certainly hope it was!

And as for the 'Media Blackout' hahaha can't it last forever, please??? It just shows how classless and undignified the club is, it takes nothing to come out and say we were beaten by the better team, the whole world knows it. And the suggestion that win, lose or draw there would be a media silence on their part is ridiculous, you cant tell me that if they had just given us a hiding like we gave them that Fergie wouldn't have been out for a gloat in front of the media. The whole thing is ridiculous and it is about time that the BBC and SKY reported the club and the manager for failing to fulfill one of the requirements as part of the league's relationship with the media, they don't pay millions for silence, although to be honest i wouldn't mind if Fergie never gave an interview again, he's clueless, classless, arrogant, and self righteous and its about time he retired to be honest - Fergie, the media still call it 'our perch' for a reason.

Last time i said performances must improve and my how it did, so lets have more of the same please, an concentrate on winning games with all the style and brilliance with which we beat UTD. If we can do this, and transfer it into the Europa campaign - well - this season might not end too badly after all!!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Hammer Blow To The Reds

Right, so I've waited a while to sit back and let the dust settle before i got round to this. I've been saying for some weeks now that a 4th place finish was not going to happen, sure it mathematically possible - still is - but after the nightmare we had before Christmas we should be happy to take a 5/6th place finish and it is down to Kenny Dalglish and the way he has turned the club around that we were actually realistically aiming for 4th, but now it is more of a wild dream.

Firstly, Sundays game. Credit to West Ham for playing better than they normally do, but that was it, they played better, they never played the greatest game of football you will ever see, Scott Parker did not turn into Messi overnight although the way the commentators carried on you could be forgiven for thinking so - he did what he tends to do for West Ham, he gave them everything, it's not like we haven't seen him do it before, not like we won't see him do it again. West Ham Played well, Liverpool played bad, the result, we made them look better, whilst that in turn made us look worse then what we are. West Ham deserved the victory. There were still too many elements of their game that would have been vastly exploited by stronger more determined opposition - Liverpool were neither on the day. The attitude they displayed will give them  great chance of staying in the league but there are no guarantees.

As for Liverpool, well, the defeat was coming, no two ways about that. Following on from the victory at Chelsea performances have gone downhill, against Wigan we could have ended up losing, not the greatest display ever, then over two legs against Prague we gave the kind of displays that would have seen most of the premier league beat us with little effort, we didn't look up for it or interested and we got through only due to Prague's own lack of ambition and poor performances and it all led into the game against the Hammers. Have to say i didn't think it would be an easy game, the relegation battlers are never going to role over an take a hiding, but - i did think we would win, and, i thought this because following on from 3 poor showings i thought the team would recognise that a game against West Ham would be a good place to restore belief and get 3 points - didn't exactly go to plan.

The loss of Martin Kelly is a big one, no doubts about that. We all knew he had 'potential' but he never really got a proper chance until Dalglish threw him in against Utd and he quickly established himself as first choice right back for the club, ahead of England's own first choice right back, Glen Johnson, and that is something that deserves credit. What it does give us in terms of positives is an interesting dilemma. Who plays right back, and who plays left back, the obvious choice would be Johnson right back, Aurelio left back, or Johnson could stay left back, Carragher at right back, with the central positions being occupied by any of Agger, Soto or Skrtel. What i think will happen is a bit different. I think that Johnson will shift to right back, and Danny Wilson will take the left back role.

Now, there were a few who were quick to jump in and give Wilson criticism on Sunday, unfairly. He gave us two good, solid displays in the Europa League and he kept his place in the team on merit, he deserved it. Secondly it was a poor performance from the team all round, the midfield battle was non existent and as a result the defence came under increased pressure, and quite often he was left with no cover with Johnson playing more advanced he wasn't always eager to get back and help, which left Wilson exposed. He is only young and he will learn but he is not a bad defender by any definition. He has played numerous times for Rangers in the SPL and has also made Champions League appearances too. Now there are not many 19year old defenders who could claim to have done that. The criticism is premature and unjustified, had we decided to play as good as we can and controlled the midfield properly the defence would have been able to operate under less pressure, the team would have performed better and confidence would have improved all round, especially for a player making his first Premier League appearance and most of that spent at left back when he is predominantly a centre back - same as with Kelly on the right.

I've had a lot to say about Glen Johnson recently, still maintain that he is pretty much an average defender, nothing special at all, but in attacking positions he seems to come alive, and he is a real threat. Against West Ham he had (initially) more of an attacking role and he proved what i and other have been saying - he is a much better attacking winger than he is a defender and to be fair to him he had a good game, a full game in that attacking role would have reaped more positives but injuries and the resultant re-shaping can not be helped, although he did get the goal that on the balance of it his performance deserved. Lets hope he gets another crack in that more advanced role, would love to see him playing there more regular.

We were all annoyed at the defeat and there has been a lot of talk of 'perspective' since. One defeat in nine we are told, something to be pleased about - of course it is. On January first if you had given any Liverpool supporter the choice to be going into the Utd game on the back of a 9 game run that involved 5 wins, 3 draws and a solitary defeat i think they would have bitten your hand off, or laughed thinking it was a joke - lets be honest on January 1st it didn't exactly look likely to happen did it? But talk like this ignores the real perspective and that is that recently performances have been lacking and have gone downhill since the victory at Chelsea and if we are not careful and do not address this problem quickly we could fall out of contention for a Europa League place never mind 4th place - which we are pretty much out of.

In terms of performances we are not as fortunate as our next opponents who have been well off the boil this season yet are quite comfortably walking away with the title. The game against ManUtd is a big one, and form doesn't tend to count for much and as is always the case, the easiest thing to do is win the game, what we do after it is the hard part. A good performance and a good result will be meaningless if we do not follow it up. Earlier in the season we played Chelsea, we stepped it up, we won, and then results dipped afterwards, there was no springboard, again we have played Chelsea and results have dipped, we can not afford the same thing to happen after Sundays game.

We have 10 games left, 30points to play for, we really should be aiming to finish on a high, the target should be maximum points, realistically i would say that 24 would be acceptable, finishing with a total of 63 points which would have to guarantee us a top 6 finish and if all goes our way, Europa League football next season. In the League we have only personal pride left to play for this season, all we can do is finish as strongly as possible, but with games against Arsenal, Utd, City and Spurs all to come we might have some influence on the final positions of those above us.

For me though, our main target must now be the Europa League, we have a good chance of winning it too. I know a lot of people regard it as a second rate trophy that no one wants but after we had endured a rather barren and unsuccessfully uneventful period just over a decade ago, winning the UEFA cup in 2001 was seen as a huge triumph, and it would be a great boost to the club to claim the trophy especially as we haven't welcomed any silver wear home since 2006. And it would be a great way to cap off a season that started so badly, and looked to be getting worse only for the return of Kenny Dalglish. Wouldn't be bad either to start this decade as we did the last, although i wouldn't want another 5-4 final!

Bottom line though is that performances have to improve, if the team doesn't perform well, we don't get results, like i said, we are not ManUtd, we can not play poorly yet win every week as they do and the biggest mystery of this season is how they have actually managed to do it with what many regard as the worst Utd team in recent history.

Lets make Sunday a game they will wanna forget for years, just like that 1-4 at Old Trafford only this time the goblins can't leave after 80mins, their locked in til the very end.

Performances must improve.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Reds Stutter On

Dirk to the rescue.
After last weeks, dull, lifeless and ultimately boring game in Prague last week this game could only get better, but when you consider just how bad the game was last week there was still plenty of room for the second leg to be a drab affair and still be an improvement - and that is essentially what was served up last night, an improvement, albeit without setting the world ablaze.

As always there are positives and negatives to every game, sometimes more of one and less of the other. The majority of last nights positives centre around the actual outcome rather than what happened during the 90mins. There were plenty of children at the game last night, great for them to get the experience of watching the reds at Anfield on a European night, an experience I'm sure they wont forget. We kept another clean sheet - that's 6 in the last 8 games now, long may that run continue. The game was also a sell, fantastic for the club, especially as it was a 6pm kick off, ridiculous time, nothing wrong with 8pm kick offs, but a sell out it was, and by my memory that's the first Euro sell out this season - we did have a laugh trying to figure out why and we concluded that it could only be people desperately trying to rack up the games in the run up to the final - if we get there - interesting to see what the criteria for tickets would be. And, finally we are through to the next round and due to both Braga and Porto qualifying our fixtures have been altered so that we now play away on the 10th and at home on the 17th - try and tell me that's not an advantage! More on that a bit later though.

On the pitch, well it wasn't exactly the performance we wanted but there were some positives to take from it. Danny Wilson, a centre back playing at left back, says he is willing to adapt to play anywhere along the back for the reds, now that is the right attitude and to be honest over the two legs i think he was one of the better performers, he was given a chance, he took it well, got a second bite of the apple and he played well again, i would really like to see him get a chance in the League, just like Kelly did, and i certainly would love him to keep his place against Braga - no more than he deserves on both counts. Pepe deserves a mention for 1. staying awake and 2. staying alert, he wasn't needed much but when he was needed he didn't disappoint.

Raul Meireles, now he really has come alive under Kenny Dalglish, last night again he was the man who controlled the middle, our most creative player by miles and a player who deservedly should have taken the MOTM award - fast running out of positive things to say that haven't already been said about him, now that is a good headache to have. And then there is Dirk Kuyt, like him or not, he never gives up, he is wasted out on the right and seems to come alive further up the pitch in a more natural striking role, he may not be having the best of games sometimes but then he pops up with the goal that wins it, and he does score the important ones - he kept at it, got his goal and rescued us from the torture of another 30mins, nice one Dirk.

As always it is not possible to praise everyone, so i just pick out the players i think deserve the mention most, likewise with the criticism - that is reserved for those who i think deserve it most. Now, generally, whilst the football served up wasn't great, we did retain the ball well at times, movement could have been better, but we always looked in control, we created plenty of opportunities to score yet took none. On the whole the performance was average, and on the scale average is below good so there is plenty of room for improvement - the contest over two legs? probably forgettable.

Now there are gonna be two main points of criticism here. The first, David Ngog, you would think that the arrival of two big money strikers would be enough encouragement for a striker who wasn't even challenging for the first choice position before they arrived to up his game. Well you would think that, but obviously that logic is lost on Ngog. He's lightweight, in more ways than one, easily 'moved' off the ball, doesn't even take a shove, doesn't seem to know how to hold a ball up and generally looks more isolated up front than Torres ever did even at his lowest point (at Liverpool not Chelsea!). His movement isn't the best, he isn't always were he should be, needs to look at his attitude, he  never looks bothered, does he even realise who he plays for? I just don't think he is good enough for Liverpool, we have better strikers in the youth teams and losing Ngog in the summer would remove one obstacle to those youngsters who are working hard to get their chance. Think it's time to cash in while we can, not that we will get much.

And that second piece of criticism?? This is aimed at the supporters who cheered when Poulsen was substituted. What is that all about? OK so he wasn't having the best game ever, but there weren't exactly many on the pitch who were. Under Kenny, Poulsen has played better than he ever did under Hodgson, and he has had some decent games. He doesn't set the world on fire with his world class skills, an he isn't exactly gonna go a long run with the ball, but he isn't in the team to do that. He did a decent job in the middle, much like Lucas who was having a quiet game too, they tackled, they passed, they allowed the players ahead to push on, and limited the attacking flow on the players behind them. And he was more involved in the game than the player who replaced him - and how HE gets in the team ahead of others is beyond me. Bottom line is, no matter whether you like them or not, Liverpool players should not be booed off by Liverpool supporters, wtf is that all about, really?? If you're happy with the change then fine be happy, no need to be a nob about it though.

One thing that does bother me about Liverpool in Europe is the feeling that a second leg at Anfield guarantees we go through - it doesn't. It's an advantage, that's it, if things don't go right in the first leg then the home support will make it a night to remember in the second, and it is always easier to play on home soil. But we need to start playing for victories away from home. Away goals still count as two in the event of a draw, and all it would have taken was a late goal last night and we would have been out. This season the reds have only scored 5 goals away in Europe, 4 of those came against Rabotnicki and Trabzonspor, that is a problem. We need to start scoring away goals in Europe. It would certainly make the second leg easier. Last season, Atletico proved the value of an away goal is just as important as a home victory in Europe, they won on home soil 1-0, beaten away 2-1, beaten by us, yet they went through courtesy of an away goal - they're vital and we need to start doing the business away from home, having to play at Anfield and outscore the opposition like we did last season season on 3 occasions is not an ideal situation to be in. Playing at Anfield second leg does not guarantee we go through, confidence is one thing, but arrogance is different, we need to give ourselves something to be confident about, beating Braga away will put us in a great position to go through, it will give us confidence. It has already been said to me that if we draw away we will go through, we wont, just means we will be favourites to go through - that is something different.

Lets end on another positive..

Liverpool are now 8 games unbeaten, 5 victories, 3 draws and 6 clean sheets. Next up is premier league high flyer's West Ham, wont be an easy game, they never are, we need to work hard for the victory, i think we will get the three points too, that would be 9games unbeaten, 6 wins, 7 clean sheets, and a chance to extend that to 10 games unbeaten when we welcome, if welcome is the word, our neighbours from down the road next Sunday. Confidence is high, but we will need two good performances in the next two games if we are to win, we can't play like we did over two legs against Sparta, the Utd game isn't the problem, we need no help raising our game for them, the West Ham game is the worry, we need to be on the ball, the teams fighting for survival our the ones to avoid at the moment, that said, i think we will be OK.

Fourth is still a long shot, there is a link on the sidebar to another article i wrote on the matter, still stand by it, still would love to be proved wrong, need to keep ourselves grounded and as the King keeps saying, the next game is the most important one - let's see where we end up come May.

I keep saying this but there never really is much done about it - feedback! more HERE.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Bore Draw In Prague

OK so lets be honest, it wasn't a classic, and i don't think that too many people predicted a goalless, lifeless draw. Performances like this have become commonplace away from home in the Europa League, and you have to go back to August for the last time we won away from home in the competition. In fact since beating Trabzonspor 1-2 in August the reds have played 4 away games and scored only 1 goal, OK so it's only 1 conceded as well but that's besides the point, all of those game have been played out pretty much the same as this one - poorly.

It isn't all doom and gloom, a draw away from home in Europe, with the second leg to come at Anfield is never really a bad result, an away goal would have been nice, but at this moment in time - not essential. The 'gloom' comes from the fact that once again we have been subjected to a poor performance in a competition in which we are regarded as one of the favourites to win it. And a Steven Gerrard hat-trick aside, this Europa League run has been a pretty drab and uneventful affair.

Before the game, much was made of the inclusion of some of the younger players, our stars of the future if all goes well, but to be honest, I never really thought any of them would get any game time at all unless with 15/20 mins to go the game was pretty much over as a contest, and i don't think they would have made too much difference. They were taken to get some experience of what it is like to travel abroad and to get in some more training with the first teamers, their time will come soon, but not yet.

One youngster who was included was Danny Wilson who had a fine game at left back and was easily one of our best players on the pitch. He looked to be a strong and very capable player and never looked out of his depth, something made all the more impressive as he was played out of position at left back. He gave probably the best performance at left back that we have seen this season, not too eager to get forward and run down the wing but hardly surprising seen as how he is used to playing as a central defender. All in all he gave a great account of himself and I'm sure he will do well in the future.

Something that i find a Little bit worrying though is that our best left back is a young central defender playing out of position, and our best right back is also a young central defender playing out of position. OK so Wilson has only played a game at left back, but he performed better in the role than Johnson has done, and Martin Kelly is a much better right back than Johnson is. And that is a problem. Glen Johnson is not a bad player, I've said this before, on the whole he is an average defender at best, in fact it would be truer to say that he is not a defender full stop. His attacking qualities far outweigh his defensive ones. Attacking wise he is generally quite good, sometimes a little hesitant to play the ball but on the whole he is a threat going forward - defending is another matter entirely. His positional awareness in defence is not what it should be, you only have to look at Kuyt's reaction last night after he showed the attacker down the wing, preventing him from cutting inside, he was beaten for pace but he turned expecting Johnson to be in position to prevent the cross, Johnson however had drifted into the box and the fact that he was the one who cut the cross out inside the box is irrelevant, he should have been there to stop the cross ever being made. I think the time surely must have come to give Johnson a go on the right of midfield - he isn't being utilised properly in defence, he could add an extra cutting edge to our attack.

Krygiakos came back into the starting line up and was a rock once again. He has his critics but his no nonesense approach is great, nothing fancy just do the job, pretty much the same mentality as Carragher and he is a real threat going forwards. And last night even the kit man was more of a threat going forwards that Ngog was. He is too lightweight, and is not a player who can lead the line alone. With the ball at his feet he is generally quite good, and he is capable of scoring goals, but he is way down the pecking order now, the only reason he played was because Suarez is cup tied and Carroll is injured and Kuyt was needed on the right. Maybe in a 4-4-2 with Kuyt alongside him he might have had more joy, but playing alone he wasn't in the game at all, and he didn't try to get in the game either. With our new arrivals and more strengthening to come, coupled with the great young talent that we have coming through i can't see him having too long a future at Liverpool unless he starts to show that he deserves to be here.

Attacking was the main problem last night, no creativity, zero shots on target in 90mins is unacceptable at any level, it is unacceptable full stop for Liverpool FC. This lack of any real attack almost cost us the game. Sparta are in the middle of a winter break and before last night hadn't played a competitive game since December, match fitness for them was probably not at a high, and they probably would have preferred other opposition for their first game in 3 months but they looked the more dangerous and the more likely to score as the game went on. Liverpool had been in good form recently, even after stuttering against Wigan, many expected the reds to raise their game, but we lowered it.

One puzzling thing, is Dani Pacheco. He got game time last season, never more than 15/20 mins, he looked good, he had a great summer with Spain in the U19 championships - finishing top scorer, yet this season he is very much a bench warmer and most games he doesn't even get to do that. There are a few younger players have been given a go this season, but Pacheco has been largely overlooked. He has hinted that he wants to play more, that he may have to consider his options, and if the club want him to stay then they are certainly doing a great job trying to convince him that his future lies at Anfield. Now I'm not saying he's the next Messi or anything like that, only what most people are saying - we have a very talented youngster, 20years old, it's round about now that he should be getting game time, starting to make the step up, showing us what he can do, and we all want to see him get a decent chance that lasts longer than 10mins at the end of a game. There are players allot younger who are getting more game time, he has been excellent in the reserves and he must be doing alright in training because his performances in the reserves are consistently good, he must be wondering what he has to do to get a chance. Puzzling.

OK, so not the greatest of performances, probably up there with out worst for the season, but we do have a second leg to play at Anfield. I did try not to get too depressed over the performance and i do realise that it is still a good result and we do have an excellent chance of progressing but when the team plays so badly it really brings the negatives to the front - and lets face it, there where a few last night. Based on last nights performance, next Thursdays performance can only get better.

Hopefully we wont start with Ngog alone upfront, Hopefully Gerrard will be back, I would let Wilson keep his place, and if Kelly is fit he should get the nod ahead of Johnson at right back, Pacheco will probably be on the bench, Cole will get another chance - not too sure how many more he will get, needs to improve fast. It should be a better game, i think we will go through, but the performances in the Europa League simply must improve - our only chance of success this season, we should be going for it with everything - Hopefully from now on we will.

More HERE, can also follow this blog, click follow on the sidebar ---->