Liverpool signings‏: A second look

New signings are exciting, aren’t they? Very few things divide opinion and generate discussion quite like the world of transfers. Signings are one of the most scrutinised aspects of a manager’s achievements in the Premier League and often hold a strong position in deciding popularity.

 

Liverpool v Manchester City Betting Odds:

Liverpool win 9/5

Manchester City win 27/20

Draw 12/5

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

Brendan Rodgers is one such manager. Following Liverpool’s exasperatingly poor start to the season, many were suggesting the new recruits weren’t quite worth the sterling spent on them. Since their turn of form, that opinion has changed somewhat. Since Fernando Torres joined and begun his Liverpool career with what was frankly a phenomenal season, players at Liverpool haven’t been given a fair amount of time to settle in and adjust. Luis Suarez looked merely decent when first signed and then went on to fully illuminate as one of the top players in the world let alone the Premier League. The Premier League is very much unique in its style and culturally the UK is also vastly different to the rest of the world. It’s easy to forget that it can take a painfully long time to adapt to even the most subtle changes. With that in mind, let’s have a brief look into the summer signings brought in by Liverpool and try to fairly assess their performances thus far.

Rickie Lambert
As a Liverpool fan, I was actually quite happy with the signing of Lambert for what was a relatively small fee at £4million. The consensus seemed to be that he was signed as a backup option and not expected to be stealing headlines. That is the role he’s played, but at no point has he looked like a player who should be playing up-top for a team challenging for a Champions League place. He’s chimed in with a couple of league goals in 18 appearances in what has been an uneventful season for the boyhood Liverpool supporter. Given his performances for Southampton last year I think most will agree they’d hoped for a bit more from Lambert.


Adam Lallana
Lallana was the second player poached from the hands of Southampton. His season started late owing to injury, and he initially looked quite mediocre as he got used to the way Rodgers wanted him to play. Since then, Lallana has started to recapture the form that saw Liverpool part with 25 Million for the 26 year old attacking midfielder. He has been a little inconsistent at times, but his intelligent passing and sharp turning have helped restore the missing potency to Liverpool’s attack. If he can get through the rest of the season without injury and with a bit more game time, I’m confident he’ll develop into an important player for Liverpool.


Emre Can
Can’s signing raised a few eyebrows when a few ‘experts’ of the Bundesliga suggested he didn’t have the technical ability to carve a career in the Premier League. Over the course of the season – and indeed the course of Rodgers’ tactical changes – Can has played in midfield and more defensive positions. He’s shown plenty of quality and plays as if he is years beyond the 21 he actually is. His powerful runs from deep have helped create a lot of counter attacks and his physical strength has helped him in massively improve Liverpool’s defence. Whilst the German is prone to the odd mistake, his range of passing and calmness have also been very impressive. Can has the blueprint to become an excellent player and will no doubt be a key figure for his country in the future.


Lazar Markovic
Markovic has been a bit of a strange one. He’s rarely had a constant impression during games but shows glimpses of exceptional talent at points; reminiscent of another former Liverpool cult hero, Luis Garcia, in that sense. He was one of the first to get a lot of criticism from fans despite being just 20 years old and adapting to a new country. Furthermore, Liverpool play a very different brand of football to Benfica. His first few outings were quiet at best, but you could see the things he was trying to do were clever. His control has been quite wonderful at times, and as the season has moved on we have started to see his running with the ball and technique impress also. He glides with the ball in a similar fashion to Messi (please note I am not suggesting in any way, shape or form that he is even moderately close to Messi in terms of ability. I just mean in the actual way he moves at speed with the ball at his feet with no flamboyant step-overs at any given opportunity) and has a genuine bit of class about him. The strike against Sunderland that hit the bar springs to mind. If he is to become a top player at this level though, he needs to improve his consistency and influence games more than he currently does. This will of course come with experience and familiarity with the Premier League.


Dejan Lovren
Lovren has been poor, very poor. Many – myself included – thought he was a sapient addition to the defense, which was something very much required. His distribution hasn’t been good, his decision making questionable at best and he doesn’t seem to instill any confidence in the fans as a consequence of that. He had a good year for Southampton last year. He was composed and brought an element of calmness to the pitch. During his time with Liverpool he’s looked constantly panicked. He needs to replicate his last season in order to have a place in the Liverpool squad over the coming years and cut out the mistakes. I’d expect Rodgers to try and improve the Croatian’s defensive positioning over the remainder of the season as that seems to have contributed to many of his errors.


Alberto Moreno
Moreno caught the eye early in his Premier League career with a spectacular goal against Tottenham. His lightning pace has been vital to Rodgers’ introduction of the wingback role to the formation, while Moreno’s ability to get forward has played a key part in Liverpool’s resurgence this season. Down the other end of the pitch, Moreno has shown to be a very competent defender in 1-on-1 situations also. It’s unfortunate for him that Jordi Alba is his main competition in the Spanish squad as the 22-year-old is proving to be able to play at the highest level.


Javi Manquillo
I’m not going to patronise you and pretend I really knew who Manquillo was prior to his 2 year loan deal. Signed from Atletico Madrid, the young full-back has been a pleasant surprise to most fans. He’s had a few very good moments but nothing spectacular in terms of performances. That being said, he also does very little wrong. He is very mobile, a capable crosser and defensively very sound as well. I’m not sure if this counts as a compliment anymore but he’s shown what a liability Glen Johnson actually is. If Manquillo was British I think he’d have attracted a lot more attention in the press than his performances currently have.


Mario Balotelli
Few players divide opinion quite like Balotelli does. Most seem quite disappointed that he didn’t celebrate his signing with some sort of bunga bunga party. I think the press give him a particularly harsh time and generally seek to make prejudicial comments about the Italian. We know he isn’t someone who plays the game simply and we know he isn’t someone who flamboyantly displays his stable of emotions. That’s who he is. I genuinely heard a commentator suggesting that he should be dropped for not thanking a teammate after a pass, it was shocking. He hasn’t scored anywhere near the amount of goals that was expected and his decision making can very often be frustrating, but we knew what we was getting with Mario. He actually does work quite hard on the pitch despite what some commentators suggest. He hasn’t benefited from being alone up-front and will hopefully start scoring – or at least supplying – more goals now Sturridge is back from injury. It’s been said a plethora of times already but Balotelli does have an abundance of talent; he is someone who is still maturing as both a person and footballer. He hasn’t played as well as his reputation suggested he should but it hasn’t been anywhere near as bad as a lot of people seem to be making out. I think he has a future at Liverpool still and hope he is given further chance to prove me right


 JAKE COLLINS  is passionate about literature, music and sports. He currently works in  London and lives in Essex. Read more of his work in Jake’s blog, or follow Jake on Twitter and Google+.
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Real Madrid out for revenge against unpredictable Liverpool

Jay Spearing's cameo was an integral part of Liverpool's most memorable meeting with Real Madrid

Jay Spearing’s cameo was an integral part of Liverpool’s most memorable meeting with Real Madrid

 

‘We made Madrid look like sidemen.’

So went the tweeted verdict of one Liverpool fan reflecting on his side’s 2009 Champions League demolition of the current competition holders. And, it’s true, they did. Liverpool are these days no strangers to making entire teams look like ‘sidemen’, of course; despite a rocky start to this campaign, the last saw sideman after sideman capitulating to the talents of Suarez, Sturridge, Rodgers, and the rest. But there was a greater romance to the feat five years ago: Ryan Babel laid on a goal; Andrea Dossena scored; and in the ultimate indignity for the Spanish side, Jay Spearing replaced Steven Gerrard with fifteen minutes still to play (‘After the skewering, the Spearing’, as Henry Winter so characteristically put it).

Though at least Liverpool had some romance to lose. Their opponents on Wednesday are the antithesis of such an idea. Real Madrid aren’t a team, but a machine – if anything too well oiled – at once both beautiful and ugly. Cristiano Ronaldo spits on your ‘romance’, Pepe headbutts it, and Carlo Ancelotti neatly – but firmly – files it away in a drawer.

They showed it again in Saturday’s 5-0 trashing of Levante. Ronaldo scored his tenth goal in four league games and his fifteenth this season, bringing his Football Manager average rating up to a staggering 9.37 in the process: truly unprecedented. The week before that? Another 5-0 win at home to Athletic Club. Though they sit third in La Liga, their results of late (in all competitions) have been nothing short of ridiculous: since the 2-1 loss to Atletico on September 13, the list reads, 5-1, 8-2, 5-1, 2-0, 2-1, 5-0, 5-0. Gareth Bale will be injured for the away side, and a potential distraction lurks in the background in the form of Saturday’s El Clasico, but even taking both into account, Liverpool ought to be worried.

 

Liverpool v Real Madrid Betting Odds:

Liverpool win 3/1

Real Madrid win 4/5

Draw 13/5

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

The English side’s weekend win at QPR was an absurd spectacle; one that you would think had been made up were it not for the eminently plausible event of a Richard Dunne own goal. Absurd, perversely impressive, but far from convincing, it was a performance that will no doubt encourage Real Madrid. Liverpool, remember, have some of their own injury problems – Sturridge is out for another few weeks; Raheem Sterling might well, if he can keep his eyes open, watch from home with some warm milk and a blanket – and their form in Europe has been patchy at best: the last gasp win at home to Ludogorets was concerning enough, but to follow it up with a 1-0 loss to Basel was to put their place in the competition in doubt.

 

It could well be that Liverpool need a tie like this, something to kickstart their stuttering season. There is (rightly) much made of the Anfield atmosphere on big European nights, and Wednesday should be, to quote Rodgers, ‘special’: ‘To see that flag back out in the middle of the pitch and for the supporters to get behind their team, like they do, is going to be an amazing experience.’ Being excited, however, is not the same as being prepared.

There will be no repeat of 2009’s 4-0, not this time. And if you can find odds on Mario Balotelli pulling down Pepe’s shorts, kicking him up the backside, and telling him that he looked better baldy, take them. With such a craaaazy guy – What’s he gonna do next? Dye his hair RED? HAHA! – leading the line, Liverpool have next to no chance. Far better to take a punt on the dependable Rickie Lambert, a man much more likely to terrorise young Raphael Varane than he who dragged his country, kicking and screaming, to the final of Euro 2012.

Otherwise, as a Real Madrid supporting friend of the Liverpool fan we met earlier replied, ‘this time we will see who will be the wasteman.’ It’s up to you, Brendan.

 

Betting Instinct tip Real Madrid to win by two or more goals is 37/20 with AllYouBet.ag

 

Kieran avatar KIERAN DODDS  is a masters student and writer. He has written about sport, politics and current affairs for the Guardian, the Huffington Post, Africa is a Country, When Saturday Comes, IBWM and others. Follow Kieran on Twitter.

Premier League and international friendlies: things we’ll learn this month

World Cup winner Mario Götze will face a different sort of test against Scotland

World Cup winner Mario Götze will face a different sort of test against Scotland

The feeling of coming home from the supermarket and realising you’ve completely forgotten something is a familiar one to most of us, sometimes it’s something frivolous that you can do without, like organic cinnamon sticks, you have the dried stuff in the cupboard it’ll be fine, other times however it’s something vital, such as toilet roll, for which there really is no substitute. This is how many Premier League clubs will be feeling in the early days of September, whether it’s a third choice goalkeeper (the organic cinnamon) or a first choice goalscorer (the toilet roll) that’s been overlooked, the result will be much slapping of foreheads and murmuring of ‘I knew I should have made a list’. As is traditional Arsene Wenger will claim he didn’t forget the toilet roll at all, in fact he’s got some rather lovely wallpaper that can do just as good a job.

 

September sees a truncated set of Premier League fixtures due to the return of international football. Will the first round of Euro 2016 qualifiers bask in the feelgood factor engendered by the brilliant Brazilian World Cup? No, they won’t. The World Cup is over, it’s now frowned upon to go to the pub every night, the days of a 16 hour drinking session being justified by Iran vs Nigeria being on have long gone. Be prepared for people to moan about international football again. The standout fixture of the early qualifiers is of course world champions Germany hosting Scotland, now, whilst on paper the Germans would appear to be favourites it is telling that their lynchpin, the peerless Philipp Lahm has decided to retire rather than face the twin threat of Ikechi Anya and an overlapping Alan Hutton. Lahm has always come across as an intelligent man so don’t be surprised if Scotland take not only 3 points from the Westfalenstadion but the crown of ‘moral world champions’. England will get a satisfactory result (against whoever they’re playing) but there will be question marks over the performance, someone will be the new Gerrard, someone will be the new Lampard, they’ll never play together again.

 

Betting Instinct tipEngland to beat Norway in their friendly tomorrow night is 1.45 with AllYouBet.ag 

 

Once all the international based fun is out of the way it’s back to league action. And straight away we have an absolute cracker on our hands as Arsenal host Man City, a good test of which is the more effective strategy when building an elite level team, just buying loads of players you like and think you could have fun with, or identifying which areas of your team need reinforced and swiftly purchasing players to do just that. At the other end of the scale, Hull vs West Ham is one of the televised games in September, anyone not emotionally invested in the outcome of that match that chooses to watch it needs professional help.

 

Man City have another big game later in the month when Chelsea come visiting, by far the two strongest sides in the league managed by two men not overly fond of the other, it could be a classic. It won’t, it’ll be a draw so dispiriting you’ll wonder what it was that made you fall in love with football in the first place.

Maybe it’s matches like the Merseyside derby that sparked your passion? But then again it’s also known as ‘the friendly derby’ which is just about the most offensive phrase (excluding all the genuinely bad stuff) you could possibly imagine so maybe not. The same weekend we also have the almost always entertaining North London derby, at the end of which we will see one of Arsenal or Tottenham hailed as title challengers, neither will challenge for the title, but you knew that.

 

The reduced fixture list probably means that none of the twenty Premier League managers will get the chop this month (this is conditional of course on them all resisting the temptation to indulge in some ‘friendly text message banter’ and in the process offend just about everyone on the planet).

One last thing, by the time September comes to a close and I sit here penning Octobers entry the quite brilliant Mario Balotelli will have done something that makes your heart sing with joy, I don’t know what he’ll do, you don’t know what he’ll do, Mario doesn’t know what he’ll do, but he’ll definitely do something.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Mario Balotelli to help Liverpool finish in the top three is 11/10 with Intertops.eu

 

Ally avatarALLY MONCRIEFF is a freelance football writer and editor of All or Nothing magazine. Sometimes even he can’t tell if he’s being serious or not. Follow Ally on Twitter and maybe he’ll be your friend.

 

 

Inter Remain Narrow Favourites in Milan Derby

Milan midfielder Sulley Muntari was a Champions League winner with Inter in 2010

Milan midfielder Sulley Muntari was a Champions League winner with Inter in 2010

While Arsenal’s match against Chelsea might be the biggest game in England this weekend, few games in world football can compete with the Milan derby, and Sunday’s encounter is no exception, despite the two sides’ middling fortunes this season.

Internazionale v AC Milan Betting Odds

Inter win – 2.52

Draw – 3.10

Milan win – 2.68

(All odds provided by GR88.com are current as of today but subject to change)

Inter go into the game fifth in the table, nine points and five places above their city rivals, and this is the nominal ‘home’ game for the Nerazzuri in their shared stadium.

There will be plenty of players facing their former clubs, with Milan’s Mario Balotelli and Sulley Muntari scoring late equalisers in the last two matches, 2-2 draws against Livorno and Roma respectively.

For Walter Mazzari’s Inter, all eyes will be on Fredy Guarín, the Colombian midfielder linked heavily with a move to Chelsea, while both teams will have key players suspended – Argentinean forward Ricky Alvarez for the hosts and captain Riccardo Montolivo for the Rossoneri.

This fixture has proved heated in the past, with two players sent off when the two teams met in April 2011, however Inter’s Japanese defender Yuto Nagatomo – who scored in the midweek defeat to Napoli – the only man to see red in the last five meetings.

Betting Instinct Tip – Inter to be winning at half-time and full-time is 4.30 with GR88.com

 

TOM VICTOR (editor) tv is the editor and co-founder of Betting Instinct. He has written for a variety of sports sites in the past, including JustFootball, Footy Matters and BeNeFoot.

Mid-table Milan to Restore Pride Against Rampant Roma

Mario Balotelli has been crucial to Milan's resurgence after a slow start

Mario Balotelli has been crucial to Milan’s resurgence after a slow start

The last time AC Milan faced Roma at the San Siro it was a mild May evening and the 2012-13 Serie A season was drawing to a close. Milan were on the cusp of confirming a Champions League finish while Roma were set for an unremarkable top half place under caretaker manager, Aurelio Andreazzoli. A goalless draw was distinguished by two red cards and the unedifying sight of a stoppage for racist abuse aimed towards Milan’s Mario Balotelli. The fortunes of both clubs have diverged since but the result when they meet again is likely to be the same, with the spoils shared once more.

AC Milan v AS Roma betting odds

Milan to win – 2.26

Draw – 3.10

Roma to win – 3.05

(Odds provided by GEObet.com are current as of today but subject to change.)

The Rossoneri are enduring their worst start to a league campaign since 1981-2 when the team was relegated. History repeating itself is improbable but this is a disjointed side led by the beleaguered Massimiliano Allegri. Their first 13 games this season returned a meagre 14 points, drawing the ire of the hardcore in the Curva Sud.

Following a 1-1 home draw against Genoa last month, Milan’s Ultras blockaded the team bus’ exit from the San Siro in protest. The iconic Kaka and club stalwart Christian Abbiati eventually relented, engaging with the supporters to ease the situation. Adding to the soap opera there has been a public power struggle for the day to day running of the club between the owner’s daughter, Barbara Berlusconi and the current vice president Adriano Galliani. This resulted in the latter’s resignation which was duly rejected by Barbara’s father, Silvio.

Recovering from a sluggish start may well be Milan and Allegri’s forte, however, as it was the hallmark of their previous season. Those signs could be revealing themselves again. After six weeks without a win they managed a 3-1 victory away to Catania. From a one goal deficit the spine of the team finally showed some resolve. Goals from Riccardo Montolivo, Mario Balotelli and Kaká provided a comfortable win. The returning Brazilian who now has 99 goals from Milan has injected some desperately needed creativity, while the talismanic Balotelli rescued a 2-2 draw last weekend at newly promoted Livorno. Meanwhile there is optimism that the prodigiously talented Stephan El Shaarawy and Mattia De Sciglio will feature more following injuries.

Reaching the glided Champions League places seems unlikely for Milan but there are loftier ambitions in the capital where Roma broke Italian football history to record 10 wins from their first 10 league games this season. The Giallorossi sold Erik Lamela, Dani Osvaldo and Marquinhos but their loss was mitigated by the club’s most important summer business, the appointment of the urbane Frenchman, Rudi Garcia as manager. Canny acquisitions followed in the form of Kevin Strootman, Gervinho and Mehdi Benatia. Quick, transitional football with a watertight defence has been their strength thus far. A vintage season from their all time top goalscorer Francesco Totti hasn’t hurt either.

At 37 years of age it is remarkable how reliant Roma remain on Totti for that touch of brilliance and invention in tight games- his absence through injury coincided with four consecutive draws, halting their astonishing start to the campaign. Il Capitano returned to the bench last weekend for a home tie versus Fiorentina where Mattia Destro, fresh from returning from injury himself, scored the winner and immediately raced to the bench, embracing Totti.

Despite remaining unbeaten, Roma are now second in the division with Juventus three points clear. A first Scudetto since 2001 may be a step too far for the Romans but with a stingy defence, a well balanced midfield and the attacking intent of Gervinho and Alessandro Florenzi, this is undoubtedly an exciting side.

Monday night sees ninth clash with second. The slowly recovering Milan are without a home win since beating Udinese in October. Coincidentally Roma have not won away since travelling to Udine in October. A draw seems the best bet with both teams to get on the scoresheet.

Betting Instinct tip – Milan 1-1 Roma is 7.00 with AllYouBet.ag

Jack Howlett avatarJACK HOWLETT spends most of his time following the ups and downs (mostly downs) of West Ham United. To find some solace he takes a keen interest in foreign leagues, especially Italy’s Serie A.