Premier League Preview – 2011/2012 (Part Two)

10 08 2011

Everton

Everton are the only team out of the 92 in the football league who have not signed a player on a permanent basis.  Youngster Eric Dier, an Englishman with Portuguese dual-nationality, has joined on a second loan spell from Sporting Lisbon whilst James Vaughan has joined Norwich City for £2million. That is the end of the transfer dealings at Goodison Park this summer so far.

Everton have a good youth academy, and they’ve needed it, which has seen Jack Rodwell slot into the team well in previous seasons and this campaign could also see Jose Baxter and the highly-rated Ross Barkley feature regularly for the first team due to having such a small squad. The loss of the impressive Seamus Coleman for six months with an ankle ligament injury is a big blow for Everton. Coleman picked up the injury courtesy of an awful tackle by Villarreal’s Carlos Marchena in a pre-season friendly. Versatile players such as Coleman are vital to teams like Everton.

Evertonians must hope key players Mikel Arteta and Jack Rodwell have the worst of their injury woes behind them and remain injury-free this season and the returning Yakubu is still good enough to score goals at this level. On paper, Everton’s first XI is reasonably strong and David Moyes is perfectly capable of over-achieving like he has many times before.

Key Player: Tim Cahill

Net Spend: +£2million

Prediction: 9th

Fulham

Last season Mark Hughes continued Roy Hodgson’s good work from the previous campaign and both men have left a good set of players behind and a structure in place for Martin Jol to build upon.  A quiet summer of transfer activity so far has seen John Arne Riise and Patjim Kasami come in as the most notable signings. Will these signings be enough to see Fulham continue the good work started by Jol’s predecessors? They are certainly a good start.

Fulham’s season began on 30th June in the Europa League qualifiers so they should be fully prepared and match fit come the start of the Premier League season. The concern could be that a lengthy run in the Europa League might see Fulham end the season in a similar fashion to when they reached the Europa League final in 2010. I can’t see Fulham being dragged anywhere near the relegation zone but another mid-table finish beckons.

Key Player: Clint Dempsey

Net Spend: -£5.2million

Prediction: 12th

Liverpool

Liverpool have spent a sizeable amount so far and there’s every indication that one or two more signings are still to come. Having just a net spend of £2million in January due to the sales of Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel counter-acting the fees paid for Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez, Liverpool have signalled their intent on finishing in the top four this season by splashing out heavily with a net spend of £41million on Jordan Henderson for an initial fee of £15.8million, Charlie Adam for £7.3million and Stewart Downing for £20million. Brazil goalkeeper Doni joined from AS Roma on a free transfer to act as understudy to Pepé Reina.

Have Liverpool spent too much on Henderson and Downing? Many would argue, yes. I, however, disagree. Many still judge a player in today’s market by the fees associated with players of a similar calibre from previous years. The Transfer Price Index offers an excellent insight into this. Jordan Henderson, Phil Jones, Romelu Lukaku and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are the very latest signings to support the argument.

Strong financial backing by Liverpool’s American owners means the squad has been strengthened and a top four finish is a must. The signings of Adam and Downing will offer Liverpool something which has been lacking since Xabi Alonso, and probably Steve McManaman, left the club; a deep-lying playmaker in Adam and a genuine winger in Downing. Whilst comparisons are never helpful it is understandable to see why they are often made. In an attacking sense, there are plenty of options available to Kenny Dalglish. A front three from Luis Suarez, Andy Carroll, Dirk Kuyt and Stewart Downing supported by three from, assuming they all remain with the club, Lucas Leiva, Steven Gerrard, Alberto Aquilani, Raul Meireles, Charlie Adam, Jay Spearing, Jonjo Shelvey and Jordan Henderson means we should expect plenty of goals from Liverpool.

The biggest problem I foresee for Liverpool is the same problem I foresee for Arsenal and that is the defence. Liverpool conceded 15 goals in 6 pre-season games and whilst it is important to retain perspective and not jump to conclusions based on pre-season results, it’s hard to disagree that the defence could be Liverpool’s Achilles heel. With the end of the transfer window drawing ever closer, it could be that whoever out of Liverpool and Arsenal brings in the best defensive reinforcements has the edge in the quest to finish in the top four.

At right-back, Glen Johnson, Martin Kelly and even John Flanagan provides me with no worries, but the rest of the defence could be exploited, particularly if injuries occur. Daniel Agger and Fabio Aurelio are very suspect to injury which is a shame as few doubt their ability. A full season from these two would leave Liverpool fans with few worries. Jamie Carragher isn’t getting any younger but his experience is crucial in bringing through young players such as Martin Kelly, John Flanagan, Jack Robinson, Andre Wisdom and Stephen Sama. Unfortunately, the signs are there to suggest that Carragher is on the decline. For me, Martin Skrtel isn’t good enough and Sotirios Kyrgiakos is a mix of the two aforementioned; he’s not getting any younger and he’s no longer good enough. Scott Dann appears likely to join Arsenal leaving Liverpool to look elsewhere for defensive reinforcements but José Enrique appears to be edging ever closer to signing for Liverpool to compete with Fabio Aurelio and Emiliano Insua for the left-back berth, assuming the latter remains at the club.

This is a big season for Liverpool. The realistic aim is to get back into the Champions League whilst bringing through the young players needed to enable a title challenge in the coming seasons.

Key Player: Luis Suarez

Net Spend: -£41million

Prediction: 4th

Manchester City

Manchester City enjoyed a reasonably successful season last term. Their first major trophy since 1976 has given the City faithful reason to be optimistic this season. City has continued to spend heavily this summer. A net spend of £46.6million, more than any other Premier League club, has been invested to ensure they strongly challenge for the Premier League and the Champions League this season. Sergio Aguero was signed from Atletico Madrid for £39.5million, highly-rated defender Stefan Savic cost £10.5million from Serbian outfit Partizan Belgrade, Gael Clichy switched allegiance from Arsenal for £6.8million and Costel Pontilimon is moving to England from Romanian side Politehnica Timisoara for £5.7million, replacing Shay Given as Joe Hart’s understudy.

Manchester City were outclassed by rivals Manchester United in the Community Shield.

Carlos Tévez playing for Manchester City

Image via Wikipedia

From 2-0 up, United showed their class and resilience by pulling the game back to 2-2 early in the second half. Roberto Mancini’s tactics and choice of substitution were particularly baffling. When chasing a winning goal, Mancini sent Gareth Barry and Gael Clichy on to the field. I have my doubts as to whether Mancini is the man to deliver the Premier League title to Eastlands for the first time.

The Carlos Tevez saga (pictured with his bulldog like approach) continues to rumble on and that needs to be resolved one way or the other. Nobody can deny the talent City have in their squad. On paper, they’re as good as any side. Unfortunately for City, football isn’t played on paper and question marks remain about the temperament of some of their players and the seemingly lack of team spirit. I expect the league to be very tight at the top so the fixtures between the top sides are crucial; the team who amasses the most points from those games will, in my opinion, win the league. I don’t think City are quite ready this season but they should fare well in the cup competitions.

Key Player: David Silva

Net Spend: -£46million

Prediction: 3rd

Manchester United

Manchester United have had a solid pre-season and Sir Alex Ferguson has shown signs of building yet another side capable of dominating for years to come. The average age of  United’s team in the second half (prior to Dimitar Berbatov’s five-minute cameo) of the Community Shield match against Manchester City was just 22 years old. £50.4million has been spent on David de Gea (£17.6million), Phil Jones (£16.9million) and Ashley Young (£15.8million) to ensure they remain as dangerous as ever with £10.1million being recouped from the sales of John O’Shea, Wes Brown, Gabriel Obertan and a handful of young players. The emergence of youth products Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley ensures there is a healthy competition for places at Old Trafford to enable a sustained challenge on all fronts for the coming season. Sir Alex Ferguson is laying down the foundations and building another squad that can be successful long after he retires.

Paul Scholes and Edwin Van der Sar have retired and the departures of John O’Shea, Wes Brown and Owen Hargreaves means a lot of experience has left the United squad this summer. It remains to be seen if United struggle in the way that Chelsea struggled in the previous season when a number of experienced players left for pastures new.  It’s impossible to replace Scholes; he’s one of the Premier League’s best ever players. That said, it’s a big season for the current crop of United stars and someone needs to step out of the shadows in an attempt to fill the void left by Scholes’ retirement. A stand-out season could lie in wait for Anderson. He’s shown in short spells the quality he has but now he needs to add consistency to his game. It could be a make-or-break season for the 23-year-old Brazilian.

Javier Hernández will prove to be an indispensable member of the first-team squad and I’m sure he’ll build on his terrific début season. A strike partnership with Wayne Rooney has the makings of being as good as any around and the two are vital to any success United can hope to have.

Key Player: Javier Hernández

Net Spend: -£40.2million

Prediction: 1st

All transfer fees correct according to the excellent TransferMarkt. Don’t believe the exaggerated fees you see in newspapers and on Sky Sports News!





22/09/2010 – Wednesday’s Paper Round-Up

22 09 2010

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is keeping tabs on Ajax defender Jan Vertonghen.

DR Congo star Dieumerci Mbokani turned down the chance to join Liverpool this summer – but the Monaco striker has told Reds manager Roy Hodgson he is prepared to play for him in the future.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=lucas+leiva&iid=8467815″ src=”http://view1.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/8467815/liverpool-benfica/liverpool-benfica.jpg?size=500&imageId=8467815″ width=”234″ height=”352″ /] Liverpool may offload Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva (left) to Italian side Juventus in January, with a fee of £7m enough to seal the deal.

Everton have agreed a January deal for 18-year-old Azerbaijan international Araz Abdullayev. The Neftchi Baku midfielder will sign an initial three-year deal, with an option for two further seasons.

Sheffield United have signed Richard Wright on a four-month deal. The goalkeeper was a free agent after leaving Ipswich in the summer.

Portsmouth hope to complete the loan signing of Tottenham defender Kyle Naughton.

Hoffenheim striker Peniel Mlapa admits he is flattered with speculation linking him with a move to Tottenham.

Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas has insisted he is “completely focused” on Arsenal but also hinted that he is still interested in a move to boyhood club Barcelona.

New Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier wants a closer look at midfielder Barry Bannan before deciding whether to allow him to go on loan to Sheffield United.

Celtic are considering a January move to sign frozen out Manchester City goalkeeper Shay Given. (the Sun)

Manager Roberto Mancini has told his Manchester City players to stop moaning about a lack of first-team chances and sort out their grievances with him in private.

The Manchester United hierarchy have decided on a new policy of renegotiating players’ contracts when their current deal has one, rather than two, years left to run.

Manchester United’s Portuguese youngster Bebe will be handed his first taste of competitive action when he features in the Carling Cup tie at Scunthorpe on Wednesday evening.

Former Germany coach Jurgen Klinsmann has revealed that he turned down the chance to coach the United States after the World Cup, having failed to agree terms with the US Soccer Federation.

Celtic midfielder Efrain Juarez has been banned from playing for Mexico for six months along with Arsenal’s Carlos Vela after breaching squad rules with an alleged wild party after this month’s friendly win over Colombia.

Rangers will receive £300,000 from Liverpool as part of Danny Wilson’s summer transfer deal when the central defender makes his first competitive appearance for the Anfield club tonight.

Ghana have targeted Bobby Williamson, who is out of contract with Uganda, as their new head coach after he took his side to an all-time high of 63 in the world rankings.

Spain fear that Cesc Fabregas will miss the Euro qualifier against Scotland on 12 October after the Arsenal midfielder picked up an injury against Sunderland at the weekend.

Wolves had the last laugh on Notts Country striker Lee Hughes last night after the former West Brom player revealed a T-shirt with the Baggies’ ‘boing boing’ catchphrase after scoring the opening goal of the Carling Cup tie. Mick McCarthy’s side recovered to win 4-2.

Ghana want ex-Hibernian and Kilmarnock boss Bobby Williamson as their next manager. Williamson previously took Uganda to an all-time high of 63 in the Fifa rankings.

Enzo Fernandez, the eldest son of Zinedine Zidane, is being courted by both the Spanish and French football federations. The 15-year-old Real Madrid midfielder, who has dual nationality, could represent either nation.

For full stories, head over to the BBC website.





Benfica 2-1 Liverpool – Match Report

3 04 2010

Benfica 2-1 Liverpool. It is a score-line I am sure many Liverpool fans will consider to be a decent result; myself included. That all important away goal courtesy of Daniel Agger gives us something to go back to Anfield with in the hope of another famous European night with the 12th man that is the Kop firmly behind us. The circumstances concerning the way we were leading but still lost makes the result a bit harder to deal with.

Daniel Agger’s clever finish from a Steven Gerrard free kick in the ninth minute got us off to the perfect start and drew comparisons to the goal that he scored against Chelsea in the Champions League in 2007. It was a goal that seemed long overdue for Agger who had threatened to get on the score sheet in the previous match against Sunderland. After this however, Benfica showed their class with Paraguayan striker Oscar Cardozo coming close on a couple of occasions and we rode our luck a little when he spooned an effort over from inside the six yard box. His next chance was with his head after an excellent delivery from in-demand Argentine winger Angel Di Maria, yet the outcome and the score-line remained the same. Further headed chances were spurned by newly capped Brazilian international Ramires before Cardozo missed another. It was Di Maria to threaten next for the home side when his fierce strike flashed narrowly over Jose Reina in the Liverpool goal. On another night we could have easily been three or four goals down.

Great Dane: Daniel Agger gives Liverpool the lead in the 9th minute.

For me, it was disappointing how vulnerable we looked defensively, especially aerially, and I recall mentioning at the time via Twitter how it was the sort of game Sami Hyypia would have relished. This is why I believe Sotirios Kyrgiakos will come into the side to partner Jamie Carragher in the heart of defence for the second leg with Daniel Agger shifting to left back to deputise for the suspended Emiliano Insua and the injured Fabio Aurelio. What was also disappointing was the amount of criticism aimed at Insua by Liverpool ‘fans’. It is important to remember that he is still just 21 years old and has been thrust into the side due to Aurelio’s constant injury problems and Andrea Dossena and John Arne Riise have both moved to Serie A with Napoli and AS Roma respectively. It is the same situation with Lucas Leiva. He receives more criticism than he is due and fans normally state how he cannot pass or tackle. He is currently the fifth most successful tackler in the Premier League with a success rate of 69% and before last weekend he was in the top five passers in the league. Not bad for a player who cannot pass or tackle.

The suspension of Insua has resulted in talk of ‘three at the back’ but for me this would not be the best option as Benfica like to make the most of their wide men; in particular Di Maria. A five man midfield would probably need wing backs and then we are back with the problem of who plays at left wing back. Where would Glen Johnson feature if we had to play with three at the back without wing-backs? It would seem foolish to leave him out of a game that requires us to attack from the off. My final point on three at the back would be that it has been a long time since we have played with this system. I believe that it takes time for players to adapt to a different formation and now is not the time to change in what could be a season defining game. I will leave the team selection to Rafa.

Back to the game and after chances aplenty from Benfica came the big talking point of the match. Brazilian defender Luisao’s wild tackle from behind on Fernando Torres resulted in Ryan Babel receiving a straight red card for touching Luisao in the face. It could be argued that Luisao should have received a straight red card for the tackle itself yet Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson deemed that a yellow card would suffice. The tackle was of a reckless nature which then saw Babel remonstrate with Luisao before touching, and note not hitting out at, the Benfica captain in the face. It is a silly thing to do in the modern game even though it seems petulant, Fifa laws state that if a player raises or puts his hand in another player’s face then it is red card. If contact is made from a player to another player’s chest or below then it is a yellow card. Take note Ryan to push Luisao in the chest next time! Down to ten men with the whole of the second half and part of the first still to play ensured that it was going to be difficult to contain an attacking Benfica side.

Fracas: Ryan Babel receives his marching orders.

The second half saw us start brightly but things got worse on the hour mark as Insua felled fellow Argentine Pablo Aimar in the penalty area. This stemmed from us failing to deal with Oscar Cardozo’s powerful free kick which had moments before rattled the post. It was Cardozo who stepped up and powerfully tucked his spot-kick into the corner of the net. Either side of the equaliser saw further incidents; however, this time they were in the shape and form of missiles from the Benfica fans behind Jose Reina in the Liverpool goal. The second of the two missiles left its mark on the pitch and resulted in the referee consulting his fourth, fifth and six officials after the Additional Assistant closest to the missile was left nursing a sore ear. Lets hope we can show the Benfica fans how to behave properly in the return leg without the need of missiles to intimidate officials.

With ten minutes to go, Angel Di Maria skipped to the byline and his cross struck Jamie Carragher on his outstretched hand and a second penalty was awarded. You could tell after witnessing two penalties and a red card that this was not to be our night and a seventeenth defeat in a disappointing season loomed. Paraguay international Cardozo stepped up again to coolly slot his penalty into the same side of the net after waiting for Reina to dive the other way. This took his tally to thirty this season which will inevitably link him with a big money move to Manchester City among others in the summer. I do not normally like to blame referees for the outcome of games but he appeared to favour the home side with innocuous tackles from us being given as fouls whilst Ryan Babel got kicked in the head in the first half without a free kick being given. Jose Reina also got booked for time-wasting with a goal kick yet he only had the ball for a mere six seconds. I have not even accounted for the number of fouls and kicks Fernando Torres received.

Paraguayan striker Oscar Cardozo

With this considered, we did have a few chances of our own. Fernando Torres had the best of the chances after being released by Dirk Kuyt in the latter stages of the second half but he uncharacteristically and agonizingly spurned the opportunity by dragging his one-on-one chance wide of the post. Torres was later left with a chance to run at David Luiz but the Brazilian defender matched him for pace and strength and thwarted the attack.

We managed to see out the last ten minutes without further scare and the away goal provided by Agger could prove vital in the return leg as they so often do. Two further positives are that Javier Mascherano and Fernando Torres did not pick up a yellow card in the match which would have resulted in them being ruled out of the return leg through suspension. Providing and praying that we do not pick up any injuries against Birmingham City on Sunday, Rafa Benitez has a more or less full squad to choose from.

It will be tough in the second but a famous European night at Anfield always fills me with optimism and I would not be surprised to see us win 1-0.

Mark Jepson





So Long Rafa

15 01 2010

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Twelve points adrift in the Premier League, out of the Carling Cup, failure to progress in the Champions League and now out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle after an embarrassing defeat to Reading at Anfield. We should take nothing away from Reading as they deserved their win, but where does this leave us now? Shane Long’s extra time winner leaves us looking at the long road ahead.
 
In the space of nine months we have gone from title challengers, and almost winners, to scrapping for fourth place with Aston Villa, Manchester City and Tottenham Hostpur. Furthermore, Birmingham, Sunderland and Stoke are all cranking the pressure on us. In these nine months, not too much has changed. Alvaro Arbeloa and Xabi Alonso have left but they have been replaced by Glen Johnson and Alberto Aquilani. Whilst the off-field troubles are not helping, it’s Rafa Benitez’s tactics and team selection that are coming under scrutiny once again. His insistence on playing out of form players such as Emiliano Insua, Lucas Leiva and Dirk Kuyt week in, week out is not helping. Insua for one not only looks out of form, but looks rock bottom for confidence. In fact I would go as far as saying that Gordon Brown will be more confident of delivering Labour a fourth consecutive election win than Insua will be of delivering a good performance for Liverpool. His positional sense, heading ability and lack of pace all leave a lot to be desired but the squad is too thin for changes. Players are leaving so that the wage bill can be trimmed but replacements are not forth coming. Our owners insistence on selling players before we can buy is having a harmful effect on the club. In January Andrea Dossena has gone back to Italy for a small loss, and Andrey Voronin has also finally left for Dynamo with Ryan Babel and Philipp Degen also open to moves. Yet just Argentina winger Maxi Rodriguez looks like arriving in this window and after last nights toothless performance, he must be wondering what on Earth he has signed up for. An already thin squad is getting thinner. Take into account the injuries we’ve had and things do not look like getting any better. Once Fernando Torres gets injured, it’s left to David N’Gog or Dirk Kuyt to fill the void and provide the goals and quite frankly, they’re just not up to task. Performances like last nights will also leave Marouane Chamakh wondering whether a Bosman move to us is in the summer really is a good idea.
 
At least Rodriguez has signed to give us some much needed width as once again we are looking desperate in the wide areas. I don’t wish to keep singling out Kuyt as I think he is a good player, but creative right winger he is not. The same goes for wide left as Babel doesn’t look interested anymore and Riera keeps picking up injuries. Aside from Jose Reina, Gerrard and Torres we look distinctly average. Failure to qualify for next season’s Champions League means offers may have to be considered for our last remaining top players which is why qualification is imperative. Each loss that we suffer tightens the rope that is hanging around Rafa’s neck.
 
Yet as mentioned, the financial situation at the club means that sacking Rafa is almost impossible at this time as he has not long started a new five-year deal. As well as this, who could do a better job with the limited resources he would have? Whilst I am not suggesting that Rafa has not had money to spend, when you compare it to what our Champions League rivals are spending it looks an unenviable job guiding us to next season’s competition. Apart from Guus Hiddink, there isn’t really an abundance of managerial talent waiting for jobs although I assume Gary Megson is looking for an immediate return to management. He might be in our price range too. Although we all dream of the Jose Mourinho’s of this world managing our club it seems that managing Liverpool in this day and age is not as desireable as it once was. 
 
So after Shane Long’s winner last night, our FA Cup exit leaves me saying ‘So Long Rafa’, we will never forget Istanbul 2005 and Cardiff 2006 but perhaps you have taken us as far as you can.
 
Mark Jepson




The Transfer Market

15 01 2010

The ‘Rafalution’ has certainly gone under the microscope at the minute and the media seem ever so keen to highlight his poor signings. Now, I’m not going to defend some of his signings as I’m sure you would agree that Nunez, Josemi and Kromkamp sent most fans into a cold sweat every time they made an appearance. However, when considering some of his poor signings against the flops bought by other top 4 managers, you will realise the media are being a little unfair.

Yes I could give a mention to Fergie, Wenger and Abramovich/Kenyon’s flops too. Crespo, Shevchenko and Veron or Kleberson, Djemba-Djemba and Taibi are all far worse signings than some of Rafa’s and a lot costlier too. However, Rafa seems to bring a lot of criticism on himself. His stubborn persistence with players such as Lucas Leiva (whose birth certificate I would like to see) separates him from the rest. If Ferguson makes a mistake, they are almost always sold on, more often than not for profit I hasten to add. The same with Chelsea to a degree, if a player is just simply not good enough, he will be sold, or in the case of Hernan Crespo be loaned out for about 3 years! Chelsea don’t have to worry about flops as much however due to their unrivalled wealth, or at least it was unrivalled until Manchester City’s owners graced our shores. It is this where I feel Rafa is being a little harshly treated. His ‘eye for talent’ is something that is also often challenged. I can assure you that there is nothing wrong with his eye for talent, he just does not have the financial means to always sign who he wants. It is for that reason that he ends up signing second or third choice players who are often gambles. Inevitably, gambles do not always pay off. Rafa has identified David Villa, David Silva, Daniel Alves, Simao Sabrosa, Sergio Aguero (before he signed for Atletico) among others as potential signings so there is nothing wrong with his eye for talent. However, when Rick Parry was at the helm and our worrying financial situation these were unrealistic targets. Instead he ended up with Jermaine Pennant, who was deemed to not be good enough for Arsenal yet we signed anyway, as well as Mark González, Fernando Morientes and Andriy Voronin.

Benitez has more often than not got it right when he has been able to spend big although he has had to sell before he can buy in the summer gone by. Can people really argue with the signings of a certain striker named Fernando Torres? How about Pepe Reina, Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano, Daniel Agger and Glen Johnson? I’m sure regardless of who you support you would not be disappointed to see anyone of these on your club’s team sheet. Furthermore, he’s trying to restructure the youth academy which, in my opinion, was long overdue. Although I’m not sure whether he should be getting involved in this area of the club, things certainly seem to be improving. As Gerard Houllier once said about the academy, ‘I’m not expecting the next Steven Gerrard, but I wouldn’t mind a few Jamie Carraghers.’ I feel Rafa has echoed those sentiments, and although there will never be another Steven Gerrard, he is slowly introducing one or two young players who are most definitely prospects. Martin Kelly’s man of the match performance on his debut against Olympique Lyonnais shows this. Furthermore, Jay Spearing made his debut in a home tie against Real Madrid. Gone are the days of rolling out McManaman’s, Fowler’s and Owen’s year after year, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Although it may seem hard to believe, I’m not so pro-Rafa that I would defend him whatever happens. Six defeats in a season that is still only in October is by no way good enough. However, as I may just have mentioned once or twice, we are rather struggling somewhat in terms of finance. Would it really be wise to sack him at the cost of around £20m? That is the sort of figure he would get as he only signed his latest deal on the 18th March 2009. Then a new manager arrives with a whole array of new ideas that would probably take another 5 years to implement fully and by that time Gerrard and Carragher will either be gone or well past their best. I guess what I am trying to say is that it was only a few months ago that Rafa led us to four points from winning the title and although Alonso has gone, not much else has changed.

Mark Jepson








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