07/08/2010 – Saturday Transfer Talk

7 08 2010

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=pepe+reina&iid=7220022″ src=”http://view1.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/7220022/pepe-reina-liverpool-2008/pepe-reina-liverpool-2008.jpg?size=500&imageId=7220022″ width=”234″ height=”309″ /] Arsenal have launched a £23m raid for Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina (left) but face a battle to lure one of the Anfield club’s prize assets.

Manchester City will use Stephen Ireland as part of a player-plus-cash bid to persuade Aston Villa to part company with England international midfielder James Milner.

Milner was pulled out of Aston Villa’s friendly against Valencia on Friday as his move to City moved ever closer. The Eastlands club will pay an intial £15m fee that could rise nearer to £20m once the player has achieved certain targets.

Stoke boss Tony Pulis is ready to offload Turkish midfielder-cum-striker Tuncay to Blackburn to help fund his £10m pursuit of Nice forward Loic Remy.

Ghana international John Mensah is to return to Sunderland on loan, according to French club Lyon.

Meanwhile, Pulis is poised to make a £12m offer to West Ham to bring striker Carlton Cole to the Britannia Stadium.

Blackburn Rovers boss Sam Allardyce is set to make a move for Aston Villa midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker.

Juventus midfielder Christian Poulsen is on the verge of a switch to Liverpool, according to his agent.

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=cesc+fabregas&iid=8410847″ src=”http://view3.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/8410847/cesc-fabregas-arsenal-2009/cesc-fabregas-arsenal-2009.jpg?size=500&imageId=8410847″ width=”234″ height=”309″ /] Cesc Fabregas (right) admits he is only staying at Arsenal because manager Arsene Wenger forced him to.

Everton defender Phil Jagielka will make his first England appearance since April 2009 in Wednesday’s friendly against Hungary at Wembley as part of a number of changes by coach Fabio Capello to the squad that flopped at this summer’s World Cup finals.

Liverpool striker Fernando Torres was waiting for an approach from Barcelona until the last minute before pledging his immediate future to Anfield.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is considering ending his interview boycott with the BBC. The Premier League has warned United of the fines the Scot could incur this season if he continues to ignore Match of the Day and 5 live reporters, while the League Managers’ Association has tried to persuade the 68-year-old to break his Beeb silence.

Leeds chairman Ken Bates believes half of foreign owners of British clubs “don’t know what they’re doing”, branding Liverpool’s American co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett “jokers”.

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Dirk’s Double Does the Damage – Match Report

22 01 2010

Liverpool’s victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday night gave everyone at the club a much needed boost following the FA Cup 3rd round defeat to Reading. This said, it was the third win in four in the league which has helped lift the Reds to within one point of fourth placed Tottenham. Dirk Kuyt’s sixth minute opener gave the injury-ravished Liverpool a deserved lead after finishing well from Alberto Aquilani’s lay off. Injuries to Glen Johnson, Daniel Agger, Fabio Aurelio, Yossi Benayoun, Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres meant that the likes of Kuyt and Aquilani really had to step up to the plate on Wednesday, which they duly did.

Kuyt firing his first goal of the game

Chances were few and far between in the first 45 minutes, with Tottenham’s first chance coming just before Kuyt gave Liverpool the lead when Pepe Reina did well to smother the ball away from Niko Krancjar and Jermain Defoe. The visitor’s best chance came just before half time when Wilson Palacios slid a ball through to Luka Modric but Reina stood big and did well to deny the little Croatian. Liverpool’s only other first half chances came late from Martin Skrtel and Sotirios Kyrgiakos. The Liverpool versus Tottenham fixture is normally one of the better ones in a Premier League campaign but neither side really managed to claim the ascendency in the early parts of this one.

The beginning of the second half saw Liverpool lose concentration which nearly, and perhaps should have seen Tottenham equalise through who else but Jermain Defoe. A lack of concentration and subsequent mix-up from Kyrgiakos and Reina led to Defoe pinching the ball from Reina’s feet and slotting home into an empty net, only for the Kop to breathe a huge sigh of relief when the referee’s assistant adjudged Defoe as being offside. Replays suggest it was a somewhat fortuitous decision. This was the wake-up call that Liverpool were lucky to get but the next chance fell to the hosts as Philipp Degen’s run and cross was met by the head of Albert Riera whose header rattled Heurelho Gomes’ crossbar. It was desperately unlucky and left the Anfield faithful wondering whether it was a chance that would later be rued. Philipp Degen was to be involved again shortly after Riera’s chance when he flicked on a cross to Dirk Kuyt who blazed over from close range.

Jermaine Jenas then went close after about 65 minutes but Pepe Reina was in inspired form to palm the ball away to safety. Liverpool really should have put the match to bed after that when Kuyt’s high work-rate was rewarded as he stole possession on the halfway line before feeding Philipp Degen who wasted a golden opportunity. Manager Rafa Benitez had some special praise for Kuyt’s contribution in his post-match press conference where he said, “he was working very hard and maybe he could have scored four today,” Benitez told reporters. “His commitment is always 100 per cent, so we are pleased for him”. Spectacular efforts were next to follow from Albert Riera and then Alan Hutton for Spurs but neither goalkeeper was called into action on these occasions. This was to be the last chance for the visitors who lacked creativity in the final third with Tom Huddlestone and Aaron Lennon both sidelined through injury.

Benitez must take credit for some inspiring substitutions in this game as the introduction of Maxi Rodriguez and David N’Gog sparked Liverpool back into life and commanding centre-back Sotirios Kyrgiakos went close seven minutes from time but his left footed half-volley was beaten away by Gomes in the Tottenham goal. It seemed as if Rafa was content to take the 1-0 victory as he introduced Stephen Darby to the right side of midfield in a bid to shore things up but it was fellow substitute David N’Gog whose lively play helped wrap up the points. He first turned delightfully on the edge of the box to force a smart save from Gomes before getting Sebastian Bassong in a mess as the Cameroonian defender felled the France under-21 international just inside the penalty area to give Dirk Kuyt the chance for his and Liverpool’s second. Kuyt smashed home the penalty only for Howard Webb to demand a retake after encroaching from Lucas Leiva among others. At the second time of asking, Kuyt switched sides and cooly slotted home his eighth goal of the season.

Kuyt and Lucas acknowledge the fans after Kuyt doubles the lead

After the match Rafa Benitez not only had praise for Kuyt, but the whole team including fringe players Philipp Degen, Martin Skrtel and Sotirios Kyrgiakos who have equipped themselves well in the last two league games. Kyrgiakos reminds me of Sami Hyypia and this was demonstrated well in his handling of Mamady Sidibie against Stoke City and Degen looked full of running against Stoke and Tottenham whilst providing good defensive protection to Jamie Carragher at full-back. After the game, Benitez said “it is difficult to stop Crouch and Defoe, so I think the combination of Kyrgiakos and Skrtel did well,” before adding, “I said before, the squad is not as bad as people have said. Today we were without six players, but the rest of the squad showed character. We have to be pleased because everyone was working hard and the players who have not played too many games did well.” Without wishing to bemoan our bad luck with injuries too much, I do agree with Rafa. Everyone is keen to remind us that we are having a terrible season, yet we are now just one point behind Tottenham who are said to be having a fantastic season so things cannot be all bad.

To conclude, I think the addition of Maxi Rodriguez will turn out to be a shrewd piece of business, but it is the fitness of Benayoun, Gerrard and Torres that will be the key if we are to make the top four this season. Any team would miss Gerrard and Torres as they are pure and simply world-class, but the Tottenham game has shown that the squad is not overly-reliant on two players and it is now imperative that we kick on; starting away to Wolves.

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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