Tag Archives: Liverpool

Top Players by Club – Part 2 of 4


Welcome to our look at the players that made the Premier League as watchable as ever, earned the respect of their peer group and endeared themself to their club’s fanbase – here’s our top player from every side:

Everton

Marouane Fellaini Everton

our fave

In a season not dissimilar to last year, or the one before that, or any year during the Moyesian Era, the Toffees have been highly watchable, relatively competitive and mid table once more. Marouane Fellaini sits front and centre of a resurgent second half of the season that has seen the blue half of Merseyside salivating over their future prospects. Look no further than the Old Trafford frenzy that saw us a little overwhelmed with:

YEEHHHHH!!!! If Everton aren’t your new second team then step right up onto the bandwagon and join our merry forray as we celebrate a title race in earnest. AT LAST! Indeed, we could sharpen our focus onto Fellaini’s fuzzy frock that seemed to give the impetus for a transcendental performance of epic proportions. The Belgian provided the best display from a box to box midfielder that I can care to remember and has afforded pundits from all points of the Earth a Monday night/Tuesday morning to relish. Thanking you.

No longer do we have to feign interest in the scramble for 4th, or the glamour of the scrap between teams like Bolton, Blackburn and Villa to put themselves through another season of abject disappointment in the top flight.

I love you Marouane

Enough of that then…

Fulham

Clint Dempsey Fulham

ahoy

Fulham have had a tumultuous year. At times devastatingly efficient, and at others, drastically lacklustre, Craven Cottage has certainly not been easy viewing for Fulham fans. Martin Jol has revamped his side with new faces with difficult names such as Progrebnyak, but more importantly, new positioning for several outstanding prospects. Swapping Belgian connoisseur, Dembele, with the swashbuckling Dempsey, has been a masterstroke, with Dembele developing towards a Xabi Alonso type figure, while our pick of the bunch, in Clint Dempsey, has been simply rampant. The American has been a revelation, completing a rights of passage towards European action at one of the supposed big four. Apparently Fulham are resigned to losing the man from the big US of A, already lining up new Dutch talent. They’ll have enormous size 14s to fill, however, with Dempsey’s return of 17 goals, 7 assists unparalleled within a mid-table outfit.

Liverpool

Martin Skrtel Liverpool Blindfold Defender

explains everything

In truth, few players to pull on the famous red in 2011/12 deserve positive recognition, but of the maybe 3 players to enhance their reputations, Martin Skrtel has been the unclear standout.  Skrtel has displayed the consistency that his salary warrants, but not much more. Resolute in the air, adhesive across the park (save the Drogba FA Cup goal) and dangerous aerially at the set piece, Skrtel has done more than simply offer a grammar-defying surname.  Liverpool’s defence was hailed as the finest in the land on FFTD before Brazilian road block, Lucas, was forced from the stage by injury. Since then, Skrtl and Agger have established a robust centre pairing that at least bodes well for seasons to come. Marto deserves the plaudits for not dropping his standards under trying conditions.

Manchester City

Yaya Toure Man City Ivory Coast

#yeyeyaya

It continues to astound that an air of negativity persists around Eastlands. City may have tipped their, at times, substantive lead into the garbage, and disappointed in Europe, but if you’ve been hiding in Hungary with Zoltan Gera, that Blue Moon progressing on its lunar orbit. Seriously progressing. Mr Mancini deserves much of the credit for banding his combustible set of stars into a committed unit. Despite golfing sojourns and the Balotelli, City have been the most dominant side throughout the year; irresistable across the pitch. From the ever-reliable Joe Hart to the ruthless Sergio Aguero, so many in their squad deserve a mention in this column; the ultimate accolade.

But there can only be one winner, and it has to be Yaya Toure who has been talismanic, providing a sturdiness across the centre of the pitch. One of Toure’s most striking strengths remains his discipline – fulfilling clearly defined roles for the team – never more evident than against Newcastle, where he wallowed, poised and ready, as a deep lying midfielder, until with startling effect, he was released forward to overwhelm the opposition and effectively win the title. Toure’s presence seems to preside over contests, with the Ivorian providing crucial interventions at key moments and discerning nuances within the ebb and flow of contests to utilise in his side’s favour. Opta Stats has developed a new methodology for determining the most impactful talent, citing the value of particular actions as variant. For example, the volume of goals is less important than the volume of winning goals, meaning the value of a goal is not a constant (scoring a winner is more impactful than Dzeko’s 6th in their 6-1 demolition). In this measure, it was Toure who featured atop the Man City combatants and near the summit of the wider Premier League pool of employees. To one of the more likeable figures in the English game, we salute you.

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Friday Forecast – 4th May 2012


Didier Drogba Chelsea Liverpool FA Cup Premier League

up up and away didier

 

This is our preview for the weekend ahead – ensuring that our views are set in stone to be proven wrong come Monday.

Pick of the Week

Look no further than the Cup Final, scheduled in the evening for 2012. Traditionally the biggest match of the English calendar year, the lustre of the cup may have dulled of late, but for many, Wembley in May will always hold a certain sentimental privilege. The romantics haven’t failed us in 2012, with a perfect script delivering two sides converging towards fresh beginnings and distinctly new periods in the history of their clubs.

Newcastle vs City runs a close second and is the easy standout in the league. Here’s hoping for the type of titanic struggle that many of the “bigger” teams have already produced this season.

Bet of the Week

We like QPR into Bolton @ approx $4 depending on your bookie. Both sides are at home, against teams with nothing but Caribbean getaways to plan for. Expect sincere desperation from the trapdoor-threatened protagonists; for losing money is a legitimate motivation for effort. A loss in this fixture for either club, could see a miserable denouement of failure.

It’s a big Weekend for…

Several candidates over the next 4 days, but we’ll opt for a combination of Steven Kean, Venkys and the stumbling embarrassment that is Blackburn. Formerly a European dynasty, this marks a deterioration towards everyone’s most hated club. It is a little difficult to fuel the embers of sympathy for a side that has been overwhelmed by protests from within since before the new year. Even a win over a resounding Wigan may not be enough – a shambles that even poking fun at has become tiresome…

Tweet of the Week:

The Woy Hodgson XI

Wobinson
Wichards – Tewwy – Wio – Warnock
Gewward – Wodwell – Bawwy
Wellbeck – Wooney – Stuwwidge

#teamwoy

Best Article of the Week

That’s right, we also didn’t know Sol Campbell still warranted a formal retirement. Laughable really.

http://www.tottenblog.com/2012/05/happy-retirement-judas-scum-open-letter.html

What you should be listening to

Before a week ago, the name Tito Vilanova meant less to FFTD than the new Minister for Health in Bulgaria – but it did rekindle a genuine love for an absolute classic. You’ll work out where Mr Manager’s name fits in…

Come back next week for:

Season Reviews, Transfer musings, Euro excitement and dumb analysis as usual…

Have a footballing weekend!

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Big Andy, Little Luis, King Kenny in The Liverpool Circus


Andy Carrol Liverpool Football English Premier League

#bigandyliverpoolnumber9

This is undoubtedly Liverpool’s poorest season in the Premier League era. Prior to a ball kicked in earnest the ingredients seemed well balanced: a Kop hero at the helm, significant investment in on-field talent and a promising blend of youth and experience. How things have changed…

At FFTD we have certainly shared in the tribulations of Andy Carroll as he has stumbled through his first Premier League campaign on Merseyside as if being led by Jose Enrique’s daughter while blindfolded and on stilts. The sympathetic view regards England’s most expensive player as a work in progress and a scapegoat for a typically scathing media. Others have pointed to his exorbitant price tag as a negligible factor; something uncontrolled by Carroll creating unrealistic and impossible to fulfill expectations. Whatever the paradigm, A. Carroll is the laughing stock of the world wide web and the emblem of anti-Liverpool sentiment (accompanied by Suarez) much to the chagrin of reds across the planet.

Big Andy was snatched in a desperate last ditch deadline day scramble for a ready made Fernando replacement. While 35 large was excessive even for a league spiralling out of financial rationality, many pundits listed his arrival from Newcastle as a favourable dealing: strong, pacey, good feet and a devastating left peg – Peter Crouch times 5. What was to ensue is common knowledge, but we feel critiques have been continuously amplified out of proportion. Commentators should disregard his price tag for now, as that figure will be amortised over the entirety of his Liverpool career, and instead focus on the deeper-seeded problems at Anfield.

Compared to the good ol’ days on Tyneside, Liverpool’s number 9 has faced worse service than at a Fawlty Towers inspired B & B. Persistent injury complaints to Stevie G and the disappointingly ineffective Charlie Adam have curbed the stem of incisive delivery into forward lying positions. Indeed, the return of Gerrard has afforded Carroll with his best opportunities in a red shirt, and therefore his most promising displays – using deft touches to release the ever-dangerous Suarez. The Carroll/Suarez partnership has been a rarity across the season in a bane for supporters. The pairing is certainly still in its infancy, but has shown fleeting moments of endeavour and adroitness. The flourishing Rooney/Welbeck attack should be an archetypal blueprint. Most tellingly, Suarez, seemingly not someone to give plaudits lightly, is on record with:

 ‘I hope Andy plays with me all matches, he helps me in game’

In their pairing up front, King Kenny has a platform on which to build a more telling challenge next year. This year’s missing piece, rather than efficiency in front of goal, has been creativity in the middle together with the absence of Lucas to provide some solidity in front of a struggling back four (but that’s for another inquiry). Forthright transfer dealings could arrest their worrying slump towards mid table and replace the substandard, such as Downing, with genuine European talent. An attacking marshal in a central role as well as a crafty winger with trickery and a turn of pace are on top of the Anfield shopping list. To give them a hand, because we know they’re reading this, we’ve selected an eclectic mix of some realistic options for the Reds. If this doesn’t propel us into the upper echelons of footballing analysis…

Gaston Ramirez

It is surprising that more gossip fails to circulate one of Europe’s finest prospects in the 21 year old Bologna midfielder. Ramirez may be suited to the English brand with his powerful 6 foot frame and ability to legitimately fulfill a role without the ball. Gaston has continuously been compared to Kaka since bursting onto the scene, in terms of his graceful flair on the ball and his reportedly unflappable temperament. This trait would be a welcome asset to a growing collective of ill-disciplined players led by the pest that is Suarez. A number of other factors point to this deal being successful: Ramirez continues the Uruguayan flavour and should connect with Suarez and Coates, something that should not be understated, at just 21 he fits with Dalglish’s commitment to youth in his recruitment ideology and finally, a bid of £16.3 million is rumoured to be in the bolognaise stained hands of Bologna already.

Estimated Price: £16m                                                                          Rating: 8/10

Scott Sinclair

Sinclair has been at the fulcrum of an eye-catching season from the Welsh Premier League newcomers this season. 7 goals in 22 appearances is noteworthy enough, but he is ensconced in the top 10 for chance creation and assists across the league. While new arrival, Sigurdsson, may be a more convincing option, we think the Icelandic starlet will go to a bigger club with Champions League action, leaving Sinclair as a realistic investment. There are a number of drawbacks however. First, Sinclair’s strength is his penetrating runs from the left towards goal, more so than his delivery from wider areas, something Liverpool could use more desperately. Second, he has flourished in a 4-3-3 abundant with crisp passing and committed movement, two things that do not necessarily fit Liverpool’s attacking idiosyncrasies. Worth a look though.

Estimated Price: £6m                                                                            Rating: 6/10

Younes Belhanda

This Moroccan midfield maestro is a genuine contender as a long-term replacement for the ageing Gerrard. England’s biggest clubs have been lining up for Belhanda’s autograph for some time now, with the Montpellier man seen as a long term replacement for Scholes at United and previously Fabregas at Arsenal. But apparently, Liverpool are finally beating these clubs to something. Younes knows his way to the back of the net too, with 12 goals to accompany his 6 assists in his 30 games in Ligue 1. Newcastle have shown the worth of French imports in their midfield and if John Henry is to break the bank this year, it would be difficult to move past Belhanda. Prepare to see this name in your gossip columns over the months to come.

Estimated Price: circa £20m                                                               Rating: 9/10

Belhanda Montpellier Liverpool Zidane

A talent not to be ignored...

Matt Jarvis

Some of my Liverpool supporting friends have bemoaned that Jarvis is just the sort of player their club will sign – and we tend to agree. 2012’s Charlie Adam, Jarvis is too good for the championship, but too expensive for the mid table club he deserves. Instead, Kenny will come to the rescue, signing another overrated Englishman without any considerable raison d’être. Jarvis is the definition of the word “useful”, but offers little more, and his signing would mark a step sideways at best. While he has been more prolific than Downing, with 7 goals for the debacle that is Wolves, this prospect would be scant improvement to the squad. This will happen – just you wait.

Estimated Price:  £4m                                                               Rating: 4/10

Royston Drenthe

England’s visiting Real Madrid player, adorned with a simply stunning given name, has shown glimpses that would fulfill Liverpool’s lacking. Drenthe is a consistent nightmare for defenders, something that Anton Ferdinand, most particularly, would substantiate. While not necessarily a weakness on the red half of Merseyside, Drenthe adds a set piece menace to accompany his attacking repertoire. On the negative, Royston saves us from a half-hearted attempt at defending by keeping this element completely absent from his game. Additionally, he seems easily flustered on the pitch, a quality that in tandem with the child-like Suarez could be too much to bear for a restless fan base. If the Everton loanee is considered as a replacement for the departing Kuyt, then two more opposite propositions would be difficult to find – something that, along with his lackadaisical attitude, could seriously hamper any efforts to endear himself to a Kop favouring hard-working and dogged performers. Off-field issues may be noteworthy.

Estimated Price: Free                                                                                 Rating: 6/10

Junior Hoilett

If the PFA’s prize for young player of the season was a genuine accolade (maybe youth was determined by years playing professionally, rather than years of age) then Blackburn’s biggest weapon would head the list. Without even a mirage of attacking support from his contemporaries, save the Yak’s three game mid season rich vein of form (HAH!), the Canadian has been a clear standout amongst the shambolic on and off field season served up by Venkys and Steve Kean. Liverpool seem an appropriate destination for the championship-bound Hoilett, but several clubs will be throwing their cheque book at the out of contract winger. With his 3rd season of English football under his belt, Mr Hoilett could be the best possible option to Liverpool’s woes.

Estimated Price: Free Transfer                                                          Suitability: 9/10

 
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Everton: Howzit Steven Pienaar


Steven Pienaar Everton Football Soccer English Premier League Man United

S. Pienaar with his entry for #sloganonundershirtoftheyear

Everton are in the midst of their customary strong end of season finish that has seen them unbeaten in 6 league games and leading the league in key indicators such as possession, goals scored and chance creation. David Moyes’ merry men have found the back of the net 4 times in each of their last three outings; a first for the club. They have now conceded just the 15 times in the last 16 fixtures since the January window was jammed closed, with the only real blemish being in the midst of that comeback at Old Trafford. While before Christmas goals were the major struggle on Merseyside, the arrival of Jelavic, Pienaar and Gibson has produced something of a transformation for their attacking prowess. The most overwhelming proof: 15 goals in 5 exceeds the 13 from the previous 17 league encounters.

Of the trio, Pienaar and Gibson are proven Premier League performers, but the impact of Jelavic has been particularly impressive. Niki J, as he’s affectionately known, would be a veritable hype machine if it wasn’t for one Cisse in Newcastle – and his contribution should not be understated. The front man has been the definition of clinical, taking previously wasted half chances with aplomb. His report card reads 7 in 6 at the minute.

Pienaar has been as influential, and appears motivated in the blue shirt and tireless in his endeavours – two qualities sorely lacking at his unhappy, albeit fleeting, time in London. Standout efforts against Chelsea and United are particularly striking. Specifically, Pienaar’s distribution has been of the highest quality, not afraid to hold possession in more thought out and deliberate build ups. Pienaar is ahead of club averages in several leading barometers: he passes at 82% compared to the team average of 76%. Within this, his final third passing rate is 75%, a figure impressively high, particularly compared to the team’s 66% return. Just to stress this impressive return, across the league, attack minded midfielders typically score below the broader team average, as they are charged with the responsibility for defence splitting passes with a larger degree of difficulty and smaller margin of error.

Further, the South African provides a goal every 138 minutes compared to the next best in FFTD’s much loved Fellaini, who has an assist every 837 minutes and next in line right back Hibbert who provides at just above Marouane’s rate. Incidentally, since returning to Goodison, this is the highest rate of any player in the league. If that isn’t proof of the creativity and imagination of Everton’s best midfielder going forward, then we’ll bring his general chance creation figures for your perusal. Despite appearing only 11 times since January, he is already Everton’s 2nd most proficient manufacturer of goal scoring opportunities in absolute terms. He provides a chance every 28 minutes – well ahead of Leighton Baines at 44 minutes. (It’s worth noting that these figures could be skewed against Pienaar, as Baines takes set pieces to boost his output).

David Moyes is widely regarded for his shrewd squad management, continually scouring the bottom of Europe’s proverbial footballing pool for forgotten talent or untapped potential. But, this year, surely, Moyes should be admonished. The Toffees have moved sideways, trending to the downside, and the sale of Pienaar was an astoundingly poor piece of business. Often teams of lesser financial prowess rest on their povert-status as an excuse for mediocrity and this tag seems to fit Everton a little too snugly. The excuse of finishing above their red rivals is simply mere puff.

Instead of investing in lengthy surnames from Italy and the unproven youth of Greece, two signings that few would have thought could propel Everton from mid to top table, Moyes could have solidified his squad with Pienaar’s autograph. Jelavic is a genuine success even after just half a season and Everton’s future looks rosy with these two in tandem (look no further than their showing at Old Trafford last month). Pienaar’s sale is now a sunk cost and should not be a consideration in wooing him back to the club on a permanent basis. Signing the South African would be an admission of erroneous judgement a year ago, but not signing him would be repeating a mistake hampering progress into the future.

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Monday’s Magnificent Five


Torres Chelsea

#elnino

Each Monday we select our own 5 a side outfit from the weekend’s action. Think of it as our own Nike commercial in a steel cage on a floating island.

Goalkeeper

At the back we’ll opt for the impressive Ben Foster (West Brom) who stretches his man of the match run to 6 home games on the trot. The retired international produced another stellar display against Midland’s rivals at the Hawthorns including two fine one on one saves from Agbonlahor and a commanding presence around his own six-yard box. His autograph will be critical going forward for the seemingly established yo-yo club.

Defenders

While Roger Johnson was tempting (sic), we’ll take Gary Caldwell (Wigan) who kept the irresistible Newcastle front four to an afternoon of no returns. Caldwell seems a leader his teammates are willing to follow, adding inspiration that teams such as Wolves, Blackburn and QPR are severely lacking. His direction on the field is pivotal, being at the heart of Roberto’s improving back 3 experiment, with his dogged determination overcoming the on occasion unfashionable style.

Midfielders

Tomas Rosicky (Arsenal) is included as much for his month of April than the disappointing draw with Stoke. Criticised for basically not being Wilshere for much of 2012, he seems revitalised for no apparent reason, but we fancy Arsene’s slight change in touch line uniform to have done the trick. Whatever the case, the Czech international has finally produced in an Arsenal shirt, working both forward and back, to be the centre of the Gunners strong push towards a disappointing quarter final exit in Europe in 2013. Once again, Tomas found space between the lines against the Potters, providing the goal for RVP on a tray made of the finest in silver and adorned with the most opulent in decoration.

We’re cheating here and you can sue me (please! Could use some publicity) for fielding Luis Suarez (Liverpool) in an attacking role in behind our front man. Meh. Little Luis finally combined promise with outcome in a long overdue display of ruthless efficiency. The provocative Urugyuan, who is never too far from the headlines, was able to write his own this week, with a finish from 55 yards that the footballing public will have rammed down their throats for many years to come. Suarez’ creative flair was too much for the Canaries on an otherwise forgettable occasion.

Forwards

Fernando Torres (Chelsea), our absolute favourite at FFTD, leads the line after he finally produced the return his endeavours over recent times have deserved. It would be difficult to find a more criticised sportsman anywhere on Earth, but his long golden locks seem impervious to his boo boys. This effort was more than just goals, including tireless movement that proved far too much for an incompetent Rangers, outstanding hold up play that afforded Mata and Sturridge particularly, more space than Victor Valdes last Tuesday evening and a staggering work ethic that saw him tracking back to challenge in his own area at least four times by our count. Simply irrepressible. Nothing like finals footy to add a bit of motivation…

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Sunday’s Saturday Recap


wigan soccer football premier league

#wearepremierleaguewearepremierleague

It was an outstanding afternoon of football that saw a resurgent Wigan showcasing a brand more akin to European endeavours than relegation struggles and a mercurial Luis hatrick as the standout results. This is FFTD’s Sunday review:

We’ll start at the Hawthorns where a fledgling Aston Villa visited their traditional rivals with the chance to steer clear of a nervy month of May. Instead, it was the Baggies who looked the more likely, with Dorrans, Brunt and Thomas in particular finding ample space within a disorganised McLeish setup. At times it was difficult to see a holding player for Villa and in the end it was the much maligned Shay Given and a dubious goal line clearance from Hutton that rescued a point away from home. Their 16th draw of the season is a decent away point, but does little to arrest their worrying slide towards a Championship ready to swallow them whole (maybe spitting out the likes of Bent, Agbonlahor and Dunne to fuel the media’s transfer addiction).

Next we travel to Wigan where two of the form sides of the league square off in a match that had bearing on both ends of the table. In any other week, this would be the match of the round, but apparently only Mr Martinez got the memo with his side producing a scintillating opening 45 minutes, a just reward for Dave Wheelan and his managerial stickability. The Wigan front four were dynamic with the electric Moses an ever-present threat. The back 3 was resolute lead by the usual brilliance of their Omani shot stopper allowing a red hot Newcastle collective scant opportunity in front of goal. Wigan have grabbed 15 points from their last 7 outings, including wins over United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Newcastle in that run, to see them surely secure Premier League football in 2013, with winnable fixtures against Blackburn and Wolves to follow.

For Newcastle, it was a day of extreme disappointment; possibly a day that has been looming for some time. After such an emphatic string of victories, a loss was just around the corner, and with City and Chelsea looming, this result could spell the end of their admirable top 4 challenge. Their irresistible attacking quartet were off colour in the final third, producing just the 2 shots on goal for the afternoon. Similarly, their impressive defensive pressure was left on Tyneside in what must surely be their worst day of this campaign. Pardew can look forward to trips to the glamour and glitz of Romania, Poland and the Ukraine next season.

Ironically, the game with no bearing on the league produced a fine spectacle with an entertaining 4-4 for the second time in a week. Swansea and Wolves left their defensive plans on the training paddock and decided goals were a more acceptable option. For Wolves, who have conceded a whopping 79 times, they may have been more accustomed to such a flippant, carefree defensive attitude, but our Welsh brethren looked less than impressed after capitulating from their 4-1 stranglehold. Make sure you get the highlights from this one.

Sunderland and Bolton provided another absolute belter that must be disheartening for the precariously poised Trotters who may have used up any emotional impetus from the fortunes of Fabrice. While Coyle was upbeat about his side’s chances and Davies’ late equaliser may have felt like a point saved rather than 2 that slipped away, coming into the game, many pundits earmarked this as a chance to move clear of serious trouble. Instead, Bolton remain well and truly in the mire of relegation and now three points from a home tie with the Albion may not be enough. Instead, they require possibly more than a point from tough away trips to Spurs and the Britannia to book their place in the league going forward.

In a game less consequential than a UN summit, Liverpool travelled to Carrow road without their glistening starlet in Andy Carroll, but with a rampant Suarez who in the end was the difference between the sides. Rumblings from within the Kop about the outdated Dogleish have been momentarily quashed and a strong finish in the league and cup success could keep King Kenny in a job for 2013 – an unfavourable outcome in FFTD’s opinion. Don’t watch this game whatever you do, but catch that Suarez goal from here.

I hate Stoke – so yeh whatever…


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