Can Brendan Rodgers’ appointment restore Liverpool’s former glory?

It has been two very different seasons for managers Kenny Dalglish and Brendan Rodgers, with a disappointing eighth place finish for the Anfield outfit – scraping silverware in the Carling Cup – whilst the Swans of South Wales have comfortably survived their first year of Premier League football. However, the 39 year-old Northern Irishman will face one of his biggest challenges yet as the new Liverpool manager.

Brendan Rodgers has had a fantastic year, managing Swansea City, and no one could have predicted the outcome of their first season in top-flight football since 1983.  Swansea caused many upsets against the big teams including wins over Manchester City, Arsenal and a 1-0 defeat of Liverpool on the last day of the season. Often called “The Welsh Barcelona”, due to their unique approach to possession football, not to mention Leon Britton, who is Europe’s most accurate passer above both Xavi and Andres Iniesta; Rodgers has developed a style of football based on starving the opposition of possession, relieving pressure with the ball, and sustaining patient build-up play until forwards, Danny Graham, Scott Sinclair, and Nathan Dyer, can produce something special in the final third.

As for the move to Liverpool, you can see why American owner John Henry has appointed Rodgers as the new manager, despite considering the options of Andre Villas-Boas, Roberto Martinez and Fabio Capello. When it comes to developing young British talent, Rodgers is the man you want. Starting as a youth team coach for Reading, and then moving to manage the youth team at Chelsea under Jose Mourinho, Rodgers will be able to bring the best out of the Liverpool youngsters who have endured a below par season including Jordan Henderson and Andy Carroll – the collective sum of around £50m.

As well as his experience in coaching youth players, Liverpool fans will be wondering if Rodgers will implement his entertaining brand of passing football into the Liverpool game, and if he will bring players over from his former Welsh side. 23 year-old Scott Sinclair, homegrown Joe Allen, and Icelandic superstar Gylfi Sigurdsson – who has not yet officially signed for Swansea after agreeing a fee of £6.8m – could be favourites to make a move considering Liverpool’s problems in midfield. The former Reading and Watford manager will bring with him first-team coach Colin Pascoe, match-analyst Chris Davies and conditioning expert Glen Driscoll to help him in his new start at Anfield.

On the other hand, it will be Rodgers’ first experience of managing a top-class team and their progress in Europe next season will be a real test of the Northern Irish manager’s ability not only to play in the Premier League, but to battle and win the Europa League. Unlike any club he has managed before, Rodgers will have to deal with big personalities such as Merseyside legend Steven Gerrard, and the controversial Luis Suarez.

To conclude, there is no doubt that Brendan Rodgers will be paramount to fixing the errors and mishaps of an unsatisfactory and forgettable season for Liverpool. He will have much to write about in his little notebook this summer and will hope to capitalise on a bigger budget than he’s ever had before. He might be praying that he doesn’t end up being just another Kop flop.

By Jacob Tucker

FA Cup semi-final against Everton key to Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool future

“Although we have won something today, that is not us finished. We don’t want to stop here, we want to keep going.” – Kenny Dalglish, speaking after Liverpool’s Carling Cup triumph over Cardiff City on 26th February.

It was the generic post-match sound-bite, conventional wisdom, almost, with one point that needed hammering home – to make sure fans knew that winning their first trophy for six years would not mean a slip back into the slumber for Liverpool Football Club.

Influential defenders Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger also chimed in with the official line and club captain Steven Gerrard added: “We won’t accept just this, we need more, we want more.”

However, since that victory at Wembley, the Reds have won just two of the eight league games played, with embarrassing reverses at the hands of QPR and Wigan Athletic. At the time of writing, the Reds sit eighth in the Premier League, 13 points behind fourth placed Tottenham and a point behind local rivals Everton.

So just why has LFC’s season unravelled?

Over £100 million has been spent on players who have so far, failed to live up to the expectations of playing for one of the biggest clubs in England. Players such as Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson and Andy Carroll (signed for a combined £71m) have flattered to deceive so far in their Anfield career and the jury is very much still out on all three north-east natives.

The departure of Damien Comolli this week, perhaps highlights the notion that all is not well in the corridors of power at Liverpool. Comolli’s sacking has been viewed by some, as an admission of fault on the transfer strategy by LFC owners Fenway Sports Group.

The clear blueprint of buying young British talent has so far yielded little; only Uruguayan international Luis Suarez, Spaniard Jose Enrique and the ageing Craig Bellamy have been unequivocal successes during the FSG reign.

Then there is manager Kenny Dalglish, who has come in for some criticism despite his legendary status at Anfield. The fans have reluctant to be overly critical of a man nicknamed ‘King’ but the Scot is not infallible and there have been groans of discontent aimed the manager from The Kop. The famous ‘Dalglish’ chant has been conspicuous by its absence in recent weeks.

Since the turn of the year, Liverpool’s form has dipped so dramatically that the only team with a worse points tally is bottom of the table Wolves, it is something that desperately needs addressing.

When the Reds overcame a spirited Cardiff at Wembley in February, there was still a realistic hope of securing a Champions League spot at the end of the season – something owner John W. Henry claimed would be a ‘major disappointment’ if they failed.

With just five games left to play, that coveted Champions League spot is far away in the distance, and the Reds have just the FA Cup to play for – they meet fierce rivals Everton at Wembley on Saturday.

If Dalglish wins a domestic cup double, it could hardly be considered a poor season for Liverpool. After all, teams with ambitions as lofty as Arsenal (and save for a remarkable finish to the Premier League, Manchester City) will finish the season without a trophy, but it is, and was Dalglish’s remit at the start of the season to finish in the top four.

Their season rests on the FA Cup. Win on Saturday; Dalglish has one last cup final to perhaps save his job. Lose – to their rivals – and finish below Everton in the Premier League, and Fenway Sports Group might be forced into action.

By Paul Gorst

What does 2011/12 hold for Daniel Sturridge?

So, if Jones is worth £16.5 million and Henderson £20 million, how much is Daniel Sturridge worth?

With the transfer window well and truly open, ’tis the season for ludicrous over payment. Phil Jones’ 37 senior side appearances for Blackburn and Jordan Henderson’s four Sunderland career goals gave the England under 21 internationals a combined value of £36.5million, which was happily paid by Manchester United and Liverpool. No doubt both players are talented and full of potential, but an overpayment none the less.

It is painfully clear that young English talent is much vaunted and that top flight clubs will pay top dollar to ascertain it. The transfers of Jones and Henderson will have been music to the ears of Everton boss David Moyes, who can now pick a number out of the air and slap it on Jack Rodwell’s forehead, for United and all other potential suitors to match if they want the 20-year-old’s services.

But what of their international compatriot Daniel Sturridge? The Chelsea frontman’s club future hangs in the balance, as after a successful loan spell with Bolton he has returned to Stamford Bridge in search of the big time. Realistically, as talented as the former Manchester City forward is (and he is), his chances of first team football are going to be extremely limited, just like before he went to the Reebok Stadium.

With Didier Drogba struggling to get a game due to Fernando Torres, Salomon Kalou and Nicolas Anelka, what chance does Sturridge have? Add to this the inevitable signings that Mr Abramovich and the eventual new coach will bring to the club, which will more than likely include more attacking talent from the four corners of the globe, and the English born youngster will once more be on the outskirts.

So what are his options? He could stay and fight for a first team spot, but this is a long, arduous and frustrating journey; young, talented players need regular first team football to evolve, and he risks his career going down the same path as Shaun Wright Phillips out of pure stubbornness. Another loan move looks likely, and Owen Coyle and every other manager outside of the top six will be holding their hands up shouting ‘pick me!’ in a schoolboy’s voice if Chelsea decide to go down this route. However, if Sturridge decides he wants to leave the London club and seek a new employer, the fee that Chelsea would likely charge is of real interest.

The Birmingham born forward exudes quality. He has represented England at youth level from under-16′s all the way up to his current participation in the under-21 Championships in Denmark. He scored eight goals in twelve games for a faltering Bolton side at the end of last season, and seemingly gets better with the more time he spends on the pitch.

Strikers generally command higher transfer fees than any other position, thus the criteria above would suggest that in today’s market he is worth more than Henderson, and more than £20 million. Andy Carroll is worth £35 million apparently, so £20 million+ seems about right. Chelsea would be increasingly reluctant to sell him to a top six side, in which case he is gazumped as none of the other teams have £20 million to throw about like the executives at Anfield and Old Trafford.

Daniel Sturridge will not and cannot leave Chelsea permanently this summer due to the ludicrous nature of the English transfer market currently, and instead of maturing into a player capable of being included in Fabio Capello’s 2012 European Championships squad, may face the prospect of heading the line for the Stamford Bridge reserve side in 2011/12.

Published – http://football-talk.co.uk/27923/what-does-201112-hold-for-daniel-sturridge/

Is the cost of English players forcing Premier League clubs to look abroad?

With the much publicised transfers of Phil Jones and Jordan Henderson being completed by Manchester United and Liverpool respectively in the last week for a combined total of £36.5 million, most Premier League managers will be looking to the continent and beyond for their summer signings. Both England under 21 players have quality and potential in abundance, with that there is no argument, but such extortionate transfer fees will leave the majority of top flight sides financially out of the equation when looking to sign British players, and bring more foreigners to English shores.

The grievance is not with Sunderland or Blackburn, as neither wanted to lose their prodigious talents, both of which have been cultivated and nurtured through the clubs’ youth ranks. It was obvious that both players wanted to go, so why not get as high a fee as possible? The staggering thing is the amount of money it takes, and the big clubs are willing to pay, to buy young English talent. With FIFA eager to bring quotas into the game surrounding the number of home-grown players, and the Premier League being acknowledged as having a style and pace of play that takes time to adjust to, young British players will continue to cost an arm and a leg.

This piece is not a slight against either of the players personally; as a Spurs fan I would have liked to see them at White Hart Lane, especially Jones. But for £16.5 million? The 19 year old has only made 35 appearances in senior football. Henderson’s £20 million buys you a midfielder who has found the net a mere four times in over 70 games. My argument is not that he should score more goals, it is that for £20 million you would expect a player with a more rounded game.

In Europe there are much cheaper alternatives. Newcastle United have just signed Yohan Cabaye from Lille for a fee believed to be around £5million, a player not dissimilar to Henderson. The 25 year old French midfielder is fresh from helping Lille to a league and cup double, playing the majority of the side’s games. He has featured in almost 200 first class matches, and has represented his country on four occasions; the key point however is that he cost a quarter of what Liverpool just splurged on Henderson.

Personally I believe Jones to be the better prospect of the two, but again the transfer fee seems excessive. £16.5million? If Gary Cahill is to leave Bolton in the next months the fee will be similar, whilst Arsenal target and Jones’ centre-half partner at Ewood Park Christopher Samba is reportedly available for £12 million. Lets put this in perspective, as it is not a new pricing trend. Sir Alex Ferguson paid £7 million for the best defender in the league in the form of Nemanja Vidic, but £30 million for Rio Ferdinand. Manchester rivals City signed bench-warmer Joleon Lescott for £22million but paid only £6 million for the first name on their teamsheet, Vincent Kompany. The cost of going home-grown is there for all to see.

I wish both Phil Jones and Jordan Henderson the very best of luck at their new clubs. I believe that both will excel in their new environments, and have the necessary ability to make the step up.  However the fees paid for their services are detrimental to the English game, and it will be to the cost of the national side and Fabio Capello, who will not have as many players to select for international duty due to the continued influx of cheaper foreign alternatives joining Premier League clubs this summer.

Published – http://afootballreport.com/post/6580583976/is-the-cost-of-english-players-forcing-premier-league

£22 million For Modric – That’s An Insult

Reports in the Daily Telegraph today indicate that Chelsea have tabled a £22 million bid for Tottenham Hotspur’s shining light Luka Modric – which has been instantly rejected.

For Harry Redknapp’s side to give themselves a chance of another crack at Champions League football and challenge for a place in the top four, they simply MUST keep the Croatian at White Hart Lane.

Gareth Bale and Rafael van der Vaart received plaudits for the performances in the 2010/11 season, and rightly so, as they duo heavily contributed to the North London side’s brand of attacking football and played a big part in the European adventure. That said, Modric is the glue that keeps the attacking shape of the side together.

The former Dinamo Zagreb man is who the rest of the team look to for inspiration, the player who has the guile, creativity and vision to create chances for the afore mentioned duo and the strikers, and the one who orchestrates whole periods of Tottenham possession.

When the 25 year old does not play, Spurs look devoid of direction. If Bale, Van de Vaart or any of the other much desired stars of the side were to depart, they could be replaced. I currently do not see a player in the Premier League with the same attributes that could replace Modric.

Liverpool just paid £20 million for Jordan Henderson, a player who has only scored four goals in senior football, whilst Manchester United have shelled out £16.5 million on Phil Jones, who has only appeared in 35 top flight matches. £22 million for Modric? That’s an insult.

Redknapp and Daniel Levy have previously stated that the club do not want to sell their prize asset, and hopefully he will wear the white of Tottenham next season. But if the powers that be want to seriously bring the player to Stamford Bridge, a bid of double what they have offered would be needed.

Spurs have slapped a £50 million price tag on the Croatia international’s head, a figure that may seem excessive, but given the inflated transfer fees at the moment and the player’s quality, it fits the bill. Tottenham can prepare themselves for further Chelsea offers, but even if their London rivals do come back with the required £50 million sum, Spurs would be silly to sell; some players are invaluable.

Published – http://football-talk.co.uk/27539/22-million-modric-insult/

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