Posts Tagged ‘Anfield’

Niranjan K

When it first started about a decade back, the England team was set to become the most decorated and successful teams of this generation. Golden generation, they were called. Certainly, with the likes of Terry, Ferdinand, Cole, Gerrard, Lampard, Owen and Rooney, there was an expectant. But tournament after tournament, they have failed to produce the best of their club form. Is it the lack of heart while representing England or are they just not good enough. I had dissected the problems of the so called golden generation in detail just after England so embarrassingly lost in the World Cup. So let’s not dig too deep into it again, shall we? England punched above their weight in Euro 2012 and let’s discuss how.

Roy Hodgson to me is the reason why England performed respectfully in the Euros. After a tumulus time at the helm in Anfield, he had a point to prove and did so with merit at West Bromwich Albion. Pop comes the chance to manage the national team, which surprised and shocked many.

His was a logical choice with Redknapp’s personality looming large over his credentials. With 40 days to go, there isn’t so much that he could do. But he ensured he prepared a team, though boring mostly, was hard to beat. They were prepared to look ugly to get the results they wanted. But a team with a large heart and thin on creativity could only go so much which, when exposed to a master in Andrea Pirlo, succumbed in the quarters. But I will go on a record and say that, they finished as the 5th best team in Europe because, even though they were dominated by Italy, they did not lose the match tamely. The one thing that inspired me was how England played as a team rather than a bunch of individuals which had been their cause for downfall in the past.

Rooney: Brilliant for Manchester United, but under achieving for England. Photo:

What they lacked in the end was creativity. Of the 5 goals that they scored, the creative part of 3 of them came from Steven Gerrard and 2 from Theo Walcott. For all his inspiration and leading from the front, I think Gerrard has one big problem in his game. He thinks that he had to do almost all the work in the field and at quite a few times ends up on the wrong foot. For example, in the game against Italy, he was constantly running behind Pirlo. If he let Scott Parker do that, then he would have had the time for some creativity. Although I love Gerrard, I think he needs to start trusting his players more.

Wayne Rooney has always been the curious case. Brilliant for Manchester United and below average for England. He had the perfect set up to explode when he finally made it to the starting lineup. But instead of inspiring his mates like how he does for United, he ended up waiting for the chances than grabbing them. What England also missed was a clinical striker of pure instinct like how Michael Owen used to be in his best days. Miss his boyish charm.

For all the respect that Hodgson has gotten from his first two months in charge, he would know that the real work starts from now. Yes, his compact strategy has helped England gain some sort of respectability but if this is how they are going to play, it won’t help them in the long run.

Hodgson has a lot of work to do if he has to make England a world beater. Picture: The Sun

Hodgson has to take the positives from the tournament and look for improvement especially when the injured players come back. He has to instill in those players, the same pride that the current squad seem to have in them in representing the three lions. The likes of Gerrard, Terry, Lampard, Barry and Parker in the twilight of their careers, he would do well to make players like Martin Kelly, Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxalade Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Andy Carroll, Danny Welback and Daniel Sturridge as regulars. Face it, for all the excitement of the EPL, the emerging English talent has been thin.

They need a comprehensive youth development program to improve their long time prospects. It is in how Hodgson takes the team forward that determines his credentials. And with wealth of experience in coaching international teams, I think he can do that. All answers lie on the 15th of August when the 3 Lions take on the same Azzuries in a friendly.


Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

In some way, this is a narrative of a crisis foretold. The Fenway Sports Group claims to have made its decision based on ‘footballing reasons’, contrasting to those made by Hodgson as to the exclusion of Rio Ferdinand from the England squad. They’ve decided to take matters to their own hands for the problem, as obvious as it is in prospect now, is that Liverpool, presently, lacks some of the key attributes that other successful clubs have.

Primarily, FSG needs to address the central problem of the 2011-12 season debacles: a handful of players had cost so much money that they should not be allowed to fail, lest the perennial problems will sustain – lack of goals, and lack of imagination. A few pessimists, half way through the season, had already begun lamenting that the owners weren’t bolder – that a club like Liverpool simply couldn’t afford to wait and watch.

What makes FSG’s emphasis even more compelling is that it is part of a vision that draws on their (ill-fated) experience in managing the Boston Red Sox – a team that finds itself several rungs below where it once was. They didn’t even make it to the playoffs last time around – as one journalist had put it: ‘a far greater failure than Liverpool’s inability to make it to the Champions League.’

Happier Days: John Henry’s belief that Dalglish would turn around things didn’t work out as expected.  © NewsRT

Under Kenny’s leadership, FSG did have belief that a turn-around was possible, for disappointments are common in football. Disasters are the ones that are rare, and during a time when the club seemed to be heading for a feared collision course, it was commendable for a club legend like Kenny, who’d had nothing more to prove, to step up and assist a club he loved. Although, in hindsight, to finish eight in the league, and below arch rivals Everton, is disastrous.

The hard-liners often invoke the troubles facing heavy-price-tagged signings being the root cause behind Kenny’s downfall. Even back then, no one in their right senses would’ve paid an amount so high to acquire the services of Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson and, to an extent, Stewart Downing (although he was voted Aston Villa’s player of the season and looked every bit as exciting as wingers the club had never had). Their episodes of improvement towards the end of the season weren’t enough to undo the damage from the initial slump, and it ultimately cost their manager his job, albeit the owners stating that even a Cup Double wouldn’t have changed their minds.

I’m not totally sure that the FSG’s new theme would shake up things at Anfield, but certainly this is the closest that any owner has come to sacking a club legend in order to diagnose the real problems at the heart of Liverpool’s performances. Kenny is to Liverpool what Tendulkar is to the Indians, and not to forget that no rational path forward has been proposed yet.

The pool of candidates being short-listed for the job don’t exactly send shivers down your spine – with the exception of Pep Guardiola, but this would be addressed if we prefix the word ‘candidates’ with ‘realistic’. A few theorists mention Villas-Boas as a top contender, and argue that the blemish on his CV (spelt Chelsea) is more due to the impatience of his ex-Russian boss.

Are they looking at me? AVB would love the opportunity to set his credentials right in the EPL.  © TheFootballReviews

Sure, AVB would find company in the form of Jamie Carragher if he chose to fly in football’s cerebral stratosphere. But given his proclaimed track-record on being a micro manager, he’s likely to fall out of favor with most – unless he’s mended his mentality over the un-opted sabbatical. His methods are believed to be so relentless (and rigid) that it might prove too heavy a dosage for those who’re getting used to seeing the newer teams play successful, attacking football. Players might agree to his theories, but they’re not likely to buy them.

The owners are also believed to be flirting with the thoughts of approaching managers lesser known outside the BPL fan following base: Martinez, Rodgers and Lambert – in that very order. AVB’s Chelsea stint, in itself, had dispelled the case for a young, talented (and inexperienced) manager to be thrown into a gauntlet of fire and expectations. Although, in fairness to the Portuguese, his case proliferates the notion that no one would’ve stood a chance against Roman and his over-optimistic ambitions.

Coming back to the case of three managers under the microscope, it isn’t rocket science to understand and admit that they’ve had their sides carrying more payload than they can handle. Which is good because no one would hate to see new / lesser-known sides do well against the Goliaths – remember FC Rubin Kazan doing a ‘David’ against the mighty Barcelona?

But an awful truth that became apparent when Liverpool had appointed Roy Hodgson as manager a couple of seasons ago was that one simply couldn’t bank on the results they’ve amassed with lesser teams. Roy, current England boss, has built a reputation of being one who can make lesser mortals push above their own weights – something English fans would hope that he does at the Euros.

Surely, the FSG wouldn’t be willing to take a risk along these lines – especially at the aftermath of sacking a legend. Like how the EU is a byword for failed economic policies these days, a post-Roy era still sees the club suffering from slow growth, if not decline. In simple words, the club has already conducted a dress-rehearsal for a crisis that would persist if such a move were to be made again. The worst part is that such a tenet would seem so unfair on these three managers, whose true potential to handle such enormous expectations we will never know unless such a step is taken.

It is a near certainty that the restructured management must have names that would partially, if not entirely, overshadow the Dalglish episode. And that the new manager must bring in, and instill, a philosophy that preaches attacking, attractive football. Kenny, incidentally, was quoted a number of times saying that Liverpool were pleasing to the eye, but darn unlucky with the woodwork, among others. The real challenge is that there isn’t too much money to spend for the new boss, and some of the existing players don’t look a bunch that promises fluid football.

The limited transfer kitty needs to be used to address three primary areas of concern: a poacher, a tricky winger, and a creative central midfielder. Not too long ago, Liverpool were in possession of players that had addressed two of these three areas – Torres and Xabi Alonso. Albert Riera was a good winger, but never world class. The real challenge today, however, is to attract names purely on the basis of Liverpool FC being a brand, for the club doesn’t promise Champions League football for potential targets.

Such a fate would’ve been considered unthinkable, for the same reasons that we thought for Greece leaving the Euro being impossible. But when you’ve ruled out everything else, few options are left.