Liverpool

Dear Jurgen, a letter from The Sports Buff

Dear Jurgen,

Hi, you don’t know me but we need to talk. My name is Ayyaz Malik, Aka The Sports Buff. I am a sports writer and talk about sport too (for those who are kind enough to listen). As a Man United fan, it’s hard to say this, but congratulations on becoming Premier League champions.

Four and a half years ago, many of us United fans were no doubt jealous you chose Anfield over Old Trafford.

Purely from a sporting point of view, the move seems to be justified.

A Club World Cup, Super Cup, Champions League and now Premier League trophy shows you’re a great manager.

You might look like you should have been in the Bee Gees, but football fans make no mistake about it you have achieved greatness.

One of the best teams in the Premier League era, Manchester City were conquered this year with ease.

This is the English Premier League, you will say but the records your Liverpool team have broken speaks volumes in itself.

This isn’t me just being a bitter Manchester United fan here, but I express caution. Look at my team Manchester United.

Their manager from 1986-2013 was Sir Alex Ferguson, arguably one of the greatest, if not greatest club managers in the British game.

Sir Alex was a master of building teams for four, maybe five seasons and then making subtle delicate changes to it.

Jurgen please look at the example of Fergie. If you think this is blatant appraisal of the former United manager, that’s not the case.

Ferguson was the master of being steps ahead of his rivals when his United teams would be crowned champions.

Sir Alex Ferguson, would always be on the prowl for talent that could help better his team for many seasons to come and not just for the short term.

That changed in what would be now known as the last season of his reign.

Where players for the now and future were bought, Robin Van Persie a 29-year old from Arsenal who was in the peak of his years was signed in Sir Alex’s last season, which proved to be a title-winning one.

It was a testament to Ferguson, that he was able to win the League with a squad that was really past its sell-by date in his final year before retiring.

To prove the point I am trying to make, the following season The Red Devils needed two managers to finish the season, and they finished in seventh!

That was seven years ago, and it’s only now that Manchester United are looking in a respectable position of rebuilding.

It took Liverpool 30 years and over £1 billion spent in players transfers, you have done the hard work, as a football fan be smart and invest in playing talent.

Your Liverpool team isn’t getting younger. Jurgen, please don’t make the mistakes that Manchester United did.

If you do, it will be a long wait for title number 20, I don’t think Liverpool fans will have the same patience as they did this time.

Yours sincerely

The sports buff

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Thank you

No More years of hurt for Liverpool, praise the Lord!

Being a football fan of England and certain English clubs can be painful. Three Lions on a shirt song, being an Arsenal fan (not talking about myself here) – I think you can see where I am going with this.

With England, we the fans and mainly the “experts”, would bring England up and then knock them down. In recent years, thankfully the powers that be at the top of the game, have been more humble and started from scratch.

A centre of excellence was built and talent was brought through this centre of excellence in Burton. As a result of this, England’s under 17’s and 19’s tasted success on the global stage.

It seemed that process was that stringent of finding young talent, that scouts would be watching kids in the parks almost, when kids go for a kick around.

Watching kids playing in the park is usually a sign for the alarm bells to ring, but if this did happen, thankfully there would be some players who would become young stars for their country.

As a result of that England, in turn, got to the semi-finals of a world cup for the first time since 1990.

They even won a penalty shoot-out in the last world cup, waa hay! O how I cried in France 98 when David Batty missed his spot-kick on that fateful night in St Etienne against Argentina  , thus giving more penalty shootout heartache.

Arsenal, sadly for their fans are still making their team suffer mentally and emotionally. You know Gunners fans, you can stop at this stop and support another team, just think about your mental health, please!

After 16 seasons regularly featuring in the top four and having a monopoly on the FA Cup for a five year period towards the end of Arsene Wenger’s reign, it’s got even worse for Arsenal.

A top-half finish looks an achievement at this rate, thought the George Graham days and Bruce Rioch era was a thing of the past? Obviously not.

Another club that likes to make their fans suffer has been Liverpool. Now, this might be harsh on the face of it, considering that Liverpool have won the Champions League twice in the last 15 seasons along with the Europa League, FA Cup and League Cup.

Everyone knows what the Merseyside club wanted though, and that’s the Premier League trophy. There’s been many near misses.

A “fact rant” by Rafa Benitez who no longer manages in England (fact).

There was a time where Liverpool games replaced bedtime stories. I am convinced this must be true they were that boring.

The Reds in that era under Gerrard Houllier, would without fail, make my brother sleepy whenever he saw them on the TV.

They were dark times, but then Liverpool changed tact and hired an Irish coach who’s team’s played football so joyful to watch on the eye.

Brendan Rodgers was his name, his teams to play attractive football was his game.

With Steven Gerrard as commander and chief on the pitch, along with forwards Louis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, the then 18-time champions of England Liverpool came within a whisker of winning the title.

You could say, they missed out by the skin of their teeth, sorry Louis that might not have been funny … please don’t bite me! The title seemed in Liverpool’s grasp, but then they would slip up .. watch your self Steve (caution wet floor!)

Mockery was a plenty of that slip, Uruguayan Suarez’s eating habits and Daniel Sturridge’s injury record. A true story, I did see Daniel whilst I was walking – I saw him walking his got.

I must say I have never been so nervous seeing someone walk a dog, as I was convinced he would get injured, such was his injury record at one stage.

Putting the mockery to one side, Liverpool replaced Rodgers with German coach Jurgen Klopp. Former Dortmund manager Klopp had won the Bundesliga twice with Ballspielverein.

Liverpool were hoping the former Mainz manager could help bring what was becoming the increasingly elusive first Premier League trophy.

Careful planning ensued and a loss to Sevilla in the Europa League final and Real Madrid in the Champions League final, were painful but only demonstrated the progress the German manager Klopp was making with The Reds.

Further heartbreak would further occur, this time domestically in the Premier League. Jurgen’s Liverpool last year would painfully lose the Premier League by one point. This was made all the more painful, considering The Anfield side had only lost one game and accumulated 91 points!

This season, Liverpool seemed in no mood to mess around. The 3-1 win against Manchester City, was a signal of their intent. The Citizens who fought back last year to win the title from Liverpool’s grasp, by their high standards were poor this year.

Defeats to Manchester United (twice), Norwich and Wolves twice only emphasizes my point. Liverpool it is then who are Premier League champions after 30 years. Congrats to Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool for their title win

Woolworths, Blockbuster, BHS and petrol for under £1 were the things of those days. A lot has changed since then, (as none of those now remain).

Football can breathe a sigh of relief, we don’t have to hear “this is our year”. Thankfully one of those years has been their year. Now here’s to hoping England win the world cup, so we don’t have to keep hearing “we won it 66”.

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Timo Werner; an Asian Love Story

Chelsea have signed Germany forward Timo Werner from RB Leipzig in a deal that could total £102.5 million over five years. The Blues, managed to beat Premier League leaders Liverpool to the former Stuttgart strikers signature.

The whole process of the German players signing has an element of an Asian wedding to it, I will explain.

So for the Asian readers amongst you, you’re all too aware of the process of an Asian marriage and the whole process of getting married.

In non-Asian tradition stereo typically, it’s boy sees girl, they date for a certain amount of time he ponders when and where to propose and when she says yes, they all live happily after, the end.

Now with an Asian marriage, it’s parents meet parents they talk and try and thrash out a deal like they’re in a G20 summit and after intense detailed and at times top secret talks, “a deal” ( of marriage) is agreed.

In those talks and negotiations, gifts between the two families and the price of the wedding and the cost of the hall is discussed.

There have been instances after initially looking set for marriage, the discussions end due to disagreements about the costs of the wedding and the gifts that certain family members get during the wedding.

I liken the Timo Werner transfer to Chelsea , to that of an Asian marriage.

Before Chelsea came in for the German, Liverpool were said to strongly be looking to sign Werner. In terms of the Asian scenario of this story, Liverpool are the groom (ready to agree the money side to get their bride for marriage).

Timo Werner and RB Leipzig are the bride and the bride’s family. The 24-year old Werner after looking to get married into the Liverpool household, saw the marriage break off due to money.

Liverpool’s family (the management/hierarchy) didn’t want to pay too much of a dowry and in all honesty wanted to treat Werner as only the fourth best daughter in-law behind Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.

The “groom’s family” (Liverpool hierarchy) didn’t fancy paying the excessive wedding costs (£102.5 million in total after five years).

Heart broken both Timo and RB Leipzig wanted their special wedding and felt the right suitor will pay whatever the cost to give them that special day.

But most importantly Timo wanted be made to feel like the number one “daughter in-law”.

With Timo Werner looking an attractive proposition, a new suitor came into the picture and they were Chelsea.

Chelsea too had their heart broken after Dries Mertens refused to leave long term partner Napoli. Both Werner and West Londoners Chelsea were looking for the dream match.

When Chelsea’s father Roman Abramovich came in with a “dowry” that both bride and bride’s family couldn’t say no to, thus became the start of a marriage between Timo Werner and Chelsea .

After The Blues’ recent record of signing strikers, they will hope that German Werner succeeds where Sturridge, Torres and Morata failed.

In Asian weddings especially if the marriage doesn’t work, the divorce always gets a bit messy and no one wants a messy divorce do they?

The Juan And Only

Manchester United's players celebrate their 2-1 win over Liverpool at Anfield.

Manchester United’s players celebrate their 2-1 win over Liverpool at Anfield.

Juan Mata scored twice as Manchester United ruined Steven Gerrard’s final Merseyside derby with a just about deserved 2-1 win in the big Sunday lunchtime game.

The hosts who’s last defeat came against the Red Devils in December, were unchanged – which meant club captain Gerrard would have to come off the bench to appear in this one. As for the visitors United who looked to have returned to form after an impressive win over Tottenham last week, they make just the single change as Ashley Young comes in – but the returning Angel Di Maria who was sent off in the FA Cup against Arsenal starts this one from the bench.

As for the match itself, United got out of the blocks the quicker. The visitors midfield of Fellaini, Carrick, Mata and Young were slick in their passing – and were operating at the tempo which blew away Tottenham last week.

Liverpool had no answer – and despite having the majority of the possession, it was indeed Louis Van Gaal’s side who looked more fluent in attack – and it was a little of surprise that United would take the lead in the 14th minute.

Juan Mata who was brilliant in last weeks win at Old Trafford, was equally as brilliant here. The Spaniard who had been subject of transfer speculation at the start of the season , latched on to a fantastic Ander Herrera through ball- and beat the on rushing Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet with a brilliantly placed finish into the bottom corner.

The visitors at the point were in complete control – but rather naively took their foot off the pedal, which allowed the hosts to come back into the game. After going a goal down Liverpool’s response was good as Adam Lalana missed a great chance to level the scores before halftime.

The former Southampton captain who earned a reputation for scoring goals by arriving late in the box did that here – but disappointingly fired wide when maybe he should have scored. That missed chance was one of the last bits of action of the first half as United went in at the break a goal up.

Liverpool who have been in brilliant for since that defeat to United were in dire need of shaking things up in midfield. So who better to bring on at the start of the second half than club legend Steven Gerrard. The Liverpool skipper who has only just returned from a hamstring injury, would have been determined to end his associations in Merseyside derbies on a high – but there was no fairy tale ending for the Liverpool captain here.

Gerrard who was brought on to provide a calmness into the Liverpool midfield that was lacking the first half, inexcusably lost his head – and was sent off. The 34 year old Gerrard who had barely been on the pitch for more than two minutes was involved in a 50/50 challenge with United’s Herrera – and then rather foolishly stamped on the United midfielder’s leg, which didn’t go unnoticed, all be it with some assistance by the referee’s assistant.

That Red card was to prove costly as Juan Mata scored with a wonderful goal to apparently put the game beyond doubt. The Spaniard started a well worked move – and the 28 year old passed to Di Maria which lead to the Argentine to provide a well judged chip over the Liverpool defence – and set Juan Mata up to acrobatically place a left strike in the bottom corner of Mignolet’s goal.

With the game seeming out of Liverpool’s reach, United became complacent – and despite having 10 men it was Liverpool who looked the better side, despite having 10 men. The visitors sloppiness allowed Daniel Sturridge to pull a goal back with a near post strike, which David De Gea maybe could have done better with.

Fortunately for United there were no more goals in this one. The visitors did have time to win a penalty in the dying minutes as Emre Can clumsily brought down Daley Blind in the box. The resulting penalty kick was missed however as Wayne Rooney’s kick was at a nice height for Liverpool keeper Mignolet to save.

Advantage United then in the ‘rat race’ for fourth, as Man United manager Van Gaal put it -but with both sides needing to play the big sides such as Arsenal and Chelsea, the race for fourth isn’t over just yet.The

Determined Blackburn Earn FA Cup Replay Against Liverpool

Liverpool v Blackburn Rovers - FA Cup Quarter Final

Championship side Blackburn produced a dogged display to hold Premiership side Liverpool to a goalless draw in the quarter finals of the FA Cup. Blackburn came into this one in confident mood after dumping out Premier League side Stoke 4-1 in the last round.

The visitors Blackburn who are 11th in the Championship again had Jordan Rhodes on the bench, which has lead to speculation that the Scottish International could be loaned out to promotion chasing Derby County.

Blackburn captain Matt Kilgallon who was full of praise for stand in Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson before the game also starts.

As for the home side Liverpool who have been in brilliant form of late, they didn’t have club captain Steven Gerrard in their match day squad as the 34 year old recovers fully from a hamstring injury.

Other than that bit of news the Reds had very much the same team that has been instrumental in their impressive revival after a very poor start to the season. Liverpool are now fifth in the Premier League respectively – and are now with in touching distance of fourth place Manchester United.

Despite there being some 25 league places separating the two sides, it was Blackburn who started brightly. Craig Conway fired over for the visitors early on as the visitors didn’t appear to be intimidated by their premeir League opponnents. Kolo Toure who replaced fellow central defender Martin Skrtel who had to go off with a serious looking head injury, had a goal ruled out for offside.

The Reds who haven’t won English footballs top cup competition since 2006,had goal keeper Simon Mignolet to thank for keeping them in the game. The Belgian who received a lot of criticism for his performances earlier in the season, dived superbly to his left and clawed a way a powerful Alex Baptiste drive which was destined for the top corner.

With hosts struggling to take a strangle hold of thr game, Liverpool decided to bring on Mario Balotelli who looks like he is now starting to settle in to life at Anfield, the Italian came on to offer some support to Daniel Sturridge as the Premier League side were looking to avoid the replay.

However just like in the last round, Liverpool couldn’t break down their Championship hosts as this game finished 0-0. Blackburn would be the happier of the two sides you would think, especially with the knowledge that they have defeated Premier League opposition in Swansea and Stoke at Ewood Park.

With Liverpool though Rovers know they have a much more difficult game, the Reds did beat Blackburn’s Lancashire rivals Bolton, so this will be far from easy. It’s hard to say who will win this match – but what is certain is that this cup tie is finely balanced.

Liverpool Captain Steven Gerrard To Leave At The End Of The Season To Move To LA Galaxy

Liverpool captain will leave the Anfield side at the end of the season, ending a 25 year association with The Reds

Liverpool captain will leave the Anfield side at the end of the season, ending a 25 year association with The Reds

For many football fans, the words Liverpool and Steven Gerrard would tend to go hand and hand – but not not for much longer. The 34 year old Liverpool captain announced this week that he is to end his 25 year association with the Reds and move to American club LA Galaxy.

Steven George Gerrard who has been at Anfield since the age of nine, will no doubt leave a big ‘hole’ in the Liverpool squad after ‘carrying’ the Liverpool team on it’s own it could be argued. What can be argued is Stevie G’s desire to succeed. The soon to be former Liverpool captain does boast of an impressive medal collection, Uefa Champions League, UEFA Cup (as is was known back then), FA Cup and League Cup medals.

It’s quite an impressive medal collection – but the lack of premier league medal will always be a ‘black mark’ if there was one on an impressive Liverpool career which spans 16 years. I am sure there wouldn’t have been many people in the football world, who would have thought at the time that a young 18 year old midfielder player from Whiston would turn out to be such a Liverpool icon.

The Whiston born midfielder made his debut in 1998 – but would have to wait until 2000 to become a permanent fixture in the Liverpool side. Three years later in 2003, Gerrard was made club captain replacing club legend Sami Hypia.

Steven Gerrard’s undoubted ability was always going to attract admiring glances from rival clubs and through out Gerrard’s career that was always the case with speculation always linking the Liverpool captain to clubs such as Chelsea, Manchester United and Real Madrid – but Gerrard remained very loyal.

The lack of premier league title on his impressive list of honours did tempt Gerrard to leave Liverpool for Chelsea – but the Reds’ captain ended up staying at Anfield. What made the Liverpool captain decide that his future lies elsewhere was the more frequent appearances on the subs bench this season – and how he was getting managed. What might make the Liverpool’s captain more painful was that he 34 year old has come out and said he might have stayed at Anfield if a deal was offered sooner. The Anfield clubs board only offered Gerrard a new deal in November.

The FA Cup tie against AFC Wimbledon, was an example that the 34 year old still has the ability to contribute in the key games, which has been something that he has done time and time again over the years. It could be argued ‘ it’s only Wimbledon ‘ but if Gerrard hadn’t made his contribution in the third round game against Liverpool, then I am not 100% sure we would be talking about Liverpool being in the fourth round draw of the FA cup.

It’s a real shame that a player of Gerrard’s calibre is leaving these shores – but what Liverpool’s loss is most definitely LA Galaxy’s gain because at 34 Steven Gerrard still has the ability to perform at the highest level.

What Did We Learn From Liverpool’s Performance Tonight?

Brendan Rodgers would no doubt be impressed by Liverpool's determined  performance despite this defeat

Brendan Rodgers would no doubt be impressed by Liverpool’s determined performance despite this defeat

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers made a real ‘statement’ in tonights match against Real Madrid. The Liverpool manager made several high profile changes, as Raheem Sterling, Steven Gerrrard were all left on the bench. It might make one ask the question why did these players travel to the Spanish capital if they weren’t going to start.

Emre Can, Lucas Leiva, Kolo Toure, Lazar Markovic and Fabio Borini all started for the Reds at the Bernabeu in a match that people such as myself felt that Liverpool needed something from. A dissapointing performance in Switzerland against Basle which ended in a 2-0 defeat hasn’t helped Liverpool’s campaign.

The 18 time English champions went into this champions league game on the back of a 1-0 defeat to Newcastle. The last meeting between the two sides last month saw Liverpool suffer a ‘mauling’ to Real Madrid,the defending champions won 3-0 at Anfield.

Karim Bemzema scored twice that with ‘goal machine’ Christiano Ronaldo grabbing the other. Ronaldo came into this match one goal short of equalling former Real Madrid striker Raul’s record of 71 champions league goals – but suprsingly the Portuguese captain had a quiet night for his standards.

That was mainly down to the brilliant perforamnces of Kolo Toure and Martin Skrtel on the night. If I was to be harsh I would say that Kolo Toure was a little bit at fault for the only goal of the game that was scored by Karim Benzema.

Lazar Markovic another player who impressed on one occasion in the first half wasn’t quite ‘in sync’ with his colleague Javi Manquillo which ultimately allowed Real left-back to deliver a wicked ball in, Karim Benzema was left in space in the box – and all the Frenchmen needed to do was make some form of connection to the cross, which he duly did to score what proved to be the winner on the night.

That goal was harsh on Liverpool, the Reds battled hard – Fabio Borini really did work his socks off upfront. The main plus points for me were that Liverpool had a ‘nice shape’ about them defensively. Time and time again Real with their vast array of attacking talent, struggled to really threaten Liverpool’s back line. That was down to Liverpool’s well organised defence, the Reds defended in numbers, and when Real did attack they stuggled at times due to Liverpool’s defence.

Martin Skrtel who was captain for the night did make the occoasional error – but Simon Mignolet the (Liverpool goal keeper) made some magnificent saves, the one from James Rodriguez early on being the pick for me.

So many times this season Dejan Lovren has looked incompetent and error prone – but the performance of Kolo Toure alongside Martin Skrtel for me was good enough to make Brendan Rodgers say that this is his defensive partnership for Saturdays game against Chelsea at least.

Although Liverpool did lose this game, Brendan Rodgers can be very pleased with this performance. Players such as Fabio Borini and Kolo Toure in my opinon have really staked their claims to play in the Saturday lunchtime game against Chelsea.

Liverpool’s problems have been in attack and in defence, the Reds haven’t scored in their last 3 games and are conceeding too many goals. The performance tonight reminded me of the Liverpool performances of last season, their pressing was excellent and Borini was one of the main examples of that – that’s possibly why the Italian got the nod ahead of his countryman Mario Balotelli.

Livepool had no Sterling and Gerrard tonight,who were both missed tonight – but their are good signs after tonights performance, that’s coming from a Manchester United fan!

Super Mario Or Blooper Mario?

Mario Balotelli hasn't got his Liverpool career off to the start he wanted.

Mario Balotelli hasn’t got his Liverpool career off to the start he wanted.

In the football world it’s one of the most talked about subjects at the moment- and no I am not talking about who will win the Ballon D’or award. I am talking about Mario Balotelli and his failure to settle into life at Liverpool. Everyone has an opinion about why Balotelli has struggled so much, and we thought just for good measure we will throw our opinion into the mix as well.

Balotelli doesn’t really need an intro I guess, the Italian never seems to be far from headlines in one way or another. The former Manchester City striker though is in the headlines mainly for reasons on the pitch.

It’s hard to believe that Balotelli is still just 24 ( I had to check it as I was doubting my own knowledge) .’Super Mario’ as he is also known hence the headline has not adapted to life at Anfield at the moment, and unfortunately the pressure is mounting on the former AC Milan striker.

Mario Balotelli was signed this summer for £16 million in what was seen as a potential bargain and a ‘calculated risk’. Liverpool’s struggles have been unfairly been blamed on Balotelli although some of it is justified – as that what the Ghanian born striker is paid to do. That matter opens up a different debate (why are Liverpool struggling? ) I personally think that is mainly down to the defence and Dejan Lovren (don’t get me started on him).

With Balotelli you’re getting a player with pedigree,this man is a title winner with Manchester City don’t forget, no one in the Liverpool team can say that. With out really stating the obvious here- Mario Balotelli needs time to adjust to the ‘Liverpool way’ of playing.

What also counts against Balotelli is the ‘lack of work rate’ which doesn’t help his case. The talent is there all football fans know that, the problem is though ‘super mario’ needs to ‘knuckle down’. I am sure he is trying, Liverpool manager has publicly backed him- he has to as Balotelli was signed as Luis Suarez’s replacement.

That last statement there ‘Suarez’s replacement’ that’s the problem, maybe we’re all guilty of comapring the 2 too much. Such a comaprison isn’t fair and I feel the outstanding acheivements of the Uruguayan last year only raised the bar for who ever was going to replace him.

One fact remains the same both players are strikers and are paid to score goals, one player did it at Liverpool and at the moment one isn’t. The stat that Mario Balotelli has taken the most shots in Europe wih out scoring is a very unfavourable stat for the Italian, and weakens any other arguments to support Balotelli at the moment.

What Mario Balotelli has in his favour though is his age, and Balotelli has one of the best coaches around at the moment in Brendan Rodgers. The Northern Irishman knows how to improve strikers, to me signing Daniel Sturridge must be one of the highlights of his managerial career (Brendan Rodgers). The further nurturing of Sturridge as well must be admired.

I personally am of the opinion that Mario Balotelli will come good for Liverpool, it goes with out saying that he needs to ‘pull his socks up’. Balotelli has scored goals pretty much everywhere he has gone whether in be the Milan clubs or Manchester City.

The Italian does have to start scoring soon, as there are several strikers that Liverpool have been linked with. If Balotelli’s struggles continue, that could force Rodgers into signing a striker in January which couls see Mario Balotelli sold, that would be sad because I think if Balotelli is sold he will be sold to a European team.

Love him or loath him Mario Balotelli is a player who will always divide opinion.