Brendan, there actually is a 24 point difference in quality

After the Manchester United v Liverpool game at the weekend, Brendan Rodgers said something that really caught my attention. He said: “We are not 24 points behind in terms of quality, the points difference is due to the squad and once we close the gaps in the squad in the coming windows, I have great faith we will be able to challenge.” This was in reference to Manchester United, who, for the first 45 minutes of that game on Sunday, looked like a team capable of winning out on a score of 4-0 or 5-0. When Rodgers came to Liverpool, he brought all this ambition and there was a feeling of a new dawn for Liverpool FC, a new style of playing and a new bunch of young players capable of bringing the club back to the glory days of the 80’s. While there have been very prominent signs of this young squad with so much potential, what Rodgers said on Sunday effectively admitted that these young players will not be good enough to challenge Manchester United, that the integration of young players will only go some of the way and the rest will need to be made up by transfers. But really, isn’t this the same old Liverpool attitude that brought Dalglish’s Liverpool to 6th and subsequently 8th? Where is this new attitude of trusting the new generation gone?

Another point on that too is that Liverpool’s quality, that apparently isn’t 24 points behind Manchester United’s, was so outplayed by Manchester United in the first half of the game on Sunday that if United had taken their chances, the introduction of Daniel Sturridge would have been about as significant in terms of the result as me turning the volume up  on the television. Robin Van Persie and Danny Welbeck were outstanding, as was Michael Carrick, but to name a few. Liverpool were better in the second half, no doubt about it, but really, the class told to be honest. United’s forwards were too hot to handle for the Liverpool defenders, and only when Daniel Sturridge came on for Liverpool did they come anywhere close to scoring. I think, therefore, the statement by Rodgers simply isn’t true. Liverpool, in that first half, had nobody close to the quality in the Manchester United team. Also, United were missing Rooney.

Image But back to Rodgers and his dream. What is evident from Sunday’s match is that the only way Liverpool can catch up to Manchester United is to go and buy “ready-made” first teamers. I hope, for the sake of Liverpool FC, that this is a temporary fix. If they don’t get the balance right, they could end up at one extreme or the other. these extremes are both demonstrated by Premier League clubs, Arsenal and Chelsea. The first extreme, demonstrated by Arsenal, is the trusting of youth to the point where the team lacks experience and mental strength and even when they get into a winning position, they usually crumble under the pressure. The second extreme is demonstrated by Chelsea, the opposite of that, where they refuse to plan for the future and only buy players that won’t get much better, usually for a very expensive price. However, which club, Arsenal or Chelsea, usually finishes higher in the Premier League, who gets further in Europe, and the domestic cups? Chelsea, no doubt about it. Arsenal since they started buying only young players have been nowhere the standard of Chelsea since the money of Roman Abramovich came into play. Now, what has contributed to this success so much has also cost Abramovich somewhere in the region of the hundred millions, edging closer to a billion every transfer window. What Liverpool have to do in this stage of transition is get the balance right between these extremes. They must not start sacrificing the  club’s best players and transfer prospects because they are over their mid 20’s. However, they must not give up on investing in youth. Just look at Manchester United. Whenever big players at United reach their late 20’s, they aren’t shown the door automatically. That said, they have invested in the future heavily, such as the likes of Welbeck, Hernandez, De Gea, Smalling, Jones, Evans, Young. These players are probably going to be at the club for the next 10 years. The funds provided to United are obviously at the moment something Liverpool can’t afford to do. So, for the time being, while they get rid of the sub-standard players and players that are too old, they must trust the likes of Gerrard, Reina, Skrtel, Agger, Johnson, as well as mixing it with the current young talent Sterling, Sturridge, Kelly, Allen, and I’m going to count Suarez in that, too. The Premier League experience provided by the more senior players is vital, and getting rid of players that are too old is something that can’t be done overnight. One or two at a time is plenty. The experienced players I have mentioned all have years to go until retirement, so now is the time they get the balance right. Give the younger players the experience now, so when they get rid of the older players, the experience won’t suddenly disappear. They must still keep the older players involved, as, for Liverpool anyway, they are probably better footballers, and also, their experience is very important.

Liverpool FC is under a big transition stage, that was not helped by the reckless spending of Benitez, Hodgson and Dalglish. It may go on for 10 years, but it probably won’t because I feel Rodgers has the right idea. His policy is admirable, but to put it into practice and turn the club around would be an outstanding achievement. If done right, it would put Liverpool at the forefront of English football for many years. However, the owner and the board of directors need to trust their manager. They must trust him not just for this season, or for two seasons, but for eight seasons or even 10 seasons. Immediate success is simply not going to happen with the funds available to Rodgers. He is the right man for the job and his dream needs to be trusted, but the big question in the football world we live in where everyone is so impatient, will he be given the time and the money? Let’s hope so, the fans deserve it.

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Ballon D’or selection and team of the year for 2012 (soccer)

First of all, while I doubt this will ever reach him, congratulations to Lionel Messi on his fourth (consecutive) Ballon D’or award. This is an incredible achievement for the man that was so small at age 14 that he had to take growth enhancement pills. At that stage even the notion of this guy becoming a professional footballer was in doubt, despite his obvious skill and determination. I am very happy for him, but were all of those four Ballon D’or’s really deserved? To be perfectly honest, whether this may anger some people or not, I would seriously question whether he deserved his 2010 award and not as much but still I don’t know if he was such an obvious winner this year. Was he the best player in the world in this year? This award shouldn’t be a question of whether he’s the best player ever, which is probably, I am told, the case. Yes, I hear you, 91 goals in all competitions in 2012, the most officially recognised by FIFA ever. But still, I will just throw a few names out there and really properly consider were these players actually that far behind Messi? Robin Van Persie, Didier Drogba, Demba Ba, Leighton Baines Luis Suarez, Juan Mata, Philip Lahm, Radamel Falcao, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and all those names are not even considering the supposedly 2 best teams in the world. I was reading the top 23 players nominated in the race for the Ballon D’or award and was shocked that Iker Casillas and yes, Cristiano Ronaldo, were ahead of all these players, while only Ibrahimovic, Falcao, Drogba and Van Persie were in the top 10. It is a very hard decision, granted, but surely at least one of Suarez, Ba, Lahm, Mata came into your head when the list of the top 10 was released. and if not, why not now? Suarez has single-handedly kept Liverpool out of the relegation zone with his performances (literally no exaggeration). Mata has been immense under Di Matteo and Benitez and has really helped push Chelsea from where they were at the start of 2012 (which was not a good position) to where they were in May, where they were when this new ‘revolution’ started in the summer. Lahm was undoubtedly Bayern Munchen’s best player in their Champions League camapaign, was I would argue Germany’s best player at the Euros and didn’t even make the top 10.

Moving on to the Team of the Year, well, where to start… I suppose the goalkeeper! in my opinion Joe Hart  was better than Casillas. Dani Alves, I’m sorry to break it to anyone who thinks so, was not the best right back this year. The aforementioned Lahm would be my choice. I do not understand how Pique has won more votes than Hummels, he simply was not as good as Hummels. The left back is Marcelo, who definitely was not as good as Leighton Baines. He should be replaced by Baines, in my mind anyway. From here is where it gets very difficult. Who out of Xavi, Alonso, Iniesta, Falcao, Messi and Ronaldo deserves to make way for the likes of Ba, Suarez, Van Persie and Mata. The only way to settle this is to have a subs bench! Well, it was great to write my first post, hopefully the first of many. Keep calm and keep reading followers!