Monday, 12 October 2015

Why Emre Can will benefit the most under Jurgen Klopp

Emre Can came to Liverpool last season on the back of promising performances for Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen. Indeed, the Reds were able to beat out stiff competition from Bayern, who had a buy-back clause for the German international. 

Known for his versatility, Can came to Liverpool and had a very promising debut season, reveling as a right centre back in Brendan Rodgers’ 3-4-2-1 formation. Can was able to bring the ball out of defence and instigate attacks with consummate ease.

However, his downturn in form started with the 4-1 thrashing against Arsenal last season where Can was forced to play in a highly unfamiliar role at right back. He struggled immensely, failing to deal with Arsenal’s pace on the break and was eventually sent off.

But even after he came back, Rodgers continued to play him in the right back position and teams started to take advantage of it. Can’s confidence started to dwindle rapidly and by the end of last season, Can looked a defeated man as he barely tried against Marko Arnautovic in the humiliating 6-1 defeat against Stoke. 

Saturday, 3 October 2015

What has happened to Jordon Ibe this season?

Liverpool fans entered the season with the hope that Jordon Ibe, a rising star of last season would kick on and fulfill his potential. Fans started the season thinking that Ibe would be the successor to the departed Raheem Sterling. Indeed, there were comments from many optimistic Liverpool fans about how Ibe was “twice the player that Sterling was”.
 But, things have not turned out right for the 19 year old, as performances have been dull. Ibe has not been able to make the impact that everyone hoped he would create.This article takes a look at why this has been the case. Has he become a bad player overnight or is there some other problem behind the scenes?

Monday, 28 September 2015

Alberto Moreno is Proving Doubters Wrong with Strong Performances

Alberto Moreno came to Liverpool at the start of last season for a fee of close to 12 million pounds from Spanish giants Sevilla. Brendan Rodgers’ persistence paid off after he had courted the young Spaniard for the entire transfer window. Moreno represented the kind of full back suited to Rodgers’ style of play with unlimited energy, deadly pace and an aggressive nature.

He promised to be the next great Liverpool left back after players like Jose Enrique, Paul Konchesky and Aly Cissokho had failed. Indeed, he had been touted as the next Jon Arne Riise by many Liverpool fans (without the deadly free kicks of course!)
Moreno was a constant attacking outlet on the left hand side offering width and dynamism. However, fans kept on going back to his defensive mistakes, which had contributed directly to losses against Newcastle and Chelsea.During the early stages of his Liverpool career, Moreno established himself as a player that could really impress attacking wise but was a bit naïve defensively. Indeed, this was seen when a fatal error against Manchester City on his debut was cancelled by a superb solo goal against Tottenham at White Hart Lane.
download (1)
Even though he was one of the shining lights in Liverpool’s unbeaten run from December to March in the left wing back spot, fans never warmed up to Moreno. Moreno was Liverpool’s consistent performer at the time playing almost all the games but yet Kopites felt there was something missing. There was always this feeling that Moreno would make a mistake at some point of time.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

(Guest Article) - A view from the Etihad: How will Raheem Sterling Fit Into the New Look City Team

This summer marked a mass exodus for Manchester City with many players leaving the club. Specifically, the Citizens saw a wholesale number of English as well as home grown players exit the club for newer pastures. Reliable British players like James Milner and Frank Lampard, academy graduates like Karim Rekik, Dedryck Boyata and Marcos Lopes along with aspiring players like Scott Sinclair and Micah Richards all called time on their City careers

Manuel Pellegrini and his team have responded to this by spending more than a 150 million pounds in the summer. And about one third of it spent on English blood in Raheem Sterling. Was it spent wisely? Can such mass spending be justified even in the goal of bringing in English players to fulfill the quota of homegrown players required for a club? This article takes a look Sterling’s signing and whether he has what it takes to succeed at the Etihad. Was he bought just to fill up the numbers or to actually have a general impact on the team?

For City, getting a young player of his caliber is indeed a great feat. Sterling is known for his no-fear, direct running style at defenders that was a top priority for a club that was criticized last season for a lack of width and movement. He is a player with the willingness to commit defenders, quick feet and a good dribbling technique. In the 2014-15 season City often lacked that urgency in their game play and now they have Sterling to offer pace, trickery and guile.

It is not that City “lacked players with pace” because there are players like Sergio Aguero and Jesus Navas who are meant to provide that to the team. But this tool of pace and trickery wasn’t always in abundance because of Aguero’s poor injury record and Navas often being a one-dimensional player. But, now with Sterling, they have a player who ticks most of these boxes for City and offers the extra dimension that the team needs. Being only 20 years old, Sterling offers a fresher look to the ageing City side.

Sterling’s versatility is another factor that can make him a valuable asset for the City side. His ability to play multiple different positions is in stark contrast to Navas who often almost always sticks to the right side touchline during games. He has played almost every position across the field from striker to right wing back.  The central attacking role behind two high profile strikers (Suarez and Sturridge) got the best out of Sterling.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Was Fabio Borini given a fair chance at Liverpool?

As the dust settles on the summer transfer window, one eye-catching deal was Fabio Borini’s long awaited move to Sunderland. This article takes a look at the Italian’s ill-fated time at Liverpool. 

Fabio Borini came to Liverpool three seasons back as Brendan Rodgers’ first signing as Liverpool manager. His signing signaled a new era as Rodgers looked to sign players he felt “comfortable” with. Indeed, Rodgers had previously coached Borini as an upcoming youngster at Chelsea and signed him on loan as Swansea manager. Borini even helped Swansea get promoted for the first time scoring 6 crucial goals in 8 appearances to help the Swans through the playoffs. The signs were there that Borini would be a success at Liverpool as he seemingly had all the attributes that Brendan Rodgers required.
 Hard working with a penchant for being in the right place at the right time, Borini came to Liverpool on the back of a very successful spell at AS Roma. When he scored a goal in his debut appearance against FC Gomel, fans had more reason to believe that Borini would justify his hefty 11 million pound fee. However, fast forward three seasons and things have not quite worked out for the Italian at the Merseyside club. Borini has been sold to Sunderland, just one year after rejecting them, for a fee in the range of 8-10 million pounds. However, the question must be asked as to why Borini did not have success. Was he given a fair chance at Liverpool?

In my opinion, Borini was never given a consistent opportunity to prove himself to Brendan Rodgers and the Liverpool faithful. The fact of the matter is that Borini, in three seasons, has only played 25 games for Liverpool. And if that was not striking enough, he has only started 8 of them, which means more than 2/3rd of his measly Liverpool appearances have been as a substitute. Conversely, both Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert have got more playing time in one season than Borini has in three. Borini was supposed to be the cornerstone of Brendan Rodgers’ “philosophy” but instead he was made to be nothing more than a benchwarmer for the Reds.

Common statements used often by Liverpool fans are that Borini was simply not good enough or that his performances were not upto par. However, how can this be judged when Borini has hardly ever put on the famous Red shirt. Even then, if we look at the stats, Borini performed better in his loan spell in Sunderland than Rickie Lambert, Mario Balotelli and Daniel Sturridge combined last season. He scored more goals in all competitions than the aforementioned three combined. In addition, he scored more than 49 million man Raheem Sterling as well as last year’s top scorer Steven Gerrard. His loan spell at Sunderland showed that he could deliver the goods if called upon.

Another facet to consider is Borini’s proclivity for important goals, many of which saved Sunderland from almost certain relegation. His goals included two in the heated Tyne-Wear Derby, clutch goals in the League Cup as well as a historical goal against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Last season, Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers had a huge problem in big games losing almost all of them when it really mattered. Borini, on the other hand, seemed to thrive in them and while he may not have been the perfect solution, he would have provided more than many others often did.

What is also striking  is Rodgers’ treatment of Borini. Last season, Rodgers introduced Borini 6 months into the season after nearly every other option had failed. Borini was deployed as the lone striker in Rodgers’ 3-5-2 formation and scored in the second start he was given against Aston Villa. Despite having a good game, Borini was dropped without reason for the next game against West Ham and it was the last game that Borini ever started for Liverpool.

Rodgers tried midfielders like Phillipe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling and even an ageing Steven Gerrard in the striker position when he had Borini on the bench waiting desperately for a chance. Borini witnessed the humiliating losses to Arsenal, Crystal Palace, Hull City and of course Stoke City from the bench and sometimes not even that. And yet, fans have come to the assumption that Borini was poor when the reality was that he never even had a real chance to show what he could do. To put into context, Brendan Rodgers has been given another season to “prove” himself despite massively under delivering for 2 out of his 3 seasons whereas Borini has not even started more than 10 games.
A huge controversy arose last season when Borini declined a 14 million move to Sunderland where he had so much success. Borini was criticized and derided for being “ too greedy” by fans when all he wanted to do was prove himself and fight for a place. This was clear whenever Borini came onto the pitch as he pushed himself and fought for the team even if he was on for one minute.
One specific moment last season came when Borini came on against Arsenal at Anfield. He looked the best player on the pitch and was the most likely to get a goal. But, in bizarre circumstances he got two yellow cards in the space of minutes and was sent off. While he was ridiculed by most because of this, I felt it was a sign of commitment and passion. While Borini was overzealous, at least he was fighting for the team when many had given up. He showed the spirit and desire that Steven Gerrard showed, that Jamie Carragher showed and what all players should.

While Borini is not as talented as Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge or even Mario Balotelli, he is not the Sunday League player that everyone has made him out to be. Rodgers has spent close to 100 million pounds on strikers alone while principally ignoring the first one he bought. While Rodgers “ stayed up late at night” tinkering with different formations and deploying players in unfamiliar positions, Borini was never in the picture.
Obviously, it is unknown as to what happens in training but Borini seems to be a humble professional and the way he has been treated is not right. Being made to train alone like a pariah when he wants to put the Liverbird on his chest is not how things have worked at Liverpool. While Raheem Sterling was busy humiliating the club, a player like Borini, who wanted to play for Liverpool was punished.

In the end, Borini will be a case of what could have been. He might succeed or struggle at Sunderland but in the time he was here, could he have provided Liverpool with more than what they had at their disposal? Now, it will remain unknown as Borini begins a new adventure. Good Luck Fabio and hope you fulfill your potential at Sunderland.
Stats from Soccerbase, WhoScored and LFCTransferHistory
By – Siddharth Raj Kapoor
Twitter – @KopChants

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Who is Really Accountable at Liverpool Football Club?

Liverpool, in the past, has always been a club with a sound and stable structure since the days of the great Bill Shankly. Shankly built the club from the ground and brought efficiency into the way things were run. As a result, when Bob Paisley, Shankly’s heir apparent took over, it was a seamless transition as the stability brought by Shankly translated into success with Paisley. There were no qualms for Joe Fagan or Kenny Dalglish either as the Reds became the biggest club in the world.
However, things have been a bit rocky since Kenny Dalglish resigned in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster as Graeme Souness overhauled the structure of the club. Though, Gerrard Houllier, Roy Evans and Rafa Benitez brought back managerial stability, there were still problems behind the scenes. While results were still good on the field, people like Rick Parry, David Moores, Tom Hicks and George Gillete kept on changing the club dynamic and as a result, Liverpool suffered on the global scene.

But, now in the FSG and Brendan Rodgers era, this problem of instability has resurfaced again as there have been problems both on and off the field. From the fabled transfer committee to the perennial contractual disputes, things have been inefficient and in all honesty, handled in an amateurish fashion. But, the most riveting fact about the entire situation is that no one really knows who is in charge of fundamental things like transfers and management at the club.
download (1)
For example, if you were to ask some Liverpool fans about who handles the transfers, they would say Brendan Rodgers while others would say Ian Ayre or the transfer committee. There is no clarity regarding many things at the club and when things have gone pear shaped, fans do not know who is held responsible. There seems to be limited accountability at the club, and accountability is a core expectation at every successful organization, be it a startup or a large organization. This, for me, is a basic problem at Liverpool that needs to be fixed immediately.

The first notion that really needs to be addressed is this idea of a transfer committee where different people from different backgrounds come together to decide which targets to scout and buy. This committee has become the symbol of everything wrong at Liverpool with all the blame of transfer debacles being placed on it. But, the fact is that most clubs operate under the same conditions that Liverpool do. No club would just let a single man decide the players to buy and there is almost certainly some coordination between different people before transfer decisions are made. For example, at Tottenham, you have Daniel Levy and previously Franco Baldini working but it was Andre Villas Boas who got sacked for poor transfers.
At Liverpool, the notion of a transfer committee is just a fancy way of describing what goes on at every club. But, there is one difference in that when other clubs fail, an individual like the manager is held accountable but at Liverpool, the “committee” is castigated. This is just a way of deviating accountability from one person and hence no actions can be taken because no one exactly knows the roles of the members of said committee. All the people actually responsible are hiding behind the cloak of this committee and are taking away the fans’ right to know who is taking decisions for their club.

The second idea that needs to be looked at is the role that Brendan Rodgers plays at Liverpool. We all know that he is the manager of the club but what is it that he is held accountable for. Is he the top man at the club or is there someone higher up that is taking decisions? None of this has been made clear to fans and that is something that is frankly worrying. This mirrors the situation of FIFA where the entire corruption scandal was exposed but Sepp Blatter was never held accountable as he himself said, “ it had nothing to do with me”.

Liverpool has historically taken “action” for a poor season by sacking managers even against public majority. But this hasn’t applied to Rodgers. Coaches Mike Marsh and Colin Pascoe have literally been made the “fall” guys at the club when it is not even clear what their role was in the entire season debacle. The entire approach to the situation was that we have to sack somebody but are afraid of holding the higher ups accountable. There are very few cases of assistant coaches being sacked but not the actual manager because these coaches are not the ones meant to be accountable. In a financial business, the higher ups are supposed to be accountable and take responsibility for each and every issue at the club even if it might not directly be their fault and none of that is happening at Liverpool.
Whenever there has been an issue surrounding Liverpool, no one from the club has been frank in explaining to the fans, the core essence of the club, why said issue has happened. All we see is ambiguous statements or excuses like “ we do not have the financial power” or “ we could not compete with the pulling power of living in London”. Not once has Brendan Rodgers or anyone else associated with Liverpool come out and taken responsibility for any failure.

In the end, it is the fans that look to be the fools as it is left up to them to comprehend another failure in the list. We, as fans, deserve to know why things have actually gone wrong instead of getting the same euphemisms or clichéd excuses. We cannot be lead to believe that things are “outstanding” at the club or there is great “unity” when teams like Stoke City and Crystal Palace are thrashing Liverpool. Someone has to take responsibility and not hide behind the shadows.

Then, there is the role of the owners FSG (Fenway Sports Group) in the entire situation. What exactly are they being held accountable for? Sure, the bank balance might be stable and we might get free donuts at Anfield but does anyone associated with Liverpool really care about that? In the end of it all, football is all about one thing and that is the fans that make it. It does not matter if the club is financially sound if results are not right and the fans are not happy.

While claims that FSG hired Rodgers as a “yes-man” may be overblown, what exactly do they want to do with the club and where exactly do they see it in the future. We rarely see them attend any games, which is not such a big deal because of tight schedules but missing the last game of the club’s most revered superstar is not right. The owners have not spoken anything about the current situation and what are the steps to resolve it. All we have heard is that talks are “positive” and there is a “detailed plan” for next season. Nothing the owners have done instills any confidence in fans and makes things look bleak in the future.

Lastly, I hear this word being thrown around a lot and that is “philosophy”. We keep on hearing that FSG have this “philosophy” that Liverpool have to adhere to but what is it. Very few transfer deals and contract negotiations have actually gone smoothly with there always being some issue and inevitably excuses are thrown around. The truth is no other club has endured as many failures as Liverpool under FSG and yet no one is held responsible for it. Each and every transfer story gets leaked to the media and each small incident becomes a media furor.
download (2)
Where is the professionalism that FSG is supposed to bring with its “philosophy”? They are renowned as astute businessmen with vast amounts of experience but when has that ever come to show. Everyone claims that this is because they know little to nothing about football but some of the failures have been fundamental business ones. Negotiating with tough parties or agents is part and parcel of every job in the financial industry and Liverpool have made it to look like rocket science. The fact of the matter is that while they might have stabilized the books, they have let down the fans on may other issues and are not changing because no one is holding them accountable.

In the end, it all boils down to one thing. Does Liverpool care enough about its fans to at least tell them what their own club is doing? The fans endure the failures associated with the club and because there is no accountability, they feel like the laughing stock of the football world. And yet, there is no one held responsible because there is no information as to what is going on. All in all, it is very disappointing that the club cannot even be honest with its own fans.
By – Siddharth Raj Kapoor
Twitter – @KopChants

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Is the "Liverpool Way" Changing Under Rodgers?

A wise man once said that if you do not support us when we lose, do not support us if we win. While the sentiment from the great Bill Shankly might hold a lot of merit, it is debatable whether this should apply in regards to Brendan Rodgers’ managerial tenure. It is true that Rodgers has one of the best win percentage records of any Liverpool manager but yet the consensus is that he should be sacked. For me, while poor losses and results are a big factor, I think Brendan Rodgers should leave because of what he may be inadvertently doing to the structure and dynamic of Liverpool Football Club, one that may have long lasting impact if not addressed.

Bill Shankly built Liverpool's identity
Source - Telegraph 

The first point to consider is his transformation of the complete team without anything much to show for it.  While transfer debacles have been well documented, it is the other side of things that must be considered in more detail. Rodgers has had falling-outs with all of the fan favorites at the club and has replaced them with many players not of Liverpool standard. Daniel Agger and Pepe Reina are two examples that come to mind as those who were fan favourites but sold after falling out with the manager. Rumours also state that Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard also had falling-outs with the manager but the validity of these sources is unknown. 

Rodgers has sold most experienced players at the club ranging from Maxi Rodriguez to Craig Bellamy. While selling players is fine if handled properly, the fact that Rodgers has used this as an excuse for his failings doesn’t add up. In the current Liverpool squad, only Steven Gerrard, Martin Skrtel, Glen Johnson, Jordan Henderson, Lucas Leiva and Raheem Sterling are non-Rodgers signings and 2 of these 6 players are going to leave at the end of the season and maybe even more. Throughout the season, Rodgers has told fans that he is “taking time to build a team” and “learning on the job”. But, the fact is that it is Rodgers himself that has replaced a proven, experienced core with unproven, potential players. He has made himself to look as the victim this season but all these players are here on his volition. 
Kuyt and Bellamy - Two of the many sold by Rodgers
Credit - KopSource 

The second fallacy has been Rodgers’ treatment of young players. For a man who proclaims to give youth a chance, how many players have been given a real chance in the first team? By that, I do not mean a few substitute appearances here and there. Raheem Sterling is the one example of a player who has been given a real chance where he got a regular run of games. Despite performing badly, Rodgers still persisted with him and Sterling rose to prominence. 

Players like Jonjo Shelvey, Martin Kelly and Suso are some of the many promising youngsters that were sold without any justification. In fact, Rodgers has sold more youngsters than he has given a chance. Out of the 28 players Rodgers has sold, 12 of them have been youngsters below the age of 23. The main justification that has been given is that those players were never good enough. But, how do we really know that?

Is it clearly established that Joe Allen is better than Jonjo Shelvey or that Adam Lallana is better than Suso. Instead of flogging millions on superfluous signings, Rodgers could have easily done what he claims to do and have given youth a chance. It is not only academy players though, as Rodgers has not even given players that he has himself signed a chance. Luis Alberto and Tiago Illori are two examples that have not started a single Premier League game. An approximate of 15 million was spent on these two players with nothing to show for it. And yet, this could be swept under the carpet citing the law of probability in that some succeed and some do not.

Everyone seems happy in this picture
 but that was not the case when Suso was sold to AC Milan
 Source- Getty Images 

The third and perhaps the most worrisome point is that Liverpool are slowly losing their identity under Rodgers. Currently, the Liverpool team is not one that the fans can relate to. The Anfield atmosphere has been severely criticized and while the main reason has been the ticket prices, another factor has been that fans may be falling out with the club. There seems to be lesser passion or desire in the play at the moment and in my opinion, this has come about because of too much change in the structure. Liverpool have transformed but not evolved. There is a current unrest in the fans and the relation between the team and the fans is not what it should be.

Bill Shankly also said that at a football club, there is a holy trinity between the players, managers and supporters. At the moment, there is a hole in the trinity as it does not seem like the players are playing for the manager or the fans supporting the team. These are fixable problems of course but in the present, Liverpool are slowly slipping out with the fans. Rodgers is a good manager but the stature and legacy of Liverpool demands more.