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Liverpool Way Lost?

Written by on September 10, 2012 | 10 Comments »
Posted in Liverpool

This article has been contributed by Fred Haas. Fred has been a Liverpool supporter since he was a boy during the first Dalglish era. He teaches high school in the Boston area.

There is a dark irony in John Henry’s invoking “The Liverpool Way” in his recent letter to supporters about his disappointment regarding what can only be called a catastrophic final day of the transfer window. While winning is supposed to be part of the ethos established by the Boot Room Boys, so is keeping your business behind closed doors.

While I can absolutely appreciate an attempt to concede mistakes, demonstrate a modicum of accountability, and even placate fans loyal to the club, the very fact that anyone felt the need to provide a public statement of this order not only rings a little hollow but exposes the fact that Fenway Sports Group is still searching to get it – The Liverpool Way.

There is no question that it is early in yet another new Anfield “project,” possibly the most annoying word being bandied about in club football at the moment. Yet, the worst start in forty years, coupled with a series of significantly questionable decisions warrant every supporter around the globe to pause.

There is little doubt that new manager Brendan Rogers has a plan. He wasted no time in clearing out nearly all of Dalglish’s players, letting a handful of others leave of their own accord, and trying to purge the wasted wages from the squad. From the rumors nearly every Commoli-Dalglish target may be moved before the season’s end. In fact, it is without question Rodgers wants a certain type of player but has it even looked remotely like Steven Gerrard is that type?

Yet, in retooling the side, Rodgers has bought or rented a handful of youngsters, unproven under the weight of Premier League performance, let alone at a club that continues to suffer under the weight of expectations. Moreover, Rodgers is being quoted saying things like, “Young Players will run through a fence for you,” and “I think of my players like sons.” There is a lot to be said for building with youth, but at the moment, it looks more like Rogers is running an academy team than an historic club to which he has “dedicated his life.”

Sorely lacking experience, Clint Dempsey may have been a quality addition. I am not convinced he would have been the answer to their scoring woes, but he might have been an answer. There is no way he would have been enough quality talent folded into the club. Then to botch things so badly as the transfer window slammed shut just makes everyone at the club look bad. To lose a player of proven quality, still in the prime of his career, over $2 or 3million, especially considering it was significantly under $9-10 million early summer valuation seems completely mad.

Had Fenway Sports Group signed him before their preseason trip to Boston’s Fenway Park, they could have likely made up the difference in shirt sales alone. American owners bringing in the most successful American player in Europe, as part of a rebuilding effort for one of the greatest historic clubs in England, makes for a pretty compelling storyline.

The story alone may have had resell value. It surely would have drawn even more American soccer fans the Reds way. Plus, he clearly wanted to go to the club. How many players do they have making that abundantly clear at the moment?

Now the cupboard is practically bare and there are even less hints as to where the goals will come from for a team that finished last season with the most dreadful of finishing percentages. While it is way too early to cast judgments about new manager Brendan Rodgers, I think every supporter has at least wondered if the wrong Swansea manager was selected, as Michael Laudrup’s Swansealona opened the season with a decided surge and goals galore.

Prior to the season’s start it was hard to find a more compelling narrative in the Premier League than what was going on at Liverpool Football Club. There was both a sense of the Liverpool being at a crossroads and the hope of a hungry regime beginning to impose a new turn in a restorative vision. Maybe, just maybe, some of the old Liverpool Way could be re-energized.

Soon there may be no one left that could even find it let alone give it new life. That once compelling narrative could well turn out to look a whole lot more like B-movie horror show, low on money, low on talent, and scary for all the wrong reasons.


Sounders’ Defensive Frailty Capitalised On By Impact

Written by on June 20, 2012 | No Comments »
Posted in The Training Ground

Tom Young – A English soccer reporter who supports AFC Rushden & Diamonds and writes about Seattle Sounders and Major League Soccer for a number of websites; mainly

 Seattle receives a mauling in a 4-1 defeat at Montreal Impact bringing the club’s first away loss since July 30 2011.

The Sounders’ are experiencing one of their worst streaks having gained just two points in their previous five MLS matches scoring four goals and conceding 10.

The most recent of which was a defeat to the Impact in the opening fixture in the renovated Saputo Stadium and first MLS meeting between the two sides. The game highlighted the Sounders’ defensive problems as all four goals conceded involved easily avoidable mistakes.

Seattle came into the match without their linchpin central midfielder Osvaldo Alonso due to a two-match ban retroactively slapped on by the discipline committee for a challenge during the Columbus defeat.

The home side opened the scoring in the 18th minute when Patrice Bernier, from the left side of the box, pulled the ball back to Felipe Martins who wasn’t closed down quick enough. He managed to send a low curling shot into Meredith’s left-hand corner. 1-0 Montreal

Seattle had two opportunities to get level before the break, in the 39th Montero’s attempt from a couple of yards out was smothered by Donovan Ricketts and a Brad Evans’ swivelling shot from 12 yards out in added time was again easily saved by Ricketts.

The score remained the same until the 50th minute when Justin Mapp ran at the Sounders’ defence. Mapp picked up the ball on the left before walking past three almost-passive defenders before firing back across Meredith and finding the bottom corner. 2-0 Montreal

It got worse for Seattle five minutes later. Hurtado was harshly sent off for a clumsy challenge on Collen Warner.

In the 57th minute Montreal capitalised on their man advantage, a free-kick was cleared but was unable to win the second ball leading to a routine through-ball by Patrice Bernier splitting the Sounders’ defence and Andrew Wenger’s first time shot beat a wrong-footed Meredith at his near post. 3-0 Montreal

Seattle clawed back a lifeline in the 61st minute with some great movement starting with Fernandez beating a man before laying it forward to Montero who spun and fed the on running Eddie Johnson, his calm dink over the on-rushing Ricketts made it Montreal 3-1 Sounders

Former Sounder, Lamar Neagle got the Impact’s lead back to three before the final whistle. He attacked from the left but a combination of Burch and Evans looked as if they had cleared the danger before falling over each other. Neagle pounced on the mistake firing past Meredith. Montreal 4-1 Sounders FT

It was definitely a night to forget for the Sounders’ faithful but one that team must remember for a long time to ensure it doesn’t happen again. The Rave Green will be attempting to right the defensive wrongs and snap the five game winless streak against Sporting KC at CenturyLink on Wednesday night.

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Stopper – Sweeper or Just Stop?

Written by on June 7, 2012 | No Comments »
Posted in The Training Ground

Peter Salis is 22 year old Football fan from Barrie, Ontario, Canada. Madridista since 2003 and still a fan of David Beckham. Hoping to one day become a children’s/genre author while also working in the field of soccer reporting and writing.

At the professional level of the beautiful game, the decision in which to play a straight back four or a stopper-sweeper system is made by a top team official. When it comes to your local Sunday league team, however, the defensive system you employ is rarely made by a “coach” individual.

With Sunday league teams, a common practice is “winging it,” attempting to employ each system at the most opportune moments, depending on factors stemming from the opposition (most commonly the speed of the other team’s forwards).

In this debate of a defensive system, that considers all the defensive players and not just the centre back pairing, an argument can be made for either.

What then are the pros and cons when it comes to the stopper – sweeper system? The positives for an efficient and properly employed stopper-sweeper system are many, but perhaps the most important is the stability and strength that it gives to the centre of a team’s defence.

With a strong tackling, fast, and stamina filled stopper, a team can easily pair this position with defensive midfielders to absolutely shutdown opposition centre forwards and attacking midfielders.

Wing-backs may also choose to pinch in on defence, forcing the ball wide while relying on wingers to help in defending. With a reliable sweeper, any ball sent over the top of a pinching wing-back or any ball that passes the stopper, can easily be cleared or turned into a counter-attack with a good first touch.

When a stopper-sweeper system is employed with four individuals that understand the tactical positioning and awareness of the game, this system can thwart almost any opposition attack. The pitfall, however, is the gap it leaves in the centre of defence. With any team, in any league, there will always be opportunity to attack.

The stopper-sweeper system leaves open opportunities in its gaps on the left and right of the sweeper when an opposition counter-attacks quickly. A covering sweeper will also be forced to shift out of position leaving his back vulnerable, allowing for an opposition to double up on the remaining wing-back, forcing the stopper to recover before an opportunity comes from it. This system allows for greater attacking movement as the stopper pushes the midfield forward, acting as an anchor man; spreading short balls to teammates who in turn look to start the attack.

In this ability to help the attack lays the advantage of the stop-sweeper system to the straight line defence approach. The negative side of a straight line is that it forces a midfielder to occupy the space that a stopper would, effectively removing that midfielder from the attacking third of the pitch.

In the case of a team like Real Madrid, however, that have a defensive playmaker such as Xabi Alonso, they are not hindered by removing him from the attacking third. It must be shown, also, that when Alonso is absent from the lineup, Madrid struggles greatly to move the ball and create chances.

The straight line defence makes up for its attacking deficiencies with its defensive capabilities, ensuring that the centre is always covered (either by a centre back, or the defensive midfielder when a centre back switches to cover his wing-back). The straight line is easier to operate, as both centre backs have a clear wing-back to cover, and the offside trap becomes feasible.

In the stopper-sweeper system an offside trap is nearly impossible, as the sweeper must remain in a relegated position. The defensive security and relative simplicity offered by the straight line is what makes this system far more popular.

A combination system is an excellent compromise in strategy, if the players are able to execute it. When attacking, one centre back becomes the stopper and advances into space that would normally be occupied by the defensive midfielder, while his partner would convert to a sweeper and cover the centre.

When defending, they would switch back to their defensive positions in a straight line and operate in that system instead. A compromising system requires a stopper centre back with the tactical awareness to read a play progressively, detecting a possible counter attack before it happens, so they can recover their position in the straight line.

When choosing a system for your Sunday league team take as many factors into consideration as possible. Consider the pace of your players, their tactical reading ability of the game, their strength on the ball, the voice of your keeper in calling out instructions, etc.

Start with a straight line defence and experiment as the game goes on. If you see that your team is controlling the play and has the better possession score, switch to a stopper-sweeper and attempt to take advantage with greater attacking numbers. Experiment as you go and choose what works best for your team.

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