Luis Suarez

We go again!

The morning after the night before – waking up and feeling how Mark Lawrenson looks – tired, haggard and with no enthusiasm for life. That is until you remember there are three more World Cup matches to look forward to today. You might be bleary eyed following on from yesterday’s 12 hour marathon of football but you are ready to go again.

This will be remembered as the World Cup that gave us a 2am kick-off and four games in one day.

It will be something to tell the grandchildren about in the future – or alternatively something that will disclose only for people to look at you with distain and roll their eyes.

You were there, sitting on the sofa, in that same groove since 5pm when you saw Gervinho score a World Cup goal at 3.22am.

You were in that same position a few hours earlier when England physio Gary Lewin was stretchered off having injured himself celebrating a goal.

The same groove when Maxi Periera saw red for Uruguay as Luis Suarez looked on from the bench.

The groove that was just beginning when Colombia trickled in the first goal of the afternoon and celebrated in style.

The groove that you will again form when Switzerland-Ecuador kicks off this afternoon, until the final whistle is blown at close to 1am following on from Argentina-Bosnia.

If the past three days are anything to go by, goals are to be expected. Just two teams – Cameroon and Greece – have failed to register a single goal in the tournament.

After eight games, the 2014 World Cup has already given us a glut of goals – 28 in total. In comparison to South Africa four years ago, goals were at a premium with just 13 scored after the same number of games.

Thus far, Brazil is living up to its expectations. Let’s hope that it continues that way!


Season Preview: #6 Liverpool

Last season, was, by accounts, a tumultuous one for all Liverpool fans which culminated in two cup finals at Wembley, one of which resulted in the club’s first trophy since 2006, but this wasn’t enough to save Kenny Dalglish’s job. Two club finals, was a sign of progression but it could not mask the Reds poor form in the league – particularly in the second-half of the season where they bordered on relegation form – saw Liverpool finish eighth, 37 points of the champions and runners-up, Manchester City and Manchester United respectively.

Many things have changed at Anfield since the final day of last season. The Liverpool hierarchy managed to tempt Brendan Rodgers, after an impressive first season in the Premier League, away from Swansea, for him to sign a three-year contract. The 39-year-old is certainly a bold choice to replace Dalglish, who, regardless of last season will always been a legend at the club, will be a tough act to follow. The Northern Irishman’s task will not be an easy one, but it will be a task they he will relish.

It has been a summer blighted with transfer speculation of players supposedly going in and going out of Anfield. Firstly, Dirk Kuyt, Maxi Rodriguez, Alberto Aquilani and Fabio Auerelio have all departed the club. Andy Carroll has continually been linked with a move back home to Newcastle or a move to promoted West Ham, Craig Bellamy has also been with a move back to Cardiff, while defensive lynchpin Daniel Agger has been linked with a move to Premier League champions Manchester City. Thus far, signings have been thin on the ground with Rodgers only making a move for Fabio Borini signed from Roma and will work with the manager for the third time. Links with a move for Joe Allen and Clint Dempsey before the window closes seem to be in the pipeline.

League form and finishing higher than eighth will be the immediate target for Rodgers, that along with the Europa League, which he will more likely use to blood some of the younger club players along with keeping the fringe players satisfied with some first team action. There is lots of room for improvement from the players themselves in terms of finishing and taking their chances, last season Liverpool had their lowest points tally since 1953-54, they hit the woodwork 33 times throughout the season and missed seven penalties. If Rodgers can get Liverpool firing, they should be good enough for get a Europa League spot and finish in or around sixth place.

Opening five fixtures: West Brom (A), Manchester City (H), Arsenal (H), Sunderland (A) and Manchester United (H)

Dalglish’s ultimate downfall: Liverpool’s Premier League form

The honeymoon period is over for John W. Henry, Tom Werner and Fenway Sports Group (FSG) at Liverpool, and so too was Kenny Dalglish’s as he was sacked yesterday evening, leaving the club in search of their fourth manager in four years. Dalglish joins Director of Football Damien Comolli, Communications Chief Ian Cotton and Head of Sports Science, Peter Brukner all of whom have left the club in recent weeks and months.

Initially, things looked promising under Dalglish, as he brought with him some semblance of stability or rather, appeased the Liverpool fans when he took over following the departure of Roy Hodgson in January 2011 – before leading the club to a 6th place finish in the league. This season, fortunes on the field appeared to be significantly better (mainly in the cup competitions) the 61-year-old, guided Liverpool to a Carling Cup triumph and FA Cup final (defeated by Chelsea). And that is where the positives end, ultimately, Dalglish’s biggest downfall was Liverpool’s Premier League form.

As Chairman Tom Werner highlighted in the statement released by Liverpool yesterday, “results in the Premier League have been disappointing”. This season, the Reds won as many games as they lost (14) – an eighth place finish equates to the clubs worst in 18 years and they accumulated their lowest points tally (52) since 1953/54. Home form, at Anfield has also been very poor winning just six games in the league all season – only once before have Liverpool won fewer games at home in a league season and that was back in 1948/49 when they won just five games.

In the club statement, Dalglish said “I would not have swapped the Carling Cup win for anything.” While most will admire Dalglish’s stance on this and the importance of winning a trophy – Liverpool’s first since 2006 – the drop off in the second half of the Premier League season was cause for concern for many supporters. The Reds ended 2011 having just lost three times (in 19 PL games), however in 2012, they suffered 11 defeats in 19 games. For the first half of the season, Liverpool collected on average of around 1.79 points per game – level with Chelsea, and higher than Newcastle (1.58 points per game) but their points per game ratio dropped significantly in the second half of the season to 0.94.

So, in terms of the Carling Cup win, the FA Cup final and the crippling league form it was two steps forward and one step back. Liverpool picked up 18 points (out of a possible 57) in 2012 – only three teams picked up less in that time Blackburn (17), Aston Villa (15) and Wolves (8), two of those teams were relegated, while the other came desperately close to that feat. Had it not been for their league form in the opening half of the season, Liverpool could realistically have finished mid-table.

Many different views will be put forward as to why Dalglish should stay, but football is a results business which driven by qualification for European football, namely the Champions League and the riches that it brings with it. Finishing 37 points off the champions, Manchester City and 17 points off Champions League place, the Liverpool hierarchy had to take action.

Some of the other aspects of Dalglish’s management which could be regarded as being poor (but perhaps not have played a hand in his departure), was the way that the Luis Suarez debacle was handled, team selection has been questionable at times too – a lack of continuity in the starting eleven was evident throughout the season, mainly in the attacking third of the field and finally, the players signed – Suarez and Craig Bellamy aside, Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam had poor seasons, Jose Enrique had a wretched second half of the season, while Andy Carroll though showed glimpses of brilliance towards the end of the season.

In moving forward: “Our job now is to identify and recruit the right person to take this club forward and build on the strong foundations put in place during the last 18 months.” were the words of John W. Henry yesterday, and already the names of Roberto Martinez, Andre Villas-Boas, even another former manager, Rafa Benitez has been mentioned in relation to the vacancy. One thing is for certain, there is an interesting summer ahead at Anfield.