Thursday, 29 October 2015

Player Ratings - Capital One Cup: Liverpool F.C. vs A.F.C. Bournemouth: 1-0

Relief? Jubilation? A bit of both? Yes, the Capital One Cup was the source of Liverpool’s first victory under Jürgen Klopp. Although against somewhat weaker opposition in Bournemouth, Liverpool themselves weren’t at full strength, either, as Klopp looked to blood several younger players such Cameron Brannagan, Connor Randall, and Joao Carlos Teixeira. Not only was it a brave decision, it also proved to be the right one.

Although the Reds struggled to break their current trend by scoring no more than one goal, the positive was at the other end of the pitch, where they managed to keep a clean sheet. Adam Bogdan once again proved an able deputy to incumbent, Simon Mignolet, with several saves, one arguably the match-winner, in many respects.

The improvement of the back four will be a welcoming sight to many Reds supporters. Although it’s very earlier days, the signs are there of a defence that is improving. This is where games will be won, and moving forward tonight was a good springboard for the club in its quest to gain three points on Saturday at Stamford Bridge.

Ratings as follows:

Adam Bogdan - 7: Provided three great saves in the first half. His first kept the Reds in the game. Made an important save late on, too, which further demonstrated his abilities to step into this team and contribute. Although Simon Mignolet is the undoubted first choice at this moment, Bogdan has proven he can do the job, should he be called upon.

Connor Randall - 6: Struggled early on, but like many of his teammates, grew into the game and took up some nice positions in the final third. More performances like this will leave little doubt in the manager’s mind that he is capable to cover for Nathaniel Clyne, should Jon Flanagan struggle to come back from his knee injury.

Kolo Toure (c) - 5: Lasted just twenty-seven minutes before being substituted with a hamstring injury. Made one crucial header from a Bournemouth set-piece.

Dejan Lovren - 6: The much maligned Croatian put in a solid display on his return from injury. Very strong in the tackle and although he was bailed out late in the game by Nathaniel Clyne, he was assured for the most part. A sound comeback.

Nathaniel Clyne – 7 (Man of the Match): Despite playing out of position at left back, Liverpool’s liveliest summer signing was superb and capped off an all-round display with his first goal for the club. Still has more room for improvement, which is an encouraging sign for the England International.  

Joe Allen - 6: An up and down night for the little Welshman. Gave away the ball on numerous occasions, however worked very hard off the ball and helped keep the shape in midfield. Looked far more comfortable with Lucas’ introduction to the game. I feel he is a Klopp type of player, but needs to be more consistently assured on the ball.

Cameron Brannagan - 6: Didn’t appear overawed by the occasion. Struggled to get into the game, but off the ball he pressed well in a midfield that functioned as a unit. Will continue to grow with more game time, most probably in the Europa League.

Joao Carlos Teixeira - 7: It’s hard to believe this was only his second appearance for the club; his first at Anfield. It's also hard to believe he's older than the likes of Emre Can. Unlucky not to score with this back-heel towards goal. Looked a threat from set-pieces, too; a quality that Liverpool have severely lacked all season. Could very well break into the first team. An interesting option for Klopp.  

Jordan Ibe- 7: Looked lively from the outset, beating his man and getting to the by line with consummate ease. Like most wingers these days, his end product needs work, but with age and talent on his side, should improve this facet of his game.

Roberto Firmino - 7: Like Ibe, was very lively, constantly finding pockets of space in the final third. Should have put the game to bed midway through the second half, but other than that, it was a good performance from the Brazilian.

Divock Origi - 6: Once again, struggled to get into the game. His lack of movement in the final third made it difficult for him. Would be more suited with a strike partner. Plenty of time to work on certain aspects of his game.


Martin Skrtel - 6: Played majority of the match in Toure’s absence. Looked assured and largely untroubled alongside Lovren. 

Lucas – 6: Introduced midway through the second half to shore things up. His presence lifted the intensity in the midfield, where Liverpool overran their opposition as the game wore on.

Adam Lallana – N/R:  A late introduction in place of Firmino. Continued to press in the final third.

By Simon K.



Monday, 26 October 2015

Player Ratings: Liverpool F.C. vs Southampton F.C. - 1-1

Jürgen Klopp’s first game at Anfield in the Premier League. That alone should have been a cause for celebration among many Reds aficionados. The result? Slightly disappointing. Even more so, considering the Reds weren’t too far away from securing three points. However, to say Southampton didn’t deserve a point would be an unfair statement. You could define Liverpool’s performance as lacklustre throughout parts of the match and until Christian Benteke was introduced at half-time, the Reds didn’t look likely. At times, Southampton looked threatening going forward on the break, but they too were also lacklustre throughout parts of the match.

If it’s one thing Liverpool supporters will have learnt over the last three games it’s this: the current situation requires time. This is no quick fix and Jürgen Klopp knows this as good as any other person.

I can’t emphasise the next two points enough. Patience. Solidarity; the principles this club was built on are now required more than ever. Don’t worry about the noise outside; the overwrought social media commentary, not to mention the drama of the written word from a section of so called football “experts”. These facets which encompass the hysteria of modern day football should be curtailed by our club’s principles. Things will turn. We just need to keep strong and think of two things. Patience. Solidarity. 

Ratings as follows:

Simon Mignolet - 6: Despite a brief wobble with his distribution in the first half along with one save from Virgil Van Dijk, it was another quiet evening for the Belgium. He did his best to keep out Sadio Mane’s equaliser, but it was beyond him.

Nathaniel Clyne - 6: Solid and dependable throughout. I get the feeling Klopp will want a bit more from him in the attacking third, but his defensive capabilities are undoubted.

Martin Skrtel - 6: Made several timely interventions, in particular one glancing header which kept the ball from falling to Graziano Pelle. Arguably his best game under the new regime.

Mamadou Sakho - 7: His impressive form continues. Largely untroubled and won majority of his aerial duals with conviction. Struggled to get into the match-day squad under Brendan Rodgers, now arguably the first name on the team-sheet.

Alberto Moreno- 7: Another great display from the young Spaniard. His tackle on Mane will dominate many a highlight reel. His incursions in the final third will be a welcome sight, despite the fact they failed to impact on the score sheet.  

Lucas – 7 (Man of the Match): Liverpool’s best player. Won countless tackles in the centre of midfield. Provided he can continue to stay fit, will be a permanent fixture in the midfield under Klopp, who evidently holds a great deal of trust in the Brazilian.

Emre Can - 6: Provided plenty of industry, but lacked creativity. His best work was done off the ball and not on it. Will look for further improvement. 

James Milner (C) - 6: Another up and down display from the England International. Provided a superb cross for Benteke’s opener, but then gave away a needless free kick which led to Southampton’s equaliser.

Adam Lallana - 6:  Tidy display from a player who – despite what some may suggest – continues to improve under new management. You feel he just needs a goal to really kick on from here.

Philippe Coutinho - 6: By his standards, the little Brazilian was poor. Gave away the ball in key areas of the pitch and was lucky his mistakes were not punished by Southampton on the counter attack. If Liverpool are to recapture their attacking zest, his form needs to improve. Benteke in front of him will help his cause.

Divock Origi - 5: Poor. Three games in eight days appeared too much for the young Belgium, who - simply put - wasn’t at the races. Substituted at half-time.


Christian Benteke - 7: An imposing introduction, putting himself about from the opening whistle in the second half. Capped off the game with a header of world-class quality. Scorer of great goals and a great goal scorer? Time will tell, but the signs look positive for the man known as Big Ben. The big question is his long-term fitness.

Roberto Firmino - 6: An encouraging cameo from the Brazilian. Looked very bright with the ball in tight areas. A shoe in to start in the League Cup against Bournemouth in midweek. Could very well start at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, too.

Jordan Ibe- N/R: Introduced late in an attempt to hit Southampton on the counter. Won a corner, but didn’t have time to provide much else.
By Simon K.



Friday, 23 October 2015

Player Ratings - Liverpool F.C. vs F.C. Rubin Kazan: 1-1

Jürgen Klopp’s first game at Anfield. An interesting night, but before there is an overwrought inquisition from those that fail to understand the mechanics of football, an awful lot of credit must go to Rubin Kazan. To play away from home for fifty-five minutes with ten men and manage a point is no mean feat.

To those who thought it would be a foregone conclusion and three points in the bag to Liverpool on the basis of having a new manager (I include these so called “experts” in that, too); here’s the thing. The man now occupying the summit of Liverpool Football Club was appointed to eradicate the bad habits which had crept in under his predecessor. These things take time and some will do awfully well to remember that. Rome wasn’t built in a day. 

Furthermore, while the atmosphere at Anfield was much improved, here’s a message to those who left the ground early. Do you leave the cinema before the final scene? Very poor form and while I welcome objectivity, there is simply no room for it on this topic.

Ratings as follows:

Simon Mignolet - 6: Made one fantastic save which kept Liverpool in the game. Apart from that, he endured a quiet night. A noticeable improvement in his distribution, looking to move the ball much quicker.

Nathaniel Clyne - 6: Was caught out for Rubin Kazan’s opening goal. Looked unsure in the final third, too, however delivered two good crosses; one of which Christian Benteke should’ve at least hit the target.

Martin Skrtel - 6: The much maligned centre-half was initially caught too deep for Rubin Kazan’s opening goal. The Slovakian’s detractors will probably find a way to lay blame on his doorstep for the lack of communication with Clyne for the goal, however there’s not much he could have done on that front.

Mamadou Sakho - 7: Followed up his Tottenham performance with yet another imposing display. Liverpool’s best player, with several timely challenges which had the KOP chanting his name. Easily one of the most important players in the current squad and displays the desire required for this club.

Alberto Moreno- 7: One of the big improvers under Klopp. The young Spaniard’s energy has increased, while his defensive awareness has improved in leaps and bounds over the last two matches. His ability to track back has been a feature.

Joe Allen - 5: Was largely anonymous throughout his first-half outing. Substituted at half-time. One could argue that he was subbed as he continues on the road to full fitness. On the flipside, one could also argue that he was hooked.

Emre Can - 6: Liverpool’s goal scorer had an indifferent night. Carelessly gave the ball away on numerous occasions, but his will to win the ball back was a highlight. The young German is merciless in the challenge and once he improves his ball retention, he will be a key figure in this side.

James Milner (C) - 6: An up and down display from the England International. Plenty of industry, but lacked the final product. The performance was a summation of his Liverpool career, thus far.

Adam Lallana - 7:  Liverpool’s best player along with Sakho. All his performance needed was a goal. It appears we’re witnessing that extra twenty percent Klopp eluded to earlier in the week. Has more room to improve with his final pass but the ability is clearly there.

Philippe Coutinho - 6: Another quiet outing from the little Brazilian. Once Benteke assumes the role of number nine, I suspect we will see a vast improvement from him.

Divock Origi - 6: Was involved in the lead up to Liverpool’s equaliser. Apart from that, he barely had a sniff. His first touch is good, but still very raw. A big ask for such a young player with so little experience to lead the line.  


Lucas - 6: Helped keep Liverpool’s shape in the second half. Won several tackles and already you can see that he has become one of Klopp’s entrusted soldiers in the dressing room.

Christian Benteke - 6: Put himself about and came close to the winner, hitting the woodwork. Should have done better with Nathaniel Clyne’s cross, but given this was his return after a one month lay-off, expectedly he lacked the sharpness. Will score goals provided he can stay fit and string together a good amount of games.  

Roberto Firmino - 6: Another player back from injury, he made some intelligent runs off the ball in-between the lines. It’s evident that there’s a quality player here. I imagine Klopp will feel he has some good things to work with regarding the Brazilian playmaker.

By Simon K.



Thursday, 22 October 2015

Borrowed Time's First Birthday

As of today my first book, Borrowed Time, is one year old! Big thanks to those who have purchased a copy.

To mark the occasion, we've slashed the price (sleazy car salesman pitch, or what?). Pick up a copy from Amazon, iTunes, Barnes and Noble or Kobo for $3.99 AUD. Save you going to the currency exchange, that works out to be $2.90 USD and for my British comrades, 1.86 GBP. Cheaper than a cup of coffee from some hipster brewer joint! I believe it's even cheaper through Google, so break your leg to get over to the Google Play store. All the relevant links are located to your right hand side.

Stay tuned for further news regarding my second instalment in the vein of gritty realism. All going well, The Straight & Narrow, should be released by the end of this year. Just in time for Christmas. More to follow shortly.

Hugs, kisses, and all that hoo-ha.

Simon K.


Sunday, 18 October 2015

Player Ratings - Tottenham Hotspur Football Club vs. Liverpool Football Club: 0-0

Well, they say International breaks are non-eventful. Much of the football world possessed intrigue at the news that Jürgen Klopp was appointed as the new manager of Liverpool Football Club. Those who support the club have been in a state of delirium ever since (I won't lie, I still am). Let's be honest; there hasn't been this much hysteria with a managerial appointment since Chelsea appointed Jose Mourinho back in 2004.

The feelings are hard to pinpoint. Walking down the street then breaking into a foolish grin with the stirring thought of "this guy's ours!" Let's just say it's a time to be feverously optimistic as an LFC supporter.

So, with a change in Liverpool's managerial "hot seat" (it isn't that hot, by the way. The man has all the time he needs, as far as I'm concerned),  I thought of manufacturing a few changes of my own. Check-in here after every match. I'll be doing my best to update you with player ratings.

As coincidence unfolded, Klopp's first Premier League match in charge against Tottenham Hotspur was indeed the same fixture in which Rafael Benitez took charge for the first time as LFC manager. To continue on this path, the same result followed. As subplots go, both Klopp and Benitez also signed their respective contracts in the same Liverpool hotel. A theme developing...?

Although the match ended in a nil all draw, the signs were positive, against a very good Spurs team, who seem very much on the up, with only one loss to their name this season, which came on the opening day at Old Trafford against Manchester United.

Against Spurs, we witnessed a snapshot of Klopp's master plan. Higher pressing and a far more aggressive style of play off the ball. Gegenpressing. Chaos football. Welcome, Jürgen. It's going to be "wild".

My player ratings as follows:

Simon Mignolet - 8: Man of the Match. Made several important saves, including one of his best in a Liverpool shirt against Clinton Mua Njie, who didn't do much wrong in his attempt to put Spurs ahead. Mignolet's shot stopping abilities have never been questioned. In fact, I would imagine his YouTube compilation would prove compelling viewing. His distribution remains a concern, however Klopp will move to try and rectify this aspect of his game.

Nathaniel Clyne - 6: Very aggressive off the ball and won several fifty-fifty challenges higher up the pitch. He seemed to defend as a wing back at times, covering for Can, whose pressing higher up the pitch was relentless.

Martin Skrtel - 6: Endured a tough tussle with Harry Kane, but made some timely interventions throughout. More suited to the sweeping role, so it will be interesting to see how Klopp assesses his style of play in the coming weeks. He's survived the cull from four different managers, so it wouldn't surprise me if he once again defies the odds.  

Mamadou Sakho - 7: A performance which illustrated why he is the best centre-half at the club. The away fans were singing his name and from there he grew from strength to strength. His goal line clearance was his major contribution in a day where, all told, he didn't put a foot wrong.

Alberto Moreno- 6: A very solid performance by the young Spaniard, who dealt with Njie's attacking threat for the most part. One who will certainly benefit from Klopp's pressing tactics.

Emre Can - 7: The young German was tireless in his preferred position of central midfield. His pressing was unremitting throughout, where his ability to break up play in key areas of the pitch led to several half chances on the counter attack. He also came close to a winner late on. Will no doubt flourish under Klopp.

Lucas - 6: A steady no-frills performance by the Brazilian statesman. He goes about his business proficiently, which will no doubt please his new manager. Another player who defies the odds year-in-year-out. Along with Can, provided good protection for a back four that hasn't been afforded such luxuries for the past six months.

James Milner (C) - 6: As many predicted, the skipper was shifted from the central midfield out to his more accustomed right hand position. Tucked in well  at times and given time, should strike up a solid partnership with Clyne on the right hand flank. We are yet to see his best, but his work ethic should please his new manager.

Adam Lallana - 7:  Started off the game brilliantly, breaking Spurs' backline with some impressive incursions. He drifted in and out of the game, but his pressing off the ball was impressive. Certainly a player who could shine under Klopp, provided he can stay fit for a prolonged period of time.

Philippe Coutinho - 6: A quiet day for the little maestro, but that was more to do with Spurs' ability to press off the ball. Both sides cancelled out one another for the most part, with Coutinho's opposite number in Christian Eriksen suffering a similar fate. A spate of injuries to Liverpool's strikers has hindered Coutinho's consistency this season.  

Divock Origi - 6: It was the young Belgium's first start in the Premier League and one which almost produced a goal. Really, he should have scored with his header hitting the underside of the bar. Did well in what could be described as somewhat of a baptism of fire. Raw ability, but possess all the attributes to contribute this season.


Joe Allen - N/R: The Welsh International came on late to shore things up in the midfield. His ability to move the ball quickly is a quality Klopp will admire, so it will be interesting to see where he fits in.

Jordan Ibe - N/R: A nice cameo from the young Englishman. His direct style of play will prove important against tiring opposition. Created the opening for Can's effort late on, which went just wide.  

By Simon K.