Liverpool Players Primed for a Great World Cup

The World Cup in Brazil is fast approaching. Coaches of their respective national teams are keeping close tabs on their internationals to see who gets to go, and who doesn’t. This season will determine the players that are going, and most likely how well they will play in the tournament. Most large clubs across the top 5-6 leagues will likely have a good number of players leaving to try and win the trophy. Liverpool will have a number of players going, and here is a list of players that are primed to have a great summer in Brazil.

Philippe Coutinho
Coutinho’s singular cap for the senior Selecao team does not do him justice. Arriving last winter, he and Daniel Sturridge linked up beautifully to fire Liverpool to a second half of the season that saw them lose just twice (they lost 7 times before his arrival), as well as go on an 8 match unbeaten run. He scored 3 times and dished out 5 assists, as well as creating 20 chances. It was surprising to me that he was not included in the Confederations Cup squad, but it proved to not matter as Brazil mopped the floor with Spain in a 3-0 win. Now this season he is out to prove that he deserves a spot for the World Cup. Although he was set back by an injury, he has 1 goal from 6 starts, averages 1.4 key passes per game, and 2.3 dribbles per game. If he continues with his great form from last season, I see no reason why he should not get a spot on the squad. How if he does, he has a chance to showcase his skill on the world stage, and his ability to dribble defenders nauseous will no doubt have a big impact on Brazil’s journey for the cup.

Luis Suarez
Luis is a lot more straightforward. The Uruguayan international has 39 goals in 76 international appearances to his name, and he is still just 26 years old. He will not doubt he one of the best players to appear, and his fantastic eye for goal, dribbling skill, and intimidating aura will see him score quite a few goals as he take Uruguay as far as he can. This form will no doubt stem from his domestic achievements, and the player already has 9 goals and 3 assists in 8 matches since returning from suspension. If his good form continues, he will take the Premier League golden boot, and that will translate to the World Cup. Uruguay will most likely not win, but his heroics should see him as one of the best of the tournament.

Mammadou Sakho
the 23 year old moved to Anfield from Paris Saint Germain this summer for a reported £15 million, and has 7 appearances as he is slowly integrated into the squad. For France, he has become a hero in the eyes of Les Blues faithful, as his brace against Ukraine in the second leg of their WC playoff sent Ukraine home and France to Brazil. For his club, he has become a great central defender, making 1.4 tackles and 2.6 interceptions per game. He also averages 6.9 clearances per game. He is very strong in the air, and is an accurate passer. With spots in the French squad up for grabs, look for him to be one of the standout defenders of the competition.

Jordan Henderson
although he is much lauded by Liverpool fans, they do not do Hendy justice. Last season, he finished the campaign with 5 goals and 4 assists from 16 starts, as Brendan Rodgers tinkered as to where to best fit him. He linked up well with Coutinho and Sturridge, especially apparent in the 6-0 away thrashing of Newcastle. This term he is trying to continue form that could very well see him land a spot on the Three Lions’ plane to Brazil. He is currently boasting an 86% pass success rate, 52.4 passes per game, and one assist from a central midfield role. Although these are not world class stats, he is unlucky to only get one assist from 19 created chances, as many an opportunity was squandered. He is also the only Liverpool player to start every Premier League game so far. With the England squad in disarray, bet on Hendy ending up starting the cup, and dictating the flow of things at the heart of the Three Lions.

Thanks for reading! Feedback is always welcome!

All stats taken from WhoScored.com and transfermarkt.com


Analyzing Nigel de Jong’s Play So Far This Season

Milan is clearly not at it’s best. 13th place in Serie A is not what fans are used to. Hell, anything below 3rd is a travesty. But this is the position the club finds itself in. There are few players that are really playing well this season. One of course is Kaka, but the other is Milan’s no nonsense Dutch defensive midfielder Nigel de Jong.

The 28 year old missed most of the 2012-2013 season due to an injury, and coming back there were worries that he would not be able to play well. But he quickly put fans at ease, starting with his wonder goal against Valencia in the ICC this past summer. Since then he has not looked back, becoming a boulder at the heart of the midfield.

Passing: De Jong averages a 92% successful pass rate in Serie A. Only two players beat that percentage (Bonera and Cristante, but each have only played one match). He also registers an average of 73.4 completed passes per game. In the Champions League he averages 52 passes per game, with an 89.4% success rate. This puts the Dutchman as the overall best passer on the team, pipping the likes of Montolivo and Kaka. Although he only has one assist, his passes feed other players, eho in turn feed those who take shots. If Milan were better at converting (they have the 2nd most shots per game and most average possession), then surely de Jong would have a bunch more assists to his name.

Defensive: in Serie A the 28 year old enjoys the most tackles per game with 3.9, 2nd most tackles per game with 3.3 (de Sciglio has 4 but he only played once). In the Champions League he averages 3 tackles/ game, and 4.8 interceptions/ game. He also averages 1.5 clearances per game. These stats put him first again, this time in defensive duties. Without him, judging by how the back four is more like a back one, there would have been more goals conceded, and Milan would most likely be even lower in the standings than they already are.

De Jong has has enjoyed a great start to life at Milan, barring the injury. He started last season well, and this season even better. But it is really no surprise. This is what a 69 times capped Oranje stalwart brings to a club. Other players may be in decent form, but at the moment, de Jong is far and away the best Milan has to offer.

All stats per WhoScored


The Old Milan is Dying

13th place in Serie A. Struggling in a Champions League group that should have been easy to navigate. An indifferent management. This is the state Milan finds itself in at the moment. This is not the Milan I grew up watching, or my dad grew up watching. No, this is not the old Milan, the that Milan is dying.

A team that should be angry not to win the scudetto, now struggle to even make Europe. A final match day Champions League spot last season, and this season probably no Europe competition at all. Is this the Milan you know? No it’s not.

Gone are the legends that kept chugging on year after year. From the old guard that contained players such as Ambrosini, Inzaghi, Nesta, Gattuso, Seedorf, Pirlo, and Thiago Silva, only Kaka, Bonera, and Abbiati remain. Two of these players will most likely leave in the summer. Who will be left who that truly knows the spirit of Milan? Soon nobody. We give captaincy to a player who has only been with the club for a year, and who cannot seem to motivate players. We sign useless players like Constant and Matri, but let go of KPB and Pirlo. Is this the Milan we know and love? No.

And the world class managers? Instead of Ancelotti, or Sacci, we have Allegridiota. The man who “guided” the club to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd really did nothing at all. You want to know who did? Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, El Sharaawy, Balotelli, and the aging stars. Now it seems nobody can save the club, starting with management. And yet Allegri continues to be backed, result after disappointing result. Why he cannot just be sacked, and somebody who can actually motivate instated (Inzaghi), is a mystery. Is it indifference of ownership? Maybe. Indifference to results, to fans, to what the club stands for. Saying the club played well in 1-1 HOME draw against Genoa is embarrassing and humiliating, and it is no wonder why fans are angry.

But what to do if those high up do not care? Although I am by no means taking away from the contributions that Berlusconi and Galliani have made, in recent they have not been at their best. With Berlu constantly in legal troubles, and Galliani refusing to believe what he sees, it may be time for a change. Milan has been in the Berlusconi family, but maybe a new owner will benefit the club. Foreign owners have done good for their club, and who knows, a change in ownership might spark something long dormant.

But as of now, the spirit of Milan is dying, and saving it will be difficult indeed…


Why Spain Will Not Win The 2014 World Cup

With the competition fast approaching, qualifying all but finished, and teams preparing to name their final rosters, predictions are being made as to who will win the World Cup. In the many articles I read concerning this topic, most writers put Spain somewhere in their favorites. But I do not believe that they are capable of a victory. Here is my take on why Spain will not win the World Cup in Brazil…

Aging stars: Spain are heavily reliant on star players such as David Villa, Fernando Torres, Xavi, and Iniesta. These players, when the World Cup comes, will have an average age of about 31. That’s a lot, considering two are strikers. And these are players you cannot easily replace- another Xavi doesn’t sprout out of the ground like a turnip. Villa is Spain’s top goal scorer ever, and Torres continues good form with Spain. But you cannot afford to rely on players of this age if you are to win a WC. Maybe in the anchor of midfield, defense, or gk, but not in attacking positions. Now this is not to say there are not players that can play in their positions, it’s just that they are not at the same level. Isco, Jesus Navas, and Soldado are not Xavi, Iniesta, and Villa. They could become them, but not yet. However if Spain’s youth continues progressing like this, the 2018 trophy may not be so out of reach.

2. Tika-taka is no more- sure it works against Deportivo La Coruna, but the world saw how Bayern, and to an extent Milan, shut down Barcelona completely. Now Spain practices the same style of football. But the problem is, national teams that have the ability to win the World Cup also have the ability to pummel both Bayern and Barcelona. Tika-taka has a weakness,candy teams all over are looking to exploit it. Teams like Brazil, Germany, Holland, Belgium, will all know more or less how to combat and shut down the system, and with no real backup in place, Spain will struggle. Even with tiki-taka they have already shown signs of struggling ‘cough’ South Africa 1-0 Spain ‘cough’.

3. The immense quality of other teams: the favorites for the trophy in Brazil have boatloads of talent. So much in fact, that players who will eventually be left off rosters of teams like Germany or Brazil could waltz in starting 11s of teams like England. Such is the depth and quality bestowed upon the managers. Spain on the other hand, have a good starting 11 and bench, and from there quality drops. You have inexperienced youngsters, or old/ inconsistent regular players. The fact that Spain cannot go into their talent pool and select 2-3 world class 11s is worrying for a team targeting the ultimate prize.

4. The fact it’s in Brazil: this statement already sets Brazil as a favorite to win the cup. The immense home support will surely play a big role, and the fact that the whole squad is used to playing in Brazilian temperatures, they will have and easier time coping than players who come from northern countries like Holland or Belgium. Spain, although better disposed than some of its northern rivals, will still have a very hard time overcoming the home field support that Brazil will receive.

Thanks for reading guys. Feedback is always welcome!


Why Arsenal Will Eventually Fail

Arsenal have made a blistering start to this season, sitting 5 points clear at the summit of the Premier League and top of their UCL group, the beginning of the season has been productive for the Gunners. But eventually they will fail, and although this article may be a bit biased (not particularly fond of AFC), the reasons are still logical.

Lack of depth: Arsenal have been flying high due to the fact they have had no injuries to key players. But as soon as they do, there will be nobody to replace them. Say Ozil is out for 3 months. Gone is the engine, the creative spark. No longer will beautiful passes fly across the pitch at a flick of a boot. You cannot replace him, but at Arsenal you can’t even make an attempt to. Or if Giroud gets a bad injury. The goal scorer is gone. With Walcott not coming back week in and week out, who will score? Ramsey, but what if he gets injured, or burns out halfway through the season? (You also cannot rely on a CM to be a goal scorer) Arsenal must have answers on the ready for any of these questions.

2. Too much pressure: this is something that is very apparent in underachieving clubs that make a blistering start to the season. Roma is a perfect example: they won 10 games in a row, and now have tied two that they should have won, most notably a home draw against bottom of the table Sassuolo. The pressure to win match after match eventually becomes to great, and teams crash down, hard. Arsenal are approaching a breaking point. Losing at Manchester United in a game where 1-0 did not convey the dominance exerted by the Red Devils, cracks are showing in Arsenal, and teams are waiting, ready to pounce. And when high flying teams start to lose, they lose hard. If you look, the title winning teams in most leagues, they have some sort of balance- most do not win their opening 15 games. But because of this they recognize defeat and find a balance, something Arsenal have not realized yet.


Who Leaves and Who Stays this Transfer Window (Milan Version)

With the winter transfer window fast approaching, rumors are starting up as predictions are made as to who leaves and who stays from various clubs. Milan players have come to the forefront of these rumors, and while some are being linked away because of their talent,others need to leave because they are of no use to the club. So without further ado, here is a list of players, in my opinion, that will either leave or stay when January comes.

Matridiota- has done virtually nothing for the club, only one goal, €11 million benchwarmer
Niang (loan)- if Milan don’t play him, find a club who will. He needs the experience and he is not getting it at Milan
Amelia/ Coppola- not playing anyway, and since Gabriel proved himself capable, only room for one of them
Zaccardo- the World Cup winner has not proven himself at Milan, and with Rami coming in he is a 4th or 5th choice center back and 3rd choice fullback.
Allegri- need I say anything?

Balotelli- although there are rumors that Barbara wants to get rid of him, he should den up staying
El Sharaawy- can’t see him leaving, would want to stay and do all he can to help the club. Already blocked many high paying moves
De Sciglio- same as El Sharaawy. Gives his heart to the club, can’t see the academy player leaving


Why Milan Should Sack Allegri

Milan have come under immense criticism shout their performance this season due to them having their worst start to a season since 1981 (they were relegated). Sitting just 3 points from relegation and picking up just 1 point from their last 3 matches, two of them home games, means that a change is needed. So here are 3 Reasons why Milan should sack Allegri

Very questionable decisions: Allegri has come under fire for the choices he makes with players. Things like selling Boateng (flourishing at Schalke), and the purchase of Matri with that money only being one of the many decisions he has made. Others include consistency playing and praising out of form Montolivo and Balotelli, and benching El Sharaawy and Niang. Milan lack dimension on the wings and both players could easily fill that void, shift Kaka to the middle, play Poli, and have Balo play in the middle of the attack. Although I am no expert, I think this shift would benefit the team.

2. Press conferences: after disappointing performances day in and day out, one thing is consistent. Allegri continues to say the team played well after games where they absolutely did not. Although in the locker room he may kick and scream and throw chairs, but saying things like this at a press conference seems to relay the message that losses to Fiorentina at home and Parma away are acceptable, and that the team need not worry.

3. Losing fan respect: with every match and every point dropped, Allegri is fast losing respect and backing from fans. Although the manager has led Milan to top three finishes and a scuds tot in his 3 full years at the helm, he now is watching the club slip into oblivion. When I attended the Milan-Fiorentina match a couple weeks ago, every so often the Curva would break out into anti Allegri chants. If the Curva says the manager goes, he’s really gotta go.


What Liverpool Should Do If Suarez Leaves

This is a possibility ‘Pool fans dread. Their talismanic and controversial striking sensation Luis Suarez switching their club for another. There was speculation he would leave, to the point that Suarez himself requested to leave the club, but with Real buying Bale instead (that’s where he wanted to go) as well as Gerrard apparently convincing him to stay, Suarez found himself back at Anfield. But his days may still be numbered. Rumors are that Real are planning a January swoop for the forward. But the sale of Suarez does not spell doom for Liverpool. So here are 3 things to do if Suarez leaves.

1. Buy a Suarez-esque striker- the magic of Suarez is that he can single handedly change the outcome of a match. Whether it’s a rocket of a shot after dribbling around the entire back line, a finesse after a breakaway, or a set piece goal, you never know what to expect from the forward. He can create everything out of nothing. There are very, very few like him, and Liverpool would do well to purchase somebody similar. Diego Costa, Mario Balotelli, Ibrahimovic or Falcao are a few of this rare breed of forward, and one Liverpool would do well to have.

2. Potentially shift focus to Sturridge: if the purchase of a striker like Suarez does not materialize, then buying a capable replacement that does not require being the center of the team and shifting focus to Sturridge may be Liverpool’s best bet. With the young forward progressing in leaps and bounds, he soon can be the main striker for practically any team in the world. He has shown over the past year what he can do and has rewarded fans with goals. Although the is not one thought of when you think of a rampaging forward, he is tough and can hold his own next to most strikers in the world around his age.

3. Invest in the rest of the squad: with Suarez most likely commanding a €50+ million transfer fee, even if a replacement striker is bought, money will still be left over. Put that together with the disco that Liverpool are by no means a poor club, and you can invest in the rest of the squad. Bringing in a central midfielder would be a top priority. There is plenty of depth at the front and the back, but the midfield is lacking. Gerrard and Leiva can not be counted on to stay healthy the whole season, and neither of them have stayed healthy all of the current season. So bringing reinforcements for the midfield would be a good idea even if Suarez doesn’t leave. Liverpool have reportedly been eying Will Hughes from Derby County, but he is too young and inexperienced to be fully relied on in case of an injury crisis. A club trying to break into the top 4 for the first time in a few years needs a ready player. Turan from Atletico, Verrati from PSG, or Ivan Rakitic from Sevilla could all work.