Monthly Archives: March 2014

League-leaders Liverpool show quality of champions in hammering of sorry Spurs

Brendan Rodgers’ thriving side delivered yet another dominant victory at Anfield to move to the top of the Premier League with only six games remaining

COMMENT
By Jonathan Birchall at Anfield

It’s on, make no mistake. Anfield’s dream of a first league title since 1990 is looking ever more like glorious reality. To Liverpool, this is everything. 

Brendan Rodgers’ side enter April top of the Premier League. Defeat for Chelsea and a draw for Manchester City had led to whispers across Merseyside before today’s game that this could just be Liverpool’s year. They’re shouting it now. 

This 4-0 dismantling of a Tottenham side so lacking in belief, ideas or any semblance of fighting spirit has become par for the course. An opening goal in a matter of minutes followed by total domination – we’ve seen this one before. 

Rodgers dismissed talk of his side being under pressure ahead of the visit of Spurs and his players followed suit on the pitch. Nerves were kept for the Kop, before kick-off at least, as the likes of Coutinho, Henderson and Sterling, youngsters with the hopes of a city on their shoulders, delivered fearlessly. 

If Manuel Pellegrini and Jose Mourinho were looking for signs that this is all too much for the side from Merseyside, they will have been left disappointed and more than a little concerned. From Coutinho’s perfectly floated 30-yard ball in the opening minute to Daniel Sturridge’s attempted backheel to make it 5-0, this entire Liverpool side played without inhibition. Never has a title challenge looked like so much fun.

Anfield anguish begone | Liverpool have been out of the title race for years until this season

Liverpool were absolutely ruthless in taking apart Tottenham. The opener, a slapstick deflection offYounes Kaboul following the first of what felt like hundreds of attacks down the right channel, set the tone for an afternoon off the visiting team having absolutely no answer to what was being thrown at them. Just how on Earth do you stop this side? 

Tim Sherwood, brow furrowed sat next to the press box, quite clearly didn’t have the answer and his players might as well have joined him in the stands and let Liverpool get on with it. They were merely passengers like the rest of us. 

For both Manchester City and Chelsea, whose visits to Merseyside will almost certainly decide the direction of this title, Liverpool represent a unique rival. Rodgers possesses a squad of players who don’t know what it is to win a Premier League title and that fact, for so long seen as a weakness looks to have been turned into a strength. Nobody saw this coming. Now the rest are chasing, and stumbling along the way.  

Liverpool have answered every question asked of them this season, but there remains one more.  ‘The Reds are coming up the hill’ read the banner at the front of the Kop but now there they are there, kings of the castle, looking down on the rest. There was little to suggest that the enormity of that or this magnificent season is playing on the minds of Rodgers or his side against Tottenham. This was simply another one ticked off the list. 

This was significant, they all are now, but you would never have known it from Rodgers come full time. West Ham away next Sunday, he insists, is all that matters, for now, but even a Kop that has spent years, far too many, waiting for this feeling again, is beginning to truly believe. You can’t blame them after performances like this.

On the edge of history, still Liverpool go forward. It’s on, make no mistake.

Liverpool 4-0 Tottenham: Reds stampede into top spot as sorry Spurs are brushed aside

Liverpool routed Tottenham for the second time this season to move two points clear at the top of the Premier League with their eighth consecutive victory.


The visitors’ resolve was broken inside two minutes when Glen Johnson’s low cross was turned into his own net by Younes Kaboul, and Luis Suarez doubled the Reds’ lead with a clinical finish on 25 minutes.

Coutinho added another layer of gloss to the scoreline with a wonderful low drive from distance on 55 minutes before Jordan Henderson’s free-kick flew through a mass of bodies to compound Tottenham’s humiliation.

VIEW FROM ANFIELD
By Jonathan Birchall

What is turning into a quite extraordinary season for Liverpool has been bookmarked yet again with another outstanding performance here at Anfield.

The hosts simply annihilated a Tottenham side completely lacking in sprit, ideas or belief, with Tim Sherwood having watched helplessly on from the stands.

“We’re going to win the league” sang the Kop as the final whistle came.

With performances like this, it’s becoming increasingly hard to argue with them.

Spurs showed little in the way of attacking threat, but it will be their basic defensive errors that will have head coach Tim Sherwood most concerned.

After glaring mistakes in recent games with Southampton and Chelsea, it was a familiar story for Spurs and Liverpool ruthlessly exposed their deficiencies in extending their unbeaten league run to 13 matches.

Liverpool got off to a flying start, taking the lead through Kaboul‘s own goal in the second minute.

Johnson sent in a low cross from the right and, after a slight deflection off Vertonghen, the Frenchman got his feet in a tangle and diverted the ball into the net from inside the six-yard box.

The visitors suffered a further setback midway through the half when they lost Vertonghen through injury, and his replacement Dawson’s mistake led to Liverpool’s second.

In trying to lay the ball off to Kaboul, Dawson’s errant pass allowed Suarez to get the better of the centre-back before racing clear and finishing across Lloris into the bottom right-hand corner.

Spurs responded brightly, Martin Skrtel blocking Christian Eriksen’s effort before Simon Mignolet denied Roberto Soldado’s curler.

Another Tottenham mistake almost put the game beyond doubt a minute later, Suarez seeing his back-post header brilliantly tipped onto the bar by Lloris after Kaboul had squandered possession to Raheem Sterling.

Liverpool were similarly wasteful in the 54th minute, Henderson failing to hit the target from 14 yards with just a defender on the line to beat.

But Coutinho‘s goal rendered that miss irrelevant a minute later, the Brazilian firing past Lloris from 25 yards after advancing into space.

Lloris kept out Daniel Sturridge’s impudent backheel after yet more hesitancy in the Spurs’ backline, but Henderson‘s set-piece rounded off the scoring as Liverpool moved a step closer to a first league title since 1990.

Gerrard: Liverpool need to win every game

The Reds captain is wary of getting too carried away with their Premier League title challenge rather than focusing on each individual match, warning that nothing is won yet

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard wants his team to win all of their final Premier League games to best serve their title challenge.

Chelsea’s shock 1-0 loss at Crystal Palace and Manchester City’s 1-1 draw with Arsenal on Saturday has left the Reds with a chance to climb to the top of the table if they beat Tottenham on Sunday.

While Gerrard admits that the thought of winning his first league trophy “flashes in and out” of his mind, he is adamant that his side must not lose their focus on each individual game.

“The message has to be that we have won nothing yet,” he told the media. “We are involved in the title race now – there’s no getting away from that – but, from experience, I know that you can never afford to get carried away.

“We are expecting a tough match against Spurs but we are in one of those situations at the moment where we have to win every game.

“We have got to have a cup-final mentality from now until the end of the season. There are seven games to go and we have to try and win them all.

“I try not to think too much about what’s at stake. Don’t get me wrong, winning the title flashes in and out of my mind from time to time, but I am experienced and I know this is a ruthless league.”

As one of the older heads in a predominantly young team, the skipper feels that he has more right to be nervous than his team-mates but is keen to help them deal with the pressure.

He opined: “The games are coming thick and fast, so there is no time to think. That’s not such a bad thing when you’ve got a young team. When you have too much time to think about it, that’s when you start asking yourself: ‘What if?’

“If anything, it should be me who is anxious because I am the one who is running out of time for the title.

“It’s important that the more experienced lads help the younger ones keep their feet on the ground and stay humble.”

Why Sherwood wants to emulate Liverpool … but fears he will lose Tottenham job

The 45-year-old is privately pessimistic about his chances of staying in charge beyond this season, despite asking Daniel Levy for the chance to copy Brendan Rodgers’s success

SPECIAL REPORT
By Greg Stobart

Every week, as Tim Sherwood takes his place in front of the press, he knows the question is coming. “Do you think you will still be in charge next season?”

He talks impressively and reels out his answer. As far as he is concerned, he will remain in charge of Tottenham and he is already planning for pre-season.

Behind the scenes, however, Sherwood is deeply pessimistic about his chances of retaining the Spurs job beyond the summer, despite the fact that he has a contract until 2015.

The true reflection of his views on his future was expressed in the heat of the moment when he said that “the silence is deafening” from the boardroom in the wake of their embarrassing 4-0 defeat to Chelsea.

SPURS UNDER SHERWOOD

RECORD IN ALL COMPETITIONS
GAMES PLAYED
WINS
DRAWS
LOSSES
GOALS FOR
GOALS AGAINST
21
11
7
3
32
30

Sherwood is well aware of the perpetual talk that Louis van Gaal has been all but formally offered the chance to take over at White Hart Lane when he steps down as Netherlands coach after the World Cup. He understands the situation but feels that he deserves a summer to shape the squad in his own image and a full season to prove his worth in the job.

The question is whether or not Levy can be persuaded to back a novice who knows the club and has shown potential but is learning day-by-day on the job at a club who want more immediate success.

With a legendary, proven manager like Van Gaal on the market for nothing this summer and using every opportunity to talk up his desire to manage in England, Sherwood accepts that his chances are slim.

Unlike the vast majority of his predecessors, the Englishman maintains a good relationship with Levy but he is banking on blind faith from a notoriously demanding chairman who is frustrated that the club’s £100 million summer spending backfired so spectacularly.

On the pitch, Tottenham have won nine out of Sherwood’s 15 league games in charge but there has been little sign of the team building their own footballing identity while they have been knocked out of all three cup competitions – the Capital One Cup, FA Cup and Europa League – under the 45-year-old’s care.

Sherwood has told Levy that he thinks the squad is too big. He wants several players to leave and to add three men who can come directly into the first-choice starting line-up with a virtual guarantee of success. He believes that, with the right players, he can produce the kind of expansive attacking football desired by the club’s supporters.

He is also committed to bringing through academy players with whom he worked when in charge of the Under-21 team as technical co-ordinator before he was catapulted in to replace Andre Villas-Boas in mid-December. Nabil Bentaleb was instantly promoted by Sherwood and has been a great success.

The model which he wants to follow is that of Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool, who Spurs face at Anfield on Sunday.

Before the start of the season, this would have been viewed as a game between two top-four contenders. Instead, Liverpool could take top spot in the Premier League while Spurs sit eight points behind fourth-placed Arsenal following a tumultuous season.

“Liverpool is a good example,” Sherwood told the press earlier in March. “They gave Brendan time. They finished seventh last year and look at where he is now – it is a great example.

“That team now play football exactly the way that he wants them to play but they had to take that step back.

“Tottenham have got to decide what they want to do going forward – whether it is to build something or not. It would take the pressure off the person who is in charge for a bit.

“You can’t go and lose six games on the spin at Tottenham – it is not feasible – but Liverpool lost a lot of games last year, a lot of home games as well, and nobody was pointing fingers. Look at the rewards now. The season is not finished and they still had to take a step backwards to go forward again.

“It depends what Tottenham are looking for in the long run, whether they are looking for instant success. That instant success does not necessarily mean bringing in managers. We have had quite a few managers over this period.”

Liverpool have certainly been rewarded this season for appointing and then backing Rodgers as the man to take them back to the Champions League and Tottenham could do with backing a manager and accepting that the journey may include some rocky results.

Rodgers also made some brave decisions and shipped out expensive signings like Andy Carroll, Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing to bring in his own men, such as Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho.

At the same time, Rodgers has intelligently brought players through from the academy to become regulars, with Raheem Sterling and Jon Flanagan both likely to start at Anfield on Sunday.

The effects were seen by Levy and the Spurs directors in Liverpool’s stunning 5-0 victory at White Hart Lane earlier in the season that proved the final straw for Villas-Boas in north London.

Yet Rodgers had served his apprenticeship under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea and joined Liverpool after taking Swansea City to the Premier League and keeping them in the division. Sherwood does not boast the same CV and there have been no signs, at least in matches, of a clear coaching philosophy – and that is why Sherwood himself fears he will not be around to even answer questions about his future next season.

Suarez on course to be £100m star, says Rodgers

The Liverpool manager insists that the club have no intention of selling the striker but believes the Uruguayan is on the same level as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes that Luis Suarez is on course to become a £100 million player.

The Uruguay international’s 28 goals have been integral to the Reds’ Premier League title challenge this season after the club were forced to reject two bids from Arsenal last summer.

And while Rodgers has dismissed any suggestions of selling Suarez at the end of the campaign, the Liverpool manager believes that the forward is performing at the same standard as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

“He is certainly heading towards that [£100m valuation],” Rodgers told reporters.

“If you look at the top people in the world, the Ronaldos, the Messis, those who have been doing it for five or six years, he would be right at that level.

“Luis is certainly on his way towards that. His consistency has been phenomenal and what you see now is a more mature player.

“He is a world-class talent. Things evolve and times change. Time will tell.”