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Church lights the way for new-look Reading

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Paul Fletcher | 22:20 UK time, Saturday, 2 January 2010

At the Madejski Stadium

Best of, worst of, quotes of, top 10 of this and most repugnant list of that - the Noughties have been appraised, assessed and put firmly to bed over the last week or so.

But watching Reading draw with Liverpool during their engrossing FA Cup tie on Saturday I wondered how the two teams would prosper in the new and as yet unnamed decade that we have entered upon.

Certainly Liverpool, trophy-less since 2006, appear to be as far from ending their wait for the Premier League title as they did at the start of the millennium.

With more and more serious rivals intent on breaking into the top four, Liverpool currently have their work cut out qualifying for next season's Champions League, let alone winning the league title.

If you were to select the strongest XI from all the teams (apart from the current top three) seriously aspiring to a top-four finish - Liverpool, Manchester City, Aston Villa and Tottenham - how many would come from Rafael Benitez's squad? A disappointing number I suspect.

With Liverpool already out of the Champions League, the names on their team sheet on Saturday - Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Pepe Reina - told you all you needed to know about the importance of the FA Cup to Benitez this season.

"We realise we have two clear chances to win a trophy this season, the FA Cup and the Europa League," said Benitez afterwards, with the Spaniard hinting that defeat at Reading would not have been worth contemplating.

Liverpool talisman Steven GerrardGerrard looks as far away from winning the title as he has ever been

The current season could yet end in qualified success for Benitez but with off-field problems such as the fractious relationship between the clubs American owners allied to the disappointments on it, the new decade starts uncertainly for Liverpool.

This campaign has hardly been plain sailing for Reading, who are in their second season after relegation from the Premier League and occupy a lowly 20th in the Championship table.

They have won just five of their 24 league fixtures - only one at home - and their largely dire form saw Brendan Rodgers, only appointed in the summer, dismissed as manager in December.

It is a measure of the speed of Reading's recent decline that their previous home meeting against Liverpool was a league fixture in December 2007 that the Royals won 3-1.

Of the XI that started for Reading that day only skipper Ivar Ingimarsson remained for Saturday's FA Cup tie. The team that Steve Coppell built has been broken up, while the manager himself was at the stadium on Saturday but only in his new role as a television pundit.

The Noughties were the most successful decade in the history of Reading and even accepting their recent disappointments they still start this one in better shape than they did the last, as a mid-table League One club.

With Stephen Darby starting for Liverpool on Saturday, the Reds had an all-too rare Academy graduate in their XI. Reading's fortunes in the near future rest in part on their new generation of Academy graduates, a group of players who are determined to forge another successful era for the club.

Saturday's line-up included Simon Church, Jem Karacan and Gylfi Sigurdsson, while Alex Pearce, Hal Robson-Kanu and second-half substitute goalkeeper Ben Hamer were on the bench

"We have a group of players who have been together since they have been 15 or 16," Church, who scored the opening goal on Saturday, told me in a recent conversation.

"We have grown up playing together and it explains why there is such a strong bond among us. We have lost a lot of good players at the club but it is a good opportunity for the younger group."

Church, a Wales international who was linked with Liverpool at the start of the season, put the Royals in front on Saturday with an instinctive close-range finish.

The striker, who recently turned 21, has been at the club since switching from his local side Wycombe as a 14-year-old.

Like several of his contemporaries he has been out on several loan spells to gain valuable first-team experience before returning to Reading to try to establish himself in the first team.

He has scored six goals in 21 appearances for club and country this season, with the young forward citing his debut international goal against Scotland in November as a particular highlight. He pointed to the heavens in celebration, a tribute to his father who died in September.

Approachable, honest and engaging, when I spoke to Church he admitted that he had been curious when he heard the speculation linking him with Liverpool.

The story goes that former Liverpool manager and current assistant Wales boss Roy Evans was so impressed with his movement and attitude during training sessions for the national team that he recommended Benitez monitor his progress.

"I am in my first full season in the Championship and I need to gain experience, play football and learn every day in training," said Church, who made his Royals debut in January and scored his first goal for the club against Peterborough in September.

Church's movement strikes me as being particularly impressive but he told me that he has wasted too many good chances this season and is busy working hard to improve his finishing.

Reading goalscorer Simon ChurchChurch was an impressive performer for Reading

When I spoke to Church prior to the Liverpool tie he was particularly fervent in his praise of Fernando Torres, though it struck me that he tempered his appreciation by noting that he was his own man and was prepared to take anything from anyone that would help him improve his own game.

After Saturday's 1-1 draw the young striker was candid enough to admit that he knew little about his close-range equaliser, quipping that it might have hit his knee or his shin but it definitely went in.

It could yet prove to be a crucial goal for Reading.

Liverpool will be obvious favourites to win the replay at Anfield but Reading have different priorities.

They are a club in a state of flux. Brian McDermott, former chief scout now temporarily in charge of first-team affairs , was quizzed about his future after the game. He drily noted: "I'm a bit of a Buddhist; I just live for the moment."

Yet owner Sir John Madejski must decide who he now wants to take the club forward in the long term.

The club have an excellent stadium and an established managerial infrastructure with Nick Hammond as director of football and Nigel Howe as chief executive.

Relegation to League One would be a disastrous start to the decade but the new-look Reading showed on Saturday that they have the capability to produce the calibre of performance that ought to see a team challenge for the top rather than labour at the bottom of the Championship.

Alas, the atrocious performance witnessed by 900 away fans at Plymouth on Monday, when Reading lost 4-1, is a more familiar script this season.

And unless Saturday proves to be a watershed for Reading, I cannot help but think that Madejski must make some tough and quick decisions in January to ensure that his club do not ask too much of a fledgling group of players for the remainder of the campaign.

You can follow me throughout the season at twitter.com/Paul__Fletcher

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I was at Reading on Boxing Day to see them play Swansea, and, without a shadow of a doubt, Swansea acquitted themselves better than Liverpool did today. Liverpool were lucky to escape with a draw and indeed they seemed to accept this with ten minutes to go. Appalling for a so-called top 4 club.

    Something is seriously wrong at Liverpool and it starts and ends with the manager. Aside from Gerrard and Carragher these are now all his players, his signings. And most of them can't play, it's as simple as that really. Kuyt, Lucas, Insua, Babel, Voronin, Dossena, Degen - the list goes on.

    It seems to me that Liverpool are content to make the same mistakes again and again. They gave Souness 4 years; that was 2 years too long. They gave Evans nearly 5; that was probably a year too long. Houllier went in 2004 but in all truth he'd lost the plot in early 2003. And now with Benitez they are doing it all over again - and it is painful to watch. For a so-called European giant, they are remarkably tolerant of a lack of success. Sad to see.

  • Comment number 2.

    Liverpool's problems are caused by Hicks and Gillett

    Why? Because over the Summer, Liverpool needed to strengthen and build upon the second place in the Premiership when players like Kuyt, Lucas, Insua and co....were enough to get within 4 points of the title.

    It should also be mentioned that in the last decade, for a club supposedly tolerant of a "lack of success" Liverpool won every single competition available to them, except the Premier League.

    But since Hicks and Gillett have no money, Liverpool lost Alonso and added....little or nothing to fill the void. In the Summer, Liverpool needed players like David Villa and David Silva, but instead got Alberto Aquiliani. That falls at the feet of the owners.

    Sacking or blaming Rafa as post #1 implied solves absolutely nothing. The next manager could come in and then what? No money again.

    Unless Liverpool can find an owner with actual resources to buy the necessary players required to attack on three/four competition fronts, then years in the Europa League at best are ahead of us.

  • Comment number 3.

    Sorry Mr Banjo, but you are symptomatic of all the Rafa apologists out there. You are wrong, wrong, wrong.

    Benitez has been backed financially by both the current and previous regimes - but let's deal with the current owners for now. Was it not he who decided to splurge £20m on Aquilani? Likewise, Robbie Keane? He also spent £20m on Glen Johnson for what basically amounts to a minor upgrade in a position that was not a priority for strengthening when you bear in mind the weaknesses elsewhere and the fact that Arbeloa was a very solid player indeed.

    Benitez also bought and sold Craig Bellamy, who has subsequently gone on to become arguably Manchester City's best player, despite all the talent they have.

    At what point does HE become the problem, and not the multitude of players who he has gone through since becoming manager?

    Benitez has been given more money to spend than Arsene Wenger, yet that guy turns out teams who produce wonderful beguiling football, and not only that he turns in a profit as well when it comes to transfers. Unlike Benitez, whose teams are always turgid to watch and whose transfer outgoings rarely break-even and usually make a loss (Morientes; Pennant; Keane; Bellamy; Mark Gonzales; Crouch).

    Believe it or not, I'm a Liverpool fan. PS here is the answer if he was to be sacked: we bring King Kenny in to do an Elastoplast job until the end of the season, in the meantime we work behind the scenes to negotiate a deal with Mourinho who will be sacked as soon as Inter exit the CL, which they inevitably will because they are not good enough. If that doesn't come off, we still have enough prestige left (just about) to go after virtually any manager in the world that we wanted apart from the obvious i.e. Fergie, Wenger. Hiddink is coming towards the end of his time with Russia. Also it is no secret that Guardiola wants to come to England, and chances are he will walk at the end of the season whether Barca are successful or not because of the continuous pressure at Camp Nou. So, you see, there are plenty of options!



  • Comment number 4.

    Both the first two posters make good points, but are both narrow minded in their opinions.

    The fact is it is a combination of the two which is helping to make Liverpool struggle, and fail. And that is the worrying thing. It seems everyone is pulling in the same direction, backwards. Banjo is right. Any club with ambitions to win the title after finishing second with what was statistically their second best ever points to game ratio in the club's history (yes, it was better than 17 out of 18 of Liverpool's Championship wins), needs to invest more than -£1.5m in the first team squad!

    But Rafa still had something to work with, and for the first half of the season at least, he's been doing an attrocious job at managing the team. From the calamatous defending which is the same every week, to the stubborn selection policy, to what seems to be a lack of heart and confidence, the buck stops with him. For example, our defending has been 3 times worse than last season at least, and it wasn't even the best in the league then, but the goals we concede each week are eerily similar. This needed to be nipped in the bud months ago, but there are no signs of improvement.

    The players must take a lot of the blame also. You can blame the owners for a lack of investment, and frankly a criminal lack of honesty and integrity; you can blame the manager for blatantly failing to prepare his team for the season in the correct manner despite his financial limitations, but Liverpool have some fantastic players which any manager would hope to rely on, and they've not been delivering. From the highly rated and talented defenders we have, to even the likes of Gerrard, no one is having a good season. Torres has done OK considering his injuries, but because of this he's not been firing on all cylinders.

    One thing we do know is that it is not a blip anymore, Liverpool have serious problems, but it is a whole new question to ask whether Liverpool are in decline. I'm not so sure they are, because things could change very quickly in football, so we'll wait and see.

    As for the game against Reading, it was sympotamic of Liverpool season. A microcosm of what has been going on now for over 5 months. Poor defending allows the out-of-form, managerless, Championship side to score, but a good spell highlighting some of Liverpool's quality sees the team equalise. A lack of confidence and dare I say it a combined lack of quality in the team means that Liverpool can't get hold of the game which they should be doing so quite easily given the opposition. But, Liverpool have a replay, which they will win and maybe the extra game will improve some of the players sharpness, who knows, but I doubt they need it.

    As for Rafa, he did OK today. He's made the FA Cup a matter of importance this season which is vital to keep the disillusioned fans on side. Liverpool can pick up their season and by May they could be serious contenders for the cup. As we know on current form Liverpool are serious contenders for obscurity, and cup exits.

    P.S. @ Harper. I cannot believe you're criticising Rafa for selling Bellamy. First and foremost, he attacked a team mate with a golf club. And while he was here he scored a just 9 goals - a poor return. I don't care if he's City's player of the season, his actions at Liverpool were completely unacceptable - Rafa was right to get rid.

  • Comment number 5.

    Great to see press about Reading in a well written article.

    I was delighted with the way that Reading did yesterday evening.

    Its great to finally see some fight in the side, its been all too lacking in 2009.

    The position that Reading find themselves is in no small part to the ineptitude of Brendan Rodgers. I feel, even throughout the last six months, which have been disasterous, we were a better team. Last night vindicated that. The problem is that Rodgers lost credibility very quickly. Poor Press handling, unfathomable tactics, chopping and changing the side and questionable selections (Mills, who was a rock last night is only playing his 5th game for us, despite being signed for up to £2million!)

    I always felt we were better.

    John Madejski comes in for a lot of criticism from Reading fans due to under investment. Disregarding, the fact that he too us to where we are now, this is very unfair. Its all about financial football these days during the recession, we are determined not to overspend and I think the club is well run - living within out means.

    I would rather be in our shoes than Palace, Watford, Portsmouth. The latter had to overspend in order to survive, so making use of a modest wage budget is the way to survive today. Reading are a model of prudence. We got rid of 4-5 big wage earners in the summer in order to make ourselves economical.

    A word about Liverpool. From a neutral, its bad so see a massive club stuggling as Liverpool are. Dispite what you think of the board - the manager picks the team and Liverpool have a very good spine to the their team (but also a lot of 'fillers') Once a manager has lost credibility its impossible to get it back, thats where Liverpool are now.

    As Reading found out, changing a failing manager does wonders for results. Liverpool Should try it.

  • Comment number 6.

    Thanks for the article Paul, very refreshing to see an article written on the Royals as I dont get to see or hear from them much down under.

    What a wonderful result and how pleasing it was to see the team play so well in front of a packed house at the Madejski.

    Do you think Rafa will field a full strength side in the replay? Do you think we can carry this for over to the league and avoid relagtion, possibly push mid table?

    Lowden

  • Comment number 7.

    An article about Reading and the first 4 comments are almost entirely about Liverpool. :)

    Good to see that the last two comments are more about Reading.

    English football has become too much about the Big 4 (or a future Big 6) and the Premier League.

    There are many clubs outside the Premier League with history and which are progressive. The extent to which the BBC football blogs cover football outside the Premier League is much appreciated.

  • Comment number 8.

    i dont understand what torres is waiting to display his beautiful skills in other worthwhile clubs such as chelsea, man u or arsenal. liverpool days are gone n especially not under the benitez rule. has he got a clue of what he is doing. i am surprised he is tthe coach.

  • Comment number 9.

    An excellent result for Reading as well as a top-notch performance against a Liverpool side who, as usual when it comes to playing 'lesser sides' displayed an all-too familiar lackadasical side which threatened to catch them out.

    Not sure it's worth a blog to itself though, especially given the fact that a club that's just spent around £200m scraped only a 1-0 win against the truly awful Boro.

    Still, the BBC never does miss a trick when it comes to kicking Liverpool, does it.

  • Comment number 10.

    As several of the above have pointed out, Saturday's was an excellent result for Reading.

    I thought they were full value for their draw and if they can maintain that sort of standard every week then I do not forsee relegation problems for them over the coming months.

    The problem, or at least the key thing they must do, as caretaker boss Brian McDermott pointed out afterwards, is actually push on and reproduce the desire and ability that so clearly had Liverpool rattled.

    That might not be so easy.

    qualityreading - it is interesting that you suggest Brendan Rodgers really had to go. I have spoken to several reading supporters and journalists who cover the club - and a considerable number of them are of the opinion that the squad was starting to adjust to the system Rodgers had tried to implement and that some form of tangible improvement was just around the corner. Simon Church also said it had taken a while but that the players had gradually adjusted to it.

    I wonder whether Rodgers was sacked too early?

    As for Benitez, he seemed relatively chipper afterwards as he answered questions about the match. He played along with all the enquiries about the future of several of his own players as well as his rumoured interest in various others - and he wished one and all a happy new year as he left the room.

  • Comment number 11.

    "I wonder whether Rodgers was sacked too early?"

    Perhaps if media types stopped pseudo-lobbying for the removal of managers, then the merry-go-round would go slower?

  • Comment number 12.

    BeyondThePale - was there a lot of lobbying for the dismissal of Rodgers? I'm not so sure.

    I'm fairly certain there wasn't for Darren Ferguson at Peterborough or Alan Irvine at Preston, or perhaps even Jim Magilton at QPR (though it is near impossible to work out what goes on there). With others I'm sure you have a case.

  • Comment number 13.

    As a Liverpool fan - well done to Reading who played a fine game yesterday and matched us in every aspect (and bettered us sometimes!). As to the future of Liverpool, being a fan of nearly 50 years, I don't think it includes Benitez or the 2 Americans, if it does, we are finished.

  • Comment number 14.

    12.

    I'm sure I do.

  • Comment number 15.

    Church is just one of several promising Welsh internationals along with Bale, Gunter, Mathews, Willimas, Vokes, Collison and obviously Ramsey, things are looking good. How long more will Church last at Reding though, if he were finish the season with a few more goals? I'm sure Church's movement would benefit from more talented passers in the top flight, though he needs to find the back of the net more consistently in the championship first. He's till young and would benefit from staying at Reading, good prospect.

  • Comment number 16.

    Church is still in need of more games at a competitive level and the Championship is the best place for that. His movement is good but he needs to be careful of running offside. Yesturday he knew he could start a few yards further back and still beat Carragher to the ball but a faster defence in the Premiership would play him off every time. But he's got real potential and I really hope Reading can keep hold of him for some time.

    Glad to see the Royals academy is getting the praise it deserves for a change. I thought Jem Karacan was the best player on the pitch last night and he nicked the ball off Gerrard time and time again. Gylfi Sigurdsson is our top scorer despite playing on the left wing, not his natural position and his touch is a class above most other championship players. Not sure whether Federici's injury will keep him out for long but it could give Ben Hamer a great opportunity to show his worth. Reading have a wealth of young keepers that have earnt great reviews in their loans in League One and our fourth choice is already getting consistent call ups to the England U21s.

    If we can get through this nasty transition year and stay in the Championship then the future is very bright!

  • Comment number 17.

    Speaking of Reading. They did well last night. But it also highlighted just how abysmal they've been for the last 12 months. For what was appearing to be a decent Premier League club which played good football they've sunk very quickly. I wonder if the PL will be on the horizon for that club any time soon.

    Sorry for the earlier post about Liverpool if this was a purely Reading-only article, but they're still a big talking point at the moment.

    As a Liverpool fan I was confident about winning yesterday's game comfortably, with Reading's on-field problems seemingly dwarfing ours. Then at some point during the game I remembered not to be surprised when Liverpool serve up utter filth for their fans.

    @Reading fans, was the replay a great result for you? Especially considering this match was on TV and the next match probably will be too?

  • Comment number 18.

    The issue with Rodgers was that the form was too inconsistant. We have really struggled up front since Doyler left. We failed to sign a striker until it was too late. Many people felt the money spent on Mills or Howard should have been put towards a Doyle replacement.

    The guy made some good signings (McAnuff, well, just McAnuff actually) However for every McAnuff there was also a Shaun Cummings, who has not really taken to this level. Interestingly, Karacan, who was excellent last night didnt play the last few months of the Rodgers era. Allegedly this was because Karacan criticised Rodgers for persisting with Cummings. Whilst unprofessional, it shows remarkable maturity from a young player.

    Also breaking into the side now is Cisse, who wanted out under Rodgers, Mills will surely get his chance as well.

  • Comment number 19.

    @17
    The most important thing was a confidence building performance that will hopefully act as a turning point for a lot of the players in the championship. Just a shame we have Newcastle next and not a slightly easier team!

    On another note, I thought it was an excellent team selection last night from McDermott, Cisse and Karacan worked well together as a combative midfield and I'd like to see that same two banks of four in our next match.

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.

    I agree precisely with George Banjo. There are only 3 or 4 other Premiership clubs with the same transfer budget that Rafa has had to operate within for 18 months - which is net zero. I don't doubt that the constraint is real for Hicks and Gillett, but until and unless that is solved Liverpool will continue to slip further backwards. With Man City's riches we had already basically slipped to 5th, but now it also clear that Liverpool's resources are actually outside of the top 10. The current squad will keep Liverpool above that position for the next few years.... but this is the direction things are going.
    The biggest risk in management is that Rafa will walk. He is too talented to put up with this indefinitely. One commentator referred to King Kenny - the greatest player I have seen in a red shirt. But for me he was far from the greatest manager, and indeed I would say a poor one, who given the quality of opposition at the time and the huge strength of the Liverpool team, very much under achieved. It always looked like the reason for this concerned his difficulty in communicating and motivating the team. Rafa - perhaps from being continually placed in this predicament - is one of the finest there is in this (motivating and getting the best out of the team).
    Before the replies of "what about this appalling season?" rain in let me acknowledge that it's been truly awful. But this started in the summer with the horrendouus realities of the transfer budget, got off to a poor start with Spurs, hit some awful luck in injuries, an unusual run of wrong referee decisions (including the beach ball) until a serious confidence problem had set in. At times Liverpool have played excellent football - Birmingham, Arsenal, Lyon especially - but not got the results these performances deserved. At other times they have played less well, but still comfortably controlled their games - only to again lose or draw. From October onwards this confidence - and the continuing injuries - have hit us badly. This is Rafa's first spell when his superb abilities to raise the team above what could be rationally expected have not shone through - so yes, a little criticism for him there, but
    - Rafa is miles from the root of the problem
    - There are no alternative managers that could do any more with the problem - this lies with the Board.

  • Comment number 22.

    Comment following on from (4)

    Not just the attitude and golf club problem with Bellamy. Rafa also made a profit on the resale.

    As was the case with Crouch, Garcia and of course Alonso - and quite a few of the so-called "flops" - Josemi, Kromkamp, Carson, Sissoko and Arbeloa.

  • Comment number 23.

    As I've already mentioned, I thought Reading were excellent on Saturday - and I do agree with pea (post 16) that both Jem Karacan and Gylfi Sigurdsson were superb.

    Sigurdsson has won plenty of praise this season, but I thought the recalled Karacan really stood up in the centre of midfield. He was busy and tenacious.

    Church played well, often picking up the ball in wide areas and drilling one particularly teasing cross that bent across the face of the Liverpool goal. His movement is excellent.

    Liverpool fans - how much of a disaster would defeat on Saturday have been? And do you think the Reds will end the season with a trophy?

  • Comment number 24.

    Fletcher - defeat for Liverpool would have been a catastrophe. Especially with United going out. I can't see us negotiating our way to the UEFA Cup Final and to be honest that looks a burden of a competition. The FA Cup however can be a shining light in our season until the optimism starts next summer. At the moment it's all doom and gloom and to be effectively out of all 4 trophies we were gunning for at the start of the season by January 2 would have been unthinkable. As it is I think we'll definitely go through at Anfield. And who knows a good draw today and we'll be feeling a lot more positive about this competition. Also consider that we've not been in a final for 3 seasons and never played at Wembley, getting to a cup final is just what this club needs and I think Rafa recognised that too with a strong team selection. All but one seasons for us the FA Cup has most definitely been on the back burner, hence only 1 win and several 3rd, 4th and 5th round defeats in Benitez's time. We could take advantage this season with Chelsea and Arsenal being in the Champions League as well.

    All in all, I agree with Rafa, a draw and a replay was important for us. Not at all saying we've got a good chance to win it, but looking at the way we played yesterday, I'm very pleased we're still in this competition.

  • Comment number 25.

    I'm a Reading fan and fully expected a heavy defeat for the team yesterday but was thankfully proven wrong, as has been said before, hopefully this will be the start of an upturn in form.

    I don't believe that Brian Mcdermott is the long term answer to our problems and I hope a new manager is appointed sooner rather than later. My choice would be Alan Irvine if he would come but there seems to be a number of championship/lower premiership quality managers out of work at the moment, and I fear it would be a mistake not to take advantage of this.

    Gavelaa, it was nice to be able to watch Reading on TV and if the replay is on TV aswell it will be much appreciated. However unlike with other lower league clubs I don't think the money is crucial to the club. I don't know the inside of the club or the finances but I was one of those fans who was dissapointed by our lack of investment in the playing squad while we were in the premiership. I remember John Madjeski talking about extending the stadium if we stayed in the premiership, at the time I thought we needed more investment in the team and although we performed brilliantly in the first season, I feel we would probably have stayed up if a little more had been spent. For example Sidwell left on a free to Chelsea and no replacement was brought in. Then in January a number of pundits and the fans felt we needed defenders brought in but none came. I do not know if this was Madjeski or Coppell's choice but I do feel it has cost us.

  • Comment number 26.

    @ 21. BillBobRafa:

    Rafa has spent a lot in his time at pool and should have developed a more sustainable model for situations like this (having to balance the books). If I were the chairman, after the amount of silly spending Rafa has done in the past, I too would want that guarantee.

    Its easy to say he doesn't have the resources to cope because he has to balance the books, but you can still be a top 4 team and balance the books. Ahem.. ARSENAL! One of the most sustainable football teams in the premier league. Ok, they have their debts with new stadium costs etc. But that's a separate issue and when it comes to the team AW always balances the books!

    The fact of the matter is... Rafa isn't that good a manager. He can manage a team but he has inabilities developing one and his choices in the transfer market are baffling! Id bring in Dalglish to the end of the season and then get a good manager in full time for next season. Lots of people have said there's no better replacement, but I strongly disagree. Rafa is average. There's LOADS to choose from.

  • Comment number 27.

    Hmm, I just wonder whether Liverpool's fortunes have changed around a little. They hang on for a draw at Reading, while Man Utd crash out. And as I write Arsenal are losing, although that could all change.

  • Comment number 28.

    Just remember Reading have been much better away from home for the last year (not particularly hard when considering our home form), Anfield may see another shock this season!

  • Comment number 29.

    Oh and how it DID change Mr. Fletcher. haha.. Kinda saw that coming though.

  • Comment number 30.

    If you were to select the strongest XI from all the teams (apart from the current top three) seriously aspiring to a top-four finish - Liverpool, Manchester City, Aston Villa and Tottenham - how many would come from Rafael Benitez's squad? A disappointing number I suspect.

    I would suspect not actually Paul....

    Reina
    Corluka
    Dunne
    Carragher
    Warnock
    Lennon
    Mascherano
    Gerrard
    Young
    Torres
    Defoe

    would be my team.

    those just missing out because they aren't quite as good as those above....

    Given
    Milner
    Kranjcar
    Cuellar
    Modric
    Ireland
    Tevez
    Agger
    Kyut
    Agbonlahor
    Johnson

    (I notice more a lack of Man City players than Liverpool)

    I take it your team is very different or you wouldn't be making such a bold claim...

    I suggest you back up your claim with a team better than mine that includes less Liverpool players. This would demonstrate your point and stop me thinking that you don't have a clue what you are talking about.

    cheers






  • Comment number 31.

    Dear U11073782

    You say that Rafa has done a large amount of "silly spending". More than anyone else? Rafa's total net spend in 5 years was exceeded in one summer by Man City. Rafa's current purchases in total (about £100m) would almost certainly sell for twice this (assuming no fire sale). Rafa has made profits on players like Crouch, Bellamy, Garcia, Carson, Sissoko and very few losses (with even Keane's being much less than reported). He's set to make a loss on Babel and Dossena and these have been bad signings (silly if you wish). If he sold Voronin and Degen together for a fiver it would be a fiver's profit. Ngog cost £1.5m, Insua £1.0m, Aurelio zero. Few people would argue with Arsene's superb scouting and transfer achievements. Go beyond Arsene and it's clear that all managers will make signings that don't turn out. Look at Chelsea and ManU for some really huge signings that have completely flopped. Dalglish was a superb player, but struggled to motivate the team in crunch periods and crunch matches when 3 extra "doubles" went walking but for the sake of a great leader. He also left a shambles of a legacy (and one that was starkly short of what he inherited) since when - well the rot has set in.

  • Comment number 32.

    Throughout that match, the Reading players seemed to want it more. I think the year on year pressure for Gerrard/Carragher to pull the rest of the team through has started to take its toll physically and mentally on them both.

    Hats off to Reading for doing their homework though, Villa got success without reward from deep balls from crosses last week, and Reading set their stall out to do that. I think Reading miss Steve C though, he brought the most success to the club that they ever had.

    All in all, will be interesting to see things pan out for them, they will be safe, and given the tightness of the championship, could still produce a good run and be there or there abouts.

    Liverpool on the other hand need a miracle. Aquilani is not looking like he will be that man. Hate to say it, but he looks lightweight. Carragher needs proper support, and competition for his own place. Gerrard looks jaded, needs someone to step up with him. Torres is now being played with niggly injuries too, thought Benitez would rotate to stop that happening to any of his players?

    All in all its a mess. Change is needed at that club from the top down. What happens when they dont get 4th? More importantly, who will be a long term successor to Gerrard and also Carragher - he is only going to get older from now on. I can see mid-table obscurity if Torres were to leave.

  • Comment number 33.

    RE: Post 3

    As far as I'm aware Keane was to be used in conjuction with Barry. When the board refused to spend the required money to buy Barry, Keane was considered unnecessary. It seems even Harry Rednapp doesn't rate him as highly as Crouch and Defoe.

    Aquiliani wasn't bought for 20M, so that point is redundant.

    Johnson is an improvement on Arbeloa. It would have been nice to have both of them but if players want to move on, they will, and Real Madrid, as Liverpool and Man Utd have discovered, is tough to turn down.

    Liverpool replaced Craig Bellamy with Fernando Torres, so I'd consider that an upgrade.

    Arsene Wenger had the benefit of having an entire defence, plus Dennis Bergkamp, in place when he took over at Arsenal. Carragher and Gerrard aside, Rafa has had to essentially build an entirely new team for the Premiership which came very close to winning it last season. It should also be noted that for all Wenger's "wonderful football" Arsenal have been trophyless for as long as Liverpool. Rafa also makes profits on sales, Alonso was sold for 20M pounds more than he was purchased for.

    Bringing in Dalglish as manager would solve nothing.

    The "options" you mention about Mourinho and Guardinola sound like fantasies.

  • Comment number 34.

    Dreadful performance.

    Benitez should use Kuyt as the second striker and then play Benayoun or Babel on the right wing.

    They would provide much more skill.



  • Comment number 35.

    Banjo makes some good points.

    The problem with criticising Benitez for things like his signings stinks of woodwork criticism. You could have criticised for all that you have last season, and yet Benitez still managed his team to a record points total for a runners up spot, and arguably should have won the title.

    Yes he has had money to spend, but not consistently. Its OK the owners giving him the money to purchase Torres, and then for Torres to quadruple in value during his time at Liverpool, but then you can't withdraw funds for two transfer windows in a row and expect him to perform miracles with his squad after it has had some unfortunate exits. For example if there was no revolution at Real Madrid he may have been able to call upon the services of two dependable players. Is that Rafa's fault? Well maybe it is, but only because he managed his side to crush Madrid last season and embarrass them in the Champions League.

    What you can and should criticise Benitez for are the performances this season. They are well below par and extremely out of the ordinary. The general defending is unacceptable, the set piece defending is utterly abysmal. The team selections are consistently poor, the general play shows no sign of creativity and the confidence levels are dire. All these faults, well, the buck stops with him on these. This is where he's failing this season, and he's failing badly. But he can't be sacked, it would cost too much money. So talking about that is pointless. Thats the sad fact.

  • Comment number 36.

    The unfortunate thing for liverpool is that they're running out of options. Benitiz is trying everything to make sure that the club stay 'challenging' for tht title, yet not even a manager of his quality appears to be able to save the sinking liverpool ship, and it seems bound to be a season of bitter dissapointment for liverpool. Personally, i think their league place depends highly on Rafa's dealings in this transfer window. In order to bring in a top player who can change liverpool's season, Benitez should offload the likes of Ryan Babel, Philip Degen, Fabio Aurelio and Andrea Dossena; not because they're bad players but because they're players that aren't going to change or improve liverpool's season. Then, with a good 15-20 million in the kitty Benitiz can move for someone like Angel De Maria or a proven European goalscorer such as Van Nistelrooy or Grafite. Then perhaps will they be able to challenge for 4 place, however i believe Rafa will remain withdrawn in this transfer window, and therefore will posibly scrape 6th place, and possibly not even that if Aston Villa, Spurs and Birmingham keep up their recent form.

    As for Reading, they certainly have a squad capable of playing against the better championship sides, but at the moment Madjeski needs to find an experienced manager to lead a group of young players to better things on the future, and signing a few hard working older players for a few seasons may be beneficial for them, perhaps the likes of Michael Tonge, Lee Carsley or Gavin McCann, who can lead by example. I think that as for this season, a solid mid-table finish is the best that they can hope for, but in the coming few seasons they should be more than capable of challenging for promotion.

    As for the outcome of this tie, i think liverpool may just scrape it, whether extra time is needed though is a key question and it also depends on the resilience of two defences that are not keeping many clean sheets this year.

    My best team of the 'fourth place challengers' would be:

    GK Given
    RB Corluka
    LB Bridge
    CB Lescott
    CB Caragher
    RM Lennon
    LM Young
    CM Gerrard
    CM Huddlestone
    ST Defoe
    ST Torres

    But any others out of Milner, Tevez, Toure, Adebayor, Barry, Gomes, King, Kuyt or Downing could all be in there potentially. Its going to be a long, tough battle for fourth place, but although i would say liverpool have the weakest SQUAD, they have the strongest STARTING LINE-UP. This is going right down to the wire in my opinion....

  • Comment number 37.

    Reading are good when they need to be. At swansea on Boxing Day they were shocking and against Liverpool they played very well!!

  • Comment number 38.

    All Reading need iss a fulltime manager and they could go very far!

  • Comment number 39.

    @ Comment #3

    I don't believe that you're a Liverpool fan.

    First off Rafa made a profit on both Bellamy & Crouch. The sale of Bellamy was required to enable Liverpool to sign Torres.

    Per season that Rafa has been here, he has spent a net total £16m each season - hardly a sum that would enable any manager to challenge a Manchester United team that has been at the top of the tree for two decades, a Chelsea side that can afford to splurge £200m every transfer window or an Arsenal side that finished 30 points ahead of Liverpool in Houlliers last season in charge.

    And as far as your last point is concerned, why would Mourinho, Hiddink or Guardiola want to come to Liverpool when they will be in exactly the same position as Benitez is in now? i.e. having to sell to buy? The money spent on Johnson & Aquilani last summer was generated from the sales of Alonso & Arbeloa etc. THERE WAS NO NEW INVESTMENT INTO THE TEAM FROM THE OWNERS.

  • Comment number 40.

    Liverpool's problems are not with the owners. We had the same owners last year. At least Hicks and Gilett are selling other assets to invest in Liverpool. Dubai is sinking into a sandpit of debt so DIC wouldn't neccesarily have been such a great move. We're not flush but we're moving in the right direction. We've doubled the sponsorship deal, overhauled marketing and the stadium begins this year.

    How Rafa has supposedly splurged loads of money at a club which hasn't had the money is beyond me. Oh, right, he's had to sell to buy. So he's buying more expensive players now because he was able to make money for the club? Erm, yeah, actually. Getting rid of Parry was the best thing to happen to Liverpool. Parry was the one who bought Keane after the deal for Barry fell through and Rafa didn't need Keane anymore.

    Meanwhile, the Glazers' Tampa Bay Buccaneers now have no season ticket waiting list as 145,000 people removed themselves from the lowest spending club in the NFL. The Glazers' mall and investment companies are being kept afloat with Ronaldo money. Rooney refuses to commit beyond the enjd of this season. Reading between the lines, Vidic seems to have simply refused to play yesterday and is clearly ready to leave. There's trouble at OT and you, the media, aren't getting on Fergie's back the way you are with Rafa. Sort it out.

  • Comment number 41.

    The problem is with both the owners and the manager. At present the manager isn't delievring whats required. However he has a good track record and in the future I'm sure he can do well. However there is no positive future for the Americans at this club. Once it became clear that they infact had no cash themselves, and that every purchase, every expense and every bit of this club has been purchased through debt, and that the club has been securitised through one giant mortgage, then how you can have faith in those two is beyond me. They are well capable of destroying this club and to make money from football, you really do need a winning team.

    If Rafa does have to sell before he can buy, it means more will be going out than coming in, as invariably the players leaving will be considered less valuable than the players purchased. If some of these don't work out then it makes the squad look weak, very weak. And thats whats been going on. Under Moores we'd buy more than we sell, albeit at sub £10m prices, yet with the Americans we're going the opposite way. One bright summer of spending in 2007 has been followed by not enough investment. We were lucky to be even challenging in the first place last season. We can't expect it every year considering the circumstances. Just because you're a big club doesn't give the right to expect to challenge. However, we should be in a lot better position than we are in at the moment.

    I don't know what Rafa can do with the team if they don't qualify for the Champions League. He's managed every season in that competition and has qualified 5 years on the spin. The UEFA Cup will be a bitter experience.

  • Comment number 42.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 43.

    Arab87 (post 30) - Many thanks for that first XI team selection from Liverpool, Villa, Man City and Spurs.

    I suspect that fans of Villa, City and Spurs may be a touch disappointed when they see that their three teams managed to contribute just six players, while Liverpool claim five spots. Not sure I'd have Reina above Given and I reckon Carragher might just be struggling for his place. Not sure Mascherano is nailed on either but I might select a full-fit Glen Johnson.

  • Comment number 44.

    As a life long Reading fan its hard to see how poorly we are performing at the moment, but still its a lot better than the late 90's when we were fighting relegation in League 1. But i do think that BR was sacked a bit too early, i never thought that he was the right choice in the first place but it did seem like there was an upturn in performance level before he was sacked.

    The liverpool performance does seem like it will be a one off and it wont be replicated again against Newcastle at home on Saturday (i pray it will though). Readings next three games are newcastle at home forrest away and sheff united away which in all likelyhood will be three sraight defeats and leave us without a win in 10 games and firmly in the relegation zone.

    I think the liverpool game shows how inept brendan was though, showing how good karacan and mills were (considering neither got a look in all season). And the biggest problem at the club is the fact that we do not have a recognised right back at the club AT ALL! This is terrible gunnarrson was embarrassing, hes so slow and cant pick a pass to save his life.

    And quickly i agree with you that liverpool would struggle to get many players in the race for fourth place starting 11 my team would be: Given, Johnson, King (if fit), Dunne, warnock (anyone but bridge) Lennon, Gerrard,Kranjcar, Young, Torress and Tevez.

    Bench would be: Friedel, agger, corluka, modric, defoe, milner, adebayor,

  • Comment number 45.

    I feel the overall team ethic and bond transcends the ability of an actual starting eleven.For this reason I feel it is besides the point to mention how many of Liverpool's starting 11 will get into a 'fourth place challengers' team. With boardroom problems, multiple injuries and media pressure it is no wonder Liverpool find themselves in the position they're in. No matter how much quality a team has, with the above factors it will always be hard to mount a sustained title challenge.
    On top of this, after Benitez had made a profit in terms of net transfer spend during the summer window, he still wasn't rewarded with any transfer fees to build on the sale of Alonso and this surely is in part responsible for Liverpool's position.
    Though these problems have weighed Liverpool down, they are still in touching distance of the top four.The four point difference is an impressive feat considering they are supposedly a club in crisis.

  • Comment number 46.

    I'll say it again, and I will say it until I am blue in the face: Rafa Benitez' transfer record is appalling. He basically only gets 1 in 5 signings right; most of them are flops who he ushers out of the back door quietly hoping no one will notice. He is generally a poor man manager meaning that when he signs players with immense potential (Sissoko, Babel, Gonzalez) he is systematically unable to nurture them into what they should become. He constantly looks at the negatives, chipping away at their confidence. Gerrard, in a round about way, admits this in his own book!

    Unfortunately, posters like 'Banjo' and 'Dunc McD' are symptomatic of Liverpool 'fans' whom he has wrapped around his little finger. He's a clever beggar, Rafa. He knows how to use the media, and the ownership issues to cover his own inadequacies and eke out goodwill from the fans. Don't fall for it!

    Incidentally,(@Dunc McD)I have followed Liverpool for 20 years and I have seen all but three games this season. It's just I prefer to base my opinions on the tripe I see every week, and not look to make excuses for a lame duck manager.

    Cheers.

  • Comment number 47.

    Qualityreading - Watford fan in peace. I was delighted that Reading held the "mighty" Liverpool to a draw, but was interested to hear your very positive assessment of Jobi McAnuff, who, of course, was bought from Watford by Rodgers. He was inconsistent for us and, though he had his moments, the Watford fans weren't generally all that sad to see him go. Feelings are different about Raziak, who, although not our player, had a great season for us when on loan from Southampton. I prayed fervently that we could keep him, but I daresay we couldn't afford his wages. What do you make of him?

    AS I'm sure you know, Rodgers' name at Watford is mud after the way he left us. Funnily enough, though, I didn't gloat anything like as much as I thought I would when he lost his job. He was good for us and I think he was sacked too soon.

  • Comment number 48.

    'Michael Yiapanis', whilst i clearly have great respect for your opinion, i'd like to ask you, was it ever the right decision to sell Alonso? Aquilani is yet to prove himself but i dont think he will ever be able to replace Alonso. Wat is your view on this matter? And surely a top 4 club should have a squad capable to survive all but the worst injury crisis? Liverpool, unfortunately do not have a squad capable, and are forced to rely on the few that can produce magic: Torres, Gerrard and Benayoun. Whereas other clubs both inside and outside the top 4 hav clubs perfectly capable of dealing with an injury 'crisis' that Liverpool ar feeling. A saying that is also commonly used to describe top 4 teams is that they often play bady but somehow seem to scrape a win. That definitely has not been the case for Liverpool this season and im considering their top 4 challenge may not be good enough. So 'Michael Yiapanis' what do you think?

  • Comment number 49.

    @comment 48:
    As a stockbroker and former professional footballer, I can safely say that by selling a footballer(or share for that matter) at his peak/past peak is benificial for both the footballer and for the club. Liverpool receieved over the odds for Alonso who had undoubtedly been a linchpin for the club, yet being cashstrapped the only option was to sell. It was also the right move for Alonso and the right stage for him to show off his obvious talents.
    To hit back at your second point, at not having a big squad. This is as a direct result of not having the finances to fund any moves for a quality squad player. Man City can afford to spend £32.5 million on a player who only plays in homes games, Man United can pay £17 million for Nani who only makes the bench and Chelsea can spend £18 million on Zhirkov who is merely a left-sided back up for the side. There is an evident difference between these clubs financially and Liverpool have done well to not make these unnassailable financial differences noticeable on the pitch.
    Thankyou.

  • Comment number 50.

    Oh really, and who did you play for? You've lived a rich life if thats true!! Yes, the points you make about the money spent on players for backup is true, and the point i'm trying to make is that Liverpool deserve to be in the same position as these clubs, surely the club is worth something to somebody who is ready to invest money into player sales, i mean, i don't hate Liverpool, i have no reason to being an Ipswich Town fan, yet i believe decisions have been made at that club, that were always going to be counter-beneficial. Can i please ask you though.... As a proffesional player, you must have seen a fair few right backs; should liverpool have payed 17 million for Johnson, when no more than 6 or 7 is needed, and to be honest the best right back who liverpool have had in the past decade was probably Steve Finnan, who in my opinio should never have been sold, there have only been problems since than for liverpool in this position. I think what liverpool need is a player like Antonio Valencia before he joined Wigan, who at the time is cheap but has obvious natural ability and can make things happen with the football whilst only costing 8 or 9 million, even Ronaldo cost 12 million, less than Johnson!!! Again your opinion interests me.....

  • Comment number 51.

    The problems at Liverpool are down to everybody in charge at the club. The owners and to some extent Rafa. We came 2ND last season the best points finish for decades and we don't strengthen how this is the Managers fault really is beyond me because up until then his position was never in question in fact we were a lot of peoples favourites to win the league this season. Rafa got the Alonso situation totally wrong though and that is down to poor management. Some of his team selections I do not agree with the main gripe I have is Kuyt being guaranteed a starting place ahead of the likes of Benayoun at a time where we really need invention going forward. The owners have always been deceitful especially regarding the debt issue how can anybody have faith in this management partnership? I feel Rafa is struggling with the enormous pressure that is now upon him which again not entirely through his own doing but is never going to come out in public and state this. If ever we needed a cash injection it is now because if we surrender 4TH spot I'm not sure when we will be back there. Before any comments are made about cash Rafa's net spend since his time at Liverpool is an average of £14 Million per season. Genuinely worrying times at Anfield I just hope we get the confidence and fight back in the team to at least finish 4TH which I do believe is possible that's all I want from this season but if that does not happen well not really worth thinking about.

  • Comment number 52.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 53.

    As a Donny fan I'm pleased to see many positive words from the Reading fans about Matt Mills - to be honest it's been baffling for the majority of us as to why he hasn't been able to get a game all season! £2million was a bargain and once he gets a run in the team I'm sure he can be the solid foundation your side needs :)

    As for Liverpool, sorry, but hearing their fans talk about their problems is a bit like listening to an aristocratic family complaining that their roast swan is slightly cold and the silver platter that it's on isn't shiny enough. Some clubs have real problems - so get over it.

  • Comment number 54.

    I thought Reading were by far the better team on Saturday, I was disappointed at the way Liverpool played. There so much talk about silly spending from, and yes he has made some awful signings, most definatley more than fergie, wegner and mourinho (and the rest of the Chelsea managers) but Rafa in recent years has had to sell to buy. The likes of Chelsea and United haven’t had to, just look at the £30 mil flops such as schevchenko and berbatov.

    Rafa is to stubborn, always has been and always will be. He needs to show more passion, like celebrating a goal for example. He needs to sort his team out as well. Drop insua, and start aurelio at left back. Drop kuyt and play yossi on the right, (mainly because kuyt isn’t doing what Liverpool fans are used to him doing, chasing down everything). We need to sign an actual left footed left winger, instead of sticking a right footed player such as bablel or yossi on there who keep cutting in onto their right.

    To No. 3. At 02:11am on 03 Jan 2010, harper0481 wrote
    Are you being serious, Hiddink, Mourinho or Gaurdihola??? Hiddink has to strong a links with Chelsea, mourinho will only go to united and guarihola, don’t make me laugh. You say Liverpool haven’t won anything since 2006, when was the last time Wegner won anything? Only one team can win the title!

    My team out of Liverpool, Man City, Tottenham and Villa:

    Reina
    Johnson
    Dunne
    Carragher
    Warnock
    Milner
    Lennon
    Gerrard
    Masch/Ireland
    Torres
    Tevez

    Now pick a team from the four above and Arsenal, United and Chelsea

    Reina
    Cole
    Terry
    Vidic
    Ibramovic
    Arshavin
    Essien/Masch
    Fabregas/Gerrard/Lampard
    Milner/Valencia
    Torres
    Drogba/Rooney

  • Comment number 55.

    The very first comment on this page says,

    'Something is seriously wrong at Liverpool and it starts and ends with the manager.'

    Before i start i will say now i am a liverpool fan and of course i am going to defend my team but hopefully you will see my points to be valid.

    Our problem is with our owners, and more specifically with the lack of money benitez has at his disposal. The comments about lucas, voranin, insua, degan and a few more such as ngog are totally superficial. These are all players who have come in for bargin basement prices and all holding their own in a team who is expected to qualify for the champions league this season. The most expensive of all of these players is lucas at £6m (Ngog £1m, voranin free, not sure about insua and degan but not more than £5 for both). So as soon as you start piling criticism onto Rafa you need to know he has not a penny to spend.

    If you want to criticise his signings then do it by all accounts, voranin is not a micheal owen (both free's) and there have been some duff signings like dossena and keane. But every manager makes these mistakes and then try to recoup as much money as he can (ie. keane only lost 4mill, and the word is that that was not benitez's choice anyway).

    That said, i am not a liverpool fan with blinkers on, i know we are struggling to get into the top four this season, but i still believe we will.

    If Rafa gets us into the champions league places this season it will be a big achievement. I struggled to see how loosing alonso and taking on an unfit player would fair us and the results are there to be seen.

    We need stability as a club, meaning the players show more guts and determination than ever whilst this shit gets sorted out between the owners. Hopefully the yanks will see the light and get out whilst they can (although i hear one of them is selling his baseball team or something like that to buy us outright, we'll see what happens there, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world).

    Anyway that is my view. Slate it or agree with it at your own pleasure but its not all Benitez's fault and certainly doesn't 'start and end' with him!

    :-)

  • Comment number 56.

    Oh and an additional mention....

    This article sounds like it was written by a university student using wikipedia on the night before the hand in date.

    'i spoke to him a while back and he told me....'
    'i caught up with him before the game and he said....'
    'i regularly go round to his house and play scrabble and once he told me that.....'

    Poor.

  • Comment number 57.

    You can say all you like about Liverpool's troubles this season but this was the FA Cup: players become inspired playing in this competition and Reading where certainly that. Liverpool could certainly consider themselves fortunate to come away with a draw, especially with such a poor second half performance, but they also had some chances to win the game. The most important thing we should all look to is the fact that this is what the FA Cup is all about: a chance for the smaller teams to "have a go" at the country's elite in, possibly, the world's greatest cup competition.

    http://bigmatchcentre.blogspot.com

  • Comment number 58.

    @ comment 37

    You couldn't be further from the truth with that statement, are you saying we did not need to beat Swansea?

    Reading need to perform in the Championship in order to survive this season - we are not performing well.

    We do not 'need' to perform well in the FA cup. While I hope the result helps build some confidence, the competition is irrelevant for us at this point.

  • Comment number 59.

    #30 - Reina is a good goalkeeper don't get me wrong. But better than Shay Given? Absolutely no way - so you can take that one off your list straight away...

    GK: Given

    DR: Corluka
    DC: Carragher
    DC: Dunne
    DL: Bridge

    MR: Lennon
    MC: Gerrard
    MC: Barry
    ML: Young

    FC: Torres
    FC: Defoe

    And I certainly wouldn't have Gerrard in there based on this season's form either - possibly not even Carragher who's been nothing on his previous seasons. So Liverpool have 3 players in there generously

  • Comment number 60.

    Well done reading. Deserved the win tonight. Liverpool are poor and need regime change asap both behind the scenes and infront of them

  • Comment number 61.

    Based on their form this season aswell as quality -

    Given

    Richards
    Lescott
    Dunne
    Bridge

    Mascherano
    Gerrard
    Tevez
    Robinho

    Defoe
    Torres

    TOP 3 -

    Van der Sar

    Bosingwa
    Vermaelen
    Gallas
    Cole / Evra

    Essien
    Fabregas
    Arshavin

    Rooney
    Drogba
    Anelka

  • Comment number 62.

    Phil, great blog on LFC this week...think Rafa's made it easy for you!

    I think Rafa lost the players months back. I now think there's a rift between the players albeit unspoken...I mean come one, if you were Steven Gerrard and you look behind to see the bloke teeing up the ball for you is Lucas instead of Alonso how would you feel? Exactly...hence the body language of Gerrard and Torres. Add this to the promise of this season after last year's false dawn, Gerrard and Torres must be sick to their stomachs. If Rafa can't even react to great goals on pure impulse and applaud his players what must he be like to train under?...I can imagine the team talks are not exactly inspiring or motivating.

    LFC supporters can only hope that he drops the arrogance for a moment, admits his faults and takes responsibility. Let's hope for an arrangement with the owners whereby he leaves with a suitable compensation package...perhaps they can divide the 20million pound firing fee by 5 (the length in years of his contract). I think most people would say this is fair.

    With or without Benitez Liverpool will not get into the top 4 this season, neither will they be relegated. The board needs to be sensible and not make a knee-jerk decision on who replaces Rafa. It needs thorough thought and should be done after the season is over. Bringing in a new Manager now will only transfer the pressure of getting the top 4 position to him which would be grossly unfair. That said, I really believe there'd be no harm if they were to let Sammy Lee and Kenny run the show for the remainder of the season.

    I believe Rafa will go, its just a case of when. Personally I would love to see David Moyes walk across the park, although I think the chances of this are absolute zero! Sorry Everton fans...I'm just blatantly jealous. Moyes is not a "hollywood" name in the world of football and he wouldn't be jumping ship in 2 or 3 years just because he misses the sunshine in continental Europe. He's intelligent, well liked and respected by his peers and players, young (in managerial terms) and will always play his best 11 with players in the right position (as long as this is possible).

    Liverpool FC has a lot going for it. Rafa should be given credit for what he has done...they now have very impressive "behind the scenes" personnel in company management, the doctors and physios, Dalglish heading the academy as well as the specific positional coaching staff. According to Chris Purslow new investment is on its way with the next few months, this should unlock the new stadium.

    I hope I'm not cited by folks as a fan "not supporting the team or manager", sorry, but that's the easy side of the fence to sit on and people that are still pro-Rafa are deluded (in my opinion). LFC fans need to stop being "nice"! I support the "club" and every player and manager that has been given the proper chance to shine...Rafa's had this chance (unlike Ryan Babel). Rafa, thanks for all you've achieved, there have been some wonderful moments, but it's time to part ways, let someone else clear your deadwood and take the club to the next level.

  • Comment number 63.

    Chris - your comment: "And the biggest problem at the club is the fact that we do not have a recognised right back at the club AT ALL! This is terrible gunnarrson was embarrassing, hes so slow and cant pick a pass to save his life".
    Looks a bit silly now! Gunnarrson was star man, ran like a young gazelle and supplied the run and pinpoint cross for Long's winning goal. What a peformance!

  • Comment number 64.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 65.

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  • Comment number 66.

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  • Comment number 67.



    Totally agree Stu. If I knew anyone was gambling regularly or increasingly then I would absolutely ask them why they do it, what drives them, how often they do it, how much they gamble and then possibly challenge them accordingly.

    I think you have really hit on what I’m driving at with a lot of these posts. I’m not trying to say we should start gambling, drinking, smoking and swearing. What I’m saying is that it is counter productive to the Gospel to have a legalistic reaction to these issues instead of following the biblical principles of liberty guided by the scriptures and the Holy Spirit. A believers maturity grows through confronting these topics and reaching a wise and discerning response to them. We encourage immaturity and legalism when we simply say ‘Don’t do this!’ when the bible doesn’t say that itself.
    Regards
    Tommy
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]
    Future Journalist
    USA

 

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