What now for Andy Carroll?

Although the media’s gaze is currently focused on Luis Suarez and where his future lies, another Liverpool forward is unsure where he will play his football next term also. Andy Carroll has completed a loan spell at West Ham, and showed that he still has what it takes to be a difficult opponent at Premier League level but where will he end up in 2013-14?

Carroll was deemed surplus to requirements by Brendan Rodgers last summer, with Unibet odds suggesting a move away from Anfield in the transfer window for the forward. A loan move to Upton Park followed, where the England international, when not injured, was a major threat for the Hammers.

Seven Premier League goals in 24 games was a solid return by the burly attacker, and it was noticeable that the player’s confidence and belief returned with the more time on the pitch he got. The hold-up play, aerial threat and ability to take chances that saw him become such a success at Newcastle started to return to his play.

It will be interesting now to see if Rodgers is willing to reconsider his initial judgment on Carroll, and give the player another opportunity to prove himself on Merseyside. Rodgers is trying to instill a footballing ethos into his side, while Carroll is seen as a more direct option. Some people call that a Plan B.

Although the signature of Iago Aspas from Celta Vigo is imminent, and Daniel Sturridge was added to the squad in January, Carroll would offer another option. He certainly does not have the guile or fancy footwork of the other attackers at the club and it would perhaps be best for both parties if he were to move on to a new club.

Carroll will have Premier League suitors this summer, and will look to play consistently in the hope of making England’s World Cup squad. What happens to Carroll may also depend on the future of Luis Suarez.

Should the Uruguay international remain at the club, it is hard to see where Carroll fits in. He might have a sliver of hope should Suarez leave, but really, Carroll just isn’t a Rodgers play and would be best advised to move on.

Liverpool v Norwich Betting Preview

Liverpool might be favourites to bounce back against Norwich after their defeat to Manchester United last weekend, but the form of the Canaries and a few key issues for Liverpool should make this a closer encounter than the bookies anticipate. Concern continues to grow over Fenway Sports Group’s ownership of the club; Liverpool’s owners have released two players and so far only brought Daniel Sturridge in during a window where they were supposed to be adding to an already thin squad. The form of Joe Allen and Rodgers’ insistence on picking him no matter what could also be a decisive factor.

The Honeymoon period for Fenway Sports Group’s ownership of Liverpool is well and truly over. For a long time they have gotten by on the fact that they saved the club from administration but this season their net spend on players hasn’t been great for a club of Liverpool’s size. Fabio Borini (£10 million), Joe Allen (£15 million) and Daniel Sturridge (£12 million) all commanded significant transfer fees, but all were offset by the significant reduction in wages brought about by the sales of Dirk Kuyt, Maxi Rodriguez, Craig Bellamy, Alberto Aquilani, Joe Cole and Nuri Sahin. Sure, the club’s bank balance looks healthy, but with the sale and release of those players, Liverpool have lost (in some cases) irreplaceable experience and quality. The owners’ obsession with trimming the wage bill will mean Liverpool never experience ownership as careless as Hicks & Gillette, but it could also mean the club never challenges for major honours again in an increasingly monetary dominated league.

As Kristian Walsh wrote in this piece the club’s pursuit of young talent; around the age of 22 and preferably British is a policy that makes sense in theory. Good young players won’t just win once or twice, but they’ll keep on winning and as they reach their peak they’ll get better. This is fine in theory but in reality young players generally need time to develop before they can make a real impact. Lucas Leiva took a few seasons to prosper, and Jordan Henderson is only now starting to come good. Fabio Borini and Joe Allen haven’t really propelled Liverpool instantly upwards. These players are long-term investments, not short term fixes. FSG are avoiding some of the most talented players in the market, purely because of their age and salaries, but in doing so they are also leaving Liverpool desperately short of experience, and it shows in games where they have their backs against the wall.

Daniel Sturridge seems to be the exception to the rule, in that he’s only 22 but seems set to be an instant hit at the club. He and Suarez struck up a great partnership when he came on at Old Trafford. His pace forced United back, which in turn created space for Suarez to work between the lines. It would be immensely disappointing if the two didn’t start together against Norwich, because if they do they could cause problems. Bwin are offering good odds for a draw €5.50, while Daniel Sturridge to score first is paying €4.50. More odds are available at https://sports.bwin.com/en/sports/4/betting/football

Where Liverpool might have problems of their own is in the composition of the midfield. Joe Allen started well at Liverpool but has been ordinary for months now and had one of his worst games at Old Trafford, giving the ball away constantly just inside his own half, which United nearly capitalized on time and time again. Henderson has impressed every time he’s come on lately but Rodgers has shown faith in Allen time and time again. Norwich are a team who like to counter and they’ll feed off mistakes in the centre of the field. The intelligent movement and energy of Henderson certainly warrants a start and if Rodgers is to continue a game based on dominating possession then the pin up boy for his style needs to stop giving the ball away.

As for Liverpool’s opponents, Norwich are in need of a good result to pick up their momentum again. They had hit a good run of form earlier in the season but in their last three have lost two and drawn one. Chris Hughton had made the Canaries one of the best defensive sides in the league with dogged defensive displays but in recent weeks they’ve added attacking dynamism to the picture, at the expense of goals at their own end. History favours Liverpool though, as Norwich haven’t beaten Liverpool since 1994.

Nonetheless, Liverpool are favourites to win this encounter, although not by the margin the bookies are calling. Despite growing concerns over Liverpool’s ownership, the addition of Sturridge has made Liverpool a far more potent threat. If he and Suarez can continue their promising partnership Liverpool should win in an open game. The Reds main weakness however remains in the midfield. So often the engine room, the dynamics have been all wrong and mistakes to common, which is a situation Norwich could exploit.

6 Key Factors to look for in Liverpool vs. Fulham

Ahead of Liverpool’s clash against Fulham at Anfield here are 6 key factors you should be looking out for.

  1. Fulham’s away record
  2. It’s not really a secret that Fulham are terrible away from home and pretty hard to beat in their own backyard. In keeping with that they’ve not won once in the last six away games. They’ve also only won twice in 10 games home and away, and suffered the ignominy of being the first team to lose to bottom feeders QPR last weekend. In theory, Liverpool should win a game like this 9 times out of 10 but after last weeks Aston Villa humiliation and a not all too convincing home record don’t be hugely suprised if Fulham nick it.

  3. Referee Mark Clattenburg
  4. Liverpool have never won a Premier League home match in which Mr. Clattenburg has officiated. In a season when they are one of the only clubs yet to have a penalty awarded to them despite giving away four, it’s not the most encouraging news. Too often officiating is used as an excuse to cloak poor performances, but there have been games this season that have hinged on poor refereeing decisions. Even so, Liverpool need to be able to win despite poor refereeing, just as they did against West Ham.

  5. Can Luis Suarez find his scoring boots?
  6. Suarez started the season strongly but he hasn’t scored since the 3-0 victory against Wigan on the 17th of November. That’s too long for the only recognized striker at the club and whether Tom Ince and Daniel Sturridge are the players to help him out has been much debated. Liverpool need Suarez to start scoring again if they have any chance of clawing their way out of the bottom half.

  7. What about Berbatov?
  8. All three goals against Aston Villa were really disappointing. Many were quick to blame Pepe Reina for all three and while he was at fault for the first goal at his near post the other two were absolutely down to brilliant Aston Villa pressing and sloppy outfield play. Suarez and Joe Cole tried to be too clever in their own halves, defenders were dragged out of position and Liverpool’s players seemed to not bother tracking their runners.

    Berbatov is not known for his work ethic so it’s unlikely Liverpool will face the kind of aggressive, constant pressing high up the pitch that so often frustrates them, but the Bulgarian is still a talented striker and on his day can easily hurt the Reds’ inconsistent defense.

  9. Who gets rested?
  10. After the Villa game Rodgers suggested he would offer Raheem Sterling, Joe Allen and perhaps others a much needed rest. But with Assaidi supposedly suffering with a knee injury, Borini out and Suso seemingly out of favour who starts on the wing? Will we see a return to Enrique up top, Glen Johnson at left back and a recall for Andre Wisdom? Are Joe Cole and Stewart Downing really the answers again?

    In the centre Lucas looked short of fitness against Weimann and Benteke, and Allen and Gerrard looked exhausted. Jordan Henderson has provided great energy, intelligence and penetration in his recent appearances and would be worthy of a start, while Nuri Sahin will always offer a touch of class in midfield, despite a shaky first few months and a broken nose.

  11. Do Liverpool have a winner’s mentality?
  12. After Liverpool lost to Villa the critics immediately claimed the side didn’t have a plan B. They didn’t have the height or the power to throw someone on and lob the ball into the box, they said. While Everton often use the power of Fellaini to their full advantage it doesn’t mean Liverpool have to follow suit. When they came from behind against West Ham it wasn’t through size and power, but through a bit of luck, clever movement, teamwork and a strong mentality.

    Against Villa the Reds looked flat. After conceding the first goal they never really looked like they were hungry enough to win it. The question then becomes, if Liverpool go behind, and it’s not a hugely unlikely possibility, do they have the mentality of winners to come from behind and win it? We know Suarez has that fight in him but there are few others who can match it.

Liverpool draw Zenit in the UEFA Europa League Last 16

Liverpool have been handed a tricky tie against mega-rich Russian side, Zenit Saint Petersburg in the last 32 of the UEFA Europa League.The Merseyside club have already competed in Russia so far this season, having drawn Anzhi Makhachkala in the group stages.

Liverpool were seeded as a result of topping Group A, meaning they will travel to Zenit, who dropped down from the UEFA Champions League, away first.This clash comes days after representatives of Zenit have rejected a statement from the club’s fans over the signings coming into the Petrovsky Stadium.

A section of the club’s supporters, named Landskrona, have voiced their opinion over the signing of black and/or gay players. Part of the statement to the club insisted black players are being “imposed on Zenit by force” and that the club has never been linked with players from South America, Australia or Oceania in their 87-year existence.

Zenit were busy in the summer market, spending more than £50m to bring in Hulk and Axel Witsel from respective Portuguese clubs. Both players have not settled in as well as the club hoped, resulting in Landskrona demanding an all white team and a division amongst the Zenit squad has been rumoured.

Zenit’s fans have come in for criticism over their actions with Ex-Blackburn Rovers defender Christopher Samba, now of Anzhi Makhachkala, calling Zenit’s supporters “no good and racist.”

If Liverpool can conquer Zenit over two legs, they will face the winners of Swiss Champions, Basel and Ukrainian side, Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in the Last 16 of the competition.

Fellow English clubs, Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United also drew tricky ties in the last 32, with Tottenham drawn against French side, Olympique Lyonnais and Newcastle United up against Ukrainian side, Metalist Kharkiv, who reached the Quarter-Final stage last season.

The first legs will be played on the 14th of February, with the return games on the 21st of February.

As good as done? Can this goal machine really save Liverpool?

According to multiple sources Liverpool have all but wrapped up deals for Daniel Sturridge and Tom Ince. That’s in stark contrast to the Summer transfer window where the club left their work until the last minute and then for some strange reason packed up early, leaving Liverpool with just one proven striker.

Both are arguably promising young players but whether the two are good enough to help Liverpool right now is another matter entirely. For starters, Daniel Sturridge is a continuation of a now common theme under FSG of overpaying for overrated British players. There’s no doubting he has talent but at £12 million and £60 00 — 70 000 per week he’s vastly overpriced.

As for Tom Ince it doesn’t exactly do the club’s less that favourable reputation in the transfer market over recent windows any favours when they buy back a player who they practically gave away at £250 000 over a year ago.

Ince is a promising player and is valued in the region of £4-6 million, which is probably higher than it should be purely because he is British and clubs know that Liverpool will far too easily overpay. Whether the 35% sell on clause is included in that price tag is up for discussion. If it isn’t then it could turn out to be a bit of shrewd business by the club.

It would be fair to say that the Blackpool winger has been on fire in the Championship this season. In just 20 games he’s scored 13 times and claimed 9 assists and while those are numbers any winger in Europe would be proud of it should be remembered that those came in the Championship, not the Premier League. Doing it down there is one thing; doing it against Premier League defences and goalkeepers is another thing.

That Ince is a good young player isn’t really in question. He’s quick, he’s excellent on the ball and most importantly he has both a good final pass and a keen eye for goal. The real question is whether this is a signing that can make a difference to Liverpool right now. 12th place in the Premier League isn’t a place where a club of this status belongs. 13 goals and 9 assists in the Premier League would be very nice indeed but if there’s one person who truly believes, beyond a shadow of a doubt that he could reproduce that form in the Premier League straight away, I would really like to hear their reasons why.

Liverpool are building a good young team but the two signings that so far seem completely certain suggest that the club have failed to learn from previous mistakes. Buying and overpaying for some of the best young British players around is great for the future if not the bank account, but the likes of Luis Suarez are too good to be waiting around for that future to come around.

Liverpool cannot afford to be a mid table club for too much longer. The longer they are out of those top four places, the harder it will be to get back in. Buying young British talent is fine, but the club need players who are able to make a difference now. A player who can’t crack the first team at Chelsea and a Championship player, albeit it a promising one don’t strike me as being players who will positively affect Liverpool’s fortunes.

Why Raheem Sterling must accept what Liverpool offer him

Week by week, the story continues to drag. Liverpool’s teen sensation, Raheem Sterling continues to be locked in talks with the club over a new contract. The 18-year-old has earned many plaudits for the way he has taken to the Premier League at such a young age and Liverpool are keen to tie him down to a long-term contract, as Brendan Rodgers sets about planning the future at Anfield.

Figures have been bandied about in the media but only Sterling, his agent and the club know the truth behind the negotiations stalling. Being called up to the England national team in November was no better sign that Sterling deserves a better deal but he must not hold Liverpool to ransom, as the club and Brendan Rodgers have both done so much for his career.

Boosted by the sales of Dirk Kuyt, Craig Bellamy and Maxi Rodriguez in the same position, not even the most optimistic Liverpool fan would have been able to predict Sterling making the introduction he has done so far. Rodgers arrival was just what Sterling needed to break into the team, as Rodgers cleared out those who didn’t fit into his philosophy, allowing Sterling the opportunity to grasp.

Although Rodgers was not given a transfer kitty to go out and fully strengthen his squad in the summer, the emergence of young talent this season such as, Andre Wisdom, Suso, Jonjo Shelvey and Sterling will surely make the 39-year-old think twice about where he needs to strengthen in January. Whether or not he wants more money, one thing is for sure, it’s not about game time. Sterling is at the right club in Liverpool. He is guaranteed games and will be one of the main focal points for years to come.

Many have questioned why Liverpool didn’t have a contract in place with Sterling before the England call-up because that now complicates negotiations even more. It’s rumoured that Sterling’s representatives are holding out for at least the same money as Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing, who were signed on a big wage because they were England internationals at the time.

However, although his name was muttered amongst the fans due to his impressive performances at youth level, there was never a sign of Sterling breaking through at club level under Kenny Dalglish, therefore, the club never anticipated Sterling catching his country’s eye any time soon.

Brendan Rodgers said last week that he does not see the current situation as a problem and hopes an agreement can be wrapped up soon. With the swift impact Sterling has made, it’s easy to forget that he is just a teenager. The 1-3 home defeat to Aston Villa at the weekend was a giveaway that the current Liverpool squad is looking tired – Sterling being one those in need of a rest.

Adding it all up, it sounds like an easy decision to make. If the club and Sterling’s representatives can come to an agreement, then Sterling must stay at Anfield, as it’s the best place to further his career.

Time for a ‘breather’: Rodgers blames tiredness for Villa loss but there’s deeper issues

You won’t find a Liverpool fan who didn’t find Saturday’s 3-1 home loss to Aston Villa humiliating. It was a devastating loss, particularly after Liverpool had picked up three successive victories in all competitions. This was supposed to be another solid home victory as Rodgers marched his team up the table but clearly Paul Lambert and his Villa side didn’t read the script. Rodgers was quick to blame fatigue but there are far bigger problems at Liverpool.

There is no doubt Raheem is one who does need a breather. I’ve thought about it over the past couple of weeks. Joe is another one. If we’re honest, there are a few who could do with that breather, especially mentally. It’s something I need to have a look at.

It’s an assessment that is hard to disagree with but it begs the question of why it wasn’t dealt with before the game. Liverpool had a whole week off while Villa had a midweek cup tie to negotiate. If Sterling, Allen and others were so tired from an admittedly hectic early season schedule that they couldn’t start a match after a full weeks break surely the manager should have done something before the match.

It’s not hard to believe that Allen is tired because he’s played almost every single minute since he’s been here, but the truth of the matter is he’s been extremely ordinary for the last few weeks. The same can be said of Sterling who besides an exquisite pass to Joe Cole against West Ham hasn’t done much of note. Suarez hasn’t scored or provided an assist since Liverpool beat Wigan 3-0 way back in mid November but what more do you expect when you have a striker who needs to play every game because Liverpool don’t have any back up.

Gerrard has looked lethargic for the past two seasons and Lucas should really be being eased back in following his injury. Yes, Joe Cole was once upon a time a good player and he scored a good goal against West Ham but if he’s Liverpool’s big saviour coming off the bench you know that the squad is dangerously thin.

Is Rodgers to blame for that? Not really. Fenway Sports Group didn’t provide him with anything like the funds necessary to compete across four major competitions. To make matters worse, senior players like Maxi, Kuyt and Bellamy, players who would have been really useful in times like this, were offloaded and not adequately replaced. Reducing the wage bill is clearly a priority for John Henry and Werner but they’ve shown just how naive they are and perhaps where their priorities lie in their two year ownership of Liverpool.

Does this mean Rodgers has done nothing wrong? Absolutely not. He started the season so brightly (not in terms of results) but in terms of the decisions he was making. Sterling, Suso and Wisdom were all promoted to the first team and four promising players were signed: Allen, Sahin, Assaidi and Borini. Players who had had their chance last season were quickly sold, loaned or dropped and it felt as if there was a breath of fresh air sweeping through the place. Suarez was scoring again and Rodgers was making brave tactical decisions and proving himself to be forward thinking. The problem is, over the last few weeks, negative traits that we’ve seen in previous managers have begun to emerge.

There’s stubbornness evident in his continued selection of Allen despite completely ordinary performances. In Rodger’s mind Joe is clearly supposed to be the poster boy of his Liverpool regeneration but it just hasn’t been working of late. The £15 million signing has started 21 games for Liverpool in all competitions this season and not scored one goal or provided a single assist, despite being moved further up the field with Lucas’ return. In just 12 games Nuri Sahin has scored 3 goals and claimed 3 assists, yet even before his broken nose he’s found himself warming the bench. Even the positives of Allen’s game, the way he used to dance his way out of trouble or never give the ball away, have completely evaporated of late.

Suso has been inexplicably dropped after impressing in most of his appearances while Sterling has been moved to the right hand side were he’s completely ineffective, and more often than not looks uncertain and puts in aimless crosses to 5’11 Luis Suarez. Whenever Liverpool need to change a game of late it’s not the bright, imaginative play of Suso that’s called upon but the past it talents of Joe cole.

Downing has done ok in recent outings but he’s playing an awful lot for a player who’s been told he could leave in January. Wisdom was excelling at right back and in Enrique’s absence yesterday Wisdom would have provided a much greater defence against the physicality of Christian Benteke.

Despite his immense reputation, Gerrard has been absolutely ordinary for the best part of two seasons but his undroppable status continues to effect the side. Maybe he just needs an extended rest but right now he is getting picked on reputation alone when in actual fact he’s one of the worst offenders.

What people loved most about Rodgers was his boldness and fresh approach. He trusted the kids and the kids repaid him with energy. But now, he doesn’t play the kids, Assaidi and Sahin rarely get on the field and like managers before him he’s beginning to rely on overpaid, experienced players when it’s clearly not working. The only logical explanation is certain players are being put in the shop window but with every bad performance their value surely decreases further.

Liverpool shouldn’t have won against West Ham. They got very, very lucky indeed and perhaps that contributed to Saturday’s defeat. It was the falsest of false dawns. This squad is still horrendously thin and we are very much seeing the results of that at the moment. Rodgers had naively suggested before the game that Liverpool should be aiming as high as 2nd place this season. 4th place would have been a stretch but 2nd place was ridiculous. This should have been an early warning sign that the Liverpool camp was vastly overconfident and getting ahead of themselves, but most fans were quietly optimistic that the Reds would win against Villa.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This squad, while solid with a sprinkling of promising youngsters and one of the best forwards in the world is not good enough to compete for a top four place, and certainly much weaker when those promising youngsters are never played.

It needs reinforcing with world class players in January. Many of them won’t come to Liverpool because we can’t offer them Champions League football but there will certainly be the odd diamond in the rough that Liverpool must snap up. The likes of Tom Ince and Daniel Sturridge are not going to change anything.