Alonso and Kuyt Key To Liverpool Success
Despite sitting joint top of the Premier League after 13 games, Liverpool’s summer recruit’s, Albert Riera apart, have yet to justify Rafa Benitez’s decision to bring them to the club.
Robbie Keane has struggled to recapture his Tottenham form and has been guilty of some glaring misses, Philip Degen has been injured, Diego Cavalieri and David Ngog were signed purely as squad players and the less said about Andrea Dossena the better. Not since Liverpool’s infamous ‘Spice Boys’ turned up for the 1996 FA Cup Final in cream Armani suits, has so much money been wasted on lightweight Italian imports.
But perhaps the most decisive bit of business during the summer at Anfield was the signing that didn’t happen. Had the board allowed Benitez to splurge £18m on Aston Villa’s Gareth Barry, Xabi Alonso would probably be giving Cesc Fabregas the kind of midfield protection he deserves at Arsenal or helping Juventus break Inter’s stronghold on Serie A.
The ex-Real Sociedad midfielder’s contribution has gone largely unnoticed but it looks like he is finally producing the kind of displays that we have long thought he was capable of. Where he once seemed intimidated when playing the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea, he now looks inspired and his form should persuade Benitez to stick with the 4-2-3-1 formation that suits them so well.
A big shout-out should also go to Dirk Kuyt. For a while he was considered a flop, then it was decided that perhaps he was never going to be a great player and that his work-rate made up for his inadequacies. After learning to cope with the demands of the Liverpool fans and getting over the death of his father, he has started the season in fine form and has made that attacking right-sided role his own.
His transformation from target man to a wide supporting striker is reminiscent of Sylvain Wiltord’s similar progression at Arsenal. Wiltord’s cost Arsenal a lot of money but in the end his goals and assists became a vital part of the ‘Invincible’s’ team.
Gomes’s Goal-Keeping Nightmares
Spare a thought this week for Heurelho Gomes, the doomed Tottenham goalkeeper, who had another treacherous weekend. He was unconvincing throughout his side’s 2-1 defeat to Fulham and made another horrible mistake when he dropped a routine cross into his own net.
His form is so bad that it leaves you wondering whether he has some sort of contractual agreement to release a goal-keeping horrors DVD this Christmas, in the way that a band who has split up often release a compilation album to fulfill the record companies requirements.
At PSV he always looked a good keeper and while he never would have faced the kind of physical, aerial approach that if often found in the Premiership, I doubt anybody believed he could be this bad.
Danny Murphy has admitted that Fulham changed their set-piece routines to put the Brazilian under pressure and Tottenham captain Ledley King has said that communication has been a problem.
Harry Redknapp should stick by him though and this really will be a test of Harry’s ‘Your a great player, you are’ approach that has worked with nearly everyone else on the Tottenham staff.
Future Of England?
Trevor Brooking chose the week when an Arsenal side containing five English players and an average age of 19 beat a full strength Wigan team to complain that the future of English football is less than rosy.
Anyone who saw Jack Wilshire carve Wigan apart, Manchester United’s Danny Welbeck hit a 30-yard screamer against Stoke or Michael Mancienne’s England call-up may think otherwise.
These three players are just a few of the great crop of young English players coming through that are a direct result of the academy system that was put into place towards the end of the 90’s. England will always produce good players as the love of the game and enthusiasm is in the countries blood.
These players are a result of the clubs getting their houses in order and it is working. All this has been achieved without a national training centre and it is still unbelievable that a nation who claim to be among the world’s elite have no such facility.
Just imagine the players we might produce if the FA finally got their house in order.