Thursday, May 03, 2007

New Poll Is Up - Best Rafa Signing?

Alright, so the last poll is closed and there's no point in further discussion for that one as everyone has their own opinions and it was just for laughs. Now, the important stuff.

As Liverpool reach yet another European Cup final, it might be a good time to assess the team as it is now before we our usual knee-jerk reaction if we win/lose the finals. Rafa Benitez has been at the club for almost 3 years now and has certainly added quality to the side which won the European Cup back in 2005.

Question is, who is the best signing by Rafael Benitez? There are an obvious few which were left out because we know they're either gone or going soon so here's the list:

1. Pepe Reina

In the 55 games he played this season, he had 30 clean sheets. Incredible or what?

Although it can be argued that the Liverpool defence are mean, take nothing away from him. Time and again, his penalty saving heroics help Liverpool like last season's FA Cup and the recently concluded UEFA Champions League semi finals.

Eccentric and non-orthodox, he's made in the mold of modern day goalkeepers who acts like a sweeper also, always ready to rush off his line to save his defenders and also, his love for punching. His mobility means defenders can push their line further up, compressing the space and that's something we take for granted.

There are times this season that suggest he's not as good as he is but as confidence comes back, his ability was never in doubt. At only 23, he's supposed to be a 'newbie' goalkeeper as a player in that position only peak at around 30.

Penalty saving or just incredible shot stopping skill, he's perhaps one of the best Liverpool goalkeeper in recent memories. If he can continue to mature, no doubt he'll dethrone the likes of Ray Clemence or Bruce Grobbelaar.

2. Dan Agger

A promising Danish defender brought in to replace the seemingly irreplaceable Sami Hyypia. But his talents and promise made the transition a rather seamless one this season as he gradually push the big Finn out of the first team.

Often compared to our very own ball playing defender back in the 80s, Alan Hansen, he has a sweet left foot and excellent ball control, never afraid to bomb forward and always looking cool as a cucumber.

Aerially he's still needs to improve and learn from Hyypia as to how to dominate in the air, he certainly has the build to do it. A keen learner as noted by Rafa Benitez in his recent interview, you could tell his eagerness to improve just by his body language last night when Carragher was talking to him. It was 100% concentration from the young and hot headed man.

If he continues the way he is growing, he'll no doubt be in that defensive unit for years and years to come.

3. Javier Mascherano

Despite his rather brief stay at Liverpool, I've decided to include the Argentinian 'Monster Masch' into the list because I for one, thinks that our Champions League success thus far owe a bit to his performance.

Before the semi finals first leg last week, Liverpool have never lost a game with him in the side. Not a lot of games but you could definitely see an impact made by him. Seeing him donning the red jersey in front of the Kop makes you think how far did he come this season. One moment, he was at West Ham with biting Jermaine Defoe the only thing notable, then he's part of the team that held their own against the impending onslaught of CSKA London.

Not the most graceful player on the pitch, it's his grit and tenacity that brings a different dimension to Liverpool. You might argue the player below this list, Sissoko, are similar to him but he's more controlled and knows when to unleash one of his deadly tackles.

Built a little like the great Maradona, he might not have his natural ability. But one thing's for sure, his desire to win is never missing from games. Let's hope we seal his signing as soon as possible.

4. Momo Sissoko

His passing is shit. Next...

Okay enough of the criticisms of him. I admit I've been a little overly critical of the Malian at times, especially this season. You just got to have a little sympathy for the man they call 'Momo the boss'. He had a terrible eye injury that still isn't totally cured while that injury he had earlier this season means he's always going to struggle this season.

With the arrival of Mascherano, he seemed to have fallen further behind and so far, only used in spare games such as the one against Portsmouth. But take nothing away from a 20 year old who have won more league title (albeit, Spanish La Liga title) than some of our so called 'good players'.

It's his style of play that makes him ever so useful against teams like Barcelona. His 'destructor' style of playing makes it difficult for players to get that extra second on the ball and with his constant running and harrying, it's as if he's everywhere at times.

Needs to improve on his technical ability but his winning mentality is never in doubt. Might go on to be one of our own cult heroes and might never score a goal ever for Liverpool but his presence in midfield is a terror to behold for oppositions.

5. Xabi Alonso

The graceful Spanish playmaker is one of the bigger signings by Rafa but you could see why.

We've seen his transition of style since his first year in England as he transformed from a seemingly fragile midfielder, constantly bullied off the ball, into a composed and useful passer of the ball but never afraid to put a tackle in.

He has gotten hold of the spirit of the English game. Look at the number of fouls he commit this season. He sure knows what to do when the opponent gets past him. And all that from a supposed weak and frail deep lying play maker. See Pirlo for example.

But he has been instrumental in Liverpool's recent successes in cups and also our 'push' for the league. Who could've forgotten that penalty which got us level at Istanbul? Who could've forgotten those goals he scored at Luton in that comeback, en route to Cardiff 2006? Who could've forgotten that performance against Everton when Steven Gerrard was sent off?

And who could've forgotten those 40 yards strike? But he's far more than that. He always seemed to have extra time on the ball and an eye grown at the back of his head. As a deep lying play maker, he's constantly harried by opponents but his graceful turns and skillful use of the ball means their efforts are often in vain.

Passing is something that he excels in and although this season he seemed a little less imposing as he did in the past 2 seasons but he's still one of the key in the Liverpool engine room.

6. Jermaine Pennant

From playing in the relegation candidate of last season, Birmingham, to playing in the Champions League semi finals. What a year of difference from the former Arsenal winger.

At first, he was a little unsure and even booed by the fans for some of the poor performance. But gradually, he started to have some belief in himself and we all know what he's capable of. He just needs to have the confidence and the right mentality, he'll play without fear and tear defenders apart, whether is it Ashley Cole or Titus Bramble.

The turn of his Liverpool career has to be the goal he score at Anfield, against who else but mighty Chelsea. It was a beautifully taken goal and it did indeed give him the boost and you could see a little consistency in his form.

Might not make it into the greatest Liverpool team XI but definitely has made his impact. His future is still unknown with the new owners coming in with big money but you could see Rafa still do admire him as a player and has a plan for him.

7. Dirk Kuyt

Everyone's favourite flying Dutchman. He's flying and roaming round the pitch every game without fail and his never say die attitude is indeed an inspiration to some.

I even went on the UEFA website to find our the number of clicks he ran on Wednesday. Because he seemed so fresh even in the extra time despite already running around for 90 minutes. Kudos to the man.

Perhaps he's the type of players people from Liverpool would love because as we know, Liverpool's a coastal port city and majority of the people are blue collared workers who have to work their arse off for the welfare of their family, this man work his arse off every game and perhaps, he epitomises everything Liverpool is about. The never say die spirit and the important of hard work.

Needs to improve on his first touch and finishing, he has done pretty well in his first season at the club. Comparing him to Dimitar Berbatov or Oba Martins is a little unfair as they all hail from different leagues and every player have their different adaptability but his performance has been quite consistent and his attitude never in question.

8. Peter Crouch

I bet every Liverpool fans had their hands in their head when it's announced we'll be signing Crouch back last season. But what a long way the big man with a great touch has came.

Every season, you hear pundits like Andy Gray coming out to say how we should get a 20 goals a season player and so, Crouch duly delivered with 19. Does he get the plaudits? Nope.

6 goals in 11 Champions League matches, it's an amazing achievement from a supposed misfit. He was head and shoulder above the rest but always looked on to as just a freak and a clown. But his rise to fame was when England realised how important and useful he could be. England's World Cup campaign was abysmal but Crouch did gave the fans some positives.

His heading can be exceptionally bad for a man that tall but it's feet that does the talking most of the time. His first touch is as good as many great players can get and his never to be forgotten overhead kicks, twice in a season!

Talk about how a person that seemingly just average can actually come good, the big man comes up with a hat trick against Arsenal recently with the fans saying 'of all people, we let the tall freak score the hat trick against us'.

That's because you underestimated him. So did well all, so did we all.....

Remember, the poll is set up just below the RetroT-Shirt advertisement and do participate! Do add your comments as well if you please.


J said...

ahhh... tough call.

it's easy to immediately pick Agger, he kept us in hte tie agaisnt chelsea, not to mention he's fast growing into carra's boots as a wonderful central defender...

but i think Alonso still edges it out for me. (you may say i'm biased since alonso is my fav player) but his passing really is phenomenal, and yeah, he wasn't on his best form this season but still manages to produce some sublime passes, picking out players that one never thought he could. besides, those 70 yard screamers are worth every minute he's spends on the pitch. XD

CROUCH is an unlikely winner for me. i had not heard much abnout him and he did not seem to make an impact early on, but no one can deny that he's not scored goals. =P some impressive ones too.

KUYT... probably not very "good" conventionally seeing as he was bought as a striker but he often plays a deeper, supporting striker role. however, he causes defenders trouble and works hard.

MOMO - dunno. he's been out for so long. don't know if he can get back to his previous form.

PENNANT - another crouch example. he was not very good before, but he improved drastically. some of his crosses, i didn't expect to come at all. besides, with pennant, gerrard is free to roam in hte centre. adn for that all reds fans would like him.

Mascher - is he ours? or only on loan? he's like a combo of momo and alonso. with experience, he'll become a great midfielder.

there are times i can you make that mistake? but then other times he holds strong and somehow makes a seemingly impossible save. so i don't know. there's no doubt he was the saviour against chelsea tho. (but people often forget to credit the other 2 players who scored [xabi and stevie]...sure, zenden started our penalties...kuyt scored our decisive..and reina kept chelsea out... but without xabi and stevie, kuyt might not have been stepping up to hte decisive penalty.)

anwyas. after this long long comment...i still cannot REALLY make up my mind....seeing as they're ALL good in their own way (i mean, it's RAFA'S signings! of course thye're goood =P)
but i think overall, maybe because he's been he longer, and we've grown to expect his presence guiding our midfield, i have to say xabi.


Yea, very long one. Maybe you should go start your blog and post it all up. There'll be people loving it :P

Anyway I picked Alonso as well...

J said...

none of my friends are interested in football >_> already my normal blog has kinda turned into a football one and they're all complaining that all i talk about is football >_>


Well, nevermind actually. Like me, I have 2 blogs but sometimes my personal ones are infested with footie stuff as well :X