Thursday, May 17, 2007

Post Season Team Review: Part One

Well then, the curtains are drawn for the 2006/07 season of the English Premiership and there will be absolutely nothing on the sports channel (bar the FA Cup, Champions League and La Liga) till the end of July.

Like students in a class, there'll always be an assessment for them at the end of the school term and this is the perfect opportunity for us to look back and grade the players for their performance and contributions for the past season.

There will be harsh criticisms but there'll also be heartening encouragement for the men in red. With the Champions League final still beckoning, it might be a little too early but let's just narrow it down to just the league and domestic cup performances and leave the rest to later date as we have the entire summer to talk about it. I'll rather talk about this than speculate as to who will be coming into the team next season and the name of Jose Mourinho's dog!

So for part one, we'll start off from the back, which is the defensive unit of Liverpool. From goalkeeper to fullbacks, not one will slip off from this assessment!


1. Jerzy Dudek

Out of contract this summer, the penalty hero of Istanbul has found himself seated on the bench more often after the signing of Pepe Reina. He has been under the Spaniard's shadow and fizzled out.

Despite appearing on only a couple of occasions, the Pole didn't do much to convince Rafa Benitez and the fans that he deserves only a place on the bench as an emergency backup. He was poor on the few matches he appeared including the 3-1 lost to Arsenal followed by a 6-3 mauling by the same team. You don't have to be incredibly clever to work out how bad it was.

With his contract decidedly not renewed, he'll leave the club on a pretty sour note. But I guess nothing compares to the heroics in the Ataturk stadium. He'll still be remembered as a bit part goalkeeper who's not that good but made hero in the most unlikely circumstance. Well in.

Grade: C-

25. Pepe Reina

Despite a nervy and shaky start to the season when he conceded a freak goal to Bobby Zamora at Anfield followed by a freak show at Goodison where he completely made a fool of himself, he has showed much character since and bounced back pretty well.

Perhaps only famous for his penalty saving instincts, the Spanish goalkeeper proved this season, that he is more that just that.

Let's not get into the Champions League penalty saving heroics but his form in the league is quite magnificent since then. Breaking the record of the most number of clean sheets in a hundred games for Liverpool is a fair achievement for a 23 year old goalkeeper, who is still a freshie for that position. Maybe the brick wall in front of him protected him well but do not doubt his importance to the team's defence. Just look at those games where we played Dudek and Padelli.

He is a good communicator and is one of the examples of modern day goalkeeper where standing on the line isn't the best idea. He is quick, he is fast and decisive. Might have an odd fumble here and a mistake there but with more experience, he'll certainly be the number one for years to come.

Grade: A- (Nominee for TRC's Liverpool Player of the Year)


2. Alvaro Arbeloa

Despite being a new signing, Arbeloa has turned up to be a dependable backup and a decent ball playing defender.

A slump in his form towards the end of the season makes his season ends in a sour note but he had a pretty solid start to his Liverpool career thus far.

His cameo appearances in the Champions League where he kept Messi in his pocket the whole game is an example of what he is capable of. As a fullback, he is good on the ball and has even scored his first goal for the club at the JJB this season. His little one-two with Pennant in the build up to Crouch's first goal against Arsenal is unforgettable and showed that he has more to offer than just defending.

Might not dethrone Finnan at right back but we're sure we have a capable and versatile defender in the squad.

Grade: B-

3. Steve Finnan

We've been banging on about how under-rated he is but truly, a real worker for the team doesn't really need all the limelight.

Since his move from Fulham years ago, he has gone from strength to strength. Perhaps more experienced now since he is officially in the 30s, he is dependable at the back, reliable and focussed. He has made the right back slot his and fended off challenges from Josemi and Kromkamp. Both promptly moved out after failing to displace the Irish.

Defending is also not his only strong point. Time and time again, we saw how he moved intelligently down the right, overlapping and putting in fantastic crosses. His crosses has been very impressive at times and done his part to assist the team in scoring goals.

His form is also tied to the ups and downs of the team. Woeful at the start of the season coincided with Liverpool's poor form, his gradual regain to form also meant Liverpool finally warming the engine.

Grade: A (Nominee for TRC's Liverpool Player Of The Year)

4. Sami Hyypia

The big centre half from Finland have been Liverpool's bargain buy for the last decade when millions of dollars are splashed on the likes of Diouf and Diao.

The uncompromising defender has been the pillar of Liverpool's defence since early 2000 and has honed formidable partnership with the likes of Henchoz, Biscan (HAHAHA JUST KIDDING!) and most recently, Carragher.

But age has caught up with the big man and with the arrival of Dan Agger from Bronby, he has gradually moved out of the squad and became a backup. His experience is still vital and his presence could still be felt but the sad fact of life is his time is almost up. Till when will he still be keeping his jersey is unknown but I still think he has a role at the club.

Appeared only for a handful of times, he was there when called upon and never complained about not being in the first team. A good leader on and off the field and a fantastic servant.

Grade: B

5. Daniel Agger

The very replacement for the man above (Hyypia I mean) is this man hailing from the Scandinavians. Maybe they make good defenders but this one is special.

He costed Liverpool 5.8 million GBP and is peanuts in modern day context but is actually the most expensive defender bought by Liverpool. Compared to the likes of Ferdinand and Ferreira, he is certainly a value for money buy and his rise to fame is a heartening one.

Never an easy task to fill in the boots of Hyypia but he was shoe-horned into the Liverpool defence seamlessly. Forming a new partnership with Carragher at the beginning of the season, it was tough for a 22 year old but he does it like an experienced pro.

Rafa once mentioned about players not listening to him while some act as if they listen but it was 'one ear in, one ear out'. When he speaks of Agger, he said this guy actually listens and does what he is supposed to do. Speaks a lot about the desire and hunger for glory and being a teachable player is the best one could hope for.

Despite having disciplinary problems back in Denmark, he was never in much trouble in England. Known for his tattoos and aggressiveness, he was calm and focussed on his task. The English game is never an easy thing to pick up when strikers like Drogba and Viduka constantly gives you sticks, this man grew in stature and is will be part of the future of Liverpool.

Grade: A- (Nominee for TRC's Liverpool Player Of The Year)

6. John Arne Riise

Never really a capable defender and not so sure whether to place him in the defence or midfield slot. But since he appeared more in defence than midfield, I'll put him in here.

The Thor hammer from Norway with a thunderous left foot, he has been at the club for 6 long years, unknowingly. A great servant and passionate player of the club, he hasn't been at his best this term, by his own standards.

At times, he is defensively culpable and some said he's too slow and sluggish to be a full back, which is true to an extent. Due to his built, he is never going to be a speedy gonzalez but his strength is well, his body strength and his stamina.

His form has never really pick up from the alpha to the omega of the season but done just enough. Still, not good enough and might even be flogged this summer but we all know what he's capable of and let's hope he continue to improve.

Grade: C+

12. Fabio Aurelio

Should be awarded the most unlucky Liverpool player this term. Injuries once again plague his career and made him settle down at England even tougher.

Known to have a wonderful left foot but in a different manner, he was brought into give the team a bit of style, substance and class. But many felt he is too lightweight for the English game and it is clear that he struggled with the rest of the team at the start.

Then again after he recovered from his injury, he showed some glimpse of what he is capable of and in the game against Arsenal, where he put up his best performance in the red jersey, he set up 2 of the 4 goals.

His set piece mastery is a formidable arsenal for Liverpool but sadly, he was injured again and out for the rest of the season. Just didn't do enough to earn the plaudits in his first season here but here's hoping he'll be fit, healthy and improve next season.

Grade: C+

23. Jamie Carragher

We don't talk about Liverpool without talking about Carragher, do we? He's the pillar of strength for the Reds and has been ever present, as usual.

Like Steve Finnan to his right, they're the two lynchpins of the defence and their experience at the top level is one reason why the Liverpool defence has been so stingy for the past 2-3 seasons.

Never known for his scoring prowess, he managed to put one past Fulham back in December for his first ever league goal since 1999. Yea, laugh on!

But his uncompromising and no-nonsense style of defence epitomises Carragher and those are the words closely associated with the centre back. When in doubt, just hoof it and anywhere would do!

But the vice captain, like the rest of the squad, suffered a slump in form earlier this season and the game at Goodison Park was perhaps one of his worst ever performance I've seen in years. He was nervous and even I was surprised when he failed to clear the ball and only to give possession back to the Blueshites.

But he bounced back like he always do and currently holds the most number of European appearances at the club after surpassing the great Ian Callaghan.

Grade: A (Nominee for TRC's Liverpool Player Of The Year)

29. Gabriel Paletta

Perhaps a raw and unrefined version of Carragher, he has been pretty disappointing this season but he will escape the harsh treatment from me because this is his first season and he IS only 20.

The Argentinian arrives to just be an apprentice and a backup to the trio of Carragher, Agger and Hyypia. Maybe too much expectations heaped on the lean shoulders of him, he was harshly criticised and maybe, to a certain extend, they are right.

At the moment, he is just not good enough to take over from Carragher, YET.

We are sure of this because of the performance in the League Cup and FA Cup exits while the last few league appearances for the club in those games where nothing much matters, he dallied on the ball far too often and doesn't look very comfortable.

But he still has time on his side and with good teachers and coaches, I hope he'll turn out good and really go on to be the next Roberto Ayala.

Grade: C-

Alright, that's the end of part one and if you haven't work out, I'll be holding a poll on the club's best player this term shortly after I conclude on this series. Comments are welcomed and grades are there to be challenged.


Red's Fury™ said...

Good reviews, mate!

Red's Fury™


thankyou :D

Anonymous said...

Great review, however i think that riise should of been given a higher grade.

This season he has really developed as a player. He has been able to give solid performances throughout the season and he has proved that he can hold the left midfield position as well as left back. He has scored some great goals with his sweet left foot and his is a constant threat when he bombs down the left flank. If rafa has any sense, he will keep riise.

Overall I think riise deserves a B+ for his performance this season