Why Arsenal don’t need to panic just yet.

So you score three at the most fearsome stadium in the Premiership and still manage to lose. Football can be cruel can’t it? As easy as it would be to go ahead and blame the, quite frankly awful, refereeing (two non-offside goals disallowed and a penalty turned down that would be given nine times out of ten), it would also be a massive cop out. Unless your name is Alex Ferguson (there’s not enough money in the world for me to prefix that with ‘Sir’), you need to be winning games in spite of decisions like those. Expect no favours, especially away from home.

Our defending, particularly on the left side, was nowhere near good enough for a team with title ambitions. Nacho Monreal, be it down to a lack of game time or a general lack o positional awareness, gave them far too much room to roam and he wasn’t helped by having a defensively lax Jack Wilshere in front of him. Flamini, while he’s great for roaring the team on in times of need, often lets his tenacity get the better of him and found himself a step or two out of position after chasing some other lost cause – an admirable effort, but a calmer presence could’ve gone a long way in nullifying City’s central play in the final third.

As it was the last time we played in Manchester, a poor first half performance left us with a lot to do in the second, and while we created a lot more after City’s third, we were always chasing the game and as was proven today, that is not the position you want to find yourself in at The Etihad.

Our failings aside, City were (and are) phenomenal going forward. Their passing is precise, their movement is mesmerising and their finishing is sublime (well they scored six fucking goals, so yeah…). They’ve been unplayable at home and I really don’t see how any team in the league can successfully set up to stop them. It’s a good job (and it’s important to remember this in the bigger picture of the title race) that they struggle on the road or they would be running away with the league this year.

Still though, look at it this way; we played the best attacking team in the country and lost. It happens. They’ll drop points elsewhere and it’s all still firmly in our hands next week at Chelsea; taking three points from these two games would be a million miles away from disastrous. Theo’s finishing was class and he looks a real outlet for us. His link up with Özil will be a joy to watch in coming months. Oh yeah, and Per scored a goal too, which is always nice. If Arsene brings in a reliable goal scorer in January, this is still ours to lose.

So calm down, gooners, we’d have bitten hands off for this situation after the opening day and we won’t play teams that good every week.

Ryan De Freitas

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Liverpool’s squad – Will the required reinforcements come January?

Let’s pretend for 1 minute that it is Monday 30th December 2013. After a busy holiday schedule, it is now time for the Liverpool staff and fans to look at the number of points collected by the team. How is this going to impact on the team’s January transfer activity? and how is it planning out the rest of the season? title/ top4/ top6 contenders?
My straight forward answer to that would be NO for both questions.

Everybody knows what Liverpool’s flaws are and hopefully Brendan Rodgers will address that sooner rather than later. However, as mentioned in his pre-match press conference today, he will not rush in buying players just for the sake of doing so. The appropriate player should be available at the appropriate price. He has proven that it is possible 12 months ago by bringing in Sturridge and Coutinho who have done great at the club since.

Despite having 10 recognised defenders in the first team squad, Liverpool’s defence has been quite porous this season. BR has tried different formations – 2 or 3 CBs – with different player combinations but has yet to find the solution. Another weakness in this defence is the left back position. With Jose Enrique out due to injury, young Joe Flanagan has come in. Don’t get me wrong, he put in a great performance in the Everton game and has been decent since coming in but just lacks that extra bit of quality and experience. Watch out for the words ‘decent’, ‘quality’ and ‘experience’.

People have been crying out for BR to get another defensive midfielder to either replace Lucas or at least provide some competition. While this would be good, I think a combination of the likes of Lucas, Gerrard, Allen and Henderson will have to do for now.
You must have been living under a rock or out of this world to not know that Coutinho has been phenomenal for Liverpool since joining them last winter. It was there for everyone to see, the lack of creativity in the Liverpool side when the Brazilian magician was out due to injury earlier this season. Having said that, I would not mind another of BR’s tricks to bring in a quality playmaker in January, with a lot of people pointing to Mata who seem to be out of Mourinho’s plans.

Liverpool’s forwards, what else to say except for the phenom Suarez and his striking partner Sturridge. Unfortunately the latter is injured and all the responsibility has fallen on Suarez’s shoulders and how he responded to the challenge? Well everybody knows… 4 goals against Norwich and another 2 against West Ham. Yes, these are middle to bottom table teams but still that amount of goals are remarkable. Aspas was brought in during the summer transfer window but has yet to impress and is also coming back from injury. Only time will tell whether he’s able to adapt to the team and show us what he’s really made of.

All in all, I think that Liverpool should strive to get a left back and an attacking midfield during the January transfer window and if a defensive midfield comes available at the right price, then go for that too.
As for the table standings come May, as I have said since the beginning of the season, Liverpool will be challenging for the top 4. Despite being second now, they do not have the quality yet to be title contenders – not that I would mind if they prove me wrong.

Jade

2 Nations Views on their World Cup Draw.

Here at Sat In Row Z we are lucky to have a team of writers who are passionate about the game. Whilst our team is predominately based in England we are also have a talented Belgian team member named Annelies, we thought we would get her view on the group draw for Belgium as well as Elijah’s view on England’s.

    England

The Brazil World Cup 2014 draw held some big surprises as far as qualification went, but the groups are just typical, although due to increased quality in International teams, there are now several groups of death.
England have been lucky really, they fell into a group with Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica, this is in no way an easy group, but it’s far from the worst. Uruguay seem the most likely to progress with home environment advantage and a very strong team including Suarez leading the line (this is relevant now, it might not be at the end of the current season), but it will be tough between them and Italy. Italy have been one the world’s best teams for a long time and are still producing quality in their youngsters and their senior members of the team still pulling the line. Costa Rica could cause an upset in this group, they are easily the outsiders/underdogs (but they wouldn’t be in the competition if they weren’t a strong team) but if this means that they get underestimated then they could grab a few essential points to make it through, but I can’t see them getting any further than that.
England, well they seem destined to fail next year (especially if a team that seems so strong on the outside, keeps underperforming) but then again, England are a team that do better when they are ruled out (much alike Costa Rica in this group), if they can get a decent result against either Uruguay or Italy, then they might be able to take it through to the knockout phase and cause some upsets.

Elijah

    Belgium

After four years, the World Cup is back! And one of the qualified countries who wrote history in South America before, are back: Belgium! Let’s take a look at their chances in Brazil.
Belgium are seeded in Group H. So are Algeria, South Korea and Russia. Not one of the most impressive groups, but maybe a group with a surprising end. How do the Belgians look at their chances in Group H?

    ALGERIA

Road to Brazil: Algeria were seeded in Group H in the CAF (Confederation of African Football) Qualifiers. They got 15 points out of 18, which made them make it to the play-offs. ‘Les Fennecs’ hope to get further than group stages in Brazil.
We are happy because Belgium can talk about an unbeaten record against Algeria. Their final meeting was a friendly, which ended in a 0-0 draw. But one year after that, the Red Devils won 1-3!
It’s a risk because Algeria still have something to deal with in the world of football. We refer to the World Cup in 1982 in Spain. Algeria beat Chile and West Germany. Algeria would continue to the next round if Austria didn’t lose against Germany. Unlucky Algeria, because West Germany won 1-0. Algerian fans believed the match was fixed and threw money on the pitch. ‘Les Fennecs’ could put the name of justice in football on the map after 22 years.

    SOUTH KOREA

Road to Brazil: The Qualifiers haven’t been easy for South Korea. It was on the penultimate matchday when the Asian Tigers got their ticket to Brazil. The South Korean squad hope for their stars at Bayern Leverkusen (Ji Dong-Won and Son Heung-Min) to perform better in the future, because South Korea finished the Qualifiers with 14 points out of 24.
We are happy because Belgium haven’t lost against South Korea yet. At the 1990 World Cup, Belgium beat the Koreans 2-0 in Group Stages. Eight years later, the Asian Tigers drew 1-1 against Belgium. In 1999, Belgium beat South Korea 1-2 on an away friendly.
It’s a risk because regularity gets rewarded. The 2014 World Cup will be the 8th time in the finals for South Korea, a very impressive number for a country who always had trouble getting out of the group stages. Their last legendary World Cup was on home soil in 2002 and the question is if the tropical weather will inspire the Asian Tigers to write history.

    RUSSIA

Road to Brazil: Russia surprised Europe after keeping Portugal away from a group victory in Group F. The Russians finished the Qualifiers with 22 points out of 30. Aleksandr Kherzhakov lead Fabio Capello and his team to a group victory with five goals.
We are happy because Belgium never lost an international against Russia before. Their first meeting was a friendly in 1996, ending on a 0-0 draw. At the 200 World Cup in Japan, the Russians lost 3-2, which made Belgium continue to the next round. In 2010, Belgium beat Russia 0-2 in a friendly.
It’s a risk because the Russians are capable of surviving the first round of a big tournament. At the Euros in 2008, Russia reached the semi finals. It was Spain who kicked them out of the tournament. It might be good for Russia to perform at Brazil 2014 if they want to earn the name of a worthy host for the 2018 World Cup.

In general, the Belgians believe we can survive the Group Stages. But there’s more than only group stages in this World Cup Campaign. All we know for sure is that it will be another unforgettable month full of emotions and passion!

Annelies.

Who do you think will go further? The Three Lions or The Red Devils?

Looking to the Window

In preparation for our upcoming article about players we would like to see come to the Premier League, and in anticipation of the January transfer window we have decided to look at where certain clubs could look to strengthen their team.

Starting at the top Arsenal: Arsenal have had a great start to their season, but you have to think that a few injuries to the likes of Giroud or Ozil and their season would falter. Their number one priority should be finding another striker as lets face it Bendtner isn’t fooling anyone.

Liverpool: Liverpool should look to 2 things in the coming few months. 1) Working out how to fit Sturridge, Suarez, Coutinho & Aspas into the same team & 2) getting a hard grafting holding midfielder. Nuri Sahin didn’t fit in under Rodgers and it’s a shame as he would have fit the bill

.Manchester United: The era of Moyes hasn’t started brilliantly but there are sparks there. It’s obvious that United need to look at their midfield as it hasn’t been of the quality that is expected.  United will probably go back in for Herrera but we think they should be looking at wide players as Valencia, Nani & Young have been underwhelming this season. Also the left back position may become a problem in the next 6 months if Evra were to leave.

Tottenham Hotspur: We can’t see a lot of players coming in to The Lane in January and with their spend in the summer money may be tighter, Maybe another forward to back up Soldado as we can’t see Defoe being in Lillywhite come the end of the window.

Swansea: Swansea have stuttered and stumbled through the early season, the likes of Bony & Shelvey who started the season well have faded away and Michu has not been too influential either. Saying that there are positives and sat in 13th, 4 places above Cardiff if the season was to end now Swans fans would be happy.

Stoke City: Stoke have been playing some downright attractive football so far this season and their lowly league position doesn’t reflect it. The problem with Stoke is they lack a genuine goal scorer someone who could guarantee them 15 goals, if they find him expect them to finish mid table.

Fulham, Crystal Palace & Sunderland: The current bottom 3 are realistically in need of at least 5 new players each. Fulham are the shock team to be down their as they have the likes of Reither, Berbatov & Rodallega all of who are capable of winning games and are simply not turning up. Everyone knew it was going to be hard for Palace and we think they are as good as down all  ready but if they can plug the hole in their back line then might be able to grind out a few hard results, also a creative midfielder wouldn’t go amiss. With Sunderland it’s hard to work out their weakness, the talent is there but for whatever reason it’s not performing.

We asked some of the team to suggest a few players that could move in January. Here is what we got.

Ross: Defoe to Stoke on Loan

Adam Del Boy: Konoplyanka or Yarmolenko to Liverpool, Benteke to Liverpool / Arsenal/ Spurs

Ryan DF: Muriel & Morata to Arsenal,   Cabaye to Manchester United,

Elijah:  Hummells and/or Gundogan to United

Annelies: Thomas Meunier to anyone in the Premiership.

Ry Howe: Giovanni Dos Santos to Swansea, Defoe to West Ham, Draxler or Xherdan Shaqiri to United.

Let us know your thoughts.

 

Ry.

 

 

 

 

Liverpool already showing why strength in depth really matters.

Liverpool have enjoyed the start of a season that has got fans dreaming once again. The problem with this is that when/if it starts to unravel, the disappointment amongst these same fans will be even greater. In some respects the heightened expectation may become another enemy to them. Before Sunday’s abject 3-1 defeat at Hull, the Reds were sitting pretty just 4 points behind the pacesetters Arsenal, having only been beaten by the Gunners themselves and high flying Southampton. My fear was that some narrow wins were merely papering over the cracks and that at some point, Liverpool’s lack of squad depth was going to bite back at them.

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The announcement before the match by Brendan Rodgers that Daniel Sturridge may miss 6-8 weeks injured, sent many Reds on Twitter into meltdown. Amongst the group of Champions League place contenders, news like this undoubtably hits Liverpool the hardest. Man United have coped ok without RVP. Rooney has stepped up and they can always rely on goals from elsewhere. Arsenal have barely noticed the absence of Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lucas Podolski, as Mesut Ozil has been sensational, adding to the incredible goal scoring form of both Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud. City have countless goal scoring options and despite feeling the absence of Vincent Kompany away from home in particular, they have suitable defensive cover to manage most games.

What was most concerning about the loss to Hull was despite dominating possession, Liverpool created next to nothing. There were no threatening runs from the wide men or fullbacks and crosses were non existent. None of the midfield players found a telling pass or managed to get into the box at any point. All 4 of their most recent goals have come from set pieces with little threat from open play and apart from the SAS, you can’t see where they are likely to get a regular source of goals. As Liverpool struggle away from home as an attacking unit, their problems heap pressure on the defence and despite some heroics from Simon Mignolet, they look nowhere near capable of keeping a clean sheet. Kolo Toure seems to be one of those players who is capable of a major defensive lapse, Mamadou Sakho hasn’t settled in and is now confined to the bench, whilst the injury to Jose Enrique is causing further selection problems as the untested Jon Flanagan has been thrown in at the deep end(to his credit). Skrtel and Agger, whilst both great players, seem to struggle aerially and from set pieces(neither match up to Sami Hyypia in that respect).

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The biggest problem is that Rodgers can do little to change this, particularly with the loss of Sturridge. There is no league Cup to give the fringe players a competitive game in a relatively safe environment and no European games to do similar. With an extremely testing set of December fixtures ahead(Spurs, City and Chelsea away), Liverpool are likely to suffer injuries/suspensions, further putting pressure on the fringe players who are struggling to make an impact. Iago Aspas has found it hard to adjust to the English game, picking up a lengthy injury layoff in the process. He and fellow Spaniard Luis Alberto have yet to find the net for their new club. Jordan Henderson offers commitment and energy, but lacks craft and a killer instinct. Victor Moses doesn’t seem to show the same hunger as Romelu Lukaku does at Everton and looks as though he feels he has nothing to prove, despite demanding more game time in the press this week!!! Raheem Sterling lacks the confidence and experience of regular game time, looking afraid of his own shadow at times when he gets a game. As for £15m Joe Allen, I’m still suffering flashbacks from his horrific miss at Everton last week. They are all young lads and will improve with time, but if Liverpool really want Champions League football, then time isn’t on their side. Liverpool need these guys to deliver and quick.

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If Liverpool can win their home fixtures this month and at least get one win from their three tricky away matches, then they can go into January still in the hunt for a top four spot. At that stage the transfer window becomes crucial, but it will be difficult to attract real quality to the club at that time. Rodgers managed it last season with Coutinho and Sturridge, but can lightning strike twice? I’m certain Rodgers knows his squad lacks the type of depth that means he can change his side effectively and make game changing substitutions. He doesn’t have this at the current time and I fear it is going to hurt Liverpool badly over the Christmas period and that now is the defining point of their season.

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I predicted 5th/6th for Liverpool at the start of the season and I’m not ready to upgrade that placing yet. I’m hoping that by the end of January, I will have more reasons to do so…….

@adamdellboy