Baltusrol battles

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It seems the first day of the 98th PGA Championship has proven a real struggle for some of golf’s biggest names.

Jimmy Walker currently tops the leader board shooting 65, leaving him on -5 under par. Walkers best finish in a major championship – and arguably his best year overall – came in 2014 when he finished tied 7th.

Despite being leader he is still largely an outsider to win the tournament with odds of 16/1, with Sky Bet.

Dustin Johnson, a man who has been in hot form over the past few months appeared to completely disintegrate during this tournament.

He finished his round +7 over par, not making the cut for day 2 and in tied 143rd position. This was surely one of the worst rounds for the American.

There is no doubt this was just a blip and he will bounce back to his fine form. Only last week he finished Tied 2nd, shooting -11 under par at the RBC Canadian Open – taking home winnings of $440,533.

Then there was Rory McIlroy who had 3 bogeys in his first 7 holes on the back 9. He finished the round without carding anything lower than par, suffering from his inability to hold a putt.

The Northern Irishman will be disappointed with his first round and he has a mountain to climb if he has any realistic chances of clawing back up the leader board.

Meanwhile, world number 1 Jason Day managed to finish his round -2 under par despite suffering illness prior to the competition and struggling with the putter. If Day is consistent in the next round I can see him being in amongst the top 3, despite his putting woes.

Other notables such as Speith, Garcia, Mickeleson, Z. Johnson, Bubba Watson and Willett all had struggles and finished their round on +1 over par – a score which can easily be improved on in round 2. I expect to see at least one or two of these guys in the mix on the final day.

Looking at the leader board I feel a strong round from the 2016 UK Open winner, Henrik Stenson will see him challenging from top spot. Englishman Andy Sullivan is also playing some nice golf and whilst I can’t see him getting top 3, I wouldn’t be surprised if he walked away from Baltusrol with some decent prize money.

My picks for winner would be:

Henrik Stenson, Martin Kaymer, Rickie Fowler.

To finish in the top 4 I would say:

Emiliano Grillo, Jason Day, Andy Sullivan

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Who’s the boss?

Klopp

There has been a lot of talk about Mamadou Sakho – the up-beat, jolly Frenchman. It is fair to say he has had his fair share of up’s and down’s.

There was the time when Brendan Rogers left him out of the squad in the Merseyside Derby and departed Anfield before the game had started, before making an apology via social media.

Then there was the doping fiasco where UEFA accused him of failing a drugs test – via use of fat burners – which resulted in the player missing the Europa League final clash and the entire Euro 2016 tournament. UEFA have of course since dropped their case against Sakho.

The latest episode involved Sakho being sent packing from LFC’s pre-season tour of the United States by manager Jurgen Klopp, due to his ‘attitude’. A video doing the rounds on social media showed Sakho interrupting an interview taking place between Klopp and the media in Alcatraz, in which the manager responded in a seemingly jokey, yet sarcastic manner. It is only on reflection and with all details emerged that it is evident to see he was making a clear point.

Klopp has now confirmed the reason for Sakho’s premature departure was due to a ‘lack of respect’ for the club rules.

The German manager said:

It’s not that serious. He missed the departure of the plane, he missed a session and then was late for a meal … I have to build a group here, I have to start anew, so I thought it maybe made sense that he flew home to Liverpool and after eight days, when we come back, we can talk about it.

“But it’s not that serious. It is how I said, we have some rules and we have to respect them. If somebody doesn’t respect it, or somebody gives me the feeling he is not respecting it, then I have to react, that’s all.”

With the facts out in the open, it is clear to see that this was the right course of action for Klopp to take. He is trying to marry together a squad of existing players, new players, youth players and prepare them for the season ahead, ensuring they’re in peak condition. Therefore anybody who creates disharmony should rightly be dismissed.

I like to see a manager who is stern yet fair, demanding yet fun and will – regardless of a player’s status – make decisions for the greater good of the team, demonstrating exactly who is boss.

Every player in the camp will have sat-up and taken notice at this decision. If players had any doubts about who is in charge, they certainly won’t now.

Image courtesy of thisisanfield.com

The Little Magician

Little Magician

Little Magician

There is something about Brazilian players that just makes them a pleasure to watch. They have flair, arrogance, creativity. From the legends such as Pele, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Zico and Cafu to the current crop including Neymar, Kaka, Oscar, Ramires, Bernard – the list goes on.

Despite their devastating performance against Germany in the 2014 World Cup, the calibre of players within the team is impressive. One Brazilian that didn’t make the cut for Scolari’s 2014 World Cup squad is Philippe Coutinho, The Little Magician.

Liverpool acquired the young talent in 2013 from Inter Milan for £8.5mill – a fee which is looking like an absolute bargain. Instantly his ability was there for all to see, his link up play with Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge was natural. His knack of providing that decisive through ball was telling in the 2013/14 campaign where he came third in Liverpool’s assist table behind only Suarez and Gerrard. His signature drop of the shoulder in the middle of the park and close ball control have repeatedly left opponents on the floor scratching their heads.

Coutinho’s recent form has fans on the edge of their seat week-in week-out, and not just Liverpool fans. He rightly gains plaudits from general football community. Following news of him signing a new long-term contract, which ties him to the club until 2020, Brendan Rodgers likened him to Luka Modric and Tony Kroos and his team-mate Adam Lallana hailed his talent “frightening”.

If the Brazilian continues progressing under Brendan Rodgers in his current vein and chipping in with more goals, he will certainly be on his way to establishing himself as one of the Premier Leagues top talents. And that’s no illusion.

Do LFC need a plan B?

Following Liverpool’s defeat to Aston Villa last weekend & narrow win against Ludogorets in the Champions League earlier in the week, they now come up against ‘Big Sam’s’ physical West Ham side.

On Saturday Liverpool will be up against not just a physical side, but one with quality too. The Hammers brought in 9 players over the summer including big names Alex Song (on loan from Barcelona) and Mauro Zarate.

Known for their quick starts, high pressure and high intensity, Liverpool will be looking to come out the blocks and gain an early lead. West Ham however will no doubt line up to frustrate Liverpool and dismantle their flow. A tactic used against Liverpool last year on a number of occasions, most notably in the clash with Chelsea at Anfield.

This is something Liverpool have struggled to cope with and ultimately find a solution for. It’s not for the lack of possession or creativity, more so the ideas. Against Aston Villa Liverpool brought on Lambert and Borini in the 71st minute injecting more physical presence in the Villa box but still the result remained the same and Liverpool just didn’t look like scoring.

Last year circumstances were slightly different, Liverpool were conceding goals but also outscoring opponents. With the loss of Suarez and with plenty of new faces brought in it will inevitably take some time to reach that level, I am sure that with Sturridge and Balotelli leading the line Liverpool can reproduce that quality but until then, and for the minute, Rodgers and his team will be looking at ways to overcome such teams.

Do you think Liverpool need a plan B?


My line up against West Ham would be a 4-4-2 Diamond (4-1-2-1-2). Usually I would go with a 4-2-3-1 with Sterling and Lallana wide but I think West Ham are going to set up slightly different, perhaps going with a 4-3-3 which he performed well against Hull in the week. I also think Borini changed the game when he was brought on against Ludogorets so he warrants a start for me (plus he scored a peach in training).

Here’s my team………. let me know what you think or who you’d change.

Line up against West Ham

The rise of Jordan Henderson

Jordan Henderson Celebration

If you asked any Liverpool fan some 2 years ago whether Jordan Henderson had what it takes to make the cut at Liverpool, a fair majority of them would have answered no.

Aged 24, Henderson is now one of the first names on the team-sheet. And it is by no coincidence, he is consistently working hard. Since given the option to join Fulham by Brendan Rodgers in August 2012, Jordan has knuckled down showing true grit and determination and earned his place in the team.

Not only has his hard work been a recognised by the fans but also by his manager who named Henderson as Liverpool’s Vice Captain, succeeding Daniel Agger following his return to Brondby. Rodgers described the midfielder as the “moral compass of the group” and backed him to be at Liverpool for many years.

On many occasions we have heard how Henderson is the consummate professional dedicating his life to his sport, putting extra hours in at the gym or on the training field. He is a natural leader, a player that would do anything for the team and one who sets an example. For that reason I can think of no better choice for the Vice-Captaincy and I applaud Rodgers for making the right decision.

The wait is over!

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The wait is over. The new, highly anticipated, season has kicked off and we’re underway.

It’s hard to imagine a season containing as much excitement as last years. From the bizarre mistake sending off at Stamford Bridge, which seen Kieran Gibbs leave the field instead of Oxlade-Chamberlain – to the 3 way fight for the title in the closing fixtures, which Manchester City seized.

The 2013/14 season had it all and although the Premier League has lost one of the most sublime, yet controversial characters in Luis Suarez, I can’t see his loss depreciating the quality of the season ahead. Even Liverpool have been quick to fill the void of their number 7, bringing in 6 new faces ready to hit the ground running. All but Origi who has been loaned back to the French side Lille, following his impressive world cup display.

The majority of teams have bought well and there are at least 6 teams you could place in the top 4. Who will grab those places however, is a different story.

Arsenal in my opinion have done good business, Alexis Sanchez was a major coup. His attacking presence alongside the pacey Theo Walcott, the creative Aaron Ramsey and clever Ozil. Not to mention Cazorla and Wilshere!

Another good addition was Debuchy. Although they lost a solid full-back in Sagna, I believe Debuchy can do a good job adding a balance of attacking and defensive qualities to the London side. 

Chelsea are always strong and have had another strong transfer window. Offloading the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Demba Ba for good money and bringing in 3 top players on top of Bridge hero Drogba.

Starting with Diego Costa who has the ability to score goals, providing he brings his potential to the Premier League. He is fierce looking and strong on the ball, not many defenders will be looking forward to facing him, I’m sure.

Filipe Luis has been brought in at left back following the transfer of Ashley Cole to Roma – Luis had a fantastic season with Atletico Madrid, winning La Liga for the first time in 18 years (alongside familiar face Diego Costa) and being part of a strong backline that conceded only 26 goals in 38 games!

And finally, the maestro that is Cesc Fabregas. A versatile player who offers plenty going forward from the midfield and provides exceptional play-making abilities. His record for assists was impressive at both Arsenal and Barcelona and he is proven in the Premier League. Personally I’m tipping Fabregas to be one of the Premier League’s crucial players over the course of the season and will inevitably continue his assist records.

Last time I shared my top four predictions I got the four teams correct, but not in the correct order with the exception of Manchester City.

This time I have no idea who will finish where but here goes…

  • Manchester City
  • Chelsea
  • Liverpool
  • Arsenal

LFC Transfer Tribulations

LIvSiging

January’s transfer window seen overall expenditure reach £127.5 million, with some big names in amongst that figure. Included were the likes of Juan Mata (Chelsea to Manchester United £37.1M), Nemanja Matic (Benfica to Chelsea £22M) and Mohammed Salah (FC Basel to Chelsea £11m).

It was Liverpool though, who were left red-faced after once again failing to capture yet another transfer target. In the past they have been beaten to targets such as Clint Dempsey (Tottenham) and more recently Willian, who favoured a move to Stamford Bridge.

However it is the 2014 transfer window that has probably been the most frustrating for LFC fans. After tracking long-time target Mohammed Salah and with negotiations well under way it was presumed the deal would be tied up and sorted by early January, this was not to be the case. Reports suggested Liverpool were unwilling to meet the price FC Basel sought and were adamant that the player was valued closer to their estimations. So when Chelsea came knocking with the higher fee, hopes at Anfield were dashed and a deal was concluded with Chelsea in a mere 5 days.

Following this disappointing saga and with only days left in the transfer window, Liverpool turned their attention to FC Dnipro’s Yevhen Konoplyanka, a young, pacey and intelligent winger who operates on the left-side cutting in onto his favoured right foot.

-Konoplyanka was the stand out player in the Ukraine’s qualifier against England at Wembley, scoring a superb goal to draw 1-1-

Liverpool fans were hopeful of the deal and had quickly turned their attention away from the Salah saga.  This was confirmed when Konoplyanka’s agent gained over 3800 Twitter followers in a matter of days! The signs were encouraging; Liverpool representatives had travelled to Ukraine, numerous quotes from the player suggested he was ‘excited’ by the possibility of a move to Liverpool and they were willing to cough up the sum.

 As we approached the final hours of deadline day, a deal looked imminent. According to reports, a medical was completed, personal terms had been agreed and the money was available to transfer.

Unfortunately the deal failed to materialise, with a number of reason’s being reported. The main reason floating about the web was that Billionaire owner of FC Dnipro refused to sign off the deal. Though, FC Dnipro officials refute this claim and have stated simply that Liverpool officials arrived a little too late.

Whatever the reason, Liverpool fans are rightly disappointed. The transfer policy at Liverpool has been put into question and people are asking how this has happened yet again and who is to blame?

Strengthening the squad could have been the difference between a top 4 spot and only hindsight will prove whether this is the case.

One thing is for sure; in the current market when you are competing with top clubs such as Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United with such immense financial power, Liverpool can ill afford to play games when dealing with transfers.

Hopefully the lesson has been learnt. (& Hopefully Konoplyanka moves to Anfield in the summer).