Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Premier League season guide 2009-10 - Liverpool

The club

Party manifesto

"We live by the principles of The Great Leader, Bill Shankly: 'The socialism I believe in is everyone working for each other, everyone having a share of the rewards. It's the way I see football, the way I see life.' It encapsulates a club with left-wing values in a famously left-wing city. They hold to this day. Now, let's pay off this week's interest on that humungous leveraged loan with the profits from all these replica shirt sales in Asia ..."

Fat cats or hard times

The loan taken out by George and Tom, the Two Stooges, to purchase the club put Liverpool deep in the red. But not so deep that they can't afford to spend nearly £20m on a full-back who was repeatedly skinned by the Kazakhstan winger back in June.

Their idea of dreamland

It's all about the league. Unless you're Rafa Benítez, who wants another European Cup even more than his wife Montse wants another wristwatch gift as a result.

The table doesn't lie

Second behind Manchester United who they beat at Anfield and at Old Trafford, was arguably Liverpool's best performance in the league in nearly two decades. Yet after a raft of 0-0 draws it was a real opportunity missed. This year the title's a genuine possibility - though their last second place, under Gérard Houllier, was followed by several seasons of anti-climax.

If they had three wishes

1 Winning the league

2 Winning the league thanks to a Michael Owen own goal

3 Winning the league thanks to a Michael Owen own goal three seasons in a row.

What a typical fan says

"In Rafa we trust. Until we're 2-0 down and he brings on Lucas for Gerrard."

The players

New kid in town Glen Johnson

Finally signed for his 'boyhood club' after establishing himself as England's right-back in his Pompey years. Cost £17m and played his first game filling in at left-back.

English passion v foreign flair

As you'd expect of Rafa's Real Mersey, there's a heavy sprinkling of Spanish-speaking sparkle. But the captain, Steven Gerrard, and the real captain Jamie Carragher make sure English values are represented. By running around looking annoyed and depressed.

Watch out for

Emilano Insua's time spent away with Argentina's kids at some pointless Fifa jamboree coincided with a slump in January. A ball-playing full-back, he's a much better prospect than Andrea Dossena, the funniest man to emerge on the Liverpool left since Alexei Sayle.

Unsung hero

The Kop wondered whether Yossi Benayoun was simply a facsimile of the frustrating Luis García, only with a poorer first touch and an even worse decision-making process. But the Israeli's improvement last season was immense, chipping in with numerous crucial goals and assists.

Do not match the ambition of ...

Javier Mascherano. Barcelona have turned the head of a player perfectly happy to drape himself over the West Ham chaise longue a couple of seasons ago.

Most likely to date Danielle Lloyd

Perpetual substitute Ryan Babel has plenty of time on his hands, if his rap video - "No caviar for us, Surinamers eat chicken" - is anything to go by. La Lloyd would doubtless prefer the former.

National treasure

Box-to-box midfielder Jay Spearing might fill in for Javier Mascherano, providing Lucas is boiled down for glue, as must surely be the plan. He's tipped to go all the way to the top. Or at least play for England.

The manager

Rafael Benítez

Put your medals on the table

Spanish titles, cups, the Uefa Cup and the spoils from that night in Istanbul. There's only one thing missing ... the Johnstone's Paint Trophy.

What's his style?

Famously defensive, though last season he opened out more than he was given credit for. But can he unlock the bus parked in front of goal by the so-called smaller sides?

Will almost certainly complain about...

Sir Alex Ferguson. Rafa's dossier is a work in progress and Ferguson retaliated by suggesting Benítez is "disturbed".

If they want to get ahead they could wear a ...


Loved by brash Texans and featured in a pre-eminent primetime success of the 70s and 80s, its aficionados still have a tendency to throw their weight about on the European stage but are now more familiar at home as a dressing-up box staple for those still enacting long-lost battles. As worn by men with Desperate Dan facial hair and featured in the Good, the Bad and the Ugly or the history of the past 19 seasons as it is also known.

The numbers game

Years of hurt Three

Last major trophy FA Cup 2006

Title odds 11-4

Relegation odds 1,000-1

Last season

Champions League Quarters

FA Cup 4th round

Carling Cup 4th round

League discipline Yellow 50 Red 0

Top scorer Gerrard (16)

Fair play league 2nd

Points per game

against top four 2.33

against the rest 2.25

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