This one seemed to be the busiest of international breaks for Liverpool and the rest of the English Premier League. The off-field news dominated an otherwise quiet week on it. Maybe it was all part of the master plan.
Liverpool is fully fit and ready to face their great rivals Manchester United. I too am fit and ready to take on some questions, so let's have at it.
Don't you think it's time for Jamie Carragher to take a role that Hyypia took in his final couple of years at Anfield? Carra needs to now share his experience with young defenders and be available whenever needed. I think now he is better suited as a backup than a first-choice.
By saying all this, I dont mean to say that he has become a bad player. I mean that he is making too many mistakes these days that are costing us. Carra has been an absolute legend for us, but we certainly don't want him to spoil that status with costly mistakes that he is making in his final few years at Liverpool.
— Zargham Rajput, Mumbai, India
Thanks for sending that hard dose of reality, Zargham. The "Carra Question" has been appearing in the news in recent days, so now is a good time for me to weigh in. I'm certain that he added the mentor role you describe to his job description long ago. Most veterans lead either vocally or by example. I get the sense Carragher does both.
At this moment in time, he is the first defender Kenny Dalglish selects. The injury-prone Daniel Agger is behind him as is Martin Skrtel. Sebastian Coates and Danny Wilson are some ways behind those two. This will remain the case through this season, for better or worse.
As Carragher reaches the end of his career, his greatest long-term gift to Dalglish will be to maintain his best form for as long as possible. His continued presence increases the competition for spots amongst the other four. With him standing in the way, each will train harder to earn a place in the team. When their chance comes -– and it will — they will be better prepared to perform well because displacing the club legend was so difficult.
With several of the first-team midfielders performing relatively well as of late and the return of Steven Gerrard, where does this leave youngsters such as Jay Spearing, who was particularly impressive last season. Can you see him getting much game time and more importantly, does he deserve to?
— Nathan Finch, Cardiff, Wales
The glut of first-team midfielders who are playing well has a negative impact on Spearing. At 22 years old, he is at the place in his career where he desperately needs to play regular first-team games to learn the rhythm and rigors of a full season.
I don't see that happening for him at Liverpool in 2011-12. He's made 27 appearances since graduating from the academy in 2007 and his development has stagnated due to a lack of playing time. He doesn't necessarily deserve to play as the players blocking his path are established English Premier League midfielders. However, he deserves a chance (and it will probably come in cup games). It is up to him to make the most of it. Thanks for the support, Nathan. You're the man.
I cannot see where your assumption that the gap between the haves and have-nots (and therefore performance on the pitch) is growing each season. I agree there will possibly only be possibly six teams that will ever have a realistic chance to finish in the top four, however unlike in the early days of the Premier League there is now no team that will go through a season unbeaten (as Arsenal did) and this is in part due to the fact that the supposed "Smaller Teams" have been able to buy (with the help of the TV revenue) one or two world class players, therefore to some extent evening the playing field. With what LFC is suggesting the Premier League will turn into the Scottish Premier and believe me nobody wants that.
— Roy Yates, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Thanks for the comment, Roy. I had a feeling I'd catch some heat for that one. My assumption comes from the current revenue split, which the Guardian broke down this week.
The league equally distributes all overseas television income. The domestic deal, currently the largest source of television revenue for EPL clubs, is where the haves pull away from the have-nots. Fifty percent of it is distributed equally. The other 50 is distributed based on merit and the number of times each club appears in certain time slots. This is where the big clubs have an advantage that repeats itself on an annual basis. The similarities between the television revenue table and the EPL table are stunning. One or two world-class players the smaller teams buy cannot compete with the squads full of them at big club. The EPL won't turn into a Scottish-style duopoly, but it will make the strong teams stronger.
Will Inter right the ship and win Serie A this year?
— Steven Erickson, Webster, Unknown
Inter, that great beneficiary of the Calciopoli scandal, is a team in decline. Their greatness in the last decade was financed by owner Massimo Moratti, fashioned by Manchester City's Roberto Mancini and perfected by Real Madrid's Jose Mourinho. Take a peek at its squad and you'll find that every key player is on the wrong side of 30. There are talented youngsters, but those gems are at least three to four years away from reaching the top (best case scenario).
Inter failed to properly plan for and manage its transition and they will fall hard because of it. Taking four points from its first five games is just the beginning of the end for the Nerazurri. The club is deeply in debt and cannot buy established stars. Claudio Ranieri will not be able to tinker his way out of this one.
What's up with England's continually underwhelming performances? Do they feel entitled and give up when they aren't given the glory they assume they deserve? Do they rely too heavily on older players instead of allowing energetic youngsters into the fray? Are they just a bunch of idiots who kick opposing players and swear at cameramen?
— Kristaps Paddock, Washington, D.C.
Being overwhelmed or underwhelmed depends on what you're expecting from England's national team. If you're expecting it to win major tournaments like the 2012 European Championships, then prepare for a letdown.
You may be a little harsh on the team's temperament. The key to winning at that level is having a squad full of players (balanced between young and old) who are battle-hardened by UEFA Champions League soccer. England does not have enough of them and haven't for some time. The ones that are at that level – John Terry, Steve Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand – are a year or two past their best. Also, Fabio Capello is a lame-duck manager and that can't be a good thing heading into a major tournament. No need to worry about Wayne Rooney kicking and swearing. He's banned for the first three games of the tournament.
Kristaps, as your attorney, I advise you to temper your expectations and try to live up to those high ideals ever true. Thanks for the question.
That's all for now. Thanks for the questions and send more next week.
Photo courtesy of Twitpic/@KingJames