I’m not really trying to make any point. It just struck me that the U.S. women’s national team (pictured) stormed through its first two games of CONCACAF Olympic qualifying. It beat the Dominican Republic 14-0 on Friday, and followed up with a 13-0 win over Guatemala on Sunday. But neither will make a difference if it somehow drops a semifinal game against a to be determined opponent, and fails to qualify for the London games. But it’s some start for head coach Pia Sundhage’s group, and I just wanted to give them a quick shout out. Now let’s get on to the questions.
Who do you reckon Liverpool will sign this transfer window ?
— Jer Syuen
Hello Jer and thanks for the question. As I’ve said before, it’s really hard to tell who LFC is or is not actively pursuing. The club conducts its transfer business behind closed doors, so there’s not much we can do but speculate about speculation. I also don’t think LFC will panic and sign a player, betting his addition will guarantee a top-four finish. Those players — ready made stars — cost a lot, are generally unavailable for transfer in January, and don’t ensure instant improvement. Restoring LFC to its proper standing in the Premier League is a long-term project and we are still in the early stages.
But to predict transfer activity, I think it’s best to imagine the LFC squad as it looks on June 1, facing a 2012-13 season that includes domestic and European soccer. Kenny Dalglish is happy with his options in central midfield and defense, as well as the fullback positions. But I get the feeling LFC needs help on the wings and up front, and the transfer business — both in January and in the summer — might be focused on strengthening in these areas.
LFC has been linked with any number of strikers, but the ones that jump to the front of my mind (at the moment) are the ones that can either play in both areas or can make an impact in this, next and the following season.
Is there any chance Fernando Torres will come back?
— Cole Dougherty
Hi Cole. I’m going to keep this one short and simple: Nope. I see no Red in Fernando Torres‘ future. It would make for a fascinating story to tell, and I’d relish the opportunity to do so. But, I just can’t see how he could or why he would return to Anfield. Thanks for the question, though.
After Arsenal’s defeat on Sunday, what do they have to do in January to fight for European football next year?
— Jordan Thornberry
Hello Jordan. Do you mean fight for European soccer or UEFA Champions League soccer? Arsenal — in its current form — can easily qualify for next season’s UEFA Europa League, but I don’t think that’s what Arsenal fans want (or need) to hear.
After Arsenal lost Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri it went about rebuilding its squad around a new generation of players. Unfortunately for Gunners everywhere, Arsenal got a late start in doing this, and the season was already under way.
Three-straight Premier League defeats have seen crisis talk return to the club, and there’s a very real possibility that Arsenal will finish outside of the top four. It’s simple what Arsenal must do in January to prevent this.
It needs to pray one of its many injured fullbacks returns to fitness soon — nowish even. It would go a long way toward stabilizing a leaky defense. It needs to sign Lukas Podolski, or another top player that has the quality to score goals immediately. Also, adding another holding midfielder — Daniele De Rossi would do — is necessary to give Alex Song a much-needed rest.
After January it needs to sign new doctors. Every recent season has seen key players miss large chunks of each campaign due to injury. Robin Van Persie recently made cryptic remarks crediting his “own choices” for an unprecedented run of good health. The way I see it, Mr. Glass (Van Persie) breaks from club doctors and finally stays healthy. Does that sound strange to you? It does to me. Thanks for the question, Jordan.
I know this mailbag is generally for EPL-related questions, but what are we to make of Real Madrid’s performance in the first leg of their Copa del Rey tie with Barcelona? In last month’s league encounter, Madrid just didn’t show up, but yesterday they fell to pieces, between the violence, the poor defense, and the lack of ambition. Is Mourinho’s time at Madrid limited? Is Pepe’s time at Madrid limited?
–Kristaps, Washington, D.C.
Hello again, Kristaps. I’ll take all questions for this mailbag. They need not be LFC, Premier League (or even soccer related) to be considered.
I didn’t get to see last week’s Classico, but I hear it fell into a predictable pattern: Real takes an early lead, showing real zeal and energy. Then Barca’s class sees it prevail over its rival at the end of 90 minutes.
Jose Mourinho‘s time at Real Madrid is always going to be limited, but he’ll stay with the Spanish giants for at least 3-5 years. If you can deal with the politics of it, which Mourinho has done well to this point, managing Real Madrid is one of the great gigs in any walk of life. He’s in year two of his project. I don’t see him jumping ship or being pushed out any time soon. If the Arsenal, Manchester City or United jobs open up, I might change that tune.
As for Pepe, I don’t know why anyone is surprised at his antics. Stepping on Lionel Messi‘s hand fits neatly into a pattern of aggression (nastiness) that the Brazilian-born defender has displayed for nearly a decade. His time at Madrid won’t be by this latest incident. In fact, it may be enhance his standing at the club. Standing on the hand of Barca’s king can only help one’s standing amongst Real supporters.
Thanks for this, and all your other questions, Kristaps.
I will be in the KOP for Liverpool vs. Manchester United FA Cup fourth round tie on Jan. 28. The atmosphere and history between the two clubs is unrivalled in British football in my experience. The Anfield experience is unique and known around the world. Have you ever visited Anfield or anywhere equal? YNWA
— Neil Barry
Hi Neil, I’ve been to some big events in my time, but have never had the Anfield experience.
My only taste of live, competitive, European soccer came during a May 2007 trip to the Netherlands. I went to De Kuip in Rotterdam to see a game between Feyenoord and FC Groningen. It was the second leg of a Dutch playoff semifinal to qualify for the following season’s UEFA Cup (Europa League). Many Feyenoord fans were boycotting, so only 20,000 fans were on hand at the historic venue that holds over 50,000. No offense to the Feyenoord faithful, but atmosphere was understandably muted that day.
The travelling supporters made much more noise than the home fans. It was probably because their heroes swept aside the home team with ease. I remember asking someone sitting next to me what the visiting supporters were chanting. “Who cares, just something stupid,” he responded.
Four days earlier, I had seen the first leg of the Feyenoord-Groningen series. One Groningen player stood out with his speed, technique, movement and sheer quality. When I asked who that player was, “some new kid from Uruguay” was the answer.
This kid from Uruguay was by far the best player on the field when I was at De Kuip. I’m not sure if he scored or not (he probably did), but he absolutely terrorized the Feyenoord defense that day. After the game, I learned (and never forgot) that kid’s name. It is Luis Alberto Suárez Díaz. You might know him better as “El Pistolero.” Thanks for the question, Neil.
That’s all for now. Thanks for all the questions and please keep them coming.