Craig Bellamy Hated Rafa Beitez! Lucas Leiva Makes Alex Song Look Terrible! Tony Pulis is Probably a Human Being! Other Inflammatory Headlines...!
* Craig Bellamy's feisty, roaming performance on the weekend played a key role in Liverpool's success, even if the more senior player inevitably tired after a frantic first half that saw Liverpool fly at their opponents. And while Bellamy's fiery attitude means at times he might not get along too well with referees, opposing players, or even every now and then his own teammates, it seems clear he has so far enjoyed his Liverpool return. The first time around, however, wasn't everything he had hoped it would be:
Sometimes it’s not quite as romantic as we all like to make it out to be. I was in the office speaking to Rafa, speaking about certain things and it didn’t feel right. If it was not Liverpool FC, I wouldn’t have signed. I didn’t feel right about the positions I was going to be used in and thought I was being signed because I was the right price at the right time.
I do go on instinct and my gut feeling, and that was a time when I went against it. I ended up signing just for one reason, because it was Liverpool. I just thought we were on different wavelengths to what I felt I was as a player and how I would be involved at Liverpool. We were two different people on the way Liverpool should go about their business.
At the core of his difference of opinion with Liverpool's former manager was the role he saw himself best suited for and the one Benitez hoped to deploy him in. Benitez of course converted Dirk Kuyt from a striker to a man who, despite that some would still object to his change of position, is top of the teamsheet at left or right attacking midfield for van Marwijk's Netherlands squad. At one point, he attempted to bring a similar transformation to Robbie Keane's game, one that would allow Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard to remain in their most effective positions when fit while Keane would have to track back and offer support on the left—something that continually-rumoured Liverpool target David Villa had to do when he moved from being star of the show at Valencia to one of the supporting cast at Barcelona. In short, Benitez had a vision for the squad he wanted to build, and it was the job of the players to largely allow themselves to be moulded to fit this vision.
As for Bellamy, he was never the sort to acquiesce to a role he didn't believe in for himself. Yet when he moved to Liverpool it was with the understanding that he would largely be denied the kind of freer role he had often enjoyed earlier in his career, dropping to link play, and would instead be asked to push up and play off the shoulder of defenders more than he felt he would be comfortable doing. Bellamy wasn't a fan of the idea, but his heart said Liverpool—and in the end, it seems, he sees that incompatible beginning as the first step towards what soon became an early and inevitable exit.
* Late yesterday, the FA came out with a ruling against a participant in a recent Liverpool match. And somehow, that ruling didn't manage to leave anybody from Liverpool in trouble. Instead it's Tony Pulis, everybody's favourite elderly uncle/snot-nosed pre-teen in a ballcap, who finds himself down ten grand for railing against the officiating in last month's League Cup draw. So maybe that means the FA doesn't hate Liverpool. Unless they do hate Liverpool but also hate people who say mean things about them. Or maybe it means they're trying to deflect Liverpool criticism ahead of next week's League Cup match that was scheduled an absurd 48 hours after the weekend's league fixture against Manchester City, and after Tony Pulis hands the FA a cheque for £10k his good friend Mister Ferguson will discreetly slip an envelope stuffed with cash into his tracksuit. Or something.
* We're rather fond of Lucas around here, which at times makes it seem a bit redundant to get into talking about how Lucas is all kinds of awesome for the umpteenth time. Thankfully, then, this week Anfield Index has done the job for us, looking to compare the Brazilian to the seven other Premier League players who are used in a roughly comparable holding role. John Obi Mikel of Liverpool's weekend opponent therefore comes in for closer examination alongside Arsenal's Alex Song, United's Michael Carrick, City's de Jong, Tottenham's Scott Parker, Newcastle's Chuck Tiote, and Wolves' Karl Henry.
That de Jong and Carrick have hardly gotten a game limits things somewhat, but there are still some statistics that really stand out. Perhaps both most and least surprising is Lucas having twice as many tackles as Alex Song, the number two man on the list—most surprising because it speaks to just how heavily Lucas is relied upon by Liverpool to screen the backline, but also somewhat expected as the player topped both attempted tackles and successful tackles across Europe's top five leagues last season. High ground and aerial challenge numbers again speak to how reliant the club is on Lucas, and though quite where he stands isn't as clear cut when it comes to passing and chance creation, it's safe to say that at the least he brings as much to the squad in that respect as any of the players he's being compared to. In any case, the whole piece is worth a look for those wondering just where Lucas stands this season amongst holding midfielders, though fair warning that the choice of charts can make the visuals a little counter-intuitive.
In other news, the Liverpool Offside has been given the chance to interview former Liverpool and England defenders Rob Jones or Mark Wright, which seems pretty cool until you remember that we have absolutely no idea what we're doing and would probably make a right mess of it if left to our own devices. We are, however, just about smart enough to recognise we have an excess of knowledgeable and passionate (and handsome and beautiful, too, of course) Liverpool fans who read the site, and that that means we should probably ask if you guys have any questions you'd like us to pass along. If you do have something you just need to know, tell us in the comments or fire it off to liverpool[at]theoffside[dot]com and we'll see what we can do.
As always, we'll be back later on with any breaking news, but in the meantime you can always rock out like it's 1995 and Liverpool have just won the League Cup…