It's a special time of year. A time of year for gathering with people you hardly see and don't really know all that well, getting inappropriately drunk, and reminiscing about all the time you've wasted over the past twelve months that you're never getting back. If it's an especially good year, it won't end with you weeping softly to yourself in a corner somewhere. Or at the very least the people you hardly see and don't really know all that well won't be able to see the corner you're softly weeping in…
* One group of people likely not spending the holidays as so many of their fans around the world will be are the players themselves, who have a match on Monday to prepare for as part of a congested December schedule that sees six league games packed into four weeks. It's in stark contrast to players in Europe's four other major leagues, who all spend the end of the calendar year on a short break to mark the mid-way point of the season. No doubt this is a situation the players would hardly be opposed to were it implemented in England, and perhaps more importantly, every December seems to bring talk of how a short winter break might help with long-term fitness and late season injuries as it would give tired players a chance to catch their breath. Kenny Dalglish, however, doesn't quite see it that way:
If the PFA wanted to have a look at it and say ‘it’s too much in this day and age for the players, we shouldn’t play so many games in such a short space of time’ then I think people could understand that, but I wouldn’t go for a full winter break.
You get a winter break and what do you end up [doing]? You go away on tour. So you are still playing games, even if they are not so intense. If they were having a break it would need to be a proper break.
They tried it in Scotland, and that’s what most of the clubs ended up doing, they went abroad and played a couple of games, and started training.
He doesn't dismiss the idea that a break could be beneficial—he just doesn't see a break actually ending up as a meaningful break. And when you come at it from that angle, he's absolutely right: You might as well just play your regular league fixtures and be done with it. Certainly it's an approach that the average fan isn't likely to complain about.
* Liverpool have taken five penalties this season. They've missed four of them. And against Wigan on Wednesday, Charlie Adam joined Andy Carroll, Dirk Kuyt, and Luis Suarez on the list of players who have missed for Liverpool in 2011. However, it is Adam who is the only player to have converted from the spot so far, and as such it would hardly be surprising if he got the chance to take the next one. Said Adam:
I never thought I made a good connection with the penalty and the keeper made a good save but I’m disappointed I didn’t score.
I scored the last one I took and was confident but I missed it. But if the opportunity comes around again I will be there to try to take another one.
Right, well. At least he's still confident. And at 1/2 he's well ahead of the club's other likely takers. Though last I checked, sending a shot straight at the keeper might not be something one wants to dub "a good connection."
* With the ongoing circus that is Suarezgate rumbling along apace and with it the threat of Liverpool losing an important player to suspension, looking ahead to the match against Blackburn on Monday brings at least one piece of good news on the player availability front as Jay Spearing returns after his red card against Fulham to start the month earned him his own short winter break. Whether or not Kenny Dalglish slots him back into the starting eleven in an attempt to make up for the continued absence of Lucas Leiva is an open question, but if he does then it seems clear that Dalglish doesn't want to see that red card changing his approach to the game overmuch:
There was no maliciousness in his tackle. He was totally focused on winning the ball. He did win the ball but his momentum came through and made contact with Dembele. It was maybe over-enthusiasm but that is not something you'd complain about in football—at that age you'd expect him to be.
I'm sure he'll be more knowledgeable for his experience but there is nothing he needs to change greatly. Everybody's character is different but character is what makes you successful—and the wee man has certainly been successful here.
We'll be back later on with another look back at the events of 2011 before the Blackburn preview, but in the meantime, try to enjoy the holidays if you celebrate them. Or at least try to survive them…