Liverpool 1 Wolves 2

The last great FA Cup away day for me was back in 1998 when Don Goodman scored the only goal at Elland Road in an unforgettable quarter final victory.

You can probably imagine how poignant it felt then bumping into the man himself after soaking up this monumental success.

Accompanied by a certain Mr. Bull, Don was only happy to pose for selfies and offer a few thoughts on the game in the Cabbage Hall Pub just a five minute stroll from Anfield.

His general assessment that Klopp’s team selection left Liverpool exposed for what was to come is more or less how I saw it too.

Once it transpired that only a few of the first team regulars would start, alongside reserves and academy graduates, I felt confident of a tightly contested game.

Paul Lambert’s team selection was more predictable with our big game players all selected along with a few of the heroes from the previous round.

The big call was giving Harry Burgoyne the shirt but I sense the young goalkeeper has the temperament to handle such occasions and so it proved.

Astonishingly, it took the home side an hour to force him into any sort of save by which time Wolves were in the driving seat.

Much of that owes to a tremendous midfield effort from Edwards, Saville and Evans who never once allowed Liverpool’s creative talents the space to pick their way through.

I’ve long felt that all of those players get the rough end of stick as they’re judged exclusively on their proficiency with the ball at their feet.

But in a properly balanced team with better technicians further up the pitch, their ability to close down space, regain possession and set counter attacks in motion was the key difference yesterday.

If Richard Stearman’s opener was just a great ball and a well timed header, Andreas Weimann’s strike was a textbook example of punishing the opposition on the break.

There probably aren’t many better ball carriers than Helder Costa and seeing him glide across the Anfield pitch was breathtaking.

Had it not been for well timed toe end tackle from a recovering defender he would have scored the goal of the season with his box to box run.

But he’ll have to be content with two assists after delivering the peach of a ball for Stearman’s goal and then slicing through Liverpool again with a run and pass to Weimann.

If the rumours circulating about his loan becoming permanent prove accurate that’s welcome news, but I’ll be astonished if he’s still around next season.

On the evidence of this performance you’d think Derby might be loathe to dispense of Weimann at the end of the season.

His running (in and out of possession) was exceptional and on several occasions he displayed a turn of pace I wasn’t aware he possessed.

I felt Nouha Dicko struggled to make the sort of impact he’s capable of but still put in a big effort to occasionally win the ball in advanced areas and get his team on the front foot.

But as soon as Liverpool pushed Lucas into defence I was crying out for Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and he certainly didn’t disappoint.

The big Icelander is the football dictionary definition of ‘a handful’ and the ideal lone striker.

Not only did he twice come close to scoring (the second chance made for himself with an unfathomable twisting run), he continually held the ball up and eased the building pressure, particularly after Liverpool had reduced the deficit.

Our back four really had to earn their crust in those final minutes when it seemed for all the world that the Kop would suck the ball into the net for a late heartbreaker.

That would have been so harsh on all of them after flawless individual and collective performances.

Stearman was incredible, with his goal the icing on the cake. You’d never question his commitment to the cause but he found another level yesterday and his reading of the game, particularly in cutting out dangerous threaded passes was top drawer.

Hause was more low profile, simply heading and kicking everything that came his way. He never got flustered and was wise enough to make the foul on the one occasion he was beaten for pace.

Matt Doherty couldn’t get forward but still played a crucial creative role in setting Helder Costa free in the build up to Weimann’s strike. He defended superbly and was always well positioned to cut off crosses.

The result probably meant more to Conor Coady than anyone else and he can feel very pleased about his efforts, never putting a foot wrong and staying strong in the tackle throughout.

Paul Lambert was keen to ensure it was the players who received the adulation as he acknowledged the fans at full time but it’s he whose masterminded the turnaround we’ve seen in recent months, culminating in this once in a lifetime victory.

The journey may end in the next round and we’re still far from being safe in the league, but nothing can ever tarnish this wonderful memory.

As I’ve said so many times before, it’s moments that make football worthwhile and this feels like one of the best.

Highlights

Analysis

Paul Lambert

Richard Stearman

Liverpool Vs Wolves Preview

There’s been a fair old kerfuffle over tickets for this one with those who missed out understandably disappointed.

The club have taken some pelters because some feel the loyalty points system is being manipulated, which it definitely is. But in their defence, I’m not sure there’s a system that wouldn’t be similarly gamed.

It’s a shame for those supporters, but now it’s done I prefer to focus on the tremendous backing the team will get when they walk out onto that famous pitch come Saturday lunchtime.

Plenty of fans will have been to Anfield before, but never flanked by 8,500 old gold and black comrades. It promises to be a unique experience.

With such vociferous backing the team will hopefully raise their game as they did at Stoke and push one of the Premier League’s best all the way.

Liverpool

I’ve come to the conclusion that Jurgen Klopp is the perfect modern football manager – intelligent and charismatic with a clear style of play and that magic ability to extract every last drop from his players.

I think much of what Paul Lambert is trying to do at Wolves takes inspiration from what Klopp was able to achieve at Dortmund, a club he of course knows very well himself, and what he’s building at Liverpool.

The German’s team have been fantastic this season but are still 10 points off the pace (owing to Chelsea’s ridiculous run). I hope they can carry on playing well and still be in contention come May.

Not having to contend with European football has been helpful to them, as I don’t think their fairly thin squad could cope with those extra fixtures.

Speaking of congestion, much of how this game will pan out probably comes down to the team Klopp sends out.

They’ve got Southampton in the League Cup semi-final tonight and a crunch game against Chelsea next Tuesday, so it doesn’t seem likely we’ll face their best eleven.

Equally though, I don’t think Klopp would risk sending out the kids against Championship opposition, so I’d expect a sprinkling of big names to make an appearance.

Anfield has been formidable this season with Swansea’s shock victory last weekend the only serious blemish in their 10 home Premier League fixtures. They’ve won seven and drew the other two.

Wolves

Much like his opposite number, Paul Lambert also has the option to ring the changes for the cup. He did just that at the Brittania in the previous round and was handsomely rewarded.

One definite change is between the sticks after Carl Ikeme’s ban was reduced but not expunged. For what it’s worth I’d give Harry Burgoyne the shirt. Investing in that experience for him would be worth the risk.

I really hope Conor Coady gets the nod against his boyhood club. It would be a special kind of cruelty to leave him out, particularly having played so well at right-back.

Hause might get a start but as we already know Williamson is out. I think one or both of Evans and Saville will also get a game, but I’ve got dreamy visions of a thumping Dave Edwards header in front of the Kop so would like to see him feature at some point.

I think Weimann will play (I don’t think he’s cup-tied despite being an unused sub in Derby’s third round win at the Hawthorns). He scored for Villa at Anfield and with Cavaleiro stalling I’d be surprised if Lambert didn’t opt for the Austrian’s tenacity.

Mason, Enobokhare, Bodvarsson or Dicko could all play and I wouldn’t be disappointed with any combination.

There’s been paper talk this week about a deal to sign Costa permanently this month. However that unfolds I can’t see him playing in the Championship next season. It’s unfathomable.

Much like every game, we’ll be hoping for a moment of inspiration from the Portuguese man and if we get a penalty, I’ll feel confident with him standing over the ball.

Paul Lambert

Conor Coady

Predictions

It’s nigh-on impossible to predict how this one will go down. If Klopp really takes the Michael with his team selection I can see us causing them some real grief.

But I don’t think he’ll do that, even with three games to contend with inside a week, so expecting a very tough examination.

This will be a test of Lambert’s ‘play on the front foot mentality’. We came out of the blocks quickly against Stoke though, so no reason to expect this will be any different.

If the conditions are as I expect them to be, I’ll back us to get a replay, just as Plymouth were able to do in the previous round.

2-2.

Up The Wolves!

Wolves Vs Liverpool Preview

Mick McCarthy has made his feelings perfectly clear about ‘heroic failures’, which is just as well because I think we’ve all had our fill.

Just win.

However you need to do it, whatever it takes – just win.

Not this time mate

I don’t care that we were thwarted by decisions against Stoke and Chelsea. I don’t care that we probably deserved more against Villa.

Whatever the excuse is, there seems to be just one consistency – Wolves losing.

And if we’re not losing, we certainly aren’t winning. Yes, there’s a lot to be said for grinding out valuable points, but we need to register a maximum sooner rather than later or we’ll be deep, deep in the brown stuff.

I don’t think you could ever describe a Liverpool visit to Molineux as a home-banker, but we’ve certainly been given every advantage possible to get the job done tomorrow night.

Best player ruled out – check.

Three games in a week – check.

Lost as many games as they’ve won away from Anfield – check.

The Team

If Mick McCarthy doesn’t go 4-5-1 in this game and we lose it, I think his head should be firmly on the chopping block.

We employed the shape perfectly against Villa and but for sloppy mistakes, wonder goals and silly behaviour, we probably would have taken a point at the very least.

Yes, Henry is suspended, but it should just be Milijas or Jonnson in and as you were.

So, that’s a team of:

Hennessey, Foley, Berra, Johnson, Ward, Milijas, Frimpong, Edwards, Kightly, Jarvis, Fletcher

If we go 442 and start slinging balls forward for strikers to chase, I might just lose the will to live.

I’m all for positivity, but after the signs of progress in that first half against Villa, I’d hate to see that immediately undone simply because Karl Henry got himself sent off.

Prediction League

8 people correctly predicted doom against our claret and blue neighbours last weekend, but none got the scoreline.

So it’s a single point each for josh, Jed, Haywood Wolf, robin, Clive from Houston, The Wanderer, garby and Stourbridge Wolf.

I think we’ll take 4 points from the next three matches against Liverpool, QPR and WBA.

So lets go for a defeat in this one, leaving me a draw and a win to play with in the other two.

2-1 Liverpool.

If you’re at Molineux tomorrow, get right behind the lads as you always do. It’s a special atmosphere under the floodlights so hopefully the team will respond.

Up The Wolves.

* An apology to Martin who also correctly predicted the outcome of the Villa match and was rudely overlooked as I totted up the scores. If you spot an error or see that I haven’t awarded you the points you deserve in the Prediction League, please do get in touch.

Liverpool 2 Wolves 1

If there’s one sure-fire way to wind up Mick McCarthy in an instant, simply tell him his team are a bunch of ‘heroic failures.’

He hates it apparently.

Not half as much as Wolves fans hate him picking the wrong team once again by ignoring Adlene Guedioura for yet another week.

So we’re all pretty hacked off that we were heroic failures in a narrow defeat at Anfield then?

We wish it was Fletch, but great finish all the same!

One hundred million pounds worth of Dalglish signings should consign the very notion of ‘regret’ to the dustbin, particularly when playing on their own patch in front of 40,000 supporters.

But that’s the overriding emotion that every right minded fan who saw us thump Millwall 5-0 must be feeling, when they’ve seen a meagre 10 minutes from the Algerian and none whatsoever from Adam Hammill.

Mick even admitted Dave Edwards wasn’t fit afterwards, saying: “Maybe he needed a bit more because he’s terrific in that position when he’s fully fit.’

So why play him when every single one of us inside Molineux on Tuesday night wouldn’t have?

When supporting a club that smugly pats itself on the back for a lack of summer investment, the prospect of defeat is regularly acknowledged beforehand, such are the levels of on-field aspiration.

Such is life in the Premier League.

So when the manager proceeds to pick a team that immediately stood less chance of winning than picking other options available to him, the increasing monotony of failure sticks in the craw – no matter how bloody heroic it is.

The levels of despondency really should not escalate too much after this loss but for some perverse reason mine are sky high, even as I recall our magical Fulham showing only a few weeks ago.

The reason? That a bottom six finish is most probably the best we should realistically expect, just like we’ve been told to expect for the previous two years.

Defeat hurts, no matter who it is against. It has ruined another weekend, has consigned MOTD to the dustbin and will now act as a precursor for seven days of meaningless E & S platitudes ahead of the next match, as we are all told about ‘improvement’, ‘hard luck’ and ‘togetherness.’

And all the while, us obsessive, congenital fanatics will hang on every word, before Jez Moxey slags us off for watching it in the local bowling club instead of forking out £42 for the privilege.

That’s showbiz folks.

As for our latest defeat…

…It was a game of two halves! Showed nothing in the first 45 minutes, although extremely unlucky to concede the opener when Johnson was clearly fouled by Carroll in the build-up to Adam’s shot that went in off Johnson.

Before that we had started brightly enough, although ref Kevin Friend was hellbent on booking any Wolves player who dared breath in the vicinity of a red shirt.

The outstanding Suarez –who I was relieved to come off – bagged a beauty of a second, even if Hennessey shouldn’t have made a near post effort find the back of the net so easily.

The second half was miles better following the introduction of Fletcher and he gave us all hope with a rasping finish that looks increasingly beyond Doyle.

Doyle then chose the wrong option when a simple cut back would have surely provided Fletcher with his second shortly afterwards as we enjoyed 15 minutes of dominance.

But even during that period, Carroll hit the post and Downing was put clean through only for Wayne to rescue us.

They had other chances too, although Doherty looked really encouraging off the bench as a replacement for Stearman.

Would we have lost if Mick had have chosen differently?

Possibly not.

Is defeat genuinely driving him, Moxey and Jez Morgan to searing levels of distraction and irritation like it is me right now?

I bloody well hope so.

Liverpool Vs Wolves Preview

If there was a team who suffered a more painful defeat than Wolves last weekend, it was probably Liverpool.

Kenny Dalglish’s side went down 4-0 at Spurs after seeing two players – Charlie Adam and Martin Skrtel – dismissed for a couple of reckless tackles apiece.

Last Christmas. Stephen Ward my Lord.

Oh, and just in case you’re wondering, both of them are back tomorrow having served their one game suspensions in the midweek Carling Cup win at Brighton.

Steven Gerrard also made his long-awaited return to action, so it’s conceivable he could have a role to play in this one too.

Thus far at Anfield, Liverpool have drawn with Sunderland and annihilated Bolton in what was an encouraging start before back-to-back defeats against Stoke and Tottenham derailed their progress.

They’ll be desperate for the win in this one and I’m expecting them to come out of the traps flying. Hopefully Wolves are equally prepared for this.

Over the last few years, we’ve generally done a decent job of setting our stall out against the top teams away from home and at least giving ourselves a chance of getting a result. That’s the minimum requirement for me.

The Team

It said on the official site yesterday that Fletcher is back in training, which presents Mick with an interesting conundrum. Does he throw the Scot back in at the deep end and maintain a 442 or keep him on the bench and play 451? I think he’ll go for that latter, so this is my predicted lineup.

Hennessey, Stearman, Berra, Johnson, Ward, Henry, O'Hara, Guedioura, Jarvis, Hunt, Doyle

So that’s Ward reverting to left-back, Guedioura and Hunt brought into the team to make a 451, leaving Doyle to play up front on his own. Johnson will hopefully have recovered adequately to take his place in defence.

Hammill and Milijas are two other players who must be pushing hard for a start, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see them given a game. However, both of them seem to have been largely overlooked by Mick, which is a shame because I think they’re worthy of a sustained run in the side.

Prediction League

Only two people predicted we’d lose to QPR last weekend, but not even they believed we’d get stuffed 3-0. Still, a point apiece goes to Ben and Kowloon Wolf. Well done lads.

Thanks to everyone for making the job of updating the table an easy one this week. 🙂

I think we’ll lose this one.

Back-to-back wins at Anfield is surely the stuff of dreams isn’t it?

Liverpool have a lot of creativity in that side now and I’m expecting the likes of Suarez, Downing and Adam will cause us grief.

3-1 to the scousers.

I do think we’re capable of going there and getting a result, providing Mick gets it right with the tactics and the lads play to their potential. They’re still vulnerable at the back in my eyes, so hopefully we can stay in the game long enough to ask a few questions of our own.

If you’re going to Anfield tomorrow, have a great day out and get behind the lads.

Up The Wolves.

Guest house: Liverpool

This week, we welcome Mike from The Anfield Opinion to the Wolves Blog Guest House ahead of our match against Liverpool on Saturday.

Liverpool conceded 4 last time out

Thomas: Mike, after what seemed like a solid start to the season, you’ve suffered two disappointing losses. Do you still remain confident of a successful season?

Mike: Both defeats were certainly disappointing given our strong start to the season, but Liverpool put in very different performances in the defeats. Against Stoke the Reds created lots of chances and controlled possession, with only a quick breakaway and a mistake by Carragher affording Stoke the penalty which got them the win.

Against Spurs however Liverpool were incredibly poor, with the central partnership of Henderson, Adam and Lucas leaving Martin Skrtel exposed against the prolific Gareth Bale. Whilst Kenny tried to re-organise after the first goal, the Adam sending off was the beginning of the end for the Reds.

However I’m still incredibly optimistic about the season, it’s a squad which is still finding its feet after a considerable influx of players in the summer, and once the system is tweaked I’m sure Liverpool can mount a challenge for a Champions League place.

Thomas: Yes, you’ve seen a lot of new faces arrive over the summer. Which has impressed you most thus far?

Mike: I think Downing has to be considered the most impressive. When he was signed for £20 million in the summer a number of heads were turned, with many saying the fee was too high, but in Downing Liverpool have a player who can play either on the left, in the middle or out on the right with relative comfort, with the width and creativity he adds being much needed in a squad that has lacked both in recent years.

Thomas: Yep, I’d agree with that. Downing is a player I rate very highly. What constitutes success for Liverpool this season?

Mike: Every Liverpool supporter will tell you that the club exist to win trophies and the only thing that constitutes a successful season is winning the league. But being realistic, a Champions League place would constitute a great campaign for the club, and if there’s a domestic cup win in there that would certainly be a bonus.

Thomas: Would you still say Steven Gerrard is your most important player or has Luis Suarez taken over that particular mantle?

Mike: Being the club captain and a season veteran, it would be easy to consider Gerrard to be Liverpool’s most important player. His role has changed this season though, and although he is still important, Liverpool no longer have such a dependence on him now the likes of Downing, Henderson and Adam have arrived and Lucas has shown considerable improvement.

Suarez is certainly a fan favourite, and given his age and immediate connection with the fans he certainly has the potential to be a future Liverpool captain, though that’s some way in the future.

Wolves are aiming for back-to-back wins at Anfield

Thomas: What did you make of the two matches between Wolves and Liverpool last season?

Mike: Wolves’ win at Anfield was the final straw for many fans, including myself, when it came to Roy Hodgson. It was an incredibly poor performance from Liverpool, as was so often the case under the aforementioned manager, though it has to be said Wolves put in a fantastic performance on the day.

The away tie was much better for Liverpool, recording a comfortable three goal win. It was reassuring to see Liverpool actually playing well away from home for the first time in a while. Though I have to say looking back the win feels a bit bittersweet, with the two scorers on the day, Fernando Torres and Raul Meireles, now with Chelsea.

Thomas: What’s your opinion on Mick McCarthy?

Mike: Some consider his brand of football somewhat defensive, but he’s done a fantastic job with Wolves, bringing them up from the Championship and, most importantly, keeping them in the Premier League, something which is no easy task given the number of clubs who are relegated straight after they come up.

Thomas: Which of our players do you rate and why?

Mike: Kevin Doyle is a great front man who I certainly wouldn’t mind having at Anfield to keep competition for places high alongside Suarez, Carroll and Bellamy. Matt Jarvis is also a fantastic player who often doesn’t get the credit he deserves from the mainstream media.

Thomas: Where do you think Wolves will finish this season?

Mike: I’d predict they’ll finish safely around the middle of the table. Whilst I don’t think they have enough to challenge for European places I think they certainly have more quality in the squad than many other teams who will likely be battling it out around the bottom of the table.

Thomas: Ah, you’re too kind. What question should I have asked you and what would your answer be to that question?

Mike: Who’s likely to be the Premier League top scorer come the end of the season? To which I would have answered, despite the prolific form of Wayne Rooney and Sergio Aguero, Luis Suarez.

Thomas: Can’t see it myself. Barring injuries, I can see Rooney getting 35+ in the league alone. A bold prediction though so I tip my hat to you. Finally, what’s your prediction for Saturday? Wolves secured a 1-0 win at Anfield last season. Any chance of a repeat?

Mike: I think Liverpool are a much better side this season under Kenny Dalglish than they were under Roy Hodgson last time Wolves visited Anfield, but it also has to be said that Wolves have improved, too. Still, for me it’s going to be a Liverpool win. 3-1 is my prediction.

Thomas: Understandable. Thanks for chatting with us Mike and good luck for the season (after Saturday).