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The transformation is almost complete...


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Finally, we have a squad full of top class footballers who are excellent ball players and very hardworking.

 

Of all the players Rafa has brought in that are still here, we could say that only Sissoko is the closest to what you'd call a clogger. Even then, he is young and will get better on the ball with more top flight football. Luis Garcia, Alonso, Aurelio and Kuyt are just a few who look the business on the ball, as well as off it. There were a few passages of play yesterday defending our penalty area when a hoof upfield was the easy route, but Aurelio and in particular Agger were excellent in playing short passes and trusting each other's close control to get out of tight situations.

 

Agger's performance yesterday was a joy to watch. He showed intelligence and bravery, passing his way out of trouble when the moment was right, and going to ground to win tackles when it was absolutely necessary. His initiative to carry the ball out of defence was a breath of fresh air. I remember when Sami first came to LFC and looking like an excellent passer of the ball; Agger seems to be a doing this at a higher level.

 

There is definitely some overhyping of Dirk Kuyt, but nobody could have watched him and not be impressed with his all-round play. He did everything; dropped deep, played off the shoulder of the defender, ran with the ball, took shots, attacked crosses, picked out intelligent passes, and showed great vision. Maybe he won't play as consistently well, but if you don't have quality, you couldn't make plays the way he did.

 

Bellamy's non-stop running is so underrated, and having only watched him play 4 matches for LFC so far, I can safely say that he has contributed more to his team's build up play than Cisse did for the 2 seasons he'd been here. The angled runs, drifting out wide while pulling one or two defenders away and using his close control to get defenders thinking twice about challenges. I think it's obvious that Bellamy is doing everything that Rafa wanted from Cisse; the former does it naturally while the latter didn't have the capacity to learn.

 

All the skill in the world is not enough if you don't work hard though, and Rafa has bought the right players. Seeing Bellamy, Kuyt and Gonzalez tracking back and winning balls nearer their own box than the halfway line is encouraging. Aurelio looks like a tough nut, and Pennant works hard to cover for when Finnan is caught forward, or doubled up by opponents.

 

Perhaps the most telling factor of this squad is the integration of the new boys into the team: almost seamless. It's simple really, if every player has a good idea of how football should be played and you understand your role well, you gel with your teammates. With Kuyt, Pennant and Bellamy it seems to come naturally. Under Houllier, the football was at most times mechanical. With this Liverpool team, we know it is more structured from all the comments/stories about Rafa's coaching methods, but at the same time, they play instinctive football. That is the mark of a team with quality individuals who are given the licence to express their football by a coach who believes in both his methods, as well as his players' abilities.

 

Watching the team yesterday fills me with hope and excitement for the seasons to come. I'm sure with more training sessions and competitive matches domestically as well as in Europe, the team will get even better. Mind you, I believe a certain Salif Diao is still at the club.

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