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Halfway Home

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I really hope they don't wear these too often.
I really hope they don't wear these too often.

You could mark this as the halfway point of preseason, with three practice games in the books and three more to go in Istanbul against Galatasary (chock a broccoli!), in Oslo against Valerenga, and the Anfield curtain-raiser against Valencia. It's especially hard to learn anything this preseason as some real important characters have yet to show up, such as Steven Gerrard, Pepe Reina, Raul Meireles, and Luis Suarez. That's almost half a first team right there (though Meireles is part of the endless and confusing midfield debate). But I guess there's a couple things we have learned.

-The defense could hardly be worse when Reina comes back, and probably needs his shepherding from the back. In all three friendlies, against what is supposed to vastly inferior teams, the defense has been a Bugs Bunny cartoon and given away some silly goals. Some were at the end of sweltering matches in Southeast Asia, and considering Liverpool were barely into preseason training, it was natural they might wilt at the end of halves in air so thick so as to create cranial pressure. As for Hull? Well, there isn't much to excuse that.

-Conor Coady is one to watch. While we don't want to get ahead of ourselves about preseason performances, Coady's been talked up from the youth teams for a little while now, and it's easy to see why. A footballing brain that belies his years, perhaps all the talk of loaning out Jay Spearing is because the brass knows Cody is coming up right behind him, and there are so many spots in the future.

-You can actually see Joe Cole age, and his talents disappear.

-Dear God, don't break out those white and blue jerseys ever again.

-Martin Kelly has looked pretty on, and has been used in the middle as well. The smart money is him spending at least as much time in the center of defense as he does at a fullback spot, especially if a left-back is brought in before the window shuts. And quite frankly, I'm more than happy to go forward with Carragher, Skrtel, Agger, and Kelly as my four central defenders and Kyrgiakos holding a mop somewhere. We'll see if this happens.

-At the end of last season I said the John Flanagan should only be used in spot starts in case of an injury crisis, as he was last year. He appear intent on making me look foolish and pushing for more, which puts him with the rest of the world in determination to make me look silly.

-Christian Poulsen hasn't made my eyes bleed, but they still hurt when I watch him.

-Andy Carroll has at times looked more than a battering ram. But because of the woeful Hull performance and the fatigue that set in in Asia, his teammates have been too frequently using him as such. Other than the defense, the thing I'd most like to see in these final friendlies is getting Carroll involved with actual football, not the amended Aussie rules of punting it to him and seeing what happens.

-And other than that, there isn't much to be gleaned. We should know more after the weekend friendlies but before Valencia show up for the dress rehearsal.