Barry deals hits the buffers? Old boys title talk and Lazio

This will be posted on 9th August. If it’s still the latest offering after a few days, I’ve been unable to get a network link for my laptop at the place where we are holidaying. I had this problem last year however, as we’re not in the middle of nowhere this time hopefully I might be OK? But, if I can’t find a link, or internet cafe, back in a week’s time!

So anyway are we going to sign Gareth Barry or not? Latest rumours are that the owners are getting cold feet regarding the money and/or that Kuyt and Benayoun will be offloaded to fund the deal. The last bit barely deserves comment as I’m sure it’s nonsense. The acquisition of Barry is not that important to merit this action and anyway Rafa has said many times this season that he wants to keep both players.

Regarding the reluctance of the owners. I guess that although they will never admit it, there might be something in this given that it’s nearly a week since Martin O’Neill’s U turn and his announcement that Barry will leave for the right price. My guess is that some money is available but not enough to pay up front which Villa will want rather than structuring the deal over a longer period with add ons. There is also the issue of Steve Finnan, who has been touted as a makeweight in the deal, and whether he is agreeable to the move?

What are the odds of it not going ahead if nothing happens next week? As discussed before, I wouldn’t be too upset. Xabi Alonso has shown enough in pre season to suggest we’ll be ok with him. The crowd via their chants in last night’s friendly certainly seemed to concur with this view?

Meanwhile two old boys have been giving their opinion on our chances this season. First up Steve McManaman

“Liverpool have the best chance they’ve had in a long time. “The introduction of Robbie Keane makes them stronger instantly, but for the first time they’ve got a nice balance…. Liverpool will be a lot closer this time. They were 21 points adrift two years ago, 11 points last year. This is their most realistic chance. They were strong at home and I expect them to do a lot better and get closer and challenge.”

And then John Barnes

“I’m confident they’ll do well but I don’t think they’ll win the league. I think they are closer to the top but it will still be between Manchester United and Chelsea, they are the favourites. At one point we were 30-odd points off the top but last season they were only 11 off….. You have to be realistic and I think getting closer to the top and finishing third would be a success.”

I’m not sure whose glass is half empty and whose is half full. Macca is correct, we are stronger but so are the other squads which is where Barnesy’s view comes in. Although it always interesting to here views like this I’m hoping that this season the players will be allowed to play without the weight of expectation on them and the criticism and navel gazing that happens when things go wrong?

So to the friendly against Lazio. The first half was OK. We had plenty of possession and created some half decent chances however, we failed to make the most of them. Perhaps the best opportunity was missed by Dirk Kuyt though Torres was also culpable from close range. With it being the first home game maybe everyone was a tad over eager to please and just needed to take a split second more?

The second half saw the keeper deny Agger with an excellent save as the chants of “Xabi Alonso” got greater and greater and even continued long after he had been substituted along with the rest of the first team. As the half unravelled so did the game but just as everything was winding down, up popped Voronin at the death to give us the win.

A good send off for the serious business next week against Liege? I’m not so sure. It was a bit disappointing may be. We worked hard but looked laboured at times. What should we read into it? Who knows? If we deliver against Liege, nothing. With this in mind, I guess the main priority for Rafa, after the injury to Steven Gerrard, is that everyone seemed to come through unscathed?

My priority this week while on holiday? To find a pub that’s showing the game!

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