Tuesday, October 7, 2014

500 Word Wednesday Stories

I've written a few very short stories (sometimes referred to as "flash fiction" in the writer's world... I think) on a different website, and I'm reposting them in this post in their entirety for continuity's sake. Hope you enjoy!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Course Review - Newton Commonwealth Golf Course

This is my second golf course review. The last one was about Green Harbor, and that's here. Check it out. 

Every time you play Newton Commonwealth Golf Course, which sits (mostly) on the side of a hill in the aptly named Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Newton, you will hit at least five shots that you've never had to attempt before. This course is tight, tree-filled, crooked, and hilly in every possible way - sidehill, uphill, downhill, cross-hill, and several other compound -hill adjectives that you'd have to see to believe. You'd better know your game well before setting foot on this course, as virtually every calculation from the 150 sticks has you thinking things like uphill one club and ball's above my feet and watch out for the protective netting to the right. In terms of gadgets, leave the rangefinder at home and dust off the carpenter's level and gyroscope.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

NFL Prison Edition: Starting Offense

It's been well documented that our nation's prison system represents a huge drain on taxpayer money, often puts the wrong people behind bars, and generally acts as a retardant to the mental and physical growth of a human being.

With all that said, jail time is still a pretty decent indication of the relative worth of a human being. Like, in general, the larger proportion of a person's life lived inside of a jail cell (or awaiting someone's decision on whether or not they'll occupy said cell), the less valuable that person is to society.

In separate but related news, there are a number of current or former NFL players who have made decisions shitty enough to land themselves a spot inside a concrete-lined cell. Some of these players were (or are) quite good. In fact, if you were to create some sort of offensive starting 11, it might look like this. (Lineup at the bottom)

QB: Michael Vick

Arrest story:
Vick was convicted of federal conspiracy in connection with his ownership of the Bad Newz Kennel dog fighting ring. At first he denied the whole thing and tried to blame it on his "family members and cousin" (maybe he was using "cousin" as a loose term), before finally taking the fall. This cretin (hilariously aliased as Ron Mexico) was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison in 2007.

Football skills:
His sandlot style of play and legendary scrambling ability would surely make him the top quarterback in any prison league, where dicey field quality often hampers the choreographed short-passing offenses favored by so many NFL teams these days.

Prison movie parallel:
Elmo Blatch, The Shawshank Redemption

HB: Ray Rice

Arrest story:
Though this particular douchebag hasn't been officially sent to prison yet, it's really only a matter of time at this point. Unless you're Patrick Star, you'll have heard about his actions and probably watched them. They're heinous and he deserves to sit in a cell for a very long time.

Football skills:
When he wasn't assaulting the mother of his child, he was juking and jiving his way to some Pro-Bowl seasons with the Ravens (who will make an appearance again later in this list). He's also got a low center of gravity, which is essential when trying to turn the corner on the loose dust of a Texas penitentiary exercise yard.

Prison movie parallel:
Frank Wheeler, Revolutionary Road (not set in a jail, but that relationship must have felt like one)

HB: OJ Simpson

Arrest story:
We couldn't have this list without the Juice. The original smooth criminal, this slippery fellow somehow weasled his way out of a murder conviction despite overwhelming evidence that he murdered his ex-wife and her new boyfriend. You know the story. He's also currently in jail for stealing his own memorabilia or something.

Football skills:
The man could scoot. He was the first player to run for 2,000 yards in a season, and he'll make up the other half of a potent backfield tandem with the domestic abuser.

Prison movie parallel:
Andy Dufresne, The Shawshank Redemption (but without the whole "actually innocent" thing)

FB: Jamal Lewis

Arrest story:
Jamal Lewis, in case you've forgotten, is the human bowling ball that used to play for the Ravens and, in 2003, won the AP Offensive Player of the Year. After his four-month stint in the clink for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, he came out even more jacked than usual.

Football skills:
That's right, it's the old Wishbone formation - a quarterback, two halfbacks and a fullback. Power sweeps like the old-time Green Bay Packers until they prove they can stop it. He'd be a perfect lead blocker for the three horsemen listed above.

Prison movie parallel:
Switowski, The Longest Yard

WR1: Michael Irvin

Arrest story:
Never able to quite escape the long arm of the law, the self-appointed "Playmaker" has a "Legal Troubles" Wikipedia section longer than this blog post. My favorite nugget is this one: "When arrested he was lying on the floor covered in cocaine with multiple strippers performing sexual acts upon him." I think I'd take a criminal record for that.

Football skills:
When he could stay on the field, Irvin was one of the best wide receivers of all time, winning three Super Bowls and getting inducted into the Hall of Fame. The big guy can go up and get it, and he's already got plenty of experience in prison football. This will make him an asset on the rare occasions this team needs to air it out.

Prison movie parallel:
Deacon Moss, The Longest Yard

TE: Aaron Hernandez

Arrest story:
You had to see this one coming. A-A-Ron was just convicted of first degree murder in the shooting of Odin Lloyd. He's also going to stand trial soon for a double murder that happened in Boston several years ago. A real stand-up guy.

Football skills:
I'll be honest though, when he was teaming up with Gronk to form the most feared tight end combination in NFL history, I was loving every second of it. The guy had the speed and leaping ability of a wide receiver combined with a brawn that overpowered all but the strongest safeties. He'd be a valuable security blanket for Vick if they needed a late third down conversion. Plus, I'm sure he's not averse to roughing up a few referees before the championship to intimidate them.

Prison movie equivalent:
Charlie Cheswick, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (more a mental hospital movie, but you get it)

LT: Kwame Harris

Arrest story:
Now, if you're still reading this, congratulations. But also, if you're still reading this, you might be saying "Who?" - and I wouldn't blame you. Turns out that there aren't a lot of high-profile offensive linemen arrested these days. But Kwame's story is pretty interesting. [John Madden voice] Here's a guy who played six NFL seasons, played around a lot of great big, strong men, and it turns out he's actually[Rick Majerus voice (RIP)] a big gay guy. Sorry for all the voice changes. Point is, Kwame likes dudes, and the way we found this out was that he was arrested in California a few years ago for having a slap fight with his ex-boyfriend. Except that slap fights are different if one of the guys is 6'7 and 240 pounds. His ex had to go to the hospital with broken orbital bones and needed surgery.

Football skills:
He was the 26th overall pick out of Stanford in 2003, and played left tackle for the 49ers and Raiders before falling out of the league. I debated putting him at right tackle, but felt that another man further down the list has some slightly better credentials for blocking Vick's blind side. In any case, if he can break a few orbital bones, he can probably hold his own in the prison league.

Prison movie character parallel:
Bogs Diamond, The Shawshank Redemption

LG: Daniel Kilgore

Arrest story:
Nothing much to see here. Kilgore's a backup OL for the 49ers who was arrested for public intoxication earlier this year. Apparently after the Niners lost to the Seahawks he went home and got shitfaced with his buddies, and the cops picked him up staggering down the street.

Football skills:
According to the story of his arrest, he's a "valuable reserve" and played in every game last year. That's good enough for a starting left guard spot, because honestly no one cares about interior linemen. Plus, he and Harris both played for the Niners, and continuity is everything along the O-Line.

Prison movie parallel:
Tommy Williams, The Shawshank Redemption

C, Ray Lewis

Arrest story:
Who hasn't heard this one a few hundred times? The Ravens ought to stop drafting Rays. In short, he was outside a nightclub in Atlanta with some friends, got into a fight, and two people in the other group ended up dead. The white suit that he had been wearing that night was never found, and blood from one of the victims was found inside his limousine, but then his attorneys negotiated a plea deal where the murder charges against him were dropped in exchange for his testimony against his "friends." Sweet guy. Loves the Bible, I'm told.

Football skills:
On the field as well as off, the man is a born leader. He's a lump of solid steel and is almost impossible to get past, plus he commands the center of the field like a general directing troop movements. If he played an offensive position, it would have to be center.

Prison movie parallel:
Nathan Jessup, A Few Good Men (Not strictly a prison movie, plus Lewis never came clean. I'm reaching now).

RG: Gennaro DiNapoli

Arrest story:
In a nice change of pace, this human lump was busted for selling 330 Oxy pills to undercover DEA agents. Plus, he's absolutely one of the top ten most Italian people in the United States, and this list was pleading for some ethnic diversity.

Football skills:
I dunno, he once played for the Cowboys? He's a right guard and this team will thrive on the outside running game - his only job is to not get reverse-pancaked on every play.

Prison movie parallel:
Turley, The Longest Yard

RT: Bryant McKinnie

Arrest story:
Well for starters, he was involved in the Vikings Love Boat scandal, which some people didn't find all that terrible (me) and some found rather terrible (the media). But also, he hit a bouncer outside of a Miami nightclub with a pole and was charged with aggravated battery, among other things. All things considered, not the worst guy on this list by a long shot. He also obviously missed Nelly's tutorial on where to put the Band-Aid.

Football story:
A top-10 draft pick out of THE U, McKinnie had some very solid years in the league. This gives him the highly coveted position of protecting Vick's blind side. Along with the fact that if anyone gets in his way, there's probably plenty of poles lying around a prison yard to be picked up and used for whacking people.

Prison movie parallel:
John Coffey, The Green Mile (just because I needed to put him in somewhere)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

From the Frying Pan to the Fire(works): Balotelli Comes to Liverpool

It's not a stretch to say that the entirety of Liverpool's 2014 has been dominated by the name "Luis Suarez" - whether it was his out-of-this-galaxy play down the stretch in the Premier League, his tooth-first assault of Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup, or his sale to Barcelona in late July. The man is a top-5 world talent, a menace to himself and others, and would be the first choice to be the new Dos Equis spokesman if Jonathan Goldsmith drops dead in a tragic nude hang gliding accident.

With Suarez gone, the talk turned to the Uruguayan-sized hole in the top line. Daniel Sturridge scored the second-most goals in the EPL last year, but the influence of Suarez as a source of those goals cannot be overstated. No one knows if Sturridge can carry a team himself, and fortunately, we won't need to wonder about it anymore.

That's because Super Mario Balotelli is coming back to the Premier League.

Miss me?
If you have followed world soccer in the past five years, you've heard of Balotelli, and if you've heard of Balotelli, you know exactly how excited every Premier League fan is after hearing this news. After an extremely volatile three years on the blue side of Manchester, Balotelli returned to his homeland for a season and a half at AC Milan before moving to Liverpool today. He instantly turns Liverpool into the most interesting team in the Premier League, for a number of reasons.

If you haven't heard of Balotelli, let's try to put this into American sports terms. This would be like if Latrell Sprewell was one of the top 15 players in the NBA (and the Knicks were a top 3 team) when he choked P.J. Carlisemo, then moved to play for the Phoenix Suns for a season and a half, then got traded to the Celtics, who were also a top 5 team and had just traded Paul Pierce. Kind of. Except Balotelli choked his coach stylistically by playing long stretches lost in his own head, rather than physically by squeezing his throat.

You know what? It's not like that at all. There's really nothing like Balotelli returning to the Premier League, so let's just get into what impact this move will have for the Reds this season.

Balotelli's Impact

The word "mercurial" is the most overused adjective in world football punditry. It can mean anything from "talented but unmotivated" to "talented but racist and violent towards opponents" (Suarez) to "talented but unmotivated and violent towards teammates and also sometimes he shoots off fireworks in his bathroom that one time" (our very own Balotelli). Seriously, take a look at some of the shit he's pulled and tell me he's not more of a headache than the Terrible Tooth.

So, we've taken one crazy striker and replaced him with another. But this is anything but a like-for-like switch.

Suarez has one of the highest work rates in world football. I tried for legitimately an hour to find stats on average distance traveled per player and couldn't, so you're gonna have to trust me on this one. Conversely, one of the biggest knocks on Balotelli is that he doesn't always give 100% effort. He's almost like a petulant child on the playground in some ways - one minute he'll be playing full-tilt, and the next minute he'll be distracted by a colorful butterfly (yellow card) or a group of youngsters on the swingset (heckling fans) and will totally lose his mind.

In addition, Balotelli and Suarez occupy slightly different roles within an offensive scheme. Despite Suarez's record goal haul last year, he is much more than just a poacher. Here's a map of all the places that he touched the ball during a match last season against Sunderland:

Though it's only one game, it's evident that Suarez is comfortable dropping deep to receive possession. His statistics from last season bear this out, and one in particular is interesting to note: Suarez created one chance for every 32 minutes he was on the pitch. This is in contrast to Balotelli's rate of one chance created per 65 minutes. Liverpool have some creative players in the squad, including noted assist maestros Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana, but Suarez was a major piece of their buildup play as well, not just a finisher. Let's not forget he finished with the second-most assists in the Premier League as well, behind Gerrard. Balotelli doesn't do assists:
Balotelli and Suarez don't share much in common physically other than excellent speed. Suarez is a slippery fish, able to wriggle into and out of jams in incredibly tight spaces at top speed. Balotelli is a more bruising presence, though he stops short of being the type of hulking forward usually seen patrolling Chelsea's top line. 

Some have said that Liverpool's attack may be even more potent this year, what with Balotelli's ability to sky for the crosses of Markovic, Lallana, Gerrard and others. I believe this to be wishful thinking - you only have to look through a highlight tape of Suarez's goals last year to know that the Uruguayan was no slouch in the air himself.

The best thing that can be said for Balotelli is that he will be an asset to Liverpool's counterattacking style. His size and speed will terrify back lines across the league. Will he replace Suarez? No. But no one could. He's an excellent striker at his best and a team cancer at his worst, so let's hope that the promise of Champions League football and Brendan Rodgers's letter-based inspiration tactics work on the young Italian.

Monday, August 18, 2014

In the Books: SAS 2.0 deliver Reds 3 points

After a seemingly endless procession of preseason matches, culminating in a loss to Manchester United in the final of the Guinness International Champions Cup, Liverpool FC finally took the field yesterday for a match that meant something.

The good news? A win, 2-1, over Southampton. 

The bad? A few issues, some new, many old, that will need swift fixes if the team is to escape the early part of the schedule with their title dreams unblemished. 

Still, as the man who scored the winner points out, the win is the important thing.

SAS 2.0 is here.

Last year's deadly strike force of Suarez and Sturridge terrorized Premier League defenses to the tune of 52 goals in 38 matches. Of course, with Suarez off to greener pastures, the goals will fall to a variety of attacking midfielders, including incumbents such as Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson, and Phillippe Coutinho, as well as new signings Adam Lallana and Lazar Markovic.

We're only one game in, and two of those incumbents mentioned are acquitting themselves rather well:
That's 19-year-old Sterling showing off his blistering pace, splitting the two central defenders and dispatching Henderson's inch-perfect through ball with ease.

What that Vine doesn't show is the scrap for the ball in midfield. If Liverpool's attack is to be even remotely as toothy as it was last year, they'll need to win these types of balls. Rather than a methodical, pendulum-like possession team (Barcelona, Arsenal, any team that Pep Guardiola manages), the Reds relied upon pure pace and lethal counterattacking to get goals last season. These types of goals are easier to come by if you're consistently stripping possession from your opponents in midfield. Keep it up, Hendo.

And what can you say about Daniel Sturridge, except that he's a goalscorer's goalscorer. Some may call this soft, or padding the stats. But I call him a latter-day Dirk Kuyt - a man able to be in the perfect position at the perfect time:

With a deft touch of... um... some part of his left leg, the ball ends up in the net and Liverpool regains the lead.

And also, who won that header for the assist? None other than 5'7 inch Raheem Sterling. Granted, he won it over 5'8 Steven Davis, but still. SAS is back!

The defense rests. 

For much of last season, Liverpool's seemed to subscribe to the axiom positing that the best defense is a great offense. And it nearly won them the league.

This simply won't work with the squad as currently constituted. If you could roll Steven Gerrard's odometer back a few thousand miles, or conjure up a last-gasp signing of one of the big names that seem to be floating around (Cavani, Reus, Falcao... Eto'o?), then perhaps. But barring those two things, this team will have to defend better, and that means defending as a unit.

Suarez, when not devouring human flesh, was an absolute pest of a defender. Sturridge, to put it bluntly, is not. And for all Sterling's pace, he sometimes sprints himself out of position in an effort to win possession. It's obvious that a team can't be both a park-the-bus defensive unit and a swashbuckling goal-plunderer, but Liverpool need to realize that a little of the former will make up for their loss of the latter. Sterling's goal came from solid defensive midfield work - the type of work that Steven Gerrard (Warning: blasphemy ahead) might not be capable of on a consistent basis.

This was evident during long, listless stretches against Southampton, when the deep-lying central midfield partnership of Lucas and Gerrard looked toothless and reactionary. I often forgot that Lucas was even on the field, and Gerrard's long balls, while accurate, didn't amount to many scoring threats.

The defense performed passably, though there were lots of lost marks on Southampton's lone goal:

Glen Johnson and Martin Skrtel, Liverpool's two longest-tenured defenders, seem to be marking shadows. This type of thing will not fly against better quality opposition, both domestically and in Europe. On the positive side, we FINALLY signed a left back, which should help.

Three takeaways. 

Let's take three things away from this week's game, just as the Reds took three points.

1. Simon Mignolet's reaction time is relatively outrageous:

2.  Brendan Rodgers loves to tinker with lineups and formations, and just look at the wealth of talent he has to do it with:

  • Adam Lallana
  • Rickie Lambert
  • Raheem Sterling
  • Jordan Henderson
  • Phillippe Coutinho
  • Steven Gerrard
  • Joe Allen
  • Daniel Sturridge
  • Lazar Markovic
3. Champions League football is back. YNWA

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dispatches from the Worst Soccer Game of All Time

"I want this game to get chippy."

That was an actual sentence I said during the first half of last night's Liverpool-AS Roma debacle at Fenway Park.

I was obviously deluded. So deluded, in fact, that my friend had to inform me of the fact that the players for Liverpool's first team (names like Gerrard, Sterling, Johnson, Sturridge, and Reina) who were paraded across the pitch at halftime like returning war heroes were actually labeled as "Liverpool legends" by the Fenway P.A. announcer.

Yup, now apparently a 19 year old midfielder with one good season under his belt is a "legend."

This game, with perhaps two exceptions, was a disappointment from beginning to end.

Being the massive Liverpool supporter that I am, I was thrilled to be seated in the midst of the "Fenway Kop" and was expecting a full-throated, rollicking version of "You'll Never Walk Alone." The song began with no introduction several minutes after we were seated, and a halfhearted, half-full bleacher section mewled out the anthem in much the same way a kitten cries for more milk.

One positive moment was the tribute to the 96 victims of the Hillsborough Stadium disaster which happened 25 years ago in April. A banner reading "Never Forgotten, 25 years" was placed over the center circle, and there was a minute's silence, during which Kenny Dalglish released 96 balloons which floated over the Green Monster and out into the city.

From there, it went downhill quickly.

The play was uninspired, with both teams trotting out their B- (or even C-) squads. Philippe Coutinho was far and away the best player on the field, showing brilliant ball control and vision on nearly every touch. Several narrow escapes from tricky situations pulled a breathless exclamation from the Liverpool faithful.

Unfortunately, aside from one Rickie Lambert effort in the second half, Coutinho was the only bright spot for the Reds. Yes, the berserker Martin Skrtel was solid in defense, as was the lanky and somehow skilled Martin Kelly. But there was no invention going forward, with Lambert cutting a lonely figure amongst the central defenders of Roma.

The second half turned ugly, at least from our perspective.

Now, I've never attended a European football match in Europe. But I have been to many college soccer games, New England Revolution games, and two other matches between European teams (Celtic v Sporting at Fenway and Milan v Inter at Gillette), and I seem to remember standing up the whole time at all of these events.

Soccer is a game of ebb and flow, a constant swirl of motion, with few stoppages and no timeouts. Though many deride it as boring, it actually produces the most consistent action of any major sport. Thus, you can imagine our confusion when the second half started, and almost everyone in our section (allegedly the Liverpool supporters' section) remained seated.

The group in front of us, a similar collection of mid-20s soccer enthusiasts, stood up as soon as the whistle blew. This seemed to be the norm for them, as it was for us. We soon realized that we were in the minority, and if we hadn't, the people behind us were all too ready to alert us to this fact.

Curses, sarcastic jeers, comments about our appearance, and actual objects were hurled from behind us, as those patrons who no doubt sit in an office chair all day couldn't be bothered to stand up and watch a soccer game which they paid good money to attend. As a few of us turned to engage, my attention was particularly drawn to a portly man in a Wake Forest baseball cap. This was a man who clearly had less than the first clue about anything related to soccer, yet he was in the thick of it, screaming sarcastic taunts at us as we stood to watch. We returned a few words, but soon realized it was distracting for other patrons and ourselves.

I understand that not being able to see is a legitimate complaint. However, the entire section to our left was standing up, as were many other patrons around the stadium. The energy on the field was lethargic at best, but it was certainly not improved by the sentiment in the stands. Granted, we're not watching the first team go plunging into challenges on a European night at Anfield. But, come on now, this is the team that you wake up at 7 AM on a rainy Saturday in November to watch. The team that you stream at your desk during a Europa League group stage match. The team that you spend far too much disposable income on to ship products from the official team store on Anfield Road (I'm assuming that's where the team store is. I've never been.).

The second half, for us, was endured under the heckling of men who should have been our friends, our comrades, our drinking buddies. "You'll Never Walk Alone" blares the Liverpool anthem. An umbrella statement that seems to indicate that anywhere in the world that two people sporting the Liver bird beneath the Shankly Gate meet, they're bonded instantly by the love of a football club.

Last night, as we were pelted by insults and plastic cups while standing to support our football club amongst a crowd of those who allegedly supported the same club, walking alone to the exit doors of Fenway Park often felt the best option.

But, I did get my wish. It definitely got chippy.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Luis Suarez is Gone... Is the Sky Falling?


Or, wait. Kinda.

Hold on... No, it's not.

On the surface, this is devastating. This is LeBron leaving Cleveland for Miami, in terms of your best player taking your team to the brink of glory and then skipping town to go to a superteam.

Of course, we know the story of the Heat's "Big 3" who were supposed to win Not One, Not Two, Not Three, etc. but actually only won two. Barcelona are one of the top three or four teams in the world in terms of pure skill level, top to bottom, with names that even the casualest soccer fan would know (Messi, Neymar, Mascherano of torn asshole fame, and Mr. Shakira).

Lucky bastard
This is also LeBron leaving Miami for Cleveland, in terms of a great player in the prime of his career making a career decision based on family issues. 

Unless your face has been buried in a pair of soft, pillowing breasts over the past month, you've heard that King James has returned to the shitty dominion from whence he came, and Suarez's wife's family (along with the allure of playing for the ever-elite Barrrrrrthelona) have convinced him to leave the Reds. Check out these two quotes from the stars about returning to a home. 

LeBron: "My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn't realize that four years ago. I do now."

Luis: "This club did everything they could, but playing and living in Spain, where my wife's family lives, is a lifelong dream and ambition." 

It's a surprisingly adult decision from two players whose antics have often been described as childish.

Suarez is more fiercely protective of his wife and his career than you probably are to your gambling/alcohol/FIFA 2014 addiction, as chronicled in this incredible profile by Wright Thompson. Seriously, take a night off from your vice of choice and read that piece - it's tremendous. 

So, rather than bring terror to back lines across the English Premier League next year, he'll be jockeying for playing time with some of the best forwards in the world in Spain. 

What does this mean for Liverpool?

A couple things.

1. Goals from nothing will dry up. 

Every sport has a few players who can create points out of absolutely nowhere - names that come up immediately in my mind, past and present, include Devin Hester, Kevin Durant, Pavel Datsyuk, and Giancarlo Stanton (imperfect comparison, but whatever).

Suarez is one of those players. Just look at the GIFage below.

HauntingDigitalGerenuk Luis Saurez volleys a bouncing ball over John Ruddy from fully 40 yards [GIF] 

Suarez solo goal vs Norwich

EnchantingImmaculateHumpbackwhale video iframe

Those goals, specifically the first and third, are what I'm talking about - goals scored with the type of audacity and panache that few in the global game possess. 


Kid can play.

2. Liverpool's team creativity will suffer. 

Many teams employ a striker of the poaching variety: one of those forwards who sits on the back shoulder of a central defender, timing his runs into the box and trying to end up on the end of crosses for tap-in goals. Classic poachers include all-time leading World Cup scorer Miroslav Klose and renowned Italian offside artist Filippo Inzaghi.

Suarez is the opposite - he'll drop deep into the midfield to receive the ball and link seamlessly with his midfielders to spring offensive attacks. Statistically, this is borne out by his 12 assists last season, good for second in the league (behind his teammate, Steven Gerrard). 

The most deadly part of Liverpoool's attack last year was the interplay between Suarez and his fleet-footed "S" brothers - Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling. Sturridge, 'Pool's other forward, finished in second place in the league goals race, with 21 - 10 behind Suarez. Sterling terrorized left backs with his speed and deception on the wing, often put through by Suarez himself. 

With Luis in Spain, the Reds will need Phillippe Coutinho to step into a more prominent attacking midfield role. The Brazilian is still young but has shown the stereotypical "flashes of brilliance" - we'll need to see more from him as he sends new boys like Lazar Markovic, Adam Lallana, and Rickie Lambert into space this season.

3. The defense will need to step up big time.

Pretty basic analysis here: the best defense is a good offense. That was Liverpool's strategy last year - they went out with the mindset that they were going to pulverize every team into submission, and damn the torpedoes. This was the reason that they scored the second most goals in the league (101) but conceded more than 6 of the top 10 teams (50, to champion Manchester City's 37). 

While I'm pretty confident in our retooled offense's ability to put up numbers, I'm worried about the defense. 

First off, as Steven Gerrard ages, he'll start to drift further and further back to play in a Pirlo-like role, pinging balls to the forwards and wingers. However, he's not the most mobile dude on the pitch as a 35-year-old Englishman with thousands of miles on his boots. 

Secondly, our actual defense is in flux. We have a first-choice right back in England's Glen Johnson, who I'm fine with. Jamie Carragher is retired, and one of our center backs is a berserker Slovak by the name of Martin Skrtel...

Remember me?
who is not reliable enough (in my own personal opinion) to be the anchor at the back of this defense. The great blog Anfield Index has a potential lineup for this season that includes France's Mamadou Sakho at the other center back position, which frightens me to no end. I guess we could have speedster Jose Enrique or Uruguayan youngster Sebastian Coates on the left, but those aren't inspiring options either. 

So, in short:

The sky is falling more than it isn't falling. For all of his noted on-field indiscretions and associated media scrutiny, Luis Suarez is a once-in-a-generation talent. He's the kind of player that LFC fans thought we had in Fernando Torres - a mercurial striker with the ability to score goals from anywhere, at any time, and more importantly, the ability to put the team on his back. We're going to have to alter the tactics this season, so don't bet on quite as many 4- and 5- goal games as last year. 

Sigh. We'll always have Norwich.