With Ukranian striker Andriy Voronin scoring his first competitive goal for Liverpool yesterday, it felt appropriate for me to take a look at his performances so far and think about how he will fit into the side this season.
When it was first announced back in February this year that we would be signing him on a free transfer from Bayer Leverkusen I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy. My friend Lance, who is of Ukranian descent, continually spoke very highly of him and I was always sceptical during our discussions of his potential for Liverpool. At the time I must confess I’d never heard of him before and all that I had to rely on were his statistics for goals scored and they didn’t look too impressive at first. I then watched him play a few times for Leverkusen and the Ukraine and saw how his game didn’t actually rely on scoring goals and I was impressed at his work rate and what he offered the team. Whilst still sceptical he was the player we really needed I did think that as we were getting him for free we had nothing to lose.
When the club announced towards the end of last season that Robbie Fowler would be leaving the club I immediately thought that Voronin would replace him as a squad player. Once it became clear that Rafa was looking for a top class striker, with Torres and Eto being the two favourites, I just assumed that Voronin would play mostly in cup games and as an occasional substitute. With the club record signing of Torres the pressure was then placed on the rest of our strikers, Kuyt, Crouch and Voronin. Despite Rafa’s rotation policy I find it hard to believe that after spending twenty million pounds Rafa won’t play Torres in the majority of games.
Pre-season games now have much more importance than they ever did when I was a kid in the 1980’s. I remember that you would see a small blurb in the paper telling you the result but in the last few years the games have started to become televised and people actually care about the results (despite the denials). The pre-season games this year were important for Liverpool fans as it gave us a glimpse at our new signings and some of the reserves that some of us living abroad don’t get to see too often.
The player that impressed me the most in pre-season was Voronin and it came as no surprise when he was declared as the ‘˜most impressive player in pre-season by Liverpool fans’ on the clubs official website. In a poll conducted by the site he had 62% of the votes which sounds even more impressive next to the 6.6% that Pennant received in second place.
He had a good game in his debut at Crewe Alexandra were he was involved in the first goal. He was tremendous against Werder Bremen when he scored his first two Liverpool goals and both were of a high quality. For the first goal he used his pace to latch onto a loose back pass before beating the keeper and stroking the ball into an empty net. The second goal was even better as he once again used his pace to gather the ball from a long pass and then expertly knock it over the advancing keeper. He also had two man of the match performances in both games during the ‘˜Asia Cup’ against South China and Portsmouth. In the semi final he was all over the field and made a great run that led to the penalty decision for the second goal. In the final against Portsmouth he had another cracking game and was unlucky not to score.
He made his Premiership debut against Aston Villa on Saturday when he came on to replace Torres in the 78th minute. He wasn’t on the pitch long enough to make any significant impact on the game but you could tell in every touch that he will be great in the English game. His passing and positional play was tremendous and he was involved in the superb passing move that led to the free-kick that Gerrard scored from.
Against Toulouse in the Champions League qualifier he had yet another good game when he was in the starting line-up. A decent performance was capped with a phenomenal goal just before half time to seal the away victory. The goal was absolutely sensational; he controlled the ball beautifully with his chest in a way that took the defender away and created space for himself before unleashing a rocket shot from twenty five yards that flew into the top corner.
I think it’s fair to say that Voronin has so far been the nicest surprise so far this season. I wasn’t expecting much more than a squad player but now I can see him being extremely important for us in all competitions. He is strong, fast, clearly has a great technique for scoring goals and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him involved against Chelsea on Sunday. Torres and Kuyt seem to have a good understanding together so far but my mouth is watering at the prospect of seeing a combination of Voronin and Torres. Let’s also not forget Crouch who was our top scorer last season and with John Terry injured he could be very useful against Chelsea.
Whichever striking pairing Rafa decides to go with I’ll be happy on the evidence I’ve seen so far. With Gerrard playing more often in midfield and able to make runs on goal I think that the problem we had in scoring goals last season will not be an issue during this campaign. I’m still trying not to get carried away but it’s getting more difficult with each game and if we win on Saturday don’t be afraid of the man in red dancing on the tables, it’ll just be me!