"What do you mean you've hurt 'your' knee, it's Liverpool's knee" - Bill Shankly.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Scouting Report: Lauri Dalla Valle, Liverpool

It is plain to see why much was made of his capture by Liverpool. The striker has a touch of the Fernando Torres about him

Lauri Dalla Valle

Lauri Dalla Valle impressed against Birmingham as Liverpool raced to a 3-0 lead in the FA Youth Cup semi-final. Photograph: Keith Williams/Action Images

Have Liverpool discovered the new Fernando Torres? I say that partly in jest but Lauri Dalla Valle, although having an awfully long way to go, certainly has many similarities with the dashing Spaniard. Both are centre-forwards, blond, exceptionally sharp mentally to spot a pass, physically quick, do more than their fair share of work without the ball and certainly find goals easy to come by. It is plain to see why so much was made of Liverpool's capture of him.

I had the privilege of watching this young lad play in the second leg of the FA Youth Cup semi-final at St Andrew's where Liverpool took a 3-0 lead after half an hour and never looked in danger of relinquishing it. The damage was done by two players in particular and I would like to give David Amoo a special mention as his partnersship with Dalla Valle was almost unplayable for an overstretched Blues defence. The young Koppites tore into their opponents, creating chances at will and Dalla Valle showed he had that knack of being in the right place at the right time as he finished off a scramble in the box, neatly placing the ball with his weaker left foot in the bottom corner perfectly beyond the keeper's reach, neither snatching at the chance or trying to put too much power on the ball.

After Amoo had danced his way past two defenders to put them 2-0 up, the Finn took centre stage again with a little help from the home keeper who went to throw the ball out, changed his mind and let go of possession. The ball dropped between him and Dalla Valle, who reacted brilliantly by making a difficult opportunity look easy as he lifted the ball over the goalie's despairing dive and side-footed it into an empty net.

At 3-0 the game was effectively over and no one could have blamed him if he thought his work was done, but he chased and closed down, picking when he was best able to win the ball to affect the play which is important as you can't use all your energy trying to win the ball back.

He never gave it away when he had his back to goal, holding the ball up and making sure he retained possession for his team. His first touch and speed of thought meant he was very rarely tackled in tight areas and he always had a picture of what to do when being closed down.

Everything he does comes naturally. Some things can't be taught – qualities that separate ordinary players from very good ones – and even at his age his positioning in build-up play and knowledge of where to stand when the ball comes into the box seems spot-on. Some players have lots of the ball but make very little impression in games, but everything he did seemed to impact on the match in some way.

Little wonder his signaturewas coveted by so many big clubs. As a 15-year-old he chose Internazionale but then moved back home to Finland after only a year in Milan. At 17 sometimes the choices you make off the pitch can be as important as the ones you make on it and his decision to go to Liverpool, which looks a perfect match, means he's got both just about right.

How he rates

Age 17

Born Joensuu, Finland

Position Centre-forward

Height 5ft 11in

Weight 11st 7lb

From Jippo

Pace 8

Heading 8

Shooting 9

Awareness 9

Passing 9

Team responsibility 9

Value £1m

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Quote of the moment

Defying belief however, is a market Benitez has cornered quite well. The moment you think Benitez is clueless, he defies it by pulling off a result of majesty, like the one achieved in Madrid. The moment he is hailed a genius, he masterminds toothless surrender to a team going nowhere. In the ongoing Anfield power struggle, just when he was cornered by the firing squad, the Spaniard's demise at Liverpool looking practically assured with the ominous suspension of betting by the bookmakers, he squeezes out through a narrow trapdoor and eliminates Rick Parry. Rafa Benitez is Keyzer Soze.
- Just Football blog: The Curious Beast that is Football 28 Feb 2009