Thursday, March 26, 2015

CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing

The hot new technique in molecular biology is CRISPR/Cas9.

The URL has a longer form explanation with diagrams.

The really short description is as follows:

The CRISPR/Cas9 technique takes advantage of a particular way bacteria chop up foreign DNA. This mechanisms has been adapted to facilitate disruption of targeted sequences in model organisms such as mice and zebrafish.

Let's say one wants to disrupt gene P.

Research findings have identified rules that govern the location of the targeting such that one can design a short sequence of DNA that will bind to a specific target site within gene P. In the design, in addition to the target sequence, a guide sequence that will bind the Cas9 enzyme is included contiguously.

Thus, this sequence (1) binds to the target site on gene P and (2) permits the guide sequence to tether Cas9 to that target and Cas9 cuts the target DNA sequence.

After the sequence is cut, DNA repair enzymes enter the picture to fix the lesion. The repair is not perfect introducing some combination of sequence deletions or insertions. The exact nature of the repair is assessed by DNA sequencing technology to see if the desired mutation has been introduced.

This technology also permits the introduction of desired sequences into the disrupted gene in a modification of this procedure.

One can search the internet for many explanations and diagrams of this method.



Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Liverpool team stats from Man U loss to Man U loss - not yet ready to "move up in weight class?"


There is no question that Liverpool improved in recent months compared to their dismal start to the EPL season. It has often been said by experts that the 3-4-3 formation instituted in the 3-0 loss to Man U at Old Trafford last December was the start of the good run of form for the team.

Last Sunday's loss to Man U at Anfield marked a return to concern about the team. And indeed, they do have issues going forward with Gerrard out due to the red card banishment and what appears to be a likely retroactive red card sanctions for Skrtel. The loss of Skrtel is probably the more substantive concern as he has been a key defender in the back three. Giving Gerrard a proper send off to retirement was already tricky to navigate given that there are some match ups where the team would benefit or at least not be hindered by his presence. But there are possible other situations where he could be a liability. In a way, not having the option of plugging him into the next three games might actually make things easier for Rodgers.

The international break comes at a good time to allow the team to rest and heal from injuries big and small. Additionally, the Rodger's brain trust will need to think about what to do about the attacking front. It appears that the return of Sturridge while in some ways a plus has been a negative for Sterling. They will need to find a way to get both operating at top level at the same time if they are going to make a push for the fourth position (unlikely) or hold onto fifth which will be a real contest against Tottenham and Southampton.

In the image above, I have tabulated Liverpool possession, shots, and goals. Have also divided up the opponents into three categories. Tier 1 would be the traditional top teams of the EPL like Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal, and Man U. I've added Beskitas in that group as they pretty much mauled Liverpool in the second leg of the Europa match. In tier 2, I've put the mid-table EPL teams that are 10 or higher on the table. And tier 3, the teams are EPL 11 or lower and teams from lower leagues that Liverpool encountered in cup competitions.

The really obvious thing to note is Liverpool's record against the respective tier's of competition:
Tier 1: 2 wins, 2 draws, 4 losses
Tier 2: 5 wins, 0 draws, 0 losses
Tier 3: 8 wins, 4 draws, 0 losses

Simply put: Liverpool is beating the teams they are expected to beat.

Other interesting stats to note:

In regards to possessing the ball, Liverpool clearly takes control of it against Tier 3 competition as they should. But against tier 1 and 2 competition, on average it is close to 50% and when you look at specific games, more often then not they actually lose the time of possession stat. They average close to 50% due to four matches where they got over 60% possession in matches against tier 1 and 2 opponents. Otherwise, they are consistently out-possessed to various degrees against tier 1 and 2 clubs.

But of course, what do you do with possession?

Interestingly, they consistently outshoot their opponents. Even against tier 1 opposition, they outshoot the other team on average by 5.3 shots/game. The number climbed to 8.1 shots/game against tier 3 teams. In regards to giving up shots, they surrender an average of 10.3 shots/game. This average holds pretty much regardless of the competition level. What I don't know is the quality of the shots. We all know not all shots are equal: some were easy saves by the goalie while others require a maximal effort from the goalkeeper. Also, some shots are logged as official shots that probably had no/low possibility of being a goal. But clearly, Liverpool faces similar number of shots regardless of competition level but the tier 1 clubs turn those shots into goals (1.4 goals/game) while tier 2 and tier 3 get less results (0.6 goals/game and 0.5 goals/game). This would be consistent with better offensive talent at tier 1 teams being more "clinical" with their opportunities. Perhaps, in future "research," I'll need to look at how Liverpool's shots for and shots against stats stack up against other EPL clubs to see whether their numbers are typical or not.

But how does Liverpool fare on the goal scoring side of the stat sheet?

Interestingly, Liverpool scores the most goals against tier 2 clubs (2.4/game). Against "inferior" opponents in tier 3, they average 1.4 goals/game. Not surprisingly, they score the least against tier 1 teams, where they average only 0.9 goals/game.

The low goals scored against tier 1 is expected. Tier 1 teams have better defenders and goalies.

But what is surprising is the performance against tier 2 teams. One could suspect that because tier 2 teams are better than tier 3 teams, Liverpool is more aggressive on offense with them. So even though they have less possession and fewer shots against tier 2 teams compared to tier 3 teams, they score more goals probably due to greater urgency to score.

Against weaker tier 3 teams, they gain possession by a wide margin and they vastly out shoot them but it seems that in the end, they don't always cash in their opportunities. Perhaps, knowing the other team is less likely to score on them, they don't have the same "killer" instinct to score. Also, perhaps the starting XI is a weaker line up in these situations to rest star players and to try out new ones. It has been a frustration for fans to see Liverpool do nothing in the first leg of cup contests forcing a replay.

After all this statistical mumbo jumbo, I'd say that Liverpool is doing what it expected of them. Fans will be fans and will want them to do better, of course. But on the positive side, they consistently beat the teams they are supposed to beat getting the occasional draw when they slip up. When fans really go out on the ledge is when the team starts losing to teams they aren't supposed to lose to like they did earlier in the season.

When they "move up in weight-class," not surprisingly, they struggle. The "moral victory" you can say for Liverpool is that when they "move up in weight-class," three of their four losses have been by just one goal and they have on two occasions gotten a win.

Gerrard's red-card fiasco was a disappointment. His actions denied Liverpool a chance to see if they could have equalized with a full-side with a more urgent mind-set. Perhaps they would have equalized. Or perhaps, they would have been beaten in a counter-attack. Unfortunately, fans, coaches and team didn't get to find out.

The next EPL match up against Arsenal will be another such test of whether the team is truly ready to "move up in weight-class."

UPDATE: Dave Usher over at ESPN gives his view that something needs to be changed tactically.


Installing GNU Octave 3.8.0 on Mac OS 10.10.2

In the lab, I occasionally run Matlab scripts through Octave for some scientific calculations pertaining to my work on vitamin D. With a new desktop in the lab running OS 10.10 Yosemite, I had to reinstall Octave. The previous desktop was running 10.6 (snow leopard).

I fetched GNU Octave 3.8.0 from SourceForge and attempted to install. Unfortunately, the system didn't want to install it since it didn't come from the Apple App Store.

I opened the README.txt file in the install window and found this advice:
You may need to override Gatekeeper to allow installation of GNU Octave 3.8.0 on OSX 10.9 (Mountain Lion). You may find instructions about how to do this on this page: http://support.apple.com/kb/ht5290 in the section labeled "How to open an app from a unidentified developer and exempt it from Gatekeeper".

I figure OS 10.10 might have the same work around. Indeed, that was the case.

I opened up the recommended Apple support page.

Control-mouse clicked on the GNU Octave install icon and clicked "Open" which generated the dialog box as pictured in the Apple support page and clicked "Open" in that box and voila, the thing started to install.

There is a considerably more complicated set of instructions in Octave for MacOS X. I don't know if the results are the same or not but Octave is now running on my desktop using the simpler procedure.

Hope it helps you if you are in the same situation!

Let's go Bruins!

With the loss to Arizona in the semi-finals, I figured UCLA was NIT-bound. But the NCAA committee figured their strength-of-schedule and the "eye" test said they were good enough to get in.

Armed with an 11-seed and a Looney getting used to the face-mask, I thought it would be 50-50 they could sneak past SMU. And indeed, it came down to the final minute and a controversial call to put UCLA over the top.

UCLA was expected to beat UAB and indeed, UCLA pounded it inside and UAB never got closer than six after UCLA established the lead.

Now, it is a rematch against Gonzaga.

Gonzaga easily won the first time they met this year in the non-conference part of the season. They will undoubtedly be favored again. They have a strong inside-outside game and stopping both will be difficult. Coach Alford may have to pick his poison and either collapse in on Gonzaga's bigs and hope the outside shooting is off. On the other hand, they can go out on the shooters but risk getting torn up inside. UCLA essentially made UAB pay for guarding the outside shooters leaving Parker to rampage inside. UCLA could be on the opposite side of the same deal.

UCLA's bench is Welch, Goloman and Allen. Welch and Goloman might be key to rotating with Parker and Looney in covering Gonzaga's front line. Powell, Alford, Hamilton and Allen will have their hands full chasing Gonzaga's shooters. All eight UCLA players will have to be at their best to even have a shot at taking Gonzaga to the final minutes where anything could happen.

Will it be high drama as it was back in 2006?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Fifth Sunday In Lent

John 12:20-33 (NRSV) 
Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. "Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say--' Father, save me from this hour'? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.
Interesting Gospel passage here. Not one I have heard a lot of preaching on!

From what I have learned over the years, the Jewish faith was at times adopted by non-Jews. And so it would appear that some of the Greeks mentioned here were probably in Jerusalem because they were converts. They heard about Jesus and wanted to meet him. Philip is a Greek name and so they figured he would a disciple they could approach to facilitate an introduction. Philip goes to Andrew (another Greek name), the brother of Simon Peter, who actually first brought Simon Peter to Jesus back in John 1. And together, Andrew and Philip made the connection between these curious Greeks and Jesus. So point number one is to ask ourselves how ready are we to introduce people to Jesus? Do people see us as people whom they could ask to meet Jesus!

Part II would be what Jesus told them. And thus, by extension, what do we tell people about Jesus?

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 

There is no getting around the centrality of the Cross. Jesus calls the painful and shameful Cross as the time for the Son of Man to be glorified! It is only in his dying that life for us can be brought forth.

Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. 

Then Jesus moves onto the cost of discipleship. Okay, if you want the eternal living being offered by Jesus, then one must surrender control. Autonomy, self-righteousness, building my own empire, and doing it my way has to end. One must take up a life of service to God and others and this the Father will honor.

"Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say--' Father, save me from this hour'? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name."

Interesting piece here from Jesus. Why does Jesus give us this window into his soul? Perhaps, it is a demonstration of what self-sacrifice looks like. The way of the Cross is not an easy one but that is not the deciding factor for Jesus obedience. The glory of the Father is his concern.

The Father confirmed what Jesus is saying: Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." 

And Jesus finished by restating what he said: "This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

Jesus offered a lot of good ethnical teaching and Christians and non-Christians alike think well of that part. But if we are to take the Gospel's seriously, we also need to deal with the significance of his willingness to go to the Cross. The Gospel message is more than just ethical teaching. It is also a claim that Jesus dying on a Cross and Resurrecting actually and significantly changed the human condition!

And so as we work through Lent toward Easter, we need to look at Jesus teachings and the significance of the Cross!


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Fourth Sunday In Lent

John 3:14-21 (NRSV) And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.
In an iTunes U talk I heard recently, Fred Sanders of Talbot Seminary encouraged his students to reflect on their salvation and to find words beyond "born again" to describe and explore the richness of what God has done in our lives.

And so one thing we can benefit from this passage is that it provides some of that vocabulary. This is the Gospel, the Good News, because of the work of Jesus, we are moved from perishing to having eternal life, we are moved from condemnation to being saved, we are moved from darkness into light!

I think another thing we can see from this passage is that the work of Christ stands in line with the work that God has done in the past. People sometimes think that the New Testament is completely disconnected from the Old Testament. But here it says, just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up ...

You might wonder, what is this all about? Well, it refers back to an episode in Numbers 21:4-9. Briefly, as punishment to the rebellious people, God sent snakes and if bitten, they would die. Moses is told by God to put a bronze serpent on a pole and raise it up for people to see. If someone was willing to look up, they would be healed.

Interesting how the image of something that caused pain and death (the serpent) became the object of life if they would look up! Likewise, the cross that Jesus was going toward is something that caused pain and death and in this case, if we look up to Jesus and the Cross we get eternal life!

A final thought for this reflection is the language of eternal life. I heard Dallas Willard in a talk say that he likes to describe this as "eternal living" because so often people think of "eternal life" as something far away in the future. But no, this gift is to be experienced now! We don't experience it in full yet but it isn't exclusively in the future.

We get to taste it now! We know God now.

Our sin problem is not swept under a rug but rather it is forgiven and we no longer stand condemned. We still sin but we can confess (see 1 John 1:8-10) and so God provides for our stumbles as we go through the slow process of being transformed to be more like him.

We move out of the ignorance of darkness and the evil deeds of darkness and instead we have the truth of light in God and we have deeds of light that we can do in God.

Believe, trust in Christ, and have eternal life, eternal living NOW!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Liverpool in the hunt

Liverpool kept pace with Manchester United with a 1-0 win over Swansea. This sets up a showdown with their dreaded rivals to the east on Sunday. A win by Liverpool allows them to jump to 4th while a Man U win gives them a stronger grip on 4th.

Here is an article praising manager Rodgers for his tactical smarts in the second half and overall praise for turning the team around after a dismal start.

Excerpt about the shift in formation he drew up:
"It would have been easy for him to just match what Swansea were doing and gone "like for like." After all, Liverpool did that to great effect during last season's title run. That would have meant reverting to a back four, however; their recent defensive improvement has been largely due to playing with three defenders. So Rodgers, ever the innovator, kept his three at the back but set up a diamond in the middle of the park. It is not a system often seen in the league and it was similar to how the great Ajax side of the mid 1990s lined up. It completely baffled Swansea and allowed Liverpool to take control of the game."

Looking forward to the match against Man U on Sunday!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Third Sunday in Lent

John 2:13-22 (NRSV) The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, "Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!" His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for your house will consume me." The Jews then said to him, "What sign can you show us for doing this?" Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews then said, "This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?" But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
One picture people have of Jesus is that his is a good teacher. Lots of people would agree to that. As Christians, we say he is much more than that. But even for people who aren't believers, it would be pretty rare for people to say he is less than a good teacher. Of course, the downside of this description of Jesus it that it makes him merely a wise and sage talking head and a nice guy with some nice things to say.

But in this passage, we see that he is far more!

Here we see the righteous anger of Jesus in his driving out the money changers physically and castigating them verbally.

I think one lesson we can learn from this is that there is a place for righteous anger. In the Gospel accounts Jesus is usually welcoming the unexpected person or giving the unanticipated teaching. But on a few occasions, his teaching is very pointed and as we read what he said we squirm probably as much as the listeners did who heard him. One example is when Jesus declare the "woes" upon the Pharisees and teachers of the law. We only have the text of that episode and we have no idea whether Jesus raised his voice when he said those words or did he say them in sorrow.

But here, make no mistake, we see the fury of his holiness as the temple is desecrated by the money changers.

This passage is also patently theological. The site of this event is the Temple and the whole conversation after the tossing over of the money changer tables is about the Temple.

I'm not a theologian nor do I play one in the movies but anyone reading Scripture has to "do theology" in the sense, we have to think about what does this mean about who God is and what is He doing?

First off, the Temple was a place where God and humans meet. It is a special place and thus, the blatant disregard for this high purpose is why Jesus drove the money changers out.

But in the second part, Jesus then takes on the topic of the Temple and brings to it a new perspective by saying, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." 

The listeners were dumbfounded because they were thinking of the massive physical structure of the Temple that was before their eyes. But Jesus had another meaning which John clarifies, But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

Jesus is the Temple!? Now, in Jesus, the idea of Temple is extended to mean a person where God and humanity meet. We get a glimpse of this idea from John 1:14, "And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth."

Additionally, classic Christianity claims that the work of Jesus permits fallen and sinful humanity to have reconciliation with a holy God. Thus, in Jesus, he is the Temple but also in the work of Jesus he makes a space for reconciliation, a temple, between God and man

Thirdly, this idea of temple no longer being a place is extended further in the description of the church in Ephesians 2:20-22 where it is the collective persons of the Church with Jesus as the cornerstone is a temple, "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God."

Fourthly, by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, each believer is a temple as seen in I Corinithians 6:19-20, "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body."

In the time of Lent, we are reflecting on and journeying with Jesus toward the Cross and the Resurrection. One stopping point on this journey for Jesus was this episode at the Temple, the meeting place of reconciliation between God and humanity. Jesus takes this on himself in himself and  in his mission. When did all of this sink in for his followers, his disciples?

After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

I think this is where Christianity is unique. It is one thing to make theological claims. All religions do that. One can drop a theological textbook from the sky and have it say all kinds of interesting things. But Christianity rests on a historical event, an intervention from God into human history. And that's amazing! The problems of human beings are real and God decided to intervene into that reality through Jesus and that changed everything.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Second Sunday in Lent

Mark 8:31-38 (NRSV) Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things." He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."
Having spent most of much of my life in baptist churches, there was no observation of the season of Lent. Of course, there were special services to help us reflect on Good Friday and celebrate on Easter Sunday. However, an entire season of weeks and Sundays of preparation for the Passion was not part of my experience until the last handful of years.

I have come to appreciate the slow build-up toward the final week of Jesus earthly ministry. And today's reading was a turning point in the Gospel of Mark when the disciples were for the first time brought in on what would be ahead for Jesus. Thus, part I was the briefing for the disciples and part II was Jesus message for the crowds.

For the disciples ...

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

One wonders what the scene was like when these words rang out? Did the room fall into complete silence and one could hear the proverbial pin drop? Or was the room buzzing with conversation as to what is Jesus talking about?

But clearly wasn't what they expected!

And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

Good old Peter! Did the other disciples tell him, hey, you better go talk to Jesus! Or perhaps, Peter acted alone impulsively acting on his own but knowing the rest of the group felt the same way? In Peter's mind and in the disciples' minds, they figured, we are going to win! Jesus is gathering up all these supporters and we are going to throw off the religious and political oppressors! What is all this negative talk, Jesus?

But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things." 

Peter may have privately talked to Jesus but Jesus' response was for the whole group. If you have been reading along, Satan appeared in the text for the First Sunday of Lent. Satan is the adversary, the opponent, and wants to oppose God's plans. Jesus strongly called out Peter for being a tool of Satan by trying to derail the mission of Christ that included suffering, rejection, and being killed. Of course,  if you look closely at the text, there was a fourth part to Jesus' statement: after three days rise again. One could suppose that Peter and the disciples just heard the three bad things and didn't hear the "rest of the story!"

For the crowds ...

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers ...

The various miracles and the teachings of Jesus had drawn a crowd but how much commitment was there? Jesus lays down the cost of discipleship for the crowds to weigh. And, it would probably be fair to say, he needed to the disciples to think it through too!

deny themselves ...
take up their cross ...
follow me ...
save their life will lose it ...
lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it ...
gain the whole world and forfeit their life ...

The "status quo" of our lives is to seek our own benefit, avoid suffering, follow the beat of our own drummer (if we have a "western" mindset) or the path marked by our kin group (if we have a more "old world" mindset), self preservation, and acquire stuff.

Is the call to discipleship worth it?

What would Jesus do? Or rather, what did Jesus do?

Jesus denied himself, went to the Cross, followed the Father's will, and in so doing, he lost his life for our sake to give us life and after three days rose again!

This is the Gospel, this is the good news: Jesus has changed the "status quo." His work is freely given, complete and costly. Now the question for us: will we follow?

And by what I mean by follow is not a follow in order to be saved as that would be self-righteousness. And besides, we could never follow good enough anyway. But a following that is humble and trusting that grows out our gratitude and love because of his love for us.

Lent is a time for us to reflect on the work of Christ. It is also a time for us to think about and commit or re-commit ourselves to following him.



Monday, March 02, 2015

Post-Gerrard Era?

Gerrard signed a deal to go to the LA Galaxy after the end of the Premier League season. Thus, the team needed to prepare for the post-Gerrard era.

Well, due to injury, the team is finding out what life might be like as Gerrard has been out since he was substituted 2/3 of the way through Liverpool vs. Tottenham(2/10).

Since that time, Liverpool defeated Crystal Palace, Southampton, and Manchester City in convincing fashion.

The two legs against Beskitas were probably the most difficult games for Liverpool in this stretch. Liverpool got a one goal lead in leg one and were trying to hold on in leg two. Would Gerrard's presence have made a difference in that leg two away match in rowdy Istanbul site of one of his past glories?

Perhaps, he would have helped them get a second goal in the first half changing the complexion of the game. As it stands, the team missed some opportunities which ultimately came back to haunt them. Would Gerrard have made a difference? Perhaps, so.

But clearly in the second half, the team was less crisp and were starting to get over run and tired out. An aging Gerrard might have been a liability in that situation. On the other hand, you can be sure if Gerrard was on the field for the penalty kick shootout, Lovren would not have been one of the five selected and the shootout might have kept going.

In any event, Liverpool will have a few more matches without the iconic Gerrard. At this moment, it does look like the team will carry on just fine without Gerrard in the near term and in the next season.

The big question for Rodgers is how will he use Gerrard when he is in fit form? Initially, Rodgers did not start Sturridge when he became available. So perhaps Gerrard might be a second half substitute for the first game or two he is back. But in short order, I would imagine Gerrard would start most games but be substituted out in the second half to keep his legs fresh for the final push for the top four especially in games where Liverpool gets out into a lead. Rodgers will want him full-time in the high pressure matches against Chelsea (5/9), Arsenal (4/4), and Manchester United (3/22).

As for FA Cup matches, if there is a possibility of penalty kicks, Gerrard will be on the field!

UPDATE: ESPNFC has a piece on the ending of the Gerrard era and how Liverpool should draw up its line-up card.
Excerpt:
It has taken the 3-4-2-1 system Rodgers conjured to try to shoehorn Gerrard into his team but away from the midfield and made it work. So well, in fact, that now the question is not so much how Liverpool cope without Gerrard, but whether he gets back in the team for the final hurrah so many think is his due.

There is also a video in the article where Shaka Hislop suggests that Gerrard might best used as a rotation player. Indeed, the longer he is out and if the team continues to play well, it would be hard to automatically put him back as a starter and to give him the lion share of minutes if there are healthy younger players available.

Update: And still more on the tough decisions Rodgers may have on how to utilize Gerrard in the final stretch of his Liverpool career.