Matt Stanger was left impressed by Chelsea's superb first-half display against West Ham as Sam Allardyce's top-four hopes went up in smoke. The Blues will take some beating...
Degsy is tipping Spurs to pile more pressure on Nigel Pearson with a 3-0 win at Leicester on Boxing Day. He also predicts easy wins for United and Arsenal...
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City v Liverpool Thoughts
Absolutely criminal defending from Liverpool, can't expect anything other than a trouncing if that is how you perform against a team as deadly as City.
Quite a few worrying things to take away from the performance, namely that of the tragic positional sense of £20million man Dejan Lovren. I'm willing to give Alberto Moreno a semblance of the benefit of doubt given his lack of experience in the league, though at no level is such sluggish movement allowed in your own box so let's not kid ourselves.
Secondly, did we win a single header? A single one? I don't recall any apart from Emre Can's (horrendous dive too) header over from a corner around the 80th minute or so. No shame in being the weaker side in the air but there is a line, lads. And, if you are so blatantly worse, stop ending every attack with a hopeful cross.
Finally, how bad has Coutinho been in both games? He does the complex movement in the middle quite well but he seems to misplace nearly all of his important passes. It's infuriating but based on these first two games I'd be replacing Coutinho with Adam Lallana when he's fit. Plus, I hope the dubious goal panel allow Lambert to keep that. Even if it meant nothing.
Much work to do before the Spurs game on Sunday. But, on the bright side, we don't have to go to the Etihad for at least a year in the league.
Kevin, LFC, Ireland
...* I reckon I won't be alone in feeling like this but I'm actually not too disappointed with Liverpool's loss. We dominated at least 35 minutes of the first half but just lacked that final ball and cutting edge. At 3-0, the scoreline would have been quite harsh on the losing team. Having said that though...
* We still have defensive issues. Maybe not as bad some would have you believe, but some more work is needed so the back four function as a cohesive unit. I do believe however that we have the right players to do this, it's just a matter of time and practice.
Although it's not working for Man United and QPR at the moment, playing 3-5-2 could possibly help to make this happen. Moreno looks dangerous going forward and the ever frustrating Johnson has never been the best defensively but can attack quite well. Playing a back three of Sakho, Lovren and Skrtel would work a treat with the first two being very good on the ball. Henderson and Gerrard (had a good game) could hold with Sterlin/Coutinho/Lallana/Markovic (option is a great thing) playing behind the strikers. Playing this formation would also mean...
*Sturridge and Balotelli can be played in their preferred positions. Let's put all the antics to the side, Liverpool actually need a striker like Balotelli. Someone with natural finishing, good movement and intelligent reading of the game. Although he scored, Lambert made a hash of the second chance that deflected to his path. If that was Super Mario, you can bet your house on it that he would have side-foot curled the ball in.
What I've noticed with playing just one man up front is that 9 times out of 10 they like to drift left or right. When this happens, you rarely get another natural finisher waiting in the box if the ball was to move back quickly into the box. Playing another striker would mean one could drift while the other stays in the danger position in and around (god help me) the box.
I predict Balotelli will eventually be a regular starter and have a big role to play this season (I'm baffled why his contract length is so short though. This time next year if all goes well, he will need to have a contract extension which may increase his wages. Three years for a 24 year old. Miffed).
* Was quite happy with all our new signings. Minus the slow reaction for the goal, Moreno looked promising. Markovic looks like a very technically accomplished player and moved the ball with confidence. He looks like the type that will have some ingenuity in those tight games when a bit of magic is needed. Lovren wasn't perfect but you can see glimpses of what he brings. I think his mediocre performance may have ironically be because he was trying too hard. I would still start Sakho and decide between the others who partners him.
All in all I'm pretty calm about the loss. I honestly believe we will maintain our top 4 place. This team plays with a verve that winners do and with the quality that has been added, I don't see why we would go backwards. Fair play to Man City. They were ruthless and did what champions do; maintain composure even when not at their best. Jovetic was fantastic. Had him in my fantasy team after seeing him in pre-season looking like his Fiorentina self.
Seyi (wonder if Man U fans will eat humble pie on rivals "buying" the league) London
...Whilst the eventual scoreline was disappointing, I have to say I thought Liverpool looked better in that game than we did in our first big test last season (Arsenal, where we lost 2-0 away). We were probably the better side for the first 40 minutes and once the game was beyond hope we actually looked ok. Against Arsenal, our tactics were wrong to start with (3-5-2) and we need really got into the game, at least today we were competitive (until we weren't, obviously).
Other positives were Markovic, who looked pretty exciting coming off the bench and, despite his error, Moreno wasn't bad either. He's young and obviously not the finished article but he looked decent enough going forward and a couple of times also came over to cover the centre backs; a very aggressive clearance off Dzeko's toes sticks in my mind. Last season from these two fixtures we got precisely zero so although it's a shame to lose a game early on which inevitably raises lots of Suarez shaped questions this isn't the end of the world.
That said, going forward today we were poor. At times it seemed like we were trying too hard to thread the ball through the eye of the needle. Lots of through balls just didn't find their target but I also thought Coutinho's passing was poor in the attacking half today. I find it strange that Sturridge a number of times choose to take a touch and give defenders the chance to get goal side of him, last season I wonder how many times he might have elected instead to let the ball run across his body and give him a chance to shoot.
I have enough faith in Brendan Rodgers' football brain to believe he wouldn't have picked Johnson if Flanagan was fit to start. I think he might think Manquillo is the better player already but perhaps didn't want two young full backs playing in an unfamiliar defence. I can respect his choice of sticking with Johnson on that basis but for the life of me I can't see what he has added defensively or attacking in the past six months. I struggle to imagine him being England's first or second choice right back within the year barring a huge turnaround in form.
So overall, a bit of a shame, a bit frustrating but Man City are pretty special at home. I would've taken a point before the game but Man City were so clinical today that there was little chance of that happening once they got ahead.
Glen Johnson Luurve
Johnson has to go, he is awful in attacks, we stopped dead whenever he got the ball and he couldn't give a flying f*ck about defending when we didn't have the ball and this has to be addressed because it makes us so weak at the back when Moreno, who despite his mistake born out of a different style of league had a fine debut would bust his arse to get back when we lost the ball, can we get Fat Sam to make a £3m bid for him because he doesn't look interested in playing for Liverpool any more and that's an astonishing attitude for him to take given how good this Liverpool team is compared to it previous incarnations while he has played for us, it suits him at his best and he can't be arsed, bin him.
Coutinho the central midfielder is a million times better than Coutinho the attacker not that he's bad but he is so easily marked out of games out wide and he can hold his own in the central role alongside Gerrard and Henderson they are our best balanced midfield for attack and defence, we should use it more or just not play Coutinho because if we leave him out wide then I promise you Markovic will go past him.
Lambert made a good impact when he came on but I have no idea why he didn't shoot himself when 1 on 1 with Hart force a save at least lad.
3-1 was a fair scoreline but I get the feeling that we will not bad as limply as we did for periods all season and even if we did I'd still be confident of beating most sides placed 6th and below.
Tyla (please Glen, just leave) Roxburgh, Merseyside
Plenty To Criticise Johnson For. Is This Really One?
Unless your leg is broken, you stay on the pitch until the final whistle if for no other reason to fill up a little bit of space.
Skrtel and Moreno did it and deserve to be in this team as it evolves into something special, but there is no room for Johnson anymore with Flanno and Manquillo.
Sell him to West Ham for a million or two and we can remember his finer moments from a few years ago. What an absolute disgrace he was today walking off and the only other thing I can say is that it better be serious.
Angel With Dirty Laces
It's very hard to not get extraordinarily excited about the signing of Ángel Di María. While we no doubt need urgent reinforcement in other areas, bringing a player like him in, especially with his quality, solves several problems at once.
He has played in the centre of midfield for Argentina, Real and Benfica before, and done very well. If he plays on the wing, he does a very good job there too. He's tenacious, has endless energy and gets a bucketload of assists every season - since 2010, only Messi and Özil have registered more! We could certainly do with all of that.
At the end of the day, Di María is a world class talent, and lord knows our squad is lacking in that area. It doesn't matter how much the fee is. It serves as a statement of intent that, despite us failing so miserably last season, we're still in a position to compete for the world's best players, albeit with a helping hand from FFP. Besides, he's called "the Noodle", so we now have a tailor-made brand ambassador to consolidate the Nissin partnership.
DJ, MUFC (cannot wait for Saturday!) India
What About Johnny Kills?
Di Maria's a great signing. He'll move everyone up the pitch, link midfield and attack, and he fits into every formation you can think of (3-5-2, I'll admit, is a bit of a push).
Still, his arrival does bring up that vaguely troubling Juan Mata situation.
As much as I admire his suspiciously full-looking new hairstyle, he's really slow, a bit of a shrinking violet and seems to be able to play in one position only. Moyes, in much the way he did everything, had no plan when he bought him, and Ed Woodward, in much the way he continues to do everything, overpaid.
I wonder how many United fans would go back and sign him again if given the opportunity?
Stephen O'S, MUFC
It won't be long before some fans begin to question his attitude. On his day the man is unplayable against, but, sadly, those 'days' are few and far between. I give it until Christmas when those voices begin to get louder.
Whilst at City, the journalists were (seemingly) intent on destroying anything at the club, and Mario was an easy target; I wonder how long their love-in will last at the club that appears to be front-and-centre of their current love affair?
Ballo only had one assist at City (irrc). Granted it won us the league, but one is simply not good enough for a man consistently that far forward. Yes, he is there to score goals (and penalties, let's not forget about them, seeing as though you seem to get one every bloody week), but a player as good as him should be doing both.
Look, you have got yourselves a bargain, but at what cost? He is his own man, and if his own mentor cannot tame him, I suspect Brendan will have little to zero success. But good luck though.
Mike (just grab a top four spot and keep that Trafford lot out)
Same Old Arsenal
So, Arsenal have now had 3 injuries in 3 competitive matches. Our only decent Striker, who should be backup to our non existent 30-goal a season striker is out for 3 months. We face Besiktas tomorrow and the only actual Centre Forward we have is a 21-year-old French bloke who has never scored a professional goal for this squad.
Yesterday, with an injury to Negredo, Manchester City were still able to field a selection of Jovetic, Aguero and Dzeko. All of which are much better strikers than Giroud to start off with, let alone the back up.
You boast about depth but already have problems 3 games into the season. You claim you are ready to challenge for the title but have arguably the thinnest squad at the front and back. Please, Mr. Wenger, please tell me how we are supposed to take your title hopes seriously?
I'm happy with the signings of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, don't get me wrong. But if you say you have enough money to compete with the big guns, then please show it. We clearly need a top class Striker.
Get Well Soon
I am an avid Liverpool supporter living in Ireland, Football and Football365 are a huge part of my life.
Like many of you I probably enjoy it a little too much....I'm too scared to count to number of hours of my life I've spent reading articles, staring at transfer blogs, commenting, writing for the mailbox etc. Let's just say it's a high number. I found, especially recently with all the change at my club, my emotions were becoming more and more strongly tied to the fortunes of my team. Each loss becoming harder to take and each win filling me with an almost ecstasy. My heart would skip at each potential talent linked and drop at each day a saga would drag on.
I arrived to work today stressed, strung out on Caffeine & nicotine as busy as I ever have been in my life, tracing cables, setting up printers, fixing what felt like a million problems. Of course still finding 30 seconds here & there to check the blog :) At 2 pm my mother called to inform me that my father had gone to A & E with chest pains & possibly his second heart attack.
I ran out of office shakily explaining to my boss that I had to go. I stepped outside at it was absolutely lashing rain, torrential. I popped my water proofs on and started moving. Hidden under a big hood & face mask I wept and walked. I cried like I haven't since I was a child. A pure outpour of emotion.
When I made to a dry spot I checked my phone for an update & saw the F365 homepage staring back at me & two texts, one asking where I was watching the Liverpool game & a banterful one saying how s**t the Liverpool were. I popped my hood back on and kept walking. For the first time since I can remember I realized I had no interest in football at all, I didn't care who was in the starting line up, I didn't care about new signings I didn't care about any of it. Why did I ever care about any of these random people I don't know, playing for clubs in random cities I don't even live in? What have I been doing with my life?
It's now 5 pm and I am home & dry-ish, waiting for word. I do not know if I will ever look at football the same again. Yes it is a highly emotional moment but it feels like I will never give a flying f**k again.
I'm sure in a few hours I will have heard good news, maybe he pulled a muscle & mistook it for chest pain again, maybe I will be in my jersey watching the match, maybe I will stroll into work tomorrow the same person I always have been. Maybe not. What will tomorrow bring? My perception of linear time will tell.
I understand this mail is a little....off topic, but I feel better for writing it so mission accomplished I suppose.
Buzz Kill-ington, Ireland