Liverpool Have Midfield Problem To Solve...

All that money spent and Lucas Leiva is still starting in midfield? There are notes of caution from Liverpool fans but of course it all kicks off with Manchester United...

Last Updated: 18/08/14 at 09:26

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Van Gaal's Half-Term Report Card...

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One Man United fan isn't happy with the rate the team is progressing under Louis van Gaal, while the mailbox also wishes Liverpool fans a Merry Mid-Table Christmas...

Hang On, Rafa's Success Is No Fluke...

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The afternoon mailbox kicks the morning mailbox's arse after claims that Rafa Benitez has fluked his success. Plus, big talk about Liverpool's progress and lots more...

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Dusan Tadic takes on Lucas Leiva

Dusan Tadic takes on Lucas Leiva

Anything to say on any subject? You know what to do - mail

Captain Wayne? Oh Dear
Amid the lols of the Swansea game there was one thing that did annoy me. Captain Rooney, in the middle of a distinctly average Rooney-esque performance, tearing young Blackett a new one after the second goal went in.

The lad's first competive start. If a captain or senior figure wants to remonstrate with him in any way it should be done with some level of discretion, not bawled at him. Great start from the new captain.
Kev (thank God it's back)

Woodward: Rotten At This

Did it REALLY take Manchester United to lose to highlight the need to buy some new players? How does Woodward still have a job?
Ted Maul, Kent

...Ed Woodward, sack yourself. Simple as that really.
Parmjeet Dayal

Van Gaal Got It Wrong...

I thought it was interesting that among all the papers and letters yesterday, nobody (please excuse the blanket statement) pointed out that what went worst for Manchester United was Van Gaal's tactics.

Against a side known for it's pacey wing play, he decided to play three central defenders and two wing-backs who had never played there before, including one that is an attacking midfielder. That went well, didn't it?

The press and fan base has already decided that Van Gaal is a tactical genius, though, presumably on the evidence of the man himself saying so during the World Cup. So that's the narrative now, and no matter how badly he gets it, he won't get called out on it.
Derby (narrative narrative narrative) NYBlues

...As much as United need to play 3-5-2 as often as possible to become familiar with the position, surely it was just utterly irresponsible from Van Gaal to stick with the formation when our first three wing-back options (Shaw, Valencia and Rafael) were all injured/not fit especially when it resulted in Young having to play as a full on left back in the second half.

I think Van Gaal is a great manager but you don't force players to play out of position for the sake of sticking to your favourite formation, you should adapt to the players you have available.

And unless there are extenuating circumstances, forcing Zaha, Nani and Anderson to train separately from the first team doesn't seem a great way to build morale from the same man who changed square tables to round tables to promote conversation.
Liam, Brisbane

Some United Thoughts

- Throughout the pre-season, Utd used the 3-5-2 to press very high up the pitch. The idea behind fielding three relatively mediocre defenders and hoping to get away with it must surely have been to push high up and deny the opposition the time and space to play passes though the united team. When the pressing fails, you end up in a situation where the team is set up as a 5-2-3 and the space on the sides is easily exploited. The centre mids are constantly pulled to the side and the entire midfield is overrun. This happened time and again and I felt it odd that LVG did not simply ask the front three (Hernandez) to press more. Also, the team wasn't compact and there was a lot of space for Swansea to play around. The entire team during the first half was much too stretched. This was again something very different from the preseason. So, based on this game alone I don't think the 3-5-2 should be chucked out, although its application has to be much better if we are to be successful with it.

- The number of times a United player committed an error and gave the ball away was absurd. These are all highly paid pro footballers right?

- Old Trafford must be one of the easiest away fixtures in the Premier League now with the home crowd actively looking to bring down the confidence of the players. There is so much negativity for a back pass, that players then force themselves to try passes that aren't there. Would't be surprised if we play much better in our first away game.

- In the second half, with a more familiar set-up, after the initial five minutes, it looked like we might win the game. This was largely due to the excellent Adnan Januzaj, so much so that I'm thinking if it would not be better to just play HIM in his most favoured position.

- I can see why LvG played Ashley Young as left-back. The idea must have been that Utd would now keep the ball and would largely force Swansea very deep so that the United players would have to defend under pressure very less and would largely be doing most of the attacking. These things work very well in Spain or Germany or Italy, but in the Prem no team can keep any other team down for extended periods like that. Someone should have told LvG that I guess.

- Someone has to tell our players that when you give the ball away, unless you win it back, there is a chance your opponents might score. United it seemed were simply waiting for Swansea to commit a mistake in possession and hence get the ball back. It might have worked during Fergie's era when teams might have feared us, but not anymore. Bring out the hairdryer Louis, they really need it.

- In a way, the only good thing that can happen from this now is that we actually buy someone. But then, that could have happened a long time ago too. Come to think of it, we already have spent 60 million so far. How many non-CL teams can afford to spend 100 million plus in transfers?
United Fan, India

We Can Laugh, Right?

Yes, there are 37 more games in the season. Yes, Man Utd might be just fine, buy in some new players, even win the whole thing (maybe). But they just lost their first game under their massively hyped new manager, at home, to a mid-table team. That's just funny. Ashley Young was at left wing-back in a Premier League game! It's definitely worth a good laugh...
Paraic (Aloysius Paulus Maria van Gaal Out) Dublin

...After the summer of hearing how Man U attracted crowds in excess of 100,00 and won all their games while in the US. Why don't they join the MLS? they would be almost guaranteed to finish top four in the Eastern Conference, then with a decent draw could make a run in the play-offs.
Paul, Chicago

...United fans need to learn that just having LVG is in no way a guarantee for top four. You can't just sprinkle sugar on a dog turd and call it a chocolate cake.
Jimmy (I love cake) Spain

Liverpool Need To Solve Midfield

After riding another rollercoaster ride of delight, nerves, disappointment and - somewhat predictably - more delight on Sunday evening, I could not agree with Daniel Storey's assessment of the LFC v Saints game more.

To my eyes, it was not defensive inefficiency that cost the Reds a more comfortable margin of victory, but rather lacklustre decision-making in midfield. After the first goal (delightful) it felt like a solid hour of over-ambitious attempted through balls and poor control in the attacking third.

The problem, as rightly pointed out by Mr Storey, was defensive midfield. We lacked that key link between defence and attack on the transition, which more often than not was overcompensated by a hopeful Stevie G long ball or misplaced Coutinho pass. We also lacked proper cover for the back line when defending the counter-attack (a key theme of last season), which we desperately require if we persist with playing our full-backs so high up.

Let's hope Emre Can develops to be the man for us in that role. Lucas lacks the range of passing and Gerrard's legs just don't cover the metres they used to.

However, three points in the bank ahead of a tough game against City next week. Still cautiously optimistic, but please sort it out BR.
Alex (LFC), Brisbane, Australia

...Let me get this straight - Liverpool spent $100M plus in transfers and 1) Lucas is still in the starting XI, and 2) Allen is the first sub???
Simon, Depressed LFC fan despite the win, Canada

...Phew, that was close, wasn't it?

Truth be told, it's difficult to say that Liverpool deserved to win that game. And I have to say, I largely disagree with Mr Storey's assertion that we were good going forward and poor defensively; I think we struggled to build and to shield the back four, and the problems all emanated from the Gerrard/Lucas double-pivot.

Neither of the two at the base of the midfield is particularly mobile, nor do they read the game terribly well when the opposition has the ball. In the first half, the defence - and Lovren in particular - looked very strong, but Southampton's midfield didn't put us under too much pressure and we were able to hold a pretty high line. Second half, and Koeman realises that Gerrard and Lucas aren't stopping Tadic and Ward-Prowse if they push up.

I've seen a fair few people take the view that it's the first game back and there's time enough for it to come good. That's true in part, but the problem is that we've seen this before under Rodgers at the beginning of last season. Last season, we only really got going once Lucas was dropped and the same was true yesterday, when Allen added some much-needed zip.

On the plus side, Sterling looks sharp, Manquillo looks like a proper full-back and Henderson is boss.
I fear for our chances against City next week, and I certainly don't envisage a swashbuckling performance like last Christmas's, but we're already three points up on the corresponding fixtures from 2013/14 so anything we get from the Etihad is a bonus...
Nick Glover, Scouser in Brum

Weekend Conclusions

Just thought I would offer up a few thoughts on the weekend as Utd fan:

- Not the result everyone was hoping/expecting but it's just the first game and we were missing five first-team players. I thought Blackett was okay, Januzaj was very good when he came on and Rooney scored despite having very limited service. Other than that nothing in the way of positives can be taken from the game. Put simply we need 3/4 first-team players to come in. When everyone is fully fit, we have a good squad but a weak first 11. I (like most Utd fans) am baffled at the lack of defensive cover. We lost four senior defenders this summer and only replaced one. I will be hoping that this Spurs them on to do whatever it takes to get a few deals over the line.

- I found the Liverpool game entertaining. Southampton looked excellent for most of the game. Wanyama, Ward-Prowse and Bertrand all looked excellent. Tadic looked promising but just lacked a little quality in his final ball. They deserved a draw but that's what happens against the bigger teams, they have the individual quality to punish your mistakes. Liverpool didn't look amazing but still got a win, that should please the fans. Lovren looked good (at 20m I'm surprised there weren't a few more teams in for him). Sterling looks a real threat on the ball, based on that performance it could be him and not Sturridge that goes further in replacing Suarez.

- Arsenal were not at their best but won. Again the mark of a good side.

- City looked pretty good again. Were under pressure at times but coped well. Newcastle have spent well and Cabella looks a real talent. Shame de Jong missed out. (I must admit I was half asleep through this game, heavy Saturday night).

Overall a good start for the big boys without anybody playing out of their socks. Utd need to invest now or I cant see them improving on last seasons finish. We have three CBs with a shady injury history, that alone should have spurred them into signing someone. Hopefully this result exacerbates that.
Dan (think I was being reasonably objective) Ireland

Well Done Steve Parish

I might be a bit previous to this one but here we go. Pulis going really got me thinking about football, what it thinks about itself and money. As a Spurs fan the business of football is never far away. When he went last week your first thought is that Parish hasn't got a clue what he's doing. I have regularly dealings by the way with the business that he made his money from. Really nice lads and very financially astute as you might expect. But maybe I was wrong and as Stan in Sexy Beast said "this chairman ain't as big a prick as he looks."

As the Gooner-Palace match wore on you could smell the narrative. Look there's slick perma-tanned Steve Parish texting up some Doris before roaring off in his Ferrari to meet her. Not bothered about the football. Actually he's trying to find a new manager. "Never likely to work was it - Tony from Newport and Steve from Knightsbridge," Neville told us. Doesn't sound like he's from Knightsbridge, Gary from Alderley Edge. What are we being asked to think - Tony Pulis is a proper football man. Steve Parish isn't.

Football clubs are small organisations. 30-40 people control vast sums of money. A mate of mine used to work for one of the top four and he was writing purchase orders ten years ago. There was no proper accounting system. It's easy to see how some clubs are in the financial mess they're in. And I guess my point, I'll get there, is that the finance mess is not helped by chairman giving in to stroppy managers who demand that players, whose wages small clubs can't afford, are bought in to the club. They need to be stood up to - Parish did that. Pulis went. What's the alternative - Harry and Portsmouth? Good on you mate, maybe Newport are looking for a manager.
Andrew, Woodford Green
PS. Carlsberg don't do debuts but if they did, surely it'd be Eric Dier's. Awesome

Not Too Much Villa Hope Yet
Agree entirely with Steve Kavangh's mail, except for two things: if 2014 Robo Vlaar comes from an abandoned Dutch factory, where the f*** has Lambert got this Senderos-shaped Mellberg from? This is X-Files territory.

And secondly - six of our seven games after the international break are Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Citeh, Everton and Spurs; with the seventh being a Monday night game against the London British media (aka QPR). Hope won't be killing me any time soon.
Neil Raines

Milk Everywhere...

Just been enjoying Match of the Day 2's very dramatic opening and Steve Claridge's acknowledgement of it. What really made me spit my milk everywhere was Danny Murphy's choice of examples with regard to Man City's world-class bench:

Jesus Navas, Zabaleta, Sergio Aguero and...James Milner.
Matt Colton

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really enjoyed this. Thanks F365 for another year of work avoidance - happy Christmas.

megabrow (cufc)
Our Person Of The Year: Alan Pardew


m no Sam Fan and this article sums him up beautifully. I always like to imagine that when he watches anything on TV and hears clapping, he stands up and aknowledges the applause, thinking its for him!

Football Managers On TV: Sam Allardyce


ah, Fergie is just having another pop at Rooney. He just wants to put him down whenever he gets a chance. Rooney is by far the best English player. Carrick is not far behind, mind. However, by elevating Carrick like that, Sir is having a dig at Wayne. Fergie is well-known for mind games like that. Good to see he's still feisty.

Van Gaal will thrive - Ferguson

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Mail Box

Van Gaal's Half-Term Report Card...

One Man United fan isn't happy with the rate the team is progressing under Louis van Gaal, while the mailbox also wishes Liverpool fans a Merry Mid-Table Christmas...

Hang On, Rafa's Success Is No Fluke...

The afternoon mailbox kicks the morning mailbox's arse after claims that Rafa Benitez has fluked his success. Plus, big talk about Liverpool's progress and lots more...

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