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Liverpool have no back-up for Coutinho, Mane or Lallana
The main issue at Liverpool at the moment, as has been alluded to by Matt and Sarah over the last couple of days, is that our best team has too many specialised players in specialised roles.
On the face of it, the squad looks fairly well rounded. Coutinho, Firmino, Mane, Sturridge, Origi and Lallana should be sufficient to cover three attacking positions for a season of around 45 games. Likewise Henderson, Can, Wijnaldum, Lallana, Lucas and Grujic should do for the three in midfield.
However, the attack which worked so well earlier in the season had Coutinho on the left, Mane right and Lallana in midfield; those three are crucial to its success. A defence can’t just sit deep and let Coutinho have the ball at the edge of the box, but also can’t press up too high and let Mane in behind. If one avenue was covered we’d take the other, and no team proved capable of successfully defending against both. The formation also requires a creative influence – Lallana – in midfield (a role demonstrated perfectly by KdB against Spurs), and the Henderson-Can-Wijnaldum triumvirate is just too stolid. Not since we lost Coutinho at the end of November have we been able to play all three of those players in their pivotal roles, and our PPG has dropped by about 0.75 as a result. In fact every adverse result this season has seen at least one of Lallana, Coutinho and Mane missing from the starting XI.
So, although eleven players listed above in contention for the six midfield/attacking positions seems sufficient, in reality Firmino, Sturridge and Origi are all covering a single role and Henderson, Wijnaldum, Can, Lucas and Grujic are covering two, leaving three with no cover whatsoever. We can cut-and-shut one of those on a short-term basis, but any long-term disruption leaves us leaking points like we have this January.
It’s not all bad news: January always looked difficult with extra cup games and without the effects of Europe on our rivals (Captain Hindsight alert), but Coutinho is getting back up to speed and Mane will be back soon, so if we can keep them all fit and available I expect to see performances improve. We have home games against Chelsea, Spurs and Arsenal and a visit to City coming up and our record against those teams so far this season suggests there may yet be reason to be optimistic. The title is almost certainly gone, barring a shall we say unlikely 12 points from those games, but more than six and we should still be well placed for a CL spot.
Jon Gibson LFC (was of the belief that there was little between Walker and Clyne, but Saturday’s games really highlighted the gulf in class)
They need a Plan B (or C)
Liverpool need a ‘plan B’, a striker that can attack crosses, a goal scorer that would be great to bring on when teams park the bus.
Ladies and gentelmen…I give you Andy Carroll.
Jimmy (Seriously though) Spain
Captain Hendo? Oh dear
Liverpool were dreadful on Saturday, giving up three sloppy goals. But, the thing that annoyed me the most was the amount of times we gave the ball away whilst in possession.
The biggest culprit was Jordan Henderson, which leads me to the question: Is he the worst Liverpool captain ever? I’ve been watching Liverpool for fifty years an I really can’t remember a worse captain.
On another note, why is Milner taking corners and free-kicks, his delivery is terrible often not getting past the first man. Yes, keep him on penalties, but it’s time to let someone else take the rest.
Neil, LFC, USA
Looking on the bright (red) side
This weekend was a very emotional weekend for anyone with a brain in America.
Liverpool’s decision to roll back the years with their display against Swansea came at a good time as there were vastly more important things to be concerned about then staying in the top four.
Twitter had, as expected, exploded into fits of rage about FSG and their apparent penny pinching, certain Liverpool players being frauds (though some of those players were being lauded only weeks ago). You’d think that the Reds were about to be relegated if you read of the tweets flying around.
* If people were half as passionate about what goes on in the real world as they are about football/sports, maybe we wouldn’t have fascists running two of the most powerful countries in the world, but I digress *
Liverpool are 90 minutes away from a Wembley final. Matip a vastly underrated player and a potential source of their dropped points is finally cleared to play and Coutinho finally looks able to complete 90 minutes.
If Klopp has been guilty of something this month it is overlooking the “lesser teams”. The performance against Sunderland and Swansea was in stark contrast to the performance against United and City.
This phrase has been written several times over the holiday period, but the next three games really will define Liverpool’s season and they are all at home. Instead of supporters raging against each other and the club now is the time to knuckle down and support.
Come on you Reds!
Brian (Well done to everyone who marched this weekend) LFC
Issue with Kane in losers section
Big fan of Winners and Losers, but I think you are being a tad harsh placing Harry Kane in the losers section based on his goal scoring record in the biggest games. Firstly, he assisted Spurs’ equaliser with a delightful touch (which you fail to recognise), helping them gain a point when they looked well and truly beaten. Secondly he was injured for around six weeks in the first half of the season and before that was coming back from the hangover of a poor showing at the world cup, which might go to explain some of his form against the other title rivals.
If you look back over the two seasons prior to this one you will find Kane has scored against the following:
2014/15 Tottenham 5 – 3 Chelsea – Kane Scored 2
2014/15 Tottenham 2 – 1 Arsenal – Kane scored 2
2014/15 Liverpool 3 – 2 Tottenham – Kane scored 1
2015/16 Tottenham 4 – 1 Man City – Kane scored 1
2015/16 Man City 1 – 2 Tottenham – Kane scored 1
2015/16 Tottenham 2 – 2 Arsenal – Kane scored 1
2015/16 Liverpool 1 – 1 Tottenham – Kane scored 1
2015/16 Chelsea 2 – 2 Tottenham – Kane scored 1
Which I would hardly describe as him going missing in the biggest of games.
Looking at this further, if compare Kane’s goalscoring record with that of the other leading scorers from the top six, you will find none are faring too well when playing against their title rivals.
Aguero has scored 0
Costa has two (against Liverpool, Sep 16 and Man City, Dec 3)
Ibrahimović has two (against Liverpool, Jan 15 and Man City Sep 10)
Sanchez has one (Chelsea, Sep 24 )
Mane one (Arsenal, Aug 14) or Firmino has scored 0
Against the above, one goal and one assist doesn’t look too bad!
Chris (Pep being a winner for drawing, when leading 2-0 at home, shows how badly he is performing at the moment), London
Man United choosing the wrong shots
Just wanted to chime in on Daniel Storey’s statistics on Manchester United and their profligacy. The number one reason why Manchester United need so many shots to score a goal is that their shot selection is poor. Before this weekend they ranked 15th in Expected Goals per shot. The other members of the top six:
Man City 1st
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA
New-found respect for Wayne Rooney
As a United fan, I’ve come to realise that, despite Wayne Rooney becoming our highest ever scorer, I don’t hold him in the same regard as so many other players who have graced Old Trafford, often for far shorter periods and I got to thinking why that is. I see many similar opinions in the press and in the mailbox but none of them ever really lined up with my thinking so I spent a few minutes on the dreary commute this morning wondering if I was doing Wayne a dis-service and I came to the conclusion that I am and here’s why.
I have always thought he could have been so much more than he is, had he looked after himself better, not carried as much weight and made better choices but then I realised that I was assuming that this would have made a difference. I’m naturally a fat bastard myself and I have to be careful on what I eat, especially as advancing years exacerbate the issue. Ryan Giggs was a good example of playing beyond the usual retirement age but then he’s always been bloody skinny and only really had to find a way to nurse the dodgy hamstrings, not fight against his body wanting to gain a stone every time he glanced at a doughnut. I think some of the things that made Rooney such a great player at a young age, strength and power, will naturally fight against him as he ages and I wonder if he has the intelligence or opportunity to tailor his game to remain effective.
Giggs was always credited with tailoring his game to suit his diminishing pace but I think it was more that Fergie allowed him to play in positions that didn’t require him to be beating players with pace and trickery. Mourinho has already shown this season that he will use Rooney in a similar role to that which he has always played but as an impact sub or to replace him when required, so he’s not going to feature as Giggs did as he gets older. I think this is the right way to go, Wayne’s game is still effective, as we saw against Stoke when he came on and we instantly looked more dangerous, not to mention the sublime free-kick at the end.
So, I’ve changed my thinking and will celebrate Rooney as he should be, as an awesome player in his prime who has scored a ridiculous number of goals for my club and who deserves all the respect in the world for doing so.
Paul Milton, Man Utd
Kudos to Moyes, Van Gaal and Mourinho
As a United fan who has had to withstand the hideous brand of football we played under Agent Moyes (chuckles) and LVG, let this mail not be misconstrued as in any way drawing any parallels between the current Man United under Mourinho and the two previous iterations of the team. For me, Mourinho’s United is miles ahead of both Moyes and LVG’s teams but, what I am going to say is that I take my hat off to the three of them for sticking to their guns and pushing ahead (under heavy criticism) with their desire to keep Wayne Rooney in the first team.
There has rightly been an outpouring of praise for Rooney congratulating him on becoming United’s all-time top scorer but what
has stuck with me most is that the large majority of people who are now congratulating Rooney are the same people that wanted him axed from the team because his touch was shocking/he couldn’t play when he had time and space/all he did was play hollywood passes to full backs. Had those people had their way Rooney would never have achieved what he is now getting world-wide praise for.
That being said, Rooney owes a heck of a lot to Moyes, LVG and Mourinho for persisting with playing him even though he seemed to hold the team back. The prospective reward for picking him and allowing him to inch closer to this record were much higher than his many poor games in the last three-and-a-bit seasons and I am glad that those three coaches saw that. Moyes, LVG and Mou basically sacrificed results, and, by extension in the case of the first two, their jobs to make sure Rooney left a lasting legacy at United.
Yes, Rooney now plays a lesser role under Mou but we cannot doubt how stubborn he has been in giving Rooney minutes and allowing the time to break the record. Kudos, gents.
Buchule, East London (Doesn’t Carrick have a little brother we can pick to replace him later on? No? Bummer!)
A vote for Mo
There is a midfielder in Arsenal’s ranks who would not have gotten sent off for a(nother) reckless lunge or giving away a completely daft and potentially very damaging penalty.
He very rarely gives the ball away and got a standing ovation on being substituted before heading off to the AFCON.
He gets his job done effectively with minimal fuss and has, in my opinion, done very little other than very well since joining Arsenal a year ago and is still only 24.
I was surprised not to see any Arsenal contributors to this morning’s Mailbox mention Mohamad Elneny. Unlike Coquelin and Xhaka, he oozes calm and he could end up being very important for ye once he gets back from Africa.
Kevin Walsh, Luimneach
Coq > > Xhaka
Interesting that Joe, AFC pointed out two potential match-changing mistakes made by the Coq over the last two seasons and uses this as a reason why he is an average player. What does that then make Xhaka who has amassed about four of these match-changing mistakes in half a season?
And yes, the Coq made a mistake for the penalty, but Koscielny did the same against Spurs (an almost identical challenge) which meant we drew that game instead of winning it, I don’t see anyone saying he is crap.
Also, bear in mind he makes more tackles per game than any other Arsenal player and more interceptions per game than any other Arsenal midfielder. With those kind of stats, every now and again you’re going to get an error.
Footballers make mistakes, big shocker. Some make them more often than others. If there is anyone that falls into the latter category, it’s Xhaka, not the Coq.
Adonis (A price tag does not make a player) Stevenson, AFC
Xhaka > > Coquelin
Geez guys, can we all just take a minute here to calm down a bit?
Look, yes, there’s no defending Granit Xhaka’s lunging tackle, and I don’t think Jon Moss was wrong to send him off. The rules about this sort of thing are pretty clear.
But I don’t think for one moment that Arsene Wenger regrets playing Xhaka. He secretly loves his naughty Swiss. In fact, his best Arsenal squads featured a strong selection of brute thugs… (It isn’t a coincidence that Wenger has opted for the street guerrilla type of late. If I was in a knife fight, I’d be much happier if Gabriel, Lucas Perez and Xhaka were at my side…)
Remember all the times we were told by all and sundry that Arsenal lacked a spine and a bit of bite in midfield? Wenger went out and bought the most combative CM he could find. He isn’t at all surprised by any of this.
Which is not to say that the Rottweiler Metzgerhund doesn’t need a little taming, but Xhaka is precisely the kind of midfield presence that Arsenal have lacked in recent years. It’s fine. He’ll learn.
Coquelin on the other hand. Good god.
Players make mistakes; get over it
It’s annoying that Xhaka and Coquelin almost conspired to see us avoid taking the mandatory three points.
But newsflash – defensive midfielders play in a position where routine screw ups are an industrial hazard in terms of bookings and silly fouls given away.
Patrick Vieira once famously gave the ball away to Giggsy and for my money he’s the greatest defensive/box to box midfielder we’ve ever had.
Xhaka has been at the club barely six months – it’s worth remembering Bobby Pires didn’t look like the player he would become until his second six months in England. Coquelin made a silly mistake but I’d rather he was in his box helping our defenders out rather than floating about doing nothing in the way Fabregas used to.
I totally get the frustration but perhaps we should be a little less hard on our players eh chaps? They’re only human.
I’m loving this Arsenal at the moment. Yes, it’s nice to play well but this ‘don’t know when we’re beaten’ attitude bodes well for the rest of the season.
And we got Angry Arsene – I like Angry Arsene as he only comes out when we’re actually fighting for something.
We’ve gone from fourth to second in a weekend and have scored yet another last-minute goal and we’re moaning?! It just doesn’t seem right.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
Thoughts about Bournemouth v Watford
I don’t have any. I’ve broken my ankle so won’t be sending any rambling mails for a while.
Andy J, Bournemouth
Ed’s Palace thoughts
* Crystal Palace are f###ed. Having just looked bad against West Ham United, they’re now in the zone of committed performances that ultimately aren’t good enough This is what gets said about sides that get relegated. Demoted teams also tend to lose home games to late goals, which is what happened here.
Regardless of who you’re playing, if it takes 79 minutes to register your first shot on target, you don’t deserve to win. However, there is something positive to take from restricting a side who put four past Manchester City to a single goal. That said, ‘only losing 1-0’ isn’t much of a positive.
* There is a case that Palace were a bit hard done by for the Everton goal. Jeffrey Schlupp went down injured in the Everton penalty area. Everton played on, as they are entitled to, but the ball went out of play. t this point, according to the laws, the referee should have stopped play to allow treatment and, as was required, a substitution for a player unable to continue.
Of course, the Toffees exploited the hole left by Schlupp and scored the winning goal from a marginally offside position. It’s a bitter pill to swallow but this is what happens when you have a home game and don’t create many chances.
* Wayne Hennessey had a game of two halves. He was brilliant in the first half, and with a lesser goalie it could easily have been 3-0. However, he reverted to type in the second half, spilling the ball on a couple of occasions. Steve Mandanda can’t come back quick enough.
* There’s just generally still a lot of unease around the club. Allardyce is yet to win over the fans properly with either results or performances, although this was a baby step in the right direction. That most of his charm offensive seems based around talking about signing loads of players isn’t entirely helpful – people accept the need for reinforcements but we’re generally reticent about spending loads of money on players – we’ve been in administration twice in the past 20 years after all.
* As much as any neutral can, I did feel for Manchester City on Saturday. Who does Raheem Sterling think he is, arrogantly staying on his feet and shooting while being shoved in the back instead of falling over? The footie idiot.
We should at least thank Sterling for reigniting the old debate on diving, as it’s fairly obvious if he’d hit the deck he would have earned his side a penalty and Kyle Walker a red card. It’s incredible none of the officials spotted it.
* Speaking of officials, Mike Dean’s decision to take charge of Barnsley v Leeds United paid dividends. According to the BBC report, he showed seven yellow cards and awarded a penalty for a handball outside the area. Still got it.
*I spent the weekend at my father-in-law’s new house, which is not far from Stockport. My route took me past the grounds of Leek Town and Macclesfield Town, both of whom had home games. Macclesfield are midtable in the National League, and lost 2-1 to relegation-threatened Guiseley Town; in the Northern Premier League Division One South, Leek got thumped 5-0 by fellow promotion-chasers Basford United. Can anyone beat that for a Midas touch?
I know it’s like shooting ducks in a barrel, but I’m a little surprised Garth Crooks’ team of the week didn’t merit a mention in Mediawatch today (unless I missed it completely, which is entirely possible). I think he’s excelled himself in some areas this week:
– Picking Petr Cech in goal, then openly admitting he only did so because it gave him the chance to talk about Wenger’s behaviour.
– Three of his four defenders scored goals. Poor Christian Kabasele.
– Alexis Sanchez is picked because he scored a penalty. Not that I think he doesn’t deserve it, but did he do nothing else in the 90 minutes Garth?
– Garth picks Tom Carroll and Fernando Llorente from Swansea, but spends more time in their respective sections discussing Liverpool’s failings in defence than Swansea.
– Did James Ward-Prowse really have a better game against an abject Leicester than say De Bruyne or Alli did in a game between two top teams?
– Finally my favourite part. To the surprise of no-one, Garth lavishes praise on Wayne Rooney. Best team player of his generation and produced ‘virtuoso performances’ under David Moyes apparently (would any Man U fan outside Guy S agree with that?). He hits he peak when he says that it was quite right for him to have stood up to Alex Ferguson when Rooney felt Ferguson wasn’t signing players befitting Manchester United. So in the case of England’s record goalscorer, it’s fine to issue transfer requests (because that’s what ‘stood up to’ means in this case) when your club is not signing the players you think they should.
– Contrast that with his comments about Payet in Andy Carroll’s section. Without a hint of awareness of the hypocrisy. Perhaps if Payet was English he’d feel differently?
More French Clement talk
Stu, Southampton, I was only saying to my girlfriend a couple of weeks ago that I was convinced Paul Clement was a French man, I even expressed great surprise that the PFMS hadn’t given him more of a hard time for his ‘failure’ at Derby or expressed outrage that he had snapped up a Premier league job over all the other ‘deserving’ English managers.
I had even convinced myself that the stupid news reporters and pundits had been pronouncing his name wrong, probably as some sort of bizarre protest against the French.
I subsequently felt like a fool, but luckily I’ve only told my girlfriend this story so no damage has been done to the image of an intelligent man that I like to portray!