Another fine email inbox. Keep them coming to firstname.lastname@example.org…
On a really good week to be a Manchester City fan
It’s been a pretty good week to be a City fan. 9-0 overall against 2 very good opponents is definitely something to be happy about. After the previous 3 matches (Walker, Sterling, Ederson) it was nice to be able to hear about the football and not the other bits – ok there’s no avoiding the “KdB cost as much as Feyenoord starting 11” but we’re used to that now.
What I found most interesting was how City lined up last night. With Fernandinho as the middle of the back 3, it allowed a midfield trio of Bernardo Silva, KdB and Merlin – this is PlayStation football at its finest. Against the lesser teams whose managers like to defend deep, this tactic is perfect.
There is still the defensive trio when not in possession however Fernandinho can step out of defence while the team is in possession and when he looks up there will usually be 7 players buzzing around in front of him ready to receive the ball. His positional awareness is such that should the opponent’s’ counter attack, he would be high enough up the pitch to challenge for the ball while knowing there are 2 defenders in cover (teams rarely break in numbers against City) and 2 Olympic sprinters on the wings to chase back as well.
Sure against a team like Barca, PSG etc it would be suicidal, but 95% of our matches aren’t so City need that tactic to break down stubborn teams.
The great thing about this kind of formation is that adjustments are easy to effect with the overall shape of the team not changing much. The transition areas would shift further forward or back, however considering the quality of the players and coaching, it would be hard to see anyone but the best teams putting City on the back foot.
There’s a shift going on at the moment, Guardiola is taking the club by the scruff of the neck and trying to beat the “Typical City” out of it. I won’t pretend to speak for an entire fan base but my twitter echo chamber seems to think we’re on the way to something special. Trophies and titles are the expectation of the owners, entertainment is what I want.
It may not be original, it may not always work but I think City are on the way to finally sitting at the same table as the true European elite, or I’m just deluded.
The fair response on Klopp (and we’ll have just one)
I expected to see a bit of grumbling in the mailbox but reading that you’d think we’d succumbed to a second consecutive 5-0 defeat.
Firstly the idiot who wants Klopp gone. He has taken a team that was fundamentally broken to two cup finals in his first full season and then into the Champions’ League in his second. Yes, he has failed to fix the problems in defence but to say they are ‘no better’ than under Rodgers is asinine. Rodgers’ side conceded 8 more goals (20%) in a lower quality league and in an attacking sense benefited from a superlative season from Suarez in particular and to a lesser extent Sterling, Sturridge, Coutinho and Gerrard (all but one inherited). Klopp has been the single biggest factor in his team’s improvement; Rodgers could never say that.
Next the guy who in the space of a paragraph goes from complaining about the lack of reaction to the City game to saying we should’ve been 4-1 up by half time. Exactly what sort of reaction were you expecting? Yes, Lovren is inexplicably, unfathomably terrible and should be nowhere near a CL side. Yes, we dropped points in a game we should have won. But we responded excellently to going 1-0 down early, particularly on the back of Saturday’s game; Sevilla to their credit defended resolutely in the second half and were patient enough to wait for the one chance we were likely to gift them but were clearly second best on the night and lucky to escape with a point.
Put it this way: if the teams were switched so it was Liverpool being dominated but defending well and snatching a draw, the response would have been far worse. This is a team that’s not competed in the CL for eight years* and not made the knockout stages in ten. Our first game back is against the strongest opponents in the group and we are unfortunate only to come away with a draw. And yet there’s someone advocating that we sack the manager.
JG LFC (*I said competed, not participated)
A welcome back Ander
Having just read the news that Paul Pogba could be out for up to a month. I can’t help but smile at this latest development. A few weeks back people in the mailbox were arguing that Herrera’s time in United’s midfield might be up and that United’s player of the year might not get many opportunities to impress this year.
This latest injury proves otherwise. Herrera is mou’s trusted lieutenant. He’s going to start every match now. Though we will definitely miss pogba’s quality in the middle of the park for the next 1 month. The main frustration with Him is that he tends to hold onto the ball for far too long hence losing it and harming our chances of hurting the opposition.
With Ander certain to start the next match, maybe we finally get to see the ball being moved fast in midfield.
Storey is spot on about competition
Daniel Storey’s excellent piece on the lack of competition in the CL group stages had me nodding along like a deranged lunatic. I’ve believed every word of that for years.
What baffles me is when you ask why UEFA does it that way, the inevitable answer is ‘money’. But where is all this money coming from? Who, apart from the fans of the two teams involved, is watching any of these games (even if they’re not shunted away on some mysterious channel no one even knew existed?)
Barcelona v Juventus? It should be a corker of a match, but it’s more like two top sprinters in a qualifying heat running the bare minimum to make it to the final. Just as Daniel points out, no fool would go at it hammer and tongs now when your energy is required for later on.
The clubs might be taking home bucketloads of cash, but how are the TV networks or the governing body even seeing a penny of it? Advertising? The sponsors must surely be getting data on audience figures year in, year out and they can’t be liking what they see.
There’s no such thing as perpetual motion; how is this behemoth still rolling?
On the Champions League’s decline
Daniel Storey’s article identified a problem that has existed for many years. The rule change may have only exasperated the lack of competitiveness in the group stages but the increasing gap in quality was already leading it that way.
The solution, as ever, is simple. It would benefit the fans, UEFA and the TV networks but traditionalism continues to stop positive change. I have even heard some of these fans say the problem is that most of the teams aren’t actually champions. The Champions League may have started as a league for literal champions, but that avenue isn’t even worth discussing anymore.
The problem is that there are too many teams that don’t deserve to be there. In the last few years, Qarabag and APOEL have been regulars. I don’t see the benefit of this to anyone but Qarabag’s coffers. Their comparatively small fan base doesn’t enjoy getting thrashed every other midweek, no other fan enjoys watching their games and they devalue the worth of the Champions League.
In addition, it boosts their finances in comparison to teams in their respective leagues and further distorts competition there leading to the same teams making the playoffs. The change to include multiple clubs for some countries was done in order to keep up with the increasing quality in some leagues. I think the Champions League is long past due another major reconstruction. Qarabag would get relegated from the Premier League in a record number of games. If the Champions League truly reflected reality, there would be 20 EPL teams before Qarabag made it.
Of course, simply denouncing some teams and giving free passage to others would be unfair but there is nothing stopping UEFA from expanding their 54 team qualification system to 72 teams and including teams that finish 5th, 6th, 7th and even 8th from the top leagues. This gives teams facing greater competition in their respective leagues the opportunity they merit and allows superior teams from inferior leagues to prove themselves as well.
Looking at the teams in the group stages now, there are 10 or 11 dead teams that add no sort of value to the competition and that is a kind figure. Looking through the Europa League and even completely outside Europe, why shouldn’t the likes of Hoffenheim, Hertha Berlin, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Arsenal, Everton, Leicester, Lazio, OGC Nice replace those teams if they can beat them in the playoffs. And yes, I am aware some of these teams lost in the playoffs.
UEFA have the opportunity to make an absolutely top-class, unmissable product that all fans can enjoy. We could easily have 3 teams in every group that must qualify and a 4th that will give each one a game. Europa League would be a disaster early on, but it always is regardless of who’s in it, so nothing would really change there. The teams dropping down from the Champions League to compete in the latter stages of the Europa League would also be significant clubs with a point to prove rather than just another run of the mill club.
The most important thing to note here is that it will still be based on merit not name. That means when Chelsea finish 10th, they’re out. I don’t think saying teams are being put at a disadvantage due to the quality of the opposition is rational if we’re talking about the opportunity to play at the top.
We need to cut out the dross
After reading Daniel Storey’s latest Champions league early loser I thought I’d offer my thoughts on it.
The solution is pretty simple, honestly, just add another playoff round to cut out your Qarabags and your Apoels (with all due respect to them) so that you end up with 16 teams that will really have a go at each other.
I honestly don’t see how Qarabag will be learn anything by getting thumped by the likes of
Atletico, Roma and Chelsea (as we saw recently). Let them play sides on
their level which will truly help them in the long run.
Africa may not produce the most competitive sides in the world but they have shown how you can keep things competitive and tense through their World Cup qualifying final group phase(4 groups of 4 teams) and their CAF Champions League(4 groups of 4 teams).
So Uefa please just follow CAF’s clearly superior structure.
PrinceGucci (Pretty sure Uefa will stay true form and double the group stage teams)
Managers need luck as well as judgment
The comments about Liverpool’s shambolic defensive setup, lots of them seeming pretty sensible to me, reveal one of the truths that I think often goes missing, particularly in the media and fan idolatry of managers – that is, the combination of luck that must go with judgment to make a successful one.
Mats Hummels, who Klopp’s judgment told him to pick from the Bayern reserves and put his faith in, might have proved to be unworthy of it. Instead he proved to be one of the best centre-backs in Europe, and what is evidently Klopp’s managerial weakness – actually drilling defences – was mitigated by how good Hummels was, not to mention how commanding Weidenfeller was, who he was lucky to already find at Dortmund.
Subsequently his obvious managerial strengths could play out at the other end of the pitch, and it’s all gravy cos the back door was safely locked. He bought Subotic with him from mainz too btw, but who knows whether they’ll be able to hack it at a higher level?
To imply he doesn’t know what he’s doing is nonsense. By trusting his judgment, he got lucky, just like fergie did with those kiddies he decided were worth a crack. I think Liverpool fans should gulp at what they might have to endure in the meantime and then trust that once he’s properly settled in this league, he can judge where to buy a good centre-back from.
Van Dijk was it, but most reds by now must have grasped their owners’ attitudes to paying modern transfer fees. Better hope you get lucky.
Dortmund’s support is now starting to grate
Just a quick word on Spurs before a change of heart about Borussia Dortmund’s support.
That was the best European night since Bale beasted Inter Milan at White Hart Lane (RIP). We rode our luck a bit with the disallowed goal and some last-ditch defending, but could also have scored three or four more had Son, Kane and Eriksen and Sissoko taken gilt-edged chances.
There were excellent performances across the pitch and it was particularly pleasing to see how Poch changed things at half time after Dortmund dominated the first 45 minutes, turning the tables with his tactical nous. He really is magic, you know.
What I really wrote in to say was that i’ve really gone off Dortmund’s support. I used to be blown away by the sea of yellow, the banners, the massive flags, the drumming, the pogo-ing and synchronised clapping.
But last night at Wembley it began to grate. It’s all so choreographed, so self-aware and regimented. You can just imagine them all meeting up each week in a secondary school playground, choreographing the moves.
“No Thorsten, it’s 1-2-3 *CLAP* then wait for the drums and jump! Get it right or you’re out, understand?”
I love passionate support but it’s all a little too well organised for my liking. Or am I just being bitter because Tottenham played a drum through a loudspeaker against Chelsea and had to stop doing it because it was so sh*t and everyone laughed at us?
Rob Davies, THFC
Can see why you would be annoyed about this
I read your gossip this morning and one particular piece really p*ssed me off. So Palace are rumoured to be giving Hodgson 40mil to spend in January and he’s going to target Wilshere.
De Boer got sacked because he had square pegs and round holes and now they’re gonna get Roy in and give him that round f*cking pole.
Absolute joke. Sorry Ed but I hope you go down this season.
Dale ( next Leeds game I attend I owe you a match report) Leeds
Bring it on, b*tch
Just left my mum’s house to track Daniel Storey down.