Case for the defence
We’re sure you’ll agree that Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp have come in for plenty of stick this season for their defending. It has been one of the running themes of this Premier League season.
Yet in his Daily Mirror column on Tuesday, Stan Collymore says that the problem is that people aren’t criticising Liverpool enough for their defending. In fact, it’s being overlooked:
‘As things stand, it’s blatantly obvious that Liverpool can score goals but not defend and I still don’t think enough people are picking them up on that.’
They are Stan. They really are. Everyone is saying it. We challenge you to ask ten football supporters what will ultimately hamper Liverpool this season. At least nine of them will point in the general direction of the centre-backs.
‘The problem is that the commodity of football has been given to a lot of people who haven’t played it or watched it and been engrossed in it for 30 years. That means not everyone can see what ought to be smacking them in the face.
‘I’m not just talking about the teenagers who play FIFA and don’t know much about the nuances and context of the game, but a lot of media folk as well.’
Mediawatch does enjoy the idea that Collymore is suddenly a spokesperson for nuance. This is a man whose column is literally titled ‘the man who speaks his mind’. This is the man who recently called Klopp “spiteful and unprofessional” for his post-match interview against Everton. This is the man who said about former coach Ray Train:
“One day, I thought God had smiled on me because Ray keeled over and had a heart attack on the training pitch. It felt like divine retribution. I had never been so happy in my entire fucking life. He didn’t die. Little fuckers like him never do.”
Truly nuanced, of course.
‘They lay it on thick when Liverpool win 4-0 at Bournemouth, talking about how amazing they are, but don’t then question a goalless draw against West Brom.’
Not quite sure using an example of Liverpool drawing 0-0 is the best way of illustrating their dreadful defence, but then Collymore is a maverick.
‘I’d much rather see Liverpool winning 1-0 or 2-1 every game than the pendulum swinging so far. People will say, ‘You’re talking cobblers, it’s about entertainment’. But If all you get excited about as a fan is how many goals teams score then something is wrong.
‘Why can’t you be blown away by a team keeping a really good clean sheet or keeping the ball for the last 15 minutes of a game to dilute pressure?’
Pesky facts: Liverpool have kept the same number of clean sheets as two of the three teams above them in the Premier League, and that includes the runaway leaders. They have kept clean sheets in five of their last nine games, a record beaten by none of the ‘big six’.
‘People watch too many 45-second highlights packages and make their minds up these days, and Liverpool will always come off well from those – a Salah run here, a Mane run there, a Coutinho free-kick and happy days – but it doesn’t show the bigger picture.’
Every 45-second highlights package that Mediawatch has watched has shown every goal from the game, both those that a team scores and concedes.
Still, classic grumpy straw man work: 1) Pick something that isn’t really a thing. 2) Get angry about it. 3) Blame the youf of today.
Why didn’t somebody tell us?
Shout out to The Sun’s chief football reporter Neil Ashton for another wonderful straw man in Tuesday’s copy of the paper.
Ashton has noticed that although Manchester City are 11 points clear in the Premier League, they have won fewer domestic titles than Manchester United and fewer European Cups than Real Madrid and Barcelona. Top spotting:
‘The dream is to become one of the true giants of the game. To have the pull of Barcelona. To be revered like Real Madrid. To move out of Manchester United’s shadow forever. Manchester City, with their dreamy football taking them 11 points clear of United, are giving it a right good go, but they’re not there yet.’
Erm, yeah. We know. Nobody has said they are, have they?
‘Pep Guardiola’s side, with 16 successive wins in the Premier League, have a swagger about them when they emerge from that showy new tunnel of theirs. They are a special team for sure.
‘Soon the trophies will arrive, starting with the Premier League and maybe, just maybe, the Champions League as well. It will take that and more to build a legacy. If they go on to win the Premier League playing like this, they will be cherished, remembered, lionised.
‘But is it enough?’
Well it’s enough for now, isn’t it? The last time Mediawatch checked, City can only win one Premier League title per season. If they really do want to catch up with Manchester United’s 20 titles – and it seems like it’s only Ashton putting those words in their mouths – they can’t do much more than win it this season.
Ashton goes on to point out – at some length – that Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United have more Twitter followers, have more Ballon D’Or winners, have won more European Cups, sell more shirts and have cornered the Asian market more effectively than City.
Again, this is known. It’s almost as if those teams were dominant 60, 50, 40, 30, 20 and 10 years ago.
Mediawatch has not heard a single person say that Manchester City are a ‘true giant of world football’. We have heard plenty of people say that they are playing sodding brilliant football. And that’s plenty enough for now.
They aren’t laughing now
Elsewhere in The Sun, Ian Wright rightly points out that those who were criticising Pep Guardiola are suddenly very quiet indeed. Let him explain:
‘PEP GUARDIOLA and the noisy neighbours are making an awful lot of people fall silent this season. Last summer after Manchester City failed to win the title, the manager was dismissed as a busted flush on countless radio phone-ins that I hosted.
‘Guardiola’s previous accomplishments at Barcelona and Bayern Munich were derided and the Premier League saluted for having exposed the Spaniard as a coach who was OK in a league where the title is handed to you on a plate. Hmmmm. Doesn’t quite look that way now.’
And not just by the callers to those phone-ins, eh Wrighty.
You might remember your 5Live 606 co-host Robbie Savage saying that Tony Pulis had done a better job in December 2016, calling Guardiola “clueless”. He then said a month later that none of Pep Guardiola’s signings had made any impact and that, although he hadn’t written Guardiola off, Manchester City’s owners should be worried about the lack of Plan B.
It’s oh so quiet…
Running before you can walk
“I think I’m capable of doing the job at any club in the world so I’m sure I can do it at West Ham. I have to come here and show I can do it. You have to come and show what you can do” – David Moyes.
Might be worth getting Real Sociedad, Sunderland and Manchester United on the phone to discuss that one, David. Although we do admire the self-confidence of someone who can be this bullish purely on the back of winning two of his first seven games in charge of his new club.
All of the following are prominent headlines on The Sun’s football homepage at 11.30am on Tuesday:
‘City hit the lanes after bowling Spurs over as Jesus wins golden pin’
‘Liverpool stars head out for Christmas party on Sunday with stunning Wags’
‘Proud dads Cristiano Ronaldo and Conor McGregor share cute baby snaps’
‘Lukaku does his best to win back fans by spraying £250k Rolls in United colours’
‘Cesc Fabregas announces engagement to mum of his three kids Daniella Semaan’
‘Man City brilliantly mock United’s Fellaini in Twitter jibe’
‘Luke Shaw goes jewellery shopping in engagement ring section with girlfriend’
Who needs actual football or football news, eh?
‘Liverpool stars head out for Christmas party with stunning Wags on Sunday evening… as Danny Ings’ model girlfriend Georgia Gibbs steals the show again’ – The Sun.
Rough translation: The author of said headline thinks Ings’ wife is more attractive than the other players’ partners. And that is what is truly headline-worthy here.
‘If United beat Bristol City tomorrow, there is the incredible prospect of the two teams (Manchester United and Manchester City) meeting home and away in the two-legged semi-final’ – Neil Ashton, The Sun.
Two reserve teams facing each other in both managers’ fourth priority competition. What could be more incredible?
Recommended reading of the day
Henry Winter on Raheem Sterling.
Sid Lowe on Las Palmas.
Miguel Delaney on Pep Guardiola.