Can Liverpool win the Premier League with Naby Keita?

Date published: Wednesday 20th October 2021 10:00 - Editor F365

Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita

Naby Keita is one of several reasons that Liverpool probably won’t win the Premier League. We also have views on Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea. Send yours to


Liverpool could win CL but not PL with that squad
That was a hell of a game with just about everything you could ask for. Great goals, shoddy defending, a controversial red card and all kinds of penalties. Atletico play better football than they used to but they still play in the image of their manager – which means total shithouses.

Beautiful start and a lovely goal from Keita, making it look like the gamble to start him was justified. Which was a false dawn, as he was arguably culpable for both goals after. Fabinho should have started, I doubt that mistake will be made again. The midfield suffers badly without him.

Mo Salah remains as potent a threat as there is around at the moment. As good as his first was though, it did have one very naughty deflection. But I was extremely struck by his reaction to scoring the penalty. Just so cool, calm and controlled – it’s no wonder he’s so good at them. Every game this season makes it more imperative to get his contract sorted. Wonder individual goals or game-winning penalties under extreme pressure – he does it all.

And what an absurd penalty it was. Hermoso just smashing Jota over with no attempt to play the ball. The only thing sillier was his effort to argue with the decision afterwards.

Speaking of decisions, there’s plenty who’ll say the other two key ones could have gone the other way. I was less convinced than Steve McManaman that it wasn’t a red card. A boot so high to the face it would have made an instructor at the local dojo happy – it looked very clear to me.

The reversed penalty, rather less so. There was contact and certainly not enough to make him go over. But it was scarcely so definite a dive as to cause the decision to be reversed. Reversed it was however and it was definitive. Simeone was furious but that’s nothing new.

Two European heavyweight sluggers went toe to toe for 90 minutes and hit each other with plenty of very heavy punches. Atletico were beaten but not remotely knocked out. The next game against them promises to be just as breathtaking and the atmosphere should be tremendous.

The feeling remains for me that we have a fantastic first XI but the quality in the squad is really not that deep. Lose key players like Salah, Virgil, Alisson or Fabinho and the replacements just aren’t there. City can replace damn near everyone.

In the league that may well prove the key issue. In the Champions League, City have to contend with Pep’s annual massive brain spasm, PSG with the weight of expensive failure and a team that doesn’t fit together and Chelsea will be focusing more, I believe, on the league this time. United are less of a team than ever and Barca and Real are just not very good. Bayern, on the other hand, are an excellent team indeed – they’re a serious threat to everyone.

It’s a competition where the Anfield European evenings and the positive weight of our history in the competition gives us every chance of going the distance. But it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see Atletico deep into the knockout stages.

And if we do, it’ll be a match well, well worth watching.
James, Liverpool


…Really Jekyll and Hyde Liverpool in a few big games this season. Against Man City and Brentford our game management was poor and today we were 2-0 up so quickly and seemingly then switched off to make it interesting. We do often look a bit worse at the start of the season so hopefully it’s just something we’ll improve on.

The silly offside rule balanced itself out by biting us on the bum today after we benefited from it on the weekend. Lemar didn’t need to touch the ball to be active and their first should’ve been disallowed.

Naby Keita spent the first 10 minutes today showing everyone why we paid so much money for him and the remainder of the first half making everyone wonder why we paid so much for him. Defensively he was poor and he’s actually not strong enough to handle an intense midfield fight like today. So many times he got muscled off the ball. On the plus side Mo Salah is still good at football.

Virgil Van Dijk is still a top player and one of the best centre backs in the world but today he definitely looked a little off the pace. I wonder if two games a week was maybe pushing him too hard given how long he spent out?
Minty, LFC


More thoughts on Atletico v Liverpool
1. Nothing controversial about the red. It was not intentional. It was definitely not in malice. But it was dangerous play. And it did take out Firmino. Nothing to argue there.

2. The penalty was pretty much spot on. I thought initially it was a coming-together. But replays clearly showed he was literally staring at Jota before shoving him down way before the ball reached them. And had the gall to protest his innocence.

3. The Jota incident was a good call by VAR. Jota barely touched him, if at all. Replay showed that clearly and good call by VAR to ask the ref to review. Kudos the the ref for standing his ground and correcting his error. That is the VAR that we all want. Not the “line under armpits” crap we are getting.

In all, a good European night match. Atletico proved they are always a strong side against any opposition. A draw might have been a fair result but Liverpool’s win was deserved from their dogged attitude and Atletico’s schoolboy mistakes.

Onwards to Old Trafford next!


Simeone for Man United?
Ole will see this year out no matter what. Zidane’s name is being flouted around as a replacement but United would do better to look on the other side of Madrid next year.

Pedigree of winning?
Tactical nous?
Knows how to set up a team?
Experience of breaking a duopoly?
Hates Klopp?

Convinced that Diego Simeone is the man for Manchester United. Don’t see many others challenging Klopp and Pep.
Shehzad Ghias, MUFC, Karachi

Simeone F365

Diego Simeone


Ole prepping for PSG?
Just watched PSG vs Leipzig and I couldn’t help but see similarities to Ole’s Man Utd.

Granted, I don’t watch PSG that often, but from the little I saw they do have similar flaws.

They don’t seem to have a plan beyond relying on individual brilliance.
They give opponents plenty of space.
They have error-prone defenders.
Opponents could cross at will into the box.
Their keeper is usually kept busy.

One could conclude that Man Utd are playing like a runaway Ligue 1 leader, or Ole is preparing for a PSG call-up.
Awang, Malaysia


The Manchester United conundrum
This week it was Maguire. Last week it was Fred. The week before I can’t remember. Sometimes it was DDG. Other times it was Pogba. Then it was Martial. Obviously the coaching staff are pants too. Last season, it was the Red Banners at the empty OT. Soon we’ll drag Albert Morgan, out from retirement to blame him for folding the kits wrong and ordering the socks too small. It seems every game there is some guy on the pitch we’re blaming or it’s individual mistakes that costs us. There’s always someone or something to blame.

But wait, does this happen week in, week out at those clubs challenging for the title? Does Liverpool, City or Chelsea pick a scapegoat every single game? Do they make individual mistakes that costs them games weekly?

We moan and moan about the team being inconsistent under Ole. But come on, if you have 1 good game every 4 average games for 2 to 3 seasons. You’re consistent.

And then it’s the ‘we need a DM’ thingy. We need a no 9. We need a CB. We need this. We need that. Every season we need something. 1 billion spent – World record defender. World Cup winners. Champions League winners. Ballon d’Or winner. Generational talents. All that and we still need this and that. Otherwise we can’t win anything.

I get that. But do we need to have all the stars aligned and 2 world class player in each position filled before we win anything? Did LVG have that? Did Jose have that? Tuchel won the Champions League without a proper striker last season. City is playing without a proper 9 this season.

So what’s wrong here?

The obvious answer (to those who’s heads are no longer buried in the sand) is that we don’t have an elite manager. Ole’s a legend as a player – although if he didn’t score that winner in ‘99 most would just label him as ex player (but let’s not go there… slipper slope that). And let’s be honest. He’s done a great job as our manager to at least bring the feel good factor back into the dressing room and among the fan base. He’s been part of the process to recruit some very decent players and has helped built a formidable squad to date. He’s done good. But let’s face it, he’s maxed out on his capacity. The one thing that we need now from a manager is the tactical nous and in this area, Ole has shown all his cards. His limited array of tricks have been used and don’t work anymore. He is unable to come out with more. And as for that ability to inspire that dressing room and make them move mountains for him, that’s fading too after the initial high. Maybe his lack of tactical know how has been exposed there. Maybe they’ve just gotten too comfortable with him. Maybe they don’t fear him. I don’t know but it’s obvious that something isn’t right in there. This is about the best that he can do. For us as a team to move to the next level, we need someone else to get there – great job Ole. Sincerely. But we need that extra push now and we have to move on.

But the less obvious answer is that as a club, we’re just not set up as a club to win trophies. We may have the right mission statement, beliefs, ethical stances and ideals polished nicely into beautiful words but at the heart of it, the owners just views the club as just a cash cow. Hence why the top executives are all finance based and none have proper experiences in running football clubs. And that creates a halo effect downwards. The accountant mindset is at work when we hire for top positions. Hence why we rather go for promotions rather than go out to the market and hire top professionals in their fields. With our resources and club stature, we can easily do it but we always seems that we always end up with the more cost effective route and this has resulted in a club structure that puts profits and overheads above winning trophies.

So where do we go from here? Honestly I have no answer. Many think I’m Ole Out. I’m not. I actually feel for the guy even though he annoys the heck out of me. He’s so obviously over his head and trying his best to hang on to his dream job. Even he knows he won’t have any shot at a big club after this. I don’t think sacking him today, tomorrow or yesterday would help in the bigger scheme of things. We need to fix the entire structure of the club first before we can think of being a force again. Will that ever happen under the Glazer ownership. Breaks my heart but I don’t think so.

Unfortunately the short term answer is hiring and sacking managers and hoping some of them win some Cups here and there – like how we did with LVG and Jose. That’s about the best we can hope for.

Back to where we were pre Fergie years
Keeps, East Of Mancunia


Late-night tactical advice for Arteta
It’s 3:05 am in Dublin, me girlfriend is sleeping next to me, and I am lying awake thinking about how Arsenal could beat the suffocating presses they faced against Crystal Palace and Brighton. Now, man to man, Arsenal had the better team but Arsenal’s problem was rather tactical.

In the fashion of Juliann Nagelsmann’s Bayern Munich off the ball these days, the problem in its ideal type presents itself as this: out of possession, his team basically plays a 2-3-2-3 pressing the opposition high up the pitch. Both Crystal Palace and Brighton played variations on the same theme; there’s a telling image from last night where Gabriel is in possession and behind Partey are five Crystal Palace midfielders ready to block all passing lanes. Brighton pressed Arsenal even higher up the pitch from Arsenal goalkicks to the point that Ramsdale had to keep going long but Brighton’s center back pairing with an average height of 6’4 cleared them with ease.

So Arsenal’s tactical solution lies in the counter intuitive strategy of playing 3 at the back. The Athletic did an excellent piece on Leicester enjoying success with 3 at the back by basically ensuring that any press can be bypassed due to having more forward passing options. Tobias Hahn at The Third Man also did a cool twitter thread on FC Freiberg playing a 3-6-1 against presses that have the same solution.

In Arsenal’s case, the three CB pairing would have Partey, the wingbacks and a dropping number 8 (ESR or Odegaard) as passing options to beat a 5 man or even 6 man press. Once you do that, you basically have a great shot at creating 2 v 2 situations with Saka and Aubameyang whom I would very much fancy in most situations.

Postscript: The Bundesliga appears to have by far the most tactically innovative developments these days; I recently saw a bit of Hoffenheim who seem to overload the opposition box with 5-6 players somehow each time they get into a crossing position. What sorcery is that?

I guess I should sleep now.

Yours etc.,
Shahzad, Arsenal fan in Dublin


Arteta CAN be criticised
Have to say, I really like Vieira at Palace and what he’s trying to do. Late equalisers conceded aside, they want and show for the ball and use it well. A lot of the time with lower sides they tend to have to be a ball of energy to get results like that (not that I’m saying Palace weren’t energetic) but this felt more controlled. In the past few seasons we’ve seen Sheffield, Leeds and Southampton for a while at the start of last season do this, but it always felt unsustainable. Palace feel like they could play this way constantly. It’s mature football and had they had Zaha it probably would’ve been better; some decisions in the final third really let them down.

I should preface the part about Arsenal as being more pissed off at the pre-match preview for this game rather than the article after the game last night – which I agreed with. The pre-match preview basically said any criticism of Arsenal or Arteta after drawing to Brighton was invalid because Brighton are “one of the best teams in the country.” Brighton are coached well and are high in the table for now but they’ve also played Burnley, Watford, Brentford, Palace (who they got a very late equaliser against) and Norwich out of their 8 games. The Leicester result was very good. If Brighton finished 10th it would be a great season for them, if Arsenal finished 10th it would be a very bad season for them, so why are Arsenal being painted as the underdogs against “one of the best in the league” Brighton? It doesn’t make sense.

It also bothered me at the time but when Arsenal lost against City and Chelsea there was a narrative that said “it’s grand, they shouldn’t expect anything from those games anyway”, but a serious question needs to be asked of what other clubs would have that mentality playing them? Arsenal’s closest rivals are Leicester, Spurs, West Ham, Everton and Villa; would any of these clubs go into the games saying they just expect to lose or accept it so willingly afterwards? Arsenal are shifting (and being encouraged by some sections of the media) to small club mentality. There can be a higher happy medium in expectations that Arsenal won’t win the league, but should be expected to at least make a well-run, consistent challenge at 5th or 6th and hope one of the Big Four slip up (mostly United) and be ready to take it. Easily accepting draws at Brighton and home to Palace doesn’t do that.

The weirdest stat is that Arsenal have only scored 7 goals in 8 games: only three teams have scored less than them; Norwich, Burnley and Southampton. Yes, Arsenal are not City but you can’t seriously be telling me they have an attacking force bad enough to be that bad; before last night they’d scored 5 goals in 7 games? That’s genuinely baffling. And that thing about “defensive foundations” would probably work better if they didn’t have the 8th worst record for goals conceded. You can keep saying about Arsenal’s patterns in pre-match previews and Arteta’s “vision” all you want, but they’re the basics. And the Spurs game aside, how many games have Arsenal played well in this season?

Again, I’m only really writing this because that pre-match preview said that any criticism of Arsenal should they not win against Palace is a “lazy hot take”. Already laying the foundation that makes it impossible to criticise Arsenal or Arteta for not beating Palace before a ball was even kicked? Give over. Palace were the unfortunate team to get a draw, after the amount spent on Arsenal’s team, you can rightly criticise that.
James, Galway


Chelsea have issues too
Long time reader here.

So I just decided to weigh in on my team Chelsea cos I have concerns I think are being papered over by winning (losses to City & Juve aside).

Our attack isn’t it. This isn’t the team I was promised based on all the signings we have made. I thought that + Tuchel would make us a team that actually wants to dominate the ball against any opponent and our glut of attacking mids (someone there needs to be sold & it remains to be seen who) to create chances & score themselves. Instead, we’ve become the reactionary, counter-attacking team I’d hoped we’d move past.

Which brings me to our 3-4-2-1 formation. I honestly thought it would be impossible to be an offensive team with 3CBs but I also thought that with 2 10s behind a striker with the WBs pushing up (probably our most solid position all things considered. Marcos Alonso is still a good option) we’d be able to control the ball more and have enough bodies in the box to put away chances. Problem is we turn to mud whenever we’re pressed (just kick the ball gaddamit!!!), our build up play is slow and this leaves Lukaku isolated and not getting enough service. I don’t think his current drought is on him & I do think there is merit to what Conte said about how we’re using him. He shouldn’t just be at the shoulder of defenders getting into duels with them. He should be running at them more. At Inter he had a lot of goals where he’d position himself on the wing to get the ball on the counter and shred defenders apart. I’ve seen none of that with Chelsea.

I like Tuchel and he has done things that inspires confidence (getting good games out of RLC & Barkley, his reaction to the Juve game, & his overall impact since his arrival) but I think some tactical changes towards creating more chances like a 3-4-1-2 instead of a 3-5-2 with Jorginho, Kante & Kovacic, cos that mid can’t provide enough chances for this front 2.

Rant over. Still think we can win the league.

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