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I heard him described a few seasons ago by a TV commentator (I moved to Australia in 2010) as a ‘meat and potatoes’ defender. At the time I thought this was very generous, as he was just about ok defending, unless confronted with pace and/or skill.
Going forward he was shocking! Never beating his man, or even committing a defender, he always stopped the dribble and passed sideways from the wide positions – often misplaced and too often making the receiving midfielder turn towards his own goal.
Rather than suggest a very ordinary defender can be part of a team that will contend for the Premier League this year (I do recognise that Djimi Traore won a Champs League medal), I would much rather see Milner or a range of other players take on the role. Heck, I’ll even put on my boots and back myself to be as good as Nate.
Ian, Now living in Oz
Mike Ashley – not all right
You’ll no doubt be deluged with responses to Ross’ observations from the earlier mailbox but I thought I should address his slightly pass-agg question about Mike Ashley.
I won’t bore everyone by exhaustively detailing all the issues with his ownership. I’ll just say, no Ross, he is not alright. Not by a long shot.
We spent some money, which is obviously welcome, but it took the manager basically threatening to walk out – which he now can without the punitive contract clauses that existed previously – and huge numbers of season ticket holders threatening not to renew for him to grudgingly allow anyone to be brought in at all.
We’ve needed cover at left back for aeons so a loan move for someone failing to break into a struggling Monaco side seems the least we could expect, and breaking the transfer record sounds impressive until you remember that it’s stood for 14 years and is still substantially less than the going rate for one of Chelsea’s teenagers.
Mel – Belin, leaving aside the fact that supporting 3 football teams could arguably be construed as actually supporting none at all (as it would be a little bit Sith to say so) there do appear to be some gaps in your knowledge of recent Liverpool Title-bottling history:
2014: Liverpool were 3 games away, just a little closer than the present situation I would say:
Liverpool: Three remaining fixtures – can they remain on top of the Premier League table?
Chelsea (H) – 27 April – Gerrard’s slip after saying “we do not let this slip” after beating Citeh – literally keeping rival fans warm ever since. In essence Liverpool tried too hard to win due to Jose’s douche-baggery winding us up, and Brendan’s hubris demanding we sweep all before us, when all we needed here was a draw. This is why Klopp’s hubris is so concerning to me now – I can genuinely see history repeating if Klopp isn’t pragmatic enough to admit and resolve our current weaknesses.
Crystal Palace (A) – 3 May – going 3-0 up before finishing the game 3-3 due to Brendan’s hubris preventing him shutting up shop when comfortably ahead, and Suarez’s similarly ignoble grabbing the ball out of the net after our third, looking to pile more goals on to help our goal difference against Citeh – this was all the goading the Eagles needed. Hubris again shown to be a massive negative factor in the Title run-in.
Newcastle (H) – 11 May – we won 2-1 in a dead rubber after Citeh won both their previous fixtures after we let them in.
2009: Fair play we never really got a finger on the Premier League trophy, but I would argue that we got closer then than we are now – we beat the eventual champions United 4-1 at OT in March when Torres made Vidic look like a man who had just stumbled out of a pub, blinded by sunlight. The problem in 08/09 was failing to beat sides that would normally be expected to be beaten – we followed the United result up by losing 2-0 at Fulham for example. Sound familiar?
Failing to beat Leicester at home having been given the opportunity to put genuine daylight between us and Citeh, again brings back horrible memories of how easy it is to lose a Title, if you let your concentration slip (sorry Stevie!) for a second. I’m not whining about Klopp – far from it, I did say I love the man and the team – he is the best we could have at the moment by a mile, but excuses take the focus away from making the necessary improvements to give us the edge in the fine margins that win the Title. Citeh have experience of rectifying such mistakes to win the Title – Liverpool do not.
Hopefully Klopp was putting out a smokescreen while he does address our genuine issues with his players, and our players are only phobic to snow and not the pressure of a Title run-in, only time will tell.
Jonny Dance – inconsistency will catch up with you eventually – I don’t think it’s a wildly inaccurate statement that the most consistent team wins the Title most years, so to say inconsistency is working just fine cheers as we’re top of the league is naïve to say the least.
Agreed Klopp has tweaked our approach to improve the defence (scoring less goals as a result) but the aforementioned inconsistency has led to us conceding a fair few goals in our most recent fixtures, so it is a tad presumptuous to say that Klopp has fixed that particular problem once and for all.
Transfers – definite improvement here but Klopp doesn’t get all the credit for that does he? The team has learned to win games, but not Titles – show me the trophy if I am wrong. I am not saying winning trophies is the be-all and end-all, but if you do want to win trophies you do have to be consistent, and admit and resolve failings to close the fine margins as mentioned previously.
I wouldn’t swap our position with anybody either, and I am trying to maintain perspective too – just hoping Klopp is doing the same thing and not getting distracted by snow and rubbish refereeing. Klopp does have experience of winning the Bundesliga, so let’s trust that he knows what he is doing – the wounds from 2014 and 2009 haven’t healed yet though.
Gofezo (Not whining, but managing my own expectations in light of the above) Jesus
Always going to be a Man City win
Irrespective of the kind of form Arsenal are / could have been in, is there any other big-ish club that looks certain to lose when going to the Etihad? It’s not to slight Arsenal, but their team setup makes it a City win at home any season of the year. Again, this is for so called ‘Top’ clubs.
On a different note, it seems quite a nice coup for Palace to get Batshuayi on loan. Although I was hoping Wickham could have been their solution.
Airit, Warsaw (Can Newcastle do it two in a row??!!!)
Can someone please explain to me why, in football, it’s totally OK for the players and fans to scream all kinds of disgusting verbal abuse at other people as long as race, gender or creed aren’t mentioned?
I’ll have a bit of Batshuayi
It remains to be seen whether Crystal Palace have signed a striker who was prolific for Standard Liege, Olympique de Marseille and Borussia Dortmund, or the guy from the World Cup who kicked the ball into the post in such a way as to make it rebound into his face. Hoping for the former, expecting the latter. Then again, that might be a moot point. There are plenty of Crystal Palace fans convinced that neither Michy Batshuayi nor Bakary Sako will get a look-in against Fulham – we’re convinced Roy Hodgson will stick Jordan Ayew up front on his own and bring in Jeffrey Schlupp to play on the left, albeit in a deeper role than the one Wilfried Zaha plays.
I am impressed with the loan signing of Batshuayi. It strikes me that Chelsea must have been impressed with how well Ruben Loftus-Cheek improved given the chance to play regularly with the Eagles, which is why they allowed their Belgian ace to come to Selhurst Park. It is a climbdown from the other clubs he was linked with, but presents the perfect opportunity for Batshuayi to show just how well he can play, that he can carry an underachieving team on his back, and that he deserves a place at the Premier League’s top table.
I need to get something off my chest. With every passing game, I feel like the guys that insisted Mourinho was doing such an amazing job and that it’s the fault of the players owe the rest of us an apology. Now this Man Utd team is not perfect, far from it but Mourinho failed at all the basic requirements of his job (one was getting his players to actually give a f**k BTW), yet Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Ian Watson, Neil Ashton and the rest of them were happy to keep fabricating excuses for Mourinho.
I have a theory about Gary Neville, I think his failure at Valencia has given him an inordinate amount of empathy for underperforming managers, he’s more inclined point fingers at players or the board of the club having felt that feeling of helplessness while in charge of Valencia. The notion commonly trumpeted by Mourinho’s apologists- that the players never fought for Mourinho is laughable and lacks any merit.
Everytime the players had their backs against the wall, they dug deep and played better, the results prove that. It was Mourinho who sucked all joy from the club, threw the players under the tram time and time again, refused to take responsibility for anything and made countless ridiculous and embarrassing statements(today is a day good as any to remember the “tactically we didn’t lose” nonsense) in a bid to lower expectations, stroke his own ego and pull a wool over the eyes of the watching public.
It was a massive shame that precisely some of the guys that should have called Mourinho out on his BS, having seen and reported on the mess that Mourinho created at his last 2 appointments inexplicably chose to champion Mourinho cause. Hang your head in shame guys, if you’re reading this. Finally, folks who don’t understand how a toxic work environment and a belligerent and self involved boss could negatively impact performances need to educate themselves a bit more.
More money for the ground staff
I know there was more than enough rebuttals to Smiddys hilariously stupid mail in the mornings mailbox, but having just read it, one thing that caught my attention was the groundsman’s wages.
I know a year or so back there was talk of clubs paying their employees living wages, so this isn’t a new topic per say, but 25k a year for what I would assume is an integral part of the cog is quite baffling, especially when Markovic was on 100k a week, and not playing. While I understand the playing staff are the ‘talent’ that makes the club money, without the rest of the staff, it would all mean shit, so a PL groundsman deserves a PL salary – as do the rest of the non football staff.
I know it’s a Friday afternoon and the weekend looms (especially for those who partook in a dryer January) but it just urks me that when a club (not just Liverpool but most/if not all PL clubs) are in a position to double the salaries off all the groundsmen, tea ladies, ticket booth workers etc. and would still have enough in the bank to compete, they bloody well should.
Néill (if Smiddys number of 25k was wrong than scratch this) Ireland
Diamond Geezers going down a storm
Hi f365, have been reading your website for must be 15 years now and love it thanks very much!
Really enjoying the champ man series!
Ben Israel (US)
I think putting Arsenal in the losers section of the January transfer window is a bit harsh. Yes, we’ve never replaced Olivier Giroud but we’re covering the loss of Aaron Ramsey’s handsomeness by bringing in a guy who looks exactly the same as Aaron Ramsey. Maybe they’re hoping it’ll be like replacing your child’s goldfish but how are they going to explain having two Nemo’s in the same tank until the summer?
Less VAR is more
You’re probably sick of hearing about VAR but I’ve been wanting to get this off my chest for a while and figure that you might need to fill up a Friday afternoon mailbox.
I think most people agree that using available technology to get important decisions right is a good thing. The arguments against VAR broadly fall into two categories – 1) We don’t want loads of stoppages during games and 2) Two people can watch the same piece of footage over and over again and still not agree whether or not it was a foul. In my opinion both these problems can be resolved by initially implementing VAR on a very restricted basis.
Limit VAR to two specific instances where play is naturally stopped anyway – when a goal is scored and when a penalty is awarded. All goals and penalties are automatically reviewed by VAR. Nothing else.
Secondly VAR can only overturn objective mistakes. Offside isn’t a subjective judgement call. The attacker is either physically beyond the last defender or he isn’t. With penalties, VAR confirms the facts – the ball did or didn’t hit his hand, the defender did or didn’t make contact with his trailing leg. It’s then up to the referee to decide whether or not his interpretation of those facts merit awarding a penalty.
Take the penalty awarded to France in the last world cup final as an example. All VAR can do is confirm that the ball hit the defenders hand – the objective element of the decision. The subjective element – whether the hand was in an unnatural position (penalty) or whether the ball was struck too close to the hand for the defender to get his hand out of the way (no penalty) remains the call of the referee.
To sum up, introduce VAR in an extremely limited fashion and get it right. It can always be expanded on later on.
Conor Malone Donegal.