Here comes the man to halt Liverpool’s title charge…

Date published: Friday 14th December 2018 10:12

Send your missives for the afternoon Mailbox to theeditor@football365.com

 

Falling in love with Arsenal all over again
The pre-game drinks, the walk to the Stadium with the growing hordes of fellow fans, the sea of red and white, visible even through thick overcoats, the statues of the legends, the beautiful green grass, the highlight reel of classic goals from the past that causes a lump in the throat, the cheering as players come out of the tunnel, the waves of chants rolling around the stadium, the jumping up and hugging everyone around when we scored, and when we didn’t (damn offside), the floodlights giving everything a super-real quality..

..seeing our biggest names, playing alongside our brightest stars, the energy and hunger of the players, the support they received from the stands, screaming til hoarse the names of any player that came close urging them on, seeing the game played from pitch-level…

I was at the Emirates last night.

It may have only been Qarabag, and it may have been Arctic temperature, but f#ck me did it feel good. Its the first time I’ve been to watch Arsenal play in 3 to 4 years, and it made me almost as excited as the first time I went to the Emirates back in 2006. Seeing a moment of sublime beauty from Lacazette while sitting metres away was epic, and the standing ovation for Koscielny when he was subbed off brought a tear to the eye, and I choked up when he raised his fist in recognition.

After years of growing apathy and following football more via F365 and live streams from my bedroom, and occasional pub meetups with my equally disenfranchised mates, I have been dragged kicking and screaming back into the fold. Unai Emery has rekindled my love – not for the club, that never died – but for football itself. And going to the match last night reminded me what its all about.

I wanted to share this with someone and this seemed the perfect place.
Alay (Football is f#cking great isn’t it?), N15 Gooner

 

Petrified of Lovren
I’m scared, F365. Scared sh*tless. While Sam Allardyce may not be Mauricio Pochettino, Dejan Lovren is most certainly Dejan Lovren.

With Joel Matip and Joe Gomez injured and expected to be unavailable for at least 6 weeks, Dejan Lovren will likely feature as the comic to Virgil Van Dijk’s straight man for the next eight Premier League games.

Plenty of knowing nodding and chin stroking has been published in the Mailbox since Phil Jones did a Phil Jones, but there has been no dissection of Dejan Lovren doing a Dejan Lovren in midweek. This is likely due to DL’s brain fart not resulting in adverse impact due to Allison’s intervention, denying Napoli an undeserved equalizer in the last minute, but for those that missed the game, or have watched the save in isolation, the lead up was thus:

89:10 – DL replaces an injured TAA. I assume there were specific instructions not to f*ck up a one goal lead?

91:05 – DL slices a first time clearance, with time and under no pressure, out for a throw in. Napoli keep possession from the resulting throw and…

91:18 – A Neapolitan fellow floats a lazy ball into the box towards not quite ‘big’ Arkadiusz Milik who is being marked by our old mate, DL. No danger….

91:20 – Somehow, and quite inexplicably, DL loses his man who ends up 6 yards out, with the ball at his feet, and in 5 yards of space?

91:21 – Allison bails Lovren out.

While there may be a level of absolution, and some may like to excuse DL’s “performance”, due to the limited time on the field to ‘get up to the speed of the game’, this is not an isolated example of the clenched arse inducing panic that Lovren introduces every time he is anywhere near the Liverpool backline, regardless of whether he starts or comes off the bench.

Since the beginning of the 2017/18 season, in all competitions, Liverpool has conceded two or more goals on 21 occasions. Dejan Lovren has started 15 of those games, and came on as a sub (failing) to protect a lead in another. Of those 21 occasions Liverpool conceded three goals or more nine times, with Lovren starting seven of those games.

While I appreciate the need to avoid confirmation bias, and that statistics can be used to prove anything, my eyes do not deceive. Lovren is only ever a matter of seconds away from complete and utter clusterf*ck – and will have ample opportunity to inflict his ineptitude over the next month and a half.

The sad thing is, this has been obvious for some time. As obvious as Karius and Mignolet being unfit for purpose. We could see at the beginning of last season that neither Goalkeeper was of the standard required. Unfortunately, despite multiple warnings, everything went beyond pear shaped at the worst possible moment. The only surprise is that anyone was surprised.

When Jurgen moved for a world class Goalkeeper in Allison, I had hoped that the cataracts had cleared and that other positions desperately needing upgrading would follow suit.

There was some sense in not purchasing a new central defender in the summer transfer window; Joe Gomez needed room to shine, and Joel Matip is a perfectly acceptable centre-half. The issue is that, after allowing Ragnar Klavan to leave, we were only ever an injury or suspension away from pinning our hopes and dreams on Dejan Lovren’s magic 8-ball defensive technique.

I’m not usually one to rubbish our own players (Henderson aside), but it would be much easier to forgive and accept DL’s shortcomings if he  seemed to care about trying to correct them. In football, and alcoholism, the first step is admitting you have a problem. The lack of introspection Lovren showed after the Tottenham mauling last season, and the subsequent gobbing, grate and suggests the underlying issues have not been analysed. We should expect, and are seeing, that he will continue to make the same basic mistakes.

Unfortunately, I do not believe that the issues will be solved by defensive reinforcements in January. There is a trend at Liverpool of closing the gate after the horse has bolted, and I fully expect that Dejan Lovren will be allowed to ruin this league season with general incompetence – with, hopefully, a decent Champions League run when Gomez and Matip return from injury.

With Utd, Arsenal, City, and Wolves away in our next five matches this is make-or-break for Liverpool’s Premier League season. Exposing our defensive bare-bones could hardly have come at worse time. Expect several costly f*ck ups and near escapes, followed by comments to the effect “I’m the best centre back in the world, me” – and James Milner to be drafted into central defence when it’s all too late.
Phil W (can VVD play centre-back on his tod?) LFC

 

Major upgrades
Just a few upgrades that in my mind should have been considered for your 5 best premier league replacements article;

Fabrizio Ravenelli replacing Chris Freestone at Middlesborough…..

David Ginola replacing Paul Kitson

Zola replacing Mark Stein

And my number one, Marcus Stewart replacing David Johnson at Ipswich before winning the golden boot and getting us into the UEFA cup.

I am guessing that whoever wrote that article was born post 1990 but I am sure some other readers can name alternatives that are better than mine…
Tom, Tractor boy in Switzerland

 

Are United resigned to mediocrity?
Jonathan Wilson wrote a nice article about how United are slowly “dripping” into mediocrity and absolute utter shit but where is the outrage from the stands and the supporters? And I can’t help but wonder whether the commercialization of football has taken away the last possible weapon that the fans had in order to force some change in their clubs.

I follow some fine folk on twitter including editor of the United we Stand magazine and reading their tweets you’d think that the fans and supporters have just resigned themselves to this fate. There is a nice split round the middle about who’s to blame – the manager or dear ol’ Woody – but the consensus is that nothing much can and will change this season. Have the ticket holders stopped caring about making their voices heard (I remember the chants about Woodward during the Newcastle game)?

Given that the board will only start being concerned when the commercial revenue starts to decrease, I wonder if the fans have realized that protesting (even with their feet) may not be enough to force one or both of the guilty parties out from the club. I know that the opinion that not going to a match as a sign of protest also divides season ticket holders – the notion that one should support your club through thick and thin vs wanting to change your club (again see Newcastle) but I do wonder if Ed and his cronies would take notice if stands of Old Trafford were to empty out during home matches. Or perhaps not – they’d probably go out and sign another new deal with a cold cream company. Prawn sandwich brigade aside, can the masses at Old Trafford really vote with their feet ?

At this point of time – I’m not quite sure what form (if any) of protest would cause any sort of change for this club but I was curious to know if the season ticket holders who attended every home game feel the same way? Surely even the most ardent supporter would agree that something needs to change and this manager/executive combination cannot survive beyond this season.
Budhaditya

 

…Dave, LFC, Geneva makes the point that Utd’s sides have always been built around young hungry unproven players, able to improve at the club.

I’d like to take his examples and offer a counter argument.

“everybody knows that United’s great resurgence essentially started with the class of 92 ( 3 world class players) and the Neville’s plus Butt and was completed by the signing of Cantona ,”

Personally I’d say that that side also benefitted from British Record transfers in their ranks in Keane and Pallister and the criminally under rated Paul Ince but I take his point.

Next we move on to

“ Cole and Yorke, both in my opinion underrated players particularly Cole whose goal scoring record was second to none. Cole was a hungry footballer with a point to prove basis being sold by Newcastle. Yorke had made the jump from Villa and gladly accepted the step up. “

Cole was a British record transfer, 24 years old and had scored 68 goals in 85 games in the previous 3 seasons.

Yorke had almost 300 games under him for Villa and was 27 when he signed. Hardly hungry unproven players out to show the world what they could do.

“ When that second great team of Fergie started to creak United went out and then bought another pair of attackers Ronaldo and Rooney who at that point were arguably the best yet not quite proven young talent in European football “

Of course, it helps when you have someone like Ruud Van Nistelrooy scoring for fun while you bed them in. It also helps if you can break a world record to sign someone like Wayne Rooney ( the most expensive teenager in football at the time )

“ So what has been United’s transfer policy of the last few years ? Go out and sign potentially the best young hungry talent in European football ” and augment that with highly valued highly paid established top class players – it’s a good strategy, it’s pretty much common sense.

Look it’s no bad thing that Utd spend a fortune – they always have.

Pallister, Keane, Cole, Staam, Ferdinand, Veron, Rooney, Martial all record breaking fees of one kind or another.

Utd are still trying to do what they’ve always done – buy the best. It’s just that other people can do it too now.

It’s not the lack of young hungry players ( Martial, Shaw, Dalot, Bailly etc ) it’s how they’re being managed that’s the problem.
Doug, AFC, Belfast

 

Lighten up on Liverpool
Someone needs to tell Paul, Walton-on-the-hill that Liverpool are top of the league, unbeaten, their best start to a season ever and through the group of death and into the last 16 of the Champions League.

What a negative email.

Henderson has his limitations in speed of play but he does a job. He’s there for industry, not creativity.

Wijnaldum has been one of our best players this season. He’s probably our most improved player this year. He’s brilliant at holding on to possession and can evade the high press, that’s what he’s there for. Again, it’s not really his job to create.

Trent is a young lad, learning on the job at one of the leading teams in world football. He’s been a revelation but we can’t expect him to be the finished article at this stage. He’s leaps and bounds ahead of his development curve. Cut him a bit of slack.

In the midst of all that moaning, your mail misses a crucial point. We were able to rotate our whole midfield in the space of a week and win a tricky game away to Bournemouth and a massive must win tie against Napoli. During that second game we were also able to look to the bench and bring on Keita and Fabinho to freshen our midfield and close up shop.

Now, less negativity and let’s get fired up for this game at the weekend.
Sam(inho)
ps. The game against Napoli is the best I’ve seen Liverpool press all season. I wonder if Klopp took off the brakes to get through the tie, knowing the risk of fatigue, or the team just clicked better?

 

…Just read,Paul,Walton on Hills email & am wondering has he watched us at all this season?Liverpool have won the league 18 times and have never had a start like this.
Never.It is now mid December and Liverpool have lost no games in the league,have qualified for the last 16 of the CL & have the longest unbeaten home record in the league.

You slate the midfield saying “they don’t tackle like Lucas.”The defence has the best defensive record in EUROPE!!I do agree that Henderson passes backwards too much,but,dear lord,compared to that utter waste of space Lucas he is Xavi.Lucas was the king of getting the ball off the centre back & passing it 10 yards sideways.
This when the opposition had retreated into their half and had 10 men behind the ball.Lucas couldn’t shoot,pass forward,beat players,had no pace..but besides that he was good.At one point in a home game Carra physically pushed Lucas forward as he was doing his usual cowardly thing & playing too deep to play the nice,safe,easy pass.

He scored one league goal when at Liverpool,the 2 times we came second he hardly played & the one cup we won in his time here he was out injured that season.
Utd fans whine about the dross Mourinho currently serves up but the 09/10 season when our central midfield was Lucas & Mascherano produced-unequivocally- the biggest dross any top team has ever served up on a pitch.That season we didnt get past the first 90 mins undefeated…& you complain about us this season when we are undefeated,have the best defensive record & are scoring plenty of goals.

Here’s some advice,watch another sport,if this can’t bring you joy nothing will…or watch Lucas “tear it up” at Lazio.He tackles-on average- 3 times in a game,you’ll love it….
Ferg,Cork.

 

… Am I the only one who thinks it’s nailed on that Man Utd will beat Liverpool? This is how The Gods Of Football operate. And even looking at it logically (which of course we all hate to do), this United team went to Turin and beat Juventus. Any team that can do that, can go anywhere and beat anyone. Granted, they can’t do it twice running, and granted again, they’re just as likely to go and stink the place out. But they’re perfectly capable of beating Pool.

And then they’ll lose to Cardiff.
Stewart, Chicago (LFC but never knowingly giddy)

 

No comparison – yet
Whilst I haven’t met Bobby, I am guessing he and I are similar ages (though I expect he is just a little bit older than me if anything). I too remember the 80s, and the portrait he paints of Manchester United is one that I remember too.

In particular, I remember a Mitchell Thomas-inspired 4-0 victory for Spurs in about 1987 which didn’t actually elicit much surprise or comment at the time – which is probably a similar situation to the landscape today (we’ll airbrush out 1992-2012 if that’s ok with everyone).

I would just take issue with his comparisons between the Liverpool team of the day with today’s side. It felt like that 87-88 team absolutely walked the first division that season, even if the final gap was a mere 9 points. I would suggest that this current team have a long way to go before they earn the right to be compared with their forefathers.

So there.
Adam Jones
PS WARHAMMER

 

Mr Muscle
Badwolf, I think the point trying to be made ( albeit in a long winded manner ) is that black players tend to be described in terms of their physical attributes while white players are described in terms of their footballing attributes. Is it a universal law? No. But it’s definitely common enough to be a noticeable distinction.

As to black midfielders just being more likely to be powerfully built – I think that’s a false perception.

The reason Body Builders wear so much fake tan is because dark skin highlights striation more than pale skin.

Similarly, pretty much all professional players are at a fantastic level of fitness with a similar level of conditioning and muscle density. But because of how darker skin highlights striation – they will be perceived as being more powerfully built.

Was Edgar Davids really more powerfully built than Roy Keane for example? No – but look at shirtless photos Davids looks more muscular.
Doug, AFC, Belfast

…Badwolf has inadvertently (I’m assuming, it could be clever satire I suppose) delivered a perfect example of how people trip themselves up when it comes to talking about things like racism in the context of something they value.

The bit that made me wince like I was watching that gif of Thomas Mueller kicking some poor bloke in the head was:

“As far as midfielders, it’s simply more common to see a powerfully built (that means strong and fast) black midfielder than a white one, just on genetics. It’s not an insult to be called powerful.”.

If you’re going to call out someone else for falling prey to confirmation bias in their email, it might be worth a quick check of your own to make sure you’re not making exactly the same mistake. What’s your basis for that assertion, other than a feeling that it’s right based on what you’ve seen?

Also, although calling someone powerful obviously isn’t insulting per se, it definitely can be if it is used as a default way of describing players from particular ethnic backgrounds just because that’s how we’re used to thinking about them. It’s just a slightly more subtly expressed form of the kind of thinking that deservedly got Big Ron into so much trouble when describing Marcel Desailly.

Add in the fact that the email opens by agreeing it’s an issue, then devotes multiple paragraphs to explaining racism away as the reason, and it’s not hard to see why it’s proving so difficult to effect meaningful change.

Regards
Ben Smith

 

Netflix and chill
I dream of a Netflix of premier league football as much as the next man, however, I have to disagree with Nadav that it is just round the corner. Nadav points to the music industry as an example, I unfortunately have to disagree, the music industry is entirely decentralised and content is created my numerous parties. In the case of premier league football the premier league is the sole content creator, it owns this content and distributes it to Sky, Amazon, BT (or NBC for our American football lovers) who simply package this, sell advertising space and collect fees from the underlying consumer. This is completely different from numerous record labels trying to protect artists and content while also being more successful than its rivals.

As such, in this industry the content creator (the premier league) never experiences lost revenue associated with piracy, this is a risk the distributors bare. When you log on sport lemon (or Ronaldo 7) to watch a premier league stream you may end up watching the NBC stream of which NBC have already paid the premier league for the right to display its content. This means that the premier league is not losing revenue, it is simply selling its content at a discount to distributors who collect the money from the underlying consumer. So our solo actions will not drive the premier league to create a Netflix of sport.

Additionally, at £19.99 a month it makes no financial sense for the premier league its self to become a Netflix, it is simply gets more money under the current TV deals, if this platform in the UK had 20m subscribers paying £20pm it would only make £4.8bn vs the >£5bn it receives from Sky and BT. This just highlights that our ability to consume football is highly subsidised by the advertisers, removing these adverts will make watching football incredibly expensive, and none of us want to pay more than we are now. (this is without even considering how much of the consumer sky package is subsidised by the commercial sky package sold to pubs and bars)

You can point to Amazon and say that they will deliver an ad free experience via prime, but I would counter that by saying this is a loss leader for them to get more people on the prime platform (this may even be true for sky who use football to sell you additional products like movies, etc).

I could see a scenario where illegal streaming will lead to less people buying sky packages and as such advertisers paying less to advertising on these places making sky less reluctant to pay a heavy fee for the prem rights. However, I just can’t imagine the prem would let that happen. Ultimately Netflix of football is a pipedream, the premier league is not going to give up more money to help us watch more football.
Liam, LTFC

 

…Having lived in The UK and US all of my life like others I was very unhappy with the football on TV.

Like in the UK in the US you have to google to see which channel your game is on (If at all in some cases) and pay for multiple services.

I recently moved to Malta.

The two (Legal) TV services here have joined together and all football is now played on aTSN channel through my provider (Melita in my case)

For the princely sum of FIVE Euros a month I can now legally watch every Premier and Champions League matches.

The TV box came free with a package I already had for my internet package.

I think my total TV and Internet package right now is around 50 Euros, a quarter of what I was paying in the US.

If a tiny country like Malta can do this why can’t the bigger nations?
Neil, LFC, Malta.

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