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Hyypia > Van Dijk
So in 2003 my brother (who I am out having some pints with tonight) got published in football365. Not in the mailbox – oh no. Apparently it was a sort of competition open to everyone to name their best premiership 11 for each team. He got published for Liverpool
.. quite an achievement as there are quite a few Liverpool fans out there from far and wide (we are obviously both Somerset boys).
His team was: Dudek, Rob Jones, Hyypia, Henchoz, Scales, Riise, Gerrard, Redknapp, Macmanamanan, Fowler and Owen.
Now we are both more than exhilarated to be native Somerset born Liverpool fans than ever and so we decided to re-evaluate that team based on recent achievements.
Recent readers may remember me as a passionate Henderson defender and fan. Yes, he is clearly great. His tackling stats are.consistently great (and completely ignored) and even the media have acknowledged they slightly misjudged him this last few months. Except shooting he is clearly great at everything. However, even I recognise he cannot (quite) force his way past Xabi Alonso – who takes Jamie Redknapp’s place.
Despite my Scales loving brother protestations- his one year of high quality has been superseded and he loses his place in the team to Jamie Carragher… and now we turn to the most recent team and who could force their way in…
much as we hate to move away from 5-3-2 – the classic Liverpool formation after they bought a hundred defenders in 1995 and had no other option- Henchoz is out and Salah is in.
Now I love Riise. What a free kick monster. But Andrew bloody Robertson despite only a season and a half in is already in ahead of him. If Robertson is not first choice in 5 years I’ll eat my 1995 replica t-shirt.
Controversially – that’s it.
However – give it a Champions League win and Van Dijk, Alexander Arnold, Mane and Jordan Bloody Amazing Henderson are coming in and theres nothing you can do about it.
Also – can you do something like that team thing again please? My brother says being chosen as Liverpools entry may be his greatest ever achievement.
When Pochettino took over Spurs, they were (and arguably still are) a smaller club than Everton. Newcastle had qualified for the Champions League more often than Spurs had. Since he’s been in the job, Watford have spent more money than him on transfers. 4 of his first choice back 5 played in the final two games of the world cup, as did his only functional striker and one of his two attacking midfielders. In his 5 years there, he spent more than £20 million on a player 5 times. He spent more than £30 million on a player, once. His current first choice striker was plucked from the bench of Norwich. He picked up his first choice attacking midfield from MK Dons, Leverkusen and (ok they’re decent now) Ajax. Until last month, Aston Villa had a bigger stadium than them.
In his 5 seasons, he has finished in the top 4 ahead of Manchester United and Arsenal every year and just qualified for the final of the European Cup. Really, what he has done is incredible and still not fully appreciated. We should only be talking about a “Big 5” but “The Big 6” is now standard English soccer parlance because of him. If Marco Silva finishes third with Everton next season and gets to the Champions League final the year after, are people going to be shitting on him for not having won any trophies or lauding him as a genius? Anyone still touting that stupid trophies argument needs to grow a mullet and f**k off back to the 1980s.
Can you imagine what this man could do with £200 million and a name historically linked with sustained success in one summer? Any football fan should be at least interested in seeing what would come of that. Unfortunately for United fans, the club is ran by accountants and media sales reps who think Premier League quality players were going to “shiver” when they saw old man Bastian Schweinsteiger’s name on a teamsheet. They’d rather entrust the responsibility of transforming a team of directionless but talented primadonnas to Ole “You should see all the players that want to play for us, and also all these supermodels that want to date me” Gunnar Solksjaer rather than to a man who took over a team of talented and directionless primadonnas and turned them into workhorses who got to the end of the most prestigious tournament in the game. Imagine what he could do with Greenwood and Chong. Never mind Angel Gomes (who looks REALLY handy)
I wrote in last season after Spurs match in Madrid to say that Pochettino is an elite level manager. He’s surely a couple of months away from managing an elite level club. United have a chance of hanging on to that status if they appoint him. If they don’t, United are going to be shopping for Igor Biscans and Marcus Babbels for years.
To paraphrase Kyle Martino’s verbal destruction of United after the Huddersfield game; United are letting a financial advisor design their house instead of an architect so I’m not going to hold much hope of seeing Mauricio’s lovely round face at Old Trafford more than once next season.
Lads, it’s Tottenham
As the dust settles and my serotonin levels return from their astronomical levels I can now sit back, reflect and revel in the fact that my team will be competing in a Champions League final, something that to myself and many Tottenham fans seemed near impossible not so long ago.
I have no connection to North London at all. Like many other sports fans I had a moment of realisation with football that piqued my interest and resulted in me following one team for the rest of my life. My moment was seeing a no. 10 score a goal against Germany for Ireland at the age of seven, deciding there and then he was my man and I would support the team he played for. That summer he moved to Tottenham. In the 17 years I have supported my team there have been many disappointments and too many ‘almosts.’ There was the lasagne incident against West Ham in 2006, drawing with Chelsea and handing the title to Leicester or losing to Juventus in a tie I and every other Spurs fan knew we should have won. All these incidents can be summed up in one word – ‘Spursy.’
This is not to say there haven’t been highs along the way – the 2008 League Cup, Bale against Inter Milan and the Pochettino era being the most obvious examples – and I am self-aware enough to know that I have not suffered as much as fans of teams who consistently flip-flop between promotion and relegation or turn out in their droves to support a team they know will probably lose or that the quality of football they’re going to watch will be at a low level. I have huge amounts of admiration for these fans, and I do not mean that in any condescending manner. But nonetheless, even the most bystander sports fan knows that Tottenham stands for ‘almost.’
Last night something changed. As Lucas Moura scored his hat-trick goal – the barman of the pub I was in threatening to remove me because of how loud I was screaming, quite loutish behaviour in comparison to my usual relaxed and composed manner – I reflected on the last 17 years and all the ‘almosts’ and the fact that Tottenham would have reached the semi-finals of the Champions League only to come up short against a young Ajax team who came from nowhere much like the year we were in the hunt for the Premier League only for Leicester to pip us to the title, and ultimately finish behind Arsenal.
FOR ONCE! We did not ‘Spurs’ it. Now we have to go and win the f*cking thing and believe me I want to win it. As my Gooner friend said to me after “This wasn’t just era defining, but team defining.”
Thank you, Mauricio, thank you so much. And to the publican I told to “f*ck off” after Lucas scored my sincerest apologies, I was a bit emotional.
Fionn, COYS, Dublin
Moussa in the mood
Moussa Sissoko is a player that very much plays on his own terms. Dead rubber games, he’s about as bothered as snow shovel during summer. But then give him a big enough carrot, the man becomes one of the greatest players.
I recall the Euro 2016 final where he was hands down the best player on the park for the best part of an hour. Winning back balls, driving the team forward, looking for incisive passes…
If the same Sissoko comes to the Champions League final, Hendo and Fabinho may have problems!
Looking forward to a scintillating final,
Wik, Pretoria, LFC
In 1999, Man Yoo won a historic treble. The only side to deny them a trophy was Tottenham, who dumped them out of whatever the League Cup was called at the time and went on to win it.
In 2019. Citeh will – let’s face it – win a historic treble. The only side to deny them a trophy will be Tottenham, who dumped them out of the Champions League …
Andrew (Are witty comments in brackets still a thing here?) Warmington, THFC
The greatest miracle?
Hey Liverpool fan here,
I don’t care.
Liverpool had a bigger mountain to climb, Spurs had to do it at a sprint.
Spurs lost Harry Kane but Liverpool lost Mo Salah and Firmino.
Liverpool where written off over a week ago, Spurs written off with 45 minutes ago.
Liverpool and Spurs have had moments of “this is over there is no way they go through” going back too the group stages (Alisson’s save vs Napoli and Spurs….. all of it).
Both teams have been insane and heroic and stupendous and defying all odds all while trying to catch Centurions in their own league (yes Spurs have fallen away but they were the 3rd challengers and their problem is depth not quality).
Both teams have done something incredible.
Up the mighty f*cking Reds though.
Tyla (I care on the 1st though) Roxburgh, Liverpool.
…Spurs had 35 mins, away from home to overturn a 3 goal deficit.
Liverpool join Real Betis and Villarreal in scoring 4 goals against Barca this season.
Weldoninhio. (Someone’s English trophy 0 has got to go) COYS!!
It’s not often we’re allowed to be proud to be English due to the complicated history of our country but today I am.
I have always viewed the champions league as one of the measures of Europe’s best team while the Europa League tells us about the level of a leagues strength in depth. The Premier League is currently the best league in Europe and probably the world and I can’t think of a plausible argument against that.
TV money has led us to a point where all premier league clubs are incredibly rich. That wealth is now attracting innovative and talented mangers throughout the league who are killing off the old guard of PFM mangers. These managers are also (mainly) making excellent use of the tv money. 5 of the top 6 have internationally proven managers and clubs like Southampton and Newcastle can attract managers capable of managing Champions League clubs, wow!
Messi and Ronaldo arguably delayed Premier League European dominance but its hard not to see the top 6 and possibly Wolves being there or there about in Europe for the foreseeable future. I am excited and a little bit proud whether it’s morally right or wrong or any good for the long term future of European football.
English European dominance?
Before we all start going on about the English dominance in Europe can I just point out that up until this season Spanish teams have won 14 of the last 15 possible European trophies (Champions League, Europa League and Super Cup).
Let’s wait and see if English clubs can win every European competition until 2024 and have English based players being voted best player in world for a decade before making any such statements about the Premier league being Europes best in terms of quality.
Paul K, London
As a bitter Manchester United fan, I am as cynical as they come when it comes to English clubs in Europe. I don’t care about what’s best for the Premier League, or any of the usual Sky Sports fan guff. I want 92nd minute shots of children crying in the stands, and, at the final whistle, players in sky blue lying on the pitch with their heads planted into the turf. This, I think, is normal, healthy behaviour. So it was a strange feeling in my gut knowing that I wanted Liverpool to win on Tuesday. Not as teeth clenching congratulations after the game, but right from the start, before the first goal had even gone in, holding onto some improbable, excited belief that they could actually do this.
Because there is just something so perfect about this Liverpool team, and Tottenham too, that it’s hard to muster up the hate. And by perfect, I don’t mean the slick, all the money in the world sportswashing powerpoint football on display at the Commonwealth Games stadium. Rather, it’s the sense of witnessing a perfect team where perfectly functional players are lifted, with their managers’ guidance, to ever greater heights at levels consistent with the world class talent around them. With Liverpool and Tottenham, you get the sense that every player – literally every player – is there for a reason, is trusted by the manager to do a job, knows precisely what that job is, and will give everything to make the best of it.
Wijnaldum and Sissoko are the embodiment of this. Now feel free to disagree, but I really don’t think they would be playing in a Champions League final had Pochetino or Klopp not seen something special in them. Not only does each fit expertly into a system, but, with their character, they both bring something to their respective teams that goes beyond just technical ability (which I’m not questioning, BTW – they’re internationals for good reason). Call it heart, passion, determination or whatever, but with their manager’s instrinsic trust, it allows them to lift their game and with that, others around them. Despite it being the go to line of the PFM, I honestly think it’s a much rarer quality in football than most people realise. I say this because with Fergie, I saw a master repeatedly lift whatever the ‘thing’ is to sublime heights. And by god, whatever it was, I miss it dearly.
It’s a telling reminder of the challenge facing the shower of sh*t that is Manchester United. Park ji-Sung and Darren Fletcher were not the reason why we were so successful a decade ago, but their invaluable team presence and the trust placed in them was definitely a marker of why things were so good, and why they are so bad now. Mourinho was too much of an ego to make it work, but he clearly had a point. It’s about quality, yeah, but that quality is dependent on leadership and desire. Which is why, I think, Scott McTominay’s name keeps popping up. And it’s why funny running Jordan Henderson is a top class captain, and why Spurs can win without Kane, and why, basically, Klopp and Pochetino are f*cking brilliant managers who deserve everything they can get.
Wolves – kings of Europe
All four European Finalists have been beaten by Wolverhampton Wanderers this season.
What a guy!
I haven’t genuinely loved a player since Henry and Bergkamp but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is everything a footballer should be. When he scores he gives credit to whoever assists him. When someone else scores he has the biggest smile on his face, he’s genuinely delighted that the guy scored a goal. Over the moon that he got a hat-trick tonight.
…I’m sure even Spurs fans will be happy to admit that Arsenal scoring four goals away from home is the most miraculous thing that happened this week?
Compare Loftus-Cheek to forwards, not midfielders
There’s an obsession in this country with judging midfielders by goals and assists. Once again, Ian Watson’s latest article regarding Loftus Cheek falls in to this trap by comparing the Chelsea midfield in such a way.
Imagine saying that Makalele was no good because he didn’t provide goals and assists? Or even a player like Xavi, who only scored 58 goals for Barca in his entire career. Based on that statistic he must have been an average player.
Modern midfielders have very specific roles, often one that doesn’t prioritise goalscoring. For Chelsea, one issue seems to be midfield balance generally. Barkley and RLC both want to drive forward, so it would be reckless to play them both without the legs of Kante in the DM role – a player who offers so much more than pure numbers. Everyone knows, however, that Sarri will not sacrifice his favourite son Jorginho to enable this to happen.
Loftus Cheek is clearly an attacking midfielder who likes to create and score goals. Jorginho, on the other hand, is a player who moves the ball well and dictates the tempo – a perfectly valid role for a midfielder, but one that cannot be judged merely on goals and assists.
So, who should really be providing the goals and assists in the current Chelsea system? Certainly the striker, but also the attacking wide players (where RLC has spent much of his time this season). Chelsea’s striker problems are obvious, but Pedro and Willian have only 11 goals and 9 assists between them in the league this season. Maybe it would be more prudent to compare their output to Loftus Cheek’s – and rather than prioritising goals and assists for midfielders, maybe we should look at which of Chelsea’s midfielders are capable of moving the ball quicker to set up situations for these attacking players.
And to be fair to Loftus Cheek, he’s got the lot. He’s the exception that proves the rule – he can do all of these things. So maybe, rather than comparing him to midfielders like Jorginho, is he in fact the Real Deal – the Hazard replacement that is hiding right under all of our noses?
In fear of a Euro Super League
Can I recommend MBers read Tariq Panja’s excellent piece in the New York Times on how the proposed revamped Champions League (aka European Super League) would work. Basically a closed system with many more group games, entrenching a select few clubs who would enjoy a perpetual stream of cash.
Yes I’m a Liverpool fan and no I’m not a socialist but the ramifications for the domestic leagues which we all enjoy so much, are simply enormous. The Euro games will quickly start to be played on weekends, relegating domestic league games to afterthoughts. Teams outside the top 4 will find it impossible to even buy their way in to the top Euro level.
Do I want to see Liverpool play a Barca every week? Nope. To me it all seems arse about. But what do I know.
Enjoy the league while you can!
Didn’t want to send this mail in too early and have yet another moaning United fan spoiling the (mainly our biggest rivals) party.
I was genuinely blown away by the never say die attitude and fighting spirit of all teams involved this week and, for the first time ever, I honestly wish them all the best of luck as none of them deserve to lose this year.
It really does drive home what a shower of sh*te we have at my club and I hope, after seeing how football should be played, they feel totally embarrassed by the so called shift they’ve put in this season.
Andy Race (The footballing Gods really have deserted us)
Financial dire straits
Daniel Storey – great article highlighting the pitfalls of financial management in the lower leagues. This all needs a lot more coverage to ensure proper financial prudence is in place as those clubs are true communities and the payment of the players really is reflected by ‘grub on the table’.
One small point: players won’t be paid out of disposable income. Their salaries should be a fixed overhead which should be forecast well in advance. This really should be the same for any appearance/goal/clean sheet etc. related bonus. A variable income pot should be managed to reflect these. If indeed clubs are paying players out of their cash reserves then the straits they are in really are very, very dire indeed.