Liverpool joined the elite despite their owners while Manchester United are in a mess because of theirs.
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Liverpool are proof that money is not everything
I always find it perversely funny when the latest article proclaiming the death of football because of the Big Whatever-Arbitrary-Number-the-Writer-Chooses appears – as happened on this site on Monday – but it has become even funnier and more perverse in the last decade. Why? I hear you ask. Well, it’s simple. When Liverpool (who were expected to finish fourth or lower this season by the vast majority of pundits, including on this site) were bought for £300m by their current owners they were quite literally minutes away from going into administration. Their next few seasons were spent in the doldrums trying to sort out their wage bill and completely rebuild. I believe I’m right in saying that when they won the Champions League, their wage bill was still the fifth highest in England.
Far from being one of two harbingers of the death of football, Liverpool are a sign that although it is incredibly hard, it is possible to usurp clubs with more resources than you do by good management, canny ownership, and hard work. Even now, they don’t have closed to the resources of Manchester United or (dependent on new owners) Chelsea. Let alone the other harbinger of doom Manchester City.
Now, you might – rightly – say that Liverpool had an advantage that most other clubs don’t, with their history ensuring a fanbase which allows growth more easily than others. In which case, I’ll just point out Man City and Chelsea who didn’t have that comparable worldwide fanbase but lucked into their own advantages instead.
‘BIG 6 DOMINATION’ + ‘MAN CITY FANS DISRESPECT’ | 📭 F365 ‘Mailbox Live’ – 19th Apr 2022 https://t.co/pB6LYBmO7s
— Football365 (@F365) April 19, 2022
Ever since the Big Conveniently-Chosen-Number became a thing, the number has only got bigger in England. That is primarily because despite what Johnny Nicholson likes to opine, England do a far, far better job of sharing the wealth than any of the other leagues. Back when the Premier League was the fourth best league in Europe in the nineties it was the Big Two. Come the 00’s it was finally starting to compete with Italy and Spain and became the Big Four. Now it is the Big Six.
In the last decade five different clubs have won the league. Try comparing that to any of the other ‘big’ leagues (or ‘small’ for that matter). If there is one league that the doommongers can’t justifiably claim is destroying football through lack of competition, it is probably the Premier League!
Is it too much to ask to just let us enjoy the exceptional quality we get to watch without constantly trying to claim it will bring about footballing armageddon? Are journalists in this business because they like football, or because they despise it?
…Nice read from Ian King, as ever. As a Liverpool fan I’m obviously delighted at the heights the club is reaching, but its status as regularly hoovering up trophies feels much more fragile to me. We’ve hit a sweet patch with the perfect manager appointment, excellent recruitment and – typically – little challenge from other major teams bar Man City.
Perhaps it’s the past 30 years weighing on my mind, but it would only need one of those things to change and Liverpool would be back among the top four battlers. Just look at what happened last season with crazy injuries (and empty stadiums didn’t help).
City are fully insulated against failure unless the world suddenly turns on Abu Dhabi. Man Utd have the money to challenge and just need to stop tripping over their own feet. Chelsea’s new owners are an unknown, Spurs have new revenue streams from an incredible new stadium and Arsenal… well, looking on the bright side, Arsenal have a lot of talented young players.
Still think the future duopoly looks most likely to be centered inside the M60 though.
It’s not the fans’ fault Liverpool are good
‘Since the Premier League arrived, drunk and with money falling out of its pockets, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City or Manchester United have won 28 of 30 league titles and 26 of 30 FA Cups.’
Liverpool have one of those titles and three of those cups, in 30 odd years. Not exactly part of a dominant big six over three decades.
For the first time in my life my team has gone from also-rans, to one of the very best. They’re usually thrilling to watch, and as a fan to see the progression from a side that you could always rely on throwing away points against relegation fodder, to a side that reaches multiple cup finals and actually gets involved in title races is just brilliant. I didn’t choose Liverpool, I wanted to be a Villa fan but my uncle had other ideas and now here we are.
Our owners don’t represent our fanbase, in fact despite saving us from administration and achieving exactly what they promised on the pitch, many Reds find them untrustworthy at best and a whole lot of words you probably won’t publish at worst. We haven’t forgotten that they tried furloughing staff, or tried to take our team away from us by throwing their hat into the ESL. But now because Jonny Nic doesn’t like the big six, f**k us lot as fans? Your support only means anything if your team isn’t so good?
Football runs in cycles, he lists United who haven’t won it in years and don’t look anywhere near, and City who spent the first 20+ years of the Premier League being mid table at best, involved in relegation scraps at worst. At this point his formerly excellent articles feel more like a deliberately divisive mail that you guys publish because it’s a slow day.
Manjo, LFC (wondering how long before Newcastle get put on Jonny’s list of teams that win things and therefore need to f*** off)
Losing Big Six does not lead to equality
It astonishes me how often John Nicholson whinges about capitalism whilst failing to understand it.
The Premier League as he mentions, reflects society (capitalism), which is derived purely from human nature. If you take out the top 6, they will be replaced by a different top 6, all of whom will be in a European competition that gives them more money than the rest of the Premier league. Capitalism will roll on, as it always does. Taking out the top 6 will never ever ever result in a competitive top flight.
The Championship is broadly competitive because a) the TV money apart from parachute payments (which are generally wasted on overpaid ex prem players who were never good enough for that level) is pretty evenly distributed across the clubs with no Europe to distort the riches b) it’s less based on skill which is harder and more expensive to purchase and more on physicality, for which there are many more available players to buy.
It’s so dull to relentlessly read articles on how it isn’t fair that the big clubs win everything, and it should be more egalitarian etc etc. Human nature is that the smartest, most driven, most hard working, most ruthless people will take as much as they can, without caring about the impact on anyone else. This is the Premier league and always will be. Trying to make it equal will work about as well as communism did in society I.e it will always be undermined by human nature.
Man United fan says football is not as good now
As the country is gripped in the pulsating rivalry of Man City and Liverpool. I say that loosely as I made my feelings on this great rivalry clear in the comments box. I do still have a little bit of sick in my mouth when I look at the love being thrown between the two clubs, the hugs, high fives, cuddles, the come to bed eyes between Klopp and Pep. It may be a sign of the times and a way the game has gone. It certainly doesn’t exude a deep desire to win. There is showing respect towards each other and then there’s pally pally matey matey, name my kid after you because you’re gorgeous.
The overall intensity of many previously top games has dwindled. Utd Liverpool used to be a tense affair, when Liverpool were shit, they still gave us a game, same as City, the intensity and rivalry was immense. Look at these so called rivalries and derby games now! Ugh.
Anyway, I digress. As much as City and Liverpool are the two best footballing teams in the league right now and have been for a couple of years, they certainly are not the two best teams in Premier league history, not even close. That’s not being biased in anyway, that’s kinda how I see it. Playing pretty football is all well and good, it’s easy when you have all but zero competition. That isn’t their fault of course, it’s the teams behind them that are on a different level just because of different circumstances.
Josés first stint at Chelsea, Wenger’s Invincibles plus don’t forget he won it more than once, Utd treble winners, Utd 07/08, City’s first title, Leicester City winning it on a shoe string? All seem to now be looked at as rather lucky teams who were good, but not as great as these two majestic specimens. Just because they now rack up record points, doesn’t make them the best in history. If we’re being honest, City are a good team playing in a poor league. Same as Liverpool, a good team in a poor league. Racking up record points shows a lack of competition.
In some ways we should be grateful to Klopp and Liverpool for at least keeping up with City, without them, these last few years would have been like the German league. What’s the point and who wants that?
So what does that say about the European leagues? EPL clubs in both CL semis again and three British clubs in the Europa semis. I just feel the overall standard of football has declined, just not as fast in the EPL. It has the most money and footballers no longer play because they love the club, they play for money. Again, that is fair enough, but then when is enough money enough? And when is the money too much so the young player who has never won anything, is now set for life with his first contract. The incentive to improve and become a truly world class player disappears. Thus the game quality over time also disappears. There are so very few world class players, they might look it in their respective sides, but how many fail when they move? Hazard, Coutinho are just two that were given the accolade only to stink it up in Spain. Who is to say Haaland can do it at City? Mbappe at Real? We’ve suffered world class Pogba for 6 years of stinkdom and he’s still called world class. Players are now being turned into machines, trained to play in a specific system, take away that system by moving somewhere new and very few players can do it. Thus not world class.
The product as a whole seems more desirable because of the way it’s marketed. Sky turned Darts into a Hollywood event, people enjoy watching darts at home? How bad must your life be to do that?
Winning the CL is easier now than it ever has been. I didn’t say it was easy, I said easier. UEFA want the big money making sides in the latter stages, the seedings are a joke, the group stages you can almost predict who’ll progress unless it’s Man Utd. Qualifying is easier too. Not the teams’ fault, it’s a UEFA problem that they are again neglecting to fix. I would much rather see top 2 getting into CL, 3rd 4th Europa and 5th 6th into conference. All three competitions would be better. Scrap the seedings and just have 2 legged knockout from round 1. That however doesn’t show the bosses the money. Because that’s all football really is now. How to get as much Money out of you.
It is a poor league because look at City and Liverpool’s points total over the last few years, it’s been a one or two horse race by Christmas. Both way out in front of 3rd. Barring the fluke last season. Then we look at 3rd to bottom and you really could be tossing a coin for the winner when they play each other. Obviously some are better than others, but you kinda know if Liverpool or city play anyone from 4th down, it’s almost a guaranteed win, they’ll have an off day but not many. Utd are currently 5th, playing woeful football, being outplayed in vast stages of most matches and almost as close to top as there are to bottom. Arsenal seemed destined for 4th but then collapse against sides you would normally expect them to beat, Spurs were ridiculously poor at the start, sit 4th. Chelsea who on their day can beat most sides, but they have more bad days than good. Newcastle, they spent money in January but you wouldn’t say they signed anyone of note, they are climbing up and might challenge for Europe next season.
People say that it’s a league where anyone can beat anyone, that’s what makes it great. I agree, but we now have 2 sides running the show due to the others sides being rather poor in relation. Even during the Utd, Arsenal, Liverpool 80’s and Chelsea glory years, they were never winning games as consistently as City and Liverpool do now. Again, that isn’t their fault, you can only play what’s in front of you. That’s my point, it was far more competitive for the title back then than it is now. That gap is only going to get bigger. Watching that Liverpool v City in both the league and FA cup, you would almost think it was a friendly match, it was just lame in emotion.
Ath Madrid, first against Utd, I didn’t think they were dirty, didn’t think they crossed the line with any intent to hurt anyone. The time wasting is annoying but Utd would have done it too. They were tough, resilient and hard to beat. It might not be pretty but it wasn’t ugly. Utd couldn’t cope with it, crying out of challenges. Then again, Utd cried when they played the oh so dirty Leeds team a few weeks ago. Then City get them and the same again, it was a game of football that was tough and where city didn’t have an opposition curl up and allow them to be walked over. Fans whining about it need to reasses what a contact sport is. In such a short space of time, football has gone soft, give it 5 years and are we going to see any contact at all? Are we going to get to the stage where you can’t head the ball for fear of brain damage?
What we have now are two sides so far a head of the rest, due to one of them financially doping the books, they might not be doing it now but they did when the owners took over which gave them their Aguero moment and having a good manager, (he’s not the best of all time) and the other having a very good manager with a clear plan who was given time to put it all together. Klopp, as much as he’s this goofy, annoying character, surely deserves far more credit for what he’s done at Liverpool compared to what Jesus Guardiola has done at City. But neither are the best teams of all time, wind that nonsense in please. We have a league where it is now a 2v the rest.
Thing is, this has been created by the football bosses. For some strange reason, since FFP has been introduced, the league has become a little bit of a joke affair, as too has Europe. How is a club like Burnley supposed to compete? Soon as you put a spending limit in reference to income in place, you starve the competition. You cannot speculate to accumulate anymore. I understand that clubs earn more now but that is just wiped out by the ridiculous transfer fees. So they are no better off for it. They can sell their best striker for 50m, but they struggle to replace him, therefore, over time the competition disappears.
FFP is basically telling an independent company what they can spend if they wanna be in the clan. In essence, it’s fixing it for the bigger, richer clubs to get bigger and richer so long as they are competent cough cough Utd. Or you could just get rich owners and use their sister companies to pay obsene amounts for sponsorship deals, fake your attendance etc etc to balance the books but not even half fill their allocated FA cup semi final tickets. Can’t prove that but do city really have only 2000 fans?
So is football really that good or is the media hype and marketing the only reason we still think it is?
People in their teens, early 20’s might well say I’m talking nonsense, sour grapes because Utd are just so shit and I get that. However, if you don’t know what the game was like 30, 20 even 10 years ago, then all you know is what you see now. Sorry to say, it’s nothing but a watered down, poor imitation of what an incredible game it used to be.
Reflecting on the semi
It’s been a couple of days now so whatever knee jerk emotions I might have had have worn off and I can discuss the game more objectively.
The first 45 minutes was probably the worse I’ve seen City play under Guardiola, which unfortunately for them coincided with a superb 45 for us.
Does Fernandinho have a secret deal with refs never to be sent off? He committed three fouls in the first half one of which was worth a yellow but got no cards and the second half kept on doing the same largely without punishment while Fabinho was booked for literally running near someone. Fernandinho shouldn’t have been on the pitch past 60 mins.
What kind of club and fanbase is City? They returned 7000 tickets for an FA Cup semi final and the fans that did watch the game were disrespectful of an event which had nothing to do with city Liverpool rivalry. Remember when Guardiola complained about the fans not giving the team enough support? This is another example.
Generally speaking it was a good game but so many City players were steaming into challenges acting tough and then literally rolling around the floor convulsing (Cancelo) like they had brain trauma when a hand went anywhere near them. Nobody likes players “winning decisions” but sometimes it’s necessary as refs don’t award it if you don’t go down (just ask Salah who gets a decision once every 180 minutes) but the rolling around holding their face and screaming like someone took an ice pick to their balls is unnecessary and pathetic. Perhaps it’s red tinted glasses but we have Mane who goes down easy sometimes but nobody who convulses on the floor and most of our players get up straight away after being brought down. This exaggeration needs to be stamped out of football.
Players doing this should be forced to leave the field for 10 minutes for “treatment” to ensure that their convulsions aren’t serious. This rule would discourage players from doing it. If you’re brought down, get up and carry on unless you physically can’t in which case you need to come off.
In defence of Steffen
The goal gifted by Zak Steffen should be considered an unforced error by Pep Guardiola. If he had watched the last 3 USMNT qualifying games, he would have seen that Steffen was being way too casual about handling and moving the ball out of the back. At the time, I thought that this would be a problem against teams that gave just a bit more pressure, and was something Greg Berhalter needed to address before the World Cup started (if Steffen is to be the starting goalkeeper. My vote is for Matt Turner). Turns out that it became an issue long before the World Cup. Maybe Liverpool watched the games and saw it the same way I did? Whoda thunk it, studying opposition game film can help.
Mitch (NUFC & USMNT)
A favourite dive?
So Monday morning had a slight mention of the Kai Havertz not quite Oscar-worthy but perhaps more Razzie-worthy dive against Crystal Palace, now i am not here to defend his actions as any form of diving is just frustrating, stupid and you look a fool for doing it.
But of course it does bring me to ask the readers this, what is your favourite dive? i have a feeling a certain former Blackburn Rovers player might be one of the suggestions.
The Admin @ At The Bridge Pod (3 FA Cup Finals in a row, lets hope we don’t become like the 1990’s Buffalo Bills, if you know, you know)