If the Liverpool wins mean more, so do the defeats…

Date published: Tuesday 23rd February 2021 2:16

Thiago Alcantara Liverpool

Keep your mails coming to theeditor@football365.com.

 

How good Arsenal can be very good
This may seem like a purposefully obtuse thing to say but I am really quite optimistic about Arsenal under Arteta. The best way to describe what I see would be that they would make the jump from “good team” to “very good team” if they were just a bit more professional.

Arseblog published a very intriguing tactical column the other day, referencing the recent Man City defeat. He said that, (no snickering at the back but I agree too), he said that Arsenal were tactically very good against Man City. In fact, in this last game it could be argued that Man City had no answer for Arsenal. One man’s “Man City took their foot off the pedal” is another man’s “Arsenal beat their high press so they backed off”.

Arteta said it himself, that early goal was due to not implementing his tactics from the get-go. Against Man City, you cannot NOT implement the tactics right from the start otherwise they’ll pull you apart and score, and within 2 minutes of kick off Sterling had done just that. Beyond that, and well in to the second half, like I said, one man’s “City eased off” is another’s “City backed off”. You’ll have to ask Guardiola. There is a difference between easing off and backing off.

So if Arsenal didn’t implement Arteta’s tactics immediately, and conceded, then the issue isn’t the tactics but the professionalism of the players who didn’t immediately implement the tactics. Xhaka left Tierney exposed 2-on-1 (the cross) and Bellerin passed Sterling on to Holding (the goal) and Holding couldn’t adjust in time. Before we all blame Holding, let’s remember he has been, statistically, one of the best defenders in the league this year. That’s a lack of professionalism from Xhaka and Bellerin.

Up top we certainly had a go but ultimately failed to create a decent chance. Either the final pass was just off, or a wrong decision was made, or, ultimately, Man City have extremely good defenders. Aubameyang needs to be at his very best for us to score against Man City, as our FA Cup games against them show. If he’s not on it, then we struggle.

I am cautiously optimistic with Arteta’s Arsenal that genuine progress is being made. I think the vast majority of the players have bought in to what Arteta wants, and I think there are a small handful who, dare I say it, are not tactically aware enough to implement what he wants. I’d even go so far as to say it’s not a lack of talent, but a lack of intelligence. Or, a lack of professionalism.

Will be interesting to see who comes in at Arsenal this summer. I personally don’t see any big flashy exciting names. I see, for want of a better word, stooges. Experienced, disciplined, tactically capable stooges to implement Arteta’s gameplan where some of the others in the current team can not.
Dale May, Swindon Wengerite


FEATURE: The top ten disappointments of the Premier League season


 

“This Means What We Tell You It Means”
I must say, it makes me chuckle seeing Liverpool fans struggle to understand why so much is made of their current situation and why people leap to conclusions about the reasons. It’s simple. It’s because This Means More.

You can’t spend years and years telling us how everything you do, means more to you than it ever could to anyone else. Win a game? Means more. Sign a player? Means more. Vociferous fans? Means more.

But then you lose a game? Well people are placing too much importance on it. Signing isn’t working out? We’re making too much of it.

You simply can’t have it both ways. If the wins mean more, so do the defeats. If the trophies mean more, so do the faltering defences of them. Either it all means more or none of it does.

Or maybe try “This Means What We Tell You It Means”
James, Slough

 

Jota injury killed Liverpool
Ed Ern in the afternoon mailbox with a very poor history lesson masquerading as analysis. The only thing that annoys me is that I do like numbers so I read the whole bloody load of tripe.

Let’s just be clear; the only accurate thing in that is that Klopp will have been reluctant to sign someone in January. We know this because he says so every single January. This January is made worse because we have no money because of covid and a lack of Russian/Arab oil money but we desperately needed reinforcement.

Kabak is not pap as per your email. He’s a 20 year old in a brand new country who probably can’t speak the same language as anyone else in the defensive unit. Give the kid a bit of room the breath you imbecile. You are the sort of fan that is the reason that Klopp usually beds players in over a period of months. Your schoolboy level of scrutiny makes it impossible for anyone to thrive.

Finally, the actual maths is very simple and never mentioned in your mail. Every club is financially in turmoil except for Chelsea, Man City and PSG. So whether we finish 4th or 10th there won’t be a max exodus of players like in the past. Barcelona are buying Memphis Depay which gives a pretty strong indication of how far they have fallen. Real Madrid could no longer afford to warehouse Gareth Bale for fun. So the injuries will ease and Liverpool will be better next season for it. You’ve also forgotten that Liverpool were top of the league at Christmas. Ultimately I think the Jota injury killed our season; the lack of rotation and competition for the front 3 has exhausted them.
Minty, LFC

 

Overcomplicating Liverpool
We overcomplicate things in life don’t we.

Liverpool are dominating most games they play but can’t score and get hit on the break or at set pieces with high balls.

Could it be we just need our defence back and that Firmino is ineffective against low block teams so we need a new number 9 who can score.

Reminds me of the furore around the time before Liverpool signed VVD. Esteemed football commentator Johnny Gilles came out to say Klopp couldn’t organise a defence and VVD would make no difference to that, in fact VVD would go backwards under Klopp’s management and he should have signed for a proper coach like Mourinho.

Well a champions league and premier league title later that all looked pretty silly.

Last year Man City were easy pickings on the counter for the leagues lower teams but add a Reuben Dias to the mix and suddenly even John Stones looks like a defensive God.

Sometimes you do just need players.

A defence on the way back and one player up front who can really damage low block teams, sparing Bobby for the counter pressing.

Get that and all other problems vanish I suspect.
Dave LFC 

 

Why so many “bad champions”?
In general I try to split the current lifespan of the Premier League into three distinct eras; the formative years (92-98), when the league was fairly fluid and teams could rise or drop 10 places and a number of sides won trophies, the Champions League era (98-13) when an expanded Champions League led to a settled cast of powerhouses at the top of the league and a more pronounced gap between top and bottom, with record breaking relegations and unprecedented financial meltdowns occurring. Finally the post Fergie/new TV deal era (13-present) when an extra influx of cash led to the creation of more elite teams and a rotating cast of Champions.

Ever since Roy Keane mentioned his now infamous “bad champions” line a few weeks ago I’ve been thinking about one interesting difference between those arbitrary eras I outlined, that being title defences. Between 1998 and 2013 the Champions retained their title 5 times, came second 10 times and third once. That is a remarkable level of consistency and shows only negligible drop off between winning the league and defending it. Conversely since 2013 other than Man City following up their titles with second place finishes and one retention the other Champions (Man Utd, Chelsea x2, Leicester, potentially Liverpool) have failed to even finish in the top 4. Now individually each of these can be rationalised: too many behind the scenes changes at Man Utd and a manager out of his depth; emotional managers self-destructing after terrible transfer windows at Chelsea; considerable overperformance swinging the other way at Leicester; apparently Liverpool have had a few injuries… To me it feels like it’s happening too often to just be a coincidence though.

So I put it out to the mailbox. Why are we getting so many “bad champions” this decade? Is this actually the norm, and the sheer mentality of Ferguson, Mourinho and Wenger prevented complacency in the past? Does the new vogue tactic of high intensity, high pressing lead to burnout quicker? Am I overthinking things and creating debate based on arbitrary timelines? I’d be interested to see your views.
Kevin, Nottingham

 

Shot in the armex
I’ve got a vaccine appointment for this afternoon, but there was a shot in the arm for Crystal Palace’s season at the Amex last night.

*Confidence and optimism among Palace’s fans was incredibly low before the game. A sequence of insipid performances exacerbated by conceding early goals, offering nothing in attack, a manager who had previously completely ignored any sense of rivalry, and no Wilfried Zaha. Monday night, however, was different.  There were blocks, there were swarms, there was Gary Cahill with tissue in his nostrils to stem the flow of blood, and there was clinical finishing.

*A reminder that you can come up with statistics to prove any point, 42% of all people know that, Kent. Possession statistics are simply the proportion of the total number of successfully completed passes for each team. This suggests they weren’t prepared to take risks with the ball in order to break down a robust opposition. I can’t remember the exact quote but there was something on the Totally Football Show yesterday about Chelsea and defensive football in possession, an extension of Brian Clough’s old adage that they can’t score if we’ve got the ball. Palace have earned some wins in recent times against the grain of possession simply because they’ve sat back and let their opponents pass the ball among themselves until they get tired or make a mistake.

Similarly, the xG suggests this was an imbalanced game, as Understat called it 2.59 to Brighton & Hove versus 0.18 for Palace. These are cumulative totals, but averaged out, this is just over 0.1 for each of Albion’s 25 chances, and 0.09 for the Eagles’ two goals. In that respect, the game was even, just that the hosts had a greater number of low percentage chances. When it’s that tight, it comes down to who holds their nerve and makes the most of their opportunities.

*Adding to the fever dream nature of the result, Palace’s two goals came from strikers. I don’t know a lot about Jean-Philippe Mateta, but I was starting to get concerned. He joined on an 18-month loan contract, but has played minimally since, even though the form of Michy Batshuayi and Christian Benteke could generously be described as woeful. I wondered if he’d signed without being fully over an injury – for a half-season loan, someone not fit for several weeks is a concern, but if he’s around for 18 months there’s no need to rush him. There was also a risk of him being given similar status as Max Meyer, whose stock rose and rose while he was on the bench behind underperforming midfielders, but who couldn’t force his way into the team and didn’t make the most of the (minimal) opportunities that came his way.

As ways to introduce yourselves to a new fanbase, scoring against their fiercest rivals is one of the best; scoring with a backheel through the goalkeeper’s legs is even better. Jordan Ayew got on the outside of Brighton’s defence down the right, and put a cross into the six-yard box. Mateta, coming towards the ball with Ben White for company, made an adjustment to keep his body between defender and ball, but had to improvise the finish.

*Not to be outdone, his replacement, Benteke sealed the victory with a volley after Andros Townsend had crossed from the left. It should be alarming for Brighton & Hove fans that they left such an obvious aerial threat completely unmarked, but I don’t think anyone expected him to find the net like that. At this stage, however, as Palace look to the future, Mateta needs to be the starting striker and any goals Benteke contributes, while welcome, mainly serve to help him find a new club for next season.

Palace fans with long memories will recall that in the promotion campaign and subsequent Premier League seasons, Zaha mainly played on the right with Yannick Bolasie on the left, but the arrival of Townsend saw Zaha switch flanks. The theory – admittedly Alan Pardew’s theory – was that it was better to have the left-footed Townsend on the right and cutting inside and Zaha out of position. Townsend started on the left against Brighton & Hove, in advance of Eberechi Eze and Tyrick Mitchell. Presumably this was to mentor the two young stars, but I couldn’t help wondering if he was also keen to demonstrate a bit of versatility while his contract status is up in the air.

*Arguably the only time that a 2-1 victory where you’ve spent a lot of time camped at your own end and scored with your only two touches in the opposition box can ever be acceptable is against your fiercest rivals. The Eagles will need to be better next time out, when they play Fulham on Sunday lunchtime.
Ed Quoththeraven

 

England more racist than Italy?!
Mostly valid points by Daniel in Cambridge about Lukaku, especially when talking about how the Lukaku deal was good for all parties. Had to pick him up on his point about escaping from the racism of the British media. It’s far from perfect but there have been big efforts to improve (inspired by Raheem Sterling, among others). He’s gone to a country whose media since he joined has used the headline Black Friday (referring to the roles of two black players) and whose Seria A used an anti-racism campaign that featured nothing but monkeys.
Ralph (wishing the world really was a better place and there was no racism)

 

Triva answer
This morning Nitz posed a trivia question, asking “When was the last time that the winners of all the Top 5 European Leagues failed to defend their title?” the answer is 2001/2002.

In 2000/01, the winners from England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain were:

Manchester United, Nantes, Bayern Munich, Roma and Real Madrid.

The following season the winners of those same leagues were Arsenal, Lyon, Dortmund, Juventus and Valencia.

Will it happen again this season? Well Manchester City have the title to lose, Bayern are going to defend their crown if we are dead honest, Inter look to be knocking Juventus off their perch for this season at least, France could be dependant on how PSG perform once Neymar is back and in Spain, well, Atletico looked certain to lift the title at Christmas, but now I wouldn’t be shocked if Real Madrid manage to just about defend their crown as Zinedine Zidane resigns yet again on the back of lifting a major trophy.
Mikey, CFC

 

Thiago Alcantara = Juan Sebastian Veron
A few brief points and replies to the morning mailbox:

– I don’t recall Alexis Sanchez being criticized for losing the ball too much when he was still creating goals and banging them in for Arsenal. That criticism came after he stopped doing that.

– Thiago Alcantara = Juan Sebastian Veron.

– West Ham`s midfield of Rice + Soucek might seriously be the best in the world for a team NOT playing possession based football.

– I feel for Ralph Hassenhuttl. Their form is inconsistent and two 0:9 results are an embarrassment but if they finish the season without battling relegation it still has to be success given their squad. Even without injuries they have a championship-level defence, the same stands for the midfield except for when they have free kicks near the opposition goal and the 2 good attacking players are top-6 rejects that he himself reinvigorated. Hassenhuttl truly made the team more than the sum of its parts.

– I hope Fulham stays up.

– Regarding the top 4 race you would fancy Leicester and probably Chelsea given the start they had under Tuchel. But they can both go very far in Europe, while West Ham and Everton wont have that obstacle. *This* West Ham doesn’t have a look of team that would necessarily crumble under pressure and I don’t think Moyes actually did either previously in his career. Obviously Liverpool are not far behind and have far higher ceiling but they will probably lose Kabak and Nat Phillips during the next match and will finish the season with Adrian and Shaqiri in the defence…

– Huge respect to what Guardiola is doing this season as this is a completely new territory for him playing deeper, relying on solid defence and attacking often very directly.
Jan, Prague 

 

Qatar’s shame
I know with Covid and the colossal loss of life globally, figures and numbers cease to have any direct meaning to our lives. However, I just saw that 6,500 people have died in the construction of the Qatar World Cup stadiums.

Let that sink in, 6,500 families were torn asunder due to Fifa wanting its money, and Qatar wanting some sports washing for its tarnished reputation and for what? Football stadia that will be left empty like giant concrete and steel elephants, decaying in the sands and sunshine.

I know morals and football rarely go hand in hand, but I don’t think I can watch the Qatar World Cup in good conscience. Is anyone else disgusted by the cavalier lack of respect for these people’s lives? Yet nothing we do will change it. Fifa will still pick up sponsors, the event will be televised everywhere, and those 6,500 people will be forgotten.
John Matrix AFC

 

What is a derby?
So, what is a derby? Barcelona v Espanyol is geographically a derby, but does it count when one team is utterly dominant and neither set of fans really cares about the game?

I have seen people online getting shot down for suggesting that Barca v Real is a derby. For sure it’s the biggest rivalry in the country and probably the game which the fans look forward to the most, in the same way that Liverpool v United is. Technically Newcastle and Sunderland are separate cities, but could anyone argue that their match is not a derby?

I’d suggest that the Big P doesn’t need to look too far from home to find long-distance derbies in the form of Portland, Seattle and Vancouver in various sports. In my opinion a derby doesn’t have to be two teams from the same city, but others would disagree.
Jamie Bedwell, Cheltenhamshire

 

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