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United would have it no other way
As Manchester United fans we always knew that the day would come when Liverpool would win the title. There’s an inevitability with big clubs, much like United will one day win the title again, but the fact it’s taken Liverpool so long has been prolonged source of amusement.
However, I must admit that it doesn’t hurt quite as much as once feared. In fact, if it was going to happen I think I actually prefer it this way. The league essentially wrapped up by Christmas, no competition, no excitement, no tension, no drama…. just a waiting game. There will be a full time whistle sometime in April that will confirm it but hardly a tantric climax.
For better or worse, everyone has already come to terms with it. It’s all a little boring from now, defining moments passed without note, results are mostly irrelevant and if anything 4th place is more newsworthy as it will at least garner some interest.
The Premier League Years of 19/20 is a slow burner without the explosion. It will be remembered as nothing more than relief that the 30 year clock in Liverpool has been reset. There is no moment to really enjoy nor despise for that matter and for that I thank the footballing gods for softening the blow.
For anyone keeping score, this weekend was the point when the balanced tipped significantly to “Ole out”. Not specifically because we lost against Liverpool, or even the manner in which we surrendered so tamely, but two other straws have broken this camel’s back. Firstly, this line: “We don’t desperately need a striker, if the right one is there and it fits for us… we’ve got players who are champing at the bit.” Are you f*cking kidding me? United needed a striker before Rashford got injured but now that he’s going to be missing for probably 2-3 months we bloody well do. Ok, maybe it wasn’t a priority for this window before Rashford’s injury, but it was definitely a position that needed looking at in the summer. Now that the only player who looked capable of dragging us through the mire is missing, we are absolutely nothing; a shell of a team where the oyster and the pearl are distant memories. We’ve got players “champing at the bit”? Who? And why haven’t you been playing them? Seriously, who is going to take Rashford’s place? Greenwood, who Ole wouldn’t even start in Rashford’s absence? Other than him there are literally no other strikers at the entire club.
It’s this pathetic party line-toeing, Glazer-defending, completely f*cking deluded bullsh*t attitude that is making him look like an absolute joke. “What’s he gonna do, criticise the board and get himself fired?” Sodding yes, that’s what he should do. If he loves the club as much as he claims then he needs to either grow a spine and start telling the truth in public, a truth which is so painfully, brutally evident to anyone who is paying even a bit of attention. Either that or just walk away.
No, the trust is that we aren’t going to sign anyone in January because the owners are still making plenty of money, and spending £60m or whatever on Bruno Fernandes is not going to reap them any more dividends. The club is still making them plenty of profits without further investment so why should they put money up for no guaranteed return on investment? And don’t use the summer incomings as evidence of investment – yeah, we spent about £150m, but we made at least £100m – £120m of that back from the departures of Lukaku, Sanchez, Valencia, Darmian, Herrera and later Young, including wages and fees.
I concede that Woodward and the board are the main problem, which is the reason why Pochettino both should and probably won’t get the job – if rumours are to be believed. The story goes that he, during “secret” talks, insisted that United have a director of football and that person should absolutely not be Woodward. So even he knows what’s wrong with the club and apparently isn’t afraid to say it, unlike the company man we’ve currently got in charge. But Ole’s refusal to actually do anything about the issue is what really f*cks me off. Say what you want about Mourinho but at least he had the backbone to say what was really going on.
For the record, I think Solskjaer is confirming what many believed, in that he is in fact well out of his depth. He’s had a few good results but when a game needs a bit of intelligence, invention or strong leadership, there is none to be found. Every time we lose a game he comes out and talks about positives; there are NO positives to losing games of football, Ole, stop kidding yourself. Hell, we’re not even getting the basics rights; look at how woeful our record of defending set pieces is – that should be one of the easiest bits to sort if you’re any kind of decent coach. What kind of moronic coaching results in Brandon Williams marking van Dijk at corners? And if none of the players on the pitch realised that was a problem then that’s an issue with coaching too – they shouldn’t need teaching that the small guy isn’t going to fare well against the big guy but it’s the manager’s job to make sure they know.
The second thing that really boils my p*ss is the use, or lack thereof, of youngsters. So we have literally two senior central midfielders available (nobody knows what Pereira is) and neither Garner nor Levitt are worth of a place on the bench? And sodding Pereira, Lingard and Jones are worthy of inclusion? Maybe the excuse is that they aren’t ready to play first team football but that is just not going to fly. At the end of the summer transfer window we were told, in no uncertain terms, that we didn’t need to bring more players because the academy graduates were ready to go. There have been plenty, myriad occasions on which Garner (291 minutes total) and Levitt (90 minutes) could have been eased into the first team – even if it’s just 15/20 minutes here and there, or Europa League group stage games – but those opportunities have been spurned, so that we can watch Lingard (1099 mins) and Pereira (1447 mins) definitively prove that they aren’t actually footballers. If you can’t turn to these supposedly good enough youngsters in an injury crisis then I’m sorry but either they are not good enough or the manager doesn’t trust them enough.
So yeah, I’m done with it now. This season is going to be over by 27th February, by which time we’ll have lost to: Watford (or Tranmere) in the FA Cup, City in the League Cup, and Club Brugge in the Europa League, while anything less than wins against Burnley, Wolves, Chelsea and Watford in the league will leave us well out of top four contention. And Ole will still be safe in his job. Unless some miracle happens in the next 6 weeks, we’ll be looking at a ninth or tenth place finish, and that’ll be more than we actually deserve.
From doubter to believer
The moment when Lionel Messi slotted his extraordinary free kick against Liverpool at the Champions League semifinal’s first leg last season, I was sad but smiled. I thought “well, that’s it”. A wonderful 2018-2019 campaign would end up trophyless, as Man City relentless winning machine overtook us and moments of brilliance from world’s best ever player denied us.
I smiled because it was a great season regardless of the absence of trophy. At least I felt entertained when watching my beloved club again. At least I knew the team played great football, with great defence. At least Klopp got us going although we would have failed gloriously. At least I enjoyed watching Liverpool again. But, as Messi’s freekick went in, I realised (and accepted) that this kind of 2018-2019 season will not repeat again. I fully expected the 2019-2020 season to be worse as we scrapped through top 6 for Europa League qualification.
Then I realised I underestimated Klopp (aka the serial final bottler). He masterminded a miraculous comeback against Barcelona and won Liverpool’s sixth Champions League crown. But no, I don’t think that is his finest job yet as a Liverpool manager.
He did not spend any penny in summer transfer window. Many people predicted City would blow them apart as Liverpool could not sustain the incredible run of form from 2018-2019 campaign. Yet, here we are. 91 points out of possible 93. 7 cleansheets in a row after quite frankly terrible defence at the start of the season. I would not even dare dreaming a kind of dream like this. Klopp really turned me from a chronic doubter into a believer.
Maybe Liverpool will shoot themselves down on the foot. Maybe they would lose this title after a monumental cock up. I would not be surprised, considering Liverpool’s recent history in the title run. But I can tell you this. No matter what will happen after now on (either we will win this title or not, and the following seasons), it has been a pleasure to watch this team. Jurgen Klopp has been the best signing that Liverpool made for the last 10-15 years. The team is perfectly molded into his character. And I, for one, really want to see him taking a revenge out Pep Guardiola (after what Pep did for buying many of his Dortmund players in Bundesliga).
It’s not done yet. Pool has not won the title yet.
Liverpool v Man Utd
1. We’re not that bad. We appear to be no worse than Chelsea, Arsenal or Spurs. We gave Liverpool ( the best team in the world currently) a decent game without our best striker, best midfielder and several other players.
2. We’re not as good as we should be considering investment. We have wasted a lot of time and money aquiring managers and players that haven’t worked out. Woodward may be to blame, but it’s hard to say without inside knowledge.
3. Ole is doing a good job with the resources he has. Despite buying fairly well in the summer he still has a squad lacking in quality and depth. Given that, he is doing well to have us in 5th having beaten some good teams this season.
4. The club has re-focussed on youth. We have a very young squad and some great players coming through. Particulalry Greenwood, Mc Tominay, Rahsford and Williams. These guys could be champion material in few years. For the time being they are a little inconsistent, and not helped by the lack of quality senior players to learn from.
5. We need to bring in 4/5 very good players. Yes, another £250m investment. There’s no other way. If we don’t do that, we won’t improve. The first team needs more quality. Fernandez would be a good start, but only a start.
6. Someone needs to think about why we have so many injuries. Could just be bad luck, but it feels like something we’re doing wrong. Liverpool never have any injuries to key players, and this is one factor (of many) that has helped them run away from City this season.
7. Liverpool took 30 years to get back to the top. It would be nice if we could do it quicker, but it’s not realistsic to be thinking any sooner than 4/5 years for another run at the title. There’s not a manager in the world that could get this squad to compete with Liverpool and City. Ole needs players and time.
8. As deep as our malaise is, we don’t want to be bought by the Saudis. We are a self-made club with our own identity, and don’t want to become a plaything for ethically-questionable owners ala City and Chelsea. Liverpool have shown that the proper old clubs built on success and reputation can still do great things even wearing the shackles of (relative) financial restraint. Hats off to them. It seems they have a new perch to be knocked off.
A few thoughts on the match yesterday, starting with the assertion (AGAIN) that Andreas should never play for Manchester United again. He is awful, his miss opitimised everything about him; a decent move, great ball in, AWB bundles it back across goal and as soon as Andreas becomes involved in a move it falls on its arse. All he had to do was use that left foot that, granted, he has never used before. Just a touch and it was in but he awkwardly falls on his arse and tries to make contact with his right foot. His general play is awful, passing is terrible, shooting woeful and decision making genuinely non-existent.
Fred was United’s best player again and showed the tenacity, energy and industry to suggest that he should have a role in the midfield when everyone is fit, or bothered to honour their contract (Pogballs).
Maguire was again really disappointing, as was Lindeloff. De Gea was static for the goal and AWB was clearly knackered having been overplayed and having a totally inefficient style of defending. Shaw wasn’t too bad and Williams looked decent again. I have to be honest I thought Dalot looked completely gone for the brief time he was on the pitch, he was so slow it looked like he was nowhere near fit to play. Players should not be coming off the bench with 10 minutes left and be outrun by players who have been putting a shift in for 80 minutes.
Martial was as ineffective as ever against good opposition and James just looks overawed against proper defenders. Matic was ok.
As for Liverpool, well, what is there to be said? They are a fantastic football team with a magnificent coach (though if I see one more slow motion replay of Klopp smiling I may well implode) but games like this where this shite United side put a bit of an effort in for 15 minutes and Liverpool look in a bit of trouble (albeit without anyone good enough to carve out actual chances – Bruno Fernandes would have solved this issue…) have me convinced that this Liverpool side do have vulnerabilities. But nobody seems to turn up against them, except in little spells where they are chasing the game and then Liverpool pick them off at will, as happened with the second goal yesterday.
Liverpool will win the league and probably break a few more records along the way and fair play to them. But the only word of caution I would offer is that 18 months ago City were being touted as the best team ever and likely to dominate for years and they have fallen to pieces so quickly. So don’t bank on putting together a run of titles or dominating for years to come just yet. It can all disappear as quickly as it arrived. But thoroughly deserving Champions they most certainly will be this season. And thoroughly deserving Europa League qualifiers are what United will be, IF we sign a striker and at least one midfielder this month. If not then this season really could go South…
Mangor United, Belfast
Liverpool were excellent and should have won about 4-0 the VVD on Spanish Dave incident was never a foul in any way. The real problem I saw was that Man U basically stopped playing after it. I didn’t think for a second it was a foul and when the ball came loose I was screaming at the Tv for the defence to move into action. My verdict is that we were lucky in that one.
Liverpool outclassed us in every area, they deserved the win. But they are beatable. They let us into the game too often, so with the fixture congestion I cannot see them going unbeaten. Also an injury to VVD will see them really struggle.
There were some positives for United. 99% of the time Wan B was excellent, got caught out on the 1% positionally but ultimately shut the door down that wing as much as possible.
Fred is actually looking like a good player now. I’m convinced he just changed his boots and took off the ones shaped like a 50pence piece.
I still think United are a season or 2 away from getting back to being consistently in the top 4 and at least 5 from being serious title contenders. But the young players will mature and with a few decent signings for the first team as well as dependable back ups we will get there.
I know it’s not a popular opinion but I still want Ole in. I actually enjoy watching this Man U play. Would be better if we won more but I still would rather watch entertaining football and lose with a good performance than win by parking the bus and nicking one.
Playing wise, the big thing United are missing is off the ball movement when we have possession, were all stood like statues. So easy to mark us out of the game, only Martial and Mata actually moved to help be available for a cross or be an option for release when we had 3 Liverpool players surrounding us when we did have the ball. It’s been a massive bug bear of mine for ages. Ultimately what’s the point in putting in crosses when no one even tries to lose their marker?
Can write more but my lunch break is over.
Summary: It was a great game worth watching and won by the better team.
Simon Manchester (bring on the vehement critics)
Enjoy your win, but don’t be a **** about it
Firstly, congrats to Liverpool. They were good value for the win and I have no complaints. I thought we played ok at times for a team shorn of its two best players, and if Martial had taken his chance…is all ifs and buts. They will win the title and be worthy winners so good luck to them. Just a shame nobody pushed them all the way to make it an exciting title race but they can’t choose who challenges them and they are a great side.
As the old saying goes, “be magnanimous in victory and gracious in defeat”. Clearly this saying hasn’t made it to Spain, where Jimmy is at pains to tell us that “This was Utd’s cup final” (what a tired and boring putdown that really is), before disparaging two of Utd’s signings on the basis of this game. Maguire wasn’t actually marking VVD as he was zonal marking, which is another issue and needs changed, but don’t let facts get in the way of a nonsensical narrative. AWB had a poor game by his standards but he looked tired and I dare say you would be hard-pressed to find any Utd supporter who doesn’t think he has been a successful signing so far.
Then the officials get both of Jimmy’s impotent barrels, as he proclaims “The officials did everything they could to keep the score down”. Yes, they correctly called an offside and gave a debateable foul on the keeper – VVD’s head ended up nowhere near the ball, he turned his back and jumped into DDG in my opinion, and 9 out 10 times this would be given as a foul. Would their fans be happy enough if it happened against Liverpool? Jimmy subsequently throws out his best attempt at comedy by informing us that “Ole’s at the wheel, but the bus is made by the Flintstones!!” – what does that even mean? No really, what? Finally we’re told, “fans of other clubs are praying he keeps the job”. Why are fans of other clubs so worried about us? Sure we’re a mid-table club (because of course there are only 10 teams in the league) with a Flintstone (?) at the wheel (or driving a Flintstone bus or something) and we have made awful signings – why are you concerned when your own team is romping to their first title in 30 years and, as you said yourself, we aren’t even considered a rival anymore? The lady doth protest too much, methinks.
In conclusion, enjoy your win and your title but (yabba dabba) don’t be a **** about it.
Garey Vance, MUFC
Completely agree with the chat on Alisson. The reason Liverpool look to be ‘grinding’ is that a single goal conceded in their last 11 senior games (excluding Villa in the league cup as it helps my point to do so) means the team believes that even at 1-0 the game is won, so they conserve effort and don’t feel they need to force the issue. And the reason for this supreme confidence in the defence is, in my opinion, more down to Alisson than VVD.
Without taking anything away from VVD’s evident quality and the transformative effect he had on our defence, Alisson is a different level. Since he gave a goal to Leicester early last season with a failed attempt at a Cruyff turn, I don’t remember him making a single error. He saves everything that he should be saving (and most that he shouldn’t), he doesn’t flap at crosses or need rescuing by ‘fouls’ (Hi David!), and even though his footwork can be heart-in-mouth at times it hasn’t actually resulted in any goals conceded since the aforementioned.
But most importantly, he just catches everything. It’s like they’re using a tennis ball and he has Velcro gloves. You feel he’d catch a Troy Deeney penalty. Playing in front of that, why wouldn’t the rest of them be confident?
I’ll say it: forget the best keeper in the world, Alisson is the best player in the world, full stop.
JG LFC (seriously, he deserves the ballon d’or)
VAR and De Gea
A quick one of the VAR decision that disallowed Firmino’s goal. Thankfully it didn’t matter in the end (although it would have been nice for Bobby to get a goal at Anfield). In the modern game, I can see why it’s given as a foul as the keeper is pretty much fully protected these days. I’ll be honest, if it was at the other end, and the goal was given I probably would have been moaning (and United fans would have been saying it was a fair challenge). However, there needs to be some clarification that that is the rule. VVD had his arms down, eyes on the ball and made a genuine attempt to play the ball. Realistically, what else could he have done to make it a fair challenge?
Souness, Keane and Neville all seemed to think the goal should have stood and the fact that Everton’s goal stood a few weeks back, shows that we still have the issue of wild inconsistency. So a clarification on the rules would be useful.
Anyway, the one plus point is imagining the look of confusion on the “LiVARpool” brigade’s faces. Doesn’t matter that the evidence shows we’ve not had any more decisions in our favour than United, Leicester, City etc. they’ve still been clinging onto the “lucky” argument, bless their little hearts. I’m sure this won’t change their narrative, but I look forward to seeing how they manage to spin it.
Mike, LFC, London
Liverpool and Man Utd parallels
First a question to you good folks at F365. Is Minty really the best commentator that LFC fans have to offer? I see him get billing almost every week and in this morning’s mailbox he manages to get two entries (my gastronomic entry clearly didn’t hit the spot). Is he someone’s mate or family member within F365 Towers? Don’t get me wrong, his posts are well written but many don’t set the world alight and it would be nice to hear more diverse view points from other fan voices.
Second, thank you Minty for the aforementioned entry in this morning’s mailbox agreeing with my analysis of a few months back that OGS is Man U’s answer to Souness: a middling manager who tinkers with youth with mixed success but who will ultimately be unable to handle the pressure of expectation over several seasons despite the ex-player feel goods.
But the LFC – Man U manager similarities don’t end there:
For Roy Evans see David Moyes: a journeyman manager whose main credentials were a strong relationship with the last incredibly successful manager the club had but who was always going to be out of his depth.
For Gerard Houllier see Van Gaal: a well respected continental manager with waning powers and significant flaws- especially in the transfer market.
For Rafael Benitez see Jose Mourihno: -a successful continental manager still with ample powers and able to deliver results in spurts but diminished by the trials of management and having to deal with unhelpful club hierarchies.
The interesting question is where United go from here? Their own Brendan Rodgers or Klopp? OR will they break with the parallels and offer us a whole new chapter?
Watch this space
Miguel L, LFC (The Neviller and Keano are probably right, OGS needs some patience and more time if he is going to put his stamp on the team but is that stamp worth waiting for? Not so sure.)
Wijnaldum = hero
That was far from our greatest performance of the season, despite us absolutely laying into them for about 15 minutes after half-time. But with that emphatic ending it definitely ended up being one our greatest results of the season.
Our forward-line, despite actually playing very well, really didn’t have their shooting boots on. If they did the game would have been over a lot earlier. Even Trent and Robbo weren’t quite at their devastating best.
Instead, the real heroes were in midfield. Henderson was awarded MOTM and I’m not going to argue against it. He was immense. Let’s face it, he almost always is.
But the ‘almost’ part simply does not apply to Gini Wijnaldum. His perpetual motion is a constant threat to any midfield hoping to match us. It simply cannot be done.
If there is a 50/50 ball up for grabs, Gini is there to get his toe to the ball. If there is a hopeless punt heading towards the centre of the pitch, Gini is there to bring it under his spell and release Robertson or Mane down the left. If there is a scramble on the edge of our box, Gini is there to latch onto it, spin away and dribble into a counter attack. If there is a ball in the corner worth fighting for, Gini is there to shoulder barge people twice his height to the ground. If there is someone, somewhere, anywhere, that needs to be nutmegged – Gini is there.
The strength, the pace, the low centre of gravity, the tireless running. You can’t help but love everything about him.
The penny really dropped for me in the 2018 Champions League final. We lost, obviously. But he was far and away the best player on the pitch for either side, in a midfield battle containing Kroos and Modric. A converted striker/winger from Newcastle bossing the game. I couldn’t believe it. And since then, he’s only gotten better and better. The legendary double against Barcelona (after the rare insult of being benched by Klopp) should have been his apex. But still, he gets better.
Competition? That makes him better too. Keita. Ox. Fabinho. They’ve all come in and all provide something different and vital in midfield. And yet it is Gini who is almost ever-present. Ever-willing. Ever-ready.
Ryan C, LFC
A few thoughts on Liverpool
Firstly, love your work.
Secondly, a few thoughts.
Liverpool have spent over a billion pounds on players since the inception of the Premier League and (as of today) are yet to win a PL title.
Liverpool have chopped and changed managers quite frequently in that time as well, with 8 different managers in the last 25 years.
Liverpool have had toxic owners who looked to drain the club for their own gain.
Liverpool have finished in the top 2 on four occasions in the 28 years since the PL began.
Liverpool have made numerous signings that have been absolute disasters.
Liverpool have made awful decisions from the top, including the support of a racist player
Liverpool finished 8th in the league as recently as 2016.
Liverpool finished 2 places behind Jose’s United as recently as 2 years ago.
The last 18 months have been complete outliers for Liverpool.
They’re not suddenly the bastions of success that everyone else needs to follow.
They stumbled blindly into a working formula that has taken them 30 years to find.
The media are now so far up Liverpool’s and Klopp’s you know what that they can see stars in the daytime.
If they continue in this way for another 3 years plus, then fair play.
As it is, they’ll have as many PL titles as Leicester City come the end of May.
Are Liverpool great?
This whole are Liverpool great argument is as ridiculous as any “is he world class?” debate.
Neither have specific measures, so why people are getting wound up one way or another is crazy.
However, the dictionary definition of great is “ability, quality, or eminence far above average”
What to consider average is difficult. In the whole world I’m probably around about above average at football. In actual football playing world you’d probably be looking at somewhere abouts the 8th or 9th tier or lower (complete guess), in the football league top of league 1, bottom of championship, in the Premier league, 9th, 10th or 11th.
Compared to other title winners (they haven’t won it yet, but) you’d have to look at points, wins, goals scored, performance in other competitions, quality of opponents, but it’s hard to argue using any of the above definitions of average that this current Liverpool aren’t great.
I thought there was one glaring omission from your 16 conclusions of Liverpool v Man Utd. That being the moment the whole Utd team mobbed the ref. It was very similar to Keane, Stam, Giggs et al mobbing that poor ref who’s name escapes me.
We’re 3 years in the “Respect” campaign. Has it been tossed out altogether? Everyone of those players should have been booked if we’re still supposed to be doing the whole “respect” thing.
Culk the Younger (singing Aretha Franklin to myself since writing this)
I didn’t see this mentioned in the morning MB so here goes.
The match to break United hearts this week should not be last night at Anfield. It is actually the game at Augsberg 2 days ago where Haaland came on as a sub with Dortmund trailing 3-1, and hit a lazy 20 minute hat trick on debut.
20 minutes and already it looks like Woodward should have just paid whatever Raiola asked. Tough step up from Austria to the Bundesliga… he’ll struggle to repeat…bla bla bla
Aussie Red (Firmino goal celebrations are the unsung joy of this title season. They make my heart sing)
VAR is rushing it
More examples this week of the VAR system seemingly rushing reviews because they don’t want to upset the flow of the game and create delays but, in doing so, they’re not allowing themselves to make up for initial errors. Two that come to mind for me are Ben Mee’s handball and Etienne Capoue’s assault on Tanganga. Mee got away with a blatant handball yesterday where he moved his arm towards the ball to stop the shot but VAR was done with the review (if there even was one) within a matter of seconds – but it was certainly an incident worthy of several other looks. Likewise, the Capoue knee high stamp on Tanganga in the Watford v Spurs game was also a clear red card based off other recent red card offences but, according to the commentators, was reviewed and deemed to be no red card in under about 15 seconds.
To my mind, VAR is taking too long on obvious decisions like the Lallana shoulder/handball before a goal for Liverpool against Wolves earlier in the season (after one look at the replay it was clear Lallana hadn’t handled it but VAR took another three minutes to check it) and then seeming to rush controversial decisions on everything else because they’re scared of the crowd’s impatience. It doesn’t make any sense.
As a supporter of VAR coming in, the English referees and their whole approach to using it has been incredibly painful to watch.
Mike Dean, Arsenal and Sheffield United…
I don’t think it was lost on anyone the irony of the worst referee I have ever seen in my life officiated his 500th game and where else? The Emirates of course.
While we all know about Mike Dean, and he was roundly booed before the game, I think I preferred the old system where referees screwed us out of the points due to the fact they’re just rubbish, than this system in which referees can sit about looking at TV screens and still somehow come to rubbish decisions such as that which ruled out Pepe’s penalty at the weekend.
And I’m sure we’ll hear that this is a fan of a big club who’s moaning about not getting the decisions when they do generally.
But the facts are we didn’t just outplay Sheffield United for most of that match, we outworked them, and the stats also prove we’ve been screwed out of more points by VAR than any other Premier League team.
Just swap the identity of the teams over. Had it been Sheffield United that had been the team screwed out of that penalty, you wouldn’t have heard the end of it from media channels. As it’s Arsenal, we just have to suck it up and hope for better next time.
If these decisions do genuinely even themselves out, then Arsenal are due a heck of a lot of dodgy decisions to swing our way.
But well done to the boys. Every one of them put in a shift – particularly that defence – a central midfielder at right back, a left winger at left back (and a rookie left winger at that), the worst centre back I have ever seen still at the club, along with David Bloody Luiz.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
Trevor Francis wants a word
As not every top club can stroll through against a bang average mid table side, let’s give a bit of attention to one of the more surprising results from Saturday.
*If Pep Guardiola thinks his birthday was spoilt by Manchester City dropping points, he should probably have a word with Trevor Francis.
*Crystal Palace were good value for their point. They soaked up a lot of pressure from the Citizens and held firm for a very long time. Then, they had a couple of things that haven’t happened very often this season: a goal in the first half of a game, scored by a striker, from a set piece. It wasn’t surprising that Manchester City’s dominance brought rewards in the form of a brace for Johnny’s latest hero, Sergio Aguero, but it wasn’t enough to take all the points thanks to a combination of resolve and enterprise.
*Aguero’s goals were the result of the tired defending elite level strikers always take full advantage of. Roy Hodgson had not to that point made any substitutions in defence and the players on the right allowed too much space for crosses. For the first goal, James Tomkins made a rare mistake and mistimed his jump, allowing the ball to reach Aguero, who poked it home; for the second, he was able to get between the two centre-backs, neither of whom were anywhere near close enough to challenge him in any way.
*John Stones had a shocking game. I may be misremembering but it seemed like Gary Cahill was phased out of the England setup in part to allow Stones to become a mainstay of the central defence. In this game, the old master came out on top of the young pretender, in a very real sense at times: for the first goal, Cahill beat Stones in the air to head the ball back across goal for Cenk Tosun to nod home. Then, with Manchester City looking to see out the game, Stones was asked to do a rare bit of defending and failed miserably, as he was beaten by Wilfried Zaha and then deflected the cross into the path of Fernandinho, who was powerless to stop it bouncing off him and into the net.
Zaha looking to run inside at centre-backs is a tactic Palace often use against big clubs. It reaps rewards because it can seem like that’s where the weak link in the team is – Stones at Manchester City, Shkodran Mustafi for the Arsenal, anyone for Manchester United.
*Leaving aside the VAR debate, you do wonder why the referee thought the ball bouncing off a player’s leg into his arm was a deliberate act of handball.
*Stat of the week: the only teams to take points off Manchester City in 2018-19 and 2019-20 are Liverpool and Crystal Palace.
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