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Time for the Lov
Unlike the 2014 title charge which was led mainly by Suarez, this season everyone has played a significant part or other:
1. Alisson – worldie saves, routine saves, saves which make opponents’ free kicks look meh
2. VVD – well
3. Robertson and TAA – those whippy crosses
4. Gomez – early season solidity a large part down to him
5. Matip – recent solidity a large part down to him
6. Milner – Mr Penalty
7. Hendo – second coming of late
8. Wijnaldum – shielding, holding, releasing, then shielding some more
9. Keita – important first goal when it counted, and taking over the gauntlet from Gini as the latter tires as the season enters the last lap
10. Fabinho – that pass to release Mane for the first goal against Man United, and generally being the best DM I have ever seen
11. Lallana – one full game, one MoM performance. We won.
12. Mane – recent fiery form and goals
13. Salah – that goal against Southampton, and always being in the right spot when opposing goalkeepers blunder
14. Firmino – the few games he missed, we looked like piss
15. Origi – ooh Everton
16. Sturridge – ooh Chelsea
17. Shaqiri – crucial in 1st half of season, culminating in Man United game
This leaves one man to clinch it all in the final game against Wolves. Conjuring the spirit against Dortmund, up pops Dejan Lovren in 90th minute with a header to win the title. You hear it here first.
The biggest indictment of Man Utd’s quality
I’m not sure I can milk 16 conclusions out of that United game so I’m just going to freestyle this one.
West Ham were better than us in almost every regard on Saturday, besting us in every department except tackles (and goals for, obviously, but we had a big helping hand there). The fact that (aside from Pogba’s penalty-assisted WhoScored rating of 8) our best players were Rojo, Jones and Dalot speaks volumes about the type of performance we saw from United. Although, the biggest indictment of our quality on Saturday was that Paul Pogba got the man of the match.
Looking only at the ratings it would seem like he had a good game, but anyone who watched it happen will know that was simply not the case. He had 4 shots, of which only the two penalties were on target, was dispossessed 3 times, and had a passing accuracy of just under 78%. Granted, nobody else really had much of a claim to being MotM, but that only undermines that “award” further. Ok, you can point to the two goals that eventually won us the game but let’s be honest: as professional footballers, any one of the 28 players who featured should be able to score two penalties. Scoring a penalty isn’t exactly a remarkable achievement; watching him dance around like he’d just scored a couple of worldies is just embarrassing.
As Ian Watson alluded to, the problem really is with the front three. Aside from the two penalties, we only managed two shots on target and one of those was an outside-the-box effort from Rojo. Lukaku, our striker, only managed one shot and it was off target. In fact, I can’t really remember Fabianski having to do much at all other than picking the ball out of the back of the net following the penalties. This is only half the problem though, as the setup play is also severely lacking at the moment; we just aren’t creating anything like the right quality or quantity of chances, regardless of who the striker is. Of the 20 crosses that were played in on Saturday, only three were accurate – that’s just appalling. We only played two through balls yet attempted 34 long balls on Saturday, despite the entirety of this season demonstrating that Lukaku is not now, nor is he ever likely to be a good target man.
Even the second penalty was a blessing because Martial had effectively ballsed up the chance before the tackle came in. He and Lingard were especially awful, having one shot, playing one key pass, completing just three dribbles, and taking ten unsuccessful touches between them. Lingard did manage a passing accuracy of 90% but that only equates to 18 passes. To be fair, he did contribute defensively (5 tackles, 1 interception and 2 clearances) but that really shouldn’t be his job in a game like this. Are these things a hangover from the Mourinho effect? It’s hard to say for certain but it does look like the players have reverted to a mean that was established under Jose. Solskjaer must take some of the blame, if only for allowing his players to continue playing so naively; if we know we don’t have anyone who can play a cross accurately, why are we still trying them? If we know Lukaku doesn’t do well as a target man, why are we still treating him like one? Having said that, the squad is so woefully short on form and fitness that there’s not a great deal else that could be done with the starting lineup at the moment.
Lucky is how I would describe the win; if the referee hadn’t generously awarded us our first penalty, or allowed their questionably disallowed goal to stand then it could have been a different story. We can’t keep expecting Rashford to run through brick walls for us when he clearly isn’t fully fit, or relying on opponent profligacy to stay ahead, or receiving referee generosity to provide us with penalties when we look impotent in attack. At some point the players are going to have to stand up and be counted and start to turn in the sorts of performances we saw from them in the first months of Ole’s tenure. Rashford tweeted after the game that the three points are all that matters and, to a degree, he’s right. But the likelihood of collecting said three points becomes a lot more remote when you don’t really do anything to deserve them game after game.
I think it was telling that Ole uttered the phrase “we’ll have to see who’s here next season” when discussing the captaincy because I think it’s clear that there is going to be a reasonable turnover of players in the summer. I read of an impending £130m bid for Pogba from Real Madrid, which I would snap your hand off for right now. I can only assume that the interest from Madrid has turned his head but it’s just not good enough. Even if we did sign him to a new mega-money deal, how long before his head would be turned by PSG? Or Barca or Real again? He’s not committed to the cause, which you can clearly see from his overall efforts on the pitch, and he hasn’t been all year (except when it suited his own narrative). If we did get that kind of money for him, it would bump up the apparent £200m transfer fund considerably, so I’d use it to do a proper rebuild – even if it means that the upheaval disrupts our title prospects next season – and bring in the young, hungry players that we need.
Football and Racism
Dear Football 365,
It’s really great that you’re writing about racism and I enjoyed John’s recent article on the interviews he’s been doing. As an anti-racist campaigner and football lover, and someone who has experienced racism throughout throughout my life particularly when playing football, I wanted to challenge some of what he said.
The article, and a lot of media on this issue in general, suggests that you have your racists – like the facist John interviewed – and you have your not racists who may say racist things – like the other two interviewees. Both groups are, however, racist. One group is overt, the other is covert, often subconscious. Being a racist isn’t only about having facist beliefs around racial superiority and difference. It’s about ignorance and using your power in society to denigrate others. Even if its subconsious, the roots of racial slurs are different to simply picking on an obvious characteristic to bully someone with, as one interviewee suggests.
I think we are sometimes concerned a bit too much with the label ‘racist’ and people immediately want to say ‘I’m not a racist’. The more courageous thing to say would be ‘I am/was racist, but I’m trying very hard to unlearn things – sometimes things go well but sometime I don’t quite act how I would like’. This acknowledgement is crucial in tackling the problem.
I am conscious that it’s a cut version of things, but I would have been interested to hear more about the first man’s journey to losing his overt racism. He just said he met people from a variety backgrounds and then, easy as you like, he became part of the ‘not a racist’ group. But its a difficult journey and one which never really ends. It would have been interesting to hear about the conversations and people which helped change his mind. This would help us think about possible remedys.
Also, while the story about the man and his wife is touching and beautiful, I am sometimes concerned that people want forgiveness and absolution from guilt, rather than to take responsibility for changing things. If anything, I think that the man talking to John about this issue is much more powerful and useful than his apology to his wife, where it feels a little like she was asked to be the “black people’s representative”.
I know you have a mailbox for these things, but if you are interested in my challenge, I would request that we work together to publish as a separate article to give the topic the space and thought it needs, and that any associated fee goes to an anti-racist campaigns group.
It’s a really important issue and one which I think F365 has done amazing work on. I’m just keen to push things that one step further, so we begin to arrive at more concrete solutions.
All the best,
Great article JN. I would also like to highlight a Case of bullying I see in the comments where one user is constantly asking another whether they have been to a live game. This constant putting down of another person is off putting. A bully will constantly pick on someone for a particular thing. When the bully happens to be white and the one being bullied is black, there is a thin line between that and racism…
Forever imprinted on my mind
We’re playing tonight but you know what? I don’t really care.
The events of 15 April 1989 are forever imprinted on my mind.
RIP to the 96, who went out to watch a game of football and never came home.
Liverpool remembers you but so too do clubs up and down the land.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
There have been a few Jimmy’s (probably the same guy) writing in gleeful about our descent into mediocrity here are a few things
* The state of our squad – this is not down o the current manager it’s the product of years of bad decisions
Quality of Manager _ Apparently he is pub standard even though since he has performed almost as well as Klopp and Pep since he took over.He also led the so called pub team to titles so make of that what you will.
The performances -So we played badly and won which the Manager acknowledges this ,the manager also acknowledged we deserved to get something out of he Arsenal and Wolves games so it’s neither here or there.I don’t see you complaining about Liverpool’s lucky wins.
You can bask all you and who knows you a want but let’s remember football in this country is cyclical a decade ago the league was dominated by Chelea,Utd and Arsenal this year all three were out of the running with six games left . Klopp is having the perfect season and you get the feeling his team won’t be as lucky next year and Pep you feel/hope will one day get bored so this two shall pass.
How to ruin your team’s chances
I put my cock on the block and of course, the blade came down at Fulham.
I am like a reverse clairvoyant, whatever I say will happen, the opposite occurs, therefore Liverpool will win the league, Man Utd will win the champions league and Jordan Henderson is shite.
I should start my own reverse deggsy. Fat Man’s Failures it should be called. I predict a football event and you bet on the opposite.
A football romantic
I’m a football fan first and a Gooner second.
And, if Liverpool keep going as they’re going and win the league, then I can only salute them.
Make no mistake, I’ve delighted in their title drought.
I started following English football at a time when the only question was who would be second to Liverpool.
I watched the Anfield ’89 match live on tv here in NZ and it remains one of the best days of my 54 years on earth.
I was in the press box at Anfield in 2007, when Cesc Fabregas equalised with minutes to go and when I leapt in the air everybody glared at me.
So, Liverpool has never had a place in my heart.
But, I’m a footy romantic, most of all and if Liverpool can do the unthinkable and finally draw the curtain on their Monty Python football skit, then I doff me cap to ’em.
Nige. NZ (PS: But I’ll also laugh my tits off, if they f*ck it up again.)
Keeping it real?
It’s so exhilarating watching this season. But I think football365 should be careful about bandying it as something we’ve never seen before or will see again. I’m a Liverpool supporter through and through but I’m not sure what we do to surpass that Agueroooooooo moment.
That being said, I watched the match with the Mumbai Official Supporters Club event last night. Ridiculously brilliant.
Whatever happens we’re going to be happy for the ride.
MK (LFC) Manila, Philippines but in India for a couple of weeks
What’s even is the point of Chelsea?
Not surprising to see any discussion of Chelsea after the game yesterday – not a criticism there are just obviously bigger stories.
Which leads me on to the broader point here: in a Abramovich imposed period of (relative) austerity, where their squad is relatively likeable, Utd still absolutely owning the fallen giants schadenfreude, and the general impression that other ‘big 6’ clubs have a higher propensity for comedy (Hello Arsenal and Spurs) what even is the point of Chelsea anymore?