AFCON will definitely derail Liverpool next season…

Date published: Thursday 6th February 2020 2:50

Sadio Mane Liverpool

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AFCON will definitely derail Liverpool next season
A lot of (premature) talks about how can other teams stop Liverpool next season. It seems that many fans/pundits still have not learned about the danger of recency bias. Two seasons ago when Man City is running away with the title, similar talks happened. Well look now apparently Liverpool can somehow topple Man City from dominating three seasons on the trot (last season was not really dominating, considering only 1 point difference).

I digress. With all the talks on how to beat Liverpool, just take a look at the football calendar from 9th of January to 6th of February. There will be African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Cameroon. This means Liverpool will definitely miss Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, Naby Keita, and Joel Matip (is he still OK to play for Cameroon?). That will be difficult for Klopp to manage almost an entire month without his two star attackers and two back-up players. This season he needs to rotate carefully to ensure the standard is matched.

So as an eternally pessimistic Liverpool fan, I am sure the AFCON will derail Liverpool’s 2020-2021 season. That being said, by the AFCON commences perhaps Liverpool will be 10-15 points behind of the league leaders so this argument is rendered pointless.

The point of the story, Klopp and the transfer teams need to deal with it. But they seem like a knowledgeable and reasonable bunch so they will prepare this way from advance (hopefully). Minamino to step up better perhaps? And don’t even spew the bullsh*t of Mbappe2020 (not gonna happen).
Vincentius (will not think we have won the league until it is mathematically confirmed), Cambridge


Trying to build a case for Jordan Henderson
I get the fact that VVD has probably been the best player in any position this season. A few thoughts though:

  1. No one was saying that when we couldn’t keep a clean sheet for the first few months of the season. Not VVD’s fault directly, but he was culpable. It was Alisson’s return that really turned the corner. In fact Alisson’s performances and stats, so far ahead of anyone else in Europe, are worthy of consideration.
  2. While it’s not a most improved player award, Henderson’s increase in performance (probably since the run to Kiev in all honesty) is a compelling reason to recognise him this season.
  3. One of our biggest weaknesses this season has been our profligacy in front of goal; so while the front three get so much attention, the fact we have kept on winning is surely as much a reflection on those who consistently control games and provide chances. Personally I would make a case for Gini, Trent and prior to injury Fabinho, as being our best players this season. They’ve all had consistent periods of brilliance.
  4. How do you value intangible inputs such as leadership – he has been lauded for is maturity, drive and ability to lead those around him by those closest to the team, it’s visible on the pitch and shouldn’t be under valued, in the same way Firmino isn’t judged by goals.
  5. He probably deserves it for that hug with his dad.




Long ball or long pass tactically
Just to add my tactical two penny worth on LFC and their ability ( yes I’ll call it that) to attack in different ways. This is for me one of the reasons LFC are outperforming this year and allows them to navigate the half or full press arguably better than every other side.

When a new way of playing comes into the game it normally take around 2 years for most opposing sides to evaluate it , 3 to counter it and 4 to implement it themselves.

Jose did this majestically with his 433 formation when virtually the whole of the premiership was 442. He kept his wingers wide and used a totemic center forward (Drogba)as a de facto target man. The midfield ( Lampard) then flooded forward in support as Drogba was almost without peer as a hold up center forward.

It took teams around 2-3 years to work out how to play against this side.

Barca and tiki-taki then took the game in another direction , short controlled passes , no traditional or false 9 , with possession king and goals scored with a certain panache rather than power. Obviously City play in very much the same way and nobody has been able to live with it until the last couple of years until Klopp….

Liverpool play a high press , which as with the systems above has taken a couple of years for teams to counter and now a lot of clubs try to emulate it , but Klopp has evolved it to the point that when teams press against his side he has clearly instructed his defensive players to bypass the midfield and pass the ball into the wide channels.

This is Big Sams reference to long balls, but as has already been stated LFC are successful with this tactic around 50 pct of the time and that is more than enough , suggesting that it’s a pass rather than a ball , as the tactic results in either Mane or Salah ending up one on one against the opposing full backs. The defending sides midfielders cannot catch up due the pace of the above attacking duo and the fact they have been pressing high . LFC rarely play a long ball / pass straight down the middle ( mainly because Firmino is not a target man playing on the shoulder)

Teams that don’t press high generally employ the low block , loved by Jose and now by Ole of the big six sides . This results in massive possession concession and a hope to hit the other side on the counter once or twice a game (see Spurs v City last weekend)

LFC can score goals and or attack in a number of ways , some beautiful , some are ugly but mostly they are just efficient . Long passes are an integral weapon in this efficiency
DL , LFC , Geneva



Just in response to the article today where Samuel Allerdici appears to claim that Liverpool are a long ball team.

Drawing on a quote from Paisley …”it’s not about the long ball or the short ball … it’s about the right ball”

I believe Liverpool currently try to play the right ball.

How can you effectively pull well organised teams out of position ? (a challenge often presented at Klopp’s feet).

One of the options is to play the effective channel diagonal out of defence by VVD or the fast switch of play between the flanks by TAA.

The key point here is both are extremely good at doing that accurately, so the %’s are high, and they don’t do it just because they can. They do it because it is recognised by management that it offers the greater potential for positive outcomes for the team.

The key is not to be predictable in approach and have a variety of options / weapons to call upon, something that this Liverpool team appear to be very good at.

This is highlighted by the wide variety of types of goal that we have scored in the last couple of seasons.

Man City appear to be slightly different in this regard as a fair proportion of their goals come from ‘slick passing to get round the back .. drilled delivery to edge of 6 yard box … hit Sterling’s knee and bobble in’.

On a separate note, I think that there has been far too much focus in recent weeks on this mailbox forum of the comparisons to teams in other eras in terms of whose better.

I would encourage LFC fans writing into the mailbox to not bite… it’s an argument that can’t be won either way due to its subjective nature … never going to be an ‘apples with apples’ comparison.

Let’s stay try to stay humble and just enjoy what the team we love is able to do at the moment.

It won’t be this way forever.
Sparky (LFC) (we were ‘a long ball team’ in the CL final against Spurs)


Ighalo to follow OGS blueprint
As Woodward seems to never learn, I’m really hoping the OGS strategy comes to the fore again. Ighalo on a wave of euphoria to bag 8 goals in 8 games before being anointed as the saviour of old Trafford and signing a 5 year contract on £150k a week!
Mark LFC (I should really have better things to think about than utd’s woes!)


Edouard over Dembele
I’d be interested to hear Scottish Premiership viewers thoughts on this, but I’m surprised Chelsea are apparently pursuing Moussa Dembele so keenly, when his replacement at Celtic is looking likely to become the better player. Edouard, to my mind anyway, is a far superior player technically, and is now beginning to match Dembele’s goalscoring output – not to mention adding a nifty free kick to his repertoire recently.

This seems like a classic case of premier league clubs refusing to be the ones to nurture a player from mid- to top-level and instead splurging on a player after another club has done the hard yards (despite countless rave reviews suggesting the player’s potential, à la Van Dijk, Maddison, Grealish, Maguire, and, dare I say it, John Stones).

While on the subject, I’m surprised nobody is taking a punt on Morelos yet – red card penchant aside.




Named squads in the FA Cup
Re: Michael’s suggestion that the FA Cup start having named squads:

You do realise, Michael, that all of the competitions that have a named squad do *not* require you to count under-21 players towards that squad limit? Under-21 players can always play.

The reason for this is that otherwise these players would simply never get a chance.

So not only is your suggestion bad for everybody, it wouldn’t make a bloody difference to the recent Anfield match, because every player on the pitch there was under 21!
Justin, LFC


England’s midfield
Reading the piece about England’s midfield earlier and it’s honestly baffling that nobody can see the clear answer – for the deeper roles anyway – is Henderson and Winks.

I’ve criticised Henderson before but he is having a fantastic season and drives his side forward like no other. Massive improvement on what he was but that’s because Klopp recognises he’s no holding man nor is he a great recycler of the ball.

In the Premier League it might be important to have an “enforcer” but at international level – particularly in a tournament where possession is so important – you need more of a ball recycler/metronome to keep possession ticking over and stop the likes of Modric/Pirlo/etc dictating games as we’ve seen against England over the years. Winks is that metronome and he’s already proven against the likes of Modric and Kroos at Champions League level.

Winks sitting in front of the defence just nearly passing and retaining possession, while also being able to take the ball on the turn and move it forward to Henderson and whoever the more attacking midfielder is (Grealish for me) is clearly the way forward.

Southgate picks Rice or Dier with Henderson and suddenly Henderson becomes less effective as he’s forced to try to collect the ball from the defence (not his best attribute) because Dier or Rice don’t do that well, a better midfield simply swarms both and England can’t keep enough possession to get the forwards into the game.

It’s mind boggling that it’s even a question at this stage.
Scott, COYS


Just reading the piece this morning on the train and it really does seem to me that Gareth will be forced to move Henderson back into the holding role simply because there really is nobody else capable of doing the job. As the title of the article suggests who plays ahead of him in the midfield 3 really does seem to be anyone’s guess. My feeling would be that Southgate may be swayed towards Ox and Loftus cheek if fit and i dont see Grealish/ Maddisson fitting the system.

Not an England fan so I dont follow their performances much but surely the CBs are going to be Maguire and Jomez? Cant see a case for any other pairing and TAA and Chilwell either side?
Kirky D, Belfast


When is a foul not a foul?
I was expecting to see someone criticise Son for diving to win a penalty last night, and Chris, MUFC duly obliged. What I saw was a goalkeeper lunging into a tackle out of control and a striker being fast enough to shift the ball but not quite fast enough to shift himself.

Regardless of the level of contact, Son had to unbalance himself to avoid being clattered. If he had become so unbalanced as to scuff his shot, he would be getting blamed for not going down. And given recent events in Son’s past, I don’t think we can blame him for trying to avoid contact.

So, to my mind, just because Gunn barely managed to touch Son (he did, by the way, there’s a clear shot of Gunn’s hand around Son’s leg), that doesn’t change the effect of his tackle. He got none of the ball and forced the attacker to the ground. In all other circumstances that is a foul. Just because nobody got hurt doesn’t mean it’s okay.
Harry, THFC (It shouldn’t escape anyone that Son’s dodgier behaviour “coincides” with Mourinho showing up)


If players had never left…
Watching Spurs v Southampton my mind briefly drifted to Gareth Bale and who would be the best team in the league if any of the players they’ve sold – and that are still playing somewhere – had never left. My own Liverpool wouldn’t be that much better obviously, especially with Torres, Alonso and Mascherano now retired. Southampton though could have had Van Dijk, Bale, Mane and Ox just off the top of my head. Ronaldo still at united too.

Who could your team still field if nobody had been sold?


Perfect description of Crystal Palace
Dear Football365,

This morning Matt Stead served up the perfect description of Crystal Palace: “[Roy Hodgson’s] tenure has run its course, like stabilisers keeping Palace upright but stopping them going any faster”, which also chimes nicely with John Nicholson’s previous columns expressing his irritation with people being careful what they wish for.

Lots of people who have played Football Manager will probably recognise the situation Palace have got into. There comes a point in a lot of those games where you take a team far beyond its natural position – such as when I took Real Union de Irun from the regional leagues to the top half of the Primera Liga – and the upward progress comes to a halt. From there on, getting to the next level is a massive effort of squad turnover and spending far more money than the club can realistically afford, and you have to decide whether you can really be bothered. Palace is a bit like that in real life. They have stayed in the Premier League far longer than they really should have, and made the most of relatively meagre resources to finish in the top half. However, at that point, it became apparent that to go any further – to the European places – they would need to sign upwards of half a team all costing more than their previous transfer record, with no guarantee they would make that money back. For a club who nearly went to the wall ten years ago, it’s understandable that this would be a risk they wouldn’t want to take.

Crystal Palace are far from the most impoverished club in the country, and are not on their own in having to make the most of meagre resources. The trouble is that instead of drawing inspiration from other clubs, either in terms of their playing style or recruitment strategy, the club is collectively shrugging, as though they are powerless to stop a force of nature instead of being in a situation at least partly of their own making. The club’s history – at least in the past 50 years – has been riddled with moments of flying too close to the sun and paying a severe price. This at least feels slightly different, in that these problems come from not taking a leap of faith, but the ending will be the same.
Ed Quoththeraven


Tainted goals
Tainted Goals, what a headline and one does actually come to my mind, it happened last night in Ligue Un in the game between Saint Etienne and Marseille, don’t get me wrong it is an exceptional piece of skill from Dimitri Payet to score, he is near the goal line and manages to strike the ball with his left foot through the defence, through the keeper and into the side of the goal, however for any goalkeeper to be beaten by a strike going right through him into the side of the net from that angle, you do have to wonder how he didn’t get a touch on the ball, still wonderful to see though.
Mikey, CFC (Nice to AVB doing well with Marseille I must say)


As an attempt to steer the conversation away from my belovéd Liverpool and their brilliance, can we talk about Brexit and Footy (Fooxit if you will?)

What is going to happen to the Bosman Transfer post Brexit?

Will European Players need work visas to play in the UK?

These are the questions!

I’m sure many mailboxers will have their own …

Baz Foster, Glasgow


Won’t someone think of the FA Cup?
Michael in the mailbox this morning joins a long list of people with suggestions on how to save the FA and how to make the big clubs take the World’s Greatest Cup Competition more seriously.

This season we seem to have hit the heights of concern for the future of the FA Cup with so much whattodoary. I took a glance at the (midweek) next round and saw Liverpool, Leicester, Man City, Chelsea, Tottenham, Sheff Utd, Man Utd, Arsenal and Newcastle. That is the Premier League’s top seven teams, eight of the top ten (with the other two knocked out by Liverpool and Man Utd) and nine of the top twelve.

You have to go all the way down to Palace in 14th to find a Premier League team beaten by a lower division side. How much more seriously do people want the Premier League teams to take the FA Cup?

If you want to point a finger at the death of the FA Cup point it at Reading v Cardiff where 4,832 people turned up to watch the 3-3 draw this week. Reading made 11 changes for the first match despite not being in neither a relegation fight or the clamour for the playoffs. If two mid-table Championship sides don’t give a monkeys about the FA Cup why are the ‘big clubs’ taking all the heat?
Micki (How on earth did Son get away with that dive last night?) Attridge (…and he stopped in the run up for the penalty. Seriously a booking for the dive and a booking for stopping in the run up, weirdest sending off ever)


Flipping the songs from the big six…

As an aside to Howard (What is Love?) Jones’ email about songs the big six sing … I was at Chelsea/Hull in the FA Cup the other week and was in the home stand (as a Chelsea fan) so got to hear this from a different perspective. Hull City don’t have loads of fans, their stadium is half closed all season, most weeks they get about 10K.

Chelsea come to town and the entire ground is sold out for the first time in years at around 24K. Chelsea fans sing ‘You’re only hear for the Chels’ which it seems was truly accurate but resulted in Hull fans singing back at them ‘We support our local team’ … which let’s be honest they clearly don’t (unless a big team is in town). That is a chant I’ve never understood, would they stop supporting Hull if they left the area (like I have with Chelsea). That makes them sound nothing but flaky to me.

Attendance the following two games back at 10k.

Thanks for listening


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