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What’s the aim at Spurs?
OK, so that is four times this season that Spurs have been outclassed by Chelsea. At no stage in any of the games did I think that Spurs would win, Chelsea totally outclassed us over all four games which is a sad reflection on the squad.
So the question is, do Levy and Lewis really want to achieve something in football. Without a doubt the infrastructure at Tottenham is as good as any club in the world, all very remunerative. Great stadium, great training ground, great contract with Nike and AIA. None of which is a criticism, but this is the last chance saloon at Spurs from a football perspective. We finally have a world class manager and if we want to keep him we have to give him a chance to compete. I don’t expect Spurs to solve everything in this transfer window. The absence of Lo Celso, Dele and N’Dombele from the squad today suggests they are on their way and whilst there will be mixed emotions with Dele (but not N’Dombele who can just do one) it is good to see the club doing something about the stagnant nature of the squad. This at least gives me a cause for optimism that something is going to happen.
If all Joe and Daniel want to do is make money, then take a bow, they will never be poor and nor will their children. But if they want to actually achieve something in football, now is the time to play their chips. I have always felt that Levy has the long term health of Spurs at his heart, what he has done from a structural perspective and some of his community initiatives are genuinely worthy of appreciation that he doesn’t get. Maybe I am a bit naiive and I have given too much of my soul and wallet to the club, but I am at breaking point. Come on Daniel – show the fans and the manager that winning is more important than pure financial wellbeing, maybe not to a Leeds extent, but please, at least try, show you care and let’s get on top of what feels like a final opportunity. Either that or sell the club, but not to a Russian oligarch or an oil rich nation that will treat us like a plaything.
After watching Lukaku struggle against Dier and Sanchez, and having had an underwhelming return to Chelsea so far, I am wondering whether anyone signed for big money can legitimately claim to have been a success. £97.5M has paid for a striker that isn’t even in the top 20 highest goal scorers this season.
Coutinho (£105M), Dembele (£97M), and Griezmann (£107M) are recent terrible signings for Barcelona. Real Madrid signed Hazard for £89M for no return, and Atletico Madrid spent £104M on Felix albeit for the return of one La Liga title. Juventus signed Cristiano Ronaldo for £88M for arguably a few league titles from a position of domestic dominance, whilst PSG have spent a whopping £361M on two players (Neymar and Mbappe) for zero Champions League titles. Other duds over £70M include Maguire, Pogba, Pepe, Arrizabalaga, and Higuain.
The exceptions of value of players sold for over £70M appear to be van Dijk, Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo (to Real Madrid), and Luis Suarez (to Barcelona). The jury is still out on Grealish (£100M), Sancho (£73M), and Havertz (£72M) although I remain unconvinced as to their prospects at the moment.
Overall, is a high transfer and astronomical salary outlay worth it? If I were an owner I would buy for mid-price with high salaries as I don’t think huge transfer fees with astronomical salaries actually work. Has Lukaku actually taken Chelsea backwards as a result when purely viewed by his play on the field? They won the Champions League last year after all. When we had Lukaku, he was absolutely super for us (WBA) and I want him to be doing well.
Rich (Baggies finally remembered how to score), Cambridge.
A* for Alisson
BTW – when do these oligarchs and oil rich nations get bored?
Alisson was the clear man of the match today. Even at 2-0 he made some really brilliant saves to keep the game at bay. Hard to blame him for the goal given our defence decided it was time for a mid afternoon nap.
Overall it was a weird pattern of play; we dominated for ten minutes and then suddenly they remembered we play a high risky line and push our full backs way up. The rest of the game was on edge until the penalty. I do find it odd that we don’t drop a little deeper when we are winning a game so comfortably. I guess Klopp doesn’t want to relent because if the opposition do come back it’s hard to shift mindset over and over within a game.
Speaking of the penalty, it was definitely mega soft. The ball is basically beyond reach but I think the ref/VAR decided to award it on the basis that the keeper literally made no attempt to play the ball at all. He seemed to only be interested in wiping out Jota and I think that’s what made them go with a penalty. If it happened to Liverpool I’d be annoyed so can sympathise with the Palace fans.
International break comes at a good time for us. Salah, Mané and Keita come back from AFCON and also a chance for Origi and Thiago to recover from injury.
Olise looks a player. Very interesting and talented winger.
View from the Palace
*At least it wasn’t 7-0. Regardless of how the league table looks, going into their game with Liverpool, it seemed unlikely that Crystal Palace would be thumped, even if a Liverpool win was the most likely outcome.
*Another big change in the mood around the club is that when one of the big teams comes to town, there is an expectation Palace will do more than simply (fail to) defend their own penalty area. It took until the second half, but after the restart the Eagles came out of the traps flying, and really gave Liverpool a scare. It wasn’t even as if the visitors were playing badly, there was just a swell of confidence from the home side that they could get themselves back into the game.
*Sometimes you wonder why rumour sites think Patrick Vieira is being watched by Manchester City as a potential replacement for Pep Guardiola, and then you watch Palace concede yet another goal from a set piece. It’s a baffling blind spot for an otherwise capable coach, manager and motivator, much like Guardiola’s Citizens and their underwhelming record in kicks from the penalty mark. Presumably it’s their way of giving the rest of the league a chance. I haven’t seen every angle of Virgil van Dijk’s goal but as he ran unattended from a cluster of players and bulleted a superb free header past Vicente Guaita, I presume there was some sort of offensive line setup that blocked off whoever was supposed to be tracking him.
*The second goal came with a slight hint of controversy. Roberto Firmino was in an offside position when a cross was played towards him and he attempted to head the ball. His failure to connect meant that he was deemed not to have interfered with play, even though the effort itself meant Tyrick Mitchell moved towards him and not the eventual recipient, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who had the time and space to score. It’s an area of the laws of the game that leaves a lot to the personal interpretations of the officials. The “active and interfering” guidelines were introduced so a player on the opposite side of the field to the ball doesn’t cause play to be stopped, not to let play continue because a cross is too high for its intended recipient. Still, if there’s one thing guaranteed to win the hearts and minds of neutrals, it’s exploiting loopholes and grey areas for marginal gains. Just ask Sir Dave Brailsford.
*Palace’s goal came about after achieving a difficult feat: forcing Liverpool’s defenders to defend. Their full-backs get a lot of praise for the crossing and their centre-backs are composed on the ball, but they were carved open several times. Michael Olise tormented Andy Robertson in the second half, and the goal came about via a pass from Jeffrey Schlupp through the centre-backs. Better teams than Palace will have noticed both Joel Matip and van Dijk were ball watching and ended up looking quite foolish.
*At that point, it genuinely seemed like the most likely side to score the fourth goal of the match would be the hosts. The Eagles pushed their visitors further and further back and this left space in midfield. Liverpool were in full-on survival mode. Then, fate and VAR intervened. A long pass forward from Alexander-Arnold found Diogo Jota, who never fully had control of the ball as it went into the penalty area, where he and Guaita made contact. The referee is a long way behind the play, so it makes sense that he would need the help of VAR to understand properly what had happened. From the reverse angle, it appears that Guaita comes out on his knees and stops short of Jota; the ball runs past him and out of play; Jota then changes the angle of his run, away from the ball and towards Guaita. VAR decided this was a penalty because they believed Jota was prevented from reaching the ball.
Listened to VAR talking to the ref, they said he would've got to the ball.
He wasn't even moving towards it. https://t.co/yclLacMCg5
— Chris Grierson (@chrisgrierson) January 23, 2022
If you’ll excuse some whataboutery from a cynical small club fan, it seems incredibly unlikely that were the teams reversed, they would reach the same outcome.
*It’s the story of Palace’s season in some ways: a game no one fancied them in, but they played really well and were unlucky not to get more from it than they did.
*A while back someone described Jurgen Klopp as Jose Mourinho with a bigger grin, and there was yet more evidence of it this weekend. He somehow manages to win less graciously than when he loses, he is incredibly one-eyed about officiating decisions, and he gets away with crossing lines that others do not. Readers with long memories will cast their minds back a few weeks to Klopp’s assertions that VAR was entirely broken, when a decision when against Liverpool; it was no surprise that when an incredibly contentious penalty decision went his way, he gave the system his full backing.
Perhaps the reason we don’t have a better system than the current VAR arrangement is that clubs and managers are unwilling to move past their brazen self-interest, where they equate “correct” with “benefits me”.
*I had honestly forgotten about the winter break. Still, it’s nice that no matches get in the way of baseless transfer rumours and lucrative friendlies abroad. Palace return to action in the FA Cup, facing Hartlepool United, and their next league game is a trip to Carrow Road.
*Baseless conspiracy theory of the weekend: the drone at Brentford v Wolves was someone who had become aware of the long stoppage online and was trying to steal a march on an in-play betting market.
Further to my mail last week about the commercial and other pressures that may be affecting PGMOL’s impartiality when it comes to the Sky6, two incidents this weekend highlighted the kind of thing I was talking about.
First, Everton v Villa. Watkins is through on goal, Pickford rushes out and takes his legs without getting a touch on the ball. Referee Craig Pawson deems it no foul, and a pen would probably have been harsh even if it would have been a foul anywhere else.
Then Liverpool at Palace. The on-field Ref waves it away and it seems most people think quite rightly. At the very least not a clear and obvious error. VAR has other ideas and is safe and sound in Stockley Park away from the potential wrath of the crowd. Cue unnecessary and ridiculous intervention, which is only going to end one way.
And who was that VAR? Why none other than very same Craig “Mr Consistency” Pawson.
I’d love to hear Mr Pawson’s explanation of why the first incident was not a penalty and the second one was. It’s difficult to think of one that isn’t “it was Liverpool”.
And what about commercial pressures? Liverpool fail to win, the title race is pretty much done and dusted. A win keeps the season alive for perhaps a few more weeks. The product is more appealing, everyone’s making money, everyone’s happy – except for Palace fans and anyone who loves Football and a level playing field. But then who really cares about those?
That stink is getting stronger by the week.
Kevin (considering investing in a gas mask)
…I can understand why Palace players are pissed, VAR can’t be overturning the ref’s call there. There was enough there that upholding a penalty on the field would have been fine, but not at all enough to reverse it.
Crap again from VAR.
Dan, Plastic LFC
Can United stay perfect?
After witnessing many chances get wasted against West Ham in which was pretty much a one-sided game apart from a few sets pieces West Ham threatened from and were almost very effective from, I didn’t think it was to be United’s day not clinical enough. But due to a mistimed header from Ryan Fredericks, one more chance presented itself and Rashford was the hero. Thank god that Cavani held his run from the Martial pass, but it really was 3 points United needed. Broke into the Top 4, although I think this won’t last long with Arsenal & Spurs with a few games in hand. Arsenal look to have started the new year as they started the new season, not disciplined and not scoring enough! Spurs on the other hand will have a BIG confidence booster after the Leicester madness game and with Spurs still undefeated in the league and Conte already having an effect, I think they may grab a win against Chelsea this afternoon.
As for United, with 15 league games to go, realistically for United to potentially grab a Top 4 spot, we almost need a perfect end to the season due to piss poor season we have had so far. I don’t expect 15 wins of course, that would be ridiculous, but out of those possible 45 points United must be very ambitious and aim for another at least another 34 points. So, in other words, 11 wins, a draw and 3 losses. This would put the team on the 72-point mark, and I think Chelsea & Spurs are now probably favorite teams challenging for 3rd & 4th. Spurs have Kane and Conte, two winners in their own right, whereas Chelsea have heaps of experience, but unfortunately a striker that is completely misfiring and almost seemed reliant on his previous predecessor to get the best out of him! Chelsea needs 3-4 wins on the bounce soon otherwise they are going to be dragged into the Top 4 race if not already in it!
While City did surprisingly drop points, I guess they had to eventually having won the previous 13 games. Pep did seem quite nervy in his post-match interview, perhaps a sign that he is fearful of Liverpool’s games in hand and knowing Klopp he will do everything he can in winning those games. He really must and by a significant goal margin to have an equal or superior goal difference to City. It will be mouth-watering and incredibly tense if when City & Liverpool play each other in the league on the 9th April that there is a point difference of less than 3 or less at this given point. Almost a winner take all game if this were the scenario given how good these two teams are.
Jim Beglin is a bit of an unsung co-commentary hero. He always points out things that I haven’t noticed.
Told you so
A few years ago I mailed in about why Jack Grealish would be a flop if he moved to a big club. I said that the amount of space he would be afforded at Aston Villa was huge compared to the packed midfields and defences that a big club (City/Liverpool) face weekly. I said that teams obviously would attack Villa and therefore more space would be available for Grealish to do his thing.
I remember being absolutely lynched out of it.
He was crap again want he?
Did anyone else spot that Laporte celebrated all alone? He’d got the stupid pre-planned celebration, looked round to see nobody else there hahahaha
Marcel G, LFC.