Liverpool’s class shone through yet again on deadline day…

Ian Watson

Get your mails into…


Basking in the glory of Liverpool’s deadline day
Well that is deeply satisfying I must say.

To know my club is committed to its principles, to run itself in a sustainable manner, not spend money it doesn’t have and yet keep the club moving forwards, feels good this morning.

It also shows that Liverpool are not competing on the same financial plain as City or United in particular (where spending 50mil on a player is always an option) but do compete on a football level.

To all those fans who say Liverpool “spend big” just like the Manchester clubs and point to Allison and VVD as examples we now see that transfers such as that are only facilitated by players sales and income and always have been. Well golly gee darn it makes a man feel proud of what we have achieved.

Show me who you are in a crisis, well Liverpool have. We are a well run club, built on sound principles and built for sustainable growth, I for one am proud.

Now as to whether the lads can play, we’ll see about that, but the structure of these deals is one we can’t lose on. Well done all at LFC yet again.

Giving Minamino time to play smacks of clever too. Southampton gain a player for 6 months (we owe them one or two in fairness) Minamino gains experience and profile hopefully.

After watching Liverpool being mismanaged for so long, mornings like this are to be treasured.
Dave LFC

January 2021 transfer window: the winners

Salah doesn’t score great goals
There were two things from the afternoon mailbox I thought I’d write in about, the first being from Mike, LFC, London. I’m assuming the question with Salah is directed at opposition fans because Liverpool fans will rightly love Salah. I’m a United fan. I think the reason he doesn’t get loved as much is for something that a lot of us do in football, in that we love great goals. Besides from last night, the only one that stands out to me that Salah scored was against Chelsea, at Anfield a few seasons ago. That’s not to say that his consistency isn’t incredible, just that it’s great goals that bow us over. In my mind Suarez was absolutely incredible, and a large part of that and why he was appreciated outside Liverpool was the goals he scored. Same with Torres. I’d also say it’s a thing with Lewandowski versus Ronaldo and Messi. He scores a lot of goals, which is brilliant, but those two score goals (or at least did), that no one else could do. That you didn’t see coming. That made you want to watch them to see what they’d do. I think Bale falls into this too from his younger years, he was appreciated because so many of his goals were outrageous.

That Salah is a great goalscorer, rather than a scorer of great goals, probably means he’s appreciated more by his fans than outside. Rooney, Ronaldo and Van Persie all scored great goals and made them more watchable and memorable for opposition fans. Salah doesn’t get you out of your seat as much with the goals he scores. That’s my take on it, if I was a Liverpool fan I wouldn’t really care if he was selfish or not.

The second point is from Swapnil, Mumbai (Man United) and has also been said in various articles and it’s to do with United against the Big Six. I think the biggest thing in the results against these teams compared to last season is that the majority this season has been with a back four instead of a back three. It was notable how after the City game Ole said it was the best they’ve played against City since him being there. It wasn’t the best result, but United kept the ball against them and nullified them without just camping on their box. There’s an argument of is it better to win playing that way, or draw/ lose playing with more attackers and trying (emphasis on trying) to go toe to toe. Whether it’s right or wrong, he wants them to sort out the inferiority complex. He doesn’t want them going into games thinking they aren’t good enough on the ball to play against the Big Six, but it’s a transition: they aren’t currently good enough on the ball to win that way. If it will work or not, I don’t know, but there is a logic to it.
James, Galway


…Mike, LFC, London: As you say, many of us Liverpool fans adore Salah and I’m one of them. He is certainly as important as Sadio (who I also love) and Klopp, from whom I want a hug (don’t worry, my wife has said that Klopp can be on ‘the list’).

Salah is perceived as selfish by some and as ‘going down easily’ by opposition fans. He certainly seems to draw their ire.

I do get frustrated when he shoots and misses when there was a simple pass to a better-placed team mate but, as you ably make the point yourself, his assists do not lie and his job is to score goals, which is mainly accomplished by shooting.

As for the going down easy, he has done it now and then, but no more than many (eg. the sainted H. Kane flopping over and tripping himself up to gain a free kick at least once, when they played us the other night). In fact, I’d argue that Salah has learnt his lesson from a couple of seasons ago in this regard.

More worringly, it seems the officials have bought into the Salah myth. For this season and last, he’s on about 0.5 fouls won per 90 minutes played. This is way below the likes of say perma-goal threat, erm, Divock Origi. For comparison, Grealish tops the list of fouls won at over 4.5 fouls won per 90 mins played. This must mean that Salah is so good that no-one can get near enough to him to make a foul (hmmm) or he’s so shite that they just don’t bother (hmmm) or the officials are not making diligent observations and applying the rules of the game equitably (nods head) or Salah is such a trickster/gymnast/ so honest that 99% of the time he makes such an effort to stay on his feet that no human or VAR eye can detect any miscreant behaviour.

I know I’ll be accused of being one-eyed and biased meself but the fact of the matter is that, watching every minute of every LFC game, I do see that Salah gets fouled quite a bit and very often doesn’t get a decision, especially when he’s being ‘shepherded’ (hugged) or round a defender and they’re doing that flappy arms, chasing tackle thing – you know the one I mean, leading with your arms, not nearly enough to bring someone down but just enough to impede the run for the fraction of a second that your flat-footed defence need to get back.

God save the Officials and Justis for de Egytian King!

SB, South of the Line

Mailbox: Why is extraordinary Salah so underappreciated?

…Mike, LFC, London points out again the conundrum of why Mo Salah doesn’t get more love. I was pondering the same thing after the West Ham match. There are at most five other players in the world I could imagine scoring a brace like his on Sunday. For the first, the shimmy and close control to create the space, the vision to see the path to goal and the skill to curl it along that precise path. For the second, the pace, the insane first touch, the instant calculation and execution of the precise finish. Granted he’ll miss more of those sorts of chances than he’ll score, but most ordinary mortals won’t score any of them at all. Plus he’s three clear in the league top scorer race even after a longish period of poor service prior to the Tottenham game. Plus plus, as Mike says, he’s the first Liverpool player to score 20+ in four straight seasons since Ian Rush.

The guy is a bona fide mega star. Logically he should be most Liverpool fans’ favourite player. But yet… If I honestly ranked him in my favourite (as opposed to most valued) Liverpool players, I’m not sure he’d score that highly. And I really don’t know why! His public persona doesn’t suggest a huge ego – beyond the something-and-nothing Barca-and-Real-are-great-clubs quotes a few months back, he’s never voiced anything but commitment to the club. He has the supposed rivalry with Mane, but it doesn’t seem to go beyond a healthy desire to outdo each other for the betterment of the team. The one thing that perhaps does count against him is that he has the occasional game where it’s just not happening for him and he can come across a little despondent. And in a team where tireless running and never-say-die attitude are hallmarks of almost every other player, that does stand out. But it’s one game in ten at the most, and he does more than enough in the other nine to earn some credit. Luis Suarez did far more to deserve those sorts of reservations, but it never stopped me loving him as a player. I even wondered if it was his Chelsea past – I really do dislike Chelsea – but that never stopped me loving Sturridge. So, while I share some LFC fans’ slight ambivalence towards him, I have no good explanation for it. Let’s hope there’s a few more unanswerable performances coming to bring me, and any fellow Red not-quite-believers, to our senses.
Tom, sorry for all the hyphens, LFC, London


…I just wanted to respond to Mike about Salah being under-appreciated. I am a complete nerd. So at the end of last season, I did a little analysis to compare the best attacking players in the premier league’s history. For each player, I calculated goal involvements per game by adding goals to assists and dividing by the number of league appearances. Salah came second with 0.87 goal involvements per game. For comparison, he just edged out Aguero (0.86) and Suarez (0.84). The only player better than Salah on this metric is Henry, who recorded an unbelievable 0.97 goal involvements per game. Interestingly, Salah scores much better on this metric than other players who are widely considered the best premier league attackers: Rooney (0.63), Kane (0.77), Drogba (0.62), Ronaldo (0.60), and Hazard (0.57). Consequently, it is not absurd to argue that Salah is the second best striker to ever grace the premier league.

However, I think it is important to assess Salah within context. The current Liverpool squad contains four players in the Fifa Pro World XI and is managed by the two time Best FIFA Men’s Coach. While Suarez achieved a comparable goal involvements per game in a team containing Martin Skrtel, Aly Cissokho, and Jon Flanagan. Consequently, I find Suarez’s Liverpool achievements more impressive than Salah’s.

This is not to say that I don’t love watching Salah play for Liverpool. But I suspect that when we look back on this period of Liverpool’s history, it will be known as the Klopp era and not the Salah era.

PS Graeme Souness was talking utter garbage when he blasted Salah for being selfish though.
Oliver, London


Defending Thiago
The current narrative being created around Thiago negatively impacting Liverpool’s pace on transitions is one of the most absurd narratives put forward by football journalism in some time. Dave Tickner has been the principal architect of this view on F365 with Daniel Storey making reference to the view in winners and losers.

During Sunday’s game, Gary Neville and Tyler were discussing Liverpool’s midfield and came out with phrases like ‘its silky football’, ‘this diamond is dominating possession’ and ‘Thiago offers something that Liverpool otherwise have not offered’, ‘ Liverpool look strong in midfield but attacks are breaking down in the final third’. Surely if the attacks are breaking down in the final third, we cannot blame Thiago for this.

Thiago returned from injury into a Liverpool team which was performing well below par with Mane, Salah, Firmino, Robertson and Trent playing some of their worst football for Liverpool over the course of that month. Neville hit the nail on the head with his view that attacks were breaking down during the final third and this is the reality of the goal drought. None of the fabled front three could find a teammate with a pass or hit the net with the almost 100 shots hit at the goal. To me it seems wildly disingenuous to lay the blame on a new midfielder who if truth be told had some poor moments but was largely the most energetic and intense player on the pitch during the barren run of games. It is a reverse of the KDB narrative where the Belgian lord’s shortcomings were blamed on every other member of the team playing ahead of him.

Neville’s main complaint about the front three and Shaqiri was that they were static and failed to make runs which created the space needed to unlock teams with 8 players in the box defending 2-3 players. If memory serves me correct, Thiago was not sitting on the ball taking his time or passing back when he should be going forward. Almost every time he gets the ball, he moves it forward. If anything, Gini Wijnaldum has been guilty of getting the ball, turning, running forward, stopping, turning and passing it sideways or backwards on a constant basis.

In a game where Liverpool were back to their old ways of counteracting and pressing, Thiago led the charts for most touches, passes, final third entries, most duels won and most tackles made.

Since Coutinho left Liverpool, the pundits have occasionally noted that the midfield lacks creativity and the capacity to hurt a team. They have been accused of being too workmanlike and missing the supreme mastery of a KDB. Now that he arrives, he is being blamed for the failings of those around him and it just makes no sense.

Critique his game by all means, but bring some balance to the approach and lay the blame for bad performances at the feet of the five sacred creative cows who lost all form and not the new guy on the block.


…Where’s the love for Salah?

It’s in the same box as the love, appreciation and respect for the highest scoring foreign player of all time, Sergio Aguero.

Just trying to help
Levenshulme Blue, Manchester 19

We deserve better punditry
Good article from Jonny Nic on co-comms, and whilst I obviously agree with the abuse/horrid part, I do think we need to be more critical of their performance.

Co-commentators are usually ex-players with a unique life experience of what it’s like being on the field and in the dressing room at the very highest level, yet only the best of them ever reveal what that’s like when co-commentating. The good ones (Neville, Carra, Davie Provan, McCoist, Alan Smith) do it really well, either tactically or emotively, to the point where the poorer ones (McManaman, Keown, Murphy et al) stand out as being far inferior. Why say something anyone can say like “he’ll have wanted to hit the target with that header” when you can say “His teammates will be thinking….” or “At half time, the manager’s going to ….” or “Having played left wing back, the biggest problem is….”.

Particularly for paid TV, rightly or wrongly, it feels sometimes like these ex-pros have an easy gig, especially when they deliver cliché after cliché. I think this applies to in-studio punditry as much as it does co-comms. Since Neville and latterly Carragher upped the expectation and quality of punditry and co-commentary, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for those lucky enough to get the gig to work harder and smarter to be better at it.
Graeme, Glasgow


…This is not a response per se to John Nicholson’s piece on social media abuse of co-commentators (naturally, not a good thing) but some thoughts on the standard of commentary that we are either subjected to or treated to depending on who is behind the mic. I’m going to leave names out of this, because most commentators are guilty of some, if not all, of the commentating sins.

John says “there are simply no bad commentators” which is patently absurd. What is good or bad is subjective and varies according to the viewpoint of the individual. If my criterion for a good game of football is, for example, lots of goals, then a 0-0 draw to me would be a bad game, even though it might have been ninety minutes of end-to-end rip-roaring action that leaves everyone else breathless at the end. Similarly, if my criterion for a good commentary is to listen to endless statistics shoehorned in at any opportunity to the detriment of actually commenting on the game then sadly there are many commentators who I would have to consider “good”.

I don’t think anyone is accusing the commentators of lack of preparation, but when you spend hours collecting and collating statistics there must be a huge temptation to use them, come what may, I get tired of hearing that a player has gone 427 minutes without playing a left-footed pass, or that a team has gone seven hours and 12 minutes “in all competitions” without conceding a penalty. It’s death by statistics, usually delivered breathlessly and with no context for comparison.

It’s also irksome when we get a commentator referring to a match between the two teams played many years ago “if I recall correctly” and then going on to list the line-ups, the score and what the weather was like. No-one is fooled by this amazing total recall, and no-one cares. Another commentator sin is talking about an upcoming match for which they are slated to be behind the microphone and how much they’re looking forward to it. Again, the commentators must be self-critical and ask themselves “so what, who cares?” Watch the game in front of you.

More insidious is the fact that commentators don’t get picked up on what they say. Very recently, there’s been subtle xenophobia around Germans, no prizes for guessing the narrative of that story is that Tuchel has been hired specifically to coach Werner and Havertz because they’re all German, and somehow must naturally have an innate ability to understand each other. Complete nonsense, but they are immune to anyone picking them up on those kinds of messages. The media will pick a post-match interview or a presser with a coach to pieces, analyze every possible interpretation of a word or a sentence, but commentators (who have a large, mostly captive audience) are rarely subjected to any criticism.

Mailboxers Miles and H 420 pointed out that it’s the incessant gabble of the commentators that gets so wearing, and I don’t think you can blame the producers for that but the commentators themselves. The masters of their craft, the likes of Richie Benaud and John Arlott, knew the power of when to shut up and let the pictures speak for themselves. Most people in the UK would not be familiar with Vin Scully, who was the play-by-play announcer for the LA Dodgers. When Kirk Gibson hit a home run for the Dodgers in the 1988 World Series, a play since regarded as one of the greatest home runs of all time, Scully’s commentary was “A high fly ball into left field … and she is … GONE!”. Scully then said absolutely nothing for more than a minute and left the TV audience to watch Gibson rounding the bases, letting the pictures speak for themselves.

Although John at least doesn’t claim that “there are no bad” co-commentators, I want my co-comms to be knowledgeable, insightful, fluent and coherent. I don’t want cliché-ridden opinion masquerading as analysis; I don’t want stumbling, mumbling and stammering. There’s a reason why “For me, Clive” is the poster child for stale verbal pap. I do think John is being a little disingenuous saying that “football is not hard to understand”; he’s right, the rules are clear and the game is simple enough, but are we so conceited that we think we know as much about the game as a professional who has played it or coached it for a living? I know I’m certainly not and I welcome the insights from those who have a deeper understanding; it’s how we learn. Just make sure it’s not the “For me, Clive, that’s a nailed-on pen” babble.

Speaking of which, don’t take to social media to whine about being unfairly treated when you’ve been demoted in the pecking order of commentators for a particular broadcaster. Commentators are well paid to do the job they do; I’m not going to weep because one of them is no longer going to be paid to watch England play.

I’ve been saying for ages that I want to start the “Campaign for Real Commentators” and quell the Opta Sports stat-regurgitation, clichés and mumbling that masquerade as insightful commentary.

On a different subject, we sat down to watch the Watford vs. QPR game yesterday in time to see the respectful applause before kick-off to mark the passing of Johnny Williams. What was less respectful was that the “in memory of” marquee displayed on the big screen in the ground misspelled his last name. Don’t you think someone would have noticed before broadcasting this around the world?
Steve, Los Angeles

Johnny Nic: The abuse of co-commentators is inexcusable

…TV commentators I generally like. As Johnny Nic points out, they have to be pretty good to get those gigs. Some I prefer more than others. Personal favourites of mine include Jonathan Pearce and Darren Fletcher, and I think Clive Tyldesley and John Motson are well deserving of nostalgic affection, as was Peter Brackley (RIP). Perhaps even Martin ‘It’s Live’ Tyler might be alright on his own as there would be no one else for him to be sycophantic towards. Which is my point. I prefer a lone voice to guide me through the game. BT Sport’s coverage of the Bundesliga does this very well. There is only a single commentator who also takes you through a highlights reel themselves at half time. Perfect.

TV co-commentators I dislike intensely but perhaps for different reasons than bias. This is because I can actually see what is going on for myself. I don’t need other voices chipping in with inane comments. Steve McManaman interjecting “he’s done well there” does absolutely nothing for me as a viewer. Michael Owen pointing out that “he’ll be disappointed to have not hit the target there” does not enhance my enjoyment. Sometimes there are even two co-commentators. They even go to Peter Walton throughout. I don’t need this level of busy. I don’t need anyone else’s opinion. I don’t need experts to tell me what I can already see. There is a single exception, and that is Glenn Hoddle. Perhaps it is affection after so long.

BBC Radio commentary remains the gold standard. I listen to a lot of football on the radio as I refuse to pay for a Sky subscription. Everyone on the team is perfect as they way they paint pictures and tell the story of the game is timeless. It is here, however, that you need co-commentators to add to this with their asides and assessments. It also must be exhausting to commentate without breaks on radio and a mixture of different voices and interjections are more than welcome.

I have long argued about the true value broadcasters provide other than actually showing the football itself. This brings me to punditry, which I often switch off to be fair but there’s no escaping it. I have always disliked US sports, but after Match of the Day finishes, the NFL Show often drifts on as I can’t be arsed to change the channel. I have no idea what’s going on most of the time, but there is no doubt that Osi Umenyiora and Jason Bell are both entertaining and engaging. Why can’t football coverage be the same?

I would say I have time for Rio Ferdinand, Alex Scott, and Ian Wright as I find them all positive and engaging. I also appreciate Danny Murphy for being able to explain tactical differences and the way they affect a game in way that I understand. He should be on far more. Robbie Savage and Chris Sutton have also quietly upped their game recently and are much better broadcasters as a result. So has Alan Shearer. Credit where credit is due. As for the rest, I can take them or leave them. I save my wrath for Sky though. For me (Clive), they have never shaken off their corporate image nor the Andy Gray and Richard Keys era. The car-sponsored, advert-saturated, suit-wearing channel needs a huge makeover to even keep us watching. I can’t remember the last time I saw anyone on Sky smile. Football is entertainment, and they have turned it into a particularly miserable wake. How the likes of Graeme Souness, Roy Keane, and Alan Smith continue to get paid handsomely for supposedly enhancing their coverage is completely beyond my comprehension.
Rich (missing Andy Townsend’s Tactics Truck), Cambridge


…I’m actually starting to think that John Nic wrote the article about co-commentators as a deliberate attempt to get hate-shared. So we’re not allowed to think that any co-commentator is rubbish, even when they quite clearly are?

Steve Mcmanaman, Martin Keown and Michael Owen (to name but three) are ill-informed, quite obviously haven’t done any research and can always be relied upon to regurgitate exactly the same thoughtless received wisdom as your common-or-garden PFM – a concept I’m pretty certain John’s against, right?

They shouldn’t receive actual personal abuse to their social media, completely agree. Anyone who does that is a dick.

But we absolutely have the right to think they’re rubbish, and to say so. Just because they managed to clear the (apparently very low) bar to appear on screen, that doesn’t mean we have to respect them.

I’m sure that there are plenty of others out there who are even worse that never even made it past their first screen test, but that doesn’t make me think Owen/McManaman/Keown etc are good – it makes me wonder just how bad everyone else must have been.

Any one of those three make me wish I could turn the commentary off – the plodding predictability of the banter, the lazy conventional wisdom, the sheer banality (or downright idiocy) of what they’re saying.

Maybe that’s the point, and what a lot of the market wants – nothing too clever, don’t frighten the horses etc. Maybe they’re up there because they haven’t soiled themselves on screen yet and that’s all a TV producer really requires, along with name recognition. But it doesn’t mean that I have to like it, and it doesn’t mean that I can’t point it out on social media.

(Oh, and it’s really not a United fan thing, I promise – I loved Owen Hargreaves but I can’t stand him on TV).

Dan Wardle (MUFC since 1983)


Football and anger
Football is a unique form of entertainment in the sense that it has the capacity to frustrate and anger the patrons in a variety of complex ways. Take the cinema or theatre, you might not enjoy a performance or play, however, you are rarely incensed by the content or left massively disappointed by a production. The same can be said for reality tv or music, a bad album or poor episode is not going to increase your blood pressure. The competitive nature of sport and the inherit identity associated with teams is ingrained in fans in way that is not comparable to other forms of entertainment. You won’t find Phantom of the Opera fans taunting Hamilton fans outside the Victoria Palace or a police escort bring the fans of the Book of Mormon through Leiscter Square to avoid the fans of Le Mis.

In a week, a normal man can be driven demented by his team up to three times over the festive period. Any fan can sit in for a game full of hope and narrative and leave feeling unhappy and angry because the downside to competition is the feeling of loss. At the start of the 00s, violence in video games were cited as being a danger to children. I would disagree, I find the violence of GTAV a release but a last minute defeat in FIFA to be massively frustrating.

It must be incredibly difficult on a human level to be a football player. Outside of politics, Is there any other job in society where people are a focal point for such bubbling anger? Sometimes I wonder how difficult it must be to perform with thousands watching your every move in person, heckling and chanting at you and your teams and millions more watching at home. Not only that, but then the wall of anger on social media and the performance appraisal in the press must be extremely difficult. In this context, I believe that Marcus Rashfrod has done incredible work in challenging football and society to be better.
Jamie, Eire


Season’s over
I don’t know if this has been mentioned since the weekend matches at all but does anyone else get the sneaky suspicion that the PL season is already over?

Man City have the title in the bag – everyone else around them is floundering and while a slight resurgent Liverpool may attempt a challenge, their defensive woes will mean it is surely impossible they will go on a run that will enable them to overhaul Man City.

Relegation is now shewn up. 7 points from safety at this stage is a vast chasm and Brighton and Burnley are two sides that are, surely, not deserving of 16th and 17th place in this league – they will both have enough to stay up.

Which leaves the coveted Fourth Place Trophy! Which surely will be a race for the ages given how current incumbents, Leicester, have previous here and there is an unseemly rush to be ‘best of the rest’ at the moment by sides who are only ever one defeat from crisis. Small mercies and all that. Still, everyone loves a Fourth Place Trophy battle don’t they?

I mention all this after every media outlet and their dog (including this one) waxed lyrical about the most exciting season Since Records Began (c.1992) at the halfway mark. ‘Shut the feck up!!’ I shouted at my screen whilst my nurse passed me my next set of medicines. Naturally within about a week of penning all that froth and nonsense the optimism it created has virtually disappeared.

So thank you, lefty media types, for p*ssing on our cornflakes in this most depressing of times. We had a season for the ages until you all collectively lost your sh*t.
Rob (Looking forward to losing the Fourth Place Trophy on the last day of the season again). Leicester


When January was good
Forgot it was Transfer Deadline Day until I saw some (not) breaking news about some transfer I now forget. Led me to reminiscing about the Man City takeover and Hughes playing golf and not a notion what was happening and the attempted Hyjacking of the Berbatov deal and of course, Robinho. Was brought back to earth Harry Rednapp being clapped into studio to talk about some other transfers I now forget.