Liverpool fans are reacting with a mixture of bewilderment and scepticism to reports that they won’t be buying Jude Bellingham after all. Also in the Mailbox: Arsenal’s dark arts; refs; and Chelsea.
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Liverpool backing away from Bellingham
A lot of chat around Liverpool’s now abandoned pursuit of Jude Bellingham at the moment. And I have to say it is disappointing. I think we can expect to see a lot of ‘didn’t fancy her anyway’ over the next few days. I am not in that camp. He’s a fantastic young player, who I am sure would have been a joy to watch and someone to rebuild that midfield around long term.
But, and here it is from my point of view. Did my fellow reds actually think it was ever going to happen? I’ve had many chats this season where I have pointedly said – would be great, but it’s not going to happen. Even if we’d had a great season and won something, I just never saw if coming to fruition. It was always simply too much money. It certainly opens up some questions as to the finances of the club and the limits of investments, but let’s be real for a minute, in the last 3 transfer windows, we’ve brought in Gakpo, Luis Diaz and Nunez for a combined ~£140m. The only major outgoing being Mane for ~£35m. In addition we’ve given Mo Salah a new contract which is not insubstantial.
My point here is two-fold. One I think when you look at that, we have and will continue to invest. Two, when you are a club who can bring in 3 top class talented players for ~£140m, then would you suddenly shift that mindset to bringing in one playerfor the same amount. I appreciate I’m comparing apples and oranges in the fowards vs midfield debate, but we very much remain a ‘moneyball’ club. That was never likely to change. We also have no saleable assets in the playing squad to boost the budget significantly.
The bare facts are Liverpool need AT LEAST two new midfielders (likely one holding and one box-to-box, were they to replace Henderson and Fabinho), one centre-half and perhaps one new full back (right or left, though Tsimikas makes the left a lesser priority, he isn’t looking like a challenge to Andy Robertson anymore really). I think Liverpool need to be realistic, and as ever it’s a bit boring but neccessary. I expect those 3 or 4 players to come in.
Look at it this way: get in to a bidding war with Man City and Madrid, spend £140m on Bellingham, start next season with Fabinho as your main holding midfield option with no quality defensive reinforcements. You’re still going to struggle.
There’s plenty of talented footballers out there – and I’m sure some will come our way.
It was never going to happen I’m afraid. We’re living in the real world.
Marc (ps. couldn’t care less about who wins it from Arsenal or City – if it’s not Liverpool then why should it matter to me, eh?)
…To most Liverpool fans, it’s no real surprise that the club have been leaking their inability to sign Jude to every favoured news outlet: we’re skint, or rather FSG are not prepared to sanction a major outlay of more than £100m. That’s not news. What is strange is the timing: why, as the team lurch from minor success to major setback on a weekly basis, reveal that ‘the saviour’ that every LFC fan has been dreaming of isn’t coming?
For all of the thousands of words written about why LFC are so bad this season (and of course it’s all relative) the major reason has to be the lack of planning at the very top. Edwards leaving, then his replacement quitting after barely a month or two? The owners putting the club up for sale then backtracking? Signing Nunez and Gakpo for serious money, when Jota, Salah, Diaz and Firmino are still in situ, then claiming there’s not enough money for Bellingham?
I’m certainly no business expert but to me something very odd is happening at the club.. Why hold off signing any midfielders to wait for ‘the saviour’ then back-track a few months before the close season? If this is a negotiating tactic it’s a rubbish one. If it’s for real, it’s just plain stupid. Why say anything at all?
…So, let’s get this straight. For two seasons now, we have had all our eggs in Bellingham’s basket. In that time, our manager has seen our squad age, completely rinsed the team of their last ounce of energy, seen our midfield completely disintegrate, completely exposed our defence, took away our link to attack, watched our form fall like a stone, offered no plan B and brought in Melo! Oh, and a forward who can’t score but hey, causes chaos, and a winger we didn’t need.
And now, turns out we want all our eggs back because, shock upon shock, Bellingham’s going to cost a lot of money!!! Who’d have seen that coming? For two seasons!!! No wonder Klopp wants out. After every game now he tells us he has no idea what is going on and can’t explain the drop in performance. He even resorted to telling us he’s not as good as we think he is and how he’s living off past glories. The man could come into the next press conference leathered on Erdinger, wearing a United top, and most would still think he was the man to rebuild.
The man is done. He’s shown us everything he can do. That’s it, it’s over. There is no more. We need to move on.
VAR is still very much for debate I guess, one question I have is why it’s only one person doing VAR and why they’re a ref?
Pundits don’t pundit every week, so why not get two retired players and one referee on a VAR panel, give each of them a red and green button (red is overturn ref’s decision, green agree), give them 30s to make a decision and if they haven’t pressed a button in that time, it defaults to green.
Removes bias, subjectivity of one person, brings football experience and referee knowledge, speeds up decision making. No need for lines, no need for guess work. If it’s something the ref has missed, they get to review and press the buttons bringing to the refs attention.
Might only need 15s rather than 30, after all, “obvious error” shouldn’t need 30s to decide.
Been thinking this since day 1 of VAR and happy for it to be destroyed by fellow f365ers.
If this goes to 3-0, they might as well sack Lampard and let the fans pick the team via Twitter polls for the rest of the season.
Also, Arteta unleashing the ‘dark arts’ after the way he went on against Newcastle when they dared do it at the Emirates, made my weekend. That and seeing Robertson trying to get a referee’s assistant sent off!
Return of the Ratt! Ratt Mitchie NUFC (mailbox plastic contributor)
…I, for one, am shocked that Lampard back to Chelsea is panning our exactly as it was obviously going to pan out.
I really do empathise with Max – but it’s the fact that I can empathise with him which makes his point redundant.
I think I’m right in saying that Arsenal have finished Premier League runners-up SIX times. If we’d won those titles we would be level with Liverpool and just one behind United.
I think with one more win we will achieve our primary goal for the season – but don’t try using the fact you’ve finished runners-up a few times as a stick to beat us with.
Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal finished runners-up in every competition they entered at one point – including that FA Cup final when the Liverpool defenders played basketball in our box.
You can’t fluke the league and any team that wins it deserves it – even the likes of Blackburn, Chelsea and City.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
…Interesting from Max about Arsenal’s dark arts. As a regular attendee of matches at the Emirates, I don’t feel like Sunday was any different to what we’ve been subjected to for much of the season really, and am surprised it’s rankled quite so much.
The time wasted was added (as it always is), and Saka was booked for his first time-wasting offence in jogging a little slowly to the corner flag, something multiple opponents of ours have been allowed to do all season long. My favourite were United supporting friends of mine (who didn’t watch it) telling us we were lucky against Bournemouth because we scored in the 98th minute, not realising Adam Smith (I think) just decided to lay down for a bit in the 91st minute. Until the powers that be sort it out, all clubs will do it when in a good position I’m afraid.
As for the points, to say Arsenal haven’t earned it properly is a little bit insulting. To win it with say 91 points means just 23 dropped all season long. For the youngest team in the league, with the youngest manager, who had previously finished fifth and been written off completely to get a CL spot this season, with two PGMOL apologies in their back pocket, I think would be a touch harsh.
For what it’s worth, City look formidable and I have my doubts we can keep them at arms length – they can finish on 94 points themselves and I wouldn’t be shocked if they did. And if they do that (20 points dropped, winning their last 13 on the bounce) then fair play to them.
I don’t – and never did – expect this Arsenal squad to keep up with that pace frankly, but if we do come out on top over a team who boast a 45-goal (so far) striker, England’s first £100m footballer and arguably the best creative midfielder the league has ever seen, then I will like we’ll have deserved it.
Whether Max does or not.
Joe, AFC, East Sussex
…Just a quick retort to Max’s F*ck Arsenal rant in the mailbox.
You mention Arsenal daring to use the dark arts against you as if it is something we are not allowed to do. I feel akin to the Labour MP who came out recently to say ‘we are not going to be slapped around anymore’ about the recent attack ad campaign.
EVERYONE uses the dark arts against us, have done for years. Casual time wasting from the first whistle, endless pushes/pulls/kicks at ankles, feigning injury, goading referees into booking us (I think Saka has more yellow cards than the endless players who have fouled him this season).
Arteta is changing this team, he has realised referees will not protect our players from being roughed up (because we are little sissy girls who deserve it) and that they will punish us as harshly as possible for any infraction (because we are also big nasty bullies who dare to stand up for ourselves). So, we no longer talk about how much we are fouled, because what is the point. He has realised that the opposition are NEVER punished for time wasting against us, so we are learning how to do it too.
Two extra bits of neurosis thrown in for free here:
1) Andy Robertson should face disciplinary action for grabbing the linesman leading to the ‘elbow’ and Henderson should face action for putting hands on the ref in the aftermath. The same should be true for ANYONE who puts their hands on, or intimidates, a match official.
2) If Granit Xhaka and TAA had swapped places in their scuffle and Granit had run at the back of a player who was walking away and swung an elbow…it would have been red. And no one would have batted an eyelid.
Tim (unsurprisingly a gooner)
The FWA, FFS
There are a lot of viewpoints and opinions in football that you may not agree with but you can understand. You start to believe that the game fosters community and healthy debate. Then you read a fan state that Ruben Dias, the 2021 FWA player of the year, lauded by Neville, Carragher and many other people with eyes, is ignored by the media. And you start to wonder…..
…Kishan is quite right. Ruben Dias is quite good and also completely underrated.
I mean in his 2 and a bit seasons in the Premier League he’s only been awarded
1x Premier League Player or the Season,
1x Football Writers Player of the Season (the first defender to win the award since 1988)
1x Manchester City Player of the Season
Fair cop from Oliver, I’ve conflated a number of arguments in to one rant. Something my ADHD brain likes to do from time to time so I appreciate Oliver breaking the arguments up for me.
First point, I do absolutely agree the situation is far more nuanced than we could possibly express in these pages. And I agree that, at least in theory, referees and footballers should come from the same socioeconomic background. However, the referees are part of the establishment and there are to uphold the laws of the game made by the ruling bodies. As such they are part of the establishment and by “policing” these laws put themselves above footballers in a way. In the same way that policing should be done by public consent, so should refereeing, but is it? (In football’s case, by “public” I mean footballers). And if you genuinely believe that referees and footballers actually are on the same socioeconomic level then ask yourself what percentage of top class referees are white.
When I said referees are treated as gods perhaps what I meant to say was that they are presented as gods by the governing bodies. Clearly no fans and footballers are treating referees as gods and rightly so, but the governing bodies would like you to treat them as such and accept their decisions even when there is no rhyme or reason to them (Howard Webb himself failing to referee the World Cup Final properly springs to mind). If a referee sees something happen on a pitch, you can not rejudge the situation after the game. That is complete madness, as is a referee made to review his own decision on a pitch with a load of pressure on him to change his mind. It creates a tension between refs, players and fans that doesn’t need to exist. The referees charity wants to make referees unapproachable – like gods. On a side note, exclusion zones will be hard to police and will be a licence to print cards. Are we going to go to VAR to make sure players are 10 yards away?
And to your third point, I don’t think player violence on referees isn’t a problem and at no point have I said that. And absolutely it’s a bigger problem than referee violence on players. But do you think the grassroots issues will be solved by referees being allowed to thump footballers that approach them? Seriously, play that one out in your mind on Planet Earth where referees are already subjected to violence at that level on a constant basis.
But ignoring any of the politics, the simple fact is that anyone in a position of power – referees, police officers, judges, politicians (lol) etc – must be held to a higher standard than those they have power over. It would be nice if there was more respect from footballers towards referees but that comes with cultural change not more power and authority for referees.
How you effect that change, I don’t know. An amnesty for recent incidents could be a way to go (though could be seen as a cop out by the FA) by drawing a line under the incident and bringing footballers and referees together to come up with a way forward. But I don’t see the FA or the refereeing body coming up with such a collaborative solution. I think they will hit footballers with draconian punishments that will only treat the symptom and they’ll be inconsistent with its application. Because that’s what they always do.
Finally though, it is really disappointing to see people saying Robertson deserved it because he “attacked” or “grabbed” the linesman. I highly doubt, that if Bruno had punched the linesman that “grabbed” him, there would be as much sympathy for the man causing the violence. This is the double standard that I was originally grasping to describe. I just find that incomprehensible.
Come on Al…Penalising every handball is a simple solution?
“Yes there maybe a small increase of people attempting to hit players hands in the box.. Good luck to them.. The (massive) goal is surely easier to hit than a (small) hand though….”
No. Firstly, the “massive goal” is typically a good distance away and doesn’t come any closer without your team being good enough. At least one opposition player on the other hand will almost certainly be within a few feet of you without any skill required. Quite a decent target. Secondly there are more opposition players than goals to aim at. Thirdly, the closer you get to the goal, the more opposition players are going to be gathered around you which conveniently corrolates with the advantage you would gain from a free kick. This is why most handballs are in the crowded penalty area.
In this crowded penalty area, you are all set up for a simple game of defender pinball and will need little skill to get a penalty. Lovely! We will have teams literally set up to win as many penalties as possible, never attempting an actual shot from open play. Unskilled freekick takers will be blasting the ball at the wall half the time hoping to win an upgrade to a penalty.
“We all know they almost always mean it, despite the claims of innocence, lets stop pretending.”
This doesn’t even make sense. Focusing in on penalty area handballs where most handballs are given- actual intentional handball is very rare. Suarez for example because he knew it was going in. Many let their instincts to stop the ball get the better of them or just lack discipline to keep their hands out of the way but they are the handballs typically penalised as it stands. Why would they mean to do it though? So frequently handballs given are not even shots on goal. Why would they give the opposition a penalty on purpose from a less dangerous situation? There’s nothing savvy about that.
Even assuming all handballs currently given in the area are deliberate acts of cunning stupidity, that’s probably about half of all the total looked at by VAR, so you are saying most of the other 50 percent with hand at side or struck from close range are also deliberate which is nonsense.
Vida v VVD
Obviously that Vidic vs VVD article is a bit of fun but with Liverpool moving out of the new petro state funded premier league elite, we will be going back to moments where the planets align and enjoying it whilst it lasts rather than building towards any sustained success.
And those Torres years, bloody hell I did enjoy them. Back then smashing United at Old Trafford really was a freak event. Watching Vidic lose his absolute mind when playing against El Nino was just magnificent. He was like the Peter Kay sketch where he’s running for the bus but half jogs it off because he never wanted that bus anyway. Except with grass on his face! You have to look to Pepe for a centre back losing it like that!
But the first point of he won more trophies with United. Oh yawn. I have literally had rows with United mates where its ended with Gary Neville being a better goal scored than Salah because he won more trophies. Bit of a dry spell for United so it’s eased off but now that they’ve beaten Charlton and Newcastle in the league Cup maybe they’ll start chipping out this nonsense again.
What I would say about Vidic is that his CB partner was a British transfer record signing in Rio whilst VVDs partner was Joe Gomez. Imagine how good VVD would have been next to the current worlds most expensive defender! Oh shit that’s Harry Maguire. Maybe not.
Alex, South London
Great article by Ian King on the National League. Well worth the read.