Liverpool’s best midfield has Thiago on the bench…

Date published: Monday 25th January 2021 9:04 - Ian Watson

Keep your mails coming to…


United 3-2 Liverpool: The fallout
Well, we learned many things on Sunday night. Some short conclusions…

1) Paul Pogba is playing the best football of his United career. Was the best player in the midfield battle. He did almost everything right but his mentality is as impressive as his technique. He is every bit the captain that Mourinho wanted him to be when he was manager. We (almost) do not miss Bruno when he is in this kind of form…

2) …which means Manchester United can now afford to rest Bruno when required. Yes he came on, yes he scored a beauty and was decisive…but Manchester United were impressive long before he came on to the pitch and did not struggle to create good chances. Hopefully, this means he won’t get run into the ground in the final sprint toward the finish line. If Solksjaer can manage to play both, and rest either and keep them fresh then that will be key to finishing the season with a trophy. Rest Pogba against Sheffield Utd, play him with Bruno to beat Arsenal.

3) Thiago. Most neutrals can see why Bayern were willing to let a player go, who is in the peak years of his career, for a relatively small fee in today’s market. But can Liverpool fans see that yet? The excitement upon his arrival, and indeed his return from injury, would have you believe that he is a £100m pound player…the best midfielder in Europe. He isn’t. Perhaps he isn’t 100% back to his best, and he is coming into a team that lost it’s belief a long time ago, but I said it months ago, I said it last week and I’ll keep saying it…he isn’t a player that fits into this Liverpool team if they are to get back to their relentless best. He improves the squad, but Liverpool’s best midfield see’s him on the bench.

4) Liverpool’s midfield. The miss Henderson, of course. But the miss Fabinho in there more. Surely the time has come for Klopp to play their player of the season in his best position? A midfield of Fabinho, Thiago/Winjaldum and Jones (what a player) is surely worth a try on this current run of form? Fabinho is key to their revival. He isn’t exactly stopping them from conceding goals, so play him in front of the defence and behind the front 3, where he can have an effect in both halves of the pitch.

5) Williams played well on my opinion. He made a mistake but it was Fabinho playing Rushford onside. He was left scrambling to defend a great ball. His performance should not be judged solely on that. Playing him alongside Matip with Fabinho sitting in front of them will give him the experience he needs to develop whilst improving Liverpool in midfield. He doesn’t look the strongest, so Harry Kane might not be the best forward to start giving him a run of games against…but right now Liverpool need their midfield general, especially whilst Henderson is out.

6) Greenwood. Not having a great season, but good Lord what a finisher. Nice pass too. I may be biased as a Utd fan, but to me he is the best young player I have seen at the club…he just lacks the self belief and the character that Ronaldo had at that age. Lets hope it comes because we have a potential superstar in the making.

7) Did Robertson REALLY try to scream at him to stop him scoring? Honestly…pathetic. That both United fullbacks outayed theirs is astounding, given the gulf in class between them just a year ago.

8) My wife wants me to leave the kitchen to resume our TV series together. So I must go!

All in all, great game, Liverpool are not too far off where they need to be…and United are bang at it with a general feeling that there is another gear left to move into.

Exciting times!

F365 Says: The PE teacher finally schools his toughest student

…1. Liverpool are able to score goals again. After 4 goalless games, it was good to see one of football’s greatest ever sides find their ability to score again!

2. Mason Greenwood could still cement that troublesome right wing slot for Manchester United. After finishing last season so strongly and barely having a preseason, the start of this season did not go to plan. Maybe the goal and assist today will kickstart his season because his potential is unreal.

3. How important is the substitutes bench in football? The options a manager has in terms of personnel he is able to call upon if and when required should never be underestimated. Being able to bring on a fresh Fernandes even for 25 mins was very telling. It has made me appreciate that solskjaer was one of our most important players in our treble season and around that period rather than a sub who was just lucky to be in the right place at the right time a few times.

4. Why don’t all players wear or not wear gloves? Surely in elite sport, research would have been done into whether it is advantageous for a players performance or not. If it is advantageous, then why isn’t everyone wearing them and if it is disadvantageous, then why is anyone wearing them? I suppose that it is possible that it makes no difference, but I feel as though this is unlikely because wearing gloves must have an impact on the body temperature over the course of the match which surely has an impact?

5. This was an important match to both sides evidenced by their starting 11s. This makes the victory for Solskjaer over Klopp a meaningful one. With Man City finding their killer form over the last month, the FA cup represented one of the best chances of a trophy for both of these sides. It was great to see Solskjaer earn a cup victory over a lethal opponent after so much semi final heartache.

6. Luke Shaw’s corners are fantastic. Just because we didn’t score from any, it is really satisfying knowing that your team’s corner taker will regularly deliver a decent ball in.

7. Paul Pogba is an immensely talented football player when he is on form even though it is hard to work out exactly which position and which system suits him best. Wherever he plays, the team usually looks and plays better with him than without him unless he is playing too close to his own penalty area!

8. Allison looks like he could play outfield. He is absolutely box office and it is an absolute pleasure watching how important he is to his team both from his ability to do traditional keeper work like saving shots and catching crosses etc, but also his ability to look like a midfield maestro/ technician operating from his own final third with the added bonus of being allowed to use his hands in his own penalty area.

9. Conceding goals from goal kick mistakes is so stupid. I don’t understand why it ever happens. The risk/ reward ratio is insane. I can’t ever recall a team scoring a goal from passing out from the back from a goal kick. Yet the amount of times a goal is conceded is a fairly regular occurrence. Hoofing the ball is one of the most underappreciated and important aspects of the game. Its old fashioned, but some things don’t need overthinking.

10. Thiago looks like a phenomenal player and its a shame that the premier League might not see the best of him until van dijk and Gomez return to defence allowing fabinho and Henderson to return to the middle of the park to form a frightening trio. As a Manchester United fan, part of me is happy for Van Dijk’s absence. However as a football fan and fan of sport in general, i like to see great players and teams show their greatness and next season might show a Liverpool team I regret wanting to see.
Mustafa (Man U fan from London – now doesn’t 10 conclusions make a lot more sense. Who doesn’t like lovely round numbers? 🙂 )


….I am currently watching the man utd v liverpool game on bbc 1 and I wanted to write in a few thoughts. Full disclosure, I have only watched a handful if football matches the last twelve months.

1. People seem to always talk about man city doing little fouls/breaking up play/slowing down attacks but I am shocked at how much liverpool do it.

2. On that note the mailbox has been full of conversation about do man utd win enough penalties/liverpool would be top if man utd didnt win penalties but from this match and the one other liverpool game i saw this season how the hell do they not get more yellow cards?

3. I have never seen TTA have a good game for liverpool

4. Have seen Pogba have a lot of rubbish games but today he was class

5. Again people have been saying Salah is in really bad form…. didnt look it tonight

6. Cavani at Utd and the way he was talking to greenwood after his goal reminded me of Henrik Larsson when he went to old trafford… could his signing have a bigger long term effect behind the scenes

7. On that note…. at what point Woodward get recognition for his transfer policy? Wan bissaka, fernandes, cavani?

8. From this showing (again i have only watched one Leicester, two chelsea and one tottenham game this season) but there is no question in my mind that the PL is between the two manchesters and Liverpool?

9. It seems to me that if Man Utd sign a world class center back they could be pretty awesome? As i said i havnt watched many games this season but I was really surprised watching this game and having read the narrative from F365 this season about Ole being out of his depth, utd being a mess etc.
Tom, Tractor boy in Switzerland

Sunday’s Mailbox: Klopp is not the manager to revive one-track Liverpool

I was geared up to writing an email about how Man U looked a much better proposition than they did last week. Regardless of who won, this match was gonna be an indication of a really interesting second half of the season.

But then reality smacked my arse.

Cavani dives for a free kick on the edge of the box and the ref can’t wait to give it. Even Jenas on comms said that Cavani bought it. Do you realise how blatant it had to be for Jenas to admit to it?

BRUNO FERNANDES (the only player who has Christian and surname articulated every time) scores.

This madarse season continues.

Obviously Man U won’t make it past the FA Cup semis. Hopefully for my lot the goal scoring ability in the PL will ramp up from here.
James Outram, Wirral


…As a Liverpool fan I’m taking a lot of positives from this game against one of the form teams at the moment.

It came down to a good free kick and, let’s face it, 2 defensive errors from us. Rhys William despite some early promise looks out of his depth. Too slow and dives in. But I understand we didn’t want to risk Matip because he’s made of crisps.

We started Williams, Milner, and Jones so not our strongest team but put in a good performance. You could tell Man U wanted to target an out of form (defensively at least) TAA.

Salah got 2 goals, Bobby showed some good moments, Thiago looked good too.

Hopefully this is a good sign. If not we’re concentrating on Europe!!
Limahl (Not too shy)


…Realistically I think both sets of fans can be fairly pleased with how that game went today.

Liverpool avoid more games that we don’t really have the squad to cope with, Firmino looked bright coming deeper and Salah took up more varied positions making him harder to handle and also discovered that he can finish with his right foot.

Utd get the win and ultimately can’t imagine then caring too much about the Europa League but could be in with a chance to win a domestic double.

Rhys Williams will be disappointed with himself today. Three times he missed the ball when played across him and ultimately we got punished for his error. He’s got talent but you could tell after the error that led to the ball he really didn’t want the ball much. He’s got to pick himself up because he has so much promise. After that mistake we seemed to drop the defence about 5 yards and I think this really helped him because the game was played more in front of him as a result.

Overall I think there were far more positives than negatives for Liverpool. We still were too cautious with possession in front of their defence though; too many times we went backwards seeking to maintain control instead of taking the risk to play forward. I think that comes from the fact that our midfield without Fabinho and Henderson just doesn’t haven’t the same level of control and poise in transition when we lose the ball high up the field.

I would quite like Klopp to play Matip next to Williams at Spurs with Fabinho in midfield. Kane will come deep and Fabinho is going to be much more valuable marshalling him rather than being deeper.
Minty, LFC

Jose plotted Liverpool’s downfall
When Spurs recently controlled their game against Liverpool, registering the best opportunities (a million long shots by Liverpool does not constitute a good opportunity) and got robbed out a victory, other teams have learnt how to play against the Reds. Jose laid the blueprint, others followed, and Klopp isn’t clever enough to figure out how to stop it.

Jose really is the Special One.
Rob, Dorset

Shaw thing
It’s one of those lazy sundays where I get so bored I write to you guys. I initially started writing an email about how you’re attitudes to Bruce and Benitez are hilarious when their records are so similar – therefore I think you may have all secretly voted brexit your logic is so warped. However I sent an email along those lines last month and you didn’t publish it so just thought I’d sent a short email about how happy I am for Luke Shaw.

As you surely know some people are quietly very good for a long time and get no praise. People get stuck on an opinion and they can’t shake it no matter what their eyes show. It’s why Henderson took so long to convince people he was actually great and why Rooney continued to get plaudits way beyond when he should have done. With regards to Henderson you were very slow to catch on. With regards to Rooney you came a bit early. You and indeed everyone else have been a bit slow re how good Luke Shaw has been. Albeit you were slightly ahead of the rest of the media this season.

Luke Shaw was actually pretty good last year. However people were so set in their opinions he was fat and past it that nobody really noticed. He had a shaky start like everyone else at Man U this year but now finally has been getting plaudits.

I’m just so happy for him. The injuries he has been through and even more importantly the Mourinho he has been through. Like everyone else who watched All or Nothing I took to Mourinho however then I remember how he bullied Luke Shaw. When Shaw played well Mourinho took the credit or ignored it. That must have been horrible. Anyway I really hope he gets back playing for England. If any player deserves it it’s him.



How to get Liverpool firing again
Interesting article. Confirms a lot of what I’ve been seeing. Salah dribbles into nowhere and gets dispossessed A LOT. Nobody is pulling the trigger. Robertson is eclipsing everyone. And we have no defensive problems.

Let’s start with Salah – he is attempting to dribble more than last year, but completing them less and getting dispossessed far more. Which leads to less shots and less time in the box. Why? I dunno. Tactical? Coaching? Player choice?

Mane – mane is in the box more, has shots less, but does create more opportunities than before. His expected goals is also up showing he’s getting good chances…just not taking them.

Robertson – is better in every single stat than last year. It shows in his game.

Bobby (like mane) is also getting in the box more, having touches more, and having shots more, but scoring le… Oh wait he’s scoring more too. Not hard to improve from last year though is it. As a result of being closer to goal more often he is pressing less, tackling less and providing less. Maybe aces in places for Bobby eh? Finishing isn’t his strong suit so maybe move him further back again.

Defense – despite playing two midfielders (who have never played defence together) at CB all of our defensive stats are equal or better. Why? Allison. Last year we missed him for big chunks and conceded a lot of very silly goals when Adrian was in goal. This season when Allison has played we have conceded less even with a makeshift midfield defence largely because Liverpool’s defence is the press and they are pressing more as a team than last year. Also Allison is a vastly superior sweeper keeper to poor Adrian who was just not suited to that role.

So Tl:dr – salah is dribbling more and shooting less. Only mane and Bobby are creating more shooting opportunities but have no idea how to actually score. And the whole team is defending just fine.

One thing that isn’t mentioned is player heat maps. In his first season with all three of his front players klopp allowed them to interchange all the time, player heat maps were fairly even across the last third of the pitch. Comparing to this season and all three are very much stuck in one area.

I’m not klopp so disregard what I say as the ramblings of a guy who can take accy Stanley to champs league final on football manager but my advice would be to drop Bobby deeper (who cares if he doesn’t score? Make sure mane and Salah do) and give mane and Salah space to run inside, stats suggest every other area of the pitch is working as intended.


A thing of beauty
A free-kick that goes in is a thing of beauty. No matter the team, one just cannot hate (one can begrudge) a dead ball curling in to impregnate the net.
Anand, MUFC (Bruno feels like Hazard at peak Chelsea form)


Open invitation to Liverpool supporters to start using the name Free Kicknandes.
Thomas, Korea


Willian woe
Once again given the chance to prove his worth Willian and to a lesser extent Pepe once again failed to deliver against a well organised defence.

I was not enamoured by our signing Willian in the first place, at 32 and with a big salary it typified the short term thinking of the board and club, snd felt like it had all the potential to be a disaster given the length of contract but even I have been surprised by the massive drop off in performance and effort. It’s like we have signed Ali Dia and I am still not convinced we haven’t

Which got me thinking, has there been a bigger decline in so short a period for any player ? You could argue Torres perhaps but at least he continued to try and scored the occasional vital goal

Will be interesting what players the mailbox can come up with
Simon (AFC)


Chelsea and Pompey
Winning an FA Cup game, or any cup match against lower league opposition is always a difficult one to judge, as we were playing Luton today and not Liverpool, Leeds, West Ham Etc you get the idea.

Personally my takeaways from that match are mixed, first of all Billy Gilmour was key, compared to our other midfielders who always chose to take the safer short pass, yet Billy was putting passes all over the pitch today, accurately may I add, how he isn’t starting over Jorginho at times is staggering, another mention goes to Emerson and Reece James, they were switching sides so quickly which proved effective, Gilmour was also the most disciplined one out there which for a lad of his age is just a huge positive going forward, Tammy bagging a hat trick was icing on the cake.

The negatives, oh boy, first of all I think at this point I’ve gone from being frustrated at Timo Werner to just straight up feeling sorry for him, if his confidence wasn’t already shot to bits, gingerly taking the penalty and having it saved just lowered it even more.

The one thing you can’t fault him for it his work rate, it was only a few short minutes after his miss he’s making runs right back into the box, the other negative was Kepa, I’m not even sure if we will be able to get a club to even take him on loan, let alone receive a fee for him, just not a very good goalkeeper, Chelsea and big money signings sadly never work out do they?

On a final note, last week we spoke about adopted clubs, well my mini Portsmouth update is here, they lost by four goals to Hull who now top the table after that victory, Pompey were at their worse, Hull were at their best, Kenny got the subs wrong and that was that, next up is Lincoln which is going to be another six pointer in the race for automatic promotion.
Mikey, CFC


Fixing football
Completely and utterly agree with Sy. Once the likes of Barca figured out the deep press option (and the whole worlds trying to follow it now), it’s almost as if the other approaches are not supposed to (read allowed to) work. And thats where I feel a major shake up is necessary.

In fact a simple rule change should change all of this. There should be no offside given for balls delivered from inside ones own half irrespective of where the attackers are. Enough to push the entire defensive line back. This will make for a perfect cat and mouse scenario which’ll lend credence to all types of systems. At present its getting too skewed towards a format which’ll make the sport one dimensional and a tad mundane to watch as time goes by.


Bruce regrets?
Has any team been proven wrong by getting rid of Steve Bruce?


Soaring Swans
Just want to take a quick break from the normal conversations on here and bring to light how well Swansea City is playing right now. With obvious fear in jinxing it, this team is in a playoff promotion race again, and unlike last year’s race, this team may have a shot. It’s filled with young talent, international talent, and a solid belief in playing their own style.

It’s basically the Wales feeder team as well. I’m not too familiar with all the other European teams and their International lineages but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say how critical Swansea City’s success is to Wales. Good luck this season boys.
Dave in Chicago (Keep fighting Dad … half a season left until we ride high again)


Essential services?
Having seen some of the seemingly new and varied hair styles on display on football pitches this weekend, 20 days into the latest national lockdown, I’ve concluded that some players must either be living or bubbling with professional hairdressers or have extraordinary self preening techniques.
Danny (mop head) Brighton


Balls up
Sometimes I’m bothered by the little things in football…
Like since ten minutes into Chelsea’s FA Cup tie with Luton.
And they’re using the Nike Premier League ball and not the Mitre FA Cup ball.
And no one at the BBC has noticed.
Has anybody noticed???
N. Lee, MUFC

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