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Klopp’s balancing act
Yes, we are in the Champions League final. Yes, we will more than likely qualify for that competition again (by winning it obviously, but also by drawing at home to Brighton, what a crazy world!). Yes, we have £140 million from the Coutinho sale and god knows how much from the Champions League sitting in the bank. Yes, it is an exciting time to be a Liverpool fan!
But this summer is a huge one for Klopp, and not in a normal “we need 5 marquee signings” type of huge. Klopp needs to decide on whether he breaks the bank for a top class Number 1 or lets Karius continue to grow with some experienced competition. Does he put his faith in Ben Woodburn and the excellent Harry Wilson to play an increased role? Is another top class left back signed or just cover for Robertson? Is Keita enough in midfield?
Klopp has an amazing first XI but does he dare rock the boat and bring in big name players to fight for places, meaning someone’s not going to be happy? Does he target that “nearly there” type of player who would be delighted to play for such a club and manager, even if it was as a squad player (Shaqiri, Redmond etc.) Or does he continue with his impressive faith in youth. Have I mentioned Harry Wison? Seriously, watch him roar onto the scene next year.
The answer will no doubt be “a little from column A and a little from column B” but it will be fascinating to watch it play out.
There is also a lot of restructuring to do both in the first team staff and the youth set up.
This is a hugely important summer for Liverpool, and if we can sign the right squad players, avoid the bad apples we always go for after a good season and install the right staff…. the talk of domination will switch from Guardiola to Klopp.
Especially when Jurgen is drinking German ale from the Champions League trophy in two weeks.
1. That was eye-bleedingly bad. No getting around it: we are a horrible team to watch at the moment. It hasn’t always been the case this season, there were some good points but this current version of United is the dirge of football right now.
2. Martial should go. Whether we actively try to sell him or not is another matter, but he should be begging to leave. If he can’t get even ten minutes in a sh*tshow like that then he should move on. It would be a shame for him to leave and flourish elsewhere but I don’t believe he is going to at United now.
3. I’ve been saying it all season but I don’t know what Rashford is. He’s not a good enough crosser or passer of the ball to be a wide forward and he’s not got the presence to be a striker. At the moment he is in danger of being a slightly better Macheda. I wouldn’t be sorry to see him go out on loan to another Premier League team and play a full season in one position.
4. He can talk all he wants about not signing attackers but as I see it Mourinho has absolutely no choice but to. Sanchez has completely ruined any attacking rhythm we had before, with Lingard and Martial in particular contributing way less since his arrival. But he has to start because of the money involved (not that that’s the correct way to run things). We unquestionably need something better on the right wing and proper competition/backup for Lukaku because it was none existent tonight.
5. I would abandon the idea of playing with a number 10 altogether to stick with Herrera, Pogba and Matic – perhaps that way there will be more room for Pogba to affect the game. Too many times he, Lingard and Sanchez, and when he plays Lukaku get in each other’s way; it’s too crowded in the middle.
6. Lindelof is quietly looking like the real deal. I thought he was excellent tonight against a range of threats and his passing is far beyond anything that Smalling and Jones could ever manage. Hopefully he will get the chance to keep his place next season and form a proper partnership with Bailly.
7. Every now and then, McTominay looks brilliant. He shows maturity beyond his years, defends with experience as well as skill, and knows when to attack and when to hold back. Then he will do something daft like lunge in or try and dribble out from a dangerous position. Luckily, these things are problems that disappear with experience so the signs are good.
8. I was begging for that Luke Shaw shot to go in. It might just have increased his chances of playing in the next game. I still really want him to be a success at United.
9. Valencia has to be replaced in the summer. He offered nothing going forward at wing back and he’s getting found out more and more often in defence. We can and should be doing better than he can now.
10. If anything, these last few matches make me feel like we have regressed in the last few weeks. We won five on the trot not too long ago against some really tough opponents. Against lesser teams we have taken our foot off the gas and thrown away our good momentum.
The big test now is whether we can regain it in time for the cup final. But if Lukaku doesn’t play then we will not win. I suppose that’s an ok situation to be in – missing your top scorer means he is doing well – but further highlights the deficiencies in the squad. The best hope we have is that Chelsea are also stuttering a bit. A classic, it won’t be.
Have Moyes and Van Gaal been forgotten?
If it wasn’t for Man City, the worst Man United side in living memory would have just wrapped up the title with a game to spare following a 0-0 draw, and would be odds on to do the double.
Arsenal would still be outside the top 4 mind.
Ben B, Manchester
Method or magic?
As F365 writers fall over themselves to praise Huddersfield’s remarkable survival in order to curry favour with the boss (tongue firmly in cheek) I had a couple of thoughts on the supposed ‘gap’ and huge obstacles promoted clubs have to overcome to achieve safety in the promised land.
I echo Storey’s comments about the method being essential. This has enabled ‘smaller’ clubs such as Swansea and Southampton to sustain their top flight status for relatively little investment because they have a prescribed way of playing that the squad and staff can buy into and follow. Likewise, a totem in charge can make all the difference. See Pulis in his halcyon days at Stoke and Sean Dyche currently (incidentally Burnley are so intrinsically moulded in their manager’s image that you do wonder what will happen to the club if and when he moves on).
But that doesn’t necessarily mean they can survive, after all money talks, right? It has been noted, with astonishment, that Huddersfield have stayed up despite last year’s revenue being 7/6d and a couple of meat pies. But surely the TV revenue these days can only help, rather than hinder a club such as Huddersfield to survive. After all, they know they are guaranteed £170 million or whatever the current figure is, so they can put wages up to ward off vultures for their better players and sign several players for £10million plus to bolster the squad. Even if £10million gets you an ‘average’ player these days, it still means Huddersfield have more financial clout than practically all European sides bar the top dogs in Italy, France, Spain and Germany. Suddenly they can attract players that would never consider signing for them previously for relative pittance (such as Pascal Gross for BHA) and suddenly the squads of promoted teams are a whole lot stronger than anything that came up in the pre-PL era before money took over.
But aren’t all 20 teams in the same boat with the same bloated finances, so wouldn’t the smaller clubs naturally do worse? Yes and no, but that is where the club’s strategy and planning come in so important. A club that has a strong plan in place or ‘method’ suddenly has the edge over sides who, driven insane with such huge sums of cash in their pocket, splurge it on players much more expensive but don’t fit into the side or whose attitudes are not wholly professional. See all three relegated teams (I’m inc Swansea here – sorry to be so presumptuous Swans fans).
That also explains why such ‘giants’ of the game such as Leeds, Villa, Sunderland, Sheff Wednesday and many others are floundering in the championship and beyond. Years ago, before football was properly invented, all the above sides will have found themselves relegated at some point but would expect a swift return. Simply put, everyone’s only source of income would be from gate money. Having 20-30,000 more watch you play each week than many of your rivals meant you could buy more expensive players and promotion would soon be forthcoming, no matter what the strategy, or lack of it, was. But now, money almost doesn’t have such an impact in the twilight zone that is the lower half of the PL and entirety of the Championship.
In fact, I would argue, perhaps obviously, that the real gap now is between the top 6 and the rest, rather than the line separating the top two divisions. Those 6 behemoths have so much more resources, clout, financial power and pulling power that it is beginning to look impossible to breach it (even if my Leicester managed it just two short years ago).
So in short, Huddersfield’s survival isn’t that astonishing in the context set above, a well ran club, with some astute signings has a very good chance of staying up, regardless of previous status and revenue, simply because they only require three other clubs in the madness of the PL to decide to self-destruct. Which, this season, seems to be half the league at least.
The real achievement will be someone, anyone, breaking into the top 6. Maybe next year Huddersfield?
Sessegnon is no left-back
Ryan Sessegnon is staying at Fulham next season (if we go up, which we will) in any case, but for the love of God, people.
He’s not a defender. He’s a wide forward.
Replacing Danny Rose with Sessegnon is fine, so long as Sessegnon plays as much at left back as Rose did this season.
If you want to play a wide forward in defence feel free. It didn’t work too well for us, but perhaps the Championship is a higher standard than the Premier League.
Spurs would do much better to look at the excellent Matt Targett as a left back, as he has the minor advantage of actually being a left back.
Anyway, hands off both of them, they are ours.
Players who don’t belong
I watched the Swansea vs Southampton game the other night and had exactly the same thought as mentioned in Winners and Losers – Ki Sung-yeung is just bobbins. I haven’t watched a great deal of Swansea this season but he just does not look a Premier League standard player. He looks rushed in possession whether he is being closed down or not, his passing is average at best, his free-kicks (which he inexplicably seemed to take all the ones in the Southampton half) found an opponent every time, and his ball control was really poor. I don’t know, maybe he tries really hard, but I was gobsmacked that he wasn’t replaced when Tom Carroll came on.
Another player of this ilk is George Boyd; I never understood how he kept getting a gig at Premier League clubs. Maybe I’m just being a football snob, but he never looked good enough for that level. Fraizer Campbell (who is now 30!) is another one – for a while he was constantly linked to clubs who were promoted to the Premier League, based on a pedigree of 46 goals in 231 games in English football. Hardly prolific. Anyone else have players that they feel this way about? Or is it just me?
Also, on the subject of Winners and Losers: there’s still one match to go tonight, you couldn’t have waited until it’s been played to publish the article?
Hugo Lloris has quite rightly been under scrutiny recently (and let’s be clear, I don’t think any Spurs fans believe he has been bullied) – so it’s nice to see that he has played extremely well in our last two home games when the sloppiness in front of him threatened to undermine our qualification for the Champions League. Two swallows don’t make a summer, but it looks like he could be back to form, which is good news for France and Spurs.
Just thought I’d say it cos, you know, no one else probably will. And he comes across as a genuinely nice guy.
New Arsenal manager
Bernard raises an interesting point in this morning’s mailbox about Bielsa and the high regard he is held in the coaching world and his Chile and Bilbao teams in particularly are remembered for playing some scintillating stuff and really impressing. But I don’t think he is the right guy for Arsenal.
Here’s why, throughout his 28 year managerial career Bielsa has won 3 Argentinian league titles and the 2004 Olympic tournament with Argentina, while this is still commendable his last piece of silverware coming 14 years ago might dissuade potential suitors. Furthermore his teams have an incredible habit of absolutely bottling it and not playing like you know they can when the pressure is put on them, I would direct you to the Europa League final Bilbao lost and Chile’s performance against (a terrible) Brazil in 2010 World Cup.
He is very well respected in most places. But his last two jobs have both ended with legal action being pursued by either him or the club. He also gives his players a very long leash and his teams generally lack in responsibility and any kind of resolve.
So in closing, Bielsa is a highly respected manager whose methods were groundbreaking in the past but now don’t seem to be having the same effect. He hasn’t won anything in a long time and his teams lack personal responsibility and have a massive tendency to hide when it gets hard. If you are reading this and you are an Arsenal fan then it probably sounds a bit too familiar and therein lies the answer to Bernard’s question…
…First time mailer, long-time reader. Forget your Bielsas, your Allegris and definitely stay away from our Buvac, but surely Arsenal should be looking at Leonardo Jardim? In his first season at Monaco he created one of the stingiest defences in all of Europe before transforming them into one of the most exciting attacking teams on the continent. He has experience of working with and developing youngsters and most crucially, gets the best out of a selling team!
Tom (I’ve always wanted to have a go at the brackets), LFC
National League play-off final
Just a quick one, if you’re not doing anything on Saturday, may I gently recommend watching the National League Play Off Final? It should be a corker, as these two clubs really couldn’t be more different.
Tranmere Rovers and Boreham Wood arrived in the National League at the same time – 2015/16. For Boreham Wood it was their highest ever level of competition, for Tranmere, it represented the end of a 94-year stay in the Football League.
They may only have finished two places apart, but there are some telling stats in terms of their respective stature in the game. As of today, Tranmere’s record high league position is 4th in the old Division One (tier two), Boreham Wood’s is 4th in the National League (tier five) this season. Tranmere have been runners up in the League Cup, and FA Cup Quarter Finalists (both within the last 20 years), whilst Boreham Wood beat Football League opponents for the first time ever this year – taking down Blackpool in the FA Cup. Most startling though, is that whilst Tranmere have averaged a league high attendance of 5,100 the side from Hertfordshire has a much more gentlemanly league low of 655. It really is quite a mismatch in heritage.
However, the teams themselves are quite evenly matched, and goals are almost guaranteed – Andy Cook and James Norwood have scored 46 between them for Tranmere this campaign, whilst Bruno Andrade (so quick Raheem Sterling nicknamed him Roadrunner in the academy at QPR) has hit 22, and is ably supported by the bustling Morgan Ferrier. Add in two of the best managers in the league for one off fixtures in Micky Mellon and Luke Garrard, and it has all the makings of a classic.
Of course, if it’s sh*t, don’t blame me.
24 years on
Jack Francis from Wednesday’s mailbox obviously didn’t see the 1994 FA Cup final if he thinks it was a spanking. Scoreline doesn’t tell the whole story, fella. I was there and I still hate David Elleray.
Its Friday, and thus I have come out with a prophet 11.
Mohamad (Salah) — (Tammy) Abraham — (Gabriel) Jesus
(Charlie) Adam — Aaron (Ramsey) — (Claudio) Yacob
(Charlie) Daniel — David (Luiz) — John (Stones) — (Victor) Moses
Playing with 4-3-3 formation, Salah and Jesus will be leading the line, with Abraham as the main man.
Aaron will be key in midfield, dictating in the play in (CAM) position. With both Yacob and Adam occupying the DMF position, this will allow Moses and DanielThe ability to bomb forward and overlap in attack.
David and John are our core at the back four, and Jonas is in the goal to provide the divine intervention.
Overall not a bad 11, easily could pip Arsenal for the Europa League place.
Syfq Amr, a bias Gooner.