Mails: Great game…but Pep wins tactical battle

Date published: Monday 20th March 2017 11:46

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That was fun
From a neutral, what a superb game of football. That had everything.

Dodgy decisions, a great goal, penalty, missed chances and some great football.

Now that’s a super Sunday.
Cormac, Galway


What a game…and well done Pep
That was a contender for game of the season (something that f365 should incorporate by the way). Two teams demonstrating ‘balls’ and really going at it right till the very end – neither Klopp nor Pep were willing to close the game out by throwing on defenders and that made for a great viewing spectacle. This game also showcased the tremendous motivational abilities of Klopp and Pep, with both managers getting their players to give their proverbial 110 percent.

Yaya Toure has made the full transition to being the most defensive midfielder in Pep’s system. Given that this is the same Toure that had 20 goals and 9 assists from midfield a couple of seasons ago and who Mancini used to prefer playing in an advanced role rather than throwing on another forward when chasing a goal, that is quite the turnaround. A big effort from the big man as well, although it is abundantly clear he cannot last more than 60 minutes anymore. Toure showed that while he still has the passion and desire, he’s not worth 240k p/w anymore and probably doesn’t belong in Pep’s system. Still the Man City hero isn’t going away without a fight.

While this game will be talked about for all the horrendous misses in front of goal, the funniest moment of the game was arguably Sadio Mane vs Nicholas Otamendi. Mane even seemed to give Otamendi a four-yard head-start only to blitz past him embarrassingly easily. Otamendi is an honest trier, but given his lack of pace and height, how is he a Premier League defender playing for a title chasing team?

For all the flak that Emre Can takes (and some of it with good reason) his physicality is an important part of Liverpool’s midfield. His energy levels are incredible (as are every single member of Liverpool’s midfield) and he has demonstrated that he can shoot from distance. His passing and decision making are a work in progress but he will be very important for Klopp’s system for the next several years.

Pep’s tactical changes were very interesting and had a huge bearing on how the game played out (as any decent tactical changes should really). City started the game with Sterling on the right, Sane on the left, and Aguero through the middle and the onus was on Sane and Sterling to beat their respective full backs and cross the ball into dangerous areas. Liverpool’s high press on Silva, Toure and KDB resulted in difficulty in getting the ball to the two wingers; in fact I have never seen KDB misplace so many passes in any one game ever.

Chasing the game, Pep moved the midfield into some kind of a diamond with Fernandinho at the base, Sterling at the tip and KDB on the right wide. Sane played more centrally and the game plan was to get the ball to KDB and have him cross into the box. KDB subsequently was the game’s most influential player and his cross got City their equalizer. For all the love I have for Klopp, maybe the one criticism is that we never get to see any tactical changes from him during a game.
Rohit Vankipuram, India


…My first thought on that game was how in the hell did it end at one apiece? It’s a weird thing to write after a football match that either team could have won by three or four, and it could have also ended six all, and any of those results would have left the supporters, grudgingly, saying “yep, probably fair result”.

I worried that Liverpool may not survive the first 20 minutes as the pace and verve of Sane and Sterling was terrifying our back four. After that period was passed though I think the game was there for the taking. Toure was asking to be preyed upon and whenever that happened City looked very ragged. The Neviller described him as looking like “a bus turning” and he wasn’t (just) being mean. He has faded so badly over the last two seasons it’s almost sad to see how much of a pale imitation of himself he has become, Pep needs to put him out of everyone’s misery and shuffle him out of the door. I’m disappointed that we didn’t really sense the blood and more wasn’t made of the situation before Pep gave him the hook.

That said, and to be fair to Guardiola, he saw the problem, made the change, shuffled his pack and probably did enough to earn himself the Tactical Switch of The Week award from your good selves. From that point on I could never really see us seeing out the game successfully. Yes, it made sense to play on the break and use pace against a slow and tiring defence but to do that well you need a decent defence and we (still) don’t have one of those.

Add in the weather, some “stern” tackling and some big calls for the referee (I’m not going to go into those, enough will be said elsewhere) and it was a hell of a match to watch. The problem is that one point – even away from home at a very good side – is nothing really to be too happy about at this stage of the season. Fingers crossed for more twists before May.
Carl (I think Otamendi is still trying to catch Mane) the Welsh


That was tense…
Holy Balls that game had my anxiety levels through the roof for most of the 90 minutes.

City have tended to do quite poorly against us in the recent past and it was quite alarming in the first 15 minutes when they looked totally up for it. The person who looked most different was Sterling; every time he’s played against Liverpool since leaving I’ve thought he was anonymous or had an incredibly poor game. In the first 15 minutes he looked very dangerous and I was worried he might score.

That said, the two wide forwards were incredibly wasteful and possibly naive. They got caught offside so many times in those early stages and I think it frustrated the crowd quite audibly which then possibly made the both of them retreat a little inside their shells. Once they stopped threatening, Man City stopped looking threatening on the whole in that first half.

I thought Liverpool looked the better side for the last 25 minutes of the first half and right up until we scored. Even with Coutinho being a bit quiet still we looked threatening and their defenders all looked nervous when being fronted up by Mane.

Emre Can deserves praise for having an excellent game after a spell of very poor form. He won the ball back on so many occasions very high up the pitch, rarely gave it away in silly spots and seemed to be aware of how intense the game was being played through the middle. Gini was similarly excellent in the centre but it’s becoming so regular it’s almost not worth commenting on.

Lallana had an excellent game but how did he fail to put that final effort on target, I’ll never know. It was like he forgot he actually had to put his foot through it.

I think both teams had some good chances to score, a draw is probably a fair result but I wish we’d won it. I think we needed it more and we’ve now effectively handed the impetus to finish fourth to Man Utd. I was really banking on a Middlesbrough new manager bounce which never came. Sad times.
Minty, LFC


Booing James Milner? Really?
One of the sad things about football that we’re all aware of is fans booing ex-players. But booing James Milner is just the saddest thing I’ve seen in a long time in a ground.

This is James Milner, one of the most honest, hard working and inoffensive characters in the league. I don’t know the guy but I imagine he is a man who wouldn’t hurt a fly and just wants to do his best every week. He didn’t leave City in any sort of bad break-up, he just wanted to play more football. He deserves an applause if anything for being a bloody excellent squad player and accepting it year in year out.

This is part of a wider issue that is a lot of football fans use the match day experience as a place to express anger and do so in any way they can; something that you just don’t find at a rugby ground, a GAA ground or any ground where respect comes first.
Damo, Dublin


Arsenal are a cowardly bunch
Feels a pity to be writing in to grumble about Arsene Wenger and the tosspots in charge of the club when there was such a great match to reflect on yesterday, but I’m sure you’ll grant us a little corner of misery.

All I have to say is it’s pretty damning that the board’s confidence in Arsene’s ability to turn form around is evidently so low that, rather than announce his extension off the back of some wins, they’ve decided to limit damage by leaking the news at the start of a two-week gap in fixtures. I’m sure they hope the peasants will have got their anger out and wound their necks in by the time City visit the Emirates.

It’s a cowardly move from a cowardly bunch. They’ve failed to stand up to the manager, but also failed to protect him from the stream of over-the-top vitriol that they’ve helped invite. While I think it would be best for Arsene to go as soon as practicable, the least Gazidis et al can do is bring people in to help him achieve satisfactory results and ease the eventual transition. I won’t hold my breath.
Will O’Doherty


Stay classy, Arsenal fans
Hi, so first I want to get out of the way that I’m a Tottenham fan. I thoroughly hate Arsenal, but I give them a grudging respect for being generally a well-run, traditional club. My distaste for Chelsea is far worse for the kind of principles that they’ve been operating on from around 2004. Anyhow, that out of the way.

But I have to say that those fans with Wenger Out signs are a complete disgrace. I understand that they have a right to do so, but why would any normal human being do so?

Think about it. They brought those signs to the Midlands, showed them to the security staff. Then they sat on those signs, and sat and sat. And when Arsenal equalized and generally looked like they might pull it out, the signs remained hidden. But there it was, a goal by Brom and those dimwits thought “Here’s my chance!”.

So actually, all of them went to the game hoping that an opportunity will present itself to protest and create a toxic atmosphere. They hoped for failure, like vultures, they were circling all game long.

You should be proud of having the manager like Wenger. There will never ever be a situation like there was in the late 90s, when there were essentially two top-class teams and winning the league was a toss-up between themselves and ManU. Now there are six teams that are more or less equal in strength on the field. And then we have two financial doping juggernaughts in ManCity and Chelsea. You think that by getting another manager you will suddenly make the other five teams disappear? It’s a free-for-all between the top six nowadays. No amount of Simeone, Tuchel or whoever else is going to change the makeup of the league.

For most of those supposedly underperforming years I would argue that Arsene made the team more than the sum of its parts. He has played a generally pleasing style, and kept the team rather competitive. And if you look at who bounced them in the CL, Barcelona, Bayern, etc, not too shabby. Do you really think that you’re the favourites, or at least on equal terms with those teams? If you do, then you’re delusional.

Sanchez is replaceable. He’s a good player, no doubt about it. But his great stats are generally supplemented by the fact that the whole teams plays through him and only through him. When he was a small fish in a bigger pond (at Barcelona) he was alright but not so effective. Get rid of him, he fights hard but also creates a toxic atmosphere among the team.

Just look at ManU. It seemed a given that they would continue they general dominance when Ferguson went. But it didn’t work out so well did it? More than likely his tactics and ability pushed them 2-3 spots higher than they would have with that squad. You have to be careful of what you wish for.

So, I sincerely hope that Arsenal stay as they are. A good club, with a good manager, generally classy. And I hope to see a good, strong Arsenal next year with Sanchez gone, and Wenger in.

Now I need to take a shower…
Pat (THFC), Stewie Griffins need to find another club to support…


The end is nigh
Holy sh!t balls. We’re actually out of sixth place.

Sure that I saw the four harbingers of the apocalypse riding into Manchester again yesterday evening.
Al Williams


Jose Mourinho: Master of the dark arts
1) Daniel Storey that was great, I agree, but only in a “duh” kinda way. The narrative pushed on F365 and amongst many, many Utd fans that Lingard is 24 so must be judged against Eriksen, KDB et al is misguided because he’s not even a regular starter, at most he’s an impact sub who has the wonderful knack of winning games for us when he does start. Thanks Jesse!

2) We won and that’s all that matters, but I’m yet to be convinced that this 5-2-3 formation is the way forward, Lingard and Rashford combined well but there was never more than two people in the box when we countered, we also spent the last 15 mins defending like the Barca game in 08 when Scholesy did a thunderb*stard.

3) The fact that a win is all that matters makes me wonder if Mourinho’s admittedly super annoying whining about the fixture list and even saying we would lose was a mind game aimed not at Boro, but at the United fans, you know: drop expectations, give us a bare minimum win (Eight defenders? Come on) and STILL get the props because apparently we were supposed to lose. Genius actually.
Cortez (and that ‘celebration’ for the third, Jose lmaoo) MUFC, Botswana


Can Spurs believe?
Life as a Tottenham fan, always talking to yourself.

“Don’t get your hopes up. This is another false dawn.”

“But we’re second in the table, have the joint best defence, five more points than we’ve ever had after 28 games and, of our ten games left, only two are against teams in the top half and both of those are at home.”

“Doesn’t matter. Don’t get your hopes up. This is another false dawn.”

Yesterday was a massive three points against a very good Southampton team. As always with Tottenham, it really is the hope that kills you.
Lloyd Stiles, THFC, Vienna


Love for Dembele
Mousa Dembele is the most under appreciated player in the league. A total dominator both with and without the ball. If he played for one of the money teams he’d be widely considered world class. Which he is.
JG Spurs


Ed’s weekend thoughts
* Winning 1-0 without even registering a shot on target is the Allardyce dream, isn’t it? Either way, it was three of the ugliest points Crystal Palace will ever earn.

* That was surprisingly feisty, and on a different day, any of four players could have had their afternoons ended early. Watford set out to be physical, in particular (and justifiably) targeting Wilfried Zaha. Zaha could have been dismissed for striking Sebastian Prödl, just as Tom Cleverley, in a moment of nominative indeterminism, should have been sent off for elbowing Yohan Cabaye.

The other two incidents both involved Luka Milivojevic. Had I not known what had happened, I would have been very surprised to see him escape without even conceding a free-kick, never mind earning a card of either colour, for his tackle in the build-up to the goal. He got the ball but also got the man, and plenty of referees (professional and armchair) would have been reaching for their pocket after that. Then, after the goal, Milivojevic took it upon himself to retrieve the ball, a scuffle ensued and Troy Deeney kicked out at him. Again, had the referee seen that clearly, it would have been a red card.

Ultimately, playing 9-a-side would have opened the game up, but it’s actually to Martin Atkinson’s credit that he was so lenient.

* On the subject of Milivojevic, he has settled in as the team’s enforcer, in the ice hockey sense. What I mean is, he is the main protector of the more skilful players and the leader of any physicality. Following the Zaha incident, Milivojevic was the first one to insert himself between Zaha and the Watford teammates. It was a show to the fans, at least, that the team isn’t the soft touch they have previously appeared to be. Returning to ice hockey, seeing Zaha reacting like that was akin to seeing Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins fight Blake Wheeler of the Pittsburgh Penguins the other week. Wheeler is a much bigger man and got his revenge for a bad hit by Malkin previously, but even though Malkin got pummelled, his willingness to stand up for himself was admirable.

* Top top oi oi lads will be lads banter bantz of the weekend, part 1: Claude Puel breaking the news to James Ward-Prowse and Nathan Redmond that they had been called up for England by first making them believe they were about to be told off for their attitudes in training. “Gars, vous avez échoué … en échouant!” indeed.

*Watford defended well against the Eagles. Clearly restricting them to 0 shots on target and only being beaten by their own striker tells its own story, but their defence was physical and did well to block several good chances.

* Top top oi oi lads will be lads banter bantz of the weekend, part 2: Wilfried Zaha tweets that he is “buzzing” after Palace’s win over the Hornets.

* Three consecutive clean sheets for Palace is one thing, but they should count double (like away goals) because the goalie who owns them is Wayne Hennessey. Right at the end we saw the best and worst of Hennessey – a superb save followed by failure to claim a high ball, followed by a swift recovery to make himself as big as possible, making the chance too difficult to score.

Graeme Le Saux was effusive in his praise of Mamadou Sakho, pointing out his positioning, his willingness to attack the ball, and also that moment when he trapped a long ball dead and calmly played a pass out to Zaha. I’d love to see him join Palace permanently.

* Hull City had their fourth red card of the season on Saturday, and I think that was the first one that wasn’t for handball.

* Watching WBA play the Arsenal, no one from Crystal Palace was surprised at how much damage Craig Dawson can do when allowed a long run-up at a corner. The Gunners can take some comfort from the fact he connected with the ball and not their goalkeeper, as he did against us, assisting a goal by knocking out Julian Speroni with his elbow. Not letting that go.

* Worst penalty of the weekend: Matt Chaplin for Portsmouth. He looked like he was giving a young child catching practice.

* Palace are now four points clear of the drop, with a fortnight off before we face Chelsea. Everything came up Milhouse for the Eagles, as Hull City, Swansea City and Middlesbrough lost, while Sunderland only drew with Burnley. We’re not out of the woods yet, but winning on Saturday was a major step towards survival.
Ed Quoththeraven


Peter G’s weekend thoughts
* What a pleasure watching Bruno Martins Indi mark Diego Costa. The Dutchman gets caught in no-man’s-land a bit too often, but there’s no doubting his defensive technique. He’s playing significantly better than Ryan Shawcross now. Mark Hughes isn’t a bus-parker, but he knows that defence means defence. In 180 minutes against Manchester City and Chelsea, Stoke had only one shot on target from open play, and on Saturday until the 80th minute they had no shots at all except from a foolish penalty.

* Benik Afobé and Josh King are starting to form a decent strike partnership for Bournemouth. We’re not likely to see two strikers against the top sides, but it’s an excellent option against the rest of the league. Meanwhile Swansea City were too passive, which was the frequent complaint against Paul Clement at Derby County.

* What a silly, wonderful game between Manchester City and Liverpool, which very clearly showed why neither is challenging for the title this year. Just hoping there were no heart attack spikes in those two cities between 4:30 and 6:30 PM.

* In his first two years at Crystal Palace, Wilfried Zaha came off for a substitute 13 and 12 times respectively. This year it’s only three. That’s because he’s playing better, but lately he also seems to be getting stronger as the games go on, which I don’t think I’d seen in the past.

* If you’re wondering whether Steve Agnew changed anything in his first game at Middlesbrough, up until yesterday Boro had played 17.7% of their passes long. Against Manchester United it was only 13.5%, which averages out to 18 fewer long balls per game.
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA (Mourinho is so powerful he can rearrange the alphabet)

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