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Long time, first time etc.. Watching the Liverpool-Bournemouth game, and it’s only 25 minutes in, so there’s plenty of time for Liverpool to do a Liverpool, but; I can’t remember the last time I saw a proper diving header like Dejan Lovren’s.
It wasn’t a spectacular finish, it wasn’t inventive or creative, it was purely instinctive and brave. And we don’t see those anywhere near as often as we should.
Chris (there’s every chance it may not feel as wonderful in 75 minutes time), Liverpool
In a perfect world
It would be fantastic if, during a Liverpool game over the next few seasons, and if the conditions allowed for it, if the teams had been trained correctly and the referee is having a good game, if the stars had aligned just right and Klopp is still in charge that Sky Sports could get through a single sodding match without mentioning heavy metal.
The Flan, North London
More Liverpool thoughts
1) You always know which Liverpool are going to turn up within the first 15 minutes of a football match. So when Pipo hit the post and then scored soon after, I kind of always knew we were going to score more. That we are the first team in PL history to beat the opposition by three or more goals in 4 consecutive away fixtures is no mean feat.
2) Surely those questioning Alex Ox at the beginning of the season have been completely disproved. He made three key passes, a lot of interceptions and was buzzing. He played center midfield for only the second time of his fledgling Liverpool career and linked very well with the forward three. With the return of Lallana, and the back up options in Ings, Sturridge and Solanke, Liverpool have a vast number of options up front.
3) The criticism of Lovren has been over the top and has to stop. Yes, he made a poor decision against Everton but since that shambolic performance against Spurs, he has been solid. With the absence of Matip, he has assumed some authority over the defense and was very good against Bournemouth. Like all defenders, he does make a few mistakes but given his past history, the media (F365 included) always blow it out of proportion. The same goes with Migs who has quietly been rock solid over the last 1.5 years. But a lot of people still blamed him after that fluke of a Willian goal.
Yes, there are better options than Lovren and Migs who will help us try to be a serious title contender, but their performances have to be respected.
4) Liverpool will let Coutinho leave at the end of the season with nothing but fond memories. Phenomenal display again and he could very well be the key in Liverpool finishing fourth.
5) In an unrelated note, 16 conclusions mentioned KDB as probably the most complete midfielder in Premier League history. As glorious as he is, only when he can play box to box center midfield, second striker, deep lying playmaker and even right wing back ala Stevie G can he earn the right to that tag. Still, a shoo in for player of the year and rightly deserved.
I remember quite a few Arsenal fans chuckled when we signed AOC at the end of the summer but if he starts to perform regularly like that in the centre or on the wing then he is going to be a fine signing. His energy and drive were outstanding today and when he pressed so aggressively, won the ball then beat the defender I desperately wanted him to score but it wasn’t to be. Then to top it off he also handled the post match interview and stopped Coutinho from waffling himself into saying something awkward. I’m very excited to see AOC develop under Klopp and hope he turns out a bit like Lallana.
Firmino looked the best he has done for a few weeks today too. His pressure was great and the way he finds space is just amazing. You could probably spend an entire game watching him and still not understand how he pops up in a pocket of space or suddenly just appears right behind a defender to try and steal possession.
Lovren deserves a bit of credit today too. A clean sheet, a goal and a few threatening set pieces all well marshalled. Communication between himself and Mignolet was also on display and helped to keep things calm at the back today. I’d like to just see this Lovren with no interviews about how good he is and how wrong his critics are.
I wonder how Klopp intends to set up against Arsenal. In the past they’ve not liked the very high and aggressive press so one has to assume that Mane and Salah will flank Firmino. In midfield our best pressers are probably Coutinho and Lallana but the latter looked a touch rusty when he came on today. I think a full 90 against Arsenal might come too soon for him. Personally I’d want Wijnaldum to be the disciplined sitting midfielder but one suspects Klopp’ll opt for Henderson. Hendo did perform well today and harried Bournemouth well but sometimes I think he tries too hard to be influential in games which drags him out of position. Against Arsenal we’ll need someone ultra calm and controlled to Marshall the defence and try to keep a lid on their ability to counter at speed.
A playmaking, creative no 10 who, under the management of Jose Mourinho, has become nothing more than a glorified water carrier who does his defensive duties and recycles possession to the nearest teammate. Am I talking about John Obi Mikel or Ander Herrera?
Do you think that at the end of every training session, Eddie Howe turns to his players, holds up his hand and says “And that’s Howe for now”
Sam, LFC (Welcome back Adam many L’s, but sort that hair out) North Yorks
City corrupting the game
Last week I was published in the mailbox essentially warning that what was happening at City is far deeper and more dangerous for our game than what they majority of fans were quite yet appreciating. My contention was that the depth of their investment and vision would, at least at the Premier League level, usher in a period of Celtic style dominance, because they are building a club who, like Celtic, operate on a completely different paradigm – not because of “better coaching” or “better players” (though they might well have them too), but because of an incomparably better organisation sitting behind them – like Amazon vs other retailers, for instance.
Needless to say, my worries were more or less dismissed, generally with the observation that Man United were also dominant for a while, and also spent a lot of money, so what’s the difference?
Well, with perfect timing, a journalist has taken the time to look a bit deeper into City’s brilliance than just making it all about “Pep being better than Jose”, and has published this long read on the Guardian:
I urge anyone who thinks we are just seeing another Arsenal Invincibles or United 99 here to take the time to read this, to get a perspective on what’s really going on.
Of course, many may read this and think “fair enough”, City have every right to take this path, they’re doing nothing illegal. And I respect this viewpoint, so long as you can acknowledge that what they are doing is “different”, and that to compare them to prior great teams is to compare apples and oranges.
However my own personal view is that football is not first and foremost a business, nor is it entertainment. It is first and foremost a *sport*, and that means it’s primary purpose is the facilitation of fair competition between different teams. For this reason it has to be highly regulated to keep that competition as honest as possible, much more regulated than business where the goal is value provision, not competition. This is why doping is not allowed, not because it’s illegal, or because it wouldn’t be entertaining, but because it corrupts the playing field. It’s hard to know where to draw the line of course (I’d say the unequal TV deals in Spain sit on the wrong side of it, for instance), but we have to at least try our best for the health of the game.
What the City group are creating would be a fabulous organisation in its own right, but will clearly also be something that corrupts the game. It will be like unleashing an Amazon (who famously don’t have to turn a profit of course) onto what is currently organised as a 1995 high street. Sure, United and Arsenal are like M&S and Topshop, with the best locations and biggest widows, but at least Clinton Cards are playing the same game. But Amazon? Fine for business, but not for sport.
We’ll each have our own opinions on whether we’re ok with that, and I have no problem with the view that it’s fine. But I do have a problem with people not being aware of it in the first place, so hopefully more and more journalists will start to look a bit beyond the pitch and we can come to the right conclusions.
Chequebook manager, genius or both?
So City are sat at the top of the table at Christmas, after the longest winning streak in Premier League history, and all and sundry cannot seem to agree if this is because Pep Guardiola is a genius, or if he’s just bought what seems to be City’s inevitable Premier League title this season. Depending on which camp you’re in, it can only be one or the other. He’s either a chequebook manager, or he’s a total genius.
The answer, of course, is both.
Pep Guardiola is a genius who has, in his head, devised a devastating method of playing football. Deceptively gung-ho, relying on massive stamina levels, concentration, and a healthy dose of systematic cynicism and “game management”. At Barca, at Bayern, and now at City, he’s been a revelation. I’m not contesting that Pep isn’t a genius.
However, what’s also clear, is that to get to the level that Pep dreams of, you’ve got to have the best players in the world, otherwise it cannot work. Which means whichever team Pep is in charge of inevitably has to spend an awful lot of money. Zabaleta is no longer able to play in that fashion, but Kyle Walker can, so you then have the scenario where Zab leaves for free and Walker comes in for £50m. Neither Gael Clichy nor Aleks Kolarov are capable of playing in that fashion ,so they leave for a total of £3.5m, and Benjamin Mendy comes in for £50m.
That’s losing £96.5m on fullbacks, and ending up with 1x less. (Of course the caveat is that Mendy is injured and Fabian Delph has been brilliant in an unfamiliar position, but that’s evidence of Pep’s genius).
He also established that none of Jesus Navas, Wilf Bony, Kelechei Iheanacho, Nolito, Fernando, Samir Nasri, Willy Cabellero or Joe Hart could play this system, so he sold, released or loaned all of these players for a total of “circa” £44m. To replace this “deadwood” he brought in Bernado Silva, Ederson, Danilo, Sane, Gabriel Jesus and Gundogan for “circa” £230m.
That’s losing £186m, and ending up with 2x less players. In total, over 1x season and 3x transfer windows, forget how much Guardiola has spent, consider the fact he’s LOST around £283m on transfer fees for players. Arsenal (my club), are famed/lauded/ridiculed for having around £200m in the bank and simply sitting on it. Arsenal have been around for 150 years or so, and that money is their life savings in a way. City could lose that money, and nearly 50% more on top of that, in 12 months.
My point is, crumbs, Pep Guardiola is a footballing genius and visionary. Clearly he is, it’s indisputable. However to get there he HAS to spend the money. In his case, the money and the genius got hand in hand. I’m just sitting back and enjoying it all to be honest. How can you not?
Dale May, Swindon Wengerite
Chequebook manager, apparently
I’m struggling to accept the acclaim City are attracting. The best manager in the world, is in charge of a team with unlimited resources. How is it even surprising? Two years after Leicester made us believe in football again, should we not all be worried that this is the end of The Premier League as a competition? I know this was brought up last week, but this is a genuine threat to the interest of the league. You talk about Spurs regressing and being closer to 20th than 1st, but why wouldn’t they, when it is also reflected in their spending.
It is not a coincidence that the two favourites for the Champions league are City and PSG. They exist on a completely different financial plane. This should be ringing alarm bells amongst those that love competition. What I find strange, is the media fawning. How can sites like this one, not highlight the dangers that the City domination could bring? The Guardian this week, even wrote a long read, which was so sympathetic to their world domination plans, it could have been commissioned by Sheikh Mansou. Man City are playing brilliant football and will probably go through the season undefeated but at what cost?
A defence of Pep
Firstly I love the site, the love letter to 365 by Johnny last week was excellent and brought back a lot of memories, I completely forgotten how much I loved the whingers and moaners!
Anyway the reason I’m writing is mainly due to William from Leicester and his axe to grind with Pep. I’m a Villa fan so a lot of these petty arguments between the top teams go over my head but to say Pep has character flaws and won’t be seen as a legend is ridiculous. The way football is these days if you don’t win something you’re more likely to get the bullet and most likely we will never see another manager build a dynasty like Fergie did at United. But why do you dislike Pep so much? Does his teams playing excellent football and winning things somehow take away from Fergie’s achievements? Did someone say Fergie wasn’t one of the best managers of all time?
It’s easy pick flaws, if I wanted I could say Fergie wasn’t a true great because for all united’s dominance in England they were disappointing in Europe and with the players etc he had they should have won more European cups. I won’t say that though because I’m not a child trying to prove my dad would beat up your dad.
Just because Pep will be seen as a legend doesn’t take away from the incredible manager Fergie was so relax man. It will all be ok. Happy Christmas everyone.
Pawson was good
Can I just say I thought Craig Pawson had a good game.
Was it a pen against Rose? Yes, but even as a City fan I didn’t really expect it to be given (especially given last week’s reaction).
Was the Otamendi challenge a red? No, close maybe, but if you can’t see the difference in danger between that and the Mane challenge then I’m a bit worried for you.
Was the Kane challenge a red? No, half way between yellow and red for me, as I don’t think it had the momentum to do much real damage.
Was the Ali challenge a red? Yes, when you turn your body like that and go in high there is a real risk to the opposition player. Notably, the player either walks away (temporarily in alot of pain) or breaks a leg. There is not much of a halfway house in that type of challenge. That said, I’ve seen more obviously bad challenges go unpunished and I imagine it wasn’t an easy one to (VAR needed) with the players converging at speed and Ali staying on his feet (until impact), so much better that the referee chose not to ruin the game (eh Gary?).
Richard (Respect to Tottenham for coming to play), Sheffield
A disgruntled Baggie
It is no secret that if you continue to do the same things you will get the same results. The one constant in the Baggies team for the last 18 months has been Rondon. For so long he has been defended by those who could not abide Pulis ball. “He gets no support”. “He gets no chances.” “He works hard”.
All of the above are total myths. Yes Pulis was defensive but across 3 games Pardew has tried every available option to ‘bring the best’ (please note my inverted commas) out of Rondon.
The key reason we are so poor going forward is that he offers no focal point for our attack. He does not work hard. He is happy to chase a ball he has no hope of getting but watch him then stroll back into position. With the number of times he is called offside it would appear he is doing it deliberately. A not so subtle way of appearing to work when in reality he is hiding and shirking responsibility.
As a big bloke lazy pundits will say he can hold the ball up. Nope, his lack of strength and courage has directly cost us twice this season when his weak attempt to hold the ball up has seen him fall over, lose the ball leading directly to goals in the games against Stoke and Leicester.
He doesn’t get chances? He has loads of them but he does not have the bottle to convert. Lukaku one header yesterday and one goal. That is the reality of a Premier League striker. He also fails to create half chances for himself. He total unwillingness to put his body on the line means he will never slide in to get to the ball. For a big man he is also surprisingly poor in the air.
This could all be forgiven if he scored a few or at least created trouble for defenders leading to chances for others. Centre halves know they are in for a quiet afternoon when up against Rondon.
Hal Robson Kanu has the same goal tally with a third of the minutes on the pitch. When he plays we look a bit more dangerous (he hit the bar against Liverpool). While not a great finisher he does at least work defences.
So unless Pardew wants to go the same way as Tone he needs to do something different and drop the coward Rondon. The last 3 games have blown all the excuses out of the water. He was playing alongside two other strikers against Palace and still did nothing.
There is no shame in not scoring against United but we are playing every game with 10 men. Most teams would struggle with this handicap but the distressing thing is we bring it on ourselves.
Drop Rondon or relegation is a certainty. He doesn’t even take penalties in the league cup against lower league opposition in a shoot out. A shirker and a coward.
Ben The Baggie ( Glad to Brunt’ys wand back)
Load of Kaka
Just a bit of trivia to keep you going for this week. It’s ‘doing the rounds’ on twitter so some of you may have already seen it.
Was reading about Kaka’s career last night as he’s announced his retirement and one thing (of many) that peaked my interest was he is 1 of only 8 ever players to win the treble of World Cup, Champions League (including when it was known as European Cup) and the Ballon d’Or.
Can you name the other 7 without looking it up?
Ben (I imagine most will stumble on the 1 Italian) Gleeson.
Asking the important questions, with Craig Morrison
On the subject of footy names, where they all have to be two syllables long and end in ‘y’, if Otamendi’s team-mates call him ‘Mendi’, what do they call Mendy?
Craig ‘Craigy’ Morrison, Athens
If mailbox correspondent Paul Murphy, Manchester is the same one I went to Thorn Grove Primary School with in the 1970s, can he please explain how he got so mean from being such a great kid when he was 9?
Craig Morrison, Athens