Mails: Milner for England (again); not backing Liverpool

Date published: Wednesday 25th April 2018 1:53

You know what to do…watch Ronaldo et al on Wednesday night and send mails to theeditor@football365.com

 

Now you mention it…
Did anyone else think Di Francesco looked like if Gary Oldman was playing Klopp in a biopic?

Just me? No?
Kris, LFC, Wirral

 

The big question
Has he usurped Mido yet as the best Egyptian to grace the Premier League?
Rob, Dorset

 

England need Milner
I am a United fan, and I went to watch Liverpool last night – first ever trip to Anfield. I know right, unbelievable treachery and all integrity as a fan have gone out the window.

It was extremely hard not to get caught up in the atmosphere, as before and during was absolutely incredible – having been to a number of important games down the years, I definitely feel this was a box checked as something to do before I die (which I nearly did when Salah scored).

As someone who will take any opportunity to deride or criticise opposition players, I was fully expecting to dish out criticism after criticism of Milner and Henderson. But hats off to them both, they were absolutely superb. I think every effort should be made (especially now with Ox’s injury) to get Milner out of retirement. His (and Henderson’s) work rate, tactical discipline and passing ability allowed the front three to absolutely flourish. If we can get our front line firing like that, we may be in with a shout of beating Panama.

Thoroughly enjoyed the experience, local pub owners were a lot friendlier than I expected, especially to southerners. I have the words ‘ta’ra lad’ in my head on repeat now.

On a side note – we had lunch at the hotel where Roma were staying – was extremely surprised to see a number of them smoking out the back! Do elite players still smoke?!
Will, Down south

 

…Henderson, The Ox and Millner? Assuming the Ox is fit, surely trying to cover up our lack of top, top quality talent in midfield, with players that play together at club level, would be a possible idea? We’re not good enough in posession, so why not try a high tempo game.

Behind a front three of Kane, Sterling and Rashford (trying to replicate the LFC front three, sort of) – in front four of Walker, Stones, McGuire and Young.

(No idea who could play in goal – does it really matter??).

or are we going for Ali, no matter how average he has been this season?
Moon​aldo, AFC​ (sorry Jack!)

 

…That Liverpool side is truly exciting to watch.

Great brand of football, and the squad as a whole are seemingly becoming more adept at executing gam plans too, because last night was an ode to the long ball, and it tore Roma apart, and was used relentlessly as a result.

James Milner…Take a bow lad.

One more assist and the record holder for the all-time assist king in a season, in the Champions League, will be James.

For the wonderful manner in which he has always handled himself as far as I am aware, including the way he handles the whole boring James Milner joke, I could not think of a player I would rather have hold that distinction.

It says something to the contrary of that (admittedly rather earned) reputation, and I enjoy it when football can make us pause for a second, look at a piece of information, and say, “oh wow ok then, wouldn’t have guessed him!”

In its own way, it reminds me that you never stop learning or being surprised, be it small and inconsequential or magnificent and transformative, and I am glad that football can play a part in those moments as we go about our journey.
Manc in SA (Salah is a little bit good I must say)

 

Too good to be true…
Waking up this morning, I had but one thought. Was it all a dream?

Being a Liverpool supporter has been trying since 2007. From the agonising 2009 season where one Federico Macheda scored to take United to the top, to several seasons of lacklustre performances, always hoping next season would be better, to finally 2014 and ‘The Slip heard around the World’.

Being a Liverpool fan, optimism becomes part of your routine. You always feel that better times are just around the corner, because how could it not be? So seeing this Liverpool team, play with such fervour and enthusiasm, feels surreal. I am actually quite sad that we dont play again today.

Win or lose the next game(s), reach the CL final or get knocked out by a brilliant Roma performance, i do not care. If this actually, finally, is the phoenix (Liverbird, whatever) rising from the ashes, please don’t let it be a dream.
Nik (maybe deluded) Munich

 

…Mail on three separate topics, but bear with me here.

That was just lovely to watch. What I don’t understand about this Liverpool team is how we can look structurally outmatched and suddenly seem to figure out a team. I know Roma played a high line, but we’ve done the same against (arguably, let’s not open that can of worms) the best PL Champions ever over two legs. When Rio criticises the defending of letting Salah shoot on his left or Roma’s inability to reorganise and readjust to Liverpool’s dominance, or Jonathan Wilson (Guardian writer) says no teams are very good at the moment, just remember how many teams have capitulated to LFC’s 15 min blitzes and how well those teams have done against other opposition. It’s harder than the above people make out. The mailbox can correct me if I’m wrong but I’ve never seen any team (even Klopp’s Dortmund) seek to end games in the space of 15 mins – it’s something that is truly new and exciting.

As ever I have serious worries about our lack of midfield options and the fact we are bringing Danny Ings and Dominic Solanke off the bench in a CL semi-final. If we want to challenge squads that are structurally better than us (City, United, arguably Tottenham have a better squad than us) we need to be able to attract excellent players who know they will have to fight for their place and not necessarily be first choice. City and United’s ability to hoover up these sort of players will be a huge hit to our ambitions but I hope, if we get to the final of the CL (and maybe even win the thing) we will at least have a voice in the conversation. Three years ago we were losing 6-1 to Stoke…

Finally, I’d just like to say how nice it is to hear a few supporters of other teams complimenting the way Liverpool play. I might be a millennial softie who doesn’t understand that vociferous hate-filled tribalism makes football what it is but as fans of all our different clubs, but I think we’ve got a lot more in common as football fans than what separates us. There’s the ugly side of football support (LFC breaking City’s bus, the hammer attacks last night, the singing of songs about Nazis at England football matches). That said I feel and hope that this is lessening as site like this and podcasts such as the Totally Football Show and the Guardian Football Weekly carve out a space for football fans to joke, tease but, most importantly, celebrate the game together. Long may it continue.
Matt (will spend the next week hunting down any Liverpool fan who says we’re already in the final…) LFC

 

Support Liverpool? Not a chance…
I know you get the supporters of other English teams wanting an English team to do well in Europe but I’m sorry, I don’t, maybe it’s because I’m a (Londoner) Chelsea supporter but I don’t want anyone else winning the CL but Roma or Bayern at this stage…

Although I will say, hats off to Liverpool, great performance but they were helped by an abysmal Roma defence.

For those of you in the same boat as me, it’s okay… the heartbreak for Liverpool will be even sweeter in a CL final… lots of love.
T, CFC, London (haters gotta hate)

 

…I fear that Sarah Winterburn may be greatly underestimating the scale of loathing towards Liverpool across the country when she asserts that everybody should enjoy this team. I, for one, desperately hope that Roma manage to ‘do a Roma’ in the second leg and win 3-0 to knock Liverpool out. Roma are an infinitely more likeable club, and Rome is an infinitely more likeable city.

And if Roma don’t do it, I hope either Real or Bayern beat Liverpool in the final. I’d rather see Real make history by winning three years in a row, or Heynckes continue his astonishing record in Europe, than suffer through a summer of gloating Liverpool fans.
Jimbles, WFC

 

Managers should, well, manage…
In response to Ian Watson’s piece, I provide the following counterpoint, as illuminated by the subject title.

The role of a football manager, as with manager in any field is to manage. This may be restricted by resources in respect of personnel, facilities, available capital to invest and challenged by varied stakeholders including shareholders, the board and in the case of football customers fans.

What a manager is ultimately responsible in football is defining and implementing a playing strategy. This may include formations, tactics, utilisation of players in respect of roles, responsibilities and playing position. It may well be the case that a fan’s expectations may be skewed but this is often not the case in the majority in my experience.

When someone like Jose Mourinho complains about his lack of resources, this seems disingenuous given the vast amounts of money spent, ok less than City but still a vast amount which along with the general status of the club feeds the individual expectations of any club. Individual club’s expectations is critical to note, in a world where the achievements of Spurs are compared to Liverpool, who are compared to United and then compared to City etc. A manager like Mourinho should be judged on his expectations of United fans and the club’s general expectations.

His complaints about City’s spending grate when United fail to perform against so called “lesser” teams. The issue of Pogba again, is in part within Mourinho’s control. It is absolutely the responsibility of the manager to inspire and generate confidence and performance from any player. If a manager in a call centre is responsible for the output of their handlers, you better believe Mourinho is in part responsible for Pogba’s output. Yes, it is true the individual is responsible for their own output and it is definitely true that players are more important assets than managers and the latter is much easier and cheaper to change. The fact everyone knows this, gives rise to the need to be flexible and less rigid in ideas and approach, not something Mourinho is famed for.

This brings me to conclude with the other manager noted, in Sam Allardyce who shares a lot of parallels with Mourinho, except of course notably the massive levels of success. Allardyce complains about the expectations of Everton fans. Which is akin to a manager of a restaurant complaining about their customers and refusing to provide what they want, guess who goes first in that scenario.

I can’t speak for Everton fans, but if I may wager a guess, I doubt they expect to challenge for the title, or guarantee European football, I’d guess their expectations are more aligned with decent cup runs, progression in their league standing and perhaps most of all to be entertained. Big Sam has gotten then a little higher in the league, though likely capped where they are, but no-one can believe he is going to deliver on those expectations. He can complain about his players and their failings, but he has presided over a game which produced not a single shot on target. Yes players must take responsibility, but these are Big Sam’s systems of safety first. Everton fans have a right to expect more and a genuine belief Allardyce will not deliver anything different. He is responsible for his approach and he must face the consequences of this.

I’ll conclude by saying for a club of Everton’s stature they should certainly expect more, that said Allardyce’s safety first approach, which appears to largely be a PFM trait, is a zero sum game. By the supposed “lesser” teams to seek to avoid defeat, accept a draw and hope to win. With most other teams exploring the same approach, this denies the opportunity to get on the front foot and try and win games. Take risks and reap the rewards. Player’s motivation is likely to improve, there may be days when the conservative defensive team hold out and nick a win or draw, but the more likely scenario is a victory, where for struggling teams three points is much greater than one.
Stu, Afc (who knows what’s coming, kinda exciting though) Manchester

 

Levy dreaming over Rose
Sorry, Levy should expect a similar fee for Rose as he did Walker? You can’t not play somebody all season and expect them to maintain value. Had Rose been first choice, and performing to a high standard this season then perhaps. He isn’t though, is he? Unlike Walker when he was dropped, Rose is coming off the back of a serious injury, and (on the rare occasion he does play) looking like a player who is behind Ryan Bertrand and Ashley bloody Young in the England reckoning.

You can’t expect to get Shaw on the cheap because he’s been frozen out by the manager and playing poorly but demand a ludicrous fee for Rose who is in the same situation.

It seems a long time since Shaw was the future of United but it’s also over 12 months since Rose was in the kind of form that allows you to demand in excess of £40m. Even in this market.
Levy’s time in the sun has gone anyway; he wasn’t such a great negotiator when he bought Sissoko was he? Clubs are beginning to give him a taste of his own medicine.
ThaiWolf, Hong Kong

 

It’s all happening in Northern Ireland
The Northern Ireland Premiership race reaches a climax on Saturday. Crusaders (88 points, goal difference + 67) and Coleraine (88 points, goal difference +45) will settle their season long argument. Crusaders are away to Ballymena, whilst Coleraine will be at Glenavon. On paper, Crusaders have the easier game (and an untouchable goal difference) so a win will see them through but nobody associated with the Crues will be taking anything for granted, seeing as it was at Ballymena last April where out title bid expired. Despite having already hit 104 goals, the Crues might not win the league. On the flipside, Coleraine could get through the season with only league defeat but still not win it. That illustrates what a fantastic battle it has been.

In practical terms, Coleraine (who are going for the Double) have to beat Glenavon and hope Crusaders drop points. The fact that Ballymena are Coleraine’s bitter rivals is cause for scepticism amongst some Coleraine fans. Of more interest to the conspiracy theorists is the fact that Ballymena defender Kyle Owens will be joining Crusaders in the summer, where he will play alongside his brother Jordan…

There is no replica trophy scenario in Northern Ireland, so in a classic case of what we call #IrishLeagueBehaviour, one of the NIFL’s top brass will be sitting in a car at Nutts Corner (look it up) with the Gibson Cup and when it becomes clear who has won the league (hopefully Crusaders), he will drive to that ground for the presentation.
Matthew, Belfast

PS: If I’m still able to type through my tears (either of joy or grief), I might let you know how it all pans out.


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