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Notes on Man Utd from a Liverpool fan
First off, I don’t hate Manchester United. I’m not their biggest fan certainly, but I don’t subscribe to the ‘If you’re a Liverpool fan you must hate United’ nonsense either. I try and avoid hate altogether, and the quiet truth no one wants to utter is that we have far more in common than most clubs, like backgrounds, relative success, worldwide reach and the inevitable drift from local team to corporate, financially-driven, international super-clubs.
Anyway, I have been an interested spectator this summer to see how they would try and turn the ship around after a poor season by their standards, and I’m a little worried by the understated success so far. Firstly, Ole has looked at the best clubs in England and seen what they have in common; Fitness, and a drive for improvement and success. Spurs, City and Pool are probably the fittest clubs in the land. They have done well in Europe recently compared to the Juve, Bayern, Real and Barca’s particularly because they have raised the standard for the pace they play the game and the fitness required to do so. It is also a relatively simple (simple, not easy) thing to improve, if, and it’s a large caveat, you have the right attitude within your playing squad.
This brings me to the next area Ole has focused on; Attitude. You only have to look at Pool for the benefits a monumentally focused and professional attitude can make to success. It is widely argued that Liverpool’s midfield is uninspiring on paper. Most Pool fans will argue it is much better than it looks, but either way, there are certainly more skilful and technically proficient midfield 3’s in world football. So what makes them so effective? Firstly, Klopp’s style requires and prioritises tactical diligence and lots and lots of energy from its midfield, and whichever 3 he plays they certainly have that. Secondly, they also have the offensive brilliance from the 3 in front and highly creative full backs to the sides, easing the workload required from the midfielders to create. But, mainly, it is their attitude and professionalism on focusing on their specific roles. They work tirelessly in their tactically defined roles and don’t slip into glory-hunter mode looking for individual success or acclaim. They aren’t there to make the assists chart or be goalscoring midfielders, they are in it to do their job to the best of their ability. This is obviously not exclusive to the midfield 3, but they personify the type of attitude you want from your players and how you should prioritise this professionalism within your playing squad. Ole seems to understand this. He wants the right attitude first, then you can weedle out the best players from that bunch. It does not happen overnight, Klopp was ruthless getting rid of top players who in many ways were better than what we had (see Sakho) if there attitude was not what he wanted. Ole should not want for quality, Utd’s finances and size should always allow them to hunt for top quality, but finding the right characters has been too far down their priorities for too long. The elephant in the room on this is Pogba. Firstly my united friends say his professionalism is unfairly questioned, that he seems a good pro. I don’t really see it myself but then I try not to judge players I pay relatively little attention to. Either way, Ole has to be pragmatic, selling Pogba without getting his financial worth is not viable. Leaving a hole in your squad doesn’t work either. What I get from Ole is that he is dealing with a bad situation as well as he can and that if he doesn’t like his attitude, he will ultimately try and get him out, but only when the time is right, cutting off your nose to spite your face is not a good look.
British. Klopp has spoken many times about requiring a British base to his playing squad, and now Ole is preaching the same mantra. It certainly helps with team spirit, it provides a valuable link between fan and club, and it protects against the big Spanish teams poaching your best and brightest, as lets face it, you are more likely to keep a Paul Scholes or Ryan Giggs than a Cristiano Ronaldo.
Finally, Ole is recruiting well. Numbers were never the point, be it the amount of players coming in or the money spent. It is, and always has been, about getting the right players. We saw that with Klopp and VVD. When we botched his transfer in the summer and didn’t buy any replacement defender, the media jumped all over us saying we were short and would struggle defensively. They were right, we did struggle and we were short, the point they missed was that if you know exactly the player you want to improve things and feel he is ready to come when the opportunity arises, it is better to wait for him than take a punt on someone you are less sure about. We got him 6 months later and the rest is history. Ole seems to understand this; give him the time and he seems sensible enough to slowly and astutely recruit the right players to fit the squad in the right places to make a real difference. That is what I see with Wan-Bissaka, who I think Pool/City would have been very interested in if not for TAA and Walker, and is young, hungry, English and looks a top, top player. His stats certainly indicate he has lots of ability and potential. £50m is not the point, I think he is exactly the right profile player who fixes an area they desperately needed to improve. There are no sure things in football but this a player worth investing in.
United, no matter the points difference in the league last season, are not that far behind Liverpool, City and Spurs. The right signings, in the right areas and that distance can be bridged, the important part is to not splurge money willy-nilly, aimlessly looking to generically improve the quality of the squad but without plan on how you improve the sum of your parts.
I see United being better this season. How much better I’m not sure, I feel confident they will get Champs League but that is because I see Chelsea struggling (which is a mail for another time) and Arsenal reallystruggling, but how close they get to the top of the league, I’m not sure about. I’ll say this, it wont be 32 points away.
Every few months Johnny Nic (an excellent sporting Journo) writes a baiting article about Scottish football.
Today’s is about Arsenal’s bid for Tierney. The usual format is there ‘this must be racism’ therefore any criticism must be racism. All the while criticising the EPL (which can’t be racist….).
But let’s look at the actual content, if Scotland had a conveyor belt of producing world class talent or had a national team that was top ten that would be a start. Yes the Premiership is awash with cash, but that doesn’t mean a Scottish club has to accept ANY bid.
5.5 million people (proudly) spread over 140 football clubs? Well that explains why there’s no money then. Maybe shrink those numbers down and the money will be more concentrated. Maybe more young boys and girls will see Football as a serious career in Scotland.
Produce world class footballers and have a grass roots system that works and those ‘pub league’ jibes will actually look silly. Then some of that ‘patronising idiotic’ English money will filter its way up and Scottish Footballers can teach us fans about the ‘soul’ of football
Rob G (A NUFC fan who knows that not spending doesn’t make you anymore soulful)
Oh, here we go again. Johnny Nic is on his ridiculous soap box about Scotland this time. I’ll try and keep this one as short as possible: it’s because the Scottish league, like it or not, is not a high quality competition. There may well be some good clubs, players and managers up there in context but it’s so uncompetitive that it’s bordering on a joke. People used to bang on about how United ruined English football with their dominance (both footballing and financial) during the Fergie years, but Celtic have taken up that particular baton and sprinted off into the distance. For goodness sake, they have won the last eight leagues in a row, including an unbeaten season, and have just completed a treble treble. Even France and Germany mix it up (slightly) more often than that.
That’s why nobody will pay inflated feeds for Scottish players, and why should they? How could a buying club ever know how good they really are, while they’re playing in such a grossly uncompetitive league? Sure, Virgil van Dijk looks like an absolute bargain at £13m when he moved to Southampton, but that really is the exception rather than the rule. Let’s not forget that Celtic themselves paid a paltry £2.6m for that same player two years earlier, so they still made five times their money back on him.
But you can’t just pretend that this is an exclusively English problem; Celtic and Rangers are just as bad as the English clubs. In the last five seasons, Celtic have signed 8 players on permanent deals from Scottish clubs and have never once paid more than £2m, with an average cost of just over £600k (£1.88m highest), while Rangers have signed 13 players for an average cost of £92k (highest was £671k, 7 free transfers). In fact, Rangers haven’t paid more than £4m for a player since Nikica Jelavic back in 2010, while perennial champions Celtic have only paid more than £5m three times in the last decade, and never above £10m. But yes, tell us again how it’s the big, bad English teams that are being bigotted (really?!) towards Scotland by paying actual market value for their assets.
Sure, maybe those players go on to move for higher sums in future but only once they’ve proved their quality in leagues vastly superior in quality to the Scottish league, but why should someone pay a fee based on a players future potential, which is completely not guaranteed, instead of what the market deems them to be worth at the time of the transfer? Out of the goodness of their hearts? Scottish teams take similar advantage of “lesser” leagues themselves when bringing in players, it’s just the nature of business; those with the greater buying power usually get a better deal, yet you don’t see Celtic complaining when it works in their favour, do you? Didn’t hear too many complaints when they paid £3m for Scott Sinclair, £1.8m for Dedryck Boyata, or nothing at all for Moussa Dembele, who later they sold for nearly £20m.
So no, English clubs aren’t bigoted against Scotland and I don’t get why you would think that th…oh, wait, hang on; you’ve got a football book coming out, never mind.
Thankyou, thank you, thank you, Johnny Nic. Another excellent column, and very well said about Scottish football which is far better than people appreciate, and also far less hyped, oversold and polluted by money laundering global finance. It is ridiculous that Tierney is valued at half of Wan-Bissaka, and that Arsenal are lowballing Celtic for him. Celtic should value him appropriately and make PL clubs pay what he’s worth (by their ridiculous standards) if they want him. Dead right about the contemptuous view English clubs have of Scotland that they undervalue good players so much, the same one they wlll pay tens of millions for if they come from an English club. If they are going to spray around ridiculous money, then Scotland could and should benefit just as much as second rate PL clubs.
There’s been a lot said about Chelsea losing Hazard this year and how our season is going to fall apart without him, but I have a different opinion. Firstly I’d like to say that, like all Chelsea fans (and most other supporters as well), I loved Eden – he was a brilliant person on top of him being one of the most gifted footballers on the planet, and it was a joy watching him play. He’ll be a big loss to the premier league in general.
1 – When he was in the team the other players got lazy. There was very little creativity or drive unless Hazard was involved. Whereas when he wasn’t there the players shouldered some responsibility and stepped up.
2 – He could be infuriating at times. His ability to slow the game down, get the defenders to stop and then burst past them was what he’ll be remembered for, but it often stalled a counter-attack. We’d be breaking quickly, the ball would get to him, he’d slow down and then there would be 10 defenders in his way.
3 – In the same vein, often we’d break from defence and be 3 on 3. I’d be crying out for someone to make a diagonal run but there Hazard would be, sitting on his wing waiting for a pass. With no other options we’d be forced to pass it wide and we’d lose our impetus.
I have hope that Lampard is building a team where the creativity of one individual isn’t as important as it has been for us in the past.
Ed B (still going to miss you Eden)
Juventus getting ready for Pep
I’ve got a pet theory that I haven’t heard discussed as anywhere in the media as yet.
There’s been quite a few eyebrows raised about Sarri’s arrival at Juventus, given that their motto translates as “winning isn’t important, it’s the only thing that matters”. They’ve dispensed with a serial winner in Allegri and replaced him with a possession based ideologue that will, so the theory goes, get them playing a more attractive brand of football.
However, what I haven’t heard mentioned is whether this may have anything to do with getting the ground ready for the arrival of another manager in a season or two, namely one Pep Guardiola. I think it is safe to say he’ll only stick around in Manchester for another season, two at most, and that Italy would be his most likely destination afterwards. Are Juventus trying to get their squad and playing style to be something more akin to what Pep will implement so that he doesn’t have some of the issues he faced in first season at City?
Purely a speculative suggestion, but one that makes some sense to me.
Lewis, Busby Way
Ah Monday, that glorious day when you wake up and think ‘oh sh#t, is the weekend over already’. In order to make Mondays a bit more bearable I would like to ask for your season predictions. I will make a note of them and maybe do a quarterly review email as an update unless F365 wants to run it ? No rush, feel free to do your research……
1) what does the top 6 look like
2) who will be relegated
3) player of the season
4) young player of the season
5) manager of the season
6) surprise team of the year – 2 allowed
7) surprise player of the year 2 allowed
8) biggest letdown of the season – 2 players allowed
9) biggest waste of money – 2 allowed
7) champions league finalists
8) 1st manager sacked
9) bargain of the season
I know there is still 2 weeks to go but l think this might also be handy for those betting fans out there, maybe even Degsy can wade in…..
Ian (this time next year Rodney) LFC
Ireland – European semi-finalists
So, the Republic of Ireland are through to the semi-finals of the U-19 European Championships, sitting pretty alongside other semi-finalists France, Spain, and Portugal.
Ireland play Portugal in their semi-final on Wednesday at 3pm.
Later that evening, another Irish side, Dundalk, take on Qarabag in the first leg of the Champions League second qualifying round. Should they beat Qarabag over two legs, a tie against Ajax, Celtic, or Rosenborg (among others) in the final qualifying round could await; not to mention another go at the Europa League group stages… At the very least.
All in all, a big day for Irish football.
It also makes a nonsense of those tired old fools who say that Ireland have no young players coming through, or that our national league is nothing but a “pub league”, to borrow a comparison from John Nic… After all, four of this U-19 squad play for teams in the League Of Ireland.