Does the City-Liverpool rivalry lack rivalry? And much more…

Date published: Wednesday 13th April 2022 9:46 - Editor F365

Pep Guardiola and Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold share a joke

Does the Manchester City-Liverpool rivalry lack rivalry? Chelsea vs Real Madrid, the Ronaldo/Rashford dichotomy, dirty Villa and lots more…

Send your thoughts to theeditor@football365.com

 

Chelsea vs Real Madrid
Gutted, well and truly gutted by the end result, now I expected Real Madrid to advance after the first leg, but the performance from Chelsea up until the Rodrygo goal was absolutely phenomenal and really had us all believing they could do it, it feels extra painful after the Alonso goal was disallowed for handball, very harsh and if it was given in favour of us for example it would be one where I’d say “got away with one there” but now is not the time to be negative or analyse officiating calls, we played our hearts out and should be proud.

On a side note, our podcast team spent the evening watching the game at a local pub with fellow Chelsea fans and the atmosphere was fantastic, truly reminds me to be grateful of such a vibe and that connection, especially after the pandemic, football truly is nothing without the fans no matter where we watch the sport we love so much!

Now onto Wembley where we can book ourselves yet another FA Cup Final if we defeat Crystal Palace.
The Admin @ At The Bridge Pod

 

Chelsea were dreadful in the first leg, good in the second leg.  Just like Arsenal used to be in the Champions League.  And nobody thought Arsenal were “heroic”.
Matthew, Belfast

 

You do everything to perfection for 80 mins, have the game in the bag, no way back for Madrid and then Modric produces that pass. It should be in an art gallery alongside other beautiful works of art. Instead of screaming “what a goal” , i ust screamed “what a pass” as Rodrygo buried it.
Ken, Cork, Ireland

 

A pass like Modric’s to Rogrygo. That’s a reason to be perpetually in love with football, isn’t it?
Kwabena

 

I have sent a few e-mails over the years about the fact I hope fans of opposing teams can stop slagging each other off, just because I support “team a” and you support “team b.”

Chelsea were outstanding tonight, as a Liverpool fan I should find it funny that they are out but I don’t, I enjoyed that game more than any match I have watched for months…of course there are hugely important issues with Chelsea at the moment but if we can just take a couple of hours of pure football…wow, what a game.
Genuine Chelsea fans have my sympathy

Cheers,
Mark Jones, LFC, Liverpool

Does the Man City/Liverpool rivalry lack rivalry?
To start with, I am not sure that all and sundry should be waxing sublime about the big game last Sunday. I thought it was a decent game, but I can’t remember the last time Liverpool gifted the ball to the opposing team so much. I thought we were properly off our game, and were very flattered to get a point, and whilst City were the better team, I still think that they were some way off their best. The hectic season is taking its toll and the game was not particularly special, quality wise. Exciting for sure, but I’ve seen better games many times this season.

People can argue about whether or not these two represent one of the truly great rivalries of the premiership era, but to me, it’s all a bit too polite and respectful to be a proper rivalry. There’s nothing wrong with being polite and respectful of course – when you look at the modern game, I suppose it makes a nice change for two teams to go at each other hell for leather without even a glimpse of it boiling over, but that lack of edge makes it all a bit too clinical for me. Give me some tasty tackles, players squaring up, managers arguing, the odd pizza getting thrown…it makes for a much more compelling experience.

Towards the end of the game, Van Dijk cynically took De Bruyne out, and De Bruyne seemed to almost approve of the foul (and it was a clever foul and a very good use of a booking late on), but he would have had every right to have shown a flash of anger.

I don’t know, I’m a civil kind of fella, so I don’t approve of bad behaviour, but sometimes it feels just a little too sterile…
Mat (is there really a Reddit group where all the “characters” on here meet or is that too sad, even for them?)

 

Self-induced myopia
Rob asks if his view that Liverpool have been robbed of the title by refereeing decisions is tainted by his love of Liverpool.  Rob, the short answer is yes, of course it is.  I’m a spurs fan and have by no means watched enough city and Liverpool games to judge, but even I can point to a couple of obvious examples to counter your points.  I assume you watched the city game at anfield, but seem to have conveniently forgotten that Milner should obviously have been sent off.  And I also watched the spurs game where yes, Kane could have gone and Liverpool could have had a penalty but equally spurs should have had one too, and there was a clear foul on the build up to one of your goals.  Given Salah and Mane’s general balance issues in the box when in the vague vicinity of opponents i very much doubt if Liverpool are net down on such decisions overall, but selectively picking the incidents that help your case certainly doesn’t prove it either way
Phil, London

 

Embarrassing Liverpool
I’ve been a liverpool fan since 91′

In that time I’ve seen some entertaining teams to watch (thanks to the spice boys) who ultimately won almost nothing.

I’ve seen some sides which win trophies too.

R seems to think we should be embarrassed about the current liverpool. This is the first season in which klopp has been our manager that we are top of the VAR table. Every other season we have been bottom two, including our title win. City are also only two VAR decisions behind us. But leaving that aside I don’t feel embarrassed about the current Liverpool team or tactics.

We deserve to be where we are. We play good football and it’s largely successful and if not for one of the greatest premier League teams, led by one of the greatest managers ever we would have far more than one title. In 2004 we won the champs league, we deserved to be in the final but in total honesty did not deserve to win it.

2006 we deserved to be in the FA cup final but you could argue we didn’t deserve to win it. (We did)

2018/19 we deserved to be in a title race and we did deserve to win it, city did too.

Whats my point? There have been plenty of times it’s been embarrassing to be a Liverpool fan, during hodgesons reign when we literally never won away from home and he said if United want to take our best players what can we do. Or when Rafa sat there petulently whinging I’m just the coach. Or when we were almost bankrupt. Or one of the many monologues Brendan went on during that cringey TV show. Or when klopp seems to think the wind only affects the opposition teams. All embarrassing.

But being in this title race playing good football against one of the best premier League teams in history led by one of the best managers in history is not one of them.
Lee

 

There’s absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about when you consider Liverpool’s trophy haul over the last 5 years. As good as we’ve been – and we’ve been amazing – Manchester City have just been that tiny, little bit better.

Finally winning the Premier League was an enormous monkey off our back. Ask Roy Evans, Gerard Houllier, Rafa Benitez, Roy Hodgson and Brendan Rodgers how embarrassing they’d have found it to *only* win one title with Liverpool.

Winning the Champions League and getting to another final doesn’t feel terribly humiliating – with a semi at minimum to come. Pep would kill for that at City.

People can write off the League Cup, Super Cup and World Club Championship all they like – but no other Liverpool team ever managed to be world champions. It’s not a small thing to achieve.

Without Pep, we’d have won 3 Premier League titles but that’s the only thing to have a tinge of regret about. We haven’t had the squad to manage an assault on all four fronts until this season and Jurgen has sacrificed the domestic cups to win the bigger competitions – which was the right decision too. Our European record is amazing but winning multiple Champions Leagues is phenomenally difficult. Only Madrid have ever managed it.

So it’s just the leagues we might have won more of, but we’re up against the greatest domestic team in history. Better than us in the 70s and 80s, better than United in the 90s and 00s. They’ve posted ridiculous amounts of points and yet somehow over the last 5 years, we’ve only won one point less. They are extraordinary records. Unfortunately, the feeling persists that we’ll fall agonisingly short again this year – our run in looks a sight harder.  But we’d have beaten any other Premier League winning team.

This is just a great time to watch these two sides play. They’re the best two teams in the country, the best two teams in Europe and simply, the best two teams in Premier League history. We’ve won less than we might like in the League and City have won less than they’d like in Europe. There has to be a winner and there has to be a loser and as Alan Shearer said at the weekend, neither deserves to be a loser. It’s just that someone has to come second. Maybe we win the quadruple, maybe City win the treble and maybe we share the trophies between us.

Whatever the final results, there’s absolutely nothing for either side to be embarrassed about.
James

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp puts on his medal

Best games
Reading Manjo LFC’s email I thought ‘well played, that man’. No histrionics, no hatred, no slagging off trying to get clicks or trolls or whatever it’s called (Ashwin, R, Stewie- take note). Just a bloke enjoying his footy and knowing the garden isn’t always so rosy.  So as a United fan for many years, I don’t necessarily agree with scousers on many points but I would break precedence and happily buy Manjo a pint and discuss footy with you – the good, the bad and indeed the ugly.
But firstly you got me thinking, as good as Sundays game was, it definitely wasn’t the best game I’ve ever seen. So what was? If I limit it to games I attended, there’s many but one that sticks out more than most was one we lost 5-3 to West Brom back in 1978. Why the best – ah, where to start? My first season with a season ticket (United Rd section), United’s flair with 2 proper wingers, a West Brom team with Robbo, Laurie Cunningham and Big Cyrille, so many great goals. The game just had everything.

So as we’re not going to be playing anywhere near that good for the foreseeable, what everyone’s else’s one game that stands out in the memory?
Steve (ex-Flixton and Timperley Red), Ontario

 

Diving
Phil( can we drop the phrase ” he went to ground quite easily” please) Liasides is right about diving
… sort of.  They have evolved into something different where it is hard to see how they can be stamped out, as many hoped.

Today’s dives are rarely ‘pure’ dives but have evolved into going down easy under minimal contact. It is likely now trained into players at youth level as a part of the game, and I doubt they even see it as cheating the way those of us of an older generation would. Similar to other ‘dark arts’ the terminology has been developed to sell this strategy to conscientious players. Time-wasting is ‘game management’.  Tactical fouling is ‘a necessary foul’ and for diving there is ‘earning’ penalty or ‘having every right to go down’ and there is less shame around the behaviour for these players. It’s very rare to see a pure dive these days. Part of the game. This is not because of VAR, which is too new to have caused this behaviour. Players have become more subtle and less like a stuntman for a bad action movie.

Still, if VAR hasn’t caused the this behaviour, it has created the perfect habitat for it to thrive. The pure dive in the box is becoming extinct. In the VAR habitat, they cannot win pens and they may be punished. The evolved going down under contact on the other hand is perfect for VAR as it isn’t provable as a dive and VAR is all about clear and obvious. VAR has lowered the bar for penalties, with virtually any contact with legs before the ball being seen as worthy. A player’s instinct more than ever is to go down no matter what.

That leaves the ref simply judging on a sliding scale if the contact is enough. Thanks to VAR, there is a low-cost, high-reward strategy of getting a penalty. Go down on any contact in the box. Bonus points if you are a master of leaning in subtly, or adjusting your run to catch the defender’s leg. They won’t book you. They can’t technically. Refs have lost interest in using judgement of intent and now focus on what is on camera. They won’t judge if a player should have been able to stay on their feet or if he was put off. Players know they don’t have to over-act they just need to entice a tackle and ‘draw the foul’. Gaining a penalty is a true art now. I hate it, but what can actually be done to stop it? It really has become part of the game and in the VAR world or clear and obvious, there is no way to alter the rules to just be more lenient because you will end up with inconsistent interpretations of the law which is another problem highlighted recently that they are trying to stamp out if anything.

The only solution I can see is to reduce the reward for going down easy. Similar to handball pens, often it seems ludicrous that a clear shot at goal from a perfect spot is rewarded for something where the attacking team was not denied a clear goal-scoring opportunity. I don’t know if this is a reduction in the size of the penalty box or a decision from the ref as to the quality of the chance denied. How many penalties have been awarded for soft contact on the edge of the box with a player heading away from goal. These penalty decisions need cutting out.
Nic (too old to accept it as ‘part of the game’)

 

Harry Kane
This is a simple mail; watching Harry Kane these past few months is mind bending. His vision, capacity for first touch passes that have no right to be made, and his telepathy with Son, and now Kulusevski borders on laughable.

Pity he wasn’t around for the first four months because had he of been engaged I suspect Spurs wouldn’t be too concerned where Arsenal are as fourth, if not third would have been a foregone conclusion.

He has England’s record in sight and is twenty three goals shy of becoming Spurs greatest ever goalscorer, which, considering that title has belonged to Greaves for fifty two years, that really is something.

There is an innate pleasure in watching players who are simply a step above the norm. Salah, De Bruyne and Kane are, for my money, streets ahead of the competition.
Dan M

 

Ten things that could still cheer us up this season
There’s a lot of misery around at the moment. But it is possible to be happy and enjoy what’s happening at other clubs even if your own doesn’t win all the trophies. I thought of ten things that could happen that would bring me cheer in the remainder of the football season, even if my team doesn’t win. You might not agree with these, but here are my 10:

1. West Ham winning the Europa League. Unlikely but sometimes everything just clicks into place. David Moyes would be a hero if they just get to the final.

2. Watching Christian Erikssen playing and scoring. Just to see the man alive, to be honest, is wonderful. Scoring and helping Brentford to mid-table safety is a bonus.

3. Real Madrid Benzema-ing their way to the CL trophy. Because Benzema should really be a verb. Or an adjective, as in “PSG got absolutely Benzemad.”

4. Spurs making it to the top four. Given how woeful they were earlier in the season, I’d be delighted for them to edge out Arsenal, West Ham and Man U.

5. Everton staying up with Frank Lampard. The rookie who has looked pretty clueless this season would be silencing a few critics if Everton put in more performances like Saturday’s.

6. Or Burnley staying up again. Cue Sean Dyche saying “I knew all along we’d be fine” and all of us looking like idiots.

7. Last day drama. If there’s still 1 or 3 points between the top two, or between 17 and 18th at kickoff, the final day will be great fun.

8. Ronaldo ending the season on a downer, scoring an ultimately meaningless goal in a last-day defeat, a bit similar to Steven Gerrard’s goal in his final Liverpool game, a 6-1 defeat to Stoke. Because pride comes before a fall.

9. Alternatively, Rashford getting out of his lapse in form to score the winner against someone like Chelsea, would be hilarious.

10. Away from the Premier League, Union Saint-Gilloise (promoted last summer) winning the Belgian League would be an extraordinary story. They are leading the way going into the playoff phase.

What would you like to see?

PS I miss reading Sarah Winterburn’s articles. Where is she?
Paul in Brussels

 

Dirty Villa
Just in response to Jan, Prauge regarding Villas approach on Saturday. Watching us before Gerrard arrived I was constantly struck by how often we were getting fouled compared to how often we conceded free kicks. I decided to look up the stats and found we were comfortably top of the league in terms of fouls suffered compared to fouls conceded. When Gerrard came in he made controlled aggression a top priority and has mentioned it in many of his press conferences. The man clearly did his homework.

This approach will cross the line at times and it is up to the referee to keep a lid on it and judge what is acceptable. While the challenges mentioned were very strong I would argue they are controlled, not intended to hurt the opponent but even with my Villa myopia would not really have complained if yellows were issued. I do not like challenges that are out to hurt the opposition and admit it is a fine line Gerrard has his team walking.

As an aside it wasn’t just aggression that enabled us to smother Spurs all first half and create so many chances. There was no shortage of pressing and skill involved. I can’t think of another game we’ve been involved in where the scoreline did not in any way reflect what happened for 85 mins! But hey, that’s football innit?

I hate whataboutary but please forgive me this indulgence. Go look up Ben Mee’s tackle on Wesley that put him out of football for a year and has in effect ended his career.  That was a tackle designed to hurt. He had no actual need to go to ground, he had won the race to the ball but decided to slide and scissor kick him anyway. He was a Brazilian international. Played 3 games from Brugge and one for a Brazilian team since and Ben Mee is still going around intentionally hurting his fellow professionals on a weekly basis.

Also, unless you are Liverpool, Chelsea or Man City and collect the very best players like 90’s Panini stickers, what are you supposed to do? Just play their style of game only worse? We tried that with Dean Smith and without a £100m player found it did not work. Gerrard is clearly trying to fashion a team in his own image, just as Pep has done. It’s just Gerrard’s game was a mix of high energy, aggression and skill instead.

Again, Gerrards approach is a fine line made all the blurrier by everyone’s subjective opinion on what is or isn’t acceptable. I am struggling a little with it as this email shows. The primal, Sunday morning footballer in me would rather we walk this line than get bullied out of games like we have in the past, but I never want to see a footballer’s career ruined by a Ben Mee type tackle either. I guess there’s no place for this type of woolly opinion in a ‘Doors vs Wheels’ world but there we are.
Funstar Andy

 

The Ronaldo/Rashford Dichotomy
I for one, absolutely love Ashwin – Man Utd’s rants on Rashford in the Mailbox. How can a fan be so mercilessly obsessed against one of their own? Granted he’s a bad player but there are so many others to choose from in that club that it puzzled me, why single him out?

And I think I know why and it is human nature. It’s like a coworker raised on a pedestal and being promoted all the time, but all they do is socialize well and organize extra-curricular events in the office; but when it comes to actual work they are lazy b*stards taking credit for someone else’s work. You’d obviously hate them more than someone who is just as lazy but has no qualms about what they are.

Which brings me to the other side of the coin. You also have people who are absolutely stellar in their field of work, but one heckling or criticism and they knock phones off of kids’ hands. How can both these types be so well exemplified for all to see at Man Utd?

The only sad thing for me about Erik Ten Hag’s imminent appointment at Man Utd, is that if he gets rid of all the personnel causing drama at that club, he will have in spirit knocked the popcorn bucket off of my hands.
NIkhil, LFC, Chicago (Ashwin does have a point though that if F365 did change his title to mean something that completely changes the tone of the original, that’s not cool)

Felt compelled to respond to Ashwin – Man United Fan from the earlier mails. I’m not a Man U fan, I’m a Tottenham fan. I would also say up front that I am a fan of Marcus Rashford and I am what many would call a bleeding heart liberal (or a pinko or whatever, not sure these terms are widely used in the UK).

Don’t have much to say about Rashford’s on-field performance. Everyone in the Red part of Manchester is playing like shit more or less, so seems like a strange thing to single out the local lad. Main thing I’d say is that if you find yourself calling someone “Charity Boy” or “Breakfast Man” as an insult, you should probably take a long look in the mirror. My guess is that what you’ll see in the mirror is a jackass.

The world needs more breakfast men and charity boys.
Harry, Los Angeles, COYS

 

Not a united fan but I feel the need to comment on all the negativity aimed at Marcus Rashford. By all means criticise, he’s not been great this season and when you’re paid the money the pressure is something you have to put up with. But surely it needs to be a about what he’s doing on the pitch. Maybe he’s not focussed, fully fit, never fully recovered from an injury, not fitting in with the system, low on confidence, out of form… What ever it could be we don’t really know and neither do the rags. We’re speculating but as I said it’s fair game.

But why the need to criticise the MBE, the book writing (probably ghost written) and any other extra-curricular activity. He trains for maybe 20-30 hours per week, a couple of match days and that’s it. At home he’s probably got a cleaner and someone looking after the garden. He can afford to eat out regularly. It’s not a full diary. I have a full time job but still find time for brewing beer and wine, having tropical fish, currently renovating the bathroom,  being a single parent and having a life generally. My professional capacity is not compromised in any way by how much time I spend doing other things. In fact my employer spends time and money focussing on the wellbeing and mental health of the staff. They want to know that I’m doing these things so that my performance at work doesn’t suffer.

Footballers are human and are entitled to a life. They’re subject to a lot of  the same pressures we have with kids, relationships, friends and family plus a few more we’ll never know or understand. They have ups and downs just like the rest of us. I go to work with a cold and I’m ok sat in an air-conditioned office. But in elite sport those minimal increments can have a big impact on personal and team performance. But to say Marcus Rashford’s recent poor performance is down to his extra-curricular activities is rubbish. It’s far more preferable and less impactful than going to nightclubs, kicking cats and some of the other nonsense footballers get up to, much of which the newspapers won’t report in case they lose their seats in the press room. He’s a young lad and may never get back to the heights of his earlier career. Sometimes that happens but maybe he will get back to his former glories, nobody knows. But whatever happens footballwise it certainly won’t be because he said some things on twitter about feeding poor kids.
Rob, Gravesend

 

Maybe Ashwin is right – maybe Rashford has decided to phone it in for United for the remainder of his contract. I would imagine he’s already earned well in excess of £50m in his career, maybe he’s bored of it. The women’s tennis #1 just retired at 25, saying ‘I don’t have the physical drive, the emotional want and everything it takes to challenge yourself at the very top of the level any more’. His non-football activities certainly suggest he knows (or more likely has learned from the events of the last couple of years) that there’s more to life than kicking a ball about and being racially abused for not doing it accurately in a penalty shoot-out. In which case, one assessment would be that the honest thing to do would be to ask for his contract to be terminated and do the things he finds more rewarding in a non-financial sense. But I would imagine his experience of the ‘fans’ and media so far are telling him it would be a bad idea to be honest about it – he’s hardly going to get ‘good for you and good luck in whatever you do next’ based on prior experience. He’s going to be racially abused and told to pay back what he earned this season.

Maybe there’ll be a book about it one day. I recommend reading the Pat Nevin one in the meantime. (and Ashwin, calm down).
Shappo

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