Call me maybe
‘BETTER THAN RONALDO’ screams the back-page headline in the Daily Mirror, over the backdrop of a large picture of a celebrating Harry Kane.
Adrian Kajumba accompanies the claim with the following opening paragraph:
‘Harry Kane plundered his sixth hat-trick of 2017 to earn a stunning tribute from gaffer Mauricio Pochettino: “He’s better than Cristiano Ronaldo.”‘
Now, said Pochettino claim actually being in quote marks would suggest, along with the headline, that this is something the manager has said. Let’s take a look.
“Cristiano is fantastic but Harry is maybe better because he is young.”
To be fair, ‘MAYBE BETTER THAN RONALDO BECAUSE HE IS YOUNG’ is not the snappiest of headlines.
John Cross was in Moscow to watch ‘wasteful’ Liverpool. His assessment that Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho are just as culpable in this latest setback is accurate. But most would suggest they are to blame for their profligacy and little else.
Not Cross. ‘The Fab Four was so gung-ho, so attack-minded, that it does leave the defence incredibly vulnerable,’ he writes. A combined two tackles and four interceptions is hardly a terrible defensive output from the quartet, but do carry on.
‘That is why they are conceding goals and why they are also scoring them,’ Cross adds. Because Salah should have saved Fernando’s long-range free-kick, the attack-minded fool.
Of course, said free-kick was conceded by a member of the terribly named ‘Fab Four’. Coutinho, in a supposedly rare moment of non-attack-mindedness, was trying to mop up what Cross describes as Emre Can’s ‘defensive slackness’.
But it is Salah, Firmino, Mane and Coutinho, four attackers being attack-minded, that is the problem. Oh yes.
Solid as a rock
Cross kindly offered his player ratings from Russia:
On Trent Alexander-Arnold: ‘Forget defending, bombed forward at every opportunity’
On Joel Matip: ‘Looks cumbersome at times, coped pretty well and was fairly solid’
On Dejan Lovren: ‘Enjoys getting forward for set-pieces, solid enough at back?’
On Alberto Moreno: ‘For once, stayed back and kept his position in defence. Fairly solid’
On Emre Can: ‘Caught in possession, bombs forward a bit too much’
There are three key points here:
- Do not ‘bomb forward’. Unless you are good at ‘bombing forward’.
- Should one really be asking questions in their own player ratings piece?
- Just imagine how many goals Liverpool would have conceded if three of their defenders weren’t ‘solid’.
Someone needs a thesaurus for Christmas.
Load of Babel
The advent of Twitter has rendered ‘things you may have missed’ pieces rather redundant. By the time of publication, newspapers are already hours behind pictures, videos and GIFs being shared of every single notable moment throughout a match.
The Daily Mail plough on regardless, and well done to them. In fact, they do not even include the ‘may have’ in the headline: these are six things we definitely missed, without a shadow of a doubt, from Liverpool’s draw on Tuesday.
Everyone missed Spartak fans unfurling a banner emblazoned with the message: ‘Win or Die’.
Everyone missed the fact that this was the first time Mane, Salah, Firmino and Coutinho were all starting together.
Everyone missed Liverpool’s ‘defensive fragility’.
By the time Ajay Rose reaches his final point of six, Mediawatch senses that he has given up. In a piece headlined ‘Spartak Moscow 1-1 Liverpool: – SIX THINGS YOU MISSED’, Ryan Babel scoring for Besiktas against RB Leipzig is number six.
Sign of The Times
According to The Times, Liverpool ‘wasted a cluster of clear-cut chances last night to secure their first success in Europe’s elite club competition since 2009’.
Mediawatch rarely makes a point of being pedantic (*ahem*), but Liverpool’s last Champions League win came in September 2014. It was a 2-1 home win over Ludogorets thanks to a stoppage-time penalty, so one can be forgiven for trying to forget it, mind.
In rude Delph
Fabian Delph played at left-back for Manchester City against Shakhtar Donetsk. He was really good. He made three tackles, four interceptions and one clearance, and was crowned “man of the match” by manager Pep Guardiola after the game.
David Anderson of the Daily Mirror was not wholly impressed. He says it highlights the ‘flaw’, the ‘uncharacteristic oversight’ in Guardiola’s squad.
‘Guardiola had probably not expected Aleksandar Kolarov to go, but the Serb’s head was turned by an offer from Roma,’ Anderson writes. ‘So it was left to Delph to smooth off his square corners and try to be a round peg in a round hole.
‘Guardiola had every faith in Delph because as a former midfielder himself, the Catalan believes they are the most intelligent players on the pitch due to their ability to play in defence and attack.
‘Delph was probably just glad to get a start and it was only his 21st in his two-and-a-half years at City.’
Anderson does concede that Delph ‘did make a fine tackle’ at one stage and was ‘not overworked’, but he says that ‘bigger challenges lie ahead if Mendy remains out’.
‘Mendy driving forward for City from his left-back position has been a big plus for them this season and Delph did not do that.’
No, but he did create two goalscoring chances, fewer than only David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne, and completed three dribbles, fewer than only Leroy Sane.
Add the fact that full-backs under Guardiola often tuck into central midfield, as Anderson himself concedes in the piece, and that Danilo offers a more defensive option as Mendy’s replacement if needed, and you start to wonder what all the fuss is about.
We are Young
While we are on the subject…
Man City spend over £130m on transfer fees for full backs then start their first home Champions League game with Fabian Delph at left back?
— Duncan Castles (@DuncanCastles) September 26, 2017
You would think that the lickspittle of Jose Mourinho, whose Manchester United side is currently doing rather well with Ashley Young as their starting left-back, would know better.
The Dunn thing
Also in Manchester was Andy Dunn, who provided player ratings for the Daily Mirror.
He claims that Ederson was ‘not completely convincing’, that Kyle Walker was ‘not overly happy’ after being ‘called on to do some defending’, that Nicolas Otamendi was ‘not a complete liability’ and that Delph was ‘exposed at times’. They are given a 7, 5, 6 and 6 out of ten respectively.
A reminder that City kept a clean sheet.
Writes John Cross in the Daily Mirror:
‘Nathaniel Chalobah is facing a race against time to be fit for the World Cup.’
Translation: Uncapped player is facing a race against time to be fit for a tournament his country has not yet definitely qualified for.
Quite why the story omitted quotes from Watford performance director Gavin Benjafield is impossible to say. Considering he stated that “we are expecting to see him re-integrating into the squad well before the new year”, this might be a boring race.
Steve McManaman, goalkeeping expert, to BT Sport:
“The fact that he can use his hands really helped him there, didn’t it?”
Recommended reading of the day
Adam Bate on James Tarkowski and the dying art of defending.
Pete Jenson interviews Saul Niguez.
Rob Conlon on Leeds United and racism.