One Liverpool player has become an expensive ‘hindrance’

Date published: Sunday 20th January 2019 12:07 - Matthew Stead

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Hot Chelsea takes
Just a couple of hot takes after watching that Chelsea performance against Arsenal.

I think we were all expecting Chelsea to struggle initially this season as the players tried to get up to speed with Sarrismo- the boss himself even warned us of such. While I always felt that our early season league standing wasn’t sustainable (and right now the small minority that talked of a three-horse title race in September would want to take a long, hard look at themselves), it’s interesting that the players have looked less sure of themselves as the season has worn on. It’s almost like they’re now being asked to sit a set of exams now that they last got to study for in July. What Sarri wouldn’t give for a week-long training camp in Dubai.

That being said, Sarri has shown a complete inability or refusal to react to what’s happening on the pitch. Arsenal entered this season in a similar situation to Chelsea, with a new manager and a set of players used to an entirely different tactical approach. Credit to Emery- it’s been far from plain sailing, but he’s versatile enough to admit when something isn’t working and bold enough to make changes that have usually paid off in the second half of matches. If Arsenal had put in the first half performance Chelsea did on Saturday, you can be sure he would have made changes at half-time, if not sooner. In contrast, Chelsea could have been 2-0 up, or 4-0 down, and yet Sarri would still have made the same uninspiring substitutions- Barkley for Kovacic around 60 minutes; Giroud and Hudson-Odoi on when the game is effectively gone.

The inability to perform running repairs on this Chelsea XI has led to a bizarre situation. Our two best passers are centre-backs (Jorginho can get back to me when he finds a team mate more than ten yards away). Our best defensive player is an attacking midfielder. Our best finisher is an assistant manager (half-joking, but Morata has been truly dreadful from day one). Sarri deserves a full summer to properly mould this squad in his image, but there’s no excuse for sitting idle at the wheel while we drift outside of the Champions League places.
Jeff, Some Place Far Away (Yes, that’ll do)

 

Sarri must have made the point about their mentality to the players on several occasions before resorting to a public dressing down, but I think the step before taking his dressing room talk public should have been a shake-up of the starting eleven.

Several players in the eleven have been underperforming for a while and naturally, the team has suffered as a consequence. Sarri never really gave Fabregas a chance in the league and  has never tried Kante or Luiz in the holding role. It didn’t stop Sarri from claiming he needed Fabregas or a replacement the moment Fabregas was gone. Alonso has a direct replacement but has been left in the team even when his performances have been 2nd grade. Willian and Pedro have as usual, struggled to provide the necessary end product on a consistent basis but are pretty much assured of their place in the team, while CHO is pushed towards Germany.

Kovacic to my understanding was supposed to be the Hamsik of this team since Sarri is hell bent on recreating the same tactics – and possibly personnel – as he had at Napoli. But what use is an attacking midfielder whose best quality is running with the ball like a Rolls Royce in a team which ought to the playing one touch, incisive football. His shooting has been poor and his ability to see and make a pass questionable, yet Sarri persists with him even when Barkley and RLC (who I think should have been clear first choice by now) have scored and assisted goals. Seeing a fit RLC on the bench was particularly grating.

Kante is world class but pulling off flicks and tricks in the box is not his game nor should it be expected of him. If he was a less humble person, the decision to play him out of position could have halted his contract renewal talks. So if Kante shockingly isn’t Ozil and Kovacic isn’t even a Delph on the creativity scale, where does creativity in midfield come from when Jorginho has over-hit every pass I’ve seen him play which could be counted as ‘penetrative’ or has been marked out of the game by anyone who cares to try. I think if Kante must play as a BBM then the CAM must be very creative. Kante can be used to pickup his defensive slack I think.

In conclusion, I don’t think you can virtually assure certain players of their place in the eleven, fail to give players who try hard to earn a place a chance, and then complain that the motivation in the squad is low. But that’s just me, I also think losses to Arsenal are not something to acknowledge.
Lawrence, CFC ( No pressurue then, Gonzalo)Abuja

 

Hazard warning
Playing Hazard as a false 9 can only work if there is another creative outlet. It makes absolutely no sense to play him as a false 9, and then also expect him to be the creator as well.

It is mainly for this reason that I am feeling very disillusioned by Sarri’s tactics. Jorginho is looking more and more one dimensional game by game, and I am unable to understand what Barkley/Kovacic contribute besides recycling possession (isn’t that Jorginho’s job anyway?).

There is a big problem when the player most likely to create a goalscoring chance is your center back. I am scared Sarri is driving Hazard out of the club with his tactics.
Vinay (please save us Higuain), Madras

 

Take Hazard out of this Chelsea team and all you’re left with is Van Gaal’s Man united.
Ade

 

Keita concerns
Well I didn’t enjoy that
. In the first half we were quite poor. We were really very slow in possession and it feels like Keita is being played in a position that he’s both unfamiliar and unsuited to. This makes him more of a hindrance than anything else.

For RB Leipzig he played through the centre of midfield but now he seems to be a sort of left sided midfielder. He’s not got a rapport with Robertson here though; they don’t know where each other are and don’t link well in the way Mané and Robertson do. He also can’t influence the game in the same way; he doesn’t press well and doesn’t know when he needs to drop back to cover the LB.

The thing is, I think he might need a lot longer to settle at Liverpool because he was such a force of nature at RB Leipzig and perhaps the truth is that we just aren’t asking for that from him. Liverpool have enough talent that we don’t need a new Steven Gerrard, we just need a high energy player with a decent bit of creativity. This is perhaps hard for him to get to grips with. It’s a shame because everyone was so excited for him to join but I suspect we might not start to see top performances from him until he settles into the new role that Klopp wants from him. You feel like if injuries improve then he might not feature much until next season.

It was good that at least in the second half our tempo clearly took a big step up which resulted in two quick goals to turn the game around. We did our best to make a mess of things but then also found a way to close the game out and take the sting out of it once Milner got sent off. This was the most uncomfortable mix of all the worst Liverpool’s I know: can’t break down a low block, giving away cheap goals from set pieces and managing to look like the pressure was getting to them. Thankfully they overcame themselves and found another way to victory today.
Minty, LFC

 

Flexibility for hours
There’s been lots written on the pages about Liverpool’s flirtation with 4-2-3-1 which uses Salah at the point with Firmino behind, and it’s merits as a more attacking formation over Klopp’s favoured 4-3-3.

Now, there seems to be a third, yet more attacking formation emerging, the 4-2-4, served up for four second half goals against Palace this weekend.

With Fabinho’s breakthrough into the team as a true defensive midfielder (our first since Lucas), pairing him with a sitter such as Henderson (but crucially not Gini nor Keita) gives a nice solid base in front of a reliable centre half pairing, leaving full backs to bomb on, wingers to tuck in, and two centre forwards to press or drop deep.

This week saw Mané move to the right in order to accommodate Keita on the left wing, which worked really well with Keita naturally sitting more central and the fantastic Robertson doing his best impression of what Kante would look like if he were a winger.

Firmino generally has a free role in this formation which I doubt Klopp would ever use without him, FA cup against Wolves not withstanding, and it is what allows the formation to function when Liverpool push all their players forwards.

A few times in the game, Liverpool had two full backs, two wingers, and two strikers all in a line against Palace’s defenders. To put six players that high up the pitch puts real stress on defensive lines, especially when Firmino and Salah are so laterally mobile.

Ultimately, in the big games these kind of tactics will matter less, as Klopp will revert to the preferred 4-3-3, but seeing his flexibility reap points in a tough game (that might have been lost today, or in previous years), is really refreshing.
KC (does anyone else in the top 6 use more than 1 formation?) 

 

 

Stat’s life
Let me start this by stating that I don’t think Liverpool will win the league this year.

However, if they do, it will result in an interesting (to me at least) stat: since the 1960’s, Liverpool would only have gone one decade without winning the league – the noughties.

They won the league in the first season ending in the 90’s and the last ending in the teenies.

So in spite of a 29 year wait, there’s only a calendar decade without a title.

It can be the new net spend!

Doesn’t matter anyway because they won’t win it, and even if they do, many more games like yesterday’s and I won’t be around to watch it. My ticker was close to stopping.
Dom Littleford 

 

Virgil van Dijtus
As a Liverpool fan this season things have really taken a turn. I’ve arrived at a stage where although we won yesterday, I’m absolutely fuming.

I was muttering to myself, slamming doors and tossing and turning in my sleep. All at the fact that we conceded 3 goals. Never did I think I’d become the guy who cared more about clean sheets than actual goals. But here we are.

I actually messaged my friend before the game, who highlighted this as an occasion to ‘knock a few in,’ saying “No, no. A comfy 1-0 is all we’re after.”

I’ve labelled this newfound condition, Virgil Van-Dijtus.

And I’m heavily afflicted.
Ryan C (I’m still ecstatic that we won), LFC

 

Some thoughts
* Didn’t get in on Friday but a few points on the “Big Six”: there is dominance in every league or sport  someone all the other teams aspire to topple and at least it’s still a bot competitive   no one  has retained since 2009 same as the superbowl which Tom reed was lauding and there have been more diverse  winners than the bundesliga who he  also hyped   where two teams have routinely won in the same period.

* I also disbelief that this is permanent and a reason to grow war mainly because there is money every where and every one of these teams is maybe one bad decision from falling out . Poch could leave and be replaced by someone who will need resources for instance or United could hire another manager with a philosophy or we find out Ole only had a temporary Mary Poppins effect.

* I really hope it isn’t a temporary effect  and even if he isn’t retained  Ole’s results have been staggering already matched  Jose’s longest streak  and is three wins away from surpassing his points total for the season in close to half the tome if he keeps up this pace. That this has achieved in a manner that brings back memories of the old days i.e taking the fight to the opposition instead of exposing a bad defense to constant torture shows where most of the problems have been.

*  It’s early days but is  Hasenhuttl’s start at Southampton not another potential nail in the coffin of the dad’s army of British  managers. This was the opening they needed and  let’s be honest the Hudderfield job is a poisoned chalice and someone with no league experience is making it look easy after taking over from one of them .They might all need to get used to punditry and  championship sides if this continues.

* Utd’s victory meant that Utd would either finish the week 5th or still 6th but closer to 4th place than anyone thought possible in the Jose era . That champions league  race is seriously becoming intriguing will Higuain improve Chelse, Will Arsenal improve away from Home,Can Utd maintain momentum,Will the loss of Kane make it 4 teams after 2 spots.
Timi, MUFC

 

Loving the race
Can I say as fan of a team that isn’t in the Premiership, over the past few years it has been easy to drift away from really caring about who wins the title as the race has usually been won by someone that has marched away with it. Now Leicester are the obvious exception because it was such a shock, but even they did it at a canter in the end.

This year though has been completely different. I’d started to drift off again when City looked unstoppable early on. It felt like Liverpool we’re matching results rather than performances, but they did.

Now looking at the table, and this is all hypothetical obviously, if Liverpool had suffered a couple more defeats which I’m sure most would have expected by now (not taking ANYTHING away from them, they’re where they are for a very good reason), then the top 6 would be covered by 10 points. That would be crazy. The competitive nature of this division has gone to a new level.

I wonder this because, say if Spurs had a slightly bigger squad with a bit more depth, or United had replaced Jones/Mourinho sooner, or Fernandinho had stayed fit all season, or Chelsea had a settled striker, or Arsenal had stopped being so Arsenal-y, this title race could be even more intriguing. It feels like this division is so finely poised but could be even closer with a few tweaks to the big 6.

I love the fact that nobody looks invincible and Crystal Palace have proved that in recent weeks with performances against City and Liverpool.

I’m not particularly a fan of Liverpool but I wouldn’t begrudge them lifting the title if they keep this form up. Hand on heart though, I think they’d find it hard to retain it if the other big teams around them improve their flaws.

The greatest Premier League seasons in memory are the ones that have 2 or more teams fighting down to the last games, not the ones settled in late March.

As good as this year is turning out to be, something tells me that next year is going to be one of the best.
Chris Hardy

 

Fine work
So Troy Deeney got fined £20,000 yes that much for saying a Ref bottled it after some game a few weeks back. Thought it was a bit excessive myself tbh

Anyway to my point. I watching Soccer Saturday and they were taking about it & Paul Merson did ask a good question (never thought I’d use those words) where does this money players & managers get fined go? Does it go to charity, does to go to grassroots or does it just line the pockets of all those big wigs in the FA??

I’d be interested to see if anybody does know this and if not shouldn’t the FA be obliged to tell people where this money goes to.
Kevin, L.F.C  (I’m starting to believe, but won’t say those dreaded words just yet) Eíre. 

 

Raised on Wolves
Dear Ed,

As an Arsenal fan I don’t tend to look much further than my own navel but I can’t help but notice how brilliant Wolves have been this season. What a great team to watch. I’ve been keeping an eye on them since they got that draw off us back in November thinking they could give anyone a game, and they can. The spirit in that Leicester game was great to see – they’re a team you take lightly at your peril.

All the best,
Chris, AFC (sure, someone else will write in about the Chelsea match).

 

Andy Carroll signing
How is this man still earning a living in the Premier League?

I wouldn’t swap him for Danny Graham (obviously)
Brian BRFC

 

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