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How the title will be run…
As The Greatest Gosh Darn League In The Whole World reaches it’s exciting conclusion on Sunday, there still seems to be a lot of noise around Liverpool being lucky.
For some reason this seems to upset Liverpool fans, who think racking up just shy of 100 points was done by matching their brilliant attack with some brilliant defenders and a proper ‘keeper. Personally, I find an underserved and unexpected win far more satisfying than being any good. Ask any Chelsea fan if they enjoyed their procession of efficient 2-0 wins under Mourinho to the Premier League title, or their Champions League win with Drogba ****housing Barca in the semis and doing Bayern on pens more. I’d wager most would vote for the latter.
I don’t much care if Liverpool have *actually* been disproportionately lucky this season…the narrative is king, so I my sincere wish is that the fates properly own this, and the final day pans out like this:
85th min – Man City are leading 1-0 at Brighton. Liverpool are 0-0 with Wolves.
86th min – a scuffed David Silva clearance hits Sergio Aguero’s left buttock, the ball trickles past a hapless Ederson and Brighton are level.
92nd Min – Wolves have a free kick. Ruben Neves blasts the ball towards the Liverpool goal. It hits James Milner in the face and loops into the air. A freakishly strong wind picks the ball up, Rui Patricio off his line and ready to celebrate the end of a successful season with his team watches the ball sail over his head, the gorm draining from him by the second. It bounces a few times on the way into the goal, but a goal it most certainly is and Liverpool are champions.
It’s the perfect result. Liverpool fans can enjoy a league win after all these years, everyone who dislikes Liverpool can bemoan their luck and Pep and his Billion Pound Team learn something or the other probably.
Anything less will be a let down.
Liverpool DO need players
Apparently, Seb Stafford-Bloor thinks ‘Liverpool should do precisely nothing this summer…’
‘By contrast, Liverpool are set. An additional centre-half certainly wouldn’t hurt and, if Simon Mignolet chooses to leave, a back-up goalkeeper would do no harm either, but there are no imperatives.’
I would say b*******. But I won’t.
Liverpool certainty doesn’t need any centre-backs at the moment. In van Dijk, Gomez, Matip and Lovren, we have four first team CBs. And there is also the small matter of Ki-Jana Hoever, the excellent Dutch youngster who played against Wolves in the FA Cup in January. He might be only 17, but the purchase of anther centre-back would block his path to the first team.
Back-up goalkeepers: Again, not really a priority at the moment. Mignolet may leave, but Karius’ future is still up in the air. Should Besiktas decide to terminate his two-year loan deal (can they?), Liverpool will be left with a senior keeper on their books. Again, Liverpool have two young keepers waiting behind the scenes. 20-year-old Caoimhin Kelleher has got rave reviews, while Kamil Grabara is getting some first-team action on loan in Denmark. If Alisson has to be only covered for injuries, I think one of these three should be enough.
There are imperatives in other positions.
With Alberto Moreno leaving in the summer, a senior left-back is sorely needed to reduce the strain on Andy Robertson. We can’t keep lumping Milner there even though he gets the job done 7-8 times out of 10. Given how Liverpool play, the full-back is a very specialised position.
The situation is the same at right-back. Clyne may move on permanently in the summer, which will leave Trent Alexander Arnold as the only proper right-back. Sure, Gomez can deputise if the need arises. But as we all saw in the first leg against Barcelona, Gomez cannot cross half as well as Trent. So, you want a proper full-back. Plus, let us not forget, Trent is only 20. He is bound to hit a rough patch sometime. And you want an actual full-back when that happens, not a CB or a CM to fill in.
The midfield is well stocked, and will be further strengthened with a fully fit Ox and Lallana. Young Curtis Jones could also push for appearances off the bench next season.
The forwards look fine too even if one takes into account Sturridge’s impending departure. Origi will likely get a contract extension, and Brewster will push for more game time. Young Harry Wilson will hopefully get a look-in too, unless he is loaned out again.
TL;DR: Need a new left back and right back.
Siddharth we-need-full-backs Upasani
…Got to disagree with Seb Stafford-Bloor on Liverpool not doing anything – standing still is going backwards as we’ve heard before. Spurs could have been challenging all year with just a few signings.
For Liverpool, the first team is great, but has called out for an attacking midfielder at various points in the season. Someone who can play centrally or out wide would ensure proper first-team game time, and I can see us signing Fekir to fill this space. Other options are Hakim Ziyech, Marco Ansensio or Bruno Fernandes. Basically a source of goals outside the front three.
There’s also room for more back-up, particularly at full back. If Gomez is going to be one of the two first-choice CBs next year, Robertson and TAA are the only senior full backs. None of the youth has enough experience to be second choice for PL and CL, so two new, unspectacular signings are needed. Maybe Eric Durm from Huddersfield would work well at RB, World Cup winner, knows Klopp, won’t cost the earth, won’t mind being second choice after the season he’s had.
I’ve heard Ruben Vinagre mentioned for left-back, who again fits the bill, young and attacking, ready to be moulded, although may still be a bit on the raw side.
If Liverpool got three signings to this ilk knocked off the day after the Champions League Final, I’d be quite happy to not hear another peep until the season starts.
KC (Bournemouth’s right back might work for us either)
…I enjoyed the article on Liverpool’s future recruitment (or lack of it) and one of the reasons Klopp is perfect for LFC is his recognition of the importance of emotion to the club. (It’s also what can make us very annoying to other teams…).
Whilst I agree that we don’t want to bring in loads of players this summer, as a number of fans of other clubs have kindly pointed out, we’ve had the rub of the green a number of times this season to snatch victories from draws. The one first team addition we need is the one that fell through when we decided we didn;t like the look of Fekir’s knees, a genuinely creative attacking midfielder.
Annoyingly, ideal player has already been bought by City – Bernardo Silva. An excellent footballer who also tops the running charts in big games would be literally perfect for us. My scouting knowledge outside the PL is pitifully poor, but add in someone of that quality (if they exist), with the Ox coming back, and we would undeniably strengthen.
A back-up CB (who doesn’t get constantly injured) and LB along with integration of replacements for Lallana and Milner also wouldn’t go amiss!
…I have to disagree with Seb Stafford-Bloor when he says Liverpool should do nothing this summer. While he is right when he says there is no obvious flaw to correct we will be lacking in two key areas next season – back up right and left backs. Moreno and Milner are both out of contract and look likely to leave this summer (one will be missed slightly more than the other, I’ll let you figure out which one), Moreno back to Spain and Milner, so the word goes, back to Yorkshire. That’s our 2nd and 3rd choice left-backs gone. Clyne doesn’t seem to be fancied at Anfield, rumours about his off the field activities persist, he could well be gone too. That’s our 2nd (Milner again) and 3rd choice right-backs gone this summer. Gomez is well capable of covering both flanks but it’s clear after the start of the season that he is best in the center, sadly it’s also clear he has his injury worries and shouldn’t be counted on to be 2nd choice for either position. Ki-Jana Hoever seems a great prospect but I’m not sure we should be relying on him at his age.
How key both positions have been to Liverpool has been well covered here and elsewhere but it’s worth noting that TAA and Robertson have played 38 and 46 games respectively and Liverpool’s worst spell of the season came when TAA missed games in January. Getting quality back-ups for these positions is vital. Generally I would normally be in favour of buying to improve on your first team but that’s a bit of an impossible ask for these two who are arguably the best in their positions this season in the league, if not Europe. Obviously Wan Bissaka would be amazing but unlikely and I’m not sure Ryan Sessegnon sees his future at full back but he would be a great signing too. I’ll leave to the scouting department, they seem to be on the ball.
Ronan (also disagree about letting a ‘ten point lead’ slip but that’s for another mail), Ireland
Spurs in prime position to strengthen
Today’s article regarding Liverpool’s transfer business was spot on – aside for a back up/challenge for Robertson, they have no need to alter an established squad, especially with players returning from injury (Gomez and Ox) and young players coming through (Brewster and Wilson) will freshen things up.
It made me think about what the rest of the top six might do this summer.
Chelsea have the transfer ban. Failing the Europa League, Arsenal have no Champions League football, while Kroenke is the football version of Scrooge McDuck.
Man United are a mess. They will throw some money around but their recruitment department seems to have no clear concept of how to build a team. Meanwhile, City will likely buy only two players – a left back and a DM to replace Delph and Fernandinho.
Which leaves Spurs, who, if they could sign two midfielders and a right back, could really make a go of competing with the top two next year. Heck, they could even have ‘Coutinho moment’ if they can flog Eriksen to Real Madrid for £100m+ in order to buy two or three replacements.
It’s a huge summer for Spurs, a litmus test for whether the board is really prepared to battle for the big time or not. That’s why Wednesday was so important; yes, the pure unadulterated glory, breaking through mental barriers, reaching their first major Final for many years. But looking to the future, it’s a crucial in being able to keep their existing players and also attract the very best.
Those European finals though…
Firstly, wonderful achievement by the London clubs this week, i’m envisioning 2 – 3 weeks of fans maybe wearing each others shirts, walking arm in arm, doing the Lambeth Walk together up and down The Mall, Carnaby Street, the Old Kent Road and across London Bridge. Lovely.
On a serious note, these ticket prices and allocations for both finals, WT actual F? Frankly the Baku final smacks of a mini-Qatar 2022. It’s nearer to Mumbai than London just to mention randomly. But is the offer of 6,000 tickets to each club – in a stadium with a 68,000 capacity – not suggest that they chose this location knowing full well it would be hugely difficult for fans of clubs likely to reach the final to get there in the first place? Thus one would ask, why would you choose the capital city of a country, rich in oil and gas, whose state oil company are a UEFA sponsor, and are one of several modern, natural resource blessed, ambitious nations looking to take advantage of the influence of soft power through sport? Oh.
If these influential decision makers were honest (an utter fantasy I know), instead of filling their TV opening titles for their competitions, with the emotive music, and with passionate, genuine football supporters, why not just have shots of themselves in plush meeting rooms in expensive 5* hotels and them tucking into their expensive free lunches?
Like many dark things currently happening in the world, these things and primarily the continual eroding of the Champions League toward a European Super League driven by the insidious ‘European Club Association’ (seriously all fans should make themselves aware of this bunch of f*cking Sith Lords), is all taking place in plain sight.
Now would be a great time for those with a voice, with a megaphone if you like – that’s you the UK Sports Media (come on, some of those older blokes you see on the Sunday Supplement must have earned enough from the game now – retire with honour!) – to shine a light on all this. But depressingly I won’t hold my breath, as most won’t risk their own positions on the same gravy train (and the rest are left with hard cheese, they’ve got cheese….).
Super League? Why would anybody bother?
Outside of the obvious lure of the squillions of pounds for the money men I’ve never really understood the attraction of leaving domestic football to play in some sort of European super league.
If you’re big enough to be involved then football is all about winning trophies. So if you’re in the big six in England at the moment you want to win the league and the Champions League, while the FA and League Cup are probably a welcome bonus. In a super league you’ll have at best a league title and some sort of euro cup every year but you’ll have to beat Real, Barca, Bayern, PSG, Juve etc on top of your current domestic rivals. You’ll be doing very well to win one title a decade. Maybe you’ll still enter the domestic cups but no one is that fussed about them now.
As a supporter of the Toon, I’m actually not that fussed either way. In fact, I’d probably quite enjoy battling Everton and Villa for the Rump Premier League title. Might actually win something for once, although probably not.
Eamonn, Dublin – f**k off
What you, and all of the other likeminded United fans need to understand is that suddenly, it’s not the 1990’s or even the 2000’s any more and you’re no longer the big dogs in the yard. The only reason United got to the spot they’re at is because they had the best manager of all time and the success he brought coincided with the 90’s football boom, and United managed to commercialise first which made them the biggest club.
That time is now over, though. Game of Thrones fans will get this but United since 2013 are House Lannister after the death of Tywin. Still like to think they’re the biggest and baddest but the fear factor is totally gone. And no matter how much money they throw at the issue, it won’t change things.
United can still get back to the top but they have to accept their place in the new order of things, and that’s behind City, behind Liverpool and yes, behind Tottenham, who have moved with the times and developed stars rather than trying to buy them fully formed. So no, you can’t just steal Tottenham’s manager because right now, with the new stadium open and a Champions League final coming up, United would be a step down. That ‘big six’ thing could easily become a ‘big five’ but you’re laughing if you think it’s Tottenham, and not United, who could slip away. Look at AC Milan.
The best thing United can do now is just have a big clear out of the big egos, focus on buying top prospects and let Ole work with those kids, and hope it pays off down the line. It took Liverpool the best part of 30 years to realise their new role – United will be the same unless they stop trying to act like they’re still the big dogs.
Building around McTominay? Awful idea
I see there is talk of United building their midfield around Scott McTominay. Now don’t get me wrong he is an OK player and seems an honest lad but if this is the grand plan to rebuild United then they are more screwed than I thought. Put it this way he wouldn’t get in any of the other top six midfields, not even Watford, Wolves, Leicester or Everton. United have to do what Livepool have done and take the best of the rest. Liverpool have signed Robertson, Van Dijk, Milner, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Shaqiri and Mane from other lower-ranked Premier league clubs (except for Milner) and even if you look at Fabinho, Salah and Firmino, they were signed from Monaco, Roma and Hoffenheim. The players are there from smaller clubs, they just need to identify them and start to build from there.
End-of-term fixtures and grades
Brighton -Must wear these green camouflage school uniforms more often (D+) vs
City – They’re going to win University Challenge again next year aren’t they? (Stifle Yawn) (A+++)
Burnley – Too much time wasting in class (C) vs
Arsenal – Excelled in geometry and French classes but too anxious at final exam time (B)
Palace – Past retirement age headmaster inspiring below average class to over achieve (B-) vs
Bournemouth – Young headmaster inspiring below average class to over achieve (B-)
Fulham – High expectations at start of school.. However, these bright students couldn’t cope with this year’s syllabus (F) vs
Newcastle – Spanish teacher raised class grades despite having to buy his own school supplies (B)
Leicester – Late term, new headmaster allowed previously held back head boy to flourish (B) vs
Chelsea – Class found new course of Italian Geometry difficult to fathom until issued with Hazard protection (B)
Liverpool – Dentistry School achieved high honours. Would be valedictorian in any other year (A++ and I’m a United fan!) vs
Wolves – New pupil literally wolfed down this year’s curriculum (A)
United – Mid-table mediocrity awaits this lazy, underachieving class after they tired of the new woodwork (Woodward?) teacher (D-) vs
Cardiff – Welsh language program didn’t achieve popularity despite best efforts (D)
Southampton – New Austrian mountain climber teacher enabled class to scale unexpected heights (B+) vs
Huddersfield – Knew what the House point goals were but just didn’t have the mathematical skills required (F)
Spurs – Exciting Korean exchange student kept everyone interested at sports day when head prefect called off sick (A-) vs
Everton – Heading for a below average year until class decided to hand in late homework at end of term (C+)
Watford – Ex Borstal Boy student reformed brilliantly and will lead class in hunt for House Cup (B+) vs
West Ham – Metalwork class did not wield hammer with enough precision this year (C)
Gary (ex Pat United fan in Pennsylvania) B