Keep your mails coming to firstname.lastname@example.org…
Red tinted conclusions from the Manchester derby
Here we go:
1. The derby clearly showed the gulf in class between these sides, both on the field and off it. Maguire looked like a player worth half his transfer fee, and at fault for the goal that unravelled United’s tactical plan for the game. On the other end, Ruben Dias looks like a steal and is surely the long term successor to Kompany, both as a leader and a defender. He sits right next to Van Dijk in that ‘elite CB’ category.
2. Is it just me, or did City play a bit like peak Barcelona yesterday? Their CB’s spent way too long passing the ball among themselves,near their box and no amount of Utd pressing got close. Their move to stretch the Utd forwards and create space in the middle for KDB and Gundogan over and over again was art, pure and simple. Utd tried their best, but City were on a whole new level. As a fan of the side in red, watching the team in blue was equal parts thrilling & terrifying.
3. F365 were spot on when they said Utd needed a new CDM in the Jan window. Matic just doesn’t have the pace anymore, and McFred are very similar in their interception style to stem the tide against teams that attack like City. The fact that Utd started bypassing their midfield in favour of long balls from the 1st half itself was because both of them had to stay back to help the defence. A top quality CDM like Fernandinho or a younger Matic would’ve been priceless.
4. Rashford for all his running, has been awful in the box the past few matches. Goal aside, his decision making in the final third has been poor. He got lucky with that deflected goal against Wolves, but his overall play has been a bit off. Maybe it’s because he has shifted to the right, or he needs a break, or he gets that extra attention from defenders, it looks like he is being run into the ground. Atm, the only (competent) right/left sided attackers at Utd are Martial,Rashford and Greenwood. Being made to rotate across that front-line every alternate match along with the tactical changes that come from playing with a striker like Cavani, must not be helping Martial and Rashford’s rhythm at all.
5. Which brings me to my next point, Ed Woodward and the inaction. It seems the one thing the Utd board is good at, is NOT striking when the iron is hot. OGS got the job due to results against the top 6. This year, results prove that the top 6 have figured out their tactics to nullify Utd, and sooner, rather than later, the Utd style needs to evolve. Getting a top quality right winger and a decent CDM is more crucial than ever. Diallo, just 18, still doesn’t have the paperwork to complete his move, and there are no signs he will be good enough to even feature for the team soon, let alone play enough minutes to sufficiently contribute. What are they waiting for?
6. Ohh and onto Pogba. How much of his new position on the left is due to Raiola’s comments on his contract situation? Pogba didn’t have the raw pace or a target man upfront to make a genuine contribution to the match. But he did put in a shift, play in some nice passes, and show off his ability. I am starting to really like how OGS is getting Pogba to play to his potential (if only to maximize his resale value to ship him off in the summer)
7. Utd losing wasn’t a bad result btw. We’ve definitely had a bit of luck go our way in the close wins at Villa and Wolves. Hopefully, this loss will not let complacency creep in and keep the players hungry for next couple of weeks. Until the next loss and a subsequent knee jerk reaction and calls for a new manager obviously.
8. I think everyone saw what a top class coach with world class talent can do. But for Utd, the very best thing to do is keep patience with OGS, and allow him to rectify the failures of previous managers/Woodward. So far, Utd are doling out a fortune for players that are surplus to requirements weekly; Romero~70k, Lingard~100k, Jones~75k, Rojo~80k and a wantaway Pogba~290k. That’s about (uses elementary Maths) GBP 30 Mil/year!!! Or about a sixth of their annual wage bill. Just getting these players off, and selling Pogba should generate a potential transfer windfall for the next transfer window. Do I trust Ole to spend that money right? On present record, just about.
Sarthak (Why did Pep have to torment us United fans not once but TWICE? First with Barca, now City)
Trent, Fabinho, and Liverpool’s centre-back problems
I’ve seen a few opinions flying about regarding Trent Alexander-Arnold’s form, the need for defensive reinforcements or otherwise, and what have you.
I think it’s all related. Trent’s defending has never been his strong point. He’s usually offered so much going forward that it hasn’t mattered. The last couple of weeks seem to have been very different however.
I can see two main reasons for this. Firstly, with both van Dijk and Joe Gomez missing the defensive unit is a lot slower. Gomez’s recovery speed is excellent, so he could cover for Trent more effectively. Joel Matip has a bit more positional sense so he helps a bit in that regard. But on that one basic point Trent has less help than he did last year. Secondly, part of the strategy used to be that when we have the ball, Fabinho would drop in from the base of midfield to make a third defender and allow the fullbacks to bomb on. With him already playing at centre back, that obviously doesn’t happen any more. Henderson could do it to a point, but that’s not his natural game, nor is it Thiago’s, Wijnaldum’s or even Milner’s.
As a short term strategy to turn our form around, we need to get Fabinho back into midfield as soon as possible. For that we need a stopgap signing at centre back, as even if you throw Phillips and Williams at it, we’d still be vulnerable if either of them got injured too. I find it hard to believe that there’s nobody in Michael Edward’s little black book that could do the job, it’s just about if the money is right. If we want to retain the title, then FSG might have to eat an unexpected outlay.
Pierre, LFC, Bristol
What other moments would Twitter have made worse?
I’m sure we can all agree social media started off as a fun, frivolous and rather simple means of connecting with friends.
Now, well, it’s a simmering cesspool of hate and a constant reminder of and exposure to the worst human beings you can imagine.
With that said, how do you think Twitter would’ve reacted to football’s most talked about moments from before it existed? No doubt it would’ve made them spiteful, joyless occasions.
For instance, having lit up Euro 2004 Manchester United make Wayne Rooney the most expensive teenager in history.
How would Twitter have perceived of his debut Champions League hat trick?
Arsenal fans would’ve backed in Jose Antonio Reyes (rest in peace) to be the better player; so to would Liverpool fans re: Milan Baros; all and sundry would’ve derided the opposition as farmers, so it doesn’t really count, and suggested that the goalkeeping for all three goals was suspect; I’m sure someone would’ve said that though United scored six, Fenerbahce’s xG was actually 11…
Let’s have some fun!
Harry Maguire isn’t tired…
I haven’t written into the mailbox for a while, but Aman’s mail coaxed me out of my shell. And I would say that he had a point, that is until you actually look down that list of most minutes played, and in second spot you have Maguires opposite number in the Semi Final – Ruben Dias.
Bear in mind that Dias is still just 23, and playing in a new league, his imperious form and solid partnership developed with Stones is even more impressive.
I’m sorry, but it’s not because Maguire is tired. He’s just not very good.
Martin Todoroski, MCFC
Klopp, rants, Benitez and penalties
In reply to Ferg Cork (Corcaigh Abú).
The Benitez facts rant was in 2009 i think, 11 years ago. My memory may be failing me as i age, but i distinctly remember the narrative at the time was that Benitez “fell” for a Fergie mind game by reacting with his prepared facts. But i could be wrong.
It’s really just banter, don’t take it too personally and become an affected victim. I know Klopp didn’t rant.
In regards to the FACT that United have gotten more penos under Ole than Pool have under Klopp, one could point out in return (thanks to Ved Sen) that Pool have won more penalties in the whole of the premier league era than United.
Do you see us whinging?
In regards to VAR proving we probably should have had more penos before VAR, i am alluding to the fact that this conspiracy theory about refs favouring United is not new, its nearly 30 years old. So it’s possible refs were reluctant to award us penos pre VAR in fear of being seen as complicit in the grand penalty conspiracy.
Kiki, Cork (Manchester United)
Poor Ferg is getting wound up about penalties, rants and facts when he should relax a little and just consider this opinion:
1) Klopp was whinging that Utd have had more penalties since 2018 than Liverpool have had, trying to hint that the big, best team who attacks most, should get more penalties.
2) Klopp never looked at the wider picture and seen that Liverpool have actually had MORE penalties than Utd over the Prem era, despite Utd clearly being a very attacking team winning multiple league titles, and prone to being fouled alot.
3) Klopp clearly targeted Utd in his little whingefest, because they play Utd next. This is pretty much proven because City and Leicester have more penalties than anybody since Klopp joined Liverpool. Klopp has Utd in his head because they play them in less than a fortnight.
It was a calculated rant, and Ole called it correct.
Gary B (Liverpools style of play with tonnes of crosses leads to less pens, simple as that)
How many times have we to say this…do a little research!!!
“United have gotten more penalties since Ole took over in 2018 than Klopp has since October 2015.
That’s all he said.
It is 100% correct.”
And then he links to a misleading article from Football365 (Shame on ye guys – Klopp’s quote was 2 years(ie under Ole), yet ye agreed with him by including 2 and a half season of which almost half was under Jose)
Ole is about to manage his 76th game in charge of Man U(both temporary and permanent), so against burnley it will be exactly 2 years worth of games(obviously not 2 years worth of time – thanks Covid)
In that time, 75 matches, Manchester United have been awarded 6 penalties this season, 14 penalties last season and 7 penalties the season before. Total = 27 penalties.*
Under Klopp, Liverpool have been awarded 30.
so 100% incorrect.
*5 penalties were awarded in the 17 games Jose was in charge.
Oh and since we are comparing Klopp and Ole, after 38 PL games(1 seasons worth) both had gained 65 points. After 76 PL games(2 seasons worth) Klopp had achieved 137 points. Ole has already exceeded that total(139) and still has 1 game left. Not saying Ole is a better(or even as good a manager) than Klopp. Just stating some correct facts.
Klopp’s next signing(after 76 PL games) was VVD…so maybe the next United signing could be crucial. The difference between taking them to the next level or not.
Shaw against Villa…
So Ved Sen’s latest ‘the lady doth protest too much’ missive harps on about some decisions that didn’t go Man U’s way including one assertion that Shaw should’ve had a penalty against Villa. Assume this is the incident being referred to?
Pogba telling Shaw he needs to dive when touched in the penalty area. pic.twitter.com/X7VELXNJ75
— John Merro (@johnmerro1) January 1, 2021
Where Pogba bemoaned the fact that he didn’t dive. As that’s what they’re clearly instructed to do, enter the penalty area at speed and upon any sort of contact (regardless who initiates it) hit the deck, Pogba showed him how it was done later in that match and earned them 3 points.
Martial tried the ‘boot the ball forward then try to initiate contact before throwing yourself to the ground’ methodology last night but failed, although who knows what would’ve happened had VAR been around.
You may say that penalties are a non-issue due to some selective examples but in a tight season where one team is buying cheap penalties to win matches and a rival struggling for form is being denied in close matches it can make a big difference.
James Outram, Wirral
Teach them young…
I’m in lockdown like the rest of the nation, but it has afforded me some time to make preparations for coaching our squad of under 11’s once things get back to normal. I’m pondering whether I need to teach the kids the art of “buying” free kicks. It struck me after Martial’s dive last night that it would be a disservice for me not to do this, because simulation is now an accepted part of the game. I, naturally, will need to teach them that they should perhaps do this sparingly until they get better at it and should primarily consider doing this when they are in the penalty area. I’ve drawn up 4 specific exercises that include falling without getting hurt (I have an old Norman Wisdom DVD that should help with this), dangling a leg and for the less gymnastic lads, an appropriate “faux” aggressive response to an opponent’s dive. Does anyone else have any other ideas about what I should include in my “gamesmanship” coaching schedule?
Dale (watching too much Man Utd) Marlow
A team of right-backs…
Following the article about KWP, it really is a shame that players like him, James Justin and Tariq Lamptey may never get proper England plaudits due to the depth, age and calibre of right back options.
The national team is so lacking in depth and quality in some areas it does seem unfair that we have so many top class right backs. For no reason at all here is a proposed XI of English right backs:
GK: Kyle Walker – To my knowledge the only right back with experience as a GK
RB: Tariq Lamptey – Takes the honour of being the right back in a team of right backs purely because I am unaware of him playing anywhere else.
CB: Arron Wan-Bissaka – Has the tackling ability and is also 6ft.
CB: James Justin – Part of Leicester’s makeshift back three earlier this season
LB: Kyle Walker-Peters – Has played this role for the England u20s in the world cup winning campaign.
CM: Trent Alexander-Arnold – Because people still think it is his natural position.
CM: Reece James – Played here during his loan season at Wigan.
RW: Matty Cash – Played in midfield before switching to fullback at Forest.
AM: Kieran Trippier – The cultured foreign based player is automatically the slotted in as chief playmaker. Plus no.10s traditionally have scrapes with authority.
LW: Ainsley Maitland-Niles – Can play pretty much anywhere and has often looked better on the left than on the right.
ST: James Tavernier – Has to have the best finishing ability of the bunch.
The post Woodward must strike while ‘the iron is hot’ at Man Utd… appeared first on Football News -.
Liverpool want to bring Torino defender Gleison Bremer to the Premier League in January, according to reports in Italy.
The Reds are rumoured to be particularly keen on bringing a new centre-back to the club in January after serious injuries to Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez have left them short at the back.
Last night Liverpool had to start their match with Newcastle United with Fabinho – who is a midfielder by trade – and the relatively inexperienced Nathaniel Phillips as their two centre-backs,
OPINION: Liverpool enter 2021 just like the rest of us – weary and uncertain
Joel Matip, who came off injured in their match against West Brom, is expected to be out for around three weeks in another blow to Jurgen Klopp’s rearguard.
There have been calls for Jordan Henderson to play there, while youngster Rhys Williams has played a handful of matches this term.
The Liverpool Echo claimed back in November that Klopp would be extremely interested in the Torino defender Bremer, while Everton were also keen.
And now Corriere Granata journalist Matteo Pedrosi (via Sport Witness) has said that there have been ‘requests’ via ‘intermediaries’ for Bremer.
Those requests have come from England ‘above all, with some insistence’ from the Reds with Liverpool understood to be ‘desperate’ to find centre-back cover.
Like the Echo mentioned in November, Everton have also ‘knocked on the door’ for Bremer but it’s the Reds that ‘press the most’ for the Brazilian.
If Torino receive a ‘concrete and indispensable’ offer from a club they already have a replacement lined up for the 23-year-old.
The post ‘Desperate’ Liverpool ‘press the most’ for Brazilian defender appeared first on Football News -.
Liverpool star Fabinho admits a second Premier League title would be more special than the first as it would put Jurgen Klopp’s side “further in to football history”.
The Reds ended a 30-year wait to be crowned champions of England in July with a whopping 18-point advantage over Manchester City.
Liverpool have made light of injury problems this season to hold a four-point lead over Christmas in the chase for successive titles.
MAILBOX: Man Utd are the real deal; Dele Alli to Liverpool?
“This team will be remembered for how well we play, the quality of our football and for winning the title,” Fabinho said in an interview with the Daily Mail.
“But to fight for the second one would put us further in to football history. It would put us up there with teams in the Premier League that have won back to back titles. Teams like Manchester City.
“It would put us on the higher level and put us with the best teams in the history of the league.
“Taking into account everything that has happened this year, the difficulties of no fans in the stadiums and the busy run of fixtures and injuries we have had, it all adds to making the second title more special than the first one if we could do it.
“It would show that we have this constant desire at the club to be winners.”
Long-term injuries to Virgil Van Dijk and Joe Gomez has forced the Brazilian midfielder to drop deeper into central defence.
Yet the 27-year-old has hardly put a foot wrong since Liverpool’s last domestic defeat, the 7-2 horror show away to Aston Villa at the start of October.
Fabinho said that plans for him to play at the back had been in operation almost from the day he arrived at Liverpool in July 2018.
“Back then the coach saw the need for someone to be available so I started working on that position, getting used to it, working with potential partners,” said Fabinho, who is set to make his 100th Liverpool appearance against West Brom on Sunday.
“We had three centre-backs at the time so it was all just a test for me, just to be prepared. The coach had identified that there could be a need further down the line.
“So when I came in I felt good and comfortable and over time it’s got easier.
“When Virgil got injured I expected to come in as centre-back and even the other players were joking. They were saying: ‘Fabinho the defender is back, he is here’.
“Yes I was nervous at first but I think I have grown in to it.”
The post Fabinho explains why second Liverpool title would be ‘more special’ appeared first on Football News -.
Liverpool proved why the title is theirs to lose. But Tottenham should be proud of their efforts.
1) It feels a little perverse to wonder whether Jurgen Klopp and Jose Mourinho were swayed by events elsewhere this midweek in the build to their meeting. Leicester, Southampton and West Ham dropping points would not generally be any business of theirs but the teams in 3rd, 4th and 6th – as well as Chelsea in 5th – either drawing or losing created a real opportunity for the sides in 1st and 2nd to establish some rare breathing space in this sprinting marathon of a season.
Perhaps it did not effect their approach in the slightest. But how refreshing it was to see two heavyweights try and bully opponents their own size in their own way. Liverpool tried to jab Tottenham into submission while the visitors were only interested in landing knockout blows. Both were aware of the possible reward; neither were fearful of the obvious risk. Either could have won. It took until the final minute for one to do so. It made for a very fun game.
2) It also provided proof as to why Liverpool should be overwhelming favourites to defend their title. With a Premier League debutant at centre-half and a teenager in midfield this was never going to be a resounding victory, and indeed it relied on a heavy dose of fortune. But their mentality is like no other. It might seem like a vague platitude but it makes a genuine difference when Rhys Williams and Curtis Jones can slot seamlessly into a team founded on such high standards.
The 3-0 win over Leicester and 2-0 victory at Chelsea were examples of how Liverpool can dismantle and demoralise their closest perceived challengers. This was a war of attrition against football’s greatest drill sergeant and they still ended up overcoming the enemy.
3) Those decrying Mourinho and revelling in a defeat for ‘anti-football’ are being wilfully obtuse. Tottenham came with a plan and almost executed it perfectly. A sharper Harry Kane or a more predatory Steven Bergwijn would have crowned a first Premier League away win at Anfield since April 2017 and few could have argued with that result.
Plenty will cite the 24% possession, the total number of balls into the final third, the fact Jordan Henderson attempted almost half as many passes as Tottenham overall. And perhaps he got the balance wrong in the first half, when Liverpool really should have made their dominance count. But Mourinho should take great pride and positivity from that performance. All it lacked was a little more precision and care in the final moment.
4) This is part of the deal, of course. Mourinho approaches these games in such a way that defeat in this manner is an inevitable trade-off eventually. At some point the ungodly accurate finishing reverts to the mean and the pressure finally tells on a defence with susceptible components.
The fact is that similar tactics have already worked to emphatic degrees against Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal. Mourinho took it a little too far against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge – personal motivation surely played a part – but this was a completely understandable way to play against a phenomenal team on a ridiculous home run. It’s just that sometimes Heung-min Son won’t be on the end of every opportunity, and excellent opposition players can conjure up decisive moments in stoppage-time when concentration levels have dipped.
Mourinho’s methods seek to ensure this calibre of game is settled by those fine margins; that gamble will backfire at times. He walks the line between disaster and masterclass like no other, but at the end of the day football can just be a bit stupid and we are all idiots for trying to find a grander meaning in every single game.
Let’s carry on.
5) How the critics would prefer Mourinho to set his team up is a mystery. If Tottenham visited Anfield and try to out-pass Liverpool they would get destroyed. If they tried to dominate possession they would be picked off on the counter themselves and pressed into oblivion. Mourinho laid it on a little too thick in his pre-match press conference but there was a valid point hidden in the bluster: most of those Liverpool players have been together for years under the same manager while this Tottenham side, if not relatively new, have barely been working with their coach for 12 months.
They have played worse and won. They have played better and been beaten by more. A negative result does not necessarily mean a negative performance. His “better team lost” shtick was debatable but to brand tactics that almost held Liverpool to a draw as ‘anti-football’ is just plain wrong. And hilariously childish.
6) It is especially disingenuous when you consider Liverpool scored from a heavily-deflected shot and a set-piece. Most of their other chances were of pretty poor quality. The rest were hit directly towards the centre of the goal and into Hugo Lloris’ welcoming arms with unerring accuracy. This was no swashbuckling attacking performance.
The front three were profligate but Andy Robertson was sensational. The corner for Roberto Firmino’s winner ensured quantifiable reward for his efforts but even without it the left-back’s impact was obvious. It can take a quieter game from Trent Alexander-Arnold to realise just how proficient his teammate on the other side is; without Robertson, Liverpool do not win that.
7) The first shot on target actually mirrored the last quite well. It was a Robertson free-kick instead of a corner and Firmino’s header was saved by Lloris but Liverpool issued a warning Tottenham would have been forgiven for forgetting about 80 minutes later.
As obvious as it feels to praise the match-winner, he really was excellent. Some discussion in the build-up centred on how Kane had started to mimic Firmino’s role in dropping deep but this was the master of the art at his absolute best, the focal point around which Liverpool operated. Kane was barely noticeable for long periods and painfully off the pace when he did show up.
Tonight was Klopp’s 50th one goal win in the Premier League.
26 x 2-1
16 x 1-0
4 x 4-3
3 x 3-2
1 x 5-4
Firmino has scored the decisive goal in 10 of them – more than anyone else.
— Andrew Beasley (@BassTunedToRed) December 16, 2020
8) It was one of the Tottenham striker’s specials: four shots, none on target, 12 passes, no chances created. These displays come around once every few months – usually for England – but they do emphasise just how brilliant Kane usually is at maximising his moments on the ball. It is often taken for granted.
Again, though, that is the basis upon which Tottenham are founded. They will defend resolutely as a unit and rely on their elite forwards to perform at their absolute peak consistently. They did the former for most of this match and the latter only once. That was rarely going to be enough.
9) Kane was not simply poor. Nor was Son, who had one shot, dispatched it wonderfully and struggled thereafter. Liverpool’s centre-halves were formidable, if not faultless.
It was Williams whose missed header let Bergwijn in within a minute of the second half kicking off, but the 19-year-old was otherwise great. Having one of the best and most adaptable players in the entire league alongside him surely helped but it was Williams and not Fabinho who played the 40-yard cross-field ball out to Robertson in the build-up to Salah’s goal. That sort of distribution is what Liverpool have lacked since Virgil van Dijk’s injury and Williams nonchalantly cracking on with it should not be understated.
10) Fate cruelly dictates that he was not even Liverpool’s best academy product, as Jones was sublime. His one-touch passing, close control and persistence created the first goal, which the midfielder almost added to soon after when capitalising on Serge Aurier’s sloppy play in his own area. There’s a sentence I always thought I’d write.
Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum went about their midfield business characteristically quietly and effectively. Yet Jones provides a certain different dimension to proceedings, particularly with his dribbling. It really is not normal how comfortable he looks in this team, under this manager, in this kind of game. Him not being capped by England really is quite funny.
11) The discourse around ‘typical Mourinho’ will also ignore the context of the first half, in which Tottenham were one better touch or crisper pass from racing through on goal.
The first such instance came in the 10th minute with Hojbjerg’s hopeful ball over the top. Kane could not quite bring it under control and that allowed Williams to nip in but Son would have been running through with Fabinho perhaps too far to his right if the touch had been better.
A few minutes later, an interchange between Son and Kane ended with Bergwijn being played in down the right but Alexander-Arnold came across well to cover, before another counter-attack saw Moussa Sissoko struggle to find Kane completely unmarked in the centre.
They had more obvious chances in the second half but there was no period in which Tottenham did not pose a threat to Liverpool. That latent danger just developed a little more after half-time, but it was there throughout.
12) And just after the half-hour mark, when Amazon Prime kindly cut away from an insignificant replay to show Son baring down on goal and finishing supremely well beyond Alisson. They were automatically in credit thanks solely to Ally McCoist but still.
Honestly, though, that finish was delightful. Few players have made Alisson seem so beatable in a one-on-one situation. Credit also goes to Giovani Lo Celso, who lost Jones for the opener but cut straight through Liverpool’s centre for this assist. But Son made it count; he really is one of the best forwards in world football and it doesn’t feel as though that is an accepted thing.
Since the start of his second season in England Son has scored 60 Premier League goals. His xG in that period is 37.39.
— James Benge (@jamesbenge) December 16, 2020
13) Is…is it alright to call Aurier good? There were two poor moments: his mistake that let Jones in in the first half and then being completely deceived by Mane’s turn before he hit the crossbar in the second. But he fared excellently against the Senegalese otherwise in what most would have described as a mismatch before the game.
The raw numbers were impressive enough. Ten tackles, two interceptions and five clearances is quite the shift for a player whose perceived strengths are in attack. By which I mean his manager was literally “afraid” of his “sh*t defending” not long ago. Aurier did not pass the Mane test with a distinction, but a decent grade all the same. It is becoming a habit.
14) He was helped by some absolutely sensational defending by Anthony Taylor, who blocked Liverpool’s passing lanes like N’Golo Kante after a packet of Tangfastics. The referee surely had more touches than most Tottenham players; Henderson couldn’t bloody help but pass to him in the first half.
15) Liverpool found the winner but that should not take too much away from the ridiculousness that is not making a single substitution in 90 minutes. Klopp and Pep Guardiola seem to be trying to outdo one another in undermining their mutual argument that Premier League clubs need five subs to ensure the welfare of the players in these unique circumstances.
It’s a bit rich to pinpoint “a lack of leadership” at the FA and make snide public comments about Chris Wilder before asking eight players who featured for 90 minutes against Fulham on Sunday to do the same against Tottenham three days later. He is a brilliant coach but a bit of a silly sod sometimes.
16) Hahahahang this up in the ruddy Louvre.
oh no tim pic.twitter.com/8vMLdAYnEg
— Will (@willne) December 16, 2020
The post 16 Conclusions: Liverpool 2-1 Tottenham appeared first on Football News -.
1) ‘This is absolutely not normal,’ was one of the conclusions drawn when these two sides last met. Leicester were second and unbeaten at home by Boxing Day of 2019, with one of the best defensive records in the Premier League. Liverpool summarily dismantled them in a 4-0 win that effectively sealed the title before the year was out.
Sunday was not quite as emphatic a statement. Leicester at least had a few opportunities this time and avoided one of those ten-minute collapses Liverpool tend to induce in an opponent. But this was perhaps as impressive, if not more so, than that victory 11 months ago. They hosted a team that had already made themselves at home as visitors to Elland Road, the Etihad and the Emirates. Jurgen Klopp was without two first-choice midfielders, including his captain, as well as his talismanic right-back, two best defenders and most effective goalscorer. Liverpool dominated one of the closest supposed challengers to their throne in a breathtaking display of control and authority. That Aston Villa defeat was even more of an absolute aberration than first thought.
2) There were two particular passages of play that underlined the gulf in quality. The build-up to Diogo Jota’s goal featured 30 passes with Leicester chasing shadows and every Liverpool outfielder having at least one touch. The second half started with a similar sequence, the hosts stringing together 16 passes to create another shooting opportunity for Jota. The opposition’s only touch from kick-off to the effort going over had been Wesley Fofana winning a header that Georginio Wijnaldum instantly recovered and recycled.
It must be knackering to face, both physically and mentally. The levels of concentration and skill required to suppress it should not be understated. This once chaotic Liverpool team has evolved into a patient predator that will wait for its moment to strike instead of ever forcing the issue. Five years of masterful coaching and phenomenal recruitment has come to this.
30 – Diogo Jota's goal for Liverpool came after a sequence of 30 passes; since Opta have this data available from 2006-07, this is the most in the build-up to any @premierleague goal by the Reds. Silky. pic.twitter.com/SQXNDLRYEG
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 22, 2020
3) That is perhaps the greatest trick this Liverpool team has pulled: luring every team into thinking managers simply need time and understanding to build something special and realise their grand vision. The example of Klopp and how Liverpool tolerated years of trophyless frustration under his guidance before finally taking their brilliant true form is so often given in defence of coaches – sometimes by them – as proof that all they need is a similar level of trust and belief to create a foundation for such success.
It is a false equivalence. Even ignoring the fact Klopp and Liverpool have never taken a single step back from season to season since his appointment, he and they are the obvious exception to the rule. It is the modern version of pretending a manager should be given as long as he wants because Manchester United once kept the faith with Sir Alex Ferguson and he returned that loyalty with a sport-defining dynasty. Klopp is not as good as the Scot was, but his is every bit as unattainable and unrealistic a blueprint to follow.
4) Brendan Rodgers can console himself with the fact that Leicester were improved from their submissive display last December. They forged far more chances and really ought to have equalised through Harvey Barnes in the first half. James Justin was a fine outlet on the left and almost scored. Jamie Vardy was an utter nuisance throughout.
It sounds incredibly patronising but for five minutes or so in the second half they were excellent, having three unanswered shots around the hour mark, cutting off every passing lane, pressing as a unit and penning Liverpool back. Rodgers tried to capitalise on their period of superiority by bringing on Cengiz Under and Dennis Praet, changing from a back five to match up in midfield and showing more attacking intention. It was a justified decision designed to solidify the change in momentum, a call any good manager would have made.
Liverpool simply absorbed everything and returned it with interest in a final quarter of an hour that featured them hitting the woodwork twice, scoring a third goal and preserving their clean sheet. It summed up the futility of facing them in this mood quite neatly.
5) It is difficult to pinpoint one standout performance from the hosts. A welcome byproduct of Virgil van Dijk’s unfortunate injury was to remove a perceived reliance on any one player. Every teammate has stepped up in his and the other absences since, be they direct replacements or established starters already in the team.
The reaction to the incident that sidelined Van Dijk was overblown. So much so that David Coote was removed from officiating duty for this very match as Liverpool remain perturbed by his handling of the Merseyside derby. But it has reinforced their team unity and strengthened a siege mentality that might well have gone understandably stale after the holy grail was finally found after a 30-year search in the summer. They look every bit as focused as last season. It might perversely be the best thing that could have happened to them.
6) After all, it’s not as if losing Van Dijk has weakened their defence. A first Premier League clean sheet since he was ruled out means Liverpool have conceded two goals from open play in their last seven matches with a variety of different central defensive combinations. That decision not to reinvest in January already seems justified.
Joel Matip was solid. Fabinho alongside him was absolutely faultless. Alisson has a remarkable ability to make crucial saves after having huge amounts of time with little or nothing to do. One of the best counter-attacking teams in the country was thwarted by supreme individuals fitting diligently into an impressive system. Who else remembers when the high line was discussed in hushed, disapproving tones for fear of ridicule?
7) So much of Liverpool’s success is down to the tactical intelligence and malleability of their players. Fabinho, the defensive midfielder excelling at centre-half, had obvious traits that were easily transferable to a slight positional change. But Wijnaldum’s seamless transition from potent attacking threat for his country to tireless midfield workhorse for his club is ludicrous. It requires immense acuity.
James Milner might be the best of all. For just over 50 minutes he was fantastic at right-back, a fine Trent Alexander-Arnold impression ensuring Liverpool lost none of that attacking dimension. The removal of Naby Keita for Neco Williams facilitated the captain’s subsequent move into central midfield. His first action there was to instantly release Sadio Mane beyond Fofana, who forced a fine save from Kasper Schmeichel and a clearance off the line from Christian Fuchs.
Klopp is brilliant. But these players deserve so much credit for their understanding of what is asked of them. Not even mid-game positional shifts faze them in the slightest.
He’s remarkable. https://t.co/sbaUvNJ2EI
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) November 22, 2020
8) On the point of Milner, how strange that Leicester focused on the right-hand side he patrolled so well. The graphic that flashed up in the 25th minute showed that 70% of their attacks had come down that flank, yet only once had he really been beaten. Even then Fabinho came across to cover after Justin evaded both the Englishman and Matip.
There was not much Rodgers could have done to affect the course of this game in reality. Liverpool were without their first-choice right-back so targeting that position was an understandable tactic in theory. But that rather ignores the 18-year career of one of the most astute and hard-working players ever. If only Leicester had someone in charge that had signed him or something. They could have done with a better grasp of the supposed weak point they tried to exploit.
9) Fofana is great fun. Not entirely convinced he is a centre-half on this showing, as Mane constantly out-thought him and Roberto Firmino snatched his soul with a wonderful turn before hitting the post in the second half. But he was a real force on the break with a skill set that could well lend itself to a slightly more advanced role.
There was one instance in the 12th minute, when he tackled one player and released the ball out to the left before haring towards the Liverpool box, only for Justin to overhit a simple pass with Fofana unmarked, that made him seem wasted in defence. A little later he evaded both Keita and Wijnaldum with a run beyond the halfway line to start the move for the chance Barnes should have scored. Six interceptions seems more like the work of a progressive midfielder than a partner to Jonny Evans. Plus moving him forward would reduce the likelihood of each mistake he makes resulting in a shot.
10) Don’t know why that Matip situation was not given as a handball when penalties have been awarded this season in similar circumstances. There will be no further comment at this time.
11) One thing came to mind when watching Jota trying to catch his breath as Milner waited to take a corner both men had combined to win, one bound for the head of Evans. It was his interview after the Atalanta game in which he scored a hat-trick, and the response to being asked whether he was “playing the best football” of his career.
“Well, I’m playing in the best team in my career so far, that’s for sure,” came a thought-provoking and mindful reply. It begged more questions: how many other players are capable of scaling up from teams in the upper or mid-table to the genuine elite? And why do some teams view such signings as beneath them? Liverpool’s front line was comprised of players purchased from Wolves, Southampton and Hoffenheim, who impressed at a certain level and showed enough to suggest they could be elevated even higher in a suitable system with world-class coaching. It is a credit to their scouting and recruitment team – but an equally damning indictment on those who still insist on shopping at Waitrose when there are bargains to be found at Asda.
12) Rodgers was at pains to balance the “narrative” of Liverpool battling injuries by presenting his own list of Leicester absentees after the match. Only the most stubborn fool would deny that Wilfred Ndidi, Caglar Soyuncu, Ricardo Pereira and Timothy Castagne might have made a difference.
But his worst performers were all bona fide regulars. Evans was abysmal, his baffling own goal almost compounded with another in the second half while his distribution was poor. Youri Tielemans was sloppy in possession, more rushed than usual by Liverpool’s midfield. Barnes remains so very wasteful. James Maddison only partially atoned for an anonymous first half with his improvement in the second. Rodgers would have had more of a point if it was the stand-ins letting him down.
13) Schmeichel at least gave a wonderful account of himself with some admirable resistance. The two keepers put in antithetical but excellent performances: Alisson the serene last line of defence and his opposite number more of a Boromir in the face of constant onslaught. His nine saves featured some fine athleticism and acrobatics but also sublime decision-making. It feels as though Schmeichel is never really considered among the league’s best players in his position but he absolutely is.
Schmeichel has had a decent night, but it isn't great for #LCFC when you have to say that.
— Rob Tanner (@RobTannerLCFC) November 22, 2020
14) It seems telling that Liverpool committed 15 fouls spread across nine players and received no bookings, while Leicester managed six between four and had both Justin and Nampalys Mendy yellow carded. The tactical foul ground has been tread countless times before with regards to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham and the many supposedly nefarious teams that came before them but Klopp has recognised the usefulness of the art too.
Liverpool have committed 91 fouls to Leicester’s 88 this season. Yet the former have received seven bookings – the fewest in the Premier League this season – to the latter’s 21 yellow cards, which is the division’s most. So many prospective Leicester moves were countered at the source with a simple trip or obstruction. So few Liverpool attacks were stopped with such nous at any point.
15) Andy Robertson deserves a mention: he was brilliant. So too was Mane, who is at a similar stage of baffling under-appreciation as Mo Salah. These are talents who have achieved so much and make it look so easy that they risk it being taken for granted.
Yet the leader in those stakes for this game must be Curtis Jones, slotting seamlessly into the country’s best team despite not exiting his teenage years for another couple of months. To not look even vaguely out of place in this side, helping fill the voids left by Jordan Henderson, Thiago and even Fabinho, is quite something. Let’s call this a defeat for John Barnes and a resounding victory for the alien concept of being patient with a young player, letting any opportunities present themselves and watching him grasp them with maturity and confidence. Why loan him out to start 25 games at West Brom when he can be meticulously coached in Liverpool’s exact style, playing a little less but learning exponentially more?
16) Then there’s Firmino, whose goal will only placate the critics for so long. He has looked tired at times, sloppy in possession and tired out of it. The emergence of Jota only forced the issue further; those debates would have been undermined completely if Divock Origi was the only alternative. But this was much closer to the Firmino of years gone by. His goal was a more quantifiable measure of his impact – and particularly welcome after hitting the post when it seemed as though he would never score again – yet the things that really define him were all there: the link-up play, the insatiable work-rate, the skill.
One of the inevitabilities of team sport is the constant demand to improve and refine. When a team emerges that is so clearly operating at a much higher level than anyone else it emphasises how silly it is: they could not possibly be doing so well if any of their composite parts was not performing to their manager’s standard. Each of us are guilty of being swept away by the current of popular opinion at times. Bear with me, but it might be that Klopp has a better idea of what
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Liverpool will need to pay at least €30 million (£26.7m) if they want to sign young Ajax defender Perr Schuurs, according to reports.
The Reds were first linked with the 20-year-old at the start of November following injuries to several defenders.
Virgil Van Dijk is set to miss the rest of this campaign, while Fabinho is only just back in training.
READ: Klopp refuses to rule out Salah after positive coronavirus test
Schuurs emerged as a target for Reds officials to improve their centre back options for the future.
According to Italian source Sempre Milan (via the Liverpool Echo), Ajax have now told Liverpool their asking price.
The €30 million fee being cited is good considering the player’s potential.
Schuurs has already been likened to Juventus wonderkid Matthijs De Ligt due to his playing style and size.
The report states that Liverpool face competition from Italian side AC Milan for the player’s signature.
Schuurs first came to prominence during the 2019/20 campaign, when he played in the Champions League for the Dutch club.
He’s since played against Liverpool in this season’s competition, which the Reds won 1-0.
Schuurs was impressive during that match and didn’t seem to be overwhelmed by Liverpool’s front three.
He is a calming presence at centre back, similar in a way to Van Dijk.
Standing at 6ft 3in, Schuurs is also a threat from set pieces.
Schuurs could be brought in to provide boss Jurgen Klopp with extra options.
The German has suffered since selling Dejan Lovren in the summer.
Injuries to Van Dijk, Fabinho and Joe Gomez mean they are currently relying on the inexperienced Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams.
Joel Matip is their only senior centre back, which could cost them in their next few games.
Schuurs is one potential signing alongside Dayot Upamecano from RB Leipzig.
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Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson will miss Monday’s clash with Arsenal as he has not fully recovered from the knock which forced him off at half-time of Sunday’s win at Chelsea.
The absence of the England midfielder increases the chance of Jurgen Klopp handing a first start for new signing Thiago Alcantara, who was Henderson’s replacement at Stamford Bridge.
“We will see, we will see. We have a few days to train, some boys have to recover from last night (the 7-2 Carabao Cup win over Lincoln, so we will see how we set up against Arsenal,” said Reds boss Klopp when asked about the Spain international’s ability to start after only 45 minutes game time.
MAILBOX: Liverpool’s ‘perplexing footballer’ who could be next Ings or Joelinton
“I have an idea, but why should I make the decision today when we have time until Monday? But he is in contention, for sure. Yeah, let’s see.”
Klopp received some good news with Joe Gomez set to return to training, giving the manager the option of restoring his first-choice centre-back partnership at Anfield, having played midfielder Fabinho there last weekend.
He added: “Joe should be back today in training. Billy the Kid (17-year-old centre-back Billy Koumetio) is back in training. Joel (Matip) is not. Hendo is not yet, this game is for sure too early.”
While much of the focus has been on Liverpool’s new arrivals, with Diogo Jota making a second-half debut against Lincoln and set for inclusion in Monday’s Premier League squad, attention is now turning to fringe players who may be offloaded.
Harry Wilson, who spent last season on loan at Bournemouth, is attracting interest from Burnley while young striker Rhian Brewster, who would normally have been expected to play in the Carabao Cup but was left out at Lincoln, is a target for Sheffield United.
Klopp, however, would not be drawn on any departures.
“It should not surprise you transfers or these kind of things we don’t really speak about,” he said.
“He was not in the squad you can make of it what you want. There is nothing to say about it otherwise we would have to speak about it constantly.”
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1. Guard of honour? Don’t care and nor should you. On we go…
2. Fair play to Jurgen Klopp. The only prize on offer to Manchester City tonight was momentum ahead of next season and Klopp could have taken even that off the table by naming an understrength side. A Harvey Elliott here, a Curtis Jones there and, all of a sudden, the game would have had a very different look and significance.
But he resisted that urge. One to eleven, this was a proper Liverpool without an asterisk, without proper motivation and – superficially at least – without any excuses.
3. And good to see Pep Guardiola play Phil Foden in a game of consequence, and in this more advanced role which increasingly seems like it might become his permanent home.
One of the theories about Foden is that City are too good to facilitate his development. That in the situations in which he’s typically used, their superiority is such as to provide no sort of useful context. Who knows if that’s right, but it sounds logical enough, and so seeing him in this kind of game – dead rubber or otherwise– felt like it actually served a purpose and a function.
4. Tonight was just Benjamin Mendy’s fiftieth Premier League appearance for Manchester City. There lies a problem which needs addressing this summer/autumn/winter/whenever the transfer market opens.
5. Penalty? Initially no, then yes. The first bits of contact were fine, because that was the kind of standard penalty box grappling that referees pretend not to see. But after Sterling had shifted the ball out of his feet and created an angle to cross or shoot, Gomez kept hold of him, denying him the opportunity to exploit the space he’d manufactured.
He probably did go down quite easily, but the game has created a situation whereby players feel the need to do that to get the decisions to which they’re entitled.
6. Gomez was culpable again for the second. He was left exposed as that move unfolded, finding himself one-on-one with a player capable of shifting and shooting with lightning speed, but Sterling was only scoring in one way and Gomez failed to protect that route to goal.
Don’t let him cut inside, don’t let him cut inside, don’t let him cut inside.
In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t a big deal – it barely warrants a conclusion – but, while obviously talented and deservedly Virgil van Dijk’s first-choice partner, Gomez isn’t one of those players who’s guaranteed a starting place and neither is he in such substantial credit that bad moments occurring back-to-back can just be shrugged off.
That isn’t a prompt to re-categorise him, that would be absurd, but this was a reminder that van Dijk’s shadow is a forgiving place and that, when he’s not quite himself, there are still imperfections in Liverpool’s backline.
7. Defensive issues aside, the movement from Kevin De Bruyne for City’s second was exemplary. Most of the time, it’s De Bruyne’s talent which draws praise and quite rightly so, because that dynamic playmaker category – that floating position he plays – is a territory almost all of his own.
But that second goal was about workrate: his run drew Andrew Robertson away from the ball, creating the time and opportunity for Foden to play Sterling in on Gomez. Simple, but superb. The goal doesn’t happen without him and his industry is just something else of virtue to admire.
8. That goal isn’t scored without Phil Foden, either. There are lots of young players who are pretty on the ball and who can play with one or two touches in tight spaces, but not nearly as many who know when to release possession. Foden seems to have that instinct and – at a guess – that’s probably why Guardiola currently sees him as a credible attacking option.
It’s a fine art. Having the timing to draw players in and then exploit the space created by that displacement is a real skill and Foden has it.
9. …and he can finish. That much we knew – or are starting to know – but the intricate build-up also made him look like a player born to play for Guardiola. The finish was comprehensive, a lovely lift over Alisson and high into the net, but it was the awareness for where the defenders were and where the space to drive into would be that made it such a charming bit of play.
Admittedly, it had become obvious by that point that Liverpool weren’t themselves and that one team was considerably more committed to their task than the other. But what a good goal and it’s rare that Andy Robertson is made to look that silly by anyone, let alone a player still searching for a permanent place in a first-team.
10. Let’s put Rodri in the ‘maybe’ pile. As time goes on and a replacement becomes increasingly hard to find, it’s becoming obvious – if it wasn’t before – just how unique Fernandinho is. Even now, at 34, City just aren’t the same without his tranche of abilities at the base of their midfield. Understandably so, because how many players with his quiver of passes also possess such sturdy defensive attributes too?
Put in another way: Could Luka Modric also play centre-half? Could Toni Kroos or Casemiro?
It’s not just a question of being able to sit and pass – see Jorginho’s issues at Chelsea for proof of that – because Guardiola’s teams not only need to be armed with knifing precision from deep midfield, they also require the player in that role to perform the defensive duties of a small army without possession.
Can Rodri do that? Let’s see. The positions he receives the ball in are smart enough and he seems composed in possession, but there isn’t an overwhelming case for him yet.
11. That’s going to be a long-term argument, isn’t it? You can feel it coming. On the basis that City have other priorities this summer and whatever money they do spend will be used to reinforced the centre of defence and the full-back positions, Rodri will presumably have at least another season to make this role his own – during which, naturally, his supporters and apologists will clash after every game.
He’s going to be one of ‘those’. Nice ball over the top for the fourth goal, mind. Lovely. He’s a good player. Unfortunately, the man he’s tasked with replacing was an extraordinarily rare one.
12. How do Liverpool work Naby Keita into this midfield?
It seems necessary for the sake of the side’s evolution. That seems absurdly harsh given everything the Henderson-Fabinho-Wijnaldum trio has achieved but, on a technical basis, Keita is probably better than all of them. People forget how he was viewed during his time at RB Leipzig. Temperamental and occasionally difficult, but also absolutely brilliant – shades of Iniesta, even, in the way that he’d carry and create.
That’s heady praise, possibly even hyperbole, but there’s no question that if his abilities were woven into this side properly, then its midfield would become a protagonist in games in a way that it currently isn’t and probably unlock different ways of winning games. It might also move away from some of its current dependencies, too, and the difficulties it experiences without Sadio Mane or one of the full-backs.
What’s the answer? Fabinho’s the best defender of the lot, he has to play. Henderson has also been deified on Merseyside in a way that makes his technical shortcomings essentially irrelevant. He’s not going anywhere. Is it Wijnaldum – is he going to have to be the necessary sacrifice if Keita is to have the impact he should?
13. Just to revisit the point about Benjamin Mendy. He actually played well this evening and, because he did, that first point seems really harsh. But isn’t the problem his fragility? His running style seems changed from what it was two years ago, and he seems a more clunky, clumsy player.
It’s like the difference between a young Jack Wilshere and the older incarnation, the version most recently seen limping about against Chelsea on Wednesday night. An injury and another interruption never seems very far away and, on the basis of the points raised in this article about the differences between Liverpool and City, that doesn’t seem like an uncertainty which can be left unaddressed for much longer.
14. The VAR intervention in the Sheffield United-Tottenham game remains the silliest of the night, but the decision to disallow Riyad Mahrez’s goal gave it some competition. Yes, it’s the rule, but when goals are being chalked off for handball when that handball has only occurred because of a foul, then it’s time to have a rethink about some of these mechanics.
If Fabinho doesn’t go through the back of Phil Foden, then Mahrez would probably still have run through to score. At the very least, it’s worth acknowledging that the literal way in which some of these laws are being applied is not really in the interests of the sport.
15. This game isn’t going to have any long-term worth, but it’s testament to how finely tuned football teams are. Liverpool probably didn’t have the most arduous week of training and, most likely, dietary and nutritional standards were allowed to slip over the last few days too. That’s putting it mildly, even though they probably didn’t spend the last 72 hours living like they were on a stag-do at the darts.
But it’s amazing how different they were. The energy levels were down, but not nearly as much or as noticeably as the general focus. Some of the positioning in defence was absolutely wild and, within the space of a week, all the little cohesions and understandings which make this Liverpool side so great had dissolved.
No big deal, they’re champions, but it’s a reminder of how elite teams need to be perpetually maintained to retain their advantages and also how dependent on their chemistry they ultimately are. It’s only been a few days and yet – despite probably living well and basking in the post-title glory a bit too much – that slight decrease in competitive tension reduced one of the most dominant sides of any Premier League season to generic cannon fodder.
16. For City, this wasn’t meaningless. It’s not some grand triumph which redefines their league season or disguises the fact that they remain a team with flaws. But it was good enough to continue the changing discussion around them; they’ve been excellent since the restart, playing like a side who are beginning to recover some lost ground.
They seem very fresh. Even in the Premier League, where they have nothing to play for and only injuries to avoid, there’s a life to their football which they didn’t have before the lockdown. Not domestically, at least. Whereas previously everything had felt as if it was reaching the end of a cycle, now it’s the opposite. Maybe it’s the appointment of Juanma Lillo as an assistant, perhaps it’s Guardiola’s infectious intensity, or maybe it’s a simple as a refocusing in response to having to sit and stew during lockdown, and these players seeing a thousand Liverpool victory laps in their mind.
Who knows, but they’re different. The football is bright and sharp, and inventive in a way which suggests a new degree of fertility. Even with six games left, they look like a side who can’t wait for next season to begin.
Seb Stafford-Bloor is on Twitter
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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said Joel Matip and Fabinho are “likely to be in the squad” to face Manchester United on Sunday.
Both players have spent a significant period on the sidelines, but their absence hasn’t affected Liverpool, who are 14-points clear at the top of the Premier League.
The Reds have won all but one game this season – the 1-1 draw with United in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford.
And Klopp revealed he would have two of his stars back from injury for the clash.
“[Joel] Matip and Fab[inho] trained normal yday so they are likely to be in the squad. Other three will not. Dejan [Lovren] will train from Monday onwards, other two we cannot rush it. When I am told they are ready, it is cool.” Klopp said.
“We all know how important it is to our supporters, but we cannot think – like Everton – it is an add-on. We play all games for our fans, not just these games. Natural enemy with the history and success. We said long ago, we have to write our own history.”
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Liverpool re-established their 13-point lead at the top of the Premier League – having gone a year unbeaten after the 2-0 victory over Sheffield United – but it came at a cost.
The Reds lost midfielder Naby Keita to a groin injury in the warm-up which leaves Jurgen Klopp with just 12 senior outfield players, plus new signing Takumi Minamino, and a number of youth teamers – three of whom were on the bench against the Blades – for Sunday’s Merseyside derby FA Cup tie at home to Everton.
Liverpool have played 33 matches so far this season, 11 of which have come in the last 30 days, and it is beginning to take its toll on the league leaders – who equalled the best start to a season by any top-flight team with their 19th victory in 20 games.
Keita joined defenders Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren and Nathaniel Clyne, midfielders Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xherdan Shaqiri, Fabinho and forward Rhian Brewster on the sidelines after injuring himself in the pre-match warm-up.
“I don’t know exactly what he has, it was his groin, but I can say he won’t be involved against Everton,” said Klopp.
“That makes it 12 senior players we have, plus the kids. That’s not cool.
“I have no clue how it happened, I think it was the last shot during the warm-up, he came in limping.
“Everybody who has played football has had this kind of injury, it’s not nice. It’s painful. I don’t know how long it will take, but he won’t be ready for Sunday.”
An early goal from Mohamed Salah was backed up by one from Sadio Mane midway through the second half in a match which was at times looked laboured despite Liverpool racking up the most passes – 874 – they have ever made in a Premier League match.
“There is space for improvement. How you deal with it in the headlines I couldn’t care less. We don’t see it as a threat for other teams. For us, it’s important that we just care about us,” Klopp added.
“We can do things better and we have to. But I saw some things tonight that we did better than the last game, for example.
“There was no party after the game. It’s really an intense period of the year, so it’s not like somebody wants to go out tonight and have a few drinks, they’re all happy when they’re in bed – so am I, by the way.
“The players know they want to do better. But for tonight, our performance was as good as anything. It was just really good. That makes me quite happy.”
United never got close to their best and their manager Chris Wilder admits they got off lightly with a 2-0 defeat.
“From our point of view I was disappointed because I don’t think we laid a glove on them. I think the scoreline flattered us,” he said.
“I thought Dean Henderson (the goalkeeper) was the difference between it being three, four or five.
“When you come here you have to try to get a foothold in the game and we couldn’t have got off to a worse start. It gave them a big lift and then I thought it was comfortable for Liverpool.
“If there is ever an example for young players – and our players – as to why they are world champions, why they are European champions and look like being Premier League winners as well it is the basic stuff they had to do tonight which they did miles better than us.
“We had to do that a lot better tonight than we did to stand a chance.”
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