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Steve Bruce has picked out the “excellent” Newcastle duo of Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron as they grabbed a 2-2 draw against Manchester City.

Jetro Willems cancelled out Raheem Sterling’s 15th goal of the season but Kevin De Bruyne thought he had won it with a fine 82nd-minute strike.

But Jonjo Shelvey curled home a brilliant 87th-minute equaliser which, coupled with Martin Dubravka’s stoppage-time save from Sterling, ensured the game finished level.

And Bruce was full of praise for two of his front three, he said: “Allan and Almiron today were excellent in their work. You’ve seen three quality goals and we’ve got two of them.”

Asked about his side’s performance, Bruce added: “When you take on one of the big boys it’s always nice to get something from it.

“Their attitude and effort and endeavour in terms of their workrate and to keep getting after the ball, it’s manful in terms of how they do it.”

When asked if the atmosphere at St James’ Park was a bit flat, Bruce continued: “It would have been nice to get some of the ball to give them something to shout about!

“They’ve witnessed their team rolling up their sleeves and showing a bit of determination. The fans were superb at the end.”

 

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Send your mails to theeditor@football365.com…

 

Liverpool – Perception v Reality
I have noticed an odd narrative developing around Liverpool this season and I couldn’t help but vent my frustration about it.

The narrative is best exemplified by Ian Watson’s piece this morning “Comebacks alone cannot sustain Klopp’s ‘mentality monsters…” Well written as usual, but the article itself is a classic straw man argument in my opinion. The title and the piece itself suggest that Liverpool and their impressive progress so far this season are being sustained on comebacks. It’s a nice idea, just not actually true. You know, like with facts and stuff.

Liverpool have played 20 competitive games this season (if you count the Community Shield – no sniggering at the back) and of these I could only identify 5 where anything resembling a ‘comeback’ was needed. That’s 25%, for clarity, which is hardly reliance by any standards. Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup involved coming from behind to win on penalties, which is barely even a ‘comeback’. The win against Newcastle involved falling behind early but being back in front after 40 minutes and never really looking in danger. Against Man Utd a 1-0 deficit was turned into a 1-1 draw, which again is hardly a comeback when a win was expected by most. Spurs and Villa in recent weeks are probably the two matches where I would agree the comebacks felt far from certain and if Liverpool were relying on those kind of results for their current position I could see the argument. But they evidently aren’t.

This narrative (sorry, everything is a narrative these days but it works in this instance) seems rife across most media. Last night on the BT Sport coverage, Jake Humprey argued that Liverpool do not look as convincing as last season and seem a bit shaky in defence. This is quite obviously a ludicrous argument given that after 11 games in the Premier League only 2 sides have conceded fewer goals than Liverpool, who are also unbeaten in all competitions this season. This doesn’t stop this idea being trotted out again and again though.

To me, Liverpool’s form and results this season are overwhelmingly a positive indicator for the rest of the season and beyond. The rampant (and arguably more outwardly convincing) bulldozer of last season has largely been replaced by a team with the kind of immovable confidence and will to win that, to borrow a cliche, is usually only seen in title winners (or at least clear contenders). During Man Utd’s dominance in the 90s and 00s they squeaked results and had the sort of comebacks that are apparently now unsustainable on a regular basis. Coming from behind, late goals, plenty of ‘luck’ (with luck in this case being the inevitable by product of dominance and creating lots of opportunities). These are all things that used to annoy the hell out of me with Utd under Ferguson, as a lot of the time it was hard to explain how they managed to get a result given the way the match panned out.

At some point the penny will drop that Liverpool are now just an outstanding football team, breaking records and currently arguably putting the most expensively assembled squad in the history of football in the shade. If they are doing this with late goals, comebacks, borderline decisions or anything else that is apparently ‘unsustainable’ then all the better. These are the circumstances that breed winners and give teams more and more belief going forward. The things Man City have done in recent years seems to have distorted people’s perception of what a title challenging team should look like. If that continues to feed the fawning over City and the cynicism around Liverpool’s form then all the better in my mind.

And please, before writing the inevitable “boo hoo we aren’t getting the credit we deserve” response, read again.

The Reds are on the march!
Gaz

 

Stop comparing everyone to Klopp
Can we stop with every other top club using Klopp as a barometer for giving their manager time??
Give OGS/Lampard/Emery time,look at Klopp.
You are comparing apples/oranges/bananas.

6 months before Klopp came in Liverpool lost 6-1 away to Stoke. Gerrard had left when he took over. Coutinho & Lallana were his 2 best players when he took over (Firminio was only there 2 months,the jury was out). His centre backs were Sakho & Skrtel,his midfield had Allen & Lucas Leiva in it,the bench had Jordan Ibe & Adam Bogdan on it.

In 15/16 he took the squad to 2 cup finals(would have won both but for Moreno & Mignolet) & the team got improved results.
In 16/17 Liverpool were top of the league by Xmas but tailed off when Mane went to the African Nations & the squad was threadbare(Lucas at centre back for gods sake!!) but he made top 4.
In 17/18 they got to the CL final-Karius howlers,Salah injured,Bale freak goal- & would have finished second but Klopp rested players for the CL quarters & semis and took 3 points from 12 v Stoke,WBA,Everton & Chelsea & finished 6 off second.
They also sold Coutinho mid season.
Last year they lost 1 league game,they won the CL.
They managed a points total that would have won the league the year the invincibles won it,even would have won it when teams played 42 games.

They have never lost a home european tie under Klopp,never lost a 2 legged european tie under Klopp,haven’t lost a league game at home in two & a half years,haven’t lost at home at all in over a year & have lost 1 game out of their last 49 league games.
They have played sublime,swashbuckling football every season.

OGS lost to PSG at home(& has already lost more league games then Klopp has despite managing 105 fewer games).
Lampard has lost at home to Valencia & lost more league ganes this season then Klopp has in his last 50.
Don’t even get me started on Emery.

My point is every single season Klopp improved,got results & delivered.
Anyone with half a brain could see that even though trophies weren’t being delivered they were getting there & they were challenging.
He improved the defence immeasurably culiminating in last season having the best defence in the league & the CL.

He managed this with a net spend of 80m(20m per season).
If Pep sold KDB,Sterling,Silva & Aguero for a combined £400m he still would have spent more then Klopp…would City be challenging for the league??..I highly doubt it.

Klopp didn’t get a free pass,he delivered season in season out.Don’t forget Feb 2018 was the first time Liverpool made the knockout stages of the CL in 10 YEARS!!

Now people are complaining if it takes Liverpool to the last game to get out of the group.
Ferg, Cork

 

Arsenal are a shambles
How sad to see the once proud and globally respected Arsenal Football Club in such a shambles. The rot started when the American owner, whose only interest was in empire building and money making, became involved and things have gone downhill from top to bottom.

Traditionally the Board was renowned for doing things in the proper, efficient, and sensible way but how that has changed ! Firstly, with great respect for what he had done for the club , why did they give Arsene Wenger such an extended contract when clearly the game had overtaken him both on and off the pitch and to extend it for a further two years was foolhardy and irresponsible. Did they really expect him to achieve something in two years after ten years of failure ? It is now becoming abundantly clear that severe doubts must be expressed regarding their choice of the replacement manager as this appears to be yet another ill considered Boardroom mistake. Over the past eighteen months the quality of the football, the achievement of results , and the reputation of the club is simply not acceptable for a club of the stature of Arsenal.

Mr.Emery may well have been a successful manager in the middle regions of Spanish football but he is clearly not up to the standard required for the English Premier League (or PSG.) The same applies to Granit Zhaka who played well in the German league and  indeed as captain of Switzerland but he is not EPL material. This is not a unique situation as several other players have come from overseas with a good reputations to  other clubs but have not made it over here.

Football has always been my main source of entertainment  but as well as the demise of my own club the game as a whole is not what it used to be. The overall quality has declined, there is so much cheating with diving and faking injuries, the ridiculous, childlike goal celebrations, and the last straw VAR which should be consigned the dustbin along with the man who runs it- Mike Reilly , without doubt the worst referee of his generation.

For these reasons attendances throughout the game will continue to recede as they already have at the Emirates.
Macca ( thank goodness for fond memories), Herts.

 

Integrity compromised
I have written before about how the FA Cup has gradually been eroded in its importance over the last 30 years for numerous reasons . Now it seems that the League cup in its various guises whilst always being a “secondary” competition is now on dangerous ground as regards its future.

The decision for Liverpool to play the quarter final one day before a game of arguably more importance on another continent is wrong. I appreciate that this is the clubs decision as much as the authorities due to fixture pile up , and basically the club has given up on the competition as it gets to the final stages.

There are rules in place to stop clubs playing weakened teams to ensure the integrity of all the competitions.In this instance there is no conceivable way that LFC can play a team that even resembles the one put out in the last round against Arsenal. Assuming LFC take 20 players for the two games Club World Cup that means the likes of Gomez , Ox , Keita , Lallana , Origi and Milner who all started in the game against Arsenal will be unavailable as they will be in Qatar.

This essentially means a LFC under 23 side will play against Villa. Now it is normal for the bigger clubs with their larger squads to play a few youngsters in the early rounds of the league cup to give them experience and then if the team progresses to gradually increase the number of senior players as the prospect of winning a trophy comes nearer.  Chelsea and Man City particularly have monopolized this competition over the last few seasons , bedding in a few youngsters and using the trophy as a springboard to push on to other successes.

There is also the issue of the fans who have paid full price to essentially see a reserve side play. Fans can go and see the reserves at any point but no doubt ticket prices will not be reduced in this instance despite a different but arguably lesser quality side on show.

Klopp is correct , the fixture list needs looking at . Clearly this year is compounded by LFC taking part in the Club World Cup but they are representing Europe in this instance so it has to unfortunately take precedence over the Carabao Cup . Perhaps next year if an English side is fortunate enough to win the champions league they will be excused from league cup duty , however this is not ideal as UTD’s( not their fault) enforced abscence from the FA Cup some 20 odd years ago demeaned the competition overall.

The authorities need to sort this out but I doubt anything will be done , competing interests from the premier league , UEFA , FA etc will all fight their corner as they push their product at the detriment to others .

The league cup is at a crossroads not entirely of its own doing. Its needs to be looked at or it’s integrity is doomed.
DL , LFC , Geneva

 

Prisoner’s Dilemma
I really enjoyed Banjo, Prague’s proposal to give teams who play a score draw of 3-3 or higher 2 points each, as well as the Editor’s hypothesis that this would lead to the teams just agreeing to score 3 goals each before the game really began.

You guys have basically just set up the Game Theory scenario, The Prisoner’s Dilemma.

Other mailbox contributors probably understand Game Theory better than I do, but my feeling is that if two teams agreed to each score 3 goals before the game really began, the team who scores the 3rd goal first would have a rational reason to betray their opponents and prevent them from scoring their own 3rd goal. This in turn would affect the next iteration of the scenario, and so on. Its hard to predict exactly what would happen in the long run – my guess is that most teams would eventually revert back to not allowing each other to score at all.
Oliver (hey, at least this was more interesting than discussing Conflicts of Interest + Separation of Duties) Dziggel, Geneva Switzerland 

 

Pretty sure the fun in crazy scores is at least partially due to the fact that they’re rare events. If you make them commonplace, you’ll ruin football. Think about 6s in a T20 cricket game.
Rahul, India

 

It’s not double jeopardy it’s playing advantage
Kwab said it was unfair that Ajax were hit with double jeopardy misses the point. Blinds foul was noted but rightly the advantage was with the attacking team was allowed to play on. Play is still ‘live’ the defender handles the ball a penalty called and defender then abuses the referee receives a 2nd booking and is off. Blind who committed a bookable offence is sent from the field.

It’s not the refs fault that Ajax’s discipline was so poor. Blame lies squarely with Ajax not the ref.
Anon

 

Chill out, Winty…
Hi Guys,

Could someone please tell Sarah Winterburn to chill the f**k out.

Nobody with any sense is saying this Chelsea team is the finished article. There is a lot of work to be done and we do need to replace a few aging and outdated players.

That being said we are exceeding the expectations of almost everybody and the positives far outweigh the negatives for the time being.

May I also remind Sarah/F365 that Lampard didn’t declare himself the new Fergie so please stop using it as a stick to beat Chelsea/Lampard with.

Cheers
Conor, Dublin

 

Help save WSC
To all mailboxes and 365 staff,

I’m an extremely busy man, I often find myself thinking up a decent mail to send in on a current topic only to get sidelined by work etc and never getting around to it. But today I’m making sure I find the time to write on something very close to the heart.

I’m sure a lot of people here have heard of the wonderful When Saturday Comes monthly football magazine, and I’m sure there are fellow subscribers out there. In these days of the world wide interweb print writing is very much struggling. Progress some might say. While there are some excellent sites about, this one especially, there is a lot of dross drowning out the more traditional format which, because it is not free to access, has to be extra special to survive.

In this months copy the editorial spelt out just how difficult they are finding it to keep afloat. I dread the thought of it going under. I urge all readers to buy a copy of this months When Saturday Comes. You will not regret it. Most of you would consider a subscription for yourselves or as a great Christmas gift (this is how I got my first copy, Christmas present from mum in 2007).The writing is fantastic. It has helped launch the careers of many writers like Barney Ronay and Harry Pearson. It even played a part in campaigning against the implementation of football fan ID cards in the 80s

Please help keep a much loved institution in business and enjoy some top quality journalism to boot!

Yours hopefully,
Will (the analysis of Roy Keane on itv had me in stitches) CFC

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Newcastle centre-back Fabian Schar is shocked by the treatment of “good guy” Granit Xhaka – and fears his Switzerland team-mate will find it hard to bounce back.

Schar admitted that fan backlash is the “worst thing” that can happen to a footballer after Xhaka was booed off by his owen supporters against Crystal Palace., reports The Sun.

The 27-year-old said: “I played with him for years and I know how he is as a person.

“He’s doing everything for Arsenal, which is why he’s captain. He’s a very good guy and people aren’t seeing this.

“I will see him in a couple of weeks with the international team and I’ll give him a hug.

“It’s very hard for a player when your own fans are against you.

“Then you do something emotional that people don’t understand.

“It would be a very difficult situation for any player to have to deal with that.

“To have that from your own fans is the worst thing that can happen to you.

“Nobody wants to see things like this. I’m happy that this has never happened to me.”

 

 

Schar says Xhaka is worshipped back home after helping Switzerland into the last 16 of last year’s World Cup.

He added: “He has a much better standing in Switzerland.

“It’s seen as a big thing that he’s captain of both his country and Arsenal.

“He’s doing a great job for us. I know how he is and how he feels.

“I can really understand him and I’m feeling for him.”

 

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Charlie Nicholas says Scott McTominay and Fred are struggling to keep the ball when Manchester United are in possession.

The international break was an uncomfortable period for all connected to the Old Trafford giants, with the loss at struggling Newcastle leading focus to increase on players, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the entire background structure.

Yet United rallied impressively and came out fighting against reigning European champions Liverpool, with Marcus Rashford putting the hosts ahead on an afternoon when they would fall just short.

Substitute Adam Lallana secured a late 1-1 draw for Jurgen Klopp’s men, who had won their previous 17 league matches.

Nicholas told Sky Sports: “This is another difficult game for Man Utd. It was a Jose Mourinho-style performance against Liverpool.

“I can never remember United, even when I have seen them on the back foot and having poor times, seeing them knock 50-60 yards to get five or six seconds breathing space. United nearly won ugly.

“Anthony Martial is fit and I think he will start, while Marcus Rashford started, scored and played well against Liverpool.

“Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will want to go to a back four, but their midfield cannot keep the ball. Scott McTominay and Fred are grafting but they cannot pass the ball.

“It is another awkward night for Manchester United, but 1-1 would be a decent result for them and that is saying something.”

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Marcos Alonso insists Chelsea are still a work in progress, and there’s more to come under Frank Lampard, despite climbing into the top four.

Alonso’s goal 17 minutes from time secured a 1-0 win over Newcastle, the Blues’ fifth consecutive victory in all competitions.

The Spaniard hailed the improvement under new boss Lampard but insists there is still more to come.

“We have many options in the team and this is good. The team is getting better, we are improving game by game and we need to continue in this way,” Alonso told the club website.

“We are moving the ball quickly, our press is good and we are doing a good job as a team. We have clear ideas and we have to continue in this way.

“It was very important to win after the international break. We played with a lot of patience and at the end we got the goal, we kept grafting and got a good reward.

“It’s a new season with new staff and there’s room for improvement but since the beginning we have improved a lot. We need to keep focused on each game and work hard in training.”

 

 

Defeat was harsh on Newcastle, who dropped back into the bottom three, and manager Steve Bruce saw plenty of reasons for optimism.

The Magpies now face a run of more favourable fixtures, with a visit from Wolves next up followed by a trip to West Ham and matches against Bournemouth and Aston Villa.

Bruce said: “We’ve had a really difficult start in terms of who we’ve played – we’ve played Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and now Chelsea, and we’ve been away to Leicester. We’ve had a really tough start.

“The way the players went about their jobs, and their effort and commitment, I couldn’t have faulted.

“We looked a threat on the break, and if we can be a bit more careful with the final pass, then of course the big thing is we have to find some goals.

“But, certainly in the first half in particular, we looked a threat.”

 

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Jose Mourinho was hammered for much of what he said and how he went about managing Manchester United. Maybe he was right more often than we all thought…

 

Finishing second was an incredible achievement
“I keep saying and thinking and feeling that the second last season was one of my biggest achievements in the game.”

How we all laughed when serial winner Mourinho declared that leading United to a runners-up finish was up there with the two Champions League titles and four domestic leagues he has conquered. At the time, it reeked of self-preservation.

But Mourinho knew. And he doubled down on that view after he was sacked. “If I tell you, for example, that I consider one of the best jobs of my career was to finish second with Man United in the Premier League, you will say, ‘this guy is crazy,’” Mourinho said a month after being shown the door. “‘He won 25 titles and he is saying that a second position was one of his best achievements?’”

“I keep saying this because people don’t know what is going on behind the scenes.”

In the context of United’s current fortunes, maybe Mourinho deserves a stand to be named after him at Old Trafford after coming 19 points behind Man City, but comfortably ahead of Tottenham, Liverpool and Chelsea. His squad was very similar to the one currently disgracing themselves, with Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez (the Chilean joined halfway through the season) the only major exits, while Solskjaer has the luxury of the centre-back that Mourinho pleaded for.

 

Mourinho knew Pogba can’t be trusted
Paul Pogba may have been United’s most technically gifted player of the last three seasons, but Mourinho was right. The midfielder is a ‘virus’ in the dressing room.

“You don’t respect players and supporters. And you kill the mentality of the good honest people around you,” Mourinho is reported to have told Pogba after a draw at Southampton last year. “You are like a person with a flu, with a virus in a closed room – you pass that virus to the others.”

By that time, the problems at United had split supporters and pundits into two separate factions: Jose vs Pogba. Shortly after, it was Pogba who claimed victory, and his sudden-but-fleeting upturn in form upon Mourinho’s sacking gave ammunition to those who believed the manager was the problem.

But Pogba hasn’t changed. Yet again he went out of his way to engineer a move out of Old Trafford this summer and his form this season – when fit – has been as hopelessly inconsistent as we came to expect from the Frenchman under Mourinho.

Pogba can’t claim that Mourinho didn’t try. The manager tried a raft of formations and midfield personnel in an effort to get the best out of the record signing, and even after Pogba told United he wanted to leave having returned to work with a World Cup winner’s medal fluffing his ego, Mourinho offered an olive branch in the form of the United vice-captaincy. Pogba (metaphorically we hope) wiped his arse with the armband.

But United don’t learn. The hierarchy at Old Trafford are reportedly ready to offer Pogba a pay-rise in a vain attempt to persuade him that his future lies with the Red Devils. But Pogba wants out and he could not have made it clearer, with his words or his form.

 

Marcus Rashford isn’t a natural centre-forward
When Mourinho signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Romelu Lukaku in each of his first two summers in charge at Old Trafford, the worry for many was what their arrival meant for Rashford’s prospects. Their concerns were misplaced.

Rashford ended up making more appearances under Mourinho than any other Manchester United player and played the fourth-highest number of minutes. The problem for some was that Rashford spent most of his time on the pitch shunted out wide.

Around 50 of the academy graduate’s 125 appearances under Mourinho came as a centre-forward, with 32 of those coming from the start. According to Transfermarkt, he averaged a goal every 219 minutes while leading the line. Hardly prolific numbers.

Mourinho recognised that Rashford’s qualities were more suited to a wide forward, a player who can lead breaks rather than one who can receive the ball with his back to goal. But Rashford still saw himself as a No.9. The ex-manager explained his thinking last month.

“I am not going to say he cannot ever be a number nine, he can be a dangerous number nine especially if the opposition is not pragmatic, is not close and is giving spaces to attack. He can be dangerous in transitions,” Mourinho told Sky Sports. “But when Manchester United is a team that normally plays against teams who go to Old Trafford, close the door, bring the bus, bring the double bus, he is not a striker to play with his back to the goal.

“He is not the target man, he doesn’t score as many goals as a striker should do. So I think from the side you will get him to numbers of 10-12 goals per season.”

It seems Mourinho was right. Solskjaer immediately placed his faith in Rashford as his leading centre-forward – to Lukaku’s cost – but after an initial burst, the England attacker’s productivity has waned, as has his involvement in matches. Harry Maguire had more touches in the Newcastle box than Rashford – or any other United team-mate – on Sunday. Rashford looks so far off the pace as a leading striker that many people are assuming he is carrying an injury, despite Solskjaer’s insistence that he is 100 per cent fit.

The penny also appeared to have dropped with Solskjaer, who started the season with Martial as his starting centre-forward, with Rashford wide. But with Martial sidelined, Solskjaer has little option to persist with Rashford through the middle.

 

He knew Andreas Pereira wasn’t good enough
Mourinho had Pereira pegged as a continental Cleverley as soon as he got a decent look at the once-capped Brazil midfielder.

The 23-year-old spent the first two years of Mourinho’s United reign in Spain, initially with Granada before he defied the manager to go to Valencia for a season in 2017 – a decision which ‘disappointed’ Mourinho:  “His decision can be considered a young player who wants to play every weekend but also a young player that is not ready to fight for something difficult.”

Mourinho made his peace with Pereira’s choice and the manager offered the midfielder a chance to impress during United’s pre-season tour in 2018 while their World Cup players were still on holiday. In the United States, Pereira played as a No.6 where he eventually made his first Premier League start on the opening weekend. By the end of the following weekend, he was done in Mourinho’s mind. Pereira was hooked at half-time during a defeat which rang alarm bells at Old Trafford.

His next start came almost four months later when Mourinho rested key players for a Champions League group game at Valencia with qualification already assured. Back at the stadium he spent the previous season, Pereira was wretched. He was dropped again from Mourinho’s squad for the fateful trip to Liverpool, as he had been for the previous eight Premier League matches.

Solskjaer came in and having failed to convince Louis van Gaal or Mourinho, he was given a third opportunity. The current boss certainly appears to fancy the Belgium-born Brazilian more than the previous two managers – God only knows why. Pereira is a player without a position; he looks out of his depth wherever he is played. Fred may be the current poster boy for United’s slide but Pereira is equally as inept, as Mourinho quickly learned once he had the chance to see for himself.

 

He saw something in McTominay
When Mourinho brought Scott McTominay into his side and played him on an increasingly regular basis, even some within the club – his former academy team-mates among them – are understood to have been utterly baffled by what the manager saw in the gangly midfielder.

Not only did Mourinho play McTominay, he held the Scotland youngster up as an example to the rest of his high-profile, underperforming squad. Mourinho invented an award for McTominay at the end of the 2017-18 season, when United somehow finished second, so that he could be brought up on stage and paraded in front of the MUTV cameras as the template for his team-mates.

When Mourinho went, so too it was presumed would McTominay chances of regular involvement. Indeed, in his attempt to paint himself as the anti-Jose, Solskjaer used McTominay for a single minute in his first eight Premier League matches in charge.

But the midfielder has shown the kind of attitude and ‘special character’ that Mourinho saw in him to establish himself as one of the first names on Solskjaer’s team-sheet. Unfortunately for McTominay, any praise he receives is so often prefixed with “he’s no Keane/Robson/Scholes/Edwards” but he cannot be held accountable for the decline in standards at Old Trafford, especially while he is one of the few players trying to uphold them.

 

Ian Watson

The post Five things Jose Mourinho was right about at Man Utd… appeared first on Football365.

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Calum Chambers
“I’m delighted Calum has extended his stay with us,” said Unai Emery in July 2018. “He played an important role last season and will be part of my plans this season.”

What the Arsenal manager failed to disclose is that his “plans” involved Calum Chambers taking his new Arsenal contract with him across the city to Fulham. But as strange as the apparent U-turn was, Emery’s justification that a second loan spell “will be an important part of his development” seems particularly pertinent.

While the 24-year-old added a second Premier League relegation to his CV at Craven Cottage, the boy returned as a man. A campaign that started with him featuring at centre-half included some brief sojourns at right-back before carving out a role in defensive midfield. Upon his being named Fulham’s Player of the Season, the club’s official website described him as ‘one of our most popular ever loanees’.

And so to Tuesday, where Chambers was in sensational form against Nottingham Forest, assisting a goal apiece from either flank and balancing his new-found attacking instincts with a defensive resolve not often seen in these parts. His physical improvement in particular was eye-opening.

Rob Holding, Kieran Tierney, Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson and Gabriel Martinelli all impressed at the Emirates, but only one player was “amazing” enough to be singled out by the manager. He might well have earned a start against Manchester United in their 12-12 draw on Monday.

 

Taylor Harwood-Bellis
‘Man City already have a Harry Maguire-style centre back in Taylor Harwood-Bellis’ read the Manchester Evening News summer headline. But if one performance in a League Cup third-round game against lower-league opposition is anything to go by, the 17-year-old will surpass his new city brethren within a month.

The comparison carries little weight beyond height, of course, with Harwood-Bellis marrying obvious aerial prowess with calm and comfort on the ball against Preston. Only fellow central defender Eric Garcia completed more passes (90) than his 84, and his partner on Tuesday was making a fourth League Cup start of his career, having appeared in last season’s quarter-final and semi-final.

Pep Guardiola saw fit to praise both of his “exceptional human beings” after the 3-0 win, but for a player who only turned 17 this year, a professional first-team debut was a monumental step forward.

Regular Premier League football remains a distant objective, and Fernandinho will likely return by the weekend. But Harwood-Bellis at least justified his place in the central defensive queue, even if it is towards the back after pushing in front of Guardiola himself.

 

Danny Ings
It’s safe to say that Danny Ings expected his Southampton career to go a little differently. His gentleman’s bet that he would outscore Mo Salah was “just a bit of banter” with no money involved, but a final result of 7-22 won’t have been great for his confidence.

There was a silver lining of 23 Premier League starts, a tally beaten only by his first campaign in the competition with Burnley in 2014/15 (35), and almost four times as many as he made throughout his entire Liverpool career (6). With those injury issues thankfully and hopefully behind him, the 27-year-old is looking to push on.

Ralph Hasenhuttl ensured to freshen his competition this season with the signings of Che Adams and Moussa Djenepo, but Ings has risen to the challenge. Two goals in the derby win over Portsmouth takes his seasonal tally to three with one assist and a respectable return.

Perseverance – and a quite wonderful first touch – laid on his first strike against Pompey, while the deft finish applied to Michael Obafemi’s excellent through ball made for a rather pleasing second, and a boyhood dream realised.

Hasenhuttl has started Adams as a lone striker and alongside Nathan Redmond in Saints’ last two Premier League games, with Ings afforded 16 and 13 minutes as a substitute. He will fancy his chances from the start against a panicky Tottenham on Saturday.

 

James Justin
Somewhat lost amid Leicester’s excellent start to the season is that continuity, not revolution, has been the key. The eight Foxes with the most minutes played were all at the club in 2018/19, with Ayoze Perez the only player in the top 13 not to have been signed this summer – January arrival Youri Tielemans notwithstanding.

While Dennis Praet will need more than one Premier League start and one and a half League Cup games to prove that his purchase was not at least a little pointless, James Justin will be afforded a considerable amount of time. The 21-year-old joined under no pretences: two of the Premier League’s best full-backs are well ahead of him and Ricardo Pereira and Ben Chilwell would both take some shifting. The versatility of being able to play on either flank mattered not.

So it proved. Six Premier League games have passed with Justin acclimatising to the bench as an unused substitute in each. Even against Newcastle in the League Cup second round he watched on from the sidelines. But when former club Luton played host to Leicester on Tuesday, Brendan Rodgers gave him the nod.

A goal, four chances created, two tackles, two clearances and what the Leicester Mercury described as ‘a dream debut’ justified the call. The opportunities for such a naturally gifted and supremely talented player will come, particularly if he makes a habit of taking them in such an impressive manner.

 

Dominic Calvert-Lewin
The standard of the opposition will likely be used as a stick to beat him rather than praise him with. There always tends to be an asterisk next to the name of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who is constantly willing but not always able.

Perhaps a Premier League defence would not have afforded him the freedom of Hillsborough to score his first goal, nor would they have suffered the lapse in concentration that preceded his second. But Calvert-Lewin showcased both a fine touch and unstoppable finishing technique, as well as an awareness and instinct to put Everton through to the next round.

It will take more than that to convince many of the sceptics, but only a fool would suggest the 22-year-old is responsible for a shoddy record at set-pieces and an inability to win away. Richarlison (17) and Gylfi Sigurdsson (15) are the only other Toffees to register double figures for goals in all competitions since the start of last season, with Calvert-Lewin – who neither cost upwards of £35m nor has been allowed to settle into one position – on 11.

Whether he is part of the solution remains to be seen – although every club tends to have a similar style of player in their ranks somewhere. But Calvert-Lewin is most certainly not the problem.

Matt Stead

 

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Jurgen Klopp insists Liverpool would be able to cope in the event of an injury to defensive talisman Virgil van Dijk.

Liverpool’s title rivals Manchester City are suffering from an injury crisis at the heart of their defence, with Aymeric Laporte and John Stones both sidelined, leaving Nicolas Otamendi as their only fit senior centre-back.

Ahead of the Reds’ trip to Chelsea this weekend, Klopp was asked how Liverpool might cope should they suffer similar misfortune with Van Dijk.

“Does it keep me awake? Not yet,” he told his press conference. “It is the reason we have four centre-halves. It is not easy for the ‘in the moment’ No.4 to play.

“Of course injuries can happen but cannot think about them before they happen. We all need luck to be successful.”

“I’ve said it a lot of times, we have four world-class centre-backs. They can all play together in each partnership.”

Liverpool have already been hit with an injury to goalkeeper Alisson. But Klopp revelaed the Brazil stopper is edging closer to a return even if he cannot pinpoint a date.

“Alisson is making big progress,” he said. “A proper session yesterday with John Achterberg.

“He is not in team training yet, and we take it day by day. We will see. Too early to say.

“Naby Keita is back in training with the team. Today is first time with the team.”

However, striker Divock Origi is unlikely to feature against Chelsea on Sunday after suffering an ankle injury in last week’s win over Newcastle.

“Div, we have to see day by day, that’s how it was from the first day – how can he deal with the pain and stuff like that,” Klopp added.

“It is pretty early, so I don’t know exactly what the medical department will tell me (today) about that case.

“I think it’s unlikely but why should I rule him out? But it’s unlikely.”

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League