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It’s international week, so send some mails to theeditor@football365.com. What else are you going to do? Aside from vote for us. Please.

Gareth’s right
The Sterling/Gomez fracas couldn’t be more suited for the current climate if it originated in a Sun journalist’s wet dream. Perfect for every pundit & rent-a-gob to weigh in, so I suppose I might as well too.

Southgate has, once again, taken the most reasonable, common-sense approach available to him. He’s already been getting it from both sides, from calling his reaction overly sensitive, with Bellamy’s golf clubs bought into it as though that were a perfectly regular, comparable event, to those who want the book thrown as they invariably do.

The fact is, the (moderate) punishment is perfectly suited to the (minor) crime. Sterling was at fault, and Southgate demonstrated such behaviour isn’t acceptable. He exercised his authority fairly and decisively, and made it clear he considers the matter closed.

Of course there’s going to be a continuing circus around this, but that was frankly inevitable the moment the incident occured. If anything, Southgate’s transparency has kept the tabloids neutered.
Damien

 

…I’ve been interested to see what F365’s reaction to the Sterling/Gomez fallout would be, considering that Raheem has (rightly) been praised so effusively on the site over the last year or so.

My two pennies on it (not that anyone cares): Rio Ferdinand has chirped up, saying he has “seen players get punched in the face, ribs broken, nose busted, head kicked like a football” in squads before. Assuming these statements are true (heads kicked in like footballs sounds very hyperbolic to me), why should the idiotic and violent acts of others excuse Sterling’s bad behaviour? It shouldn’t, and it’s a backward, knuckle-dragging stance to think that grabbing someone around the throat is remotely acceptable in any setting.

Gareth Southgate has clearly worked very hard to try and eradicate club bias and rivalry from his squad to ensure harmony among his players when they’re on international duty. He’s right to do so, with former England stars — like Ferdinand, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in particular — so public about how their time in England was negatively affected by disharmony. Behaviour like this threatens to destroy all that hard work and should not be accepted from anyone, even key performers. I admire Southgate for his bold stance; he will understand better than anyone the potential ramifications of it.

Sterling’s importance to the England team means this can not have been an easy decision. But it’s principled and sends a message to the rest of the squad that such behaviour will not be tolerated in this day and age. Bravo, Mr Southgate.

Sterling is a great advocate for tolerance and acceptance, having spoken out so bravely against racism and admonished the unsavoury parts of British media for the role they play in perpetuating prejudice. But that should not make him immune from punishment when he does something worthy of it. Southgate’s reaction is strong and shows to all players (in the squad and fighting to get in it) that such ill discipline, and frankly appalling behaviour) will not be accepted any longer.

Cheers,
Tom, Devon, NUFC

 

….So Rio Ferdinand feels Gareth Southgate made a mistake by dropping Sterling and opening him up to abuse.

Not that Raheem made a huge mistake attacking a fellow team mate in the canteen. A player who has done great things to combat racism by calling people out using the media and social media. The same tools that would at some point have made the incident public. If it comes out later it would look like Sterling got away with one.

By not reprimanding Sterling what message would that have given to the rest of the team? By dropping Sterling the message is loud and clear – standards are expected – at all times by everyone.

For all his great work Sterling showed a lack of maturity Sunday, constantly going into histrionics for every nudge and constantly confronting TAA and later, Gomez. (Compare to Liverpool players who just got on with it and used that to their advantage.) By letting it rollover to the England squad Sterling has let himself and Southgate down but will come out of this for the better.

The haters will always hate, Rio. The media, which includes you, will always make a mountain out of every molehill and provide ‘sage’ advice as if they have any experience or credentials to give it. Rio, you have never been a manager so have never had to actually be the one that has to make the call on what to do. By calling out Southgate it only reflects negatively on you.
Paul McDevitt

 

…This morning I read about the Sterling vs Gomez issue and thought back to an old interview with Rio Ferdinand talking about how the “golden Generation” couldn’t put club loyalties aside during England duty and how it affect team bonding and performance. So here Southgate has dealt with it decisively “go home we don’t need any of this S**t affecting the team. you can come back next time in a better frame of mind”. It draws a line in the sand and sets the tone, and to be fair to both players they admitted what they did was wrong letting their egos slide and accepted it without complaint. End of story right…..

No Here comes Rio To talk about how wrong it is as and un fair it is because Sterling has been a model pro so far, I’m sorry Rio but surely Sterling accepting he was wrong taking the punishment and moving on for the good of the team is also “being a model pro”. Southgate is creating a team ethic where by it doesn’t matter who you play for England is England, Spain and France did something similar and did alright as I seem to remember, this is not the England of Old where every players ego is massaged so they think they are untouchable and don’t need to put the hard yards in. Southgate also has form for this its pretty obvious that after Rooney turned up at someone’s wedding whilst on duty a word was had about behaviour and the consequences and it probably helped lead to his early retirement
Phillip

 

…Awwwww – is da iddy biddy baby getting a teensy bit fwustwated??!

Cheers Raheem mate, i think I snorted milk out my nose as I read this story over breakfast. Laughter is good for the soul.
Steve, LFC

 

City’s slump
While everyone is talking about how good Liverpool’s form has been this season, I don’t think anyone is talking about how far City have fallen from last season. While Liverpool are getting a fairly unsustainable (34 points/ 12 games) – 2.8 points/ game, which would leave them with a ridiculous 108 points for the season, if continued, City’s form has dropped off massively from last season. City last year earned (98 points /38) – 2.6 points per game, this year it has dropped off very significantly to (25/12) – 2.1 points per game, which over a full season is 79 points. This would not win the league in the majority of seasons and is a full 19 points swing from last season.

Even if City were to revert to their form of last season (2.6 points per game) from this point on, they would only get to 92 points. For Liverpool to get to 92 points after this start, they’d need to earn 2.2 points per game, which in real terms is three wins and two draws out of every five games. This is taking Liverpool as having no loses this season, which is again unlikely.

While Leicester and Chelsea are in the picture, there is nothing to suggest they could achieve the type of winning run required to get to 90+ points, which is likely to be total points mark which wins the league this year. Current form would leave them in the early 80 point mark.

Basically, City have suffered a significant drop off in form, and are no longer achieving the standards they have set out for themselves over the last few years. Liverpool could afford to start dropping a significant number of points and are still likely to win the league. The obvious problem with this is that City could go on a long run of wins which would alter this situation quite quickly, but judging on their form this season, it does sound unlikely.
Morgan (Available for Parties) – Dublin

 

How dare they?
Yeah Southgate, how DARE Manchester United play their record defender signing – that they also pay a huge salary to – every minute in the last month.

It as of Manchester United only care about making the most out of their money and their own performances as of caring about a different team………it is as if they only bought Maguire for themselves!
Yaru, Malaysia

 

Dance with the one that brung ya
Having moved to the US a few years ago I’ve come to learn a certain Yankee phrase: ‘You gotta dance with the one that brung ya’. This sums up why I have zero sympathy for Emery, zero sympathy for Xhaka, and zero sympathy for the board for the discontent shown by the Arsenal fans.

You are in charge of a multi-billion dollar company. But – more importantly – you are in charge of something that has been cherished in people’s hearts for 133 years. You want the crowd to not vocalize their passion and except mediocrity? Go work for that team down the road. You gotta dance with the one that brung ya.

The thing that staggers me most is the board seeming to believe Arsenal fans are irrational. We had one of the best summer transfer windows we’ve ever had… and we are EIGHT points off top four… THE EXACT SAME POINTS AS SHEFFIELD UNITED! All due respect to the Blades, but what are we Arsenal fans supposed to do? Smile and say – oh well – we did our best.

Being close to something can hinder objectivity. That is why Wenger stayed on for years past when he should have been shown the door (at least 2012, in my opinion). And that is why Emery is still in charge. The board have to see that we will not improve. The dressing room is lost. You’re not just choosing Emery to stay, you are choosing Aubameyang, Lacazette, Ozil and Torreira to leave. That is why Arsenal fans are so pissed.

We will be at least 13 points off top four come the new year. It will become untenable to keep Emery. I suspect Freddie or Arteta to take over until the end of the season and who knows what happens from there, because there’s no way we’re getting Champions League football back at the Emirates any time soon.

You think social media and instant opinion is ruining the support? Deal with it. Adapt. It’s the way of the world. You gotta dance with the one that brung ya.
Tom

 

Why walking off isn’t the answer
While racism at football matches is nothing new, it has certainly become a much bigger issue in the media in recent times. Players like Raheem Sterling and others deserve nothing but praise for highlighting it. They have taken the lead in bringing it to, and keeping it at, the forefront of our attention. Governing bodies, especially UEFA, have completely failed to respond to the problem in a decisive or appropriate fashion. It is totally understandable that players and other interested parties have stepped forward to try to lead on the issue and to think of ways in which they can act to tackle it.

At present, there is one main idea that everyone is focusing on and rallying around. The idea of walking off the pitch during an international game to highlight the issue and force UEFA to act more strongly against the nation whose fans are involved. The intention behind this is entirely laudable, but there is a deep flaw in the idea that nobody seems to have considered.

Racism isn’t limited to a few thugs and hooligans. It reaches every level of society. There are rich and powerful racists too. They fund far right organisations, contribute to election campaigns and act however they can to promote division and hatred in our society. It is these people and their potential actions that everyone is ignoring.

It took 50 or so racists to disrupt the recent Bulgaria versus England Euro qualifier. That’s a coachload. In every country, every large town even, and not just the ones we think of as having a particular problem, there are plenty of racist idiots and thugs.

In order to understand why walk-offs aren’t the solution we need to put ourselves inside the mind of a rich racist. A powerful man who also has contact with other like-minded people and connections that reach all the way down into everyday society. We also need to do a little maths. How much would it cost to recruit 50 idiots, who needn’t have any interest in football or the least care about a lifetime ban from attending games, and to pay them, say, £200 each (or Euros)? How much to hire a coach and to buy them all tickets to a game? How much to cover any fines that they might get from local courts if they get arrested and convicted? £10 000 to pay them. £3000 for tickets £1000 for the coach and driver. Let’s assume every single one of them gets arrested and fined £1000, another £50 000. That’s a total of £65000, rounded up. In reality the fines would be far less and there are plenty of thugs who would probably do it for the laugh and the day out. For arguments sake we will overestimate the total costs, so we’ll call it £100 000 including paying the intermediaries who would do the actual recruiting and organising. The rich people behind this will not get their hands dirty, they will remain well hidden.

So, for £100 000 it is possible to hire a coachload of thugs whose sole purpose is to create unrest and division and hopefully get a game abandoned.

With a budget of five million pound these racists could easily target 40-50 games. There are 10 rounds of qualifying games for the Euro’s or the World Cup. That’s 4 or 5 games each round. Think of the disruption this would cause if a decent proportion of these games were abandoned because players had decided that walking off the pitch was the right way to deal with the problem. Football is the global game. Worldwide coverage would be enormous. There is the potential to throw qualifying for a World Cup or a Euros into total chaos. The racists would have achieved something spectacular and hugely harmful to society, not just football.

To you or me £5 million is a fortune, but there are evil people out there who could easily fund it on their own. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t have to. These people are in contact with each other. We cannot even guess how many might be willing to put their hands in their pockets to contribute to such a scheme. Pay what you can, all contributions welcome. Don’t forget that the real cost would almost certainly be far, far less. Half the budget is to cover fines, £50 000/game. The total fines dished out to fans after the Bulgaria game was less than £2000 in total, between four fans.

The rich racists are out there, the money required is not an issue. The disruption, the chaos, the divisions it would cause are huge. This is exactly what these people want to achieve. If an ordinary concerned citizen can think of this, then you can bet that they have too. Plans may already be in place, even for next weekend. Perhaps the Bulgaria disruption was actually the beginning. Perhaps they are waiting for the first walk-off to happen before they pounce and put their plans into operation.

It is for this reason that walking off the pitch is not and cannot be the answer. It is what the racists want, it is what they would happily pay to make happen.

It is a terrible burden that our black and ethnic minority footballers have to face, but they cannot walk off the pitch, it is not the answer. They must endure the provocation, try if they can to think of the harm it would cause wider society. This is a great deal to ask and it isn’t fair either, but a different solution must be found.

So, what can be done. The answer lies with UEFA and FIFA. These organisations must be made to tackle the issue. To throw teams out of tournaments if necessary, to act decisively. How do we make this happen?

Players, fans, clubs and national governing bodies like the FA and those of other leading countries must come together and act. A new protocol must be devised to replace the 3-step anti-racism one that is now in place. This might be something like: 3 minutes to stop the chanting, if that isn’t done a demerit is awarded. If the chanting is repeated, another demerit. A certain number of demerits result in automatic ejection from the current international tournament and the following one too. This is just an example. The actual protocol must be agreed by the clubs and nations themselves. UEFA and FIFA must be given an ultimatum. The biggest clubs must come together and threaten to boycott the Champions league, or better still, to break away from UEFA altogether and form a new organising body for European club competitions. The major nations must do the same thing for the Euros and the World Cup. There is little respect or goodwill towards these two organisations now, why not start again with new organisations if these two will not act upon this issue? UEFA and FIFA are rich. There is plenty of money available for extra stewarding, for extra policing, for more security cameras, for whatever is needed to help individual countries tackle this issue.

Once again, this is a huge burden to place on young men who just want to play football without having morons make monkey noises at them. It isn’t right and they shouldn’t have to endure it. There is however an opportunity for fans and for players to take a real lead on this issue, and by doing so to spur football as a whole into taking decisive action. Football is so important in so many people’s lives. If football takes the lead against racism and really works hard to kick it out then it will have a huge positive impact on wider society. I urge fans of every club to form action groups. I urge all players, not just those from minority backgrounds to band together, and to get together with the fans to put pressure on the clubs and the national organisations. Force UEFA and FIFA to act, or form new governing bodies and let them rot. If we get together and take this action then we really can make a difference. We really can kick racism out of football. The opportunity is in our hands and we have to grasp it.
Marcus Chapman.

 

City fallout
Firstly, I owe an apology to Liverpool F365 mailers. I didn’t read either of Monday’s mailboxes until last night chiefly as I was expecting a deluge of spittle-flecked, smash-up-their-coach, It’s Our Year nonsense. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The mails from ‘Pool fans were balanced, respectful and incisive. I should’ve known better. It’s why I read F365 in the first place and that’s to avoid reading puerile, hate-filled bile purporting to be opinion. Respect and congratulations on your well-earned win.

As for the game itself? I never thought we would win it. City’s prior performances have shown that we’re just not right and seem to be operating at 85% efficiency as well as lacking the clinical finishing and crisp, confident, dominating passing that we displayed so often last season. The game was, for me (Clive) a microcosm of the season so far. Unforced errors and missed goal scoring chances. Liverpool were the exact opposite and looked like they were certain to score every time they went forward. If that’s not a sign of Champions, then what is? That’s also why I think the handball thing was largely irrelevant. Even if we’d scored first, either from a pen or open play, I’m not convinced we would’ve gone on to win.

Top four/title winner predictions then (In November? Sheesh. Oh, and Sheffield Utd before either Spurs Arsenal or Utd for top 6 btw). Leicester look the finished article to me, and the relative lack of fixtures compared to ‘Pool, City or Chelsea will also work in their favour. Chelsea, on the other hand, are obviously a ‘work in progress’ and have that unpredictability that comes with outstanding youth prospects. You might not ‘win anything with kids’ but somebody tell me how it will be that this Lampard team won’t finish in the top four?

City won’t win the title this season. There. I’ve said it. I’ve posted in previous mails that I’m not sure winning the PL 3 times in a row is possible. Certainly not if you have Guardiola’s obsession with winning every available trophy put in front of you, every season and without exception. That’s not a criticism and I cannot but admire the man for his unwavering desire for excellence. It’s what makes him one of the best managers in the world. It’s more that I’m not convinced that you can instil the same belief in 30-odd players for three long seasons in a row, including the fact that the majority of same will also be regulars for their national teams.

Which leaves Liverpool. They have one Achilles heel and it’s the same regardless of how many fixtures they play or competitions they engage with. Injuries. Avoid them and it’s all gravy. Have ‘em and there are now three teams that will be looking to jump on their backsides.

I’ve written before that this hasn’t been the two-horse race that many ‘experts’ predicted and that surely can’t be a bad thing. With the greatest respect to Scottish football, the last thing the PL needed was the equivalent of an unrelenting Celtic/Rangers total dominance.
Mark (Another International break. Sigh. FFS). MCFC.

 

Sterling and MLS
1. Sterling – he is my personal marmite. Love how he has come through a torrent of abuse by the tabloids to become one of England’s marquee players.Loved his energy and drive while playing with Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. Hate that he had so little faith in the Liverpool project and shunned us as soon as he could. Am really surprised that he had an off field tiff with Gomez, suggests he feels really raw and hard done by, by Liverpool . But I don’t think he has been. We gave him a chance, Rodgers molded him into a hell of a player on merit yet as soon as he could get out and play the best years of his career somewhere else he did. Why should the Liverpool faithful show him any love or appreciation? What he does for England is another matter but I am lukewarm…I can handle a small amount of marmite on a bit of toast but more than that is unappetizing – so it goes with Sterling.

2. MLS – saw a compilation of this season’s MLS Cup playoffs over the weekend. I still remember rooting for MLS after the 1994 World Cup back when US commentators would yell “interception!” excitedly whenever there was a misplaced pass that went to the opposition. Back then they also could not get their heads around saying “offside” and would insist on calling it “offsides” each and every time (how you can be “off” two sides at once is beyond me). For at least 10 years the standard of play was pretty poor but what I saw for this year was impressive – lovely stretches of play, high quality goals. MLS is here to stay and the standard of play may eventually rival Europe’s top leagues. If this happens I predict we will see an expanded Champions League. You heard it here first!
Miguel L (not looking forward to the 2 week break)

 

Arsenal and racoons
My god I think Daniel Storey’s comparison of Arsenal to a perplexed raccoon in winners and losers may be one of the greatest things I have ever read. It fits them perfectly, making 2 goal leads disappear with Emery standing there wondering how it disappeared. Brilliant simply brilliant.
Aaron. Cfc. Ireland.

 

England 2020
Finlay after all these years we still need to have the conversation about Lampard and Gerrard NOT BEING ABLE TO WORK TOGETHER!
Leon, Melbourne

 

VAR corner
One of the most tedious arguments about the Premier League’s adoption of VAR has been the complaint about the referees not using the pitchside monitors. I really don’t see what difference they’ll make.

Yes, they were used in the World Cup, but only after the VAR official had reviewed it. They then made the recommendation to the on-field ref to review, and I seem to recall that virtually every time they were instructed to review on the pitchside monitor, they then overturned their original decision. This effectively means that the VAR official made the correct/final decision. If the VAR official doesn’t think it’s worth the on-field ref reviewing it, then it’s not a clear and obvious error. If they do think the on-field ref has to review it, then they already believe it’s a clear and obvious error, so there’s no need for more time to be wasted in the on-field ref then going over to the pitchside monitor to review it himself.

I’ve read Micah Richards (and others) say that if the on-field ref reviews it and stands by his decision then “hands up” and “fair enough”….yeah riiiight. If Michael Oliver had re-watched the handball himself, he may well have stuck with his initial decision and you’d still have people claiming it was a fix, and that he’d never have the balls to disallow a goal at Anfield, etc etc. It’s what fans do. Complain about decisions that go against you and ignore or justify the ones that go in your favour. VAR will never ever change that, no matter how it’s implemented.

Now, the offside thing is different kettle of fish, and that has to be improved by better technology and quicker. At least 1mm offside is consistent for all teams. Son for Spurs, Firmino’s armpit for Liverpool and now Lundstrum for Sheff Utd. It appears incredibly harsh, but the threshold has been determined and is at least the only consistent application of VAR so far. It just needs to be done so much quicker and clearer and that’s where the technology currently lacks.

Blatter and Platini were initially reluctant to introduce Goal Line Technology, but once they caved in, their stipulations were that it had to be immediate and accurate to within 5mm. There doesn’t seem to be the same regulations for offsides. This needs to be a priority for IFAB to determine and instruct all associations how to proceed, otherwise it’ll just keep being a problem as it’ll keep happening.
Don L. Renegade

 

…I was listening to Neil Swarbrick talking about VAR last night and these are some quotes from what he was saying on sky with reference to on pitch refs using the pitch side screen.

“we’ve had feedback from stakeholders, clubs, managers etc within the game and the Premier League is built on tempo, speed and intensity and the less time we take out of the game the more beneficial it is for the Premier League package”

To be fair to Swarbrick he did say it was a work in progress and they need to be given time. However, 2 words struck me as a reason why they don’t use the pitch side screen – stakeholders and package.

Are Referees not using the pitch side screen as it will damage the brand? It might just be me (as I’m sure I will be told in the comments!) but it seems like they are making this decision to help the brand rather than for its actual purpose of making sure that all decisions are correct. Its no great surprise if a decision is being made to make sure they don’t damage the brand and stop the money coming in but they are making life very difficult for themselves if protecting the brand is forcing such decisions.

I think VAR can work but it has been a bit of a shambles so far and this will not help.
Neil, Glasgow (one of them, since there appears to be another one who writes in)

The post Sterling screwed up, Southgate was fair. What’s the problem? appeared first on Football365.

Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Send your mails to theeditor@football365.com…

 

Liverpool v Man City is meaningless
So it’s knickers in a twist time once again. A big media build up to an, in isolation, insignificant match. Of course each set of fans want to win, and each is a bit giddy because their teams are the current best but still it’s all bollocks really.

Liverpool will be leading no matter want. Irrespective of the result Liverpool will be leading by 3, 6 or 9 points.

City are good enough to overturn even 9 points. Make no mistake this City team will not be daunted by a 9 point gap. Spurred on by it probably.

Whoever wins it’s takes nothing away from the quality of the other team! Both are class and all the superlatives are valid.

Both managers know. This is just one match and that is what they will be focussing their teams on.

That’s said. We all will be taking sides, we will be giddy at the start and we all hope to see an attacking spectacle and goals.

Even though we know it’s meaningless, we set that aside because we love football it’s a great distraction from life’s general bull…
Chris (Mauritius 9 points Baby!)

 

Pancake City
I wrote in recently questioning how City (and Liverpool) can keep their mojo going after three intense-as-only-Guardiola-can-make-them seasons.  Well, last night’s game was a good example of what I was trying to get at.  Eleven super-talented players on the pitch but not a hungry, dynamic team and epitomised perfectly by the first goal, I think.  Great quality but seemingly almost clockwork in its execution.

I can’t quite put my finger on it but City look, not quite drab, but flat.  Players giving the ball away cheaply and the likes of HRH King Kev making some very poor passes.  Basic errors that were, largely, unforced.  I don’t know, they seem not to be as focussed as we have come to expect and I do wonder if the effort of achieving 198 points (and the consequent silverware that went with it) over the last two seasons isn’t taking its toll?  Pep put out a far stronger team than I expected (I thought for sure that he would have rested Fernandinho and Sterling for example) and yet still they couldn’t quite get the job done.

I’m also worried that Pep, in pre and post-match interviews, has been making repeated references to ‘our problems’ or ‘the problems we have’ by which he means injuries.  I stand to be corrected but I don’t recall him doing that before.  Sunday’s game was always going to be a challenge and, personally, I expect it to be a super-cagey affair but who knows?  Maybe the importance of the occasion will galvanise the players into upping their game.

I do hope so because we a clearly missing some zip or zest.  Either way I expect to be watching that game from behind the back of the sofa.
Mark (Sorry Clownio.  But when Kyle Walker makes more saves in goal than you did, it’s time to say goodbye).  MCFC

 

Enjoying our time in the sun
Chris, Croydon. I’ve lived through the highs of supporting Liverpool as a youngster and also the rollercoaster ups and downs since hitting teenhood into the present day. I take nothing for granted and am regularly bricking it whenever we play – particularly recently. Mentality monsters we might be, but having supported Liverpool for so long, it’s ingrained into me that something could and might easily go wrong at some point.

I am enjoying our moment in the sun for as long as possible, and with the possible exception of Man Utd (sorry!), the only times I want teams to lose is a) when they play us and b) if they are in direct competition with us.

So no chips here pal. I’m not sure there’s a direct correlation between being a tw*t and being a Liverpool fan. But there probably is a correlation between a traditionally big and successful club in the mire providing an easy platform for rival fans to have a poke and a laugh. Suggest you make new friends/acquaintances.

Cheers,
Somerset Dave

 

Pancake CityI felt like I needed to write in to defend Mason Mount (I think/hope you’ll get a few of these off of Chelsea fans?) after Ed asked what he provided to this team.

In your own mail, you listed 3 things he can do to the 2 things you believe he’s weak at.  Doesn’t that tell you something?  He has very intelligent link up with his fellow attackers and his drive and energy are crucial to how we play.  It is more than enough for us right now and, don’t forget, he is only 20 years old, the fact he we are having a debate as to whether he is a starter for this Chelsea team is a huge testament to him!

“Drive and energy” are kind of intangibles but if you want some cold, hard facts then he averages nearly 3 shots and 2 key passes (15th in the league by the way) a game.  He is vital to one of our styles and is flourishing under Frank.  Should he be playing every week?  No, arguably nobody should, but anyway our midfield is drenched in quality and he can easily be rotated to maintain sharpness and fitness.
BlueLuke – CFC

 

No mind games, just football
I believe the comment about Mane diving from Guardiola was out of character of him. Especially with regards to liverpool I believe there is a mutual respect and even gentleman’s agreement between the manager and players to keep the talking on the pitch. It seems Guariola’s quick reversal and compliments of Mane and Liverpool since that proves this and is a refreshing change to previous rivalries.  I forone really enjoy this rivalry without the Mourinho, Wenger, Ferguson mind games of yesteryear.  Have we ever had this combined rivalry and respect before?
David (have a feeling a comfortable win for City) Morris

 

Football music
I wholeheartedly agree with Mikey CFC on the music Real Madrid play every time they score a goal. It annoys the shit out of me.
It goes something like this for those of you lucky enough never to have heard it:
‘Ohh laay, oh laaay, oh laaaay, oh laaaaaay, oh oh laaaay, oh laaay, oh oh laay’.
I feel sorry for Cristiano Ronaldo who had to put up with that din 451 times, and hundreds of other times when he’s team mates scored a goal. Just celebrate and get on with it.

There is no competition, it’s hands down the worst.
Kireca

 

In response to Mikey, Cfc’s question about bad goal celebration music I remember when Rangers player Bob Malcolm scored what was a very rare goal for him at Ibrox it was met by the Spongebob Squarepants theme song being blared over the sound system.

As far as I could tell it wasn’t a nickname and was never referenced anywhere before or after. It was just that his name was Bob.
Duncan, Bradford

 

Hi,

Just writing in response to Mikey’s understandable mail re goal music.

I think the vast majority of people would say that goal music is completely unnecessary. I can’t see how it enhances the moment – if you need to hear rhythmic chords when your team bangs one in the onion bag to get excited then football is not really the sport for you (try WWE).

The one caveat to this is the introduction of VAR which makes me think that there would be a level of entertainment from having the ‘Countdown’ theme tune played when a decision is pending (if only their decisions took just 30 seconds !)

Regards,
Sparky LFC

 

What should Messi do?
In the article you linked in Mediawatch today on ESPN, Graham Hunter asks the reader to put themselves in Messi’s shoes and imagine what you’d do with your future and whether you’d stay at Barcelona.

To me, the answer is “I’d donate some or my salary back to the club conditionally, so that they could sign the players I want to be competitive and win the trophies I want to win.”

This isn’t something I’d suggest about almost any other player in the world – despite the fact that they could all afford it. The thing is, most players’ wages and influence don’t hamstring their clubs and limit their ability to afford reinforcements to such an extent, AND most players aren’t making so much money from endorsements that they could literally afford to play for their club for free, with no material impact to them or their family. Adidas pays Messi a fortune, and Messi gets other endorsements too.

I don’t judge Messi for not doing so, and he probably has doubts about how effectively the club would use that money, but the salary he gets from Barcelona is outsized and probably doesn’t leave enough for the club to invest sufficiently to attract the calibre of reinforcements he himself wants.
Oliver Dziggel, Geneva Switzerland

 

Top ten prolific scorers
I was fortunate enough to have the pleasure of watching Aguero (and his Argentina colleagues) in every single 2007 FIFA U20 World Cup Canada match they played. He (and they) were absolutely dominant, and now I’ve had the misfortune of seeing him score 173 goals for Manchester City. I really don’t like that he’s still this bloody good 12 years on.
Dickon – LFC – Ottawa

 

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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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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Tottenham attacker Son Heung-min has travelled with the squad for the Champions League trip to Red Star Belgrade.

The South Korean has been receiving support from his club following his involvement in the challenge that saw Everton midfielder Andre Gomes suffer a broken and dislocated ankle on Sunday.

Son, who was sent off for the tackle, was visibly distraught after seeing the extent of Gomes’ injury and was inconsolable after the match.

That led to some doubt over whether he would travel with Spurs for their vital Group B clash in Serbia, but he was part of the group that left from Stansted Airport on Tuesday lunchtime.

The club are understood to have appealed against the red card, which was awarded by VAR for “endangering the safety of a player which happened as a consequence of his initial challenge”.

Gomes received lengthy treatment on the field and underwent successful surgery on Monday, with Everton saying he is expected to make a full recovery.

Harry Kane was also part of the group that travelled, fit again after he missed the Goodison Park clash with a virus.

Erik Lamela was not present as he battles a thigh injury, while Hugo Lloris is also a long-term absentee.

Boss Mauricio Pochettino will face the media at the Rajko Mitic Stadium this evening.

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A tale of three managers
After yesterday’s fixtures it made me wonder who will be the first to leave their managerial post, Quique Sanchez Flores at halftime, Mauricio Pochettino after Spurs lose another lead or Marco Silva after yet another poor Everton performance.

Answers on a postcard of course.
Mikey, CFC 

 

And a fourth
Well that was the last straw.  I’ve stood by this City team through thick and thin but that was an utter disgrace.  I’m sorry but I can’t defend these overpaid, bone idle Prima Donnas anymore.  We mere mortals actually have to do REAL work for a living in order to pay through the nose for inflated ticket prices.  If we’re going to cough up these huge sums, then the VERY LEAST the team can do is entertain us.  What did we get yesterday instead?  Five goals in 18 minutes which was sort of all right, but they then go and make us wait a full 30 MINUTES for another goal?!  I mean, what planet are these players, sorry jokers, on?  Hang your head in shame Bernardo you lazy git and a certain someone needs to pull his finger out for more than just one in every 10 or 12 games.  Yeah, looking at you Kevin!

Guardiola needs to fine the whole lot two weeks wages and put ‘em out training with the kids for a month.  See how they like that.  And if Pep hasn’t got the cojones to do it then he can f*ck off as well and take his so-called ‘system’ with him and good riddance.
Mark (I mean, what has Guardiola ever done for us?  Apart from the trophies and the hundred points and losing just one PL game in the last 8 months and ……………….) MCFC.

 

Son’s crying
I advocated for VAR when others dismissed it’s positives before it was implemented.

But…

If Son is offside in the build up to Aurier’s goal, then I don’t want any part in this new reality.
James F, BCFC KRO

 

We were robbed.

The goal was quite possibly going to be the sucker punch to take the wind from Leicester’s sails, but instead, the Foxes got a new lease of life and new energy. Props to them for using it effectively, but for our part, don’t talk to me about professionalism or Spursy; it would be difficult for any human being to get over the unfairness of it.

When did the powers that be decide that VAR offside decisions should achieve better than inch-perfect accuracy? There are several reasons that would be ridiculous:

1) There is no way the picture resolution even allows for such perfectionism.

2) Do they check that the picture used is from the exact millisecond the ball ceased to be in contact with the passers foot?

3) Where does a person’s shoulder end and the arm start, when the arm is in a horizontal position? Or where a person’s buttocks exactly reside in their shorts? The rule itself is hardly accurate enough for this kind of scrutiny.

4) To do it properly with this accuracy, it takes way more time than these checks should take. This pause was already too long, and we can’t be sure they even got it right (see points 1 to 3).

They’re quick enough to find a frame that more or less depicts the offside situation. If that’s indecisive, just call it good. VAR has enough PR problems already without this kind of silliness.
Samuli, THFC, Helsinki (And yes, I do realize City got robbed against us similarly, though subjectively speaking, it may have been marginally less ridiculously perfectionist)

 

The other side
I am sure your still get scads of email about the disallowed Tottenham goal.  But before taking it all out on VAR, take a moment to recall all the horrible offside calls and no-calls that awarded goals or took away goal scoring chances. I’ll gladly take a hyper-legal ruling from VAR to avoid all the unfairness that happened before.

Regards,
David O, California

 

Don’t be Rash
Let me move clear of any rotten tomatoes flung my way by saying that I am not suggesting Rashford is anywhere close to Aguero’s class (Aguero has class while we are still debating if Rashford has quality) .

But seeing Man City’s rout of Watford yesterday I couldn’t help but notice that Aguero too squandered a lot of chances..a chip over the keeper that went the wrong side of the post.. a couple of tap ins at the keeper or into side netting.. but still he finished the match with a goal nevertheless from the penalty meaning his goal/minute ratio remains preserved. And he will finish most matches with atleast a goal purely because of the De Bruyne and Silvas masterclass behind him.

Rashford (or any other United Striker right now) on the other hand feeds on scraps every match.. and why wouldn’t they given the creative ability of the United midfield. Apart from having lesser chances each match to tuck one away its also making the strikers rusty.. its like expecting your first shot in a training session to be your best one..

And its not Rashford/Martial who are the first being accussed of not being clinical in front of goal… we have had some of the better finishers in Lukaku and Falcao also seeming worse than they are in this line up…

Improve this midfield.. and we may find Rashford or Martial or both seeming much more like proper CFs..
Akshay (Tottenham seemed to have joined the Arsenal and United party in doing their utmost to not finish in the top 4)

 

Celebrate good times. Come on!
Dear Sir or Madam,

I’ve had a few and I’m watching Saturday’s highlights.

They’re pretty depressing.

Remember being able to spontaneously celebrate goals?! That was cool huh? And kind of the whole point of being a football supporter…

HA!

Forget about that! Let’s get the rulers and the f*#÷@*  protractors out first. It turns out my GCSE maths teacher was right! Trigonometry IS important!

I was literally looking at a mathematical equation on my screen today when I thought I’d tuned in to watch Spurs play the bin robbers.

I’m at the point where if you remain an advocate of VAR, even a”Ooh it’s the rules that need to change,” defender of VAR, to me (Clive), you’re a tRump supporter! You’re a jolly Brexiteer.  You’re a climate change denier.

You’re trying to ruin something I love.

I wouldn’t want to have a drink with you and I don’t think you really understand what makes football exciting.

You know what? Football isn’t perfect. Refs aren’t perfect. But guess what? Life ain’t perfect. Deal with that. Don’t ruin it. It ain’t broke. Don’t fix it.

Enjoy the things that are joyful. Like f**king celebrating goals.

Peace and love
Al (Goal line tech fine! It’s black and white and it’s instantaneous and it’s fair. NOT a Luddite.) NFFC

 

(It’s because we have limited staff on weekends)
Hi

Is there a reason that F365 and the vast majority of the press isn’t reporting the news that Liverpool paid Manchester City £1m for illegally accessing City’s scouting software?

The Leeds United “spygate” was much much less sinister yet was the lead story on actual news bulletins, not just sport.

I get, as this site points out thankfully, that Liverpool are the Mother Teresa of modern football if you read certain sections of the press, but this blanket of silence is just beyond weird.
Gav, Edinburgh 

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Winners

Manchester City
Another 3-0 win in Kharkiv, but this was a far more important victory than a year ago. City did not play with any great style, or at least only did so in short bursts, but what mattered is that they showed their teeth.

People like it when City lose and, back home, the defeat to Norwich is still a punchline. The schadenfreude has evidently tweaked Pep Guardiola, too, and he was irritated enough to call back to the media’s heckling of him during his first season. A little strange; it has been more than three years.

But that just underlines how important this was. To get off to a good start in the Champions League, of course, because that’s always useful, but also to change the conversation. With that in mind, this was precisely the right moment for City to effortlessly dominate a side on their own pitch and remind everyone of their power.

And what a terrific performance from Fernandinho. Yes, Guardiola can afford to be a bit experimental with his centre-backs, but don’t underestimate the challenge of occupying an unfamiliar position at this level of the game.

 

Valencia
Our early winners. despite the chaos.

 

Erling Haaland
How much fun was that to watch? Haaland had scored three hat-tricks in the Austrian Bundesliga already this season, but for most of us this was a first glimpse. He’s a spectacle, in the true, ‘who the f**k is that?’ sense? By all accounts he possesses a slightly alternative personality away from the game (Google the story about the Champions League anthem) and he seems very off-beat in front of the press. On the pitch, though, he plays like a PG monster from a child’s nightmare.

He shouldn’t be able to move like that. Does that make sense? He’s too big, he’s too square and he has that ever-so-slightly crouched posture when runs which makes it looks like he’s swimming. So: a vast body with disproportionate limbs and a big, friendly looking face. If he was chasing you, you’d definitely run away.

Soon, he’ll take up residence in the gossip columns. He’ll be seized by the have-a-go analysts and lavished by the kind of hyperbole that will make it impossible for him to surprise us ever again. For now, though, he’s just a big, goofy teenager doing amazing things at the summit of the game.

And he also looks like he could eat Roy Keane for breakfast, which his dad probably doesn’t hate.

 

Jesse Marsch
The only shame of Haaland’s hat-trick was that it overshadowed his manager’s own accomplishment. On Tuesday night, Jesse Marsch became the first American to coach a team in the Champions League. By half-time, after a staggering 45 minutes and with a 5-1 lead, he knew he was about to become the first American to win in the Champions League too.

It’s quite a story. Five years ago, Marsch was coaching at Princeton University, and even then just as an assistant. He did spend three years in charge of the New York Red Bulls and, obviously, has benefited from the club’s network and pathways, but this has still been jet-powered rise. And a challenge, too. When he was appointed by Salzburg, the home fans hung a banner behind one of the goals in protest. A couple of months later, his team have won their first seven league games of the season, a division record, and currently boast a goal-difference of +28.

Add six more goals and three Champions League to that growing CV.

 

Mats Hummels
What a performance. That Barcelona forward line obviously isn’t what it was, but Hummels was outstanding in that goalless draw and clearly the game’s best player.

Which might be of interest to Jogi Loew, who forcefully retired Hummels from international duty at the age of just 30. You suspect that it wasn’t an entirely sporting decision, because Hummels is no wallflower, but it doesn’t look like a particularly smart one, either – particularly given how poorly Germany defended in that recent lost to Holland.

It’s not just that Hummels remains an excellent player, it’s that he comprises the balance of attributes that Loew seems to need at the centre of his defence. On this evidence, none of those abilities are on the wane yet.

 

Adrian
Just for his save, because if he never makes another appearance in the Champions League, which he probably won’t, then that’s quite a memory to take away.

It was fortuitous, because when a cross is hung up to the back post like that, there’s only so much a goalkeeper can do. The coaching instruction is presumably for him to just put himself in position to hopefully be hit by the ball – the Schmeichel starfish technique, for instance, which was actually a very passive position.

But this wasn’t just that; Adrian wasn’t just hit by the ball. Dries Merten’s technique was perfect; it was a really well-struck shot and, no matter how many times you watch, it still seems unlikely that – 1) Adrian will be able to hang in the air long enough to make the save and 2) have the necessary finger strength to gain proper purchase on the ball.

Let’s not rank it. Who cares how it measures against other excellent saves? This was just brilliant, brilliant goalkeeping.

 

Losers

Tottenham
Back to where they were, then, because everything that was good about Spurs at the weekend dissipated during the flight to Greece. They played with no pace, no accuracy or control and, most concerningly, without any authority over the game even after finding themselves two goals ahead.

That’s one of the anomalies about Tottenham under Mauricio Pochettino. No matter how long this group stays together and what they experience, they never seem to acquire the ability to properly protect leads. Sometimes that can be excused on account of the opposition or scenario. More often, though, it can be traced back to inexplicable errors which, really, have no justification.

As they didn’t on Wednesday, when Christian Eriksen’s cheap turnover and Jan Vertonghen’s rash challenge allowed Mathieu Valbuena to equalise from the penalty spot.

Just calling it ‘Spursy’ is irritating, because it implies that the players have no responsibility and that, ultimately, the club’s flawed DNA can always just be used as an excuse. It’s not a curse, it’s just rubbish defending and Tottenham are guilty of it far too often.

“It’s not about tactics or quality players but the level of fight. You need to match the opponent in aggressivity, excitement, motivation. That is the first demand – you need to work. It’s not only the responsibility of one person; it’s everyone’s responsibility.”

Mauricio Pochettino is correct in his diagnosis, but so what? Five years in and his team are still kicking themselves in the balls on a semi-regular basis. This is why they haven’t won anything. It’s not the absence of some elusive fortitude, it’s because – for all their very real, very substantial improvements – they remain a fundamentally sloppy football team, prone to wavering concentration and poor decisions. They can still be brilliant to watch and their fans rightly love them for that, but how precise are they? How much detail lies behind Pochettino’s approach?

Those aren’t rhetorical questions, it’s genuinely difficult to know the answers.

Let’s not lose sight of a bigger picture: it wasn’t important that Tottenham won in Greece, it was just essential that they didn’t lose. But that not withstanding, this was still a dreadful performance which will have to be their worst of the campaign if they’re to do anything of note in the Champions League this season.

 

Christian Eriksen
And that’s why nobody bought him. He’s regularly (and correctly) identified as the side’s most important component, but he still takes far too many games off to be worth the kind of fee that Daniel Levy was asking for.

It’s not intentional, Eriksen is far from lazy, he just doesn’t possess the mental appetite for the game that very best players all share. He doesn’t have the slightly sociopathic quality that instructs that sort of drive and that’s probably why, unfortunately, he’s prone to making the same mistakes so often.

Think back to the Champions League quarter-final last season and the pass he gave away in the build up to Raheem Sterling’s disallowed goal. How does a player not learn from that kind of mistake? How is that, four months later, he can find himself in a similar situation, leave the ball hopelessly unprotected, and then fail to react properly when it’s stolen from him?

 

Liverpool
No, it shouldn’t have been a penalty but, yes, Liverpool still deserved to lose.

More here on a sloppy first night which has made a simple group much harder than it should have been.

 

Chelsea
There isn’t much point in doing game-by-game analysis of Frank Lampard, because we know he’s still learning and we knew that these kind of games would be a feature of this season. No, the defeat to Valencia wasn’t good, but it didn’t feature any new concerns or present problems with Chelsea that hadn’t already been diagnosed.

One thing though: get those set-pieces sorted. Rodrigo scored from one and Kevin Gameiro might have scored from another. Liverpool aren’t Tony Pulis’s Stoke City,

  

Antonio Conte in Europe
Conte can’t really do European football. Last time we saw him, his Chelsea side were being dumped out of the Champions League by Barcelona at the Round of 16 stage in 2017. True, he was likely preoccupied by that redundancy-baiting sulk at the time, but his Serie A-dominating Juventus side were hardly a European power either, exiting meekly to Bayern Munich in 2013 and, more embarrassingly, in the group stage a year later.

Stranger still, Juventus went all the way to the final the very next year, in Max Allegri’s first season in charge.

So there’s a something here and, as a result, familiarity in seeing Conte’s Inter, who are currently top of Serie A, being outplayed by Slavia Prague. They salvaged a late point through a fortunate deflection, but that flattered a horribly disconnected performance which Slavia didn’t quite have the composure to punish properly.

Conte’s football could never be described as exhilarating. Actually, its greatest virtue is its repetitive nature and percussive attrition, but it’s concerning just how loose Inter were and how far away from his ideals they seem to be. It’s early in his reign, that’s only to fair, but they really were hopeless.

 

Mason Mount
The last time Francis Coquelin played at Stamford Bridge he left humiliated, having been rag-dolled by Eden Hazard. On his return, he was evidently determined to leave more of an impression.

And he did. Whether there was any malice in his first half follow-through on Mason Mount is debatable – almost certainly there wasn’t – but the effect will be that one of the stories of the season will now be placed on pause. At the time of writing it’s not clear how serious the ankle injury is (although a scan has precluded ligament damage), but it was bad enough to see Mount leave the field and, presumably, will cost him a place in the team which faces Liverpool at the weekend.

Urgh. He’s one of the reasons to watch the Premier League at the moment and who wasn’t intrigued by Mount’s first steps in European football?

 

VAR
The sentiment behind Clear & Obvious is right, because nobody wants endless interference or to see tiny parts of the game being refereed. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what makes VAR such a difficult sell. The problem with this ‘high bar’ is that incidents are occurring which should be reversed – the Callejon penalty, Marc-Andre ter Stegen leaving his line – but which invariably aren’t because of that determination not to interfere.

The more that happens, whatever the intention may be, the more antagonistic it will ultimately become.

 

Lyon
The draw with Zenit now makes it eight Champions League games without a win. Stranger still, the last time they did win in the competition was against Manchester City at the Etihad.

Lyon are obviously no longer the club that won eight straight Ligue 1 titles at the beginning of the Millennium. The nature of French football has changed and their place in the domestic and continental hierarchy has been permanently altered. But this is still a team capable of doing more than they are.

Dembele, Depay, Aouar and Tousart may not be Juninho, Benzema and Govou, but it’s not as if they’re without talent.

 

Real Madrid
Big clubs have suffered at Parc des Princes during the group stage before, but this defeat felt more instructive. Not least because it was inflicted by a Paris Saint-Germain side without Neymar and Kylian Mbappe and without the customary reliance on individual power.

They just looked like the better team and, given what PSG represent in the modern game, that’s absolutely damning. But still very fair, because Real are in a terrible muddle and this felt like an accurate portrayal of what they are.

And what is that? A head coach with a very tenuous relationship with a few of his key players. A midfield which now looks tired and imbalanced and improperly weighted with attacking players. And a forward line which, last night at least, was propped up a by a player who the club tried to sell to the Chinese Super League over the summer.

When Zinedine Zidane first resigned, he made an excellent decision. He had his European Cups and a reputation which, because of that success, was very difficult to argue with. What he identified, most likely, was that the squad he’d been managing was reaching the end of its lifespan and that whomever was in charge over the next few years would have to suffer through transition.

And, unfortunately, although turning Florentino Perez down must be difficult, Zidane has stumbled his way back into the situation he did so well to extricate himself from. Remember that episode of The Simpsons in which Homer jumps out of a car which is heading off the edge of a cliff but somehow, inadvertently, rolls back in? Yeah, that.

 

Seb Stafford-Bloor is on Twitter.

 

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No, it wasn’t a penalty. Jose Callejon clearly initiated contact with Andy Robertson and, unfortunately, neither the referee nor the VAR were able – or willing – to correct their decision.

But the incident still characterised the tone of Liverpool’s performance. They were slack and ever so slightly complacent. They had good moments and promised goals at different points of the game, but Roberson’s wifty challenge was indicative of an attitude which wasn’t quite what it should have been. Not that he deserves a flogging, because he remains overwhelmingly in credit, but any modern defender knows that if you dangle a leg out like that then, most likely, someone will take an opportunist tumble.

So two conclusions, both of which are true: Liverpool were done by the referee, but they also paid the price for a lack of a mental sharpness.

That showed in different facets of the game. For the penalty, of course, and that strange Virgil van Dijk mistake which Fernando Llorente turned into a second goal, but also in their uncommon inaccuracy at the other end of the pitch.

If the game had an emblem, then it would be that, in particular the mess Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah made of that second-half counter. The pass Mane tried to play was far harder than it looked, but it was still the kind of opportunity that this team – and those players – habitually exploit week after week.

In fact, as that move was developing, who didn’t think it was destined to end with the ball in the net and one of those players wheeling away in celebration?

In a way, that’s a measure of the respect that Jurgen Klopp’s side now command. They are usually so precise and so ruthless that when that killer quality is missing, it provokes incredibly harsh criticism.

And it is harsh, because there was plenty of good in that performance. Collectively, because it was far superior to what Liverpool offered in Naples a year ago. But also individually: Sarah Winterburn has already written about a very fine Fabinho display, and there were notable showings from, among others, Jordan Henderson and Adrian.

Still, let’s not lose sight of what Napoli are. Serie A is just three games old, but Carlo Ancelotti’s side began their season by conceding three goals in both of their first two games – to Juventus and Fiorentina – and, while they kept a clean sheet at the weekend, that fragility was definitely in evidence last night. Kalidou Koulibaly is a brilliant defender, but he is not part of a brilliant defence; if Napoli survive the group, they’ll be eliminated by the first efficient side they face.

So this was a game Liverpool should have won. That they lost isn’t cause for any alarm, but it has created a degree of uncertainty within a group which should have been straightforward. On the evidence of what they did to Genk, nobody should be looking forward to playing RB Salzburg, either.

It’s important because Klopp’s players could do with making the first part of their Champions League defence as processional as possible. They’ve already established a handy lead back home, but Manchester City will inevitably improve and, when that happens, Liverpool will need to match their power. The ideal scenario, then, would have been to have this group won within three or four games, not for it to remain in the balance.

Not incidentally, that visit to Salzburg is scheduled for December 10 which, television permitting, will come six days after the first Merseyside derby of the season and three days on from an awkward looking trip to Bournemouth. The likely legacy of defeat in Naples will probably be that Liverpool have to enter that stadium, with its feverish atmosphere, needing a result to secure top spot or, worse, qualification itself.

In isolation, nothing which happened on Tuesday night was too significant. However, with the knowledge that Liverpool’s ability to achieve their season’s objectives will partly depend on how easy they make life for themselves and how much leeway they can create throughout their season, it was an inconvenient, avoidable and irritating mishap. A game that they could afford to lose – this morning’s Mailbox is absolutely right about that, but one which would have been very useful to win.

Seb Stafford-Bloor is on Twitter

 

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has hailed the mentality of Marcus Rashford to “be confident enough” to take Manchester United’s winning penalty against Leicester.

Rashford faced intense criticism and questioning over the international break after failing to impress with England.

The forward started the season well with United by scoring twice in the 4-0 win over Chelsea but had not scored since, and even missed a penalty in the defeat to Crystal Palace.

Rashford atoned for that mistake with the only goal from the spot in the 1-0 victory against Leicester, with The Sun publishing an exclusive claiming he and Jesse Lingard had received ‘the same warning’ from Solskjaer and assistant Mike Phelan about their non-football distractions.

The Sun say Lingard has been ‘told to concentrate more on being brilliant and less on bling,’ as the 26-year-old ‘peddles aftershave and iPhone cases’ through his ‘Be Yourself’ fashion label, part of the JLINGZ brand.

Weird sentence.

The United management team believe Rashford ‘is also in danger of being side-tracked’ – although quite what by, The Sun do not mention.

After the Leicester game, Solskjaer paid tribute to the forward being “confident enough” to take the spot kick.

“He’s been practising penalties and he can go both ways,” he said.

“He can go through the middle, he was calm and we’re going to get more of them, no doubt about it, because we’ve got players in the box with quick feet and, with VAR now, there’s no chance you’re not going to get them, even though we haven’t got every penalty we should have.

“Going forward, I think we’ll see him slot in a few more.

“Every striker misses a penalty. I’ve seen Maradona and Messi do it. I’ve seen Platini against Brazil and Zico – my favourite player of all time – missed in the same game.

“You’ve just got to be confident enough to step up next time. What’s the worst that can happen?”

 

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