Jose ‘Bourinho’ makes his point!

Liverpool 0-0 Man Utd: ‘Bourinho is at it again’

Well that was an anti-climax to say the least.  A miserable Monday in the office and only the thought of MNF got me through the day.  The game being hyped as ‘the biggest of the season so far’ – the coming together of England’s ‘two greatest clubs’ proved to be a complete and utter disappointment.  Now there’s a surprise…

I got caught up in the pre-match hype and it was naive of me to expect an entertaining game seeing as Jose ‘Bourinho’ was involved.  Liverpool have been in great form, cutting teams open with ease of late and Jose’s team selection was the first sign of his intentions.

Negative from the start

The return of Fellaini and the inclusion of Ashley Young gave us an indication pre-match that ‘Bourinho’ was a) concerned about the physical aspect in midfield and b) felt he needed to nullify the attacking threat of Liverpool’s adventurous right back Nathaniel Clyne.

Giggsy, Carra and Neville stood there pre-match telling the world Fellaini was included from the start because of his threat in set piece situations.  If you have no intention of attacking and only win one corner in 90 minutes as a result of this – surely it’s pretty obvious he was only in the side to disrupt play and take his inevitable yellow card for just being a classless thug.

In plain English, his team were set out for a point and nothing more.  I can remember them creating just  the one opportunity and in 90 minutes they failed to force a single save from Liverpool’s ‘dodgy’ keeper Loris Karius.

Klopp’s side dominated the possession with a huge 65% share, but i guess that’s useless when your opponent opts to just ‘park the bus’.  It’s ironic that the very expression ‘parking the bus’ came from ‘Bourinho’ himself when he was criticizing somebody else for adopting the same approach.  Jose being a hypocrite!? I never thought I’d see the day!

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out my stance on ‘Bourinho’, his dull tactics and horrible personality.

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(Jose looks like he’s just woken up after watching his teams performance at Anfield)

Lack of Ambition

Don’t get me wrong, to come away with a point from Anfield when Liverpool are in great form is a solid result.  My problem is with the managers attitude and approach.  For someone who is constantly pointing to the fact he manages, in his words “The Biggest Club in the World”you’d expect to see some sort of ambition.

A man who has spent £156m and is in charge of ‘the biggest club in the world’ has an approach to the big games which is no different to the likes of Stoke or West Brom!  At least try and win the game, show some ambition, take the game to your opponent and if you only manage the point you can be proud of it.

‘Bourinho’ faces his old club Chelski this coming weekend and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a repeat performance.  Maybe I’ll be watching Downton Abbey instead, there will probably be more action (just ask Alavi).

Man Utd are a club that down the years have pride themselves on playing good attacking football, winning in style and they always carried an awe about them that let the world know they could go and win anywhere.  They’ve abandoned their principles and their identity is being sucked out of them by a classless, negative and gutless manager.

Glory, Glory Man United is no more and Boring, Boring Man Utd is whats in store.

Harry

Sofa Sports News.

 

 

 

 

Sofa Sports News Podcast – Premier League Round up!

This week Premier League fans were in for a treat, the new ‘Friday Night Football’ featured the weeks stand-out fixture – I think we could get used to this!

Game of the Week: Chelsea (Costa ’61) 12 Liverpool (Lovren ’17, Henderson ’36) 

Liverpool registered their 3rd league win of the season with an impressive victory at Stamford Bridge.  Antonio Conte’s side went into the fixture unbeaten and not many would have backed Jurgen Klopp’s men to take all three points back to Merseyside.  Liverpool have beaten both Arsenal and Chelsea away from home in the early weeks and comprehensively beat last seasons champions Leicester City at Anfield.

Talk of Liverpool for the title has begun surfacing and I for one think its premature.  I can’t help but feel they will fall short defensively and over the years they have been known for pushing the self-destruct button come the business end of the season.  For more on Liverpool click here!  As for Chelsea, Antonio Conte suffered his first defeat of the season and after last weeks draw at Swansea he may have to rethink his approach.  As a talented manager/tactician I’m certain the Italian will scrutinize their recent performances and it won’t be long before they are back to winning ways.

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Performance of the Week: Watford F.C.

This was a tough decision to make, I have to say I considered giving the Sofa Sports News Performance of the Week to Tony Pulis’ West Brom.  Based purely on the quality of the opponent I decided to give it to Watford.  Walter Mazzari’s Hornet’s piled more misery onto the ‘Special One’ – Who’s special? Don’t make me laugh!

An organised, physical and hungry Watford side registered their second win of the season after their impressive come back at the Olympic Stadium just a week earlier.  Odion Ighalo missed a sitter early on when the returning Chris Smalling and David De Gea made a meal of an aerial ball.  Thankfully for the Hornets Etienne Capoue continued his impressive goal scoring form and late goals from Zuniga and Deeney completed the victory.

Jose was quick to shift the blame from himself and criticized the officials post-match.  I guess he just does that wherever he goes, if you refer to an old article I submitted you will see what I mean…click here!  If I was a United fan I’d have questioned his team selection once again, but who am I to judge! 🙂

That leads me onto the next section nicely…

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Worst Performance of the Week: West Ham Utd

Has Slaven Bilic completely lost it at West Ham?  A discussion I never thought I would have so early on in the season – it’s clear that the fans remain behind their manager but whats gone wrong in the past few weeks?

Having surrendered a two goal lead at home last week I was tempted to label that as a one off.  Saturday’s defeat at WBA  has done nothing to ease the pressure on the Croatian and to concede four goals in two games running vs the kind of opposition they should be turning over has set the alarm bells ringing.

It’s far too early to panic but having moved into the Olympic stadium and having crashed out of the Europa League in the qualifying round the Irons will no doubt be aiming to secure the European football that stadium deserves.

For the rest of this weeks Premier League Results click here!

Harry

Sofa Sports News

Goals, Goals and More Goals: Jurgen Klopp

Goals, Goals and more Goals:

For me, there is no doubt about it. Jurgen Klopp is exactly the right man for Liverpool. Klopp has got Liverpool playing on the front foot again and the team have not stopped scoring. The numbers don’t lie- 1.8 goals per game in his 57 competitive game tenure thus far. A statistic that has already surpassed the 1.2 set by Rodgers. Only once in the last five years has a team managed to take fourth place with less than 1.7 goals per game (equal to just over 64 scored across the campaign).

I can’t deny that Klopp benefitted from people getting behind him very early on in his Liverpool career after just a few positive results. But has Klopp shown any improvement during his stint at the Reds so far? In terms of goals per game, the first 28 games yielded an average of 1.5 goals per game. The second set of 29 games? Over 2 goals per game.

And how about the type of “Klopp” goal? Take a look at the chart below…

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Clearly, build-up play, rotation of the ball and movement in the final third, is everything to Klopp and his high-tempo style.

Klopp’s Summer Business

I mentioned on the Podcast before the season began that I was impressed with Klopp’s signings. Mane has so far been the undisputed star of the Reds’ early season. Whether Mane can perform that way throughout the season instead of a handful of games is still to be determined, but even ignoring his starring role, his style is the important point to note. Mane’s pace and direct running, as well as his skill in one-vs.-one situations, plays directly to this approach and the switch to 4-3-3 this season is similarly focussed on getting multiple runners from deep in midfield into the penalty area.

Klopp was happy to let Benteke go. The significance of a run across the defender to the near post is what Liverpool have lacked far too often, and is a run the Belgian will never learn to make, let alone doing so naturally.

Klopp’s Men

The list of players who have improved under Klopp is endless, but two in particular stand out. Firstly; Firmino. As a number ten under Rodgers he seemed out of place, particularly with Coutinho and Lallana vying for the same place, and as a winger he was too slow. Now, his close control and positional play conjure memories of Luis Suarez when he was at his most raw during his early Anfield days. The other- Lallana. A player that used to drift in and our of games despite his technical gifts. He also seemed to be subbed around the hour of each match. How he is emblematic of Klopp’s transformation. Lallana began sprinting full pelt at defenders during Klopp’s first game at White Hart Lane in October and has not stopped running since.

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The Klopp Factor

Klopp has instilled a real hard work ethic, with pressing at the crux of what Liverpool are about. From the very first game at White Hart Lane the drive to win the ball back was evident. Liverpool fight to the end and are willing to go toe-to-toe no matter who the opponent or what the quality. It’s an attitude the Anfield crowd has been well versed in down the years and Klopp certainly knows how to get the crowd going. Remember when Klopp had a pop at the early leavers? Remember when Klopp saluted supporters after salvaging a point against the Baggies? He may get stick for some actions, but he is bringing excitement back to Anfield regardless.

Up next for Liverpool
With only a few hours before the Chelsea game, all the discussion revolves around whether Countinho will be dropped again. Perhaps the most gifted Anfield player, Klopp isn’t a man afraid to make the big decisions. Considering the success of Klopp thus far- can anyone really question him?  For Complete Coverage of The Football Games Today – Click here!

Alavi

Sofa Sports News

The Gunners Take on Liverpool in Season Opener – Preview

The Gunners kick off their premier league campaign with a tricky home fixture against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.

Once again, all the talk has been around Arsenal’s lack of transfer activity meaning there is additional pressure on the Gunners to get off to the perfect start.  In recent times Arsene Wenger’s side have struggled on the opening day, winning just 1 of our last 6 opening day fixtures and so it’s not inconceivable that Liverpool may just turn up and spoil the party.

Throughout the summer the Gunners fans have been crying out for a ‘Top Class’ striker and with just short of three weeks remaining in this current transfer window my hopes of us attracting that lethal marksmen are slowly fading away.  However, the real area of concern for me is in the heart of our defence.  With long term injuries to Per Mertesacker (four months), Gabriel (six to eight weeks) and Laurent Koscielny still short of match fitness alarm bells are ringing.  Once again I am left scratching my head as to why we have left ourselves so short in such a key area of the pitch.  But that’s Arsenal for you! The injury to Per Mertesacker has been common knowledge for quite some time now, so why haven’t we got a replacement ready for the big Premier League kick off? In my view neither Gabriel, Holding nor Chambers are ready to play regularly, with or without Koscielny.  So where do we go from here?

It looks as though we will be welcoming Valencia defender Shkodran Mustafi to the Emirates in the coming days and whilst that’s fantastic news it doesn’t solve our problem for this Sunday.  The German international has a fantastic reputation and if we can get this deal over the line I’m sure it will be a great piece of long-term business.  It is about time Gazidis and co and acquired a high class, proven, central defensive partner for Laurent Koscielny. Per Mertesacker unfortunately isn’t always up to the task and I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes onto miss half of the season with this current injury problem.

The ‘Gunners injury curse’ strikes again and if there is one thing I’ve learnt about our club in recent seasons it is that our club doctors cannot be trusted to give accurate timescales and so you can’t always rely on that.

The Gunners enjoyed two fantastic pre-season tours winning four out of the five fixtures played.  The pre-season results and the great form of some of our fringe players during the tours of the USA and Scandinavia have been the positives to take from what has been a largely frustrating summer.  I was fortunate enough to see all of our pre-season fixtures and a number of players stood out to me. In particular, Chuba Akpom, Alex Iwobi, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Joel Campbell and Mohamed El Neny were especially impressive.

Our opponents this Sunday are another club under pressure to perform and finishing in the top four has to be the primary target for Jurgen Klopp’s side.

Another busy summer of transfers at Anfield has seen them acquire a number of decent players, most notably ex-Southampton forward Sadio Mane.  In previous seasons I’ve been extremely critical of the Liverpool transfer policy, they seem to just want to give Southampton bags of money each summer for players who just aren’t really all that good!  Since Klopp took the reins at Anfield there has certainly been some progress and big wins at Stamford Bridge and Man City last season demonstrated that.

Having lost two cup finals last season it will be very interesting to see how the German’s first full season in charge goes.  If he can somehow find some consistency there is no doubt they can be knocking at the door of Monsieur Wenger who normally makes fourth spot his own!

Although they’ve been active in the transfer market I personally still don’t think they’ve signed anywhere near the class of player required to make a strong push for one of those much sought after champion’s league spot.  Having said that, stranger things have happened!

I am confident that Monsieur Wenger will do the necessary business before the end of the transfer window and so I think it’s just a case of getting through the Liverpool fixture with a positive result.  The thought of returning to the Emirates this Sunday has got me absolutely buzzing but there is no doubt that the minute I arrive at my seat in Block 6 those all too familiar feelings of nervousness and pressure will be back within moments.

My Prediction is the Gunners 3-1 Liverpool.  It should be an enthralling encounter between two sides that will certainly be chasing the game; I mean in all honesty neither side are renowned for their defensive solidarity.  The atmosphere will be awesome and this is without doubt the standout fixture this week.  Either way, north London will be red on Sunday but then again the Spurs fans should be used to that by now!

UTA

Harry

Capital One Cup Final Preview…Daniel De Luca

In the excitement of everything else going in the last few weeks it’s been easy to forget the Capital One Cup Final has been sneaking up on us.

The first silverware of the season will be handed out today at Wembley, and it gives a chance for Jurgen Klopp to follow in the footsteps of various other foreign managers and make the league cup his first piece of British Silverware.
For Pellegrini, his last trip to Wembley as Manchester City manager.

Liverpool’s record in this tournament is unrivalled with 8 wins, 3 more than any other and will be buoyed by City’s recent dip in form.

You never know what liverpool are going to turn up but you’d expect Klopp to have his side well drilled for this one.

City have their best players back from long term injuries though, and despite Liverpool getting things together going forward at various times this season, at the back they are as bad as anyone I’ve seen and if Sterling, Silva, Toure and Aguero play anywhere near their best I’d expect them to overpower Liverpool’s back line and defensive midfield areas. It’s fair to say that Liverpool would fancy their chances against City’s back line too but the return of Kompany is massive and may prove the difference.

Sterling’s first performance against his old club was forgettable and the key factor today may be how he copes on the big stage with the added pressure of 40,000 boo boys.

I’m looking forward to this game and am expecting attacks to come out on top. Klopp has had a few months with this squad now and their fitness and discipline has visibly improved. Their best chance of taking this might be by dragging the game into later phases, when the test will switch to some of City’s returning players who haven’t played much football. Yaya Toure is not the engine he used to be and i’d expect to tire as the game wears on.

I think I’d like to see Liverpool win this as a pick up for their fans who have had a tough season, but I’ve seen far too many bad performances from them and they’ve far too many inconsistent players for me to be able to back them with any confidence.

I don’t know by what means but I think Man City are going to have too much and give Pellegrini at least one more trophy to mark his time in England.
City win 90mins & both teams to score = 7/2

One for the Reds – Liverpool to win on penalties = 11/1

Valentine’s Day ‘Super Sunday’ – Preview and Predictions from Harry :)

Valentine’s Day – what could be better than to wake up and spend the whole day with the love of your life.

Yes, I’m talking about the Premier League. An incredible Super Sunday with 3 games live on the box! The current top 4 are all involved and here at SSN we are expecting more twists and turns in this extraordinary title race.

12pm k/o: Arsenal v Leicester City
2:05pm k/o: Aston Villa vs Liverpool
4:15pm k/o: Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur

I will be briefly previewing Sunday’s 3 games and giving my predictions ahead of the Valentine’s Day special ??.

I’m gonna start with the day’s early kick off at the Emirates stadium:

ARSENAL V LEICESTER CITY:

League leaders Leicester city come into this game full of confidence after last Saturday’s brilliant win at the Etihad. I must admit, ahead of that game I was certain City would get the job done and that would be the start of Leicester’s demise. How wrong was I?!?! Another awesome performance from Ranieri’s men has now made them title favourites in many people’s books.

Arsenal come into this huge clash having finally got back to winning ways. It was by no means the best performance at Bournemouth but that 3 points has dragged the gunners right back into it. With Leicester having that 5 point cushion I expect Arsenal to be the ones trying to force the issue. This is a must win game for the Gunners in my opinion and no doubt Leicester will be more than happy to sit back in numbers and play on the break.

Providing Arsenal show up I expect them to take all three points here, Leicester have to come unstuck somewhere!

HARRY PREDICTS: Arsenal 2-0 Leicester City
ASTON VILLA V LIVERPOOL:

The less we say about Villa’s season thus far, the better. Remi Garde came in and took what was in my eyes already an impossible job. The Frenchman has made it clear in recent weeks he’s been unhappy with the level of backing he has received from the club. As an outsider looking in it’s as though they want to go down!?

As for the Scouser’s, they stop and start more than a double decker bus on Oxford street. They’ve had some magnificent results this season but equally as many disappointing ones. The inconsistency has been a bit of a reality check for those Liverpool fans that thought Klopp would be an instant fix and lead them back into the top 4.

Villa have shown some small signs of improvement in recent times, 2 wins and 2 draws out of their last 6 league games. That fact, combined with Liverpool’s inconsistency tempts me to go for a draw on this one.

HARRY PREDICTS: Aston Villa 1-1 Liverpool
MAN CITY V SPURS

Despite that defeat at home to Leicester City I still make Man City joint title favourites with the Arsenal.
They possess the strongest squad, the finest striker in the league (Aguero) and it’s imperative that they bounce back straight away.

Maybe the announcement of Pellegrini’s imminent departure caused them to lose focus last week but I’m pretty certain they will bounce back on Sunday.

Spurs have been incredible this season and as a Gooner it pains me to say that. Unfortunately there is no denying it – they’ve found a consistency we’re not used to seeing from Spurs and Pochettino deserves a huge amount of credit for that.

The north Londoners go into this one in a richer vain of form but I think with home advantage and what happened last week City will be too strong for Spurs.

HARRY PREDICTS: Man City 3-1 Spurs

 

Wishing you all a happy Valentine’s Day!

Is Klopp’s philosophy to blame for the Anfield injury crisis & can it work in the Premier League?

After Liverpool’s win at Stoke on Tuesday all the talk has been about the latest set of injuries to hit Klopp’s men. Of course those injuries will significantly handicap Liverpool going into the next few games but let’s not forget they held on to a narrow victory and providing they don’t get beat at Anfield will be contesting the first showpiece final of 2016.

Since the German coach took over at Anfield his side have shown glimpses of improvement without really taking off. When I talk about glimpses, i mean the positive results at Chelsea and Man City, two fantastic wins away from home where they scored a total of 7 goals! However, when you look at the last six results in the premier league they consist of 3 defeats (Newcastle, Watford & West Ham), 2 wins (Leicester & Sunderland) and 1 draw (WBA).

As good as Klopp is, his team have struggled for consistency. You can put this down to a number of different reasons…some would argue its down to the injuries they are suffering and that he cannot be consistent in his selections at the moment. Others will tell you it’s a transitional period at the club and we will be able to judge the Germans influence next season.

Is the ‘Gegenpressing’ style that Klopp has introduced at Liverpool the reason for all these muscular injuries?

Sky sports pundit and Anfield legend Graeme Souness seems to think so. After the game at Stoke he went on to say….

A new manager comes in and all the chat was about high press further up the field. It is hard work to do that for 90 minutes. I just think they’ve fallen foul of that. It’s not a coincidence, five hamstrings. I think they have to look at what they’re doing in training.”

Sam Allardyce also joined in and claimed that Klopp’s style is the root cause of all the injuries. The Sunderland manager said that Jurgen perhaps didn’t realise just how ‘ferocious’ the Premier League is. There seems to be a mini-feud developing there between the two managers, always great entertainment for the neutral!

Klopp was quick to hit back at Allardyce by suggesting that he had too much time on his hands, seeing as he’s sitting there thinking about Liverpool’s problems. Well played Jurgen, somebody has to remind him that Sunderland are involved in a real relegation scrap and he has far more important things to do than sit there criticising the German.

As entertaining as the Klopp vs Allardyce feud is becoming, surprisingly that wasn’t the key point I took from the interview. The German was very clear in pointing out we were all discussing ‘his style’ but in fact he didn’t create this style and he’s not the genius that came up with it at all. The pressing game is something that has evolved in Europe over the past few years, this might be the first time we are seeing it in the Premier League but it’s by no means a new thing.

Pep Guardiola introduced this concept to the Barcelona team when he took over back in 2008. Although there are slight differences in its interpretation, the basic idea of pressing your opponent further up the pitch is something that has proved to be successful in recent years at the highest level.

Another team that are very aggressive in the way they press their opponent are Atletico Madrid. They may not press as high up the pitch but they are very quick to close opponents down and they hunt in packs. Their starting shape is a lot deeper and much more narrow than that of Barcelona. The other main adaptation I would say is that Atletico are a lot more selective when and where on the pitch they press. Diego Simeone’s side may not have the same flair and class of player that Guardiola had there but again, the basic concept of pressing your opponent further up the field is there.

I guess the point I’m making is that this pressing style has been proved successful in Spain by two very different sides. Two great managers have used the same basic concept but adapted it to suit the players they have at their disposal and ensure its as successful as possible for their teams.

Can Klopp make it work in the Premier League? I think he can but he’s going to need to reevaluate it, make some adaptations and like Mr Souness pointed out re-think his training methods. The fact he wasn’t there during the pre season means he hasn’t had the opportunity to drill it into his players from the start and condition them to the level he demands. It’s already a big enough challenge trying to change the whole philosophy of the group but the added pressure of trying to get them back in the Champions League may prove to be too much in his first season.

Is the German to blame for the injuries? It’s impossible to say for certain either way. The change of style and greater physical demand could be the root cause but it could also just be rotten luck. My conclusion is that we will have to judge Jurgen Klopp next season, when he’s had a pre season and a couple of transfer windows to make the team his own.

Harry

No Striker, No Problem – Alavi talks us through Liverpool’s win at the Etihad

The Game 

Liverpool set a high pace from the start and took the lead inside just seven minutes when Coutinho displaced Sagna of the ball in his own half and found Firmino in behind the City’s back-line. Soon after, Liverpool found themselves two up after twenty-two minutes when Firmino broke clear down the right-hand side and had the presence of mind to pick out Coutinho from eight yards. With just over half hour on the clock, Emre Can produced an outrageous back-heel to find Coutinho who in turn found Firminho to tap into an empty net. Aguero gave City a flicker of hope before half-time  but Liverpool remained the dominant team, whilst Raheem Sterling of Manchester City had a quiet game against his former club. With ten minutes remaining a corner dropped at the feet of Skrtel and from about 18 yards he rocketed a half-volley past Hart into the top corner.

Klopp

Jurgen Klopp has revealed that Liverpool had to find a way to create problems for Manchester City by pressing higher up the pitch.  “It’s a very important thing in football and the better your opponent is the more important it gets that you do things like this,” Klopp explained, as quoted by Liverpool’s official website.
“Manchester City were top of the table, so at this moment are the best team in England. We had to try to find some ways to cause them problems and that’s what we did,” he added.
“The next point is, if you win a ball [high up the pitch], then it’s not the longest way in the right direction and that’s very important of course. We try to do similar things but not always the same.”
“What we try to do is to analyse the opponent and see what their biggest strength is and things we can do that they don’t feel confident [defending against] then we try to do it,” the German said. You here plenty of managers who want to be hands-on with their players and kick every ball, but Klopp is in a place of his own with his touchline choreography. No sooner had Roberto Firmino tapped in Liverpool’s third, Klopp was screaming at his midfielders for losing their shape in an earlier move. He was similarly irate when Lucas failed to switch play quickly enough and when James Milner chose to shoot from 18 yards rather than pass to an overlapping midfielder.

Centre-backs

As I remarked on the Pod a few weeks ago, I’m a big fan of Sakho and I worried for Liverpool when I noticed his absence on Saturday. However, Lovren was up to the task. He has the attributes to be a good centre-back and he was certainly up to the challenge. Lovren will need top provide this form to fully convince me but, if anything, it is a further example of Klopp’s powers of rejuvenation as he continues to get more out of these players than many believed possible.

Even the most casual of football fans will tell you that Vincent Kompany is a major loss for City. It was worrying how often Mangala and Demichelis wilted under the slightest pressure. The scurrying Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana took advantage of the City captain’s injury absence with brutal efficiency. Just for the record, I think Managla will prove to be a top defender, but on this occasion, Liverpool’s creativity proved too much.

Up Next

Liverpool take on Swansea at Anfield whilst City are also at home against the Saints. Manchester City, would have gone top with a win, are in third, two points behind surprise leaders Leicester City. Now that’s a sentence I never thought I’d say three months into the season!

 

Man City vs Liverpool Preview – Alavi

The biggest game in the Premiership this weekend sees Manchester City take on Liverpool at the Etihad live on Sky Sports (17:30). The home side are 8/13 favourites, although to a degree those odds will be dependent on late fitness tests for a handful of players from both sides.

Injury news

Silva has been side-lined since the beginning of October after suffering an ankle injury while on international duty in Spain’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Luxembourg. According to reports, the attacking midfielder is one of two players targeting a return to action for the City’s clash with Liverpool this weekend. While Manuel Pellegrini’s men have still picked up the points in the absence of Silva, maintaining their position at the top of the Premier League table, his return will no doubt lift the club’s mood even further. In what has become a far too familiar picture for City supporters, Aguero limped off the pitch holding his left hamstring in Argentina’s 2-0 defeat to Ecuador in the previous international break. The striker, therefore, has not kicked a ball in the Premier League since he scored five goals in the 6-1 demolition of Newcastle United at the beginning of October. However, there is good news, as, like David Silva, the 27-year-old is targeting a return in City’s next game versus Liverpool. And his return is one that the top flight’s top four contenders will be fearful of – particularly if he can continue where he left off. In my opinion Aguero and Suarez are the two deadliest strikers in the world, and naturally, a lift for any team.
Daniel Sturridge may provide a boost for Liverpool- It was hugely disappointing for Liverpool supporters when Sturridge was ruled out through injury in Jurgen Klopp’s first game in charge against Tottenham Hotspur almost one month ago. He hasn’t yet featured under the German, but that could all change this weekend. The England international returned to full training on Tuesday afternoon, and could therefore feature against Manchester City on Saturday evening. Henderson got the new season off to a nightmare start, limping off with a foot problem in the victory over AFC Bournemouth in the Reds’ second game of the campaign. A further setback in training two months’ ago, in which he broke his fifth metatarsal, has seen him sidelined ever since. As with teammate Daniel Sturridge, Henderson could be back in action when the Premier League returns this weekend – in what will be music to the ears of Jurgen Klopp. Liverpool have missed their captain in the centre of the park, and it will be interesting to see how he slots into Klopp’s midfield.

Key battle

A key battle will see the creative talents of Kevin De Bruyne and Philippe Coutinho pitted against each other. The two playmakers have been in fine form this season, proving decisive in their sides’ efforts in the final third, and there is little to separate them statistically. Premierleague.com displayed their stats as shown below:

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Coutinho has the edge in terms of goals scored with four compared with De Bruyne’s three but the Belgian arrived in the BPL close to transfer deadline day and so has played three matches fewer. That makes his tally of four assists, double Coutinho’s, all the more impressive.The Brazilian has proved more prolific at probing into the final third than De Bruyne, having played 80 passes into dangerous areas, 42 more than the City player. However, where De Bruyne has shone is in picking out the right pass. Despite playing significantly fewer passes into the final third, he has created 24 chances, 10 more than Coutinho.

City tactics

We’ve spoken this season about the Klopp factor and tactics- but what about City?

One of the more mysterious features of the Champions League over the past four seasons has been the repeated failure of City: two group-stage exits and then defeat in the last 16 in the past two seasons. .Under Pellegrini, there has at least been a tactical explanation. In over half his Champions League games with City, Pellegrini has played with two strikers. It’s a trait that was becoming increasingly puzzling. Now that’s not to say that there’s inherently anything wrong with 4-4-2. As England manager Roy Hodgson has pointed out, most formations revert to two banks of four when out of possession. The problem has been that the players City have had at the back of the midfield haven’t offered sufficient protection to the back four. This at least in part explains why Vincent Kompany looked so out of sorts last season, as he was repeatedly lured forward to try to win the ball in the space that should have been occupied by one of the defensive midfielders.

Apportioning blame when the failure was systemic isn’t easy and probably isn’t fair, but the questions about Yaya Toure last season were reasonable. Was his application lacking or was it just that, at his age, he no longer has the stamina to get up and down the pitch as he used to? Either way, his indifferent form was part of a wider problem. The early stages of this season suggest City may have resolved that and, despite again being drawn in a tough group, they may at last be able to impose themselves in the Champions League.

Significantly, the shape has changed, and so has the make-up of the squad. With Alvaro Negredo, Stevan Jovetic and Edin Dzeko gone, there’s little temptation to play with two centre-forwards – though Wilfried Bony and Sergio Aguero could play together if ever required. There seems to be an acceptance that City will play 4-2-3-1 from now on, and that seems to have come with a greater defensive solidity – they didn’t concede at all in their first four league games, which included a 3-0 victory over reigning champions Chelsea.

More significant, though, is what the addition of Raheem Sterling has meant to the forward line. Whereas Silva or Nasri would usually play on the left last season, drifting infield, the versatility of Sterling means that there can now be pace on both flanks. In those first four league games,The arrival of Kevin De Bruyne from Wolfsburg increases those options even further and presumably means less pitch time for Navas. There is a knock-on effect as well. With pace on both flanks, teams will instinctively sit deep against City, but if they do, they risk leaving space that Silva can float in. Push up to restrict him, though, and the danger is that the opposition leave space behind for the pace of Sterling, Aguero and Navas to exploit. After the weary trudge of much of last season, Pellegrini’s Manchester City are looking sharp again and, more importantly, they may have the balance and the compactness in midfield.

City come into this game having drawn two and won two of their last four premiership games. Conversely, Liverpool boast two wins, a draw and the recent loss to Crystal palace. My personal forecast is that City will be too creative in Midfield, and probably have the advantage in this area above Liverpool, more so than they do any other of the top 6. If City can remain in good form without their two best players, it bodes well for their title chances.

Chelsea 1-3 Liverpool – Alavi’s Analysis

First of all you’re probably wondering why the picture below is my sky box paused at the point of the opening Chelsea goal. There is some method behind the madness- take a close look and I’ll reveal at the end of the review. For me, the key in this game were the tactics employed by Klopp. But let’s start with the game itself.

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Review:

Philippe Coutinho scored twice as Liverpool recovered from an early deficit to beat struggling Premier League champions Chelsea 3-1 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday and pile more pressure on Blues manager Jose Mourinho. Ramires headed Chelsea in front after four minutes but Mourinho’s side looked woefully short of confidence as Liverpool hit back to claim an emphatic win first league win for new boss Juergen Klopp. Just four minutes had elapsed when the hosts opened the scoring as Ramires planted a downward header into the back of the net from Cesar Azpilicueata’s centre. However, Philippe Coutinho drew the Reds level on the stroke of half-time, cutting inside the Chelsea goalscorer and curling a magnificent left-footed effort into the corner from outside the area. The equaliser marked an impressive recovery by curling in an equaliser in the third minute of first-half stoppage time. Liverpool had dominated for long spells after falling behind and their pressure told on 74 minutes as the Brazilian worked his magic once again. Collecting substitute Christian Benteke’s knockdown, Coutinho worked himself a yard of space inside the area before driving home via the aid of a deflection.It was to get even better for the Reds, too, as Benteke made certain of the outcome when he benefited from Lallana’s step-over by firing across goal and into the corner to put the seal on a fantastic afternoon’s work for Klopp and his team With Mourinho standing glumly on the touchline, Liverpool fans chanted: “You’re getting sacked in the morning”. Chelsea had already made the worst start to a season for Premier League champions and now have only 11 points from 11 games played, leaving them in 15th place

Klopp

Firstly, I want to caveat the following with the fact that I am by no means hailing Klopp as a tactical genius that can never be beaten. On the other hand, I don’t think there are too many managers who would get the tactics as spot on as he did on Saturday. Klopp showed ability to work out his opponent’s weaknesses, and to change the flow of the game with his substitutions.

Roberto Firmino, fresh from an encouraging midweek performance, would be the man asked to play furthest forward, supported by Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho.

It is tempting to view that as a negative move by Klopp – though Benteke’s ongoing knee issue is clearly one which will require careful management – but the presence of Firmino, Lallana and Coutinho enabled Liverpool both to press from the front effectively, and to work the ball between Chelsea’s lines with regularity. To play without a recognised number 9 is, of course, a risk. But it can help confuse a defence. If Benteke has played- Cahill and Terry would have quickly decided between them “You stick on him, I’ll sweep up anything that comes through”. When you have a your “number 9” instead playing in an additional free role then you can drift the opposition everywhere- too deep for the Chelsea Central defenders yet too advanced for the defending holding Midfielders. And that’s what Firmino did. Yes, you sacrifice rarely being in a position to get shots away, but he kept Terry and co occupied, and was a willing recipient for passes in and around the box, in a way that, say, Divock Origi may not have been. The first goal is an example of being able to bringing Coutinho into the game. In essence, Firmino became an unmarked number 10.

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The substitution was another tactical mastermind. Off went Milner, who had been sloppy, and on came Benteke, with Firmino dropping back on the right-hand side. The last thing a tired defence really needs is a power-house like Benteke coming at you. This was what Liverpool had planned for, a second-half burst from their No.9, at a time when the game was there for the taking. Benteke’s first act was to flatten Kurt Zouma in an aerial challenge, and within 10 minutes he had set up the game’s decisive goal. It was a strike which showcased both sides of what Klopp is after at Liverpool. A spell of controlled possession, followed by a quick switch of play (a nice way of saying long ball) from Sakho, Benteke, pulling away onto the smaller Cesar Azpilicueta, wins the ball and Liverpool have two men, Lallana and Coutinho, gambling on the knock down. Lallana didn’t make it, but Coutinho did – 2-1, and Klopp’s substitution pays off handsomely. 2 very different goals. Great teams often have both options. Am I suggesting Benteke doesn’t start ? Absolutely not. A different way of playing when he doesn’t? For sure.

So to the picture……………for Chelsea’s opening goal you have all 11 liverpool players defending. Yes, they conceded, but the dedication to Klopp’s counter pressing was already evident.

Klopp, clearly, is desperate for them to move the ball quicker, and to stretch the game at every opportunity. The all-action, high tempo, high pressure tactic was once justified by Klopp as “the best moment to win the ball back is immediately after the team has lost it. The opponent is still looking for orientation where to pass the ball.”

You catch the opponent in transition and their defensive shape will not be as it should. They don’t have enough time to set up properly. If every single player presses then the swarm effect forces opposition to make errors. Now here is the difference between Klopp and the Barcelona way. The Barca high press is designed to retain possession. Once the ball is obtained it is passed around to tire the opposition. Klopp’s version is basically all-out attach- the ball always goes forward. When defending from say a goal kick, the players are tight to the opposition players they believe will receive the all and zonally mark the area which a player can pass into. This forces the player on the ball to make a pass they don’t really want to. The attacking players win the ball and burst into life, which is why they close down closely together. One to win the ball and the other to take advantage of the loose ball, link up play and counter attack. There are flaws in the system. It won’t always work. Unfortunately, for Chelsea, Saturday was not one of those days.

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ALAVI

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De Luca discusses Liverpool based on the 0-0 draw with Spurs.

The view from the Lane – Spurs 0-0 Liverpool, & why Liverpool can’t finish 4th this season

Tottenham and Liverpool played out a 0-0 draw at the lane, a game where the pre match talk was dominated by the arrival of Jurgen Klopp and the inevitable debate over whether these sides could make the top 4 this season.

I spent a fair portion of last week trying to justify my opinion that Tottenham were better placed than their match day opponents to qualify for one of the coveted 4 spots and the game on Saturday did all the talking for me.

I don’t think either side will make it of course, and despite being largely impressed by the way Tottenham are developing this season as a team, I’ve still not seen enough to change that view.

Let’s make the unlikely assumption though for a second that Chelsea do not turn around their disastrous start to the season, and then don’t spend £274m in January to try and correct their failings, one of these two sides will probably finish 4th this season and there is no way whatsoever it will be Liverpool based on more than this showing.

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Jurgen Klopp will have just realised the size of the job he’s walked into if the fans need him to be the saviour of this football club because he would have seen his new team are light years away from a top 4 finish never mind Liverpool’s first title in over a quarter of a century.

Managers can’t just wave magic wands I’m afraid. Yes, the new manager effect works sometimes, but only when a team are underachieving compared to their current ability. Liverpool are not in a false position. Klopps first task is to consolidate Liverpool’s position in the top 6 for the purpose of his reputation whilst assessing the players he wants to bring with him for the long haul and implementing his style upon his new football club. Time just doesn’t stand still though. All the while the season of transition carries on relentlessly around him as his injured players suffer setbacks and the same ones that contributed to the failed second half of the Rodgers reign put in more ineffective displays. I have a belief based on gut feeling more than anything else that Klopp will improve Liverpool massively over the next two to three years, but anyone expecting anything more than a top 6 finish is wackier than the German himself. Even 5th would be an achievement.

The extra 10% that players mythically put in for a new manager was there on Saturday in all fairness, although it is not supposed to last for just 10% of the match. Even during that opening 10 minutes that Liverpool’s impressive high pressing meant Spurs could not get a foothold, no real bite to Liverpool’s attack could be identified. Injured attackers missing can’t be used as an excuse. The Sturridge problem is going to be recurring throughout this season as well you’d think and Benteke does not add to a sides creativity but more relies on it coming from behind him. After those 10 minutes where the Reds threatened only from set pieces including a scrambled effort away that flirted with the Spurs crossbar, Liverpool offered absolutely nothing. No spark, no creativity, no ideas.

Spurs’s failure to win this game highlights why they too will miss out on the top 4 places, nowhere near clinical enough when dominating several games already this season and up to 10 points wastefully dropped points already that all add up to inevitable shortcomings. Their problems end there though, whereas Liverpool’s are rife right through the spine of there team.

A bad refereeing display and some wasteful Spurs finishing meant Liverpool escaped with a point, and whilst neither of those things are Liverpool’s fault or concern, what will be a concern is the certainty that Manchester City or Arsenal would have dismantled them if they were on the other side of the pitch.

Mingolet had a rare good game at the lane, two or three solid saves kept the score goalless and although neither shot was quite finding the corner, he’s still dealt with them adequately. He’s miles short of the other 5 keepers in the top 6 and over the course of this season that I expect that to be costly.

The two centre halves were dreadful despite their clean sheet, even the experienced Skirtel was outjumped, outfought and outwitted by Kane time and time again. Sakho is an accident waiting to happen. There is no left back, Moreno standing in for injured Gomez was shocking, and whilst I’m a fan of Nathaniel Clyne he can’t save this back 4 from a defensive point of view.

Henderson is a smart player, but with suddenly a huge Steven Gerrard sized armband to fill, and as it took him a year to settle to his step up to Liverpool, I expect a little time too to adjust to his new standing in following the past skippers of this great football club. In James Milner, a player I’m a big fan of by the way, we have a guy who title chasing City saw fit to release last season. We’re hearing talks of ‘returning Liverpool to Glory’ associated with Klopp’s appointment. 30 year old castaways cannot be the answer surely? Players over 30 so rarely work in this league. Milner was so far off the pace committing 3 bookable offences, the 3rd of which was right under the referees nose, so lucky to stay on the field.

In Emre Can and Lallana we saw two of Rodgers’ Suarez signings who I’m afraid just aren’t good enough to win titles. Decent players, yes, no one is saying they’re bad, but they just aren’t good enough to be first team regulars at a side with high aspirations, and need to be ushered out of the first team to support the squad. They offered little in this match where after 10 minutes Hugo Lloris was a virtual spectator. This was the worst display by a travelling side to White Hart Lane this season.

Sturridge aside, Just Coutinho now is up to the standard, and now he knows it the weight is on his shoulders, the expectations are raised. The impact that had on sterling last year was negative and whilst I’m sure Coutinho will have another good season it is a big ask for him to replicate it exactly. With Benteke relying on him for service the stakes are so high if Sturridges injury problems continue. He can be forgiven for his poor display at Tottenham maybe, although with his opponents choosing no natural defensive midfielders you might have expected more than the only highlight being a dive to try to win a late penalty. It’s an example of how the team will struggle when he has an off day, a bit like Spurs with Kane pressure can do funny things and someone needs to step up and share the burden.

So, the ramble and possibly brutal dissection of Liverpool’s starting XI by me comes to an end, and the commencement of Jurgen Klopp’s rebuilding challenge has begun.
I’m excited by some of the players he may bring to League from his past as part of his long term objectives for Liverpool, as much as I am about seeing a lot more of him bringing his style and charisma to one of our country’s most famous clubs. But please please please be realistic if you want him to succeed, because he needs time. The squad he has inherited is not good enough to play champions league football, which is proven by the way they fared in the competition last year if not by my maybe ruthless review above.

He maybe knows after watching his team for the first time quite how big his job is, give him time to do his thing.

‘A Game of 2 Halves’ – Man Utd 3-1 Liverpool -Apostolos Lambrianides

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To pinch one of football’s most over-used clichés – this was truly a game of two halves. What promised to be an utterly dull, anti-climactic United vs. Liverpool encounter was transformed into something special thanks largely to a couple of stunning goals late in the game.

Firstly there was Benteke’s ludicrous overhead kick that give’s Rooney’s ‘Premier League Goal of the 20 Seasons’ award-winning effort vs. City in 2011 a run for its money. However the real story of the afternoon was the final goal of the game that came only minutes after Liverpool’s Belgian striker gave them a glimpse of hope by taking the game to 2-1.

In a substitute performance reminiscent of Kiko Macheda’s debut against Aston Villa six years ago, Anthony Martial introduced himself to the Old Trafford faithful with a fantastic solo effort – making a total fool of Martin Skrtl in the process – and sealed a 3-1 win in what turned out to be an excellent victory over our old rivals, one helped largely to the inadequacies in Liverpool’s performance.

Of course the big difference between Macheda in 2009 and Martial at the weekend is our goal-scorer this time was not a player drafted into the first team from the youth squad. This was a £36million risk that many dubbed a “panic buy” when the news of his signing broke on transfer deadline day.

Given that United had sold van Persie and Hernandez during the window, while failing to sign Falcao after his loan spell, we were left with only Rooney and the inexperienced James Wilson in attack. We desperately needed a striker…however for that sort of money, a 19-year old unknown from Monaco was not what United fans had in mind. After this cameo however, I’m sure I speak for all fans in saying I cannot wait to see what the youngster does next. With Rooney still out injured, Fellaini doing little on Saturday to suggest that he is a decent replacement up-front, and a Champions League game vs. PSV on Tuesday, we may not have to wait very long at all.

With all the Martial Mania (© the Cockney Red) however it’s easy to neglect others who played their part in the victory – namely Ashely Young, who’s break up the pitch set-up Martial for his goal.

Young’s introduction at half-time – triggered by an utterly unadventurous first 45 minutes – changed the game. Whether people like it or not (and by “people” I’m referring to those still obsessed with his reputation as a dishonest, diving player) when Young comes on for United we usually score goals. In his nine substitute appearances during Van Gaal’s reign, we have scored 13 times with Young on the pitch. In four of his most notable substitute appearances during this time – away to Arsenal in the league last November, against Preston in the Cup in February, coming on to score the last minute winner against Newcastle in March, and at the weekend against Liverpool – United were yet to score before Young emerged.

After Di Maria was sent off in the FA Cup Quarter Final vs. Arsenal last season (the game after the aforementioned Newcastle league match) Ashley Young regained his place in the starting XI – and as we saw on Saturday, with Depay still struggling to make a significant impact, he could earn another promotion. Van Gaal has previously said he “fits my profile” and it is easy to see why, such is Young’s industry and productivity on the wing.

Credit should also go to the manager here who is gaining a reputation of making pro-active substitutions at the break. Young’s introduction for the erratic Memphis was Van Gaal’s 17th half-time change as United manager and his decisive decision not only sparked life into our lethargic first-half display, but allowed us to win the game.

When called into action this season Young has been was a reliable source of innovation for the manager. After being dropped following his mediocre display on the opening day against Tottenham, Young has responded positively and will hopefully be rewarded with a start against PSV.

The headlines following Saturday’s win all went to Martial for his moment of magic in front of the Stretford End, however as we look to finally string a run of decent performance together while getting our Champions League campaign off to a solid start, it was one of United’s less glamorous squad players who sparked life into our performance that lead us to victory.

APOSTOLOS LAMBRIANIDES

MAN UTD FAN.

more from Apostolos at www.followingthetrawler.com

Arsenal vs Liverpool – 24/8/2015 – Binul Shah

ARSENAL 0-0 LIVERPOOL 24/8/2015

First of all, that was the most entertaining match of the season so far, be it goalless, it had almost everything, end to end stuff, controversy, great phases of proper football. But a special mention has to go out to the keepers; Cech and Mignolet! Both put in an amazing performance and are the real reason it ended 0-0!

Anyway as Liverpool fan, I felt a draw was a decent result considering the fixture (Arsenal away). From losing 4-1 last season, I would have taken a draw before the game.

The big talking point of the game will be Arsenal’s disallowed goal…I will be the first to admit that I think it was a clear goal and it should have stood, but hey, this is football. The controversy makes the game alive! We all hate being on the wrong side of a rubbish decision, but sometimes you are on the right side…It all equals out at the end!

My stand out player for Liverpool was young Joe Gomez. For an 18 year old playing out of his natural position in the premier league for the first time, he was outstanding. The strength, pace and general positioning he showed was top class. He fought his own against the likes of Sanchez, Ozil and Co who are all top class players. He’s now earned his first England u21 call up, which I think is well deserved. Hoping his development continues as well as his performances, I’m confident to say I think Liverpool have real talent on their hands with this kid.

Defensively Liverpool were very good, keeping Arsenal at bay most of the time. Alot of fans have still got they’re jury out on Lovren and alot prefer Sakho. Lovren has started to show why we spent so much on him, 3 clean sheets and a good end to last season. He and Skrtel are starting to form a strong partnership which showed against Arsenal with their relentless attack in the second half. Clyne had also had a great game and is much more of an improvement the Johnson. Another Coup.

A rear appearance from Lucas it seems. Liverpool’s only out and out DM. He had a decent game, however I’m still baffed why he was replaced by Rossiter. Was that a goodbye? I hope not. Against the top premier league sides, Lucas could be key in nullifying the oppositions attacking play. In this case, Arsenal, his constant pressing in the first hour gave the likes of Cazorla a nightmare and provided us with the opportunity to attack. Can and milner were both good too, Can in his preferred position as a CM. He showed his power and drive to get forward aswell as his defensive attributes.

Coutinho and Benteke were awesome, I suppose having Koscielny and Mertersacker both out had something to do with that. Chambers was lost all evening and it showed clearly in the first half. We could have been up by 2/3 in the first half if wasn’t for the heroics of Cech. Mr. Wenger, I think you may need to strengthen your defence if Chambers is your cover. Goodluck with that.

Firmino’s debut, not impressed as of yet, defensively he was useless, leaving Clyne to defend on his own most of the game. He looked lost when we did not have the ball. I think Rodgers has some work to do in that area of Firmino’s development. When on the ball, he looked good, nifty touches and always looking to go forward which is positive. May be a little harsh seeing as it’s his first game in the premier league and he’s probably not fully fit. But he does need to step it up real soon.

Arsenal played well but lacked that killer instinct as we have come to now know is a normality for them. Alot of possession and alot of nice short attractive football, but fewer shots on target at home is not good enough for club of Arsenal’s stature. Giroud was marked out and defended the whole game, alot or responsibility was put on Sanchez and Ozil to provide and score the goals. Fair play with they’re reputation and ability. But I have one burning question for arsenal fans, why on earth did Ox not start? Against a makeshift left back in Gomez? Playing ramsey out wide? Really? I know all the attacking players or interlink and swap around, but I think that was Arsenal’s main issue. Their centre of the park was so conjested. It was crying out for an Ox or Theo on the wing…no goals at home for quite a few games is worrying for Arsenal. My opinion, stop favouring, the Ramseys, Ozils, Cazorlas and use what u have at your disposal; Ox and Theo.

To wrap it up, all in all a good game that could have gone either way. Early days yet, Anything can happen.

One last thing, Coutinho sent Bellerin back to Barcelona with his magical footwork. What a save by Cech!

Thank you for reading.

BINUL SHAH
LIVERPOOL FAN