Liverpool will likely land in the Europa League and that is pretty much exactly what they deserve. Plus, thoughts on Man City, Arsenal and more.
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Liverpool should embrace the Europa League
I’ve tried to be more philosophical this season about the football. After the highs of the last few years inc. two trophies last season, you can’t expect to be at that level all the time – even the great teams of the 70s/80s had fallow years. It was obvious things would change, Sadio leaving, the need to strengthen the midfield which had been neglected, though as I’ve previously said I think this was due to investing piecemeal in the team due to the finances, Nunez, Diaz, Gakpo coming in over time for example before moving on to midfield/defence (whether we agree with it or not).
Anyway, Liverpool have had a strange season – hangover, transition, midfield, high line, can’t defend etc. all being mentioned regularly.
But I think we’re ending on a high here. And I just wanted to say, I think we’ve recovered really well. In January, we were 10th (and looking like we could finish there or lower), all season we’ve never even been in the top 4. But here we sit in the Europa League places. According to Planet Football last week, we’d collected the 3rd most points since the World Cup (albeit 10 fewer than City), that’s not a bad turnaround.
Is it where we expected to be, absolutely not. Would we rather be in the Champions League, absolutely yes! But I’ve always loved the UEFA cup (I’m just going to say it). I was lucky enough to be in Dortmund in 2001 – one of the best experiences at a football match!
It is not easy to win (just ask United), is a fantastic competition in its own right and some of the best Liverpool sides have won it, think Liverpool of the mid-70s, Liverpool that won in Istanbul, Liverpool that won the treble in 2001.
I hope we embrace it, it’s where we deserve to be after all. Put some strong teams out and try to win the thing! European nights at Anfield (TM) are not limited to the Champions League.
Up the Reds!
Liverpool were poor v Villa though
I’ve noticed a lot of the mails I’ve sent have been a form of catharsis about the wider issues in football so I’ve decided to talk about the Liverpool vs Villa game on Saturday instead. You know, football stuff.
Firstly, Klopp only mentioned the timewasting to deflect from the fact that Villa had schooled them for 89 minutes of the match. First half Liverpool were harried and disorganised with the much better football played by Villa. Against big teams I’ve seen us go hell for leather in the first half, get in front then play more conservatively under Emery.
It’s worked more often than not so far and would have worked on Saturday if Liverpool hadn’t belatedly realised we had no left back (I love Ashley Young more than my cat but a 37 year old converted right winger does not an elite level left back make) for the last half hour and started attacking down there in the final few minutes!
I totally agree with his general point, I don’t like time wasting either even when we do it (and yes, Martinez is the Picasso of the artform I know). We did engage pretty heavily but we are playing Liverpool, at Anfield. It is time to try and get every advantage even if it sucks. But it’s not an accident Klopp mentions it after this match rather than making his ‘general point’ at another time.
Game clocks are the answer at most levels of football where it is prevalent. You can’t tell me a simple app for a phone couldn’t be made (for lower levels) and timekeeping checked after the match to keep people honest.
Secondly, the ref wasn’t great but he (and VAR, which I also can’t stand, even when they disallowed the Liverpool goal it felt wrong) got the big calls right. There was no intent from Mings and a yellow card was fair as he is responsible for where his limbs end up on a football pitch. If you want to play the ‘who should get a red card’ game may I suggest Fabhino for mistaking McGinn’s ankles for the ball 57 times in the match. All of this is a manufactured distraction, if you are counting on the referee to beat Villa at home then we will take that as a compliment.
On Mings he has been immense under Emery (as has Konsa in a more understated way) and deserves another chance with England. The entire midfield, the same as played for Gerrard and were our weakest area, has been fantastic. Kamara, Luiz and McGinn are both excellent defensively and adept at launching attacks. Emery is the absolute gold standard evidence that a good/elite manager makes the world of difference to the performance of a team and individual players. We still need more attacking threat in the wide areas as Bailey is just too inconsistent (and had a very poor game on Saturday).
As for Liverpool, if anyone had to score the equaliser, I’m happy it was Firmino. A player like that deserves a good send off, total legend. Also, watching Trent ping balls all over the pitch is always a joy to watch, saw it live a couple of seasons ago and it’s even more incredible in the stadium.
I’m going to miss football in the Summer, even with its problems.
Funstar (my cat is a git) Andy
Arsenal > Dortmund
Did Stewie even bother to look at the Bundesliga table? He was praising Dortmund and decrying Arsenal’s ‘Pathetic’ 81 points. Dortmund must have far more then? Let’s see…Oh. They’re on 70.
Now, let’s be fair. The Bundesliga has fewer teams, so fewer games. So their points per game must be higher? Dortmund’s PPG is 2.12. Bayern, the behemoth that Dortmund are competing with are on 2.06. By comparison, Arsenal have 2.19 and City 2.44.
Bayern have been pretty rubbish this year. If they had any way near the same level of recruitment or management than City have (along with the money) Dortmund would be way behind. Whoever wins the league, it will be the lowest winning total in at least 10 years (that’s how far back I checked, it’s probably way longer).
In the games against Bayern this year, Dortmund lost one and drew one. If they do win the league, it will have more to do with Bayern failure, rather than their own success.
Mike, LFC, London
…I get it F365 you publish this guy to get a rise from Arsenal fans and also I guess because his diatribe is quite entertaining.
I think we all know two things about this guy though
1. He is definitely not an Arsenal fan
2. He does not believe in what he says. The way he writes suggest he is an intelligent guy so the drivel he writes does not correlate with the musings of someone intelligent hence the only conclusion is that he writes for effect.
The irony is that Dortmund who he wants Arsenal to emulate have been regarded in Germany as perennial chokers. The have lucked in this year due to Bayern’s inexplicable decision to get rid of a coach doing well ¾ of the way into a season.
Arsenal fell short due to lack of squad depth which he alludes to by his assessment of what is needed in recruitment.
Finally Stewie, can I remind you that this Bayern are no Man City (check out the CL quarter results for evidence).
Michael O, Chingford
…Stewie asks “If Borussia Dortmund can do it, why can’t Arsenal?” It seems a very weird example, notwithstanding that Dortmund might win the Bundesliga with a home win in their final game of the season.
I just wouldn’t point to Germany, a country where the financially-dominant superclub has managed to win ten consecutive championships and might still manage to win their eleventh, in this time managing two Trebles of League, Cup and Champions League, as an example to others of how well-managed plucky underdogs can prevail against systemic inequalities, but some people are just built different, I guess.
Dara O’Reilly, London
…For anyone considering writing in the address any of Stewie’s arguments, can I just point out that this is a man who declared that Spurs would be City’s closest rivals and, I quote, “Antonio Conte’s brilliance as a manager is going to expose the myth of Arteta”. So you’re arguing with a man who has a tenuous grasp on reality at best.
Oh, and I wrote in asking Stewie to share his bookmarks of all the Arsenal fans saying that they’ll win the league, can he do that for us now in his moment of triumph?
A solution to the domination of football by the elite?
With all the teeth gnashing at City for (probably) cheating their way to titles by nefarious financial means, wouldn’t it be great if there were some way to even up the competition in football?
Or do people actually enjoy a processional title race? Arsenal sprinting like a hare for the first half of the season only to sleep like a…hare for the second half of the season hasn’t really amounted to competition but at least there was a sense of maybe for a while.
Watching a clinical City play teams of the park is a wonderful technical display but it feels emotionless to me, the non-City fan. Wouldn’t we all want more Leicester? More Napoli? More Lille? Or do we really want to be dished up the same teams in a similar predictable boredom as that which comes with attending a dinner function where meals rotate around the table between chicken and beef?
Over the last decade Europe’s top four leagues have served us only 19 different winners or runners-up despite close to 150 teams having competed.
We can’t have salary caps for all the long and boring reasons that always get trotted out, even though I still reckon it’s mostly because it sounds American and the vested interests don’t want it. I’m sure a few leaves could be pulled from the F1 playbook if there was anything resembling a serious attempt by FIFA/UEFA.
But here’s an idea I look forward to getting absolutely shredded for: All player salaries are mandated as 90% appearance-based. Really simply, the player is guaranteed 10% every week, the other 90% only comes from getting on the pitch and from whatever other bonuses the agent negotiates. But ultimately it’s no play, no pay (well, not really!). So a City benchwarmer on a potential 200k only gets $20k 30 weeks of the season. Good luck keeping two first-team squads happy when half are living below the professional footballing poverty line and yet could be earning a consistent 100k only a few rungs down the league.
Players maintain their earning potential so long as they… play. Spectators in the squad on the other hand don’t. The benefits will all even up competition:
– Much harder to stockpile players because you can’t keep them happy
– Transfer fees will come under some level of control as the risk is too great
– Astronomical sums in clubs would need to go somewhere to lift performance so hopefully more support staff on better wages or cheaper season tickets
Of course some malignant owners will suck the extra cash for themselves, but in a more even competition the cash they can get should equalise at least somewhat over time. The unlimited cash the likes of which only a handful of clubs have would become one of many factors in success instead of the only factor, and surely that makes for a much more entertaining sport.
Dr Oyvind, Earth
READ: Manchester City are best of all time and nobody gives a f***; take note, Premier League
No congratulations here
I really wanted to take the high road and congratulate City (yes I am a disappointed Arsenal fan, and yes we did collapse), but sorry I just can’t do it.
I’m sure City fans will defend and justify everything (115 charges, Mancini’s contract, morally bankrupt ownership, FFP and more) but I just don’t see how they can. Fact is, City would be at best a mid-table team without the Abu Dhabi investment, just as Chelsea were, just as Newcastle were. Any trophies these teams win are tainted. Their football is sterile and leaves me cold.
It says a lot that I want Man United to beat them in the Cup final, when they were our bitter rivals but at least they played good football and didn’t cheat.
Tom, London, Gooner
…John Nicholson is right to note that nobody gives a f*ck about City winning the league. Even if (when) they win the treble, I think we’ll see the pundits struggling to sound enthused.
The litmus test is what would have happened if Arsenal/Chelsea/United/Liverpool had won it instead. You can be sure that football fans of all stripes would have had strong opinions. In City’s case, no one has much to say.
Yes, Pep is a genius. Yes, Haaland is a freak. Yes, the whole team are incredible players.
Thing is, we just don’t care.
It’s not that interesting.
Despite all the sparkling football played by City this season, there’s no magic. Compare it with that Wednesday game last week in the play-offs. Pure magic! Give me Barry Bannan’s little face over another Haaland hat-trick any day.
Anyway, hopefully City will be found (rightly) guilty of some of the many, many cases of financial doping laid out against them. That will inevitably result in two things:
1 – a meaningless fine of about 25p; and
2 – the application of a permanent asterix next to every trophy they ever won in the minds of all football fans.
It’s a bottling!
For some reason, writers at Football365 are not allowed to say “Arsenal Bottled It”. Everyone else knows they bottled it. The writers at Football 365 know they bottled it. They are however not allowed to say it. Confused? Me too!
Most of us wanted Arsenal to win the league ahead of City. I sure did. A young team, with a young manager, with super cutie Bukayo Saka banging in the goals, a quiet unassuming intelligent captain in Odegard, they even have a UKRANIAN, my goodness this is Football 365s wet dream.
Its like the anti Proper Football Man team. No screaming Londoner captain wearing his heart on his sleeve, no bloated washed-up Northerner as Manager… this is the modern mans football… this is football for the Guardian readers… they cant bottle it, and if they do. we just wont say it, because then the baddies win.
READ: Ranking the Arsenal bottle jobs from Martin Odegaard to Thomas Partey
Should Spurs be tearing up contracts?
Paul O’Keefe, who is a fairly reliable voice for the goings on at Spurs has said there is set to be a “ginormous” shake up at the club with contracts being torn up. The players whose contracts are set to be a thing of the past aren’t mentioned but safe to assume Ndombele, Lo Celso, Reguilion, Perisic and Winks (maybe) are off. No one’s interested in buying them, maybe due to inflated wages that they’re on…Ndombele is on £200k a week, so they’re being scrapped.
One way to look at that is it’s a good thing; get shot. The alternative way is, if you include Doherty and Aurier’s contracts also being written off, Spurs have an alarming ability to buy wholly inappropriate players, and no ability to move them on, which is a dereliction of duty by, but not exclusively, Paratici. Levy is no doubt at fault here too.
How on earth can these players be of zero value to any club? What is the process that happens where a club can pay the following GLC (£30M) Reguilion (£28m), Doherty (£15m), Rodon (£10m), Ndombele (£60m), Jack Clarke (£10m), Sanchez (£42m), Aurier (£25m), Janssen (£22m), Soldado (£25m) and yet each of these players bar Janssen – at a significant loss after a horrendous season – be worth nothing to any club? That is over £200m worth of players, without wages factored in, who have all been pretty much pony or as good as non-existent.
The mind boggles. Overhaul the squad by all means, it’s a mid-table squad of players but the trust amongst the support for it to be done well is pretty much at an all time low.
* Saturday afternoon saw the Osman brothers derby take place at Craven Cottage. TV’s Richard Osman is possibly the highest profile celebrity Fulham supporter, but his musician brother Mat is a Crystal Palace fan. They both write books apparently as well, striding across the cultural landscape as twin colossi.
* Roy Hodgson, back at a club were he is well-liked, was forced into an important change to his lineup by the injury Wilfried Zaha suffered last weekend. Hodgson spoke with pessimism about the chances of the Ivorian returning this season, suggesting his time in a Palace shirt may have ended on a bit of a downer. I don’t expect John Terry levels of indulgence, but whatever happens, it’s likely he will be at Selhurst Park next week and given a reception by the fans befitting the greatest player in the history of the club.
Another big change from Hodgson’s first spell in charge is how he handled the absence of Zaha. Previously, there was an air of resignation and a feeling Hodgson was sacking off games he knew his side couldn’t win without their star man. Nowadays, as important as he is, Saturday was another fine example of how Palace can, to a degree, cope without him.
* There was a real end of season vibe to this game, but in a good way. Both teams went for the win without the fear that losing would do serious damage to any prospects. The Cottagers made the better start, having all the early chances, before the Palace opened the scoring on 34 minutes. They cleared a Fulham corner and Eberechi Eze picked the ball up midway in his own half. He beat one defender and crossed halfway before splitting four defenders with a through ball for Odsonne Edouard, completely unseen by any opponent until it is too late. Reaching the ball just inside the area, he fired a shot high on the near side to give the visitors the lead.
* The hosts equalised with a very modern penalty. The ball is played wide to Harry Wilson, who deliberately overruns it knowing that Tyrick Mitchell, covering him, will run into him, and Wilson went down with minimal contact. Annoying. Aleksandr Mitrovic, back from a disappointingly short ban, converted the kick from the penalty mark and made it all square at the break.
* The Serbian forward bagged a brace just after the hour mark, when he met a crossed free kick from Willian with a bullet header. It was scarcely believable that someone as good as he is could be left so completely unmarked in such a situation. On closer inspection, it was the obvious way to counter man marking: have someone stand in two defenders’ way and let your teammate run free. A Fulham player I can’t quite identify from the replay holds Joachim Andersen’s shirt from such a distance his arm is also a barrier to Marc Guehi.
* With both teams having reaching double figures for attempts on goal and sharing nine shots on target, a draw seemed the fairest result. Football romantics will have appreciated the scorer. Michael Olise’s free kick from the left bounced behind most of his intended targets and met the thigh of Anthonee Robinson, from where it bounced goalwards and landed at the feet of Joel Ward. His first attempt, a shot on the turn, was blocked, but he poked the rebound home. I’m pleased for Ward. Despite what Frank de Boer thought, he’s the dictionary definition of a dependable full-back, solid and almost performatively unspectacular most of the time, so he doesn’t make a lot of headlines – at least, not in the same way as scoring a late equaliser does. A first goal for four years gave Palace fans the perfect opportunity to herald him.
He did a roulette in a recent game, and scored in this. Not sure what the natural progression is from here, probably rescuing a cat from a tree at half time during next week’s game.
* Palace’s final game of the season sees them host Nottingham Forest, a team in party mode having beaten the Arsenal to ensure survival this weekend. It has the promise to be a game of skilful attackers playing with relative abandon and nothing at stake other than whether it will be safe for me to leave my house between now and August without everyone and their mum bantering me. Everything else has already been settled: a friend and I have an annual bet of a beer on which of Palace or Forest will finish higher in their respective leagues. It’s been going about a decade, I think it’s been fairly even.
Reports emerging over the weekend suggested the Eagles had previously approached Steve Cooper about succeeding Roy Hodgson. This makes sense for Palace, given the constant stream of rumours of Forest board unhappiness at results and performances might tempt Cooper into walking away, but doesn’t seem very likely. He has the majority of supporters behind him and if he can get the balance of his squad right, a team that could join Palace in challenging for a top half place next season.
* Pep Guardiola, quoted by the Athletic, describes the Football League as “the respect for lower-division is hats off. This is England. That’s why it’s unique”. And, presumably, why he was one of the leading voices wanting to incorporate Premier League B teams into them, which would cause irreparable damage.
* David Maddock’s tweets for the Mirror about the choice of officials for Liverpool’s game while Jurgen Klopp were, even by the standards of Liverpool supporters, a bit weird. Here are some alternative theories: after eight years at Anfield, the list of officials Klopp hasn’t fallen out with is incredibly short; the PGMOL were attempting to show how different conditions were for the same officials without a 55 year old child constantly shouting at them; maybe they were trying to demonstrate to clubs that PGMOL and PGMOL alone decide the allocations, and they should not try to influence them.
Ultimately, describing the officials’ appointments for this game as “snide” are a bit like the school bully’s friends resenting the kids they bullied for having a laugh in the playground while their friend is in isolation as a direct result of their own actions.
* While we’re here, it makes a complete mockery of a touchline ban if the manager is allowed to be in communication with the technical area throughout the game. See also, when Birmingham City manager John Eustace was sent off during a game the other week and spent the remainder in the stands on the phone to his assistant.
* Borussia Dortmund are not a fair comparison for a Premier League club. They are by some distance in either direction, the second biggest fish in the pond. They may regularly lose star players to the biggest European clubs (including Bayern Munich), but their policy has long been to do the same to the clubs on the rung below them on the ladder. It makes sense to do this, but it doesn’t always win you friends and it doesn’t by any stretch of the imagination make you an underdog.
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