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  1. 7 points
    End the perennial debates over Liverpool FC’s greatest ever captain. We’re living through the reality. Jordan Henderson is the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be. I don’t think a case can be made otherwise. Not anymore. Not after the past week. In rallying his teammates to unequivocally speak truth to power on behalf of players and supporters, he was the lone captain of a Big Six club who had the courage to put his head above the parapet. He was the only one to feel the responsibility and act on it. Responsibility. It’s a massive word when it comes to a Liverpool captain, isn’t it? Our current skipper hasn’t shirked that weight once, on or off the field. No disrespect to any of the greats who’ve worn the armband, but none have risen to the leadership responsibility as well, in as many tough circumstances. “Our commitment to the football club and its supporters is unconditional,” he and the players wrote on Tuesday afternoon. I’m not sure who was responsible for wording of the refreshingly terse statement – you sense James might have had a hand in it – but that line was understated genius. In mentioning the unconditional commitment to the football club, it made a huge distinction. John Henry and FSG are not the football club. Klopp made the same allusion in Leeds on Monday. The Club, eh? I’ve done a lot of thinking over the last couple of days about that very notion, perhaps trying to compartmentalise my continued support as the football world piled-in on the ‘seditious six’ and made us all feel the pure shame the owners clearly didn’t. So what is The Club?. It’s the great players and managers we’ve all enjoyed. It’s the rubbish ones too. It’s the people who work at the place and keep it ticking over. It’s the memories we’ve made, the strangers we’ve embraced as family. To me, it’s my 23 year-association with The Liverpool Way and the unbreakable lifelong bonds I’ve made through it. It’s Jordan fucking Henderson. And for all of those things I’m grateful and still really proud. Regardless of their private feelings on the matter as it unfolded, Maguire, Fernandinho and Azpilicueta all waited for it to fall apart before commenting publicly. Aubameyang deactivated his Twitter account. Fair enough. He was annoyed the fight against racism wasn’t receiving as much energy, which is a great point in itself and one that needs following-up on. Those clubs had other players who distinguished themselves. Good eggs like De Bruyne, Bellerin and Rashford (obviously), for example. Harry Kane, though? The Spurs and England captain? When a number of his squad mates had been threatened with never playing for their country again, his response was radio silence. I don’t want to turn this ode to Jordan into a hit piece, but Jesus Christ! The fact he’s still preferred by Southgate is an awful reflection on the England coach. Speaking of establishment tories, Henderson’s actions came less than a year after a direct response to a government imploring that footballers to ‘do their bit’. We all knew that was a preposterous deflection from its own failings. Footballers like Jordan were already supporting the food banks only necessary because of tory austerity and cruelty. Still, Henderson mobilised the other captains to provide millions in Covid relief. He’s not just our captain, he’s the captain’s captain. Tell me you saw that happening when the deathly shy and gawky kid from Sunderland showed up on the right wing in 2011? Roy Keane isn’t right about much, but he was right about Jordan. Never write that kid off. It’s one of the greatest privileges of 30-odd years watching the reds, seeing him become what he is today; chest out, chin-up, leading from the front in so many ways. Adam Lallana might be his best mate (and biggest fan!), but he’s right too: "He's proved on countless occasions that he leads all the captains and the football club.” The captain’s captain made us proud when there was little reason for it flying around the game. It also speaks volumes that the statement published on Tuesday perforated a takeover of his social media accounts by a cyber bullying charity. While others spoke of ‘boycotts’ (i.e. not publishing pictures of themselves in flash clobber for a couple of days), Henderson was smart and responsible (there’s that word again) enough to know his following could be channelled in a positive manner. He’s not the only Liverpool captain to face such awful times, of course. Phil Neal in 1985 and Alan Hansen in 1989 both presided over unspeakable tragedies and loss of life. Jockey, of course, handled the ensuing years much better than his predecessor. Then I think back to ‘Mr Youth Development’ Brendan Rodgers trying to trade him in for Clint Dempsey because he had ‘wee Joe Allen’ instead. Just imagine if he didn’t have the mental fortitude to say “no”. Unthinkable. When another ex-skipper felt he wasn’t getting enough love from the manager, he sought out a club not too far from Fulham, at the height of what was a cultural rivalry as much as a football one. But then we don’t talk about that anymore. Henderson staying at Liverpool is an incredibly big turning point in the modern history of the club. Without him, I don’t believe the last 3-4 years of success happens. If he isn’t as important as Klopp, he’s a close second. The esteem in which he’s held by his teammates shows that. Just stepping up to that mantle set by his predecessor – a born and bred Liverpudlian, a better footballer, a bona fide miracle worker between the lines – was a herculean task. Gerrard was a born genius and Henderson didn’t have that going for him either. Not only has Jordan assumed Gerrard’s role, he has now eclipsed him. I haven’t talked football at all during this piece, because it almost seems secondary. But when it’s all said and done, my abiding memory of Jordan and this entire era, isn’t lifting of the Title or the European Cup, which we’ll now continue to compete for. Thanks, in part, to his efforts. It’ll be Alisson sprinting past his exhausted captain in the 95th minute to celebrate with Mo at the Kop end. He’d given everything that day, just like always, and continues to do so, seeking none of the acclaim for himself. Well, here’s some acclaim: Here’s to you, Jordan Henderson. Liverpool Football Club’s greatest ever captain. Chris Smith
  2. 7 points
    I obtained a season ticket when the old Kemlyn Road was redeveloped into the Centenary Stand in 1992, just as Souey’s reign was embarking. As Liverpool FC had dominated English football in the 70s & 80s we saw nothing on the horizon that was going to change that. Leeds, Forest & Everton had tried and ultimately failed. Arsenal were the new pretenders. Little did we know as to what was to come. King Kenny had taken over following that fateful night in Heysel but domestic success continued. However, a second tragedy for the club with the awful events at Hillsborough took its toll on our manager and by 1991 he needed to put himself and his family first, so sadly, and unexpectedly, he stepped down. Old teammate Graeme Souness was seen as the man to continue the success. But a succession of poor buys in the transfer market, bust ups with old teammates, poor results and an ill thought out exclusive regarding his heart op in the S** saw his tenure come to an end! So it was that Liverpool turned to old faithful and one of the backroom boys, Roy Evans, to turn back the clock and bring back the good times! Unfortunately kindly Roy was seen more as a ‘father figure’ rather than a boss who could rein in the ‘Spice Boy’ culture that the club had garnished. With just one League Cup to his name and results inconsistent as well as performances and United setting the standard, the club made the unprecedented decision to have joint managers. Gerard Houllier was brought in to co-manage. Anybody in football that knows anything about the game will state joint managers don’t work. It didn’t. It was going to end in tears and the loyal, faithful Evans was the one to lose out leaving Gerard in sole charge. Houllier was a different beast to Evans with a very different ideology. He was determined to drag Liverpool into the 2000s and a new era beckoned. An array of new signings came in with a very different backroom staff and set up. There was a new way of looking at things. An organisation, a system, a structure, which included diets and fitness regimes. Foreign players were brought in from a very different culture. They had been brought up in a system used to looking after their bodies, going out for meals with friends and families rather than the British drinking culture. The days of the Spice Boys was over. Liverpool lined up for games with a presence and a menace. Commentators noted the height in the team as players like Hyypia, Babbel, Zeige, and Hamann dominated the skyline. Owen, Murphy, Fowler and Smicer stood out due to their lack of height. Liverpool’s 'Achilles Heel' of defending corners was being addressed with the presence of Kingpin Sami. Houllier set up a team hard to break down but with the pace of Owen, the muscle and talent of the emerging Gerrard and their dominant height at corners and free kicks. They had a game plan. Game plan A. But only A. Each player knew their job, their specific role. A new Liverpool was dawning. It led to uncharted waters as Houllier’s Reds claimed a Cup treble in 2001. Birmingham, Arsenal and Alaves were put to the sword. A ‘Mickey Mouse treble’ claimed Utd fans, but with the Charity Shield and Super Cup being added, surely the good times were back? As fate would have it, they weren’t! Gerard only added a League Cup win against Utd in 2003 to his impressive early haul. Younger Red fans not familiar with the 70s and 80s dominance had now tasted proper success for the first time. And they were desperate for more. But the Gods were against them as Houllier fell ill at the game with Leeds and emergency heart surgery was required to save his life. After five months away convalescing Gerard returned much to the fans delight vs Fabio Capello’s Roma. The Reds won. All seemed rosy again and surely everything was back on track? Unfortunately many inside the club and game felt Houllier was never the same after his operation and near death experience. Maybe he had come back to soon as his passion for the club and his love of the game meant he literally let his heart rule his head. A succession of poor buys that failed to light the blue touch paper after the promise that they were the next big thing, and failure to land the one prize the fans wanted the most led ultimately to Gerard’s time in the dugout coming to an end. His love affair with the club and the fans was over and a new era with Rafa Benitez at the helm beckoned. Rafa somehow magically took what was left of Gerard’s mismatched signings and led the Reds to an unexpected and unbelievable fifth European Cup. Was he now the saviour the Reds had been waiting for? Despite a Cup success the following year in yet another thrilling final and assembling Liverpool’s best team in nearly two decades, Rafa himself failed to prise the one trophy we wanted from the hands of Utd, Arsenal and now Chelsea. He therefore suffered the same fate as his predecessor. Unfortunately for the Reds fans the sale of the club to two unscrupulous conmen meant that not only did the club nearly go into non-existence, but led to a number of high profile departures and poor signings. The good work and foundations laid by Houllier and then Benitez were now being undone by the appointment of Roy Hodgson and an ill advised prolonged stay by the returning King. Signing after signing failed, with only the odd gem like Suarez and Henderson unearthed. Liverpool seemed to be going backwards again. Brendan Rodgers, an up and coming manager was given his shot, but like his predecessors, he ultimately failed when it came down to the wire. With his dismissal Liverpool finally made what was their boldest managerial move since Houllier with the appointment of the much coveted Jurgen Klopp - United fans first choice to replace the outgoing Alex Ferguson. The rest they say, is history! So why was Houllier so important some may ask? Liverpool truly broke with tradition with his appointment. Souness may have literally dismantled the Bootroom, but Gerard actually ushered in a brand new era and laid the foundations for a new way of thinking for the club. We had finally moved with the times and now had the mentality of European teams with how the players were looked after regarding fitness and diets. Appointments from within were now a thing of the past. Discipline and structure, seen as European and foreign ideologies were now at the forefront. Houllier may have ultimately failed in bringing the fans the Holy Grail, but he brought new, young fans their first taste of success. He brought a mix of local & homegrown talent together with experienced European heads. He gave Rafa, even if it was somewhat disjointed by the time he went through the exit door, a basis and structure to build upon. And though Liverpool nearly pushed the self-destruct button after Rafa's exit, they were ultimately and eventually able to appoint a foreign manager to bring them the success the fans craved. At the time the Cup Treble was not recognised with much significance outside of the club, though 99 other clubs that year would desperately have taken it with both hands and swapped places with us. But now, looking back after Gerard’s sudden and premature demise, it can be seen as the first small important steps in a long slow journey back to where we belong. Thank you Gerard for everything you gave us: Your passion. Your kindness. Your knowledge of the game. Your smile. And nearly, your life. The memories. You will never be forgotten by the fans or the footballing world. You are alongside the clubs many legends and we the fans will be forever grateful to you for your efforts and love towards us. RIP Boss. You Will Never Walk Alone. Ian Evans
  3. 7 points
    1. How boss are last minute winners at Anfield in Europe? Bobby The One-Eyed Pirate plundering the winner too. Is right. 2. That would have been a total rip off if we’d come away with fewer than all the points because we dominated them. They just could not cope with our aggression or intensity. Whether it was Cavani absolutely shitting himself in a fifty fifty with Hendo, Neymar getting smashed by Milner early on or every player in a Red shirt covering every blade of grass - twice! - it was clear they just couldn’t get near us. 3. The midfield was sensational once more. James Milner. Again. What a player. He’s just ridiculously good. And Gini once more clever in his movement and use of the ball. However, let’s give the skipper some because Henderson was brilliant. If you’re one of these internet gobshites who constantly slags the lad and you did so tonight after that performance then I can’t help you, sorry. You’re too stupid to support Liverpool. That was a master class in dominating an opponent tonight and Hendo was at its heart. 4. The pace of our back line was important tonight as we mostly kept their threat tamed. What struck me more than the speed in our defence though was their exponential progress. It’s borderline weird how good we are at the back right now. When are these lads going to stop getting better? In theory it must happen at some point, but I can’t see when because they just go from strength to strength. 5. Seeing Sturridge back and scoring a big goal was both a surprise and a pleasure. Clearly he’s no Bobby, but I heard a few people around me surprised at his quick feet, clever movement and ball retention. I’m not sure who they were watching a few seasons back when he was ripping the league a new one, but at least he’s getting the credit now. I’m not holding my breath for sustained fitness, but that doesn’t detract from my joy at seeing him score because he’s boss. Long may his fitness be retained. 6. Negatives? Mo’s sloppy passing, some poor luck with decisions and, er, that’s it. 7. Nice to see Fabinho get his debut. Was it the full minute in the end? Shaqiri looked very hungry when he came on and I'm convinced all three will be vital squad members this season. 8. Their players? Neymar was poor relative to his reputation and Mbappé was well shackled by Robbo. I thought Thiago Silva looked sublime though. One moment in the first half showed incredible reading of the game and lightening pace as he tracked Mané’s diagonal run to snuff out his threat. He’s a real footballer, him. 9. I was going to praise their fans for their constant noise because no matter what the setback, they kept bouncing. But then I realised right at the end of the first half as The Kop quietened enough for me to actually hear them that they had a drummer with them! All that money and their fans just want to be Stoke. *Shakes head* 10. I said it after the Spurs game and I’ll say it again now, we have got a really serious team on our hands now. They are hungry, aggressive, fast, skilful and obdurate and in my view there are no limits to what they can achieve under this manager. Six wins from six and the promise of much more to come. Come on you Reds!!! Paul Natton
  4. 6 points
    When Trent Alexander-Arnold first appeared in and around the first team squad, I saw flashes of the teenage Steven Gerrard in him. I may have even written it once or twice (albeit hesitantly), but generally I steered away from making any comparisons. After all, there’s a strong case to be had that Gerrard is the best to ever play for the club, so even mentioning anybody else in the same breath seems like lunacy, no matter how carefully chosen the words are. Nevertheless, having watched Trent coming through the Academy sides, there were times when he reminded me of Stevie. He wasn’t a carbon copy of course, but every now and then he’d do something that would make you think “there was a bit of Gerrard in that”. It might have been a crunching tackle (one against Spurs in a League Cup tie at Anfield springs to mind) or a raking cross field ball. Sometimes it was just the way he carried himself. Just little things that reminded me of the young Gerrard who first came into the side playing right back. Like Gerrard, Trent was a midfielder who initially could ‘do a job’ at full back. Unlike Gerrard, Trent looks like he might actually stay there. I still feel as though there’s a world class midfielder in there should Jurgen ever decide to unleash him, but he’s so special at right back there’s no rush to move him, especially as the full back position in this current team is massively important. More important than it’s ever been in fact. I’m not saying that in the past you could just throw anyone in at full back, but it was certainly the least important position in the side. You could ‘make do’ and we often did. For example, we nearly won the league in 2014 with Aly Cissokho and Jon Flanagan sharing duties at left back, and with Glen Johnson underachieving like only he could on the opposite flank. Djimi Traore was left back in a Champions League winning side. Now, the style we play under Klopp, it’s a whole different ball game. The two full backs need to be skilled footballers and terrific athletes because the way we play demands it. Not only do they have to defend, but they need to provide the creativity from wide positions because the wingers play inside. Traditional full backs just won’t get it done in this set up. That’s why I’m no longer as convinced that Trent is going to end up in midfield, at least not any time soon. He’d be incredibly difficult to replace at right back because of the quality he has and his knack for creating goals. Like Andy Robbo on the other side, Trent is essentially doing the job of two players. They’re both doing it incredibly well and earlier this season L’Equipe hailed them as the best full back pairing in the world. Credit to them for noticing that, because you rarely hear anyone else pointing it out. They are the best full back pairing in the world and I don’t even think it’s close. Who else would even be in the discussion? They’re part of the tightest back four in Europe so there’s no weakness defensively, but look at what they’re doing at the other end. It might be unprecedented actually. Look at the assists leaders in the Premier League. Trent (with 12) is equal third with Christian Eriksen, behind Eden Hazard and Ryan Fraser. Robbo is fifth, with just one assist fewer. Two full backs in the top five, having created more goals than the likes of Sterling, Sane, Alli, Pedro, Ramsay, Pogba, the Silvas, De Bruyne, Willian etc…. I don’t think enough attention has been paid to that. The last pair to make playing full back so cool were Cafu and Roberto Carlos. Trent added another four in the Champions League, giving him 16 assists from right back. It’s almost unheard of. Admittedly, unlike Robbo, some of Trent’s have been from set pieces, but even that is credit to how special he is. How many full backs are entrusted with taking their team’s free-kicks and corners? He’s a top player in just about every way. The only thing lacking is a few goals, but that’s not really his job, and besides, it’s only a matter of time before he’s chipping in with a few. So now, a little over two years later, I’ll have no qualms about mentioning Trent in the same breath as Gerrard because 20 year old Trent compares favourably with Gerrard at the same age. Yes, Stevie was brilliant even at 20 years old, but so is Trent. Whether Trent goes on to become anywhere near as incredible a player as Gerrard went on to be doesn’t matter. He might, he might not, but I’m saying that, right now, at 20, he’s in the same bracket. I’m aware that’s a bold statement but the body of work stacks up. By the age of 20 we knew Gerrard was special and was going to be a great player. We didn’t know that he’d turn into Superman and carry the team for several years, or inspire the greatest comeback in football history to clinch our fifth European Cup. We don’t know what Trent will do either. We do know what he’s done so far though, and like I say, it stacks up with what Gerrard had achieved at the same age. Trent was named in the ‘Team of the Year’ and played in his second Champions League Final in consecutive seasons. He is a key player in a side that has just collected a club record 97 points and won a European Cup. He’s not just a part of the team, he’s a vitally important player in it. A genuine difference maker. From bloody right back! How many right backs are true difference makers? It’s often been said that had Gerrard stayed at right back he’d have been the best in the world. I agree with that because he’d have been phenomenal wherever he played. He didn’t stay at right back though, he was moved into midfield because that was a more important position and he became the best in the world in that position instead. Trent, on the other hand, has been left where he was and is well on his way to becoming the best right back on the planet. He might be already. I don’t watch enough European footy to know, but I do know he’s already the best in the Premier League and will only get better. The belief back then was that Gerrard would have been wasted as a right back and a part of me thinks maybe Trent would be too. But then, as previously stated, being a right back in this Klopp team is unlike playing there for most sides. There are no restrictions on going forward and the full backs see plenty of the ball. I imagine it’s a lot of fun playing full back in this Liverpool team. Besides, Trent’s attributes are different to Gerrard’s anyway. He doesn’t tackle as fiercely, his long range shooting doesn’t compare yet and he seems to be a calmer, less aggressive type of character on the field. He’s not as rash as Gerrard could be and is far less likely to land himself in bother with refs. Maybe his skillset is better suited to full back than midfield, time will tell on that. What we do know is that in the two full seasons we’ve had from him at right back, it’s impossible to have asked for more from him. He’s ended this season in sensational form, creating goals on a weekly basis. He had an understandably slowish start to the campaign though due to reporting back late following the World Cup. It had been a long season anyway but his inclusion in the England squad meant he had virtually no summer holiday. Nevertheless, despite his lack of a pre-season he was in the line up for the first game and was an ever present until Klopp took him out of the line up for a couple of games in October. One of those games was against Manchester City, and he was then left out at PSG a month later. He was also on the bench at Old Trafford and for the trip to the Nou Camp, which could be co-incidence or it might point to a tendency from Klopp to go with a less ‘adventurous’ option in the most difficult games. His creativity was badly missed in that game away at United though and the point was emphasised a few days later when he claimed a hat-trick of assists against Watford at Anfield. It’s interesting to look back over the season at his assists, because prior to that Watford game he only had three. He had none for the following month and then went nuts in April and May when he had ten. TEN!! His performance level in the closing months of the season has been staggeringly good. Ten assists in two months from right back is nuts. Just think about it for a second, it really is astonishing, especially given the pressure of the games and the high quality of the opposition, such as Spurs, Porto & Barcelona. The rest of his game has been top drawer too. The effortless way he just sprays it around. Whether it's the crossfield balls to Robbo, the fizzed passes into the feet of Bobby and the midfielders or the pinpoint knocks into the channel to Mo running free, he can do it all. And we saw with that quick corner kick against Barca just what a great football brain he has. Only special players produce that kind of thing. It was Gerrard-esque. Defensively he’s been solid too. That side of his game isn’t as spectacular as when he has the ball at his feet, but he’s already very good and will only get better, as that’s something that comes with coaching and experience. That's why it was laughable hearing Martin Tyler question whether Trent is good enough defensively for international football. The standard of football in the Premier and Champions League is way higher than international football. If Trent can cope against Man City and Barcelona, I think he can handle Serbia and Malta. And on top of all that, he’s a local kid. I don’t think any of us really care where our players come from as long as they’re good enough and give us their all, but it’s also fair to say that there’s something special about one of our own coming through the ranks to establish themselves in the team. Especially now, in this era when it’s so difficult for local kids to make it due to the incredibly high standard of players at the top clubs. It was difficult enough in the 80s when the club were generally only signing players from this country, but it’s nigh on impossible now when you look at the competition for places. Youngsters have to be something very special to force their way into squads that are heaving with world class players from all around the globe, but Trent has managed to do it and there’s something heart warming about that. A kid who has been a fan his entire life, who was a ballboy at Anfield and has been at the Academy since he was six, is now a mainstay of the first team and one of the best players in the world in his position. And he’s only 20 years old. The sight of him whipping in crosses for his brothers on the pitch after the Wolves game showed you everything you need to know, as did the emotional scenes in Madrid when went to celebrate with all of his family. He’s just a young Kopite living the dream. Dare I say it, just like Stevie. Best Moment: The corner against Barca. That’s an iconic goal that will be remembered for decades, and it will be remembered as much for Trent’s quick thinking and perfect delivery as it will for Divock Origi actually finishing it off. Worst Moment: Tough one this. It would have been the handball on the line at St James’ Park had Christian Atsu not got him off the hook by burying the rebound and sparing the referee from having to produce a red card. Conceding a penalty and being reduced to ten men at that point may have been immaterial now with the benefit of hindsight, but at the time it would have been devastating. And besides, the last thing any of us want is Newcastle’s moronic hordes singing about costing us the league for the next couple of decades. Getting skinned twice in ten minutes by Mendez-Laing at Cardiff wasn’t Trent’s finest hour either, but that lad has Olympic sprinter speed so it’s pretty difficult to do much about it when it comes down to a race. So in short, I can’t really think of a ‘worst moment’, which shows just how good he’s been. Rating 9/10: Same rating as last year, but I wouldn’t bet against him getting higher this time next year, considering the rate at which he’s progressing. Please note, this is a free article but the rest of the 'Season Report Cards' will only be available to TLW subscribers. Subscriptions are just £2 per month and can be purchased here.
  5. 6 points
    1. Five wins from five to start a season is hugely impressive no matter which way you cut it. This was a huge win; no doubt. 2. We pretty much dominated Tottenham from start to finish, looking very much in control. However, I have to admit to feeling pretty frustrated throughout - albeit tempered by moments of real admiration for some of our players and what they are capable of doing. Then, after the game, I started reflecting on point one above and putting things into their proper context. Yes the forwards are still not fully on song and some of their decision-making is infuriating. However, even allowing for the late goal concession and penalty bullet dodged, this was a really one-sided game away from home against a side that has finished higher than us for much of the last decade. It really was a great win! 3. As the match ended I said to the lads in the TLW WhatsApp group that I thought some of the attacking players would be in for a bollocking from Klopp once they got into the dressing room. However, I quickly revised that view when I heard what he had to say, never mind when I then reflected on the work the front three had put in because they did all the things they're expected to under Klopp except take every chance - and that can never be an expectation. I think what I've been guilty of is expecting the absolute roller-coaster attacking football we produced for much of last season and when you see multiple chances - and good ones at that - go begging as they did today, it seems like a massive let down. However, it's not actually the goals that are the hallmark of what we're about under Klopp. They're just a very significant by-product. What we're really about is that controlled aggression and constant movement and pressing. And in that sense - as Klopp himself made clear - we were brilliant. 4. I think we actually need to fully recalibrate how we think of this team, because there is now a significant body of evidence that demonstrates we're a really focused, intelligent and dominant side in all areas of the game, rather than the unpredictable footballing dynamite that's just as likely to explode at the back as up front from game to game. I'm not just talking about the outdated "crap at the back" narrative here, mind; that one was volleyed out of the stadium pretty much from the moment Virgil arrived. It's more about our ability to control the game throughout, even when in moments where we're under pressure from top class opposition. For me, I think it stems from the point Klopp himself has been making from the day he walked into the place, in fairness: it takes time for his style of football to become embedded and it's actually considerably more demanding and complex than most people seem to give it credit for. There's got to be a reason why he holds most new players back and why it takes almost everyone (Mo and Virgil excepted) months to understand what he wants. Obviously this can be seen in the oft-cited examples of Robbo, Ox and now Fabinho. However, look at Gini too. The player so many Reds were singularly underwhelmed by now looks imperious in that Number 6 position. I absolutely love his strength on the ball: he doesn't ever seem to lose it when challenged. But he matches that with a highly underrated technique and ability to distribute it at the right time to the right player, too. I liked Gini pretty much from the off at Liverpool. However, to be fair to his critics, the attributes which I admired were pretty underwhelmingly employed for his first year or so. No longer though. He's a crucial member of the team who has risen to the challenge provided by the extra competition for places and he seems to get better by the week, these days. He finally broke that away goal hoodoo today - and it was a cracker, by the way; superb header - but that's not why I'm praising him. It's his all-round intelligence and ability to deliver Klopp's tactics at the highest level that now stand out and hopefully more people will give him the props he's due. 5. Speaking of overdue credit, how is it that James Milner isn't routinely described as one of the best players in English football? I mean, he is absolutely sensational! The perfect blend of intelligence, character, physicality and - yes - class. Why is it that his technique is so under appreciated? I mean, he's pretty much two-footed, has a deadly eye for a pass and can comfortably accept almost any ball even when under the most intense pressure. This was all on show when he played left back, was emphasised even more when he set a new Champions League assists record last season and is still staring us in the face this campaign as everyone seems to miss the fact that Klopp appears to be building his whole system around Milner's ability to be about five players in one during the same match. He was awesome today, once again, and I simply cannot understand why every Red in the land isn't screaming from the rooftops about his brilliance. Maybe it's the age thing and there's an expectation that there'll be a sudden and rapid decline, so his is not the basket to put your favourite player eggs into. Whatever it's about, two things are certain: he's a truly great player and if we're going to win big this season, we will need him to be available for the full campaign. 6. And while I'm warming to my great players theme, Virgil van Dijk... I think that ellipsis says it all, even though I could go on and on and on about his class, composure, intelligence and leadership here, exemplifying each trait at length. However, I'll pick one moment from today's game that absolutely took my breath away. It was about ten minutes into the second half when he just materialised as he always does to win a ball in the air. It wasn't his aerial ability, physical dominance of his opponent or preternatural reading of the game that struck me though, as I pretty much take those qualities for granted now. No, it was that he laid the ball off with a precise header to his right, onto the toe of Trent who was breaking forward into space and collected it in his stride to take us on to a dangerous counterattack. Here's the thing: it wasn't a fluke. I think Virgil might be the only centre half I have ever seen who can consistently defend and attack at the highest level in one single interaction with the ball! He is ridiculously good. You know how it seems sacrilegious to rate contemporary Liverpool players at, or even near, the top of our pantheon of greats? How it's club lore that trophy-less footballers are automatically inferior to their medal-laden forebears? Well I'm not having it. Van Dijk is the best player I've seen for Liverpool at centre half. And yes I did see all the 80s-and-beyond greats and therefore fully understand what I'm saying. Quite simply he is an unbelievable footballer. 7. So what else did I notice today? Robbo was Robbo - again. Joe G had a couple of wobbles and yet emerged unscathed, which bodes very well for his continued development in light of his inexperience in the position. Allison was fine. Bobby's eye injury looked horrible and will worry me if I let it as he's so important to us. However, I'm not letting anything take the shine off this brilliant start to the season today. So I'll worry about Bobby when the club says something to worry about. 8. I'm excited and feel fully justified in being so. However, I think this level of excitement will pale into insignificance if we can get through this next run of games undefeated, which is very much a possibility. You look at how we're playing and it's really hard to see how teams are going to beat us. We can't be ripped open on the break as we have too much pace. We can't be fluked by a parked bus counter attacking side keeping us blunted because even this half-cocked attack is still outscoring almost everyone else in the league and will hit its stride sooner or later. We can't be out-fought because - d'uh - aggression is our thing. And we can't be done on set pieces because that door was slammed shut when Virgil arrived and now Allison looks like he's padlocked it. No, we're looking like a really serious title contending team right now and I think this challenge we're embarking upon will be proven to be the real deal. 9. So PSG on Tuesday with Neymar and Mbappe. That'll be a test... for them. I hope they're ready because they're coming to Anfield and we're Liverpool. Shit just got real. Come on you Reds!!! Paul Natton
  6. 4 points
    Tributes from around the Footballing world have been flooding in after the death of the much loved and respected former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier at the age of 73. The Frenchman was the first foreign manager to take charge of the Reds and his main task was to put together a squad that would be competitive not only on the domestic front but make them for formidable once again in Europe. Houllier knew he had a very exciting young and talented group coming through, but to balance that he needed some players who had been battle hardened and brought a winning culture. So he went about building a cosmopolitan squad, some players like Sami Hyppia and Vladimir Smicer were hardly household names in England, but had the kind of experience that Houllier wanted. Another player Houllier identified was Dietmar Hamann, who had just played his first season in the Premier League with Newcastle, after winning a number of honours with Bayern Munich. The German spoke to the Echo about his fond memories of the highly respected footballing figure. “I am shocked and devastated. I think he influenced all of us who worked for and with him on so many levels and it is just a sad day. Not only for the footballing side of it but also on a personal level. "Jamie Carragher says that he made him the man he is today. I think it is not something you read very often from an ex-player. That was the impact he had on people. "It was the way he ran the football club, the way he appreciated every single employee of the club and this is why I think we are very grateful to have the chance to work with him and under him.” Hamann who spent seven years with Liverpool making 280 appearances and winning nine honours, said the connection he had with the boss was instant. “I think Titi Camara, Sami Hyypia, Sander Westerveld, Vladi (Smicer), he signed about five or six before me. "So I came to Liverpool a few weeks later and went straight to Belfast with (chief executive) Peter Robinson. When I got back we had dinner together and it was me, my wife and his wife. "It can be a bit awkward sometimes when you first meet a manager but it was just a fluent conversation for a couple of hours. "He told me what he was trying to do. He was just a very charismatic and genuine man. He was very caring, and this is why my love for the football club is mostly owed to him. "Looking back, he took a chance bringing six or seven foreign players. I don't think he bought one English player in '99 but he probably felt that with the continental flair and experience, it was the best way to nurture the English talents. “Only Stephane Henchoz and myself had experience of playing in England. All the others didn't and we know the Premier League is more physical, it's quicker and it's a different style of football." Houllier was widely seen as a revolutionary in the way he brought modern training methods to the club. Hamann says while the treble winning manager did not claim the top prize in England or in Europe, the 2005 Champions League triumph had his fingerprints on it and set the path for others to follow. "He changed the football club. Liverpool was in the doldrums in the late 90s. “They hadn't been too successful and they hadn't won a trophy for a number of years and I think if it wasn't for Gerard, I don't think there would have been a Rafa or maybe a Klopp now. "He put Liverpool back on the map, he made them successful again and made people realise again that Liverpool can be a force and he really galvanised the whole city in that time. "I think quite a lot of the fans were disillusioned when he came because the team was not successful. “He played a huge part in us winning the Champions League because if you look at the players who had a huge impact in that game, Sami, Carra, Jerzy Dudek, you look at Djimi Traore who came in as a kid and turned out to be a fantastic player, Stevie, Vladi came on, scored and scored in the penalty shootout too, so I think without Gerard, there would be no European Cup in 2005. “This is how he should be remembered.”
  7. 4 points
    The thing I’ve enjoyed most about Jamie Carragher’s podcast is the incredible forthrightness of the interviews. The shared context, friendship and experiences with his guests provides an incredible platform for honest conversations – far exceeding the cookie cutter Q&As we hear in the vast majority of interviews conducted by actual journalists. Carra’s standing, and aversion to sugar-coating anything, enables him to frame questions in a way that would be downright insulting coming from a reporter. It’s what made the recent episode with Michael Owen such a startlingly brutal and uncomfortable listen. If you came out of that interview still unwilling to bury the hatchet with Michael Owen and finally welcome him home, then I’d advise you to contact someone with a stethoscope. Michael’s story, as told on The Greatest Game, sounded like the clichéd sports movie, charting the incredible highs, then the depths of despair. It was set-up for the final act – the inevitable, uplifting redemption, but in Owen’s case, there is no feel-good ending. If the Robbie Fowler story could draw comparisons to Rocky, Owen’s could be likened to the end of Raging Bull. Put it this way: Michael Owen, who scored 158 goals for his club and thrice tried to get back home after his initial departure, now feels intimidated when he walks into Anfield. “Any Liverpool fan has the power to break my heart,” he said. Jesus, I don’t know about any of you, but hearing that just about broke mine. It’s not right. Owen brought as much joy to the old stadium as any individual in the last quarter century; that much is indisputable. Yet, as Carragher brutally pointed out, Owen gets no love, his career and contributions are glossed over. Or, to use Carragher’s word “dismissed”. I’ll be honest with you. Michael was my guy. At the time I’d have argued “Michael over Robbie” with anyone. My best mate and I still joke about it to this day (how lucky were we to have those two to playfully argue over by the way?). I’d never really resented him for leaving, but it did break my heart. I never hated him for signing for Newcastle because I was privy to information he desperately wanted to come home and was distraught to be going there. I wasn’t among those screaming “where were you in Istanbul?” in his face, because what was the point? It wasn’t even as if I felt signing for United was unforgivable given his predicament. For me, a fissure tore into a gaping crevasse the day he scored the winner in that Manchester derby (as unreal a finish as it was). I hadn’t seen him celebrate quite so exuberantly in a decade. I hadn’t seen that joy since he was a teenager and, as he raced behind the Stretford End goal, hadn’t seen him run that fast either. How could he be that happy doing that, there, for them? At the time when we were in the utter depths of the Gillet and Hicks era, with Rafa’s tenure coming to an end, it was an absolute sickener. For many, it confirmed what they had felt all along. It was the first time I believed it too – that Michael Owen cared only about Michael Owen. It didn’t matter which shirt he was wearing. On that day he was happy for himself, not for Man United. And now, in the context of his interview with Carragher, it’s a little bit easier to see why. Many will still feel like Owen got what was coming, that he made his own bed and thus doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as other Liverpool greats. That’s fine. But there’s also a staggering hypocrisy here that’s bothered me for decades. It seems you can be terrible, as a man and a footballer, but as long as you’re pushed out of the door, rather than leave on your own terms, you’re welcomed back to Liverpool with open arms. The ovations afforded to a returning David James down the years, for example. Here’s someone that made an absolute mockery of us, his manager and the entire club, quantifiably costing us a title during his time on his PlayStation, or modelling, or whatever else he was doing while flailing around between the sticks. James and Owen both broke my heart. Michael for leaving us when he did, James for being abjectly terrible at his job and causing us to lose football matches. One of the two feels intimidated walking into Anfield for fear of abuse, the other would probably get a standing ovation if he turned out for one of those Liverpool Legends games. More recently, the reverse is somehow true. It seems a player can force his way out in the most egregious manner and still be remembered fondly. His recent roasting at Anfield aside, the esteem in which Luis Suarez is held absolutely staggers me. Carra mentioned this too. Some of my best mates have him in all-time Liverpool five-a-side teams. I can’t scream this loud enough, but to Hell with Luis Suarez. This bloke went on strike to force a move to Arsenal (to Arsenal), bit opponents and racially abused others. Our reputation is yet to fully recover from our association with that ‘loveable little scamp,’ as evidenced by the recent, long overdue apology to Evra and the coverage it received. I feel ashamed for supporting him at the time. Between Owen and Suarez, which is the club annually falling over itself to wish a happy birthday? Here’s a clue: It’s not the one who ran himself into utter physical degradation before his mid-20s, while wearing the red shirt. Nor is it the one who won a Ballon D’Or in the same year he helped us to a cup treble. Owen’s contribution to the modern history of Liverpool far eclipses Suarez’s season or so of giving a damn. Even Stan Collymore enjoys a higher standing than Michael Owen among some Liverpool fans on social media. Seriously. Even the aversion to Fernando Torres has faded these days. Everyone seems alright with him again with the club often commemorating his contribution more and more often. I promised myself I’d never love another footballer again after he went to Chelsea; then Klopp’s lads came along and now I’m besotted with the lot of them, but that’s beside the point. Speaking of Chelsea, remember when Steven Gerrard tried to force a move there? If Gerrard’s explanation for how that situation came to pass (Papa Rafa didn’t show him enough love, etc.) is understood then why can’t Michael’s reasons for heading to Real Madrid, when all along his plan was to just “do a Rushie” and come back after a year? The answer’s rhetorical, if we’re honest with ourselves. After developing an Alan Shearer-like reputation for bland, guarded interviews during his playing career, Michael has been an open book since his retirement. Especially regarding his injuries and his self-professed rapid decline. We’ve had a window into Owen the person. Maybe that’s what has me warming to him again? The fact that, away from his horses, his millions and his media career, he’s a guy with insecurities, with regrets, with fears and apprehension. It’s a great leveller. I don’t know how the current impasse changes. Maybe it starts with the club affording him the same respect it does to other, less deserving folks, through its constant content output? If they can get off Suarez’s lap for five minutes that is. For all their talk about the “LFC family” they aren’t half choosy about who is treated as such. People shouldn’t need reminding just how good Michael Owen was, but if that’s what needs to happen, it should. There’s no reason for this continued antipathy or, perhaps even worse, utter apathy. That might be the hardest thing about this for Owen. Right now, he doesn’t matter. He’s not loved, nor particularly hated. Just irrelevant. Some will say that’s his punishment. After listening to his side of the story, I’d counter by saying, “for what exactly?” Carragher brutally pointed out that, while he finished his career with a guard of honour and a Kop mosaic, Michael went out coming off the bench for Tony Pulis’ Stoke. Wasn’t that punishment enough? Enough is enough. It’s time to recognise Michael Owen’s contribution for what it was. On the stat sheets, to the numbers on that increasingly-active “Wall of Champions” and in our mind’s eye. “One-nil down, two-one up, Michael Owen won the cup.” Remember that? Like many others, the story isn’t straight forward. There are complications. But Michael Owen is unquestionably a Liverpool great and deserves to be spoken of as such. It’s time to end the story in the right way. Chris Smith @ByChrisSmith
  8. 4 points
    After a memorable 2019, the Reds get back to business with their first game of the new decade against Sheffield United. on Thursday evening. The Blades have been one of the great stories of the 2019/20 season to date. Through impressive manager Chris Wilder, the pre-season relegation favourites have refused to take a backward step against any opposition they have faced with their outstanding record away from home in this campaign being true testament of that. The fans from @Blades_Mad gave TLW an insightful description into the impact that Wilder has made to the club in his tenure and what players have taken to Premier League football like a duck to water. Can you talk our readers though the job that Chris Wilder has done since his appointment and what do you see as his key strengths as a manager? To put it simple; he's dragged this club off the canvas and propelled it back into the big time and in such a short space of time as well. He took the club over three and a half years ago, when it was at its lowest having finished a paltry 11th in League One under his predecessor. 46 games and 100 points later, United had romped to the League One title in style, meaning an end to six years of hurt, languishing in English football's third tier. A season of consolidation in the Championship and a top half finished followed, and then a promotion charge which couldn't have been foreseen by many, with United still recording one of the lowest budgets in the Championship. United managed to stave off competition from Leeds United and secure an automatic promotion spot alongside fellow unfancied outfit - Norwich City. The start to life back in the Premier League has been nothing short of remarkable really. We were tipped by many to be a dead certainty to go straight back down and although many Blades fans felt that was unjust, this ridiculously terrific start by Chris Wilder's men couldn't have been foreseen. The gaffer has many strengths. He's a huge motivator and passion certainly is one of his traits if you like, but underneath all of that is a revolutionary football manager. United play in a way which has never been seen before, keep an eye out for the overlapping centre-backs if they get the chance at Anfield! He's one of our own. He's the greatest manager in this club's history. We often see the usual suspects being linked with managerial posts (case in point David Moyes and West Ham), do you think there will come a time when clubs come calling for Wilder? What I would say is that quite a few "high profile" jobs have become available recently and Chris Wilder (thankfully for us) was never genuinely linked with the managerial hot seat at any of those clubs. Surely if he was ever to be offered a job at one of the country's top clubs it would have been now as his stock has never been higher. So long as the board at Sheffield United are on the same page as Wilder, in terms of continuing to levitate this club, then he has the dream job and don't see any reason he'd want to leave. Wilder has never stood still in his managerial career, and now he and Sheffield United are in the dizzy heights of the top half of the Premier League, I'm sure he wants to put no stop to that. In his early days at Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp coined a phrase that he wanted to turn the fans from doubters into believers. Do you think the remarkable exploits of last season in winning automatic promotion has carried over to this campaign giving everyone associated with the club a new sense of confidence? I think that's a fair comparison, for sure. There's certainly some momentum there, if you like, but we've been on an upward curve since Chris Wilder took over back in 2016. We suffered our first defeat on the road at Man City on Sunday (in controversial circumstances may I add), and that run stretched all the way back to January. The lads have certainly settled to life in the Premier League, and certainly look a lot more comfortable as the games are ticked off. Bear in mind this is the first real taste of top flight football for many of these lads. I think the reverse fixture with yourselves at Bramall Lane in September gave the boys a huge amount of confidence, because we proved we can put it up against the big boys in this league. Arguably we should and could have got something out of that fixture. Add victories over Arsenal and Everton, and draws against Chelsea, Spurs and Manchester United into that and that proves we are capable of matching it up against the very best. Which of your player(s) have pleasantly surprised you in their ability to adapt to Premier League Football? You could say all of them, to be honest! There's a few we knew could adapt to Premier League football, but they've all gone way and above beyond that. I'll go for John Lundstram. He was out of the picture last season and played only a bit part in our promotion campaign from the Championship. This season, he's started every game up to last Sunday (missed due to injury), and has really given us a new dimension as we altered to a flat midfield three. He’s Fantasy Premier League God, also! Haha. What do you believe should be your obtainable goals in the second half of the season? It's a tough one. For now, still get to that magical 40 points mark. And then take it from there really. Without trying to put the mockers on it, I do feel as though we'll comfortably survive. Blades fans have been singing about going on European tours and away trips to Napoli, and whilst most of it is said in jest, who knows what we can achieve? I'm not sure what the ceiling of achievements are under Chris Wilder. I wouldn't rule anything out. This one is a general question especially as it has been over a decade since you were last in the top flight. Is there anything different you have noticed in terms of strength of depth in the Premier League, the quality of player that teams sign nowadays and indeed the style of football that teams play? Absolutely. It was 12 years ago since we were last in the Premier League. A lot has changed. Just the exposure it gets is ridiculous to be honest. And the arrival of the world's best managers into our league, particularly Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola to name a couple, has really propelled football in this country. Some of the best teams ever to grace our leagues have been present in these past 12 years, none more so than the current crop you have at Liverpool right now. It's a great league to be a part of, VAR aside, and we are loving the journey! Is there a particular opposition player or team which has impressed you most this season? Opposition player is an easy one. Virgil Van Dijk. And I'm not just saying that because I'm chatting to a Liverpool fan site. I thought we played phenomenally well against Liverpool earlier in the season, but I just seem to recall Van Dijk getting his body in the way of every ball that came near him. He just seemed to be there all the time, which was increasingly frustrating for us, but very impressive at the same time. Team wise, I wouldn't say there's been a stand out one to be honest. Wolves are a tough nut to crack. Manchester United turned it on for 10 minutes and we couldn't do much about it for that period of time. But we've coped well against pretty much every side this season. The Blades certainly gave Liverpool a real test at Bramall Lane early in the season, do you think the manager will set the team up in a similar way in this fixture? The set up will be pretty familiar, yes. Whether we "go for it" as much remains to be seen. I find that unlikely. Lys Mousset will start this one you would imagine, and will provide United with a real threat on the counter. He caused Man City all sorts of problems at the weekend and could have had a hat trick but for VAR and some unfortunate finishing. You have not been daunted by any opposition you have faced so far, so as a fan how excited are you to come to Anfield in such a confident frame of mind? Very excited to come to Anfield! This is one of the games I've been looking forward to the most, and I reckon I vouch for most Blades fans with that one. Can't wait to see how we cope against the European champions on their own patch. Under the lights. I think we'll put up a real fight and effort. Can't wait! Is there a particular Liverpool player that you would love in Blades’ colours if money was no object. I do think Van Dijk is a colossus, but I'm pretty happy with our centre-halves to be honest haha! So I'll say Sadio Mane! Fantastic player. Great finisher. Has really blossomed this season. What is your score prediction for this clash? I'm going to back us to get something! The odds are unlikely, but if we play anything like we did at Man City in Sunday and the ref doesn't decide to assist the opposition for their opening goal, then I fancy us for a draw. Let's say 1-1!
  9. 4 points
    1. That was hardly the most riveting game we’ve seen at Anfield in recent years, but you know what? I’m more than happy tonight. The pre-match narrative was all grumbles about Napoli and the forwards, but I think a reality check is needed, regardless of how valid those concerns may be. Just what more could we possibly have expected by this point in the campaign? If any one of you thought we’d have been in a stronger position than this back in August before the season got underway, I’d be amazed. 2. We're joint top, undefeated, have conceded just three - three!!! - goals in the league and emerged from a run of seven games in twenty one days that saw us play Spurs, PSG, Napoli, City and Chelsea twice. Twenty points from eight games is sensational. That’s title winning form. Yes, City and Chelsea are up there too and Arsenal (bizarrely) are only two points behind, but even so. It’s been a great start to the season all things considered. Certainly I don’t think anyone could have expected more. 3. Today was about two teams nullifying each other’s strengths, but lots of Reds seem to be seeing that as a bad thing. Weird. I think limiting City to two shots on target, avoiding defeat and riding our luck with a penalty is a good result for us. Make no mistake, the much-vaunted “All I do is attack” Guardiola philosophy was dented today because he cane to Anfield not to lose and showed us huge respect with his tactics. Whenever we had the hall, Bernardo Silva sat in next to Fernandinho to try and stifle the supply to our forwards for the ball in behind. He’s never done that before and indeed he sacrificed Sané’s pace on the break too in order to do so. No, he’s gone back to Manchester thinking, “Great point” no matter what he says to the media. 4. I must admit, I was worried when I saw the team. I thought it would be a mistake to lose the possibility of Trent’s attacking threat, not to mention breaking up Gomez’s burgeoning partnership with Virgil. However, it did not disrupt us in the way I feared. Lovren did well coming into such a big game and Joe actually offered a fair bit of penetration down the right. I think quite a lot of the stilted forward play recently has been down to our fullbacks operating more circumspectly: with no one overlapping them they’re easier to defend against. However, both Joe and Robbo were more threatening today, albeit without ever truly opening City up. Joe’s pace really stood out today too. I already knew he was quick, but he won one-on-ones with both Sterling and Sané and I can’t think of many other players who can do that. He is a massive talent. 5. In midfield I thought Hendo and Gini were very disciplined, but I confess to being worried when Milner went off. Naby clearly doesn’t understand the press like the established boys do and he’s not been as explosive as I expected him to be when he arrived. However, he was largely neat and tidy and I’ll settle for that at this stage. 6. As for the forwards, that tale has already been told this season so I’ll give it a miss, save to say I think they’ll come good. Also though, for all that Salah’s figures are weaker, it’s Mané who’s been worrying/annoying me more. For all his decent return and inarguable impact I just feel frustrated by his continuing rawness as a decision maker. It’d be wrong to say it’s a massive issue because these things are relative and he’s still very much in credit for what he gives us, but in his third year here, it annoys me that he’s still doing daft things like picking the wrong pass or giving the ball away. 7. The relative misfiring of the front three has obviously had plenty of Reds bemoaning the missed opportunity to sign Fekir. And to be honest, you can see exactly why Klopp wanted him. A player who can create, score, operate in a number of positions and do so while contributing to the press, would be huge. However, we didn’t take him and I don’t think we can second guess that decision. That’s not to say we shouldn’t go for another player of that type though and, if we can identify one and get the deal done in January, I think we should. Klopp is on record as saying he dislikes the January window, but I think this campaign is shaping up to be a three-way battle to the death and in that case the benefit of some fresh input into the attack cannot be underestimated. I read rumours of a Brazilian boy wonder this week, but ultimately I don’t care who we sign as long as he fits that profile of player. 8. So, what next? For me we need to start to accelerate the acclimatisation of the new lads into the team because we’ll need them. For all the concerns about how little they’ve played and how muted they’ve been, let’s not forget how long it took Ox and Robbo to “get it” last season and then how well each performanced once he did. I see no reason to think otherwise about Shaqiri, Keita and Fabinho. And with the likes of Huddersfield, Cardiff and Red Star coming up, they should have plenty of chances to settle into our style. 9. As for assessments of the season to date, I think we all need to recalibrate expectations if we’re disappointed with this in any way. Yes we can improve but that’s a good thing because under Klopp it’s almost a given that we will. 10. So, the international break now and that’s always an injury worry. However, hopefully Milner can get himself right over the break and we can then spread the minutes around a bit when the lads return so anyone who is feeling it - as was clearly the case with Trent today even at such a relatively early juncture in the campaign - can be given a rest. If they all return unscathed, the fixture list looks a little kinder and I see no reason why we can’t consolidate this great start while bringing the squad depth to bear more effectively. 11. In short, come on you Reds!!! Paul Natton
  10. 3 points
    As it turns out, Tommy Smith's bullet header in the 1977 European Cup Final wasn't to mark the end of his career, as Barry Davies famously declared in commentary. Smith played on at Anfield for another year, but at the time most felt that this would be his Liverpool swansong and it looked like a Roy of the Rovers style ending. Terry McDermott had given the Reds the lead against Borrussia Moenchengladbach, but a stunning strike from the Dane Alan Simonsen had levelled things up in the second half. Liverpool were wobbling and needed Ray Clemence to keep the Germans at bay. Then came Smith's moment. The following extract is taken from Tommy's first autobiography, entitled Tommy Smith: I Did it the Hard Way. Even Tommy himself thought it might have been his last game for the club, but he was still here the following season and had a big part to play. He appeared in 34 games in all competitions, but was cruelly robbed of an appearance in another European Cup final when a DIY accident at home cost him a place in the team that beat Bruges at Wembley to retain the trophy. As disappointing as that must have been, at least he had the memory of that header to ease the pain.
  11. 3 points
    We are Liverpool. This means more. When the club rolled out its latest marketing slogan to accompany the yearly jersey refresh, I cringed a bit. ‘People are going to have a field day with that,’ I thought. Nobody does self-reverence like the Reds and, even from the inside looking out, it can be a bit much. For me, it’s like Ric Flair, to this day, walking around saying: “To be The Man, you gotta beat The Man.” Well, like Flair, we’ve had our moments, but we haven’t been The Man in about 30 years. This means more? Tell that to fans of clubs around the nation for whom very little means more than a crest on a jersey. Sure, they may not have our story – our highest highs and our most desperate lows – but it’s friends, it’s family, it’s work, it’s play, it’s life. Just like us. No more, no less. Which brings us to Palace on Saturday. This is the type of game Kopites have often had to gee ourselves up for, knowing there’s little at stake beyond the best-loser award that clears a path to European riches and maybe some new signings. Those games where short-sleeved August optimism has long been replaced by the cold, dark realisation that another year in the trenches beckons. Not this year though. I’ve been away for a couple of months, but the anticipation before going into the ground and the nervous energy before kick off and throughout the first half just felt different. Speaking to a mate at half time, neither of us could really get the words out. The clouds had descended; logic and trust had been abandoned. No-way we were getting two in 45 minutes. We’d seen this movie before, dozens of times. I’m not sure I’ve celebrated an equaliser that wildly since Xabi slotted the rebound in Istanbul. The sense of relief was tangible, building from the initial cheer into a visceral roar – part joy, part excitement, part acknowledgement that things really could be different this time. Five minutes later, all bets were off. The belief we’d prematurely abandoned had been fully restored; not over 45 minutes, but in eight. 4-3 at the final whistle. Palace at home in January and we’re living and dying on every rotation of the ball. This clearly means more than it has. Anfield’s a really different place these days isn’t it? And I suppose a lot of that is down to Klopp. Not getting to the games as often as you’d like, you notice micro changes on a macro scale. Something that’s been building over months is so much more apparent when you’ve been away for it. The place is undeniably a fortress again. It’s intimidating, it’s loud, and it’s raucous and it’s one. Social media and that fella literally bouncing around Europe with the acoustic guitar helps, but there’s more enthusiasm for creating new songs as I can remember and everyone knows the words to them. I’m also struggling to recall us having a team where everyone was so damn likeable. There isn’t a single member of that squad who seems like he isn’t a great lad and, again, that’s down to Klopp and the characteristics he looks for in a player. I love them all (even Lovren) and haven’t felt this connected to the team since GH and the boys were swaying in front of us, arm in arm at Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion in 2001 – seven years before Klopp turned up there and changed everything too. Look, there have been title chases before. Those aren’t new. People will mention 1997, 2002, 2009 and 2014, which prefaced everything immediately falling apart thereafter. Perhaps as a direct result – none of those felt the way it does today; six whole days before our next game at home to Leicester. It’s become difficult to focus on anything else between games now. The wait between City away and Brighton was agonising. I even surprised myself with the vociferous scream when Mo’s pen hit the net. Every game’s going to be like that now: Anticipation, crippling anxiety and maybe even a few moments of enjoyment along the way. Another 15 like Palace and Brighton await… each meaning more than the last. 13/14 was different. It was a self-professed “dream” none of us saw coming, rather than an expectation. A wild ride that soared and crashed in such an unspeakably cruel manner I’d resigned myself to that being our lot in life. Today, there’s both determination and an expectation that we can finally shed this almighty burden, along with the ghosts of ‘The Slip’ and ‘4th Place in a Two Horse Race.’ Forget the romantic notions. I’m not daring to dream, I'm just desperate to get it done. And if it happens everything before will have been worth it. So yeah, the club wasn’t far off with that slogan after all. Just not in the way it intended. We are Liverpool. This means more. Chris Smith
  12. 2 points
    There are many reasons why Andy Robertson is one of the most popular players in the current Liverpool squad.Not only is he an outstanding player with a terrific work ethic, he is someone who relates to the fanbase.His journey from Queens Park in the Scottish Third division to playing on the biggest stages for one of the best teams in World Football is one of immense hard work after countless knock-backs.There is an old adage that 'you never forget where you come from' and Robbo is testament to that.He is as normal and grounded that a Footballer can be and proof of that was where he spent his recent winter break.Not in a glamorous island location, but back home in Glasgow.Robertson spoke to the Daily Mail about his time off.“It would have been no good if I came back here with heat stroke, so I did everyone a favour and went back up there and spent time on the golf course.To make ends meet coming up the ranks, the left-back worked for a time at Marks & Spencer.Once again, Robertson shows his quality as a person by not forgetting about those tough times but reflecting on them.“For people to say it was a fairy tale leaving Marks & Spencer behind — how many thousands of people work in these supermarkets, I felt that was a bit disrespectful.“These are normal lives and people can have a very good life working there. “How many of them are in our stands over the weekend and there am I saying: “I have left this terrible life behind and moved on”. “Of course I get better paid. Would I be happier playing football than at M&S? "Yes, of course, but if that was my life I’d be the same person I am today. “Money doesn’t bring me happiness, but from three or four I wanted to be a footballer. That was my dream in life.The Scotland captain also spoke about those who doubted him along the way.“I am one of the lucky ones who have said I wanted to be a footballer through my whole life. "I held on to that when I was at Queen’s Park and people probably laughed at me when I was 16 or 17 and they asked me what I’d be.“People were looking at me and thinking “get a grip, it’s gone now”. "For me, my dream was always to become a footballer. That’s why I say “yes, of course” I’m happier than if I were at M&S. “Of course me being able to set my kids up for life is an added bonus and being able to give them a good start in life is an added bonus, but for me it was all about just kicking a ball every single day.”The grass-roots history of Robertson extends to his ability of sticking up for his teammates on the pitch.He is not an hatchet man by any sense of the word, but there is certainly a crafty subtleness to the way he goes about putting things right.Like what happened in the Club World Cup Final in Doha against Flamengo when he put Rafinha in his place after he had enough of his physicality against Sadio Mane.The sideline microphone picked up the former Hull man say “Sadio, I’ll get him, don’t worry.”He talked about what occurred.“I know how to deal with Sadio. “That was me trying to calm my own team-mate down. I know sometimes things can affect Sadio. “In that game he got targeted Once he gets booked, there is nothing he can really do. So if I were to say something short and sharp to Sadio, it might have a little effect.“Unfortunately, the camera and the audio picked it up. “I don’t want to come across as that player, but if it comes to protecting a team-mate I like to think my team-mates protect me as much as I try to protect them. “We’re a family and if one of them is getting targeted then we will all back them up.“That happens in any good team. Like the Man United team of old. Like with Roy Keane. They never shied away from protecting each other. Arsenal with Vieira. That was the same. "At Man City, Fernandinho does it.“ For me as a team we protect each other. We are like a family. We are like brothers. "If one of them is getting targeted or picked on it is up to the rest of us to protect him. That’s what I try to do.” While the 25 year-old does not believe in regrets, there is one moment in the Anfield miracle game against Barcelona which he does not take any pride in. “I do look back on that moment with Messi as one regret. I don’t like seeing it. “When I saw it afterwards I was gutted.“We all had the attitude that day that nothing was standing in our way to get to that final and we created that atmosphere around the stadium and me and Fabinho were tracking him and there was a tangle of legs and we were on the floor. “To do that to the greatest player that has ever played…“ I have nothing but respect for him and Barcelona, but we went into that game with the attitude that we were 3-0 down, we needed a miracle, we needed something special and if that little thing stopped the best player in the world playing to his highest potential.“But I do regret it. That’s not me as a person. That’s not my personality. But that night a lot of things happened that you don’t really remember.“It was the loudest changing room I have been in before the game. You could see the focus and the determination in all of us and maybe I went over the line.”“But Liverpool fans like the edge, I think. I feel that maybe this whole team is quite good at representing Liverpool right now. “Liverpool is a big working class city. We go out and show hard work. “We get beaten in games but what you can’t question is that every time we go out there, we give 100 per cent.’While many fans are dreaming of the moment that Jordan Henderson lifts the Premier League trophy, Robertson is wary of saying those very words.A fan came up and said “You are going to win the league, aren’t you?’ “I said to him: “We are doing well so far”.’“I didn’t want to give him too much hope. Look, we’re a team that loves winning games and are very good at it and we need five wins now and we believe we will be able to get those five wins and more.“We know what position we’re in. “Do we believe we’re going to win it? “Not yet. "Not until the Champions sign is over our heads."
  13. 2 points
    The FA Cup fourth round takes place this weekend and the Reds make the journey to New Meadow to play League One side Shrewsbury Town. The Shrews also made this round in 2019 taking Wolves to a replay after previously knocking out Stoke. This season they have defeated Bristol City and will be certainly up for the challenge in taking on the best team in Europe. @B_and_A_Fanzine creator and Podcast host of @salopcast Glyn Price talks us through the recent history of the club, which players to keep an eye on and his recollections of being at Anfield for some memorable moments. Can you talk a bit about Shrewsbury Town and the ups and downs you have been through as a club over the years? The last ten years or so have been one of an upward trajectory for Shrewsbury Town. Having been relegated to the conference we escaped after one season, then established ourselves as a league club. We progressively got better in League Two, as well as building a new stadium, incurring no debt and finally achieving promotion to League One. After a yo-yo period, we have now settled in League one and starting to consider ourselves better than constant relegation battles. Paul Hurst took us ninety minutes away from the Championship, but that last hurdle alludes us. It has been well documented how tough it is for clubs in the lower leagues to make ends meet in the current Football environment. So can you explain what this tie means for a club like Shrewsbury? Like most clubs, the TV money is the big one for us, and it’s one of a few televised games we have had in the last few years, which is more than welcome. But one thing we pride ourselves particularly in this climate is that we are one of a handful of clubs doing things the right way and not gambling with our future. We are debt free with money in the bank and a decent turn over and great grasp of wage controls as well as a stadium we entirely own. We work smart and there is little worry whether will have a club to support in 10 years. It’s not the most exciting, but as clubs have gone boom and bust in lower leagues; we have slowly edged ourselves up. So games like this are an added bonus to secure our strategy. We won’t waste it; it will be reinvested in infrastructure and the right players who will have a sell-on fee. Supporters are so often the lifeblood of clubs like yours, so how excited are they and can the Reds expect a hostile reception? It’s a great reward for us as club and fans for digging through from round one and of course fans are looking forward to playing Liverpool. More so I guess due how good Liverpool (and your reserves) are at the moment. It will be a sell out and due to how we have sold tickets it will be pretty much all STFC fans in the home end. Last year against Wolves the tickets were sold differently and loads of Wolves fans got in and no one enjoyed that! In terms of the reception, it will be loud and passionate for our team. When we get these games the club pulls together and both our singing areas get in tune. It likely won’t phase any experienced pros though. You have a very young manager in charge in former Bolton Wanderers and Hull City full-back Sam Ricketts. Have you been pleased with his tenure so far and what is his customary style of play? Tough one. In the league the form since he took over has been pretty average. We don't score many as we play a very defensive formation. But we are very hard to break down and that’s something to be proud of with three experimental centre backs. But he does deserve credit for his FA cup management. Last year he brought us back from 2-0 down at half time against Stoke to win 3-2. Then he came very close to masterminding a win over Wolves. We were 2-0 up with not long to play before Wolves brought on 40 million pounds worth of players to rescue a draw. Even the replay was a good battle. No reason why the same can’t happen this week! In general though, the fans are content with Ricketts this season as long as he keeps us well clear of relegation trouble. Who are some of the players that Liverpool fans should keep an eye on during this fixture? Arron Pierre is a Centre back we signed in the summer, who’s running away as our player of the season and capped it all with the winner late in the game in the last round. He’s all action. Piles forward and is as solid as a rock at the back. We also have a striker called Jason Cummings who if we are to do anything, he could be the one to find a bit of magic. Natural finisher, tricky and mad as a box of frogs to be honest. If we play him up front with the equally impressive (former Liverpool junior) Callum Lang then we might have some joy! Do you keep half a eye on the Premier League and if so, what do make of the work of Jürgen Klopp and the progress of Liverpool under his tenure? Yes and a bloody brilliant job he is doing. As a kid I grew up with football in the blood. My Dad took me to all the Shrewsbury games, but as Liverpool was my Prem team growing up he regularly took me to Anfield as a kid. Was at both Newcastle 4-3 games (where as a young lad my dad tells me it was the first time he heard me swear when Collymore scored) saw loads of UEFA cup games and the Cup Winners Cup semi final against PSG. So growing up in the Man United dominated era, which along with Salop being rubbish at times kind of ruined being at school. I’m more than happy to see Liverpool back on their perch. Klopp seems like a rare breed, a manager who is perfect for the club. Is there one particular Reds player that you admire the most? They are all pretty good, but I have a very big soft spot for Firmino. Absolutely love the way he plays, skill, determination and fun. A joy to watch when he’s at his absolute best. Big fan of the Andy Robertson story too, particularly his shithousing. They are all great to watch at the moment though, I think it’s an era for Liverpool fans that will be up there with their very best when it is all said and done. And for a club with the history of Liverpool, that’s saying something. The majority of football loving fans across the nation will be cheering on The Shrews on Sunday. What are your realistic hopes regarding how the game will play out? Depends on just who turns up but it’s going to be very tough. We won’t come out and attack other than the occasional structured counter attacks, so the game will come down to how long (or if) Liverpool can score. A replay would be absolute magic. It’s a long shot but we have to dream of that and more. Would love to score at least one, and that player will go down in folklore for us likely. Probably it will be 3-1 or 3-0 as we are hard to break down, but if you don’t score into the second half, that spark of the dream draw will fire our fans up massively!!! Either way, I can not wait.
  14. 2 points
    David Ngog has recalled his greatest moment in a Liverpool shirt after Mo Salah’s strike on the weekend against Man United brought back some fond personal memories.The Frenchman’s stint on Merseyside is not what you would call prolific or particularly memorable by any means, but one moment clearly stands out above all others.The late substitute wrapped up victory against Liverpool’s arch rivals when he was put through on goal by Lucas Leiva and side footed it past Edwin Van Der Sar in the United goal.The jubilant crowd reaction after sealing a victory following a poor run of form was matched by the players with goalkeeper Pepe Reina running the length of the pitch to jump into the arms of the striker.A similar reaction took place on Sunday with Allison and Salah embracing and Ngog certainly noticed the parallels as he told the Official site. “It's unbelievable how close it is.“It's different play of course – he has a longer run and he read it well against the defender. “But that was in the last minute, against Man United, it brings back memories.“ I was at home but I was with my family as well. I saw the two goals and I was happy because it's Liverpool and it's really important this season. "It was exciting. To be honest, at that time I was just watching, not thinking about the goal before. "But when I saw the replay and saw it was similar – and the celebration, of course, with Alisson running. It was really, really funny to watch."Ngog who is still just 30yo, has made many stops in his football career since leaving the Reds and English Football, taking him far and wide to Greece, France, Scotland and currently in Hungary.But it is the moment in October of 2009 which he recalls with pride. “I think it was one of my great memories when I was in Liverpool."Especially the celebration with Pepe, who was a great teammate, a great player, goalkeeper and a great guy.Ngog said that the celebration that took place was a pure spur of the moment thing that Football often delivers.“It was a surprise for me to see Pepe when I turned back to celebrate! Afterwards, it was just joy and you want to share with the fans and everybody. "It was a great memory. “The celebration is one of the best and it's just improvisation. “You don't really prepare for it, it just happens in the moment."Despite being well removed from playing for the club, he still holds the Reds very closely to his heart. And just like any fan, he hopes they go one step further this season.“They're in the best position possible.“I think Jürgen Klopp did a great job in getting everyone involved. “They play with a lot of energy and it's just great to watch. "I really hope – and I think – they will succeed this season."While Ngog struggled for consistent minutes, he views his time at the club where he made 94 appearances and scored 19 goals in an extremely positive light."I was in at a young age and had plenty to prove."I was surrounded by great players with great experience and I think I learned a lot from it. "For me, it's all good memories. "Of course you always want to do more but for me at that age it was a good achievement for me in my life and my career."
  15. 2 points
    Trent Alexander-Arnold says that the team was made to show their fighting qualities but were well worth their 2-0 victory against Man United at Anfield on Sunday.After a goal in the first 15 minutes by Virgil Van Dijk coming from a pin-point corner from the 21 year-old, it appeared that the Reds were in the mood to put their bitter rivals to the sword.But despite carving out a fair share of chances, the scoreline stayed the same until second half injury time when Mo Salah finished superbly after a sublime clearance from Alisson.Alexander-Arnold is sure to be one of the key men for England this summer, and if you like England's chances then you should take advantage of some of these euro 2020 sign up offers. Speaking to the Official site after the game the right-back said it was a deserved victory.“I think it was well deserved from us. “They never had many clear-cut chances, we should have scored more than two goals but to get that goal at the end was the icing on the cake really – especially the fashion we did it.“Ali getting the assist which is unbelievable. “There’s comparisons with one we scored [against United] about 10 years ago and then he’s ran up and celebrated like Pepe Reina did! “So yeah, it was a good way to end the game.”However Alexander-Arnold said that there were things that they could improve on.“They obviously came to defend really and it was hard to break them down, but we created chances. Obviously we got the set-piece goal quite early on which helped us, scored a few that were ruled out in the first half and then should have finished the game off early in the second half. We were all over them for 10 minutes, they couldn’t get out, and obviously we’re disappointed with that because putting it to bed earlier then you’re not nervous near the end of the game. “That’s something that we obviously need to improve on a little bit.” The England international also discussed the impact of Van Dijk at set-pieces“He’s probably one of the, if not the, most prolific centre-halves in the league and to have someone like that, who is going into the box and putting his head on the end of things is fantastic“I think he’s showed that he’s probably the best centre-half in the world over the last 18 months and he showed that again today.“His defensive work probably goes a bit unnoticed because we’re so used to seeing it but you can’t take it for granted. "He's always there in the right places, the amount of headers he was getting out the box for us, winning headers off corners, is priceless for us.”
  16. 2 points
    Virgil Van Dijk has said the closeness of the Liverpool squad is what makes them such a special group to be a part of.The imperious Dutch central defender gave a insight into the inner sanctum of the Champions League winners telling The Mirror that it is just not the current players that play a part.“The legends of the great days – such as Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush – travel with us during European weeks.“Dalglish even sends me texts on my phone and we will have a chat at times.“When I go to see my family after a match, I go by the boardroom and it is always full of former top players.“But we can also have a laugh and a joke about each other." Van Dijk has been around the game long enough to make judgements on what makes a cohesive unit. He is well aware that cliques can develop to the detriment of the side, but at Liverpool, it is clear that he feels at home.“At almost every club, you find that there are lots of different little groups in a squad.”“ In my opinion, Liverpool are one big family – and that is why this club suits me so much.“James Milner says the same thing – and he has played at big clubs like Man City, Newcastle United and Aston Villa.“ That’s why this club is great for me. The people are all humble.It may come as a surprise, but Van Dijk says that Sadio Mane is the joker of the squad while Andy Robertson always has plenty to say for himself.Virgil is naturally very close to his countryman in Gini Wijnaldum.He recalled a story about the midfielder before the Champions League final.“When we were about to go on to the pitch for the biggest game of the year in Madrid, suddenly it was Gini who said, ‘Hang on, boys, let’s all get together here.“We formed a tight circle right there in the dressing room and Gini started to talk.“He said all the right things, he really went for it and I could feel I was getting a lump in my throat.“It was so special what he said – and it was so perfect.“Gini is such a warm person.”While Van Dijk certainly does not share the same relationship with Leo Messi, he feels he has earned the respect of the Barcelona legend after speaking with him at the Ballon D’ Or ceremony.“I spoke to Messi during the evening. “It was not the longest conversation because he doesn’t speak a lot of English."But it was still enough to make me realise that the respect between us now also runs the other way.”
  17. 2 points
    This season TLW will give the readers a look into the opposition camp as we progress through what should be another thrilling season. The opening game against newly promoted Norwich on Friday night is the perfect launching point for this piece. Connor Southwell (@cjsouthwell1902) and Anita Byrne (@anitajbyrne) from @NorwichCityMFW give an insightful viewpoint about what it means to be back in the Premier League, the impact of their impressive manager Daniel Farke and who their key players are to keep an eye on throughout the season. Before we look ahead, belated congratulations for your return to the Premier League. Can you talk our readers through what it means to be back in the top tier of English Football and perhaps a personal highlight or two from your outstanding Championship winning season? CS: Thank you! The majority of the Canary nation would proclaim that the feeling is one of profound sweetness. To contextualise, you have to rewind two seasons previous, where Daniel Farke had just been installed, and the club felt like it was in somewhat of a slump. Disconnect between the players and the supporters became fractious with the general perception of underachievement because of the highest ever wage budget Alex Neil oversaw. The last two years have proved transformative. Sporting Director Stuart Webber has instigated the most significant culture change the club has ever experienced, with a lower budget being embraced and youth were provided with a chance. The bridge between the first team and the academy has been non-existent for a while. From there, it was all down to Farke. He’d experienced a tough first season which was put down to the transitional state of the club. Recruitment was a key factor, but the German deserves all the praise for sculpting a side to play football that was aesthetically pleasing but equally effective. The combination of youth and entertaining football made for a season that will be confined to the history books forever. That underdog spirit was something special and, at times, Carrow Road was a cauldron of noise. In terms of highlights, there are two that stand out in my mind. That win at Elland Road where Norwich schooled Marcelo Bielsa’s men and tactically outthought them. That was the night many Norwich fans became believers and then Blackburn at home, the game that secured promotion. It’s good to be back, but now they need to prove they deserve to stay there. Can you give an insight into your manager Daniel Farke. From an outsiders point of view he has come to the club, assessed what needed to be done and went about it in a methodical fashion, much like what his countryman Jurgen Klopp did for the Reds. What has impressed you most about the man and his methods? CS: I think there’s an assumption about every German coach who comes to these shores that their methodology and philosophy is identical to that to Jurgen Klopp because of the impact he’s made at Liverpool. The influx of German coaches with Farke, Wagner, Siewart, Stendel and Hassenhuttel (although Austrian) has altered the dynamic with fresh ideas and a style of football that places entertainment at the forefront of the game. Spanish possession and tika-taka have been developed with ideas of pressing. However, with Farke, Norwich has seen a more Thomas Tuchel approach whereby it’s all about being the protagonists in-game and using that possession-based approach to create overloads with an emphasis on attacking phases. The full-backs occupy high positions, and the wingers become number tens. It’s all about locating space between the lines. His ability to get an extra percentage out of players has been a massive strength. Players like Moritz Leitner, who was on the bench for Borussia Dortmund in the 2013 Champions League Final and have lost their way slightly, he’s managed to rejuvenate players careers on a shoestring with a style suited to the Premier League. He’s proven himself to be an adept and pragmatic operator. What’s impressed me more than anything is his temperament. Regardless of the club’s fate or situations, he always remained level headed. After a 4-0 defeat to Millwall, he was calm and rational, and equally so after the game that sealed promotion. Football is an emotional game, but it shows his composure. For fans all over the footballing landscape, the new season breeds plenty of hope especially in terms of a newly promoted club. Some promoted clubs like Huddersfield and Cardiff see the first season almost as a free hit and a true adventure, whilst others like Bournemouth, Burnley and Wolves seemingly have a structure in place to have a long term stay. Of course there are plenty of variables to take into account throughout the course of a season, but do you feel the club have a strong structure in place to become an established Premier League club? CS: The structure has been built over the last two years. I don’t see anything dramatic changing, particularly. They are ahead of the curve in terms of their long-term project to become established. They’ve developed the training ground and also have several assets on the pitch in terms of young talent so relegation wouldn’t be harmful in that sense. Naturally, the aim is to survive and prosper in the Premier League, but it’s about cultivating that underdog spirit and thriving off it. Every pundit, predictor and supporter outside of Norfolk will undoubtedly have Norwich in their bottom three, that’s what Norwich have developed momentum from. That attitude of overcoming adversity and proving people wrong. The group they’ve constructed has been designed purposefully to have the characteristic of being on the football rejection line. That culture they’ve installed is due to stand the test of time, regardless of who occupies the dugout. So in that regard, Norwich won’t alter their core beliefs irrespective of the league they are in. There was a point where relegation was feared, now, because of that strong structure, if they go down, then there is a belief they’ll come back. If they stay up, then the potential is there to sustain themselves. AB: Norwich have not changed our squad significantly or spent big money in the transfer market, which has targeted the club for some negativity and accusations of “lack of ambition” and “naivety." However, if you look at Fulham and its spending last season it doesn’t always amount to success. We have a team we don’t have individuals that think they’re bigger than the club. The camaraderie and bond has extended itself to the fans, which in return has increased atmosphere, it’s a double-edged sword. Any players that would come into the club would have to buy into its philosophy. Also making too many changes could alter that balance, let’s reward our players that got us promotion. Some of our players proved they are worth more than our rival teams are spending. Talk us through some of your squad. Who are some of your key players that Liverpool need to keep a close eye on and who do you feel have the qualities needed to thrive at this level? CS : Teemu Pukki is going to be a primary protagonist for Norwich’s survival mission. His 30 goals in all competitions were bettered only by James Norwood in the EFL. In terms of free transfers, he has to be one of the best in the club’s history: a natural goalscorer but an intellectual mover who can finish from all angles. Another is Emi Buendia, a name that I’m sure will be accustomed to all come May. The Argentinean is one of those footballers capable of provoking emotion with his creative style. His ability to impact games and produce moments of genuine quality excites the Canary faithful. Buendia can unlock doors that many can’t. His temperament is a concern, and his relentless graft often becomes aggression. Another intelligent operator, Buendia’s game, is reliant of locating those spaces between the lines and turning on the half turn. He’s a technical footballer whose ceiling is way beyond his current level — one to watch. Then, of course, there is a plethora of young talent at Farke’s disposal. Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis, the two full-backs, have been pivotal for asserting Farke’s possession-based philosophy. Their dynamism and physicality are vital to providing width and an out ball when the space in the central phase is condensed. Which of your summer signings have impressed you most in the pre-season? AB: Man City winger Patrick Roberts (pictured below) who has joined on a season long loan is a player I could see getting some valuable minutes on the pitch, lets hope he can reproduce his success at Celtic. Injuries have hampered him and our coach has already got the best out of players who feel they need a second chance and got it all to prove. This could also apply to former West Ham and Leeds right back Sam Byram. Just as being the first match on centre court for the Wimbledon Championships or facing the first ball in a Lords test match is a massive occasion, there must be great sense of pride for the club to be involved in a stand-alone season opener under the Anfield lights? AB: In my eyes Anfield is the best way to kick off our start in the top flight of football. Klopp v Farke, two German coaches both from Borussia Dortmund, with mutual respect. Klopp was known to be following the Canaries results closely last year having worked with Moritz Leitner, Mario Vrancic and Marco Steipermann in the past. First game against the champions of Europe, a huge stage to start on. I would love Farke to become as successful as Klopp, there is no doubting how both have won the hearts of their fans. CS: This is what the players worked so tirelessly for last season, for nights and opportunities like this. Without pressure, they can go and showcase themselves on one of the most famous sporting backdrops in the world. There is pride, but Norwich has a group who will travel to Anfield with a desire and belief that they can win. They don’t fear anyone, nor will their natural inclination to be to put men behind the ball. Norwich will come to Anfield believing they can return with three points, of course, they won’t possess the same amount of the ball, so it’ll be interesting how they approach it but, of course, it’ll be an uphill battle. Thankfully for the Canaries there is no Luis Suarez in the Liverpool lineup. But in an opposition fans’ opinion, who are the key men that Norwich need to contain in your quest to get a result? CS: Haha! Thank goodness for no Luis Suarez! Whoever Liverpool deploy will ooze quality, so dismantling the Reds system and nullifying the supply line to that potent front three is key. What Liverpool possess is a game that doesn’t provide respite, whether they are on or off the ball or in transition. It’s going to be an uphill battle for the Canaries… Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino are undoubtedly the operators Norwich to somehow contain but reducing Liverpool’s time in possession and attempting to stop the ball as it travels through the thirds is the challenge. It’ll be a counter-attacking performance at Anfield from Norwich; I think that’s the case for every team who finds themselves in the opposing dressing room. I’m intrigued to see how it pans out, but that front three is mortifying for every team in the division. With their extended summers for varying reasons, hopefully, they have a rare off day come August 9th. If money was no object who is the one player which current Liverpool player would you love to have in your lineup? AB: Without hesitation PFA player of the year... Virgil Van Dijk would be the player I would jump at having in our line up. He must be one of or if not the best Centre back in the world. He has it all! Good on the ball, pace and can even use his head. A defender who is as equally great in both boxes, hard working and still young enough to improve. Worth every penny of his huge transfer fee, not something us as Norwich fans could ever believe we could spend under our current module. CS: The obvious answer would be to say any of the front three. That would be tremendous fun to consume every week. Instead, I’ll apply it to Norwich at the moment; the goalkeeping situation is still not fixed, so Alisson would be perfect for occupying that spot. With the youthful exuberance in the defence, then an assured, positive influence in goal who can win points singlehandedly, that could be a massive asset in the bid for survival. One of the best goalkeepers in the world, you can’t turn your nose up at that! So what is your score prediction for this fixture? CS: I think it’ll be an exciting game with a curious dynamic, but I’ll be pragmatic and go with a humbling 3-0 defeat. As long as it isn’t humiliating, then Norwich can dust themselves down and go again. And in broader terms where do you think you will finish in 2019/20? AB. Survival is crucial this season for us to then learn and build the following season. I would be happy with 15th however if we could finish above that i would class that as a huge success. Watching Nuno’s Wolverhampton proves that a club can come up from the Championship and build on their success, let’s hope Norwich can do just that.
  18. 2 points
    Seventeen “Title Deciders” Remain: In the days leading up to the match at the Etihad, many pundits billed it as a “title decider” between the league’s top two teams. Liverpool’s lead has in fact shrunk to four points, even with Guardiola’s men on goal difference, and there’s no arguing a Liverpool victory – and a resulting ten point gap - wouldn’t paint a dramatically different picture at this stage in the season. Judging from recent history, however, it’s not this result between the holders and the leaders that will decide the title. As Andy Robertson reflected to LiverpoolFC.com after the match “they’ve closed the gap but it is all about how we react.” Liverpool entered last Thursday’s match as the favourite to win the league in large part because of the consistency they’ve shown throughout the first twenty matches of the season, and despite this loss, Liverpool remain a damn good football team. They remain a side that have won all fourteen matches against teams outside of the Top Six and they have earned three wins, three draws and a single loss against those Top Six, having played one more match away than at home and with both Manchester City matches in the rearview mirror. They’ve lost once in twenty-one matches - and have yet to be beaten at Anfield – and they’ve conceded less than a goal every other game. Liverpool’s mission must now be to maintain their form over the next seventeen matches. If they do that, they’ll be champions. Defensive Acquisitions Prove their Worth yet Again: Crucial to Liverpool’s mission will be the efforts of its league-leading defence, which again showed its quality in Manchester. The visitors were undone by two world-class finishes (as well as a few defensive mistakes – more on that below), but City’s goal tally could easily have been doubled if not for the interventions of Liverpool’s two defensive bedrocks, Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker. The Dutchman was everywhere Liverpool needed him to be in the first half, smartly tracking Sane’s central run to cut out David Silva’s cross inside the opening half hour, blocking the Spaniard’s close-range effort after Sterling’s layoff moments later and heading away Sterling’s chipped ball through towards David Silva shortly before the break. There was nothing the Dutchman could do about Aguero’s opener and while he might have done well to step to Sterling and prompt a defensive shift to account for Sane on the game-winner, there was hardly a blemish on another sparkling performance from the Reds’ defensive lynchpin. Nearly every time City threatened, Van Dijk’s positioning and execution thwarted the attack to prevent the home side from testing Alisson. Of course, test the Brazilian they did and he repeatedly rose to the challenge. While one might quibble that the keeper could have done more to get a piece of Aguero’s rocket inside the near post, there are few – if any – keepers in the world who could have done so, and many of the world’s finest would struggle to produce the pair of saves Alisson provided in the second half. First, he was quick off his line to force Aguero wide after a through ball from Sterling, denying the Argentine’s low-angle show with a sprawling save. Then, he reacted brilliantly to deny Bernardo Silva’s close-range effort to keep Liverpool in the game in the 90th minute. While he was unable to influence the attack as directly as he has done in recent matches, Alisson’s distribution was once again sharp, as he sought to set Liverpool on the front foot more often than not. Robertson deserves a mention as well, as the Scotsman once again kept Sterling mostly quiet, stepping up to be counted on a number of one-on-one duels with the former Red. After conceding a paltry seven goals in the first half of the season, Liverpool’s defence will remain key to its title challenge, and on the basis of this performance, the key defensive acquisitions will be equal to the task, even against the most challenging opponents. Depth Issues Remain: In addition to the strength of Liverpool’s defence, many supporters – including yours truly – have cited our side’s increased depth as a key factor in our impressive start to the season. To be sure, the acquisitions of Fabinho, Shaqiri and Keita, the emergence of Joe Gomez and the improved consistency of Daniel Sturridge have all played a meaningful role in the Reds’ ascension. However, the City match highlighted the gulf in depth that remains between Liverpool and Europe’s best. The home side coped with the long-term absence of Benjamin Mendy and Fabian Delph’s recent suspension by shifting the classy Aymeric Laporte to left-back, brought Danilo off the bench to spell the out-of-form Kyle Walker and was able to call upon Vincent Kompany and Jon Stones at centre back in Laporte’s absence. Meanwhile, Guardiola was able to protect Kevin De Bruyne as he continues to recover from a long layoff, relying instead on David Silva, Bernardo Silva and Fernandinho, while Ilkay Gundogan came in off the bench, as did speedy striker Gabriel Jesus. Liverpool, on the other hand cannot boast the same embarrassment of riches. Weakened at centre back by injuries to Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, Liverpool have relied heavily on Lovren next to Virgil van Dijk. While the Croatian has been generally solid when called upon this season, he had a night to forget in Manchester, to add to a startling collection of poor performances in red. He could have stuck more tightly to Aguero for the opener - which would admittedly have been difficult to stop – played Sterling onside and then failed to shift onto Aguero for the game-winner, headed the ball straight to Sterling to send the winger away on the break in the second half, played Aguero onside for his late breakaway, served up a potential insurance goal on a plate to Sterling late in the game and tossed away Liverpool’s last attacking chance with a woeful straight ball into the box. Hopefully Gomez and Matip will soon return to the fold, but until then, Liverpool appear forced to rely on Lovren. Similarly, options are few and far between behind Lovren’s right-sided defensive partner Alexander-Arnold. The youngster had several bright moments – effectively quieting Sane for much of the match and setting up the equaliser with an incredible cross on his weaker left foot – and was given little help on the right, but he struggled at times against a flurry of City attackers and gave away the ball too cheaply at times. Like a few others in this Liverpool side, however, he can’t count on much of a rest, particularly given the fact that his top “backup” is both out injured and our second-best centre back, while his only true like-for-like deputy was just sent on loan for the season. While there’s plenty of depth in midfield (more on that later), Klopp risks running a handful of key players – most notably Van Dijk, the fullbacks and the front three – into the ground, and an injury to any one of them could prove very costly. While we don’t appear likely to dip into the January transfer market – and have little need for upgrades to the First XI – backup options at fullback, centre back and/or a versatile attacker to deputise for the front three should be considered. Too Conservative in Midfield: To a chorus of groans from Reds supporters, Klopp selected a midfield three of Henderson, Milner and Wijnaldum, opting for experience and solidity and leaving Fabinho, Keita and Shaqiri on the bench. Wijnaldum was a no-brainer after he built on an impressive run of form with a masterclass against Arsenal, and Henderson – in addition to offering leadership in a crucial away match – has shown improvement of late (often when played alongside Fabinho) and played Salah through against City for what would have been a late equaliser. But the exclusion of the Brazilian was a surprising one, and he showed why he might have deserved the start, helping Liverpool gain control almost immediately upon his introduction. It’s clear Klopp trusts the veteran trio in the most challenging away matches, but defeats in Kiev, at PSG and City have revealed a lack of both control and dynamism in that unit. Liverpool have been at their most devastating with players breaking the lines between midfield and attack – as Salah himself notably did on to set up Mane’s early chance – and while Wijnaldum has the ability to do so, there’s no one in Thursday’s trio who truly thrives in that role. It seems likely Klopp will revert to the 4-2-3-1 for many of the remaining matches, and while I won’t go as far as Jamie Carragher in suggesting the German completely ditch the 4-3-3 (which we may well see in Munich), a change in personnel is needed. Fabinho and Wijnaldum appear the most natural – and in-form – partnership, and while I trust Klopp has his reasons for keeping Keita out of the starting lineup, I hope the Guinean will soon earn his manager’s trust. Keita made a name for himself in the Bundesliga making attacking runs from midfield and he could offer Liverpool an element they’ve lacked since Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s injury, whether on the outside of a three-man midfield or as the more adventurous of a pair. While necessity and Father Time may consign Milner to a role offering crucial cover at fullback, Henderson should continue to factor into the midfield rotation – albeit hopefully with different partners. Moments of Brilliance – even in Defeat All supporters – from Huddersfield to Madrid – know all too well the feeling of losing an important match to a rival, particularly when the match is decided on such fine margins. That this particular match ended an historic unbeaten run only adds to the harsh disappointment felt at the final whistle. However, even in such a bitter defeat, our Reds gave us plenty to sing about, no least in this brilliant sequence for the equalising goal. An ocean away from the action, a now-familiar tune rang out from my favourite Liverpool pub in New York, the volume rising with each pass: We’ve conquered all of Europe - Trent flicks forward to Mane, who slides the ball to Gini. We’re never gonna stop - Gini and Fabinho take a single touch each, switching the ball wide to Robbo. From Paris down to Turkey - Robbo back to Fabinho, who shifts inside and sprays the ball wide to Firmino. We’ve won the fuckin’ lot – Bobby collects the pass, dribbles inside and lays off to Trent. Bob Paisley and Bill Shankly – A pinpoint Crossfield pass from Trent to Robbo, who takes a touch, looks up and plays back to Fabinho. The fields of Anfield Road – Fabinho shifts to Henderson, who sprays it back out to Trent. We are loyal supporters – Trent fakes a cross on his right, takes a touch inside and lifts an inch-perfect ball to Robertson, waving his arm as he darts towards the far post. And we come from Liverpool – Robbo chips the ball just over the head of Stones, to Bobby who finishes at the back post with a sprawling header. Allez Allez Allez – Our players converge on Bobby and Robbo – then all together – to celebrate the goal, while our mad Jurgen reaches wildly for a water bottle on the bench before trying to explode it with all his strength. And at a basement bar in the Financial District of Manhattan, a host of grown men and women jump, shout and sing wildly, filled with love for our Redmen and drunk on possibility, and filled with love for a side who, for the second time in a week had erased a 1-0 deficit against a fellow Top Six side. To be sure, the atmosphere was quite different eight minutes later, and then at the final whistle. Losing will do that, of course. But in a season full of brilliant moments, Liverpool managed to produce a few more – albeit in defeat. We may no longer be Invincible, but we’re a damn good football team – and we’re going to be a lot of fun to watch over the next four months. Joel Tracy
  19. 2 points
    Continuing our View to the Future series, we make a trip to the continent to see how Marko Grujic has been getting on at Hertha Berlin. Since signing for the Reds in January 2016, the young Serbian international has only made a handful of first-team appearances for the club. Grujic has had loan spells at his original club Red Star Belgrade, Cardiff and currently at Hertha. Undeniably talented, Grujic has a frustrating ability to pick up an injury just when he is reaching his peak level of form. After being widely been praised for his terrific performance last weekend against Eintracht Frankfurt, he has since picked up an ankle injury in an innocuous training incident, which will see him on the sidelines until after the New Year. It is his second significant injury of the season, after initially spending close to two months out of action earlier in the campaign with a Capsular rupture to his opposite ankle. TLW's Jason Harris asked Jack Woods from the U.K. Branch of the Hertha Berlin supporters club his thoughts on the progress of the Defensive midfielder. What was the feeling among the fanbase when it was announced that Hertha had signed Marko on loan for the season? To be honest, signing anyone on loan from a PL club is great, first team experience or not. It was obvious he’d been loaned out to get game time and it’s great to see him get so many minutes and have such an impact as he’s had. There’s always a bit of a buzz when the two leagues interact with each other as so many exciting young prospects are now heading to the BL for game time. Marko had his fitness issues in the past so suffering an (ankle) injury so early in his spell was untimely. How has he performed since his return? He’s been a fantastic asset to the starting 11, never mind the squad. His experience coming from a massive club like Liverpool working with world-class players (and a manager like Klopp) really shows. You can see he’s a step above everyone else and his winning goal Saturday shows just how good he has been! What has caught your eye in terms of Marko's overall game and is there any improvements you might like to see? His controlled aggression is a huge part of his game and he’s not one to shy away from a challenge or two and he can pass a ball (simple or through the eye of a needle) with ease. He’s also so versatile, he has shown he can play anywhere across the midfield and is the player we’ve been searching for a good few seasons. Is there one particular stand out performance that sticks in your mind? MOTM performance against Frankfurt last weekend summed up perfectly with Pal Dardai’s follow up comments that Grujic is the best midfielder he has seen in his 22 year stint as player/manager at Hertha. He was all over the game and it was topped off with his winning header. Looking at Hertha’s record for this season, you are unbeaten when Marko has started (Four wins and two draws). In your view is that a sign of his importance to your side? I think with stats like that it’s always a teller that he’s clearly an integral part of squad - pinning those undefeated games purely down to Marko are maybe a bit of a stretch but it adds values to that undefeated set of results. Marko spent the second half of last season at Cardiff in the 'rough and tumble’ of the Championship. Now he is playing a more cultured league like the Bundesliga, do you think that spell in Wales would have helped his overall game? I think hats off to any young player that ventures down the lower leagues for experience and game time. No disrespect to the Championship but it’s a level lower than the PL/BL technically but physically it can make or break a player. Perform in the Championship and keep up with the physicality of the game there and all that’s left to do is hone in on the technical part of his game. He’s certainly got the physical side of his game down to a tee and although still raw, is a hell of a talent. As you touched on previously, Hertha manager Pal Daldai has been absolutely glowing in his praise of Marko. What (if anything) have you noticed that Pal has worked on with the midfielder in their time together? I think it’s probably a combination of working with Klopp and Pal that Grujic has managed to tone his game down to having the right balance of aggression and control mixed together. Pal seems to be exposing him to the right amount of game time whilst trying to keep his feet on the ground. Jurgen Klopp is renowned for displaying a great deal of loyalty to his players. Given what you've seen so far, do you think he can have a future at the Reds or indeed another Premier League club? Ideally I’d love it if we tied him down in Berlin. He’s got the right attitude and fight to become a top, top player, be that in the BL or PL. With Liverpool’s packed midfield at the moment he’s doing the right thing in getting game time under his belt in a top European league against good competition week in, week out. We have constantly seen the Bundesliga become a great nurturing ground for young footballers. Why do you think that is so, and what can Premier League clubs learn from your model? I think the whole culture of the Premier league is different to the BL. Aside from Bayern, the BL finances are nowhere near what the PL draws in from TV/sponsorship and I think this is a massive reason why most BL clubs nurture young talent and develop players from academy through to first team instead of paying through the nose for bang average players. Some of the signings in the last transfer window in the PL just goes to show the market has gone through the roof. If you have the talent coming up through the academy, then why not put your all into getting those players into the first team.
  20. 2 points
    Continuing the series looking at the Liverpool youngsters who are aiming to become household names in the years ahead, we look at Doncaster Rovers loanee Herbie Kane. It is fair to say that the 19yo midfielder has made quite an impression on the Rovers faithful with a number of their passionate supporters stating he is already one of the top players in League One. Doncaster season ticket holders Mark Railton, Scott Hibbett, George Kefali and James Carlyle shared their views on the encouraging progress that the youngster has made at their club so far. TLW’s Jason Harris asks the questions… What were your first impressions of Herbie Kane when he arrived at the club? MR- I wasn't sure if (Doncaster manager) Grant McCann had done the right thing in taking a chance on a young midfielder for such a tough division, especially when a lot of teams go for big strong central midfielders. I was pleasantly surprised by how easily he slotted in and for me he would now be the first name on the team sheet every week. He has been outstanding since arriving and if he could add goals to his game he would be the best player in the division. Have you seen steady improvements in his game from the early part of the season to now, and if so what are they? MR- His ability to hang onto the ball in tight situations. He never flaps and always seems to wriggle free and release his pass. Think since he has come in, he has grown in stature and confidence and has now got the belief that he can do anything he wants when in possession of the ball. He’s also not shy at putting his foot in either. What is the one key part of Herbie's game that you really like? SH - He always seems to have so much time, he is always wanting the ball in tight spaces or with the opposition on his back and for someone at such a young age, that is impressive. He rarely gives the ball away and is not afraid to put his foot in and win back possession for the team. So far this season he is the leading player in that category in League One. GK- I just love how technical he is. He’s a standout player in this league for how quickly he can make a decision to pass or dribble on, his quick feet and determination really don’t get the credit they deserve. MR- His calmness in possession of the ball. Herbie never panics and 90% of the time makes the right decision. In your opinion, what is the one main improvement he can make? SH- Herbie is not fully-grown yet so he has the opportunity to grow a few more inches in the next year. Like most players who make it at the top level, it's pace that they need. While Herbie is certainly not you would define as slow, if he can add an extra yard, it will be very handy. What he lacks in pure speed, he makes up for with his ability to shield the ball which was very similar to (former Man Utd junior) Richie Wellens when we had him in a couple of stints a few years back. I think those players who are nurtured at top clubs learn to do that well - learn to use it and shield the ball under pressure. Those qualities really stand out with players who drop down from the Premier League into the Championship or League 1. JC- The one improvement he can make is probably scoring more goals. He just needs to keep doing what he is doing. Keep progressing and working hard because it is showing in his performances that he is working hard on the training field. I have no doubt at all if he continues this he will make it into Liverpool’s first team. Is there a performance by Herbie that stands out for you so far this season? JC- I think the first few performances took everyone by surprise as we weren’t expecting him to be that good and now the performances he puts in are fantastic. However, even though we lost to Sunderland 1-0, he controlled the game for me. We all know what Lee Cattermole is like, and Herbie had him in his pocket all game. You would have thought Herbie was the experienced pro and not Lee. GK- His standout performance this season has to be Chorley away in the FA Cup 1st round. Bagging the only 2 goals of the game, including a peach from outside the box to save our managers arse in all fairness. That and he drew a very nasty foul which led to an opposition red card which I still can’t believe wasn’t given as a penalty but a free kick. Who does he link up well with in the Rovers team, and do you think his presence has made you a better team this season? GK- I think there’s no doubt that Kane’s presence has sparked something in everyone else and as a central playmaker he’s at the heart of most of our play. With being so technically gifted, he’s exactly what we need to play possession football. He links up well with both (Thomas) Rowe and (Ben) Whiteman beside him in the midfield in passing and movement along the pitch. How do you think Grant McCann has worked with Herbie so far this season? GK- Grant McCann seems to praise him a lot and I believe he would be interested in a season long loan extension for Herbie too. Taking the first step into professional ranks can be difficult for any youngster, so what do you think makes Doncaster a good club for players from Premier League youth academies to spend time at. JC- I think if you look at other professionals who have been here in their younger days and you look at them now, they have all gone on to play at a higher level. Jordan Mutch, he was on loan here and he ended up playing for Crystal Palace and QPR in the Premier League. The majority of the time when people leave our club, it is for better things. Richie Wellens, he left to join Leicester, George Friend left to join Middlesbrough, James Husband came through our youth team, he went to Norwich. So I think it does show we treat our younger players well and hopefully put them in good stead for their careers.
  21. 2 points
    1. 4-1, three points, top of the league. Get in!!! 2. It was frustrating as to watch though. Cardiff were the worst team I’ve seen at Anfield in a long time; Maribor bad, at least. However we made very heavy weather of beating them and the match was certainly nowhere near as entertaining as the score suggests. 3. Cardiff came expecting to lose, merely hoping to be within a single goal of Liverpool going into the last fifteen minutes, and incredibly that’s exactly what transpired until a brace of late strikes from us. That’s not a slight on them though. They’re perfectly entitled to play however they want and we should be good enough to deal with it. Ultimately we were of course, but it was agonising for much of this game. 4. In my view, playing a parked bus side - especially one with very little pace or talent - should simply be a case of pushing the full backs right up the pitch, getting every outfield player into their half and then switching the play from side to side at a high tempo in order to pull their packed defence around until a space opens in the middle for a forward to strike. City do this with their eyes shut. And to be fair, we’ve certainly got everything we need to do the same (pace and technique in virtually every single outfield player) but that’s not what we saw. Instead we had tippy-tappy, slow and circumspect football that really did nothing but play into Cardiff’s hands. There was just no urgency and this was compounded by the sloppy rubbish being served up by Bobby and Mané. 5. The latter in particular has done my head in this season. This is a player with pace and skill beyond measure and yet he can contrive to slow down an attack or misplace a pass with the worst of ‘em. Bizarre then that he grabbed a brace of cracking strikes to guarantee us the points. It seems that when he thinks, he struggles; certainly he’s at his best when playing on instinct and that was what delivered his first as he turned and laced it in the blink of an eye to leave Cardiff’s keeper bewildered. His second was a boss finish too. Why then his propensity to dawdle on the ball rather then rip past a markedly slower opponent? Ultimately, who cares I suppose, but I can’t deny it annoys me because it really does. 6. The starting line up seemed to bemuse almost everyone I spoke to before the game. However, if we’re going to win the league we need to: a. rotate b. acclimatise new players c. take opportunities to do so when facing weaker opponents. So I didn’t have a major issue with the starting line up, even if I felt Shaqiri deserved to start. Certainly, we needed Lallana to play his way back to fitness and Fabinho to continue building some familiarity with our style. And if you can’t rest Robbo against Cardiff, when can you? Look, I’m about as far from being an Albert The Moron fan as it’s possible to be, but if he can’t play against these there is literally no point in having him. So in that context, sound. Shaq, though! 7. There’s a great big Ox shaped hole in our team this season and Shaqiri is the only player with even a glimmer of a hope of replicating what his injured teammate offers. He has pace, power, a great range of passing and an eye for goal, all of which would’ve been exceptionally helpful from the off today. As I've suggested above, I can live with that if it helps us over the course of the season - but it’s no coincidence that everything changed from the moment he entered the game. He’s just busy, isn’t he? And that’s what we were crying out for. I see Crouchy succumbed to club politics and grudgingly acceded to the “didn’t track back at Stoke” narrative today in his column. However, I could not give a shiny shite what he did prior to joining us because what we’re seeing now is exactly what Klopp wants. Put it this way, I'm now so convinced by what I’ve seen thus far that I’d jib this 4231 thing off and play him in a midfield three with Gini and Big Games James against The Arse next week. They will not handle our 433 with him breaking from midfield and picking passes. I suspect Klopp will go with his grafters midfield, but I think we’ll need Shaq’s guile. 8. Mo was boss. That was his fourth goal in three games, with a pair of assists to boot today. I know some shite gets thrown around as received wisdom on the football internet these days, but the poor start to the season thing is embarrassing isn’t it? That record of 50 goals in 65 games is just mind-bogglingly good. Look at the players whose records he smashed: literally every great forward we’ve ever had! He’s sensational. So let’s stop over-thinking things and just luxuriate in that fact. He is world class. 9. Let’s see how City deal with a serious opponent on Monday night in the context of our result. We know for a fact - because he said so on their Amazon thing - that Guardiola has a thing about us. We also know that we have their number of the pitch and that they crumbled last season when we were the obstacle in their path to the European Cup. All we can do is do what we did today: bag our points, score our goals and see how they react. I’m not convinced they’ll handle it well. 10. Either way, come on you Reds!!! Paul Natton
  22. 1 point
    Liverpool fans can rest a little bit easier with reports emanating that there is is little opposition to the Reds been crowned champions for the 2019/20 season.The coronavirus crisis sweeping the world has put all major Football leagues on hold.The Telegraph (via Fox Sports) reports that although the date of April 4th was identified as the resumption date for the Premier League, sources say that is remarkably optimistic.“You tell me whether you think there’s the remotest possibility that anything in the science is going to tell us that it’s going to be safer to play on April 3 than now?”There is a growing belief that it will be almost impossible to re-start the competition in the months ahead, so you may ask what does that do to the final placings?With Liverpool a massive 25 points clear, common sense would think that they are more than deserving to raise the Premier League trophy, even in less than desirable circumstances.Although there has been a campaign that the league be voided and started from scratch, that leaves way too many questions unanswered and the Telegrqph reports “there is no desire from rival clubs to deny Liverpool the trophy.” The other main bit of business to be sorted out is promotion and relegation.This report continues to say that because of these exceptional circumstances, the league will be expanded to 22 teams with no relegation and the current top two teams in the Championship Leeds and West Brom being promoted.The League Cup will be suspended for a season to allow more space in the fixture list while five teams instead of three will be relegated in 2020/21.In terms of European qualification the reports suggests:“Champions League qualification would allow the teams who qualified for this season’s tournament to keep their places next season and then enter any additional sides currently in qualification positions into an expanded qualifying phase.“That would mean third-placed Leicester going into a qualifying round for the Champions League, with Liverpool, Manchester City – subject to the Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing – Chelsea and Tottenham holding on to their places in the tournament.“But Manchester United, Wolves and Sheffield United, who are all above seventh-placed Spurs, would no doubt object to this.”As you can see there is very few winners in this extraordinary situation but one individual with a voice of reason is our very own Jürgen Klopp.In a statement to the fans he said:“We don’t want to play in front of an empty stadium and we don’t want games or competitions suspended, but if doing so helps one individual stay healthy - just one - we do it no questions asked.“If it’s a choice between football and the good of the wider society, it’s no contest. Really, it isn’t.“The message from the team to our supporters is only about your well-being. Put your health first. Don’t take any risk. Think about the vulnerable in our society and act where possible with compassion for them.“Please look after yourselves and look out for each other."Simply put, Jürgen is a man we as Reds fans, and the game in general can be truly be proud of.
  23. 1 point
    Brazilian legend Cafu says that he sees a lot of himself in the way that Trent Alexander-Arnold plays his Football.It is not the first time that the two-time World Cup winner has spoken about the talents of the young Scouser and he believes that the right-back has what it takes to go all the way in the game.The Mirror reported Cafu as saying:“I think Alexander-Arnold is one of the best in the world, no doubt about it.“He’s a great player – and I would say he has the same characteristics as I did.“He has got big potential. He is strong and skilful, he really takes the game forward and he’s a player who sets up goals for Liverpool.“So, yes, I can see lots of similarities between him and me when I was playing.“I would say he’s got a Brazilian instinct in the way he plays.The former AC Milan star his one piece of advice is to not change a thing. “My advice for him is simple: just keep doing what you have been doing for the last few years.“Alexander-Arnold shouldn’t change his way of playing. Even if he makes mistakes, he should carry on doing what he’s doing.Cafu also believes that defenders are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to individual awards, something that he believes the 21 year-old can achieve.“I think he has what it takes to become a Ballon d’Or winner.“We have to change this paradigm where the Ballon d’Or is only won by attackers and strikers.“People have to see that defenders are just as important as attackers.”As Alexander-Arnold’s all-round game continues to evolve, there has been discussion whether a switch to a midfield role is on the cards.But Cafu believes the England international is best suited to where he currently is.“The role of full-back suits him better and I think he now has to get even better at doing what he already knows how to do.“He has to play like one of the great full-backs, adapt to the position, become the best full-back in the world and then maybe there could be some sort of adaptation in terms of midfield.“But, for now at least, he has to be the best full-back he can be.It is not only Trent who Cafu is a big fan of at Liverpool, the dual Serie A winner with Roma and Milan gave a deal of praise to Jürgen Klopp.The Reds are nominated for Team of the Year and Comeback of the Year (for the Barca CL Semi Final) at the Laureus Awards this evening in Berlin where the Brazilian will be in attendance.“Liverpool had an incredible season last year and they are repeating that this time. I think they deserve their nomination.“The comeback against Barca was unbelievable and Klopp deserves 100 per cent of the credit for how the team has now grown so well.”
  24. 1 point
    A respectful Jürgen Klopp has paid tribute to Pep Guardiola saying that he is the manager that all others try to emulate in the modern era.Liverpool and Man City have developed a fascinating rivalry over the past two years both in Europe, and on the domestic front with Klopp’s side being one of the few teams in World football unafraid to go toe to toe with City.In a discussion which covered quite a few subjects , Sky Sports reported Klopp as saying:“I'm lucky that I can say that my teams were at least close to his teams because I've said a lot of times, I think he is the best manager in the world.“What he is doing with his team is incredible. The way they play, I really like to watch.Klopp also discussed the way that both men conduct themselves during a match.“Pep and I, we are different, so our teams mirror our character. “He is much finer than I am as a person so he is the gentleman and I look how I look on the touchline. “Probably a bit more intense maybe." English Football has seen its fair share of feuds and intense mind games between managers jostling for the title over the years.And while Klopp said there would be nothing more special than tasting league success, he is aware of the challenge that his side face in toppling the reigning title holders. “There's no rivalry left or right of football. "We respect each other lots but on the pitch we want to beat them, that's normal."At the end of the season in most of the seasons he has still won the league. In Germany always, and in England so far as well. “That's how it is but I can easily live with that because I have no problem with being second even when I want to be first."
  25. 1 point
    It is the fixture that divides the city but it is fair to say the gap between Liverpool and Everton has not been this large for many a year. The Toffees come to Anfield in 17th place with a manager in crisis and a fanbase fearing relegation if things do not improve quickly. For this Opposition View, TLW tried something a little unique. Instead of an individual answering the questions, we thought it would be worthwhile to gauge the opinion of a range of Blues supporters from the Everton FC fan forum. What you see is brutal honesty and quite a fascinating insight into what has gone wrong for our neighbours this season. In your opinion, what are the main reasons behind Everton’s inconsistent form over the past 18 months? Rob Preece: Poor signings and management. An over reliance to stick with a system that doesn’t work. Zonal marking. No striker of any great note and a lack of creativity from midfield. David Holroyd: Look at the money Liverpool spent on Salah and Mane. We got Gylfi for almost same price. We should be looking for a better manager than Silva. Benitez would be a better choice, don't be afraid because of what he said in the past let him see for himself. Andy Kay: 30 years of mismanagement from the start of the Premier League era. Wasted money, the stadium, merchandise, kits, players and directors who don't care for the club.... We've become a laughing stock while Liverpool have embarrassed us in every way possible. We are Espanyol, Torino and 1860 Munich rolled into one. Once the pride of Merseyside is now a shambles. Elaine Dutton: A pick and mix squad of players brought in by Koeman, Allardyce and Silva to play specific roles and as each new manager comes in with his own style we have players who don't fit in to that way of playing. There is no heart to the team with Jags, Baines, Coleman, Gueye and Lukaku no longer at the club or past their prime Why do you think Marco Silva has struggled so much to get the best of his squad? Matthew Thompson: Not replacing Zouma and Gueye and also having injured midfielder (Jean Philippe) Gbamin out for 2/3 months, Gomes for likely the rest of season and not once being able to play his strongest 11. He also wanted a left footed right-winger. We all knew before the season started that we were short at the back and that has started to become too much of a gamble. We have a good crop of players but we lack that finishing touch. Dan Lawrence: Square pegs and round holes. He's stubborn the way he wants to play and wedges players into formation when main players are unavailable. Also I don’t think he knows his best 11 and the zonal marking doesn’t work but he still insists on using it. He’s a nice guy but as a result we are too nice on the pitch. Everton have looked to be big players in the transfer market of late bringing in skilled players like Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson. But do you believe you have lost some of that grit and graft that was part of your DNA under David Moyes? Mark Hayes: The initial downfall was appointing Martinez. I know there will be a lot that disagree because they have fell for the Spanish stains’ bullshit and seem to forget the state the team were in when he left, but here's a reminder... a team that were so unfit because of his training ideas, that they struggled to even see out a game. A team that couldn't defend because Brown shoes didn't think defence was that important and training to defend set-pieces wasn't even a consideration. Finishing 5th with what was Moyes' team (apart from a young hungry Lukaku) was a one off and we all saw the real Martinez team the following two seasons. Unfortunately the club did not learn by their mistake and carried on making them with Koeman and now Silva. Mark Mellor: Unfortunately yes, for me passion is as important as talent? Look at Norwich and Sheffield U, on paper we should be better because we have a more expensive team but they both play as a team and are really up for it? We need more of what they have? Commitment!! Which player(s) have impressed you this season and who needs to raise their performance? Jon McCarthy: (Djibril) Sidibe has been a decent signing, Bernard has done well when fit, but as for the rest of the team.... shambles. Gylfi hasn't shown even a glimpse of the 'talent' he has. Anthony Gray: Mina has surprised me as i didn't think he was any good but he's actually not that bad... Bernard, Gomes, Sidibe all done ok.... Completely in shock over Digne, where’s he gone?? Siggi has always been defended by me, but now there's no argument for me to defend him. He's too slow and does not look interested. Pickford is just a little fat prick who thinks he's class when he is far from it. Mark Killey: Not one of our players would get into a normal top 6 team and that just shows who has impressed. We have a squad who play average to poor football week in week out. Silva was never the man for the job, but with that team off mercenaries I can't see anyone getting us out off this shite where in now. What would be your ultimate Footballing nightmare. Relegation or Liverpool winning the Premier League title? Mark Quinn: Not being bottom 3 is the priority of course. It's sad when the obsession with the other lot blurs our own priorities. Kenny Almond : Bottom 3 100%! Don't get all these fans who want us to lose games so it helps others who are challenging. I want us to win every game we play! As much as I hate the red shite we seem to be more bothered about them. At the end of the day whatever team manages ends on top after 38 games wins the league and probably deserve it. We need Silva out and kick on up the table at this point. I would take a mid table finish and only Everton matter to me. Alan James Martyn: Let's be positive; it's not over until the final whistle. The Reds haven't won yet and we ain't down. We are true blues and have more home grown fans then them. Who is someone that you believe can take the game to Liverpool and conversely who do you need to contain? Kyle Marsh: Our wingers against their fullbacks. They're both good going forward but not great defensively. Dan Malone: Five at the back. Start Kean. Robert Cruikshank: Everything comes from Trent and Robertson. Nullify them, that gives us a chance. Do you have a score prediction for this fixture? Mike Warren: We either going to get battered or lose by 1 absolute stinker of a decision. Hope they surprise me with a win though. Wes Hershberger: 2-2 draw, Moise Kean equalizer on 92’ Graham Weedall: My heart is saying 1-2. But my head is saying 3-0.