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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. 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.”
  4. 1 point
    John Barnes has given a sobering view on the proceedings that have dominated the airwaves and column inches for the last three days. After the proposed European Super League was stopped in its tracks, the prevailing thought was that it was a true victory for fans across the footballing landscape. But according to Barnes who is regarded as one of the most eloquent speakers in the game, fans never came into the thoughts of the power brokers and instead it was to do with a high stakes game and who would blink first. The Echo (via Talkradio) reported the Reds legend as saying: “Well first of all there’s been a lot of noise in the last two days in the revolution to change the face of football. “Let’s make no mistake what this was about. This was about two elite groups that wanted to have the power to exploit football. “It was never about the fans. It was about UEFA trying to hold on to power, the Premier League trying to hold on to their power and another group, this new ESL (European Super League) trying to come into power. “This is being framed as a victory for the fans, it’s not a victory for the fans, it’s a victory for whoever wins can exploit football fans.” Barnes cited the start of the Premier League when Football became much more than just a sport. “In 1992 when the Premier League started, football became a business. “What football wanted was the biggest businessmen involved in football, what fans wanted was the people with the deepest pockets to come and take their clubs. “We were then told that anyone coming into football needs to understand the nature of football – it’s the other way around. “Once you have these big multi-billionaire businessmen coming into football then football fans have to understand the nature of business and of course we haven’t had the balance right.” With the deep involvement of FSG in this sorry saga, the logical thought from Liverpool fans has been to think, 'where do we go from here?' The video apology by John Henry has received a largely mixed reaction, with some in the camp of wanting to move on, while others are firmly in the view that it is one mistake too many with this one striking at the very fabric of the club. When things like this happen, there is a yearning for a return to the old days, when people who truly loved and cared for the club were the ones who made the key decisions. However Barnes said there will not be a return to that era. “For 60 or 70 years, many fans had shares in their clubs and still owned them but if fans want rights in their clubs they have to buy shares and how much are the shares worth now? “Can an average fan afford to own a football club or have shares? No they can’t, so therefore those days are over. “So I would say to the fans, as much as we’re talking even from Liverpool’s perspective: ‘Is it over for the owners, Do they have to sell the club?’ – who are they going to sell the club to? “If they sell the club to someone with more money than them, do you think the people who come in whose business is run autocracy are going to listen to fans when they say: ‘This is what we want you to do. “It’s not going to happen, you can’t have it both ways.”
  5. 1 point
    After ending their four game losing streak in the league against Sheffield United on Sunday evening, Liverpool will look to break another drought this time at home to Chelsea. The Reds have gone six league games since picking up the three points at Anfield. You have to go all the way back to the 16th of December against Tottenham since their last home win. During this bleak period, Liverpool have scored just two goals (Mane vs West Brom, Salah Penalty vs City). Their opponents this evening have been rejuvenated under the stewardship of former Borussia Dortmund and PSG manager Thomas Tuchel. Currently Chelsea have gone nine games without defeat in all competitions conceding just two goals in the process. With teams such as Man United and Leicester going through a form dip, this clash increases in its importance for both these teams and their top four prospects. Blues correspondent @writekaranwrite from @chelseaseason delivered terrific insight yet again regarding the West London outfit. Firstly what are your views on the sacking of Frank Lampard. Do you think it was the right decision or premature? It’s a difficult one to answer. I guess it all really does depend on what your goals are as a club and are you willing to be patient enough for a couple of seasons to achieve them. At the start of the season when we had this talk you asked me if Lampard was the right man for Chelsea and would the club be willing to give him more leeway when the results dry out. I definitely thought that was the case and I guess, at one point, so did the Chelsea board. Of course, the lack of results on the pitch played a part, but I think where Lampard crucially lost the plot was his lack of man-management skills. Senior players like Marcos Alonso and Antonio Rudiger were completely shunted out of the squad, while the likes of Cesar Azpilicueta, Olivier Giroud, Jorginho, Andreas Christensen, to name a few, were used sparingly. Mind you, most of these guys are veterans or have been at the club for years and, while I don’t think anyone of them actively campaigned with a "Lampard Out" sign outside Abramovich’s office, none of them would have fought for his survival either. The first thing Thomas Tuchel did upon his arrival at Chelsea is to call upon these experienced heads and the results have definitely backed up his decision. So, maybe, Lampard has the potential to carve out a great career in the near future, but these are the things one only learns from experience. I’m pretty sure he will learn from the experience and get better with age. Sackings are always a major dent in professional pride for a manager but do you think Frank will be better for the experience of managing such a big club early in his career? Oh, I definitely do! When Lampard was appointed as the Chelsea manager in 2019 after spending just one year at Derby, there was this feeling that maybe this job came too early in his career. However, the transfer ban meant that Frank could sit back, soak up the time and go about his job without the monumental pressure of being a Chelsea manager because no one expected us to compete for the titles, not even our own board. Top 4 was the bare minimum and with you guys running away with the title and blowing teams away in the process, we could just sit back and compete for the Champions Leagues spot without the usual added pressure. But spending 200 Million in a couple of months really changes the perspective of the board and the fans. Lack of pre-season, new signings failing to gel in the squad, untimely injuries, bad man-management skills, amongst other things resulted in an enormous build-up of pressure which was always leading towards the eventual sacking, as it often does at our club. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and Frank Lampard and Jody Morris would now sit back and reflect on how things could have been/should have been done and handled differently. There were plenty of positives too such as the rise of Mason Mount, Reece James, Tammy Abraham. It wasn’t all bad and Frank and co should be better off with this experience under their belt even if it arrived a touch too early. Looking at the new man on charge, what are your early impressions of Thomas Tuchel and have you noticed any changes in formation/playing style etc? My early impressions of Thomas Tuchel are very positive. He looks like a guy who wants to play on the front foot with a major share of possession and isn’t afraid to take tough decisions when need be. Everyone in the team seems to know their roles which has been highlighted time and time again during the player interviews and the Gaffer also seems to have brought back a bit of squad harmony by reinstating the senior, shunted out members back into the team and that has only helped us in a positive way. I also quite like his press conferences. Instead of sounding like a trained robot with vague replies and clichéd nonsense in front of the journalists, his answers and viewpoints are quite honest and insightful, something that I definitely admire. In terms of tactics, yeah, there have been a lot of noticeable changes. While you guys have seen us in a 4-3-3 for quite a few years (under Sarri, Lampard), we would be starting in a 3-4-3 at the Anfield on Thursday. In fact, this is how we might just line up against you guys: Mendy; Azpi, Christensen/Thiago Silva, Rudiger; Alonso, Reece James, Kante, Kovacic; Werner, Havertz, Mount. Fitness permitting, having Thiago Silva would be a major boost for Tuchel and I have a sneaky suspicion that we might just start with Havertz as the false 9 and use Kai and Werner’s runs to disrupt the back line of Liverpool, although we haven’t done it before, so we’ll see. Having Giroud go up against Kabak could be another possibility. Watching the last few games, Kabak seems to have a problem dealing with the long balls and crosses and with so many forced changes at the back, communication gaps/problems do arise, something that Giroud can exploit. Apart from that, we play with a lot more possession than we did before. However, the biggest tactical change we’ve had under Tuchel is we don’t attack with as many players as we did under Lampard (both of our no.6 stay outside the opposition box to manage the counter-attacking threat), hence we don’t score many goals (or concede as many either). There are also a lot more tactical fouls in us now, which, no doubt, won’t go down well with you guys. And what else? Keep an eye on our Right Wing. Most of our attack will feature Reece James or Callum Hudson-Odoi (whoever starts) taking on the guys and delivering crosses and cut-backs into the box. The lack of fans in stadiums is certainly a negative aspect of the game at present. But in terms of a new manager in a new league, do you feel this can help Tuchel get his message across without the usual pressure from supporters? 100%. I think most of our fan base was unhappy with the sacking of Frank and they would have definitely let it be known in a stadium full of supporters. While it is no way Tuchel’s fault, I think he would have found it pretty hard to cope with that kind of mutiny. It could have impacted, not only him, but also the performance of the players who have found it easier to focus and regroup under a new manager and start from scratch instead of having that extra pressure of facing 40,000 fans up to twice a week after Lampard’s sacking. It’s been more than a month now. The squad seems to have settled in under the new manager, we haven’t lost yet, the win against Spurs and Atletico Madrid have been massive and we are sitting on the thereabouts of top 4. I think all of these factors have really helped Tuchel get his message across to the squad and things should be much rosier once the fans are allowed back into the stadium. Kai Havertz and Timo Werner came to the Premier League with much fanfare. It is never easy to come to a new league and perform instantly so how have you seen their first season to this point? Certainly not what the fans expected, but for different reasons really. Kai Havertz has been rather unfortunate since his arrival to Stamford Bridge. The 21-year-old arrived at Chelsea with no pre-season under his belt and struggled to hit the ground running. He did score a hat-trick in the EFL Cup and seemed to be getting back on track before he was hit by Covid-19 which set him back for another month. He returned in December under Frank, but since then has been hampered by minor injuries and niggles and is yet to play a major part under Thomas Tuchel. The good news, however, is that he has been fit and training for the last few days and is in contention to start on Thursday. My assessment: Definitely not a season Kai or the Chelsea fans expected after investing 70 odd millions, but I've seen enough of him to say that he's a supremely talented player with great footballing intelligence and has got everything to succeed at the highest level. I have high hopes for him and he should be given a run of games before the pundits and fans crucify him and label him a failure. Timo Werner has been a completely different story, though. The German actually hit the ground running and scored a bunch of goals, which coincided with Chelsea's great run at the start of the season. Then something happened, Timo forgot his shooting boots and started missing everything, easy goals, sitters, you name it. There have been no fitness issues, language problems or anything else that points to this sudden run of barren form, but it has been as simple and mind-boggling as that, easy misses, loss of confidence, rinse and repeat. Frank Lampard looked for solutions to get him back to his best and got sacked trying. The arrival of Thomas Tuchel did give him new energy, a new starting point, though, and the German is starting to look like he's getting his confidence back, although the goals still have been few and far in between. My assessment of Timo: He looks like a confidence player who scores goals in bunches until he doesn't. Although, to his credit, there have been no sulking or hiding on the pitch. He runs, sprints, tries harder than most would, but it's obvious that there are some major flaws in his game when the opposition sits back deep and there are no spaces for him to exploit and run into. These things need to be addressed for him to become a consistent threat for Chelsea. Like many players, Christian Pulisic has had a stop-start campaign due to injury. Do you think working with his old boss from his Dortmund days will be able to bring the best out of the youngster on a consistent basis? This was supposed to be the breakthrough season for Christian Pulisic after ending the previous season on a high. The 5-3 loss against Liverpool last season where he came off the bench and completely changed the game comes to mind, but here we are, yet again, with Pulisic and his constant injury problems. There's no doubt that the American has got the talent and skill to succeed. We've already seen that in flashes. The arrival of Thomas Tuchel should only help him, but it has never been his talent that has been in doubt. It's the question of him keeping himself fit to get a run of games, get his rhythm back and start producing week in week out. I don't know how Tuchel will be able to get the best out of him until Pulisic and the medical team sort out his injury woes. From some future stars of the game to someone who is like a fine French wine and just getting better with age in Olivier Giroud. Has he suddenly turned into one of your most important players? Olivier Giroud is one of those players from whom you know what you are going to get and then he delivers exactly that which is a rare feat in a team with a lot of inconsistent performers. If I'm being honest, Olivier Giroud and Christian Pulisic were the reasons we managed to finish in the top 4 after the project restart under Lampard. A lot of the Chelsea fans, including me, assumed that the Frenchman would have a major role to play under Frank this season and it surprised a lot of us when that wasn't the case. Tammy Abraham, for all his qualities, still hasn't got what it takes to start week in and week out for us. Timo Werner delivered, then struggled, and then continued to struggle badly. Maybe, that was the hint Frank should have taken and given more opportunities to the experienced head and dressing room leaders, Giroud definitely being one of them! But Lampard demanded a specific style of play, which demanded the Striker to continuously make runs behind the opposition defence. Giroud hasn't got the pace to do that and was overlooked yet again. Thomas Tuchel has definitely identified his qualities and seems to tweak his tactics to accommodate his skillsets with the wingbacks providing crosses and cut backs for the Frenchman time and time again, while Giroud also using his strength and hold up play to bring Mason Mount and Timo Werner into the game, which suits us perfectly for the time being. Is Giroud one of our most important players? Definitely. He seems to be getting better with age because he focuses on what works for him and doesn't try to change his game anymore. He's 34. That time is gone. You know what you are going to get from him and, more often than not, he delivers. The last time these two teams met at Anfield, it was an occasion that no one associated with Liverpool will ever forget with the presentation of the Premier League trophy. Around seven months later and things look a little different. Are you still wary of playing the Reds at Anfield despite their current winless streak at home? We would be fools not to. I’ve got a massive respect for Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp and Michael Edwards and for what (and the way) they have achieved in such a short time. Liverpool are still the defending Champions. The injury problems have impacted you guys badly and I think a lot of the criticisms, especially from Gary Neville and Roy Keane, have been baseless and plain stupid. In fact, I struggle to think of any things Roy Keane says that actually make any sense. The 5-3 game last time was a special occasion for Liverpool and you guys fully deserved to lift the Premier League trophy, but things have taken a wrong turn for both of us since then, really. There's still the Champions League to aim for, so there's that! Yes, I'm still wary of playing Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool at Anfield, though there is more hope this time that we can aim for the three points. We have seen plenty of games between the top six become extremely dour affairs during this lockdown season. These two teams have plenty of attacking talent on display so hopefully we will get plenty of goalmouth action. What is your overall prediction? Both of the teams have plenty of attacking talent and, no doubt, we will get some entertaining action on Thursday night, but I doubt we would get a goalfest like we did the last time at Anfield. The arrival of Thomas Tuchel has turned us into a much more organised team at the back and we have conceded just 2 goals under the German's tenure, one of those being an own goal. I still think it will be an entertaining game with both teams having spells of dominance and looking threatening on the transition. It's a tough one to call. With a Champions League berth on the line, both teams will go for a win. Let's see, I've seen enough mistakes at the back from the Reds in the last few games to give us a slight edge. It might be the first time in a few years, but I'm calling it a 0-1 win for the visitors.
  6. 1 point
    Gary O'Neil believes that Curtis Jones has the quality and all-round dedication to become a future star of the game. At your average league club, the leap from under-age football to the professional ranks is a notoriously challenging one for youngsters to make and has seen many of them fall by the wayside. But when you are at one of the elite clubs in Europe, then that task grows in its difficulty, especially when you take into account the amount of quality at the manager’s disposal. It is why the level of performances by the Academy graduate have to be acknowledged as an outstanding achievement. A strong finish to the season would put Jones in the running for Young Player of the Year. Manchester City's Phil Foden is a strong favourite currently but there is still time for Jones to force his way into contention and he could be a decent outside bet. Choosing the right football betting site can be tricky as there are so many out there but Football Whispers have you covered. You can read their list of betting sites here. O'Neil was a respected professional for close to 20 seasons and made 542 appearances for nine clubs including Portsmouth, Middlesbrough and West Ham. The former England U/21 midfielder came to Liverpool as an assistant manager for the U/23s last August and believes that Jones has a special element to his game as the Echo reported. “He has this unusual belief in himself. “You don't see it very often. You only see it in ones that are destined to go to the very, very top. "He knew that he could get into Liverpool's first team from the under-23s. He knew he didn't need a loan spell. He knew that when he got there he would be able to make an impact." Jones has come on in leaps and bounds in such a short period of time and is playing in the most difficult part of the pitch to make his mark as Jurgen Klopp has a number of options to turn to. He arguably produced one of his best performances for the club against RB Leipzig in the Champions League on Tuesday night and his stats told the picture. • 81% passing • 34/42 passes • 1 assist • 1/2 dribbles • 1/1 tackle • 1 clearance • 3 interceptions (most of any player) O'Neil cited an example of the poise that Jones has when he played a perfectly weighted ball that caused uncertainty in the Leipzig defence and allowed Sadio Mane to take advantage of the mistake and score the all-important second goal. “He knew that he would be able to take on board what Jurgen needed from him, how he wanted him to press, how he wanted him to cover for other players. “Some young players would feel like 'I took it on my chest, going to try and tidy this up, get it down, maybe do a trick. “Curtis has this real knack of making the right decision at the right time and he just helps it into an area that Mane can chase." The exploits of Steven Gerrard throughout his career belong on their own level and no player should be burdened by the weight of that elite standard. But O'Neil said there are some notable similarities in the way that Jones has gone about his early career and it is certainly not by accident. “To have the same sort of impact as, dare I say it, Steven Gerrard had when he broke into the first team at Liverpool. Obviously, a very high bar has been set. “He is a real talent. “The hours that he's put in. I've seen the video footage and I've spoken to all the coaches that work with him. "Hours and hours, evenings after school or on day release, working on his left foot, working on his receiving, working on his speed of feet. So there has been so much work that has gone into him. "I'm so pleased for him that he is getting to show off all the hard work that he has put in over the years and he has turned into a real top player."
  7. 1 point
    Jordan Henderson has reflected on a time at Liverpool which he believes made him into the fine player and outstanding leader he is today. It is remarkable the amount of times that personal success is built on the back of adversity and Henderson is testament to that. Henderson made a dream move to Liverpool from his hometown club Sunderland in June of 2011, but with that came with it a whole lotmore pressure which the midfielder had to adjust to. One story in the journey of the Champions and Premier League captain which is now folklore is the time where he was nearly sold to Fulham in 2012 by new manager Brendan Rodgers which would have seen Clint Dempsey come the other way. Henderson’s recollection of that sliding doors moment is vivid as he told the Guardian: “We were preparing for a [Europa League qualifying] game against Hearts at Anfield. We met as normal in the [Hope Street] hotel and I got a knock on my door saying the manager wanted to speak to us. "To be fair to Brendan Rodgers, it was really just a conversation. It was an opportunity [to leave for Fulham] I didn’t want and I didn’t like. I still felt I had an awful lot to give. Anyone who has watched Henderson from close quarters knows that he has a inner determination that burns in everything that he does and others naturally feed off it and it was developed in that fateful time. “I was in a very dark place at that time. It made us a lot stronger and a lot wiser later on and, without that, you never know what could have happened. So I really cherish them moments because you need setbacks, you need adversity. “You get back up, and it makes you stronger because you want to prove people wrong. Ever since that day I had something in me. I needed to prove to the manager I would get in his team eventually. "I’d do absolutely everything to be in his team, this football club, and I’d prove them wrong. In the end I did.” The 30 year-old was extremely thankful for the support that he received his wife Rebecca, and Steven Gerrard played a crucial role in a family sense. “ She (Jordan’s Mum) was worried for her boy. "He was a little lost. The move was initially too big for him," Gerrard said. Gerrard made sure that he would keep a close eye on Jordan, but he had been around the game long enough to realise that he would end up becoming a vital player for the club. A lack of confidence and potential transfer is just one hurdle Henderson has had to deal with in his near-decade stint with the Reds. A cancer battle for his father as well as a number of injuries and a change in his midfield role under Jurgen Klopp have all significantly challenged him. However it has helped him grow into the much all-round-respected figure we see today. With what he has achieved with team.over the past few years, you could excuse Henderson for having a quiet sense of self satisfaction. While proud of the achievements, he is certainly not satisfied. “The past few years we’ve proved how good we can be and now it’s about improving, working as hard as possible, wanting more and giving absolutely everything. "We’re in a good position but the Premier League can change very quickly. But that hunger and desire will always be there for me and the team.” “I hope I can play for a very long time, because the hunger, the desire and the love for the game is still there. "I feel good physically and mentally. So I’m not thinking that far ahead. I’m just concentrating on doing the best I can over the next however many years for the club and for England and see where that takes me.”
  8. 1 point
    Jamie Carragher believes Mo Salah has given the club owners a none too subtle hint that he is looking for a big new contract. The Egyptian superstar gave a wide ranging interview to Spanish publication last week in which he touched on hoping to break more records at Liverpool, links with Barcelona and Real Madrid and being disappointed not being given the armband for the final Champions League fixture against FC Midtjylland. It was that last statement that raised a fair few eyebrows and in the week before Christmas which is usually pretty quiet for storylines, this was a early present for the Football writers, even leading Jurgen Klopp to clarify matters once and all. Writing on the matter for the Telegraph (per Metro), Reds legend Jamie Carragher believes that Salah’s comment about the captaincy was odd as he should not have been looking to play in a dead rubber fixture. “Salah’s recent interview feeds that idea his career comes first. His comments about being upset not to be made captain in a dead rubber against Midtjylland underlined it. They were odd. I like most fans – did not think he should be playing in an inconsequential game, never mind be the skipper. “The timing of the player initiating transfer stories is also strange. My view is it was a message to Liverpool’s owners to offer him a lucrative new deal. Over the past decade, the likes of Javier Mascherano, Xabi Alonso, Fernando Torres, Luis Suarez, Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho have been lured away while still in their prime years. Carragher feels that Liverpool are in such a strong position that in terms of poaching their players, teams like Real Madrid and Barcelona do not pose a threat anymore. 'Seeing their players being courted by the La Liga clubs would have concerned Liverpool five years ago. ‘Not now. I am not convinced Madrid and Barca can afford Salah. Investing well in excess of £125 million on a player who will turn 29 this summer is not good business. “ No-one leaving Liverpool today can say they will improve their chances of winning trophies. Philippe Coutinho’s experience at the Nou Camp tells us that. ‘Liverpool can dominate in England and Europe – or certainly challenge for the Premier League and Champions League – every season Klopp is in charge. In terms of his career, Carra feels that Mo is underrated by some, but can go on to well and truly cement his legacy. “Salah may be one of the most underrated Liverpool players in the club’s history. I know how contentious that sounds. Salah is loved by supporters. He is already a club legend. “Fitness permitting, Salah is guaranteed to score over 200 goals and continue to break records if he stays on Merseyside for his prime years."
  9. 1 point
    Stewart Downing has paid tribute to Harvey Elliott as the on-loan youngster makes impressive progress at Blackburn Rovers. The 17 year-old former Fulham junior made eight appearances in his first season for the Reds showing some promising signs but the decision was made by Jurgen Klopp that he needed some consistent minutes and he was sent to the Championship club. Since the move, Elliott has won rave reviews for his impressive performances scoring four goals and contributing as many assists. Speaking after the youngster produced a wonderful individual strike against Norwich earlier this month, Rovers manager Tony Mowbray said: “Seeing him produce a goal like that really doesn’t surprise me. He’s a wonderful talent, he’s a brilliant individual to work with as well. “Harvey has assets that (Rovers midfielder) Bradley Dack has that trust when he has the ball. It was a wonderful performance from Harvey. “We’re delighted to be working with him and I hope that he’s enjoying his time here." One player who has seen many things in his 19 year professional career is Downing and the former Middlesbrough, Liverpool and Aston Villa winger said (per the Mirror that Elliott has become one of the most important players. "We have to be careful with him because he’s still very young, but he’s almost the go-to man for us at the moment, he’s playing well and getting goals. “The manager’s probably trying to see whether he can rest him at some stage, but you have to play him at the minute. “He’ll have ups and downs in his career, but he has that quality through a goal or an assist. Just as important as showing talent is being able to fit into a certain team dynamic, but Downing said that he has been right at home with the group. “He’s fitted in so well here, he’s got a good environment around him and the lads all really look after him and It’s important for him to just keep enjoying his football." One of the most things that stands out to Downing is Eliiott’s maturity and general understanding of the game. “I think the lads have spoken to each other and mentioned that you look back to when you were 17, you’re a bit a headless chicken, aren’t you?” “But Harvey’s game understanding, his quality, his knowledge of when to release the pass, even with his goal, he never panics. “He has the finesse, the quality, but he’s also fitted into the group very well. He’s definitely got the quality, but he runs around and works hard as well. “I think most would look at him and say ‘he’s good, he’s got the technical ability’, but he’s buying into everything, the pressing, the tracking back, he’s a real team player.”
  10. 1 point
    Ian Wright has hailed the development of Curtis Jones and says that it is a triumph of the youth program of Liverpool. It is just over 12 months that the 19 year-old made his Premier League debut as a late substitute against Bournemouth at the Vitality stadium. As he has done with many players, Jurgen Klopp has guided his progress steadily, not wanting to put too much pressure on the academy graduate. But unlike some managers who give prospects a taste of the action and then forget they exist, Klopp constantly put Jones a match day squad and he was a prominent figure after the season re-start in June, so much so that he won a Premier League title medal. That experience of being part of a winning squad has seen the midfielder reach new heights during this campaign already surpassing last years tally of appearances with 15 and scoring as many goals (three). Arguably his best performance came in the top of the table clash against an in-form Tottenham at Anfield on Wednesday. His composure in possession and general game awareness in someone who is in the early stages of their senior career is certainly eye-catching. The Arsenal legend was glowing in his analysis as the Echo reported: “You look at him and I watched him in a massive game for Liverpool and he just looks like he fits there now. “For Curtis Jones, it looks like he has really solidified the place. “Some of the skills he was doing, it just shows how confident and ready he is. "You have to say it’s testament to Klopp and his team for the way they’ve put him through. It’s brilliant management." In his post Footballing career, Wright has made his name as one of the pre-eminent Football pundits and contrasted the senior journey of Jones to his contemporary at Man City in Phil Foden. Foden was seen as the ready made replacement for the much loved David Silva, but City Fans have grown in frustration for the inconsistent way that Pep Guardiola has looked to use him this season. “You have to look at the comparison,. “We’re still waiting for someone like Phil Foden to get a proper run and start to impose himself on the team in the way we thought was going to happen when David Silva went.” Not only have Liverpool fans seen their team conquer all challenges over the past few years, they are seeing the next generation of stars grow right before their eyes. And that is the best of both worlds.
  11. 1 point
    Nathaniel Phillips has been one of the surprise performers of Liverpool’s Premier League season, but according to his father it could have been a completely different story. Unless you are blessed with incredible natural ability, the journey to the top for a young footballer is rarely clear-cut with many bumps along the road and that was certainly the case for the 23 year-old. Football was in the blood of the Bolton-born youngster with his dad Jimmy a Wanderers legend across two separate stints where he made 329 appearances. He also played for Glasgow Rangers, Oxford United and Middlesbrough in a playing career spanning nearly 20 years. After retiring from the game, he put his hand to coaching with the Bolton youth and reserve set-up as well stepping up caretaker manager with the senior team. Phillips Snr. coached his son at academy level and documented (per the Mirror) the unconventional Football journey of the youngster after he was released from Bolton due to financial restraints. Nat has made two appearance so far this season and has not let anyone down. He was man of the match on his Premier League debut as the Reds defeated West Ham at Anfield to keep up the momentum on their bid to retain the title. Despite a slew of injuries if you ask any online bookie who the smart money is on this year they'll tell you it's Jurgen Klopp's side. Phillips Jr must be feeling pretty fortunate that he didn't leave the club last summer. He is a thoughtful young man and isn't afraid of thinking outside of the box, as his father revealed. “I told him nothing is guaranteed in football. “I said, ‘Why not look at the US college system?’, it offered a great base for getting into the American game. “He liked the idea and got an offer from Charlotte University in North Carolina, went over and was incredibly impressed with the facilities. “But, three days before he was due to fly out, Liverpool, who had been keeping tabs on him for a few months, invited him to join them on a pre-season trip to Germany. A career defining decision had to be made, but Nathaniel who had battled injury and illness in his younger days, was very fortunate to have his father who knew the Football system inside out by his side. "The only thing I asked Liverpool was not to just offer him a short-term contract because he did have this fantastic offer from America. “If he wasn’t successful in the first month or so at Liverpool, then he’d also have missed out on America. To be fair, they offered him a two-year contract that gave Nat the chance to develop, which I felt he still needed.” Nat was soon on his way to Germany and a loan spell with VFB Stuttgart, a decision which Jimmy says was pivotal to his development. “Nat has to be grateful for Jurgen Klopp getting involved through his relationship with Stuttgart’s sporting director. “Liverpool looked to get him out on loan, but to get to Stuttgart, even if they had dropped into Germany’s second tier, was a great experience. Stuttgart won promotion back to the top division and the performances of Phillips were closely watched as well as getting big match experience. Jimmy knows his son has taken the long road to this point but his performances for the Reds this season show that he has what it takes to be a Premier League player at a top team. The lasting motto from his tale is if you put in the work, you will get your due rewards. “I wouldn’t have said four years ago that he’d play for the first team. “But Nat has always had a great determination to succeed as well as being dedicated and disciplined. “If you work hard, you never know what’s around the corner.”
  12. 1 point
    Jurgen Klopp has hailed the ability of Diogo Jota make a instant impact at Liverpool. Whenever the German has made a signing, he has made a conscious effort to not rush their progress. It is a piece of adept management with a number of players thriving once they find their feet. However, the Portuguese forward has certainly hit the ground running after his move from Wolves scoring four goals in just nine appearances. His goal against West Ham on Saturday evening saw Jota become just the second Liverpool player to score in his first three league games at Anfield squalling the record set by fan favourite Luis Garcia in 2004. The consistent level of performance of Jota has led to discussion that he could replace Roberto Firmino in the starting lineup. The smart money being wagered at top sa gambling sites is on the Portuguese striker forcing his way into the side sooner rather than later. Speaking ahead of the Champions League clash with Atalanta, Klopp was not surprised with his progress (per the Echo). "We never hold players back at the beginning, it's just that they usually need time to adapt. I knew before that it would not take too long for him because of the way Wolves are playing. "They play a different system, but the intensity level for Wolves is always incredibly high. The only one player who has to defend less - and only slightly less - is Raul Jimenez, but the boys on the wings they had to run like crazy. "It was clear that physically he would be fine, technically we saw he is good, all the rest is then about finding your feet in a new environment." Jota may be young of age at 23, but he has plenty of experience on his footballing resume having played for a season at Porto before joining Wolves where he impressed many with his quality both in the Championship and then when the Midlands club won promotion. Much like lucky punters on a trip to online casino canada, Jota struck the jackpot this summer when Klopp came calling. Klopp says that has played into his advantage. "He is at the best age, 23, already experienced, already played a lot of Premier League football, he is a really good boy and is a really good signing. That's the situation. "The boys always make it easy for new players, and Diogo is very good. He is really open, his English is brilliant, and it made it easy for him to step into the team and the squad and the dressing room. Now he plays and has been involved.”
  13. 1 point
    Saturday evening sees Liverpool look for their first league win in three games as they take on Sheffield United. The Blades were one of the feel good stories from the last campaign coming up from the Championship and finishing in a highly respectable ninth position. This season has certainly not started in the fashion that Chris Wilder and his team would like with just one point from five games, but showed during the last campaign that they were not overawed when facing the top echelon of sides. The team from @Blades_Mad were terrific in giving our readers insights last season and ahead of this fixture, speak honestly about what needs to be rectified that will help get their season on track. Sheffield United were a fantastic addition to the Premier League last year, not only in the way you approached the game, but the honest language and general football philosophy that Chris Wilder displayed. Therefore how difficult do you think it will be for the club to come close to replicating that level the 20/21 season? Going on the opening five games of the season, incredibly difficult. Having been so impressive last season, particularly pre-lockdown, it would always be hard to replicate any similar sort of feat. Admittedly, we have had a more sluggish start than initially had predicted, which is concerning (losing 4 and drawing 1, scoring just two goals in the process and one being a penalty), but who better than Chris Wilder to turn our fortunes around? We do, however, have three of the toughest games the Premier League has to offer coming up. Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea. Anything more than zero points is a bonus, if we're being honest. Having a strong Goalkeeper is essential for a promoted club. And Dean Henderson was certainly in the top echelon of Premier League keepers last campaign. Now that he has gone back to his parent club, how has Aaron Ramsdale filled his big shoes so far? A great question, and a much talked about topic amongst the Sheffield United fanbase. First things first, Aaron Ramsdale is Aaron Ramsdale. He isn't Dean Henderson. Aaron has said this himself having been asked about it plenty of times by the press. Dean was an unbelievable keeper for us who continued to develop and evolve into a top class keeper under the tutelage of Chris Wilder. Ramsdale is a product of our youth academy, and whilst buying him back from Bournemouth for a reported fee of £18.5m a few years after we sold him for £1m might not seem like great business on the face of it, the fee we received when in League One allowed us to build and secure funds for the fees and wages of what would be pivotal signings in the likes of Jack O'Connell and John Fleck. Rammers, at the moment, might not be as polished as Dean Henderson, but time is on his side and hopefully he will turn out to be a brilliant shot stopper for us. The England U21 international is a long-term buy and will hopefully progress with us. Two other players to ask you about. Sander Berge (who was linked with the Reds in late 2019) and someone we know very well in Rhian Brewster. Two exciting young prospects that your club have invested a lot of money in. What do you believe are the expectations on them in the season(s) ahead? Two of our most exciting young prospects, you have to say. Sander is adapting to life in the Premier League more and more as the weeks pass. By his own admission he had a stuttering start to his Blades career when he signed last January. Far from disastrous, but he conceded that the pace of the Premier League was something he had to get used to and mould his game around. Since lockdown, he's arguably been our best player. It can't have been easy for the Norwegian international to have been in a new country for just a few weeks without any family to support him as the country came to a standstill, but he worked tirelessly on his fitness during this time and it is now paying dividends. Initially brought in to play a CDM role, he has flourished on the right of a midfield three, making marauding runs and leaving people in their wake with his physicality and close ball control. When Sander drives forward with the ball he can seem unstoppable at times. Despite our difficult start, Berge has been a shining light and is a fan favourite. As for Rhian, think it would be fair to say that you guys probably know more about his game than we do at the moment, but all Blades fans are excited to see him start in a red and white shirt and hopefully can be the man to bang us in some much needed goals. Not wanting to apply too much pressure to the young man, that wouldn't be fair because his fellow strikers need to take a fair share of the burden also (which they are not doing at the moment), but it is another long-term investment for the club and a big layout fee-wise for us, him becoming our club record signing. We're incredibly pleased the lad chose us having had a few options on the table, and his attitude in wanting to leave Liverpool in search of first team football is one that will fit in well with the fans and management team here at Bramall Lane. Liverpool have been shrewd in the sell on clause and buy back option they have included in the deal, but if it gets to the stage where the Reds want to buy him back he must have done unbelievably well for us! Is there one reason that can pinpoint why points (and goals) have been hard to come by so far in this campaign? It was an issue last season also, scoring just 39 goals in 38 games. Our incredible defensive record overshadowed this massively and was the main reason to our success and a top half finish. Our leading marksmen both finished on 6 goals, which isn't fantastic, and Chris Wilder knew this needed addressing in the summer. He identified a number of targets including Ollie Watkins (who joined Aston Villa) and Brewster, and will be pleased he managed to get one over the line, even if it did take longer than had initially hoped. We're creating some decent openings, but just not taking them. Our strikeforce isn't our strongest weapon and is still in need of further boosting, probably in January, if we are to remain in the Premier League. Other areas of the team also need to chip in more regularly, which just isn't happening at the moment. It wouldn't be truthful if we said we weren't concerned about our lack of goals. Clubs from the Yorkshire region have played a significant role in British Football over the years but for a large part of this century have been absent from the top division. So how important/ significant is it to have yourselves and Leeds flying the White Rose flag in the Premier League flag while still maintaining your bitter rivalry? Yorkshire in general has underachieved hugely since the turn of the millennium. It is a hotbed of English football, with some huge and historic clubs, and yes it is good to see two of us in England's top division once again. I do have to say, I did quite enjoy being the only Yorkshire Premier League out fit last season, but having said that, Leeds will be a good addition to the league. Just a shame we lost to them the other week, but more regrettably of all, the fact that two "fanless" Yorkshire Premier League derbies seem like a distinct reality. That is saddening. Sheffield United showed when they played against the Reds last season that they respect, but are not in awe of them. Do you expect Wilder to employ the same kind of tactics especially with two key pillars of the Liverpool defence missing? Let's be right here, they were two contrasting games against Liverpool last season. The game at Bramall Lane was an incredibly tight affair that I genuinely believe could have gone either way. Despite the loss and the unfortunate circumstances in which it came about, all of Bramall Lane was proud of the lads that day as we ran the then-European champions so close. That was the day where it really felt like we were back in the big time. The game at Anfield at the turn of the new year was pretty different. Probably the most convincing two-nil you are ever likely to see. United barely had a touch of the ball and Liverpool dominated from start to finish. I remember leaving Anfield that night remarking that Liverpool are one of the best sides I've seen live, and I still maintain that. Chris Wilder might take a different approach to this one on Saturday evening, given our indifferent start. We're not playing with the same confidence as we were for large parts of last season. Not saying it's damage limitation for us at Anfield but a point would be a great success for us given the circumstances. It's clear Wilder and Klopp have respect for each other, both commenting on numerous occasions on the admiration they have for one and another, and that's great to see. My favourite two managers in the league, for sure! With the amount of unique results across Europe at the start of this season due to the lack of fans, home ground advantage is not as big a factor as it has been. Therefore are you confident of getting a good result or is the general performance the main thing you are looking to see? The Premier League has been crazy so far this season. That's an understatement! But if you take a look at our results, they've been pretty mundane in comparison to plenty of the whacky results we've seen throughout the division. Home advantage has definitely gone out of the window, particularly if you take ourselves as an example. Bramall Lane is never an easy place for teams to come with the atmosphere, energy (that the players evidently feed off) and hostility generated, which is obviously non-existent with a soulless ground which reflects the scene of a training exercise. Am I confident in getting a result Saturday evening? In all honesty, no. A positive performance would be encouraging, but we are after points. Had you asked me last season and I'd have thought we would have every chance, but things are not the same at the moment and something's not quite right. Hopefully that has to turn around at some point, and what better place than under the lights at Anfield!
  14. 1 point
    Liverpool got their European campaign off to a winning start with a professional 1-0 victory over Ajax at the Johan Cruyff arena on Wednesday evening.It has been a very difficult last few days for anyone closely associated with the club in the aftermath of losing defensive lynchpin Virgil Van Dijk for the season due to a incredibly reckless challenge by Jordan Pickford in the Merseyside Derby.The anger of Jurgen Klopp and Gini Wijnaldum was still clearly evident in the lead-up to this fixture, but as soon as they took to the pitch, the number one focus was claiming the three points.The winning goal came with a stroke of good fortune with Sadio Mane’s cross deflected by Argentine defender Nicolas Tagliafico into his own net ten minutes from the half time break.Speaking after the match per the Official site, the manager was honest in his assessment of the footballing quality on display, but thrilled with the end result.“This situation is pretty much the picture of the game, so it was not the most easy-on-the-eye performance from both teams, I would say. Both teams can play better football. “But especially in this competition when you play away, a lot of difficulties, pretty much the medical department made the line-up and then you have to win the game – and that's what the boys did. I think that was deserved, even when we had to clear one ball from the line and when they hit the post. “Of course they had their moments but apart from that, we were pretty dominant on a difficult pitch for both teams. I think everybody knows that Ajax is usually a brilliant football team but tonight it was really tricky, the passing was difficult, so you could see that. But we won the game and I'm completely fine."As well as the loss of Van Dijk, the Reds were dealt a further blow with Joel Matip ruled out meaning that the manager had to turn to Fabinho who once again filled in ably in the heart of the defence.The manager was delighted with performance of the versatile Brazilian who produced a brilliant goal line clearance to deny former Southampton star Dusan Tadic. “Look, in our situation it helps. Of course, was there pressure on the situation? Yes, it’s clear for the two in the back there, 100 per cent. First game together. Fabinho can play the position, he likes playing it actually.“If I would have asked him to play right-back I don’t think he would enjoy it as much as he’s enjoying the centre-half position. In our situation in the moment we have to keep those boys fit and then they can of course help us a lot. I’m not surprised he [Fabinho] plays well in the position otherwise we would have thought about a different solution, even when that would have been properly tricky. “I’m really pleased for tonight, pleased for him, yes it gave him confidence, for sure helped us. These situations [goalline clearances], Millie had last season one against Bournemouth, which was a massive one. That tonight was a massive one. And so he had not only because of this a big hand in this victory tonight.”Klopp had no reservations in taking off the front three just before the hour mark and felt that their replacements in Diogo Jota, Takumi Minamino and Xherdan Shaqiri all had a impact.“All three who came on are, first, in a really good shape, fresh in a tricky, difficult game on a difficult pitch. “That helps a lot and you saw they helped a lot. Shaq won deflections, which is pretty special.Taki in both directions, incredible between the lines. And Diogo is a machine so he can punish opponents in one-on-one situations. We had these moments, we didn’t finish them off, unfortunately.”“But it’s completely fine, it was important for them. Now we started the group, now we have to concentrate on the league again and then Midtjylland is waiting after that.”
  15. 1 point
    Saturday sees Liverpool and Everton clash for the 203rd time in domestic league action. This fierce rivalry that divides a city has had many fascinating storylines over the years and this weekend shapes as another intriguing chapter. Much of that has to do with the fact that Everton have started the new campaign in fine form, winning their first four games and scoring plenty of goals in the process. Now led by Carlo Ancelotti who is one of the most astute managers in all of Europe, belief is rapidly rising amongst the Goodison faithful that he can lead them to something special. The major hurdle that stands in their way is the reigning Premier League champions and this week marks the 10 year anniversary since they last claimed three points in this fixture. While that is a daunting record to overcome, Andy Costigan from the @grandoldteam website explains why this Everton team is cut from a different cloth in comparison to those who have tried and failed in the past. It appeared for a time that Everton were a club without an identity switching between managers and philosophies every 18 months or so. Good managers take their time to assess what needs to be done before developing an action plan. So what do you believe Carlo Ancelotti has been able to alter the most? Without question, the mindset within the first team squad and elsewhere too. The sceptics thought that the Italian had joined Everton simply for the payday, rumoured to be in the region of £9 million a year, but he simply doesn't come across as someone looking for a easy ride and bumper pay out when the wheels come off. He's a vastly experienced manager and with a fantastic pedigree of improving and developing players to suit the tactics he devises. He took his time to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the squad he inherited from Marco Silva, and wisely, didn't go gung-ho in the first transfer window available to him. His most telling comments came at the end of last season when he suggested to the players that they should go away and come back to training with a different outlook and desire... and to be fair to the players, they did and have done. Sure, he's signed some top quality players to boost the squad, but the difference in the mindset of all the players still here from last season is noticeable, they look like they want to be Everton players, look like they want to perform to their best and look like they want to be huge parts of the Ancelotti evolution of the new Everton. When a new manager arrives at a club he regularly identifies a ‘project player’ he believes he can take to the next level. That player for your club seems to be Dominic Calvert-Lewin. What have you noticed that has changed in the striker’s game since Ancelotti’s arrival? DCL has patently been listening very hard to both Carlo Ancelotti on his positional play and Duncan Ferguson on how to play with more physicality, to be stronger on the ball. The real marked difference in his play is he's playing between the posts much more rather than drifting wider, and his first touch is improving with every game he plays. DCL has all the attributes associated with traditional English centre forwards in that he's tall, is good in the air and not afraid to mix it with opposition centrebacks. But it's his positional play and first touch that has come on leaps and bounds since last season, and his mindset is probably the most improved since the arrival of Carlo Ancelotti. On the other hand, the form of Jordan Pickford is regularly up for debate despite being first choice for the national side. What do you think he needs to work on to silence the doubters once and for all? Pickford needs to improve some of his decision-making but his concentration most of all. When he was with Sunderland he was continually involved in the game and as such his concentration level needed to be high at all times, and it was. His form for Sunderland earned him his England call-up and the big money move to Goodison. His first year as a Blue he was kept pretty busy as well and his good form continued. Then the side struggled under Silva and so too did Pickford - he lost concentration and it showed in his game. He allowed outside influences to get to him, most notably in a game at St.James's Park where the Geordie crowd barracked him mercilessly and he reacted. As Ancelotti has looked to strengthen the Blues defence, Pickford is now not quite as involved in the action as he might like to be and it appears when he's not busy, his concentration levels drop and that's when errors creep into his game. He needs to work on that most of all All the great goalies have played behind solid defences that offer the kind of protection the Everton defence is now beginning to afford Pickford... he needs to reward their work by being the last line of defence they have faith in and can rely on. While Calvert-Lewin and James Rodriguez have taken the main plaudits for your unbeaten start, is there an underrated player or two that you feel deserves their share of praise? Three immediately spring to mind... Allan, Doucoure and Richarlison. Allan has given us a genuine ball winner in the midfield, something we've lacked since Gana Gueye left for PSG except Allan is better. Doucoure has brought a real 90-minute engine to the midfield, he covers so much ground and yet appears to do it effortlessly. And I include Richarlison for his all-round contribution. He's a real threat and someone opposition players target but, he's growing up fast. He's cut out the theatrical reactions to being fouled and his willingness and ability to get back and help out defensively demonstrates a real team ethic within him. If I look back to the Everton of the mid-eighties, Allan, Doucoure and Richarlison are our latter day Peter Reid, Paul Bracewell and Trevor Steven. In terms of the league, what do you think is an obtainable goal for Everton this season? Don't laugh... to be Champions. For years, we got tired of hearing David Moyes say the first target was 40 points to guarantee Premier League status, we've had flirtations with Europe that the fans enjoyed and supported massively but, the way to make us regulars in Europe is to win something and as you've asked about the goal in terms of the league, then it has to be to win it. Toffee fans have been naturally desperate for that elusive victory over the old enemy, but that expectation has become a heavy burden to carry especially at Goodison. So do you think playing in front no fans on this occasion could actually be a benefit by giving the players a sense of freedom? That's an interesting question, as I think there are a number of teams who appear to be better without having their home crowds on their back when things don't go well right from the start. Look at the difference with Aston Villa and West Ham for instance. Whether our players feel a sense of freedom with us not being inside Goodison, I'm honestly not sure... I'd like to think that with the start they've made, that they actually cannot wait to have us back there supporting them. While giving glowing praise to a bitter rival is difficult to do, what makes this Liverpool team such a stern challenge to overcome in your view? We're under no illusion that this Liverpool team is a very strong side, well organised and disciplined in the manner that Jurgen Klopp wants them to play. The pace that the Liverpool side has is impressive and in Mane and Salah, two clinical finishers. The high press that Klopp employs appears ideally suited to your team but, I wonder sometimes if he hasn't put all his eggs into one basket... the nature of that defeat at Villa suggests his Plan B isn't up to scratch. Do you feel Ancelotti will stick to what has served you so well this season in terms of his setup for this fixture? We've played four league games and we've been slightly different in each game. We dominated a disappointing Spurs, we overcame setbacks to comfortably overrun West Brom, we battled toe-to-toe to beat Palace and we beat Brighton playing counter attacking football. To me this demonstrates that Carlo Ancelotti genuinely knows more about his players and their attributes and capabilities to adapt to different game scenarios than any of us can imagine. I'm confident that however he sets Everton up to face Liverpool on Saturday, he will get 100% from every player in the game and if no, when he does, the reward will be three more points. What is your prediction for this big clash? I think we can all safely say that this 'derby' will not be a boring scoreless draw, the two teams have goals a-plenty within them. I want a clean sheet for Jordan Pickford and if he gets that, then Everton win because I think our attacking options will create scoring opportunities that Liverpool will struggle to contain. As for a score line, I'd like 3-0 but, I'll settle for 2-0.
  16. 1 point
    Andy Robertson has spoken of his satisfaction over Liverpool’s perfect start to the season after the Reds defeated Arsenal 3-1 on Monday night.The visitors took the lead through Alexander Lacazette after he made the most of a very uncharacteristic sloppy piece of play by the left-back.But the Champions did not let that setback knock them off their stride and Sadio Mane was on the spot to capitalise on some fine work by Mo Salah before Robertson truly atoned for his error by putting the Reds in front just past the half hour mark.The satisfactory night was complete when new signing Diogo Jota who looked lively from the moment he came on, opened his Liverpool scoresheet on his home debut two minutes from time. Jota will have been a popular bet for last goalscorer and this would have been a good time to use your bet365 bonus code.Speaking to the Official site after the contest, Robertson in his customary way poked fun at himself, but says he was very keen to make a positive impact.“I don’t think there were many negatives from the game. "Our defensive display was very good, our attacking was very good. The only thing we can maybe say is we maybe could have taken a couple more of the chances. “Of course, the goal could have been avoided – it was definitely the worst assist I’ve ever given! One I wasn’t happy about. “Look, these mistakes happen unfortunately; 99 times out of 100 I clear that and the danger is cleared, but unfortunately that was the one time. "Luckily, since I’ve came here, I’ve not made many mistakes. "But unfortunately that was one and when you make a mistake like that, you always want the team to win and you to try to contribute in different ways. “Luckily, I popped up at the other end and I didn’t let that get to me. "So, I’m pleased about that. And hopefully the next time that ball comes in I’ll clear it 60 yards the other way. The Scottish captain said that the respect was high for their opponents especially as Mikel Arteta has turned the North London club into a much more resolute outfit than the soft underbelly that they had displayed under the latter tenure of Arsene Wenger and Unai Emery. “You know by now that our game is based on hard work, first and foremost. We have so much individual quality. Defensively, we’re strong; attacking, we’re strong. But if we don’t work hard we don’t win games, it’s as simple as that – and that’s what has been drilled into us from the manager. “Since [Mikel] Arteta has come in, he has turned Arsenal around as a club, as a team on the pitch and off the pitch. “We knew it was going to be a tough game. Both teams 100 per cent records so far this season, and they have played with a lot of confidence. So we knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but we knew if we could do what we can do, find [space] in between the lines and get the boys on the ball up top, we believed we could win the game. “Luckily, the work-rate and the quality all rolled into one and it was as close to a complete performance as we’ve done this season.The Impact of the Liverpool Full-backs is unparalleled throughout the league and a indication of that is since Robertson’s arrival in 2017/8 they have been involved in 66 goals (33 a piece).That is 11 clear of the next defender on the list (Cesar Azpilicueta).Robertson says he loves his role of being a creator, but he certainly sees himself primarily as a defender.“I love scoring and I love assisting but, first and foremost, I love defending. "That’s why a part of me still won’t be happy about tonight because I know I caused the [Arsenal] goal. “But the fact that we’re walking away with three points and I helped put the team in front and steered us to three points will probably help me sleep tonight. "Of course, creating goals and scoring goals is something I like doing and something I want to do, so long may that continue. “Hopefully I keep popping up in the right areas. I think I showed a bit of composure there – Mo or Sadio would have been quite happy with that!”
  17. 1 point
    Sadio Mane sees no end in sight to the partnership between Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and himself as they passed another landmark during the week.The double by Salah against Brighton saw the tally of goals scored by the trio to 250 in all completions across just three seasons.In keeping with the competitive nature of the unit, they have got their eyes set on the next target as the Senegal superstar told the Official site. “I think our target is another 250 again and more trophies with Liverpool."I think it's just unbelievable. “It's not easy to play in England and score this [amount] of goals. "It's just incredible because there are so many good teams and strong defenders, so it's not easy. "We always try to work harder and harder to get better and better to do the best for the team. "Playing alongside these two, even me and you, I think we can both play alongside these two great players. "So you just need to be fit and then you play alongside them because they make everything easier for me and you!"Mane is coming to the end of his fourth year at the Reds and despite regularly being linked to clubs on the continent, he is extremely content at his current club.“I couldn't be more happy, proud to be a Liverpool player. "For sure it has been a great season, a great four years for me. "I'm really happy to be alongside my teammates, staff, everything. I'm just happy and proud to be here.Despite his undisputed status as one of the best forwards in World Football, Mane says that he is learning new elements to his game all the time."I think as a player I'm still learning.“I never stop learning and you can see me and all of the boys have been developed a lot. We are really, really happy about it. "At the same time, we never stop working harder because it has always been a dream for me to play and always getting better and better – especially to score more goals, more assists for my team and to win trophies. The realisation of being part of the squad that has ended a long title drought is still sinking in for Mane.And while he admits it is a special moment, he certainly does not want it to stop there. "Honestly, I think it has been most special for me and my teammates. "After 30 years of waiting [for] the fans, I still don't believe it. But we did it and I think it's just so special. "We are really happy and we are really proud after 30 years to be the players who win the [Premier League] trophy with Liverpool Football Club. “Hopefully more and more to come.On a sombre note, fearless captain Jordan Henderson will not be out their with his teammates after being ruled out for rest of the season with a knee injury.Mane says that blow gives them extra incentive to finish the season strongly.“Sadly it's a complicated moment for the team and for him because we love to have Hendo in the squad."He's a great person out of the pitch and on the pitch he's also a great leader. “He's always been there for his team, giving 100 per cent every single game. "For sure we would love to have him but, like I always say, it's part of football and now we're also going to be here for him morally to support and be positive with him. “I think, for sure, he will come back stronger as soon as possible."