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  1. 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
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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.
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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
  11. 1 point
    James Milner scored a double in Liverpool's 3-1 pre-season win against Bradford on Sunday, however his contribution to the day was a whole lot more meaningful than his performance on the pitch.It was a highly poignant day for individuals from both clubs as they paid homage to Stephen Darby, someone who came through the ranks at the Reds before having a distinguished career at the Bantams where he was club captain.Football is so important to so many people, but nothing is more important than your own health and so it proved when the right-back had to retire from the game he loves at just 29 when he was diagnosed with the dreadful terminal neurological condition Motor Neurone Disease.Milner was one of the main architects in making this day such a special one for all involved donating £30,000 to the Darby-Rimmer MND foundation as well as £10,000 to the Motor Neurone Disease Association.Speaking after the game, the veteran midfielder said it was the least he could do to help.The Official site reported Milner as saying:Obviously I’m in a fortunate position to help, we help some great causes and Darbs’s foundation is one of many. "How he’s conducted himself, how he is going about what he’s done, setting up the foundation, him and Steph [Houghton] together – we obviously want to help as much as we can. "We’re having another ball this year on December 1 and hopefully we can raise more funds again and some of those will be going to that again.Milner said the awful prognosis that comes with this sort of disease puts life well and truly into perspective."Football becomes secondary. We know how important it is, how much it means to people, how much it changes lives and how happy it makes people. "You see the parade after the Champions League and what it means to people. "Maybe when they’re going through hard times football gives them a bit to take their mind off it. "That’s secondary obviously to everything else and what the disease can do to people and families. "So, the more money we can raise and the awareness to learn more about it because there’s not too much that’s known about the effects and what can help it.Milner said the selfless attitude of Darby along with his nearest and dearest is something incredible to witness first hand. Incredible. I’m proud to know him. Losing his football career like he did, that’s one thing. And then dealing with the disease, having Steph around him, she’s doing incredibly as well – carrying on her football and being there for Darbs at the same time, going through it together. "(He is) thinking about himself and his family but also thinking about others in setting up the foundation and how it can help other people going forward. "He is one of the nicest guys you’ll meet. It’s unfortunate what happened. "Today shows how much everybody thinks of him, both the clubs he’s played at and all the people who have come out today. We obviously wish Stephen and his family the very best during this awfully difficult time, and it also highlights what a special guy James Milner is and how lucky we are to have him at the Reds. A true professional in Football and in life as well.
  12. 1 point
    When you think of guile and grace as a midfielder, one name that personally comes to mind is Xabi Alonso. To this day, Xabi remains in my top three all-time favourite Liverpool players for many of the qualities that will be discussed in this piece.Signed for a absolute snip at £10.7 million from Real Sociedad at the start of Rafa Benitez's tenure in the summer of 2004, the Spaniard's arrival in England was at the peak of a pre-eminent era for central midfielders in the Premier League. He joined the likes of Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard, Roy Keane, Patrick Vieira, Claude Makalele while having a pretty handy teammate in Steven Gerrard. Alonso displayed a point of difference to some of his contemporaries. While the English game was largely built on power, pace and work ethic, Alonso's brought a high level of technical skill to the forefront. The Liverpool midfield of the mid 2000s had a terrific blend. Didi Hamman and Mo Sissoko were the glue, Gerrard the talismanic figure, Luis Garcia the crafty X factor, while Alonso was the player who made the team tick. When he played well, more often than not Liverpool were on the winning side.Creating goals was the main strength of Alonso's game, however when he put the ball in the back in the net himself, he did it in style with some substance attached for good measure. Some examples included a superb free kick which helped turn round a two goal deficit against Fulham, finishing off a terrific flowing team move with aplomb against the Gunners (both were in his first few months at the club), along with scoring the vital equaliser in the Champions League final against AC Milan later that season. However it is a goal in the early part of the 2006/7 season which underlined Alonso's brilliant game sense, vision and technical quality in the one passage of play. The Reds had made a pretty miserable start to the new campaign, claiming four points from as many games which included losses to Chelsea and a galling 3-0 defeat to Everton at Goodison Park.Having scored just two goals in those four games, the Reds were desperate to kick start their season. Newcastle were the opponents for the midweek game and summer signing Dirk Kurt opened his account for his new club in the first half which was Liverpool's first goal in over 300 minutes. Alonso was at the heart of the move, playing a defence splitting ball to Steve Finnan who crossed it to the Dutchman who scored with a sliding finish.With the pressure of scoring finally off their shoulders, the confidence began to grow with the home side looking to double their lead. Their opponents were offering little threat going forward and it became a matter of when Liverpool would double their lead. Step forward the Spanish maestro.With Newcastle looking to produce a rare attack, Alonso took the ball from the feet of Charles N'Zogbia and while assessing what options were able on the counter attack, saw Magpies goalkeeper Steve Harper off his line.Alonso had a history of scoring from his own half, having done so in the third round of the FA Cup in the previous season against Luton. While that strike had a slight sense of good fortune as it took a few bobbles before going into the empty net, on this occasion he struck the ball with venom from 70 yards, taking one bounce before lodging in the back of the net giving a backpedalling Harper no chance. Anfield broke into a rapturous cheers as Alonso leaped into the arms of Pepe Reina with the goal helping secure a second home win of the season. Many players have tried to follow Alonso's lead and it can look quite ugly if not executed correctly. The ability of the Spaniard to assess the situation and get his technique right was simply sublime. In all, Alonso made 143 appearances for the Reds over five seasons contributing 15 goals. He played for the club in a time where the record in Europe was top class, but unfortunately could not find the consistency needed across a domestic campaign.Xabi's departure from the club was much like Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez in that it left a sour taste and still does to this day. There was a lot of speculation that Alonso was offput by Benitez's pursuit of Aston Villa's Gareth Barry in the summer of 2008 which ended up being a fruitless chase.There was also a wide held belief that the friction between the pair began a few months prior when Alonso missed the second leg of a Champions League quarter final clash against Inter Milan to be at the birth of his son. According to Alonso, he offered to fly out to Milan after the birth but it was refused by the manager. Alonso ended up staying for the 08/09 season, but soon after he departed to join Real Madrid.Whatever the reason, his unfortunate departure was widely felt from the fans to the players itself. Gerrard openly admitted he was devastated when Alonso left, a player who he described as the best midfielder he played with.What is a known fact is that Alonso left a indelible mark on the club, and as fans can be extremely thankful for his contribution.
  13. 1 point
    I’ve always been grateful for la sécurité sociale, as the French equivalent of the NHS is known. Some of the best general practitioners around and a plethora of specialists. They know how to deal with stress, nerves, insomnia, irregular heartbeats, etc., etc. as well as anyone. Well, at least I hope they do, because I’m going to be needing them over the next six months. I thought this would be enjoyable. But it’s not really, is it? Maybe that’s because I’m a miserable old sod or maybe it’s just a defence mechanism against the inevitable disappointment that we’ve become used to – in terms of the Title at any rate – in the last 30-odd years. Whatever it is, the “enjoyment” is ephemeral – when we go close, when we score, when I engage in a flurry of WhatsApp messages after the game. And then, when the lights go out and you’re waiting for the next game, three days later, looking at the different permutations, a thousand scenarios going through your mind, you realise that the next five months are going to be unbearable. Millions of Reds’ daily existence and possibly state of mind dictated to by what goes on during those 90 minutes… In the last few days Klopp has tried to douse the fires of optimism. And while you can’t blame him for that, you also can’t blame Reds for believing our time has come (again). Of course, there’s plenty of drivel too: I saw someone refer to us as “Champions-elect” last week. But most of the enthusiasm is justified based on a) years of pent-up hope which is looking more and more justified and b) our first half of the season. I did a piece for the site at the start of the season and I mentioned that I couldn’t believe the optimism going into a new season, mainly because we had finished 25 points behind City! To make up that gap, we would have to effectively win NINE GAMES MORE than last season, assuming they maintained their level. We are on course to do that: we’ve won 16 out of 19, as against 21 out of 38 for the whole of last season. City can only get to 100 points if they win the rest of their games. So, the optimism – with the hindsight of half a season – was well founded. I don’t know if it was blind faith in Klopp and this team or some solid reasoning or a bit of both, but whatever it was, I wish I were more like those Reds! The other reservation I had was our goals against column, as I wrote at the time: “From 1.33 goals a game conceded in his first season, we progressed to 1.10 a game in 2016-2017 and to 1 last season (2017-2018). The hope is that Alisson will finally win us points. We haven’t been able to say that for years; decades, perhaps. When was the last time we would say a keeper was worth X number of points a season to us? Often, it’s been the opposite: they’ve cost us points and more recently trophies. The plus/minus on that front will go a long way to dictating our season. I’ve said it before: Salah, Bobby and Sadio (and maybe even Daniel now!) can’t be expected to go to the well week after week. They need to know that ONE will be enough sometimes. Again, this is an area in which we’ve progressed immensely. In 2016-2017 we kept 11 clean sheets, last season we were up to 18. We’re going to need to produce those numbers this season to sustain a Title challenge and all the while be as prolific up front as we were last season.” Ask and you shall receive! Alisson has been a revelation, one or two faux pas aside, but that comes with the territory with him. Virgil has just got better with every game and has also made everyone else better. 12 clean sheets out of 19 tells its own story. We concede an average of a goal every 244 minutes, essentially a goal every three games! And we’ve managed to do all this while still averaging well over 2 goals a game. We may not be as exciting as we were last season, although there are signs that this could be changing, but we are certainly a more clinical outfit. That Klopp has managed to do all this while having to contend with numerous injuries – Trent, Joe, Lovren, Keita, Hendo and Milner have all been out at different stages – is to his eternal credit. His man management, notably of Fabinho, has been just right. And his signings have improved us – no given in terms of Liverpool managers over the years. Shaqiri was a steal and the bargain of this team. Apart from The Great Andy Robertson. I hoped at the start of the season to improve on last season’s total of 75 points. That should be doable now! But things can change very quickly. City have had a blip, one from which they could roar back. Spurs, since losing to us, have won 12 out of 14! The next month will tell a lot. If, after our next five games, we are sitting on 60 points, then I might start believing. And making medical appointments. John Brennan
  14. 1 point
    It has been a fantastic last ten days or so for the Reds. Three wins in the league and a terrific all-round (albeit wasteful) performance in securing our place in the knockout stages of the Champions League. Those performances have defined our season in a nutshell and to this point it has been a campaign to be quietly proud of. While the football hasn’t been as scintillating to watch as previous campaigns, it is clear that we are a much more balanced side and not purely dependent on one individual. If has been a credit to Jurgen and the squad that we have been able to go toe to toe with the colossus that is Man City, who if you believed the pre-season pundits, would stroll away with the league. That constant pressure along with a highly motivated Chelsea side caused them to blink first in the title race, but it has to be noted that they are still the favourites with their depth across the board. However with ever growing confidence, we certainly have the opportunity to keep pushing them all the way. If you were to highlight an area of why we have started so well, it would undoubtedly be the improvement of the defence. As we fans know all too well in the past, the back four has been a lingering black cloud over our progression as a side. While there were capable individuals in their own right, there appeared to be a real lack of belief that they could produce on a game-to-game basis. The talismanic figure of Virgil Van Dijk and the clear confidence of goalkeeper Alisson have completely transformed that mentality in a matter of months. Add those elements with the continuing growth of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson and Joe Gomez, and dependable backups in Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren, and we have arguably not had this level of depth in our defensive ranks for well over a decade. Unfortunately in the past week we have lost Gomez and his central defensive replacement Matip to long-term injuries at a crucial juncture of the season, while the immediate playing future of Alexander-Arnold is up in the air after a foot injury sustained against Napoli. The next man up is Lovren to partner the big Dutchman, but as we have noted this season, he has certainly not been immune from picking up niggling injuries of his own. With the January transfer window looming ever closer on the horizon, there is a now a fascinating discussion to be had. Do we stick with what we have and put our faith in some makeshift options for the next few weeks (e.g. Fabinho at CB which has been discussed in dispatches) or do we look to see what is around in the market place? For most teams, their mind is already set over whether they delve into the market next month or let it pass through. In an ideal world, you would be reluctant to have an interest as there isn't a whole lot of value around, and savvy clubs are likely to up their selling price knowing there will be a 'sucker' willing to pay a crazy fee. There is always the loan option, something that Klopp did early in his early tenure with Steven Caulker. While that example wouldn't classify as a success by any measure, when you are down on numbers, it is certainly wise to look at experienced reinforcements. Klopp is a big advocate for giving youth a opportunity on the big stage, but he is not the type of manager to throw the likes of Nat Phillips and Conor Masterson into the heat of the battle without some decent preparation first. Bar the Van Dijk purchase last January, the German is someone who sticks to his lot at this time of the season, which over time has caused some consternation among the fanbase. A personal opinion is that it never hurts to look around in our current situation. You don't want to look back in the off season and say - What if? It definitely doesn't have to be a world-beater, but just someone who can fill a need, taking some heat off 'big Virg' who has played all but 35 minutes in the league this season. At the end of the day Klopp is a far better person than you, I or anyone else to make a judgement. But it is always a lot of fun pretending we know best. Jason Harris
  15. 1 point
    When Steven Gerrard decided to take on the extremely daunting challenge of being manager at Rangers, he made sure to take some familiar faces north of the border with him, one of them being Liverpool academy graduate midfielder Ovie Ejaria. Ejaria is a player who seems to have been on the scene for quite a while, but the former Arsenal junior is still only 21 years old. Having spent the second half of last season on loan at Sunderland where he played 11 times, he has already made double the number of appearances for the Glasgow giants (25). In the latest instalment of our 'A view to the future series', Jason Harris caught up with lifelong Rangers fans David Brown (@sharpdiv7) and CJ Novo (@CjNovo992) to discuss in depth the impact Ovie has made in the SPL so far. What were your first impressions of Ovie Ejaria when he arrived at the club? DB- When Ejaria arrived at the club it was exciting. He was young and coming from a great club, but many times Rangers have loaned young players from top clubs in England and been let down so there was still a lot of doubt with the fans. We had heard he was a creative midfielder with good dribbling skills and he would be able to breeze through the Scottish league, but like most players Ovie found this wasn’t the case and in his first 3-5 games he really underperformed. He spent way too much time on the ball and gave it away persistently, but Steven Gerrard kept playing him. What I noticed though was even when playing bad by 85 minutes he was still fresh and the fittest on the park. It goes without saying that when you put on a Rangers shirt a lot of expectation goes along with it. How has Ovie dealt with that pressure and adapted to the Scottish Premiership in your opinion? CJ - I think the big man handles it well and seems to thrive on it. Every kick or late push he gets he seems to relish it and even sometimes welcomes the contact as he holds off players. He's been kicked a few times now and every single time he gets up and gets on with the job, his temperament has been really impressive. Along with regular first team action in the league, Rangers are battling it out on the European front. How has he performed under the bright lights of Ibrox in the Europa League? DB- One game in particular comes to mind. Rangers went over to Russia to face FC UFA knowing avoiding defeat would allow us to progress to the group stages of the Europa League. In the first 15 minutes he unleashed a curling effort from outside the box to put us 1-0 up away in Russia. Ultimately this goal put us through as we went on to concede later in the contest. In other matches he has been immense. He was a key player at home to Rapid Wien in a 3-1 victory. He gives Rangers a different dynamic, a composed midfielder who can dribble past players making them tired as they chase after him. He has the ability to play the killer pass and links up very well with Ryan Kent. What is the one key part of Ovie's game that you really like? CJ- His biggest asset is definitely his strength on the ball his ability to pick the ball up in tight areas and hold off a few opponents. He reminds me a little of (Mousa) Dembele at Spurs in the way he welcomes the challenges and looks to hold off people as he moves with the ball. In your opinion, what is the one main improvement he can make? DB- He has to keep his concentration levels high and track runners. In our 1-0 defeat to Celtic he is seen letting Oliver Ntcham run off his shoulder on a Celtic counter attack and ultimately score the winning goal. He has also said that he must get more assists and goals. Is there a performance by Ovie that stands out for you so far this season? CJ- I think his best performance so far for me was against UFA in the Europa league group stages. Playing away to a hard working team was always going to be difficult, but Ejaria really made a statement scoring a thunderous shot from outside the box bending it brilliantly into the top corner to set us on our way Constantly being on loan can end up having a negative impact on a young Footballer. With that said, how important for Ovie is it to have familiar faces like Steven Gerrard and Jon Flanagan there to keep his morale up during any difficult moments he may have during the season? DB- It is very important for him to have familiar faces around him. Flan, Stevie and Ryan Kent are key figures, but I also think he is a lad who would take great guidance from experienced pros who have experienced a lot in their careers. For example Allan MacGregor or Scott Arfield who has had Premier League experience with Burnley in the same position. He will learn from these players and I think he has gained more experience than Liverpool would have thought at this stage, because I don’t think anyone thought Rangers would get through four qualifiers to get into the Europa League group stages. Ovie will be fine and I believe he will come back to Liverpool and try his very hardest to break into that senior squad. We regularly see Premier League clubs send their young players into the Championship to gain first team experience. Do you think it is a clever move by the Liverpool hierarchy to send prospects to a club like Rangers where you have to have a sharp focus as every game is like a cup final for your opponents? CJ- I really do. Playing for a team like Rangers every performance is crucial, every game especially these days is vital to win in the league, fighting on all fronts that is what the supporters demand. So I think its a great move by Liverpool instead of sending him down to the Championship, he gets to come up and feel that pressure and demand from the fans, whilst also experiencing European football which will make him and (Ryan) Kent better players in the long run.
  16. 1 point
    While eyes are focused on the fortunes of the first team, it is also worthwhile looking at how our stars of the future are faring in their time away from the club. Rather than just looking at the statistics, we will be giving the readers a clear insight courtesy of fans who observe their progress on a game to game basis. In the first of a new series, TLW's Jason Harris caught up with Ollie Wright from @derbycountyblog to check on the progress of the Reds' Welsh Wizard, Harry Wilson... What was your first impressions of Harry Wilson when he arrived at the club? He was a really exciting signing for Derby, arriving on a season-long loan at the same time as the Chelsea starlet Mason Mount. We knew that there had been serious competition for his signature, with anyone who was anyone in the Championship bidding for him, so getting him felt like a coup and boosted feelings of optimism for the season ahead, after the arrival of new manager Frank Lampard. Have you seen steady improvements in his game from the early part of the season to now and if so what are they? Early in the season, he suffered an injury and that clearly set him back, but he's fit again and the key moment in his season so far came midway through our home game against Sheffield United. After Craig Bryson was injured, Lampard decided to bring on the attacker Tom Lawrence and shift Wilson from a wide forward role to an advanced central midfield role, alongside Mount. This allowed Wilson to exhibit his energy and willingness to press, as well as his technique. The Mount-Wilson duo, backed up by the sturdy Tom Huddlestone, was the hub of a Derby side which marched through October in deeply impressive fashion, beating then-leaders Sheffield United, whipping West Brom at the Hawthorns and outclassing Middlesbrough for long spells at the Riverside, before running Chelsea extremely close at Stamford Bridge. What is the one key aspect of Harry's game that really stands out for you? The eye-catching thing is clearly his technical quality. You'll know all about his mind-blowing free kick at Old Trafford - his ability to strike a ball is beyond question. He also scored a brilliant goal from range at West Brom and almost bagged a brace of free kicks against Birmingham, netting with one cheeky strike from an implausible angle and then rattling the post with a more straightforward strike. In your opinion, what is the one main improvement he can make? I just think for Harry, it's a case of playing as many games as possible. At the moment, he's playing centre midfield, which may not have been where he expected to play, but he is adapting well to the challenge. His ability is not in question, now it's a case of proving that he has the resilience to do it consistently throughout what will be a gruelling season. Is there a performance by Harry that stands out for you so far this season? The Manchester United goal will live long in the memory, but I think his performance as part of an outstanding team display at the Hawthorns should be picked out as the highlight to date. This was the game in which the Rams bared their teeth and demonstrated to the Championship that they have what it takes to challenge for promotion - and Wilson was key to the victory, not only scoring a rip-snorter, but also by acting as part of a devilish, high-pressing swarm which harangued the Baggies defence to death. What (if anything) has he brought to the team that wasn't noticeable to your eye last season? He's been part of a major overhaul of the squad conducted by Frank Lampard, which has brought considerably more energy, speed and technical quality. Who does he link up well with in the Derby team? His partnership in midfield with Mount has been eye-catching on and off the ball, with the duo providing the bullets for striker Jack Marriott and a rotating cast of wide forwards. What are your thoughts on how Frank Lampard has worked with Harry so far this season? I think Liverpool will be delighted with how it's going. The ideal situation, for me at least, would be for the Rams to go up and then do a fresh loan to keep Wilson at Pride Park for another season! The Championship is widely recognised one of the toughest leagues in World Football due to its competitive and attritional nature, do you think the league is perfect for academy graduates to hone their game? Without question. Last season, Wilson showed he could cut it in the Championship with Hull City, so a move to a club aiming to get promoted to the top flight was the perfect challenge for him this year and he is gaining a hell of a lot from this experience.
  17. 1 point
    When a new signing arrives at the club, there is a collective thought process about how long he will take to adapt to new coaching methods and whether the fanbase will instantly connect with him. For every Fernando Torres, Luis Suarez and Mo Salah, there is a Milan Jovanovic, Fabio Borini or Mario Balotelli where you just have a sense that they are not going to have a happy spell at the club. It may be early in his time at the club, but it is fair to say that Xherdan Shaqiri fits into the former category. The Swiss attacking midfielder signed from Stoke in the summer, has been warmly embraced by the fanbase for his all-action style and creative mindset during games. It was viewed by some onlookers that the signing of Shaqiri was the back-up plan or 'consolation price' for failing to land Nabil Fekir from Lyon. The 27 year-old may have only made 13 appearances for the club, but his performances show that he is a quality player in his own right. Having bagged his first goal for the Reds in the recent 4-1 win over Cardiff City at Anfield, those partial to online betting might be tempted to back him to follow that up with another strike against lowly Fulham this weekend. Shaqiri says that although it is a process at a new club, he is learning quickly and really enjoying his time under Jurgen Klopp. Speaking to the Official site, Shaqiri said: "The process is going very well - I think you can see that also on the pitch. I’m very happy to be here and I’m settling in very well, but I think it’s going to be much, much better the longer I settle in. "The coach has helped me a lot to improve and that’s the most important thing. Jurgen Klopp doesn't like putting undue pressure on his new signings and often takes his time to bring them into the starting lineup. Shaqiri was no different in this regard. However rather than get frustrated and downhearted, the solidly built attacker knew the plan all along. “I think you need patience always in your life, so [you need it] in football too. “I knew my time would come and I spoke a lot with the coach, with Jürgen, so it was also important for me to have good conversation. "Of course in the end the coach can only play 11 players but it was always in my mind to try when I came on to help my team, to make an impact and like I said before I am very happy with how the process is going. "I am just trying to help the team when they need me, when I play from the beginning or when I come in, to be successful.” Shaqiri has contributed three assists and one goal in four of his past five appearances for the Reds. The first time he put the ball into the back of the net as a Liverpool player against Cardiff is a memory he will never forget. “To be honest it was very special and I don’t know how to describe this feeling. "I scored goals for other big teams also, but in front of the Kop was very special for me. "It was my first goal at Anfield and it was maybe not the most beautiful goal I’ve scored but it was a good one! "It was a special one and it will always be in my heart.” A sign of an impactful player is that it is clearly noticeable when they are not on the pitch. The absence of the former Bayern Munich and Inter Milan star was telling on Tuesday night as the Reds fell to a limp defeat against Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League. It is a credit to Shaqiri that he had that kind of impact in his time at the club. Let's hope that he continues that vein of form for the foreseeable future.
  18. 1 point
    A point at Arsenal is a more than acceptable result, particularly when it extends the unbeaten start to the season, but having taken the lead the Reds will be kicking themselves they were unable to hold on. In truth though, they didn't play that well and a draw was a fair reflection of the game. With better finishing and a little more luck, however, one point would have been three. The good: The defence performed well, or at least three quarters of it did. The two centre backs were outstanding, while Andy Robertson was solid. The bad: Having looked like they were back on track after a couple of good showings against inferior opposition, the front three were poor and their final ball was back to being crap again. There were chances to exploit the space left behind the Arsenal defence but very rarely did we do it. Player ratings out of 10: GK Alisson Becker, 5 - Flapped at a cross and was fortunate that Mkhitaryan’s header sailed just wide. Then he parried another cross back into the danger area but again escaped punishment. He looked uncharacteristically shaky throughout, although there wasn’t a great deal he could have done about the goal, which was a hell of a finish. DF Trent Alexander-Arnold, 4 - Started shakily when he was caught in possession in the opening minute, and that set the tone for a below par showing. Had Lovren been fit he probably wouldn’t have started, and it’s not difficult to see why. DF Joe Gomez, 8 - Cool, calm, collected. Made a vital boock early on to deny Aubamayeng and was pretty much faultless once again. DF Virgil Van Dijk, 8.5 - Would have graded much higher had he taken one of the three great chances he had to score. Defensively imperious and a massive threat at the other end. Colossus. DF Andy Robertson, 7.5 - Effective at both ends. Strong in defence where he made several timely interventions and blocks. Going forward he brought a save out of the keeper and delivered some good crosses. MF Fabinho, 5 - He’s looked good in the slower paced games against Red Star and Cardiff, but this was a real baptism of fire for him. Never got to grips with the pace of the game. Committed several fouls and made little impression with the ball. MF Georginio Wijnaldum, 6 - I actually forgot he was on the field at one point in the second half. He did pretty well in the first half, being typically neat and tidy and using his body to shield the ball. MF James Milner, 7 - More influential in the second half than the first and bagged a rare goal from open play when he arrived late in the box and drilled in a low shot after the keeper palmed Mane’s cross into his path. FW Robert Firmino, 5.5 - Unlucky not to score with a deft chip that hit the post in the first half, but that was about as good as it got for Bobby, who ended up dropping deeper and deeper to try and get involved. No surprise when he was subbed for Shaqiri with 20 minutes left. FW Sadio Mane, 6 - Did very little in the first half aside from having a goal ruled out for offside. Involved a bit more after the break and played his part in Milner’s goal, but didn’t really go at the full back at all, which was disappointing. FW Mohamed Salah, 6 - Looked sharp early doors and gave Arsenal plenty to think about down their left, but it rarely led to anything. It always felt as though he was about to do something significant, but it just never materialised. Had a chance to play Mane clean through late on, but inexplicably passed the ball straight to the covering defender, in what was almost an exact replica of what he did at Huddersfield two weeks ago. Substitutes: FW Xherdan Shaqiri, NR -- Had one good run in behind the defence and managed to cut the ball back to Mane who shot just over, but otherwise made little impact. DF Joel Matip, NR - Replaced Salah with a minute left in stoppage time. What was the point? One of the more bizarre changes we’ve seen in years. Manager Rating: Jurgen Klopp, 6 - Went with the most sensible starting line up he could, but in hindsight either Lallana or (ideally) Shaqiri should have played instead of Fabinho, which would have allowed Wijnaldum to play in the number six role he has thrived in this season. Made a tactical switch at half time that looked like 4-4-1-1, but when the forwards aren’t on their game it doesn’t really matter what the system is.
  19. 1 point
    1. So for the first time in our history we’ve won the first seven games of a season. First time. In our history. Seven!!! Won!!! 2. PSG excepted though, we’ve barely hit third gear and today was very much in that vein. However it wasn’t about riding our luck or scraping through. We’re just very, very good and can beat most sides we face without breaking a sweat. 3. I don’t mean to imply arrogance or complacency though. We’ve been grafting constantly in every game and the third gear thing is about form rather than choice or attitude. That said, there is something hugely satisfying about us being able to experiment with the line up as we did here and still emerge as eminently comfortable winners. 4. Klopp went with Shaqiri in midfield, resting Milner in exchange, but also switched the front three around with Salah through the middle, Mané right and Bobby left (in the first half at least). It wasn’t exactly fluent and yet it led to three first half goals. He’s getting this whole squad thing eminently right so far and indeed starting to step it up at just the right time. 5. Shaqiri looked lively on his first start, working hard and linking well with his teammates. His free kick for Mo’s goal was sensational and it was disappointing that he emerged onto the bench for the second half. Hopefully that was just a precaution from Klopp with Wednesday night in mind, as he’d taken a clattering about 35 minutes in. Either way though, he was good and I’ll be disappointed if he isn’t starting when we play Chelsea in the league cup. He looks hungry, aggressive and very Kloppball-esque. For thirteen million quid. Sound. 6. Despite Klopp dipping his toes into rotation today (before no doubt fully embracing it on Wednesday night), he stuck with his front three and, while he wasn’t on fire, Mo looked sharper again. He’s now got three goals and two assists in six league games. Not bad for a lad who’s apparently out of form. He could have had more too, with what seemed a weird offside decision denying him at least the brace. 7. Virgil going off gave the crowd a wobble with The Kop noticeably more jittery afterwards. However, that was surely more testament to his universally accepted importance to the side rather than any perceived drop off on the pitch in his absence as Joe G came on and, despite playing on the other side to normal, was very Virgil-like in his composure and class on the ball. Indeed there was one moment where he shut down a Southampton break on our left flank on his own that was absolutely brilliant, stealing the ball and laying it off to Robbo (who unfortunately contrived to immediately give it away). 8. Which brings me to our joke of a captain. I mean, can you believe this? He ripped Robbo’s head off not once, but twice for that error and we all know he’s not fit to wear the armband/is a crab/never shows his teeth/(insert more random internet gobshite bollocks). All sarcasm aside, I haven’t heard a single complaint about Hendo at the match since the season he arrived under Kenny and played like a timid kid when deployed on the right. He was good again today, just like he always is, playing that cog-in-the-Kloppball-machine role to perfection. The moral of this story? We’ve got some bad blerts following us online and Hendo is boss. 9. While I’m on about the midfield, the TLW lads were all chatting before the game and Spurs’ less than stellar start was discussed in relation to their lack of signings and in the context of what ours have done for us. For all the broader rumblings about Fabinho barely featuring, people seem to be missing the impact the new signings have had on our existing midfielders. Certainly Gini and Milner have raised their games (almost unbelievably in Milner’s case after his brilliance last year) and that is exactly what happens at title winning clubs. That’s not to say we will win the title, but it’s clear that the momentum is relentlessly forward and much of it is currently the result of improvements from the more unsung players of last season. 10. So, the great start to the campaign continues apace and there’s no reason to think that can’t continue in the week. I expect we’ll see a dramatically changed side, but these players are so well drilled that I don’t envisage a problem against Chelsea on Wednesday. In fact, I think this winning run is going to be sustained up to and including City so settled and reassuringly drilled have we been. There, I’ve said it: we'll beat Chelsea and City. Come on you Reds!!! Paul Natton
  20. 1 point
    Let’s start at the beginning. How old were you when you signed for the reds? I signed as an apprentice when I was 15. I was a mad Liverpool supporter but I didn't see them play an awful lot because when I was at school I played for them in the morning and the boys club in the afternoon. When I signed at 15 the club missed out on promotion quite a few times, but you just got the feeling when Bill Shankly arrived that something special was going to happen, and it did of course. You succeeded Billy Liddell in the Liverpool side. Was he a big help to you, and did you get to know him very well as a person? Yes he was, and I did get to know him quite well. He was a lovely man and was always prepared offer advice and encouragement. Years later we were on the spot the ball panel together, so I got to know him again in later life. You were put into the side as a 17 year old, did you find that hard? No, I actually had a really good debut. Everyone helped, I had all the senior players around me and everything went well. I suppose the following season I thought to myself that I was going to be in the team, but obviously I wasn't. But I was only 17 so I had a lot of time on my side and it wasn't long before I was a regular. So you had to go back into the reserves for a while then? I did go back into the reserves, yes. They had thrown me in the 1st team towards the end of the season, and in the close season they signed a guy called Kevin Lewis from Sheffield United. Kevin played half the promotion season and I played half as well. I got a second division winners medal, but it wasn't until we got in the first division that I became a regular. For a while it seemed the reds were never going to get out of the second division. Many people say it was the arrival of St John and Yeats that proved the catalyst for the clubs rise to the top. How influential were they? Obviously Bill Shankly paid a lot of money for Ian and Big Ronnie. Well it was a lot of money in those days, about £35,000 I think it was. They came in and made a big impression. Big Ronnie at the back and Ian scoring the goals. So Bill built the team around them, and clearly they had a big influence. How good was Roger Hunt and where would you rate him in comparison to the other great strikers you've seen and played with? He's one of the best there's ever been. You look at his record, the amount of games he played and the goals he scored, and he's definitely up there with Rushy and Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen. Did having Hunt and St John up there make it easier for yourself and Peter Thompson? Yeah, we complimented each others games well. We were direct wingers and our aim was to get to the byline and cross the ball, which we did, and Roger and Ian went on to score a lot of goals. You were around when the Kop really started to make a name for itself. Do you have any specific memories about the singing or atmosphere back in those days? Well there was 28,000 people on the Kop and they always made a lot of noise. The one particular incident which stands out is a famous one, when the Leeds' goalkeeper Gary Sprake threw the ball into his own net, and the Kop started singing 'Careless Hands.' It was brilliant, very quick and clever. In 61/62 when the 2nd division title was clinched and the players had to come back out of the dressing room as the crowd wouldn't go home. What do you remember about that? I remember it was a long time ago! I don't know how long they stayed after the match, but they were just so elated that we'd got promotion. They'd missed out for a lot of years, and they were just so happy that it had finally happened. It was a really special day. Was your 1st goal against Everton in 1963-4 the best of your career? Oh God! Well I didn't score many, but I suppose it's memorable when you score against Everton in a derby match. I don't know if it was the best, but it was a special memory. I didn't score many as I say, but I got some important ones I suppose. What about the early days in Europe? It must have been exciting. We played our first game in Europe against Rejkavic, and we won over there and at Anfield. It was all a new experience playing abroad and playing against foreign players. I think that's what made Liverpool a great team to begin with, playing in Europe and picking things up from foreign sides. It definitely made us a better team. What are the most outstanding memories you have of travelling around Europe? I suppose they were all fantastic experiences, but playing in the San Siro in ‘65 was an unbelievable experience. We won 3-1 at Anfield but we got beat away and didn't get through. Another one which stands out is going to Trabzon in Turkey, when we were all in the dressing room beforehand and all the lights went out. Nobody could see what they were doing before the match, but I think that's part and parcel of their tactics. The atmosphere was electric and it was all a fantastic experience. Managers now always use midweek Euro trips as an excuse for poor league performances. You didn't travel in the luxury players do now, and you also had a much smaller squad. Did all the travelling make it more difficult for you do you feel? Well the game has changed so much now and it's a lot quicker. Even from the start we went on chartered flights and if we could get back straight after the game we did do. It all helped, because if you play midweek and you can get back early it gives you a day more to recover, especially if you've got a knock. We did really well in Europe when you think about it. When you look at the squad system clubs use these days, I wouldn't have liked it. I wanted to play every week and it would have frustrated me having to sit games out to be rested. From that point of view I don't agree with rotation. I think you play your best team and unless somebody gets injured you keep on going. Winning the FA Cup in ‘65 was a monumental achievement. How did that compare to winning the title. Winning the cup in 65 made history for the club, as they'd never won it before. For me to be part of it is brilliant because it's like you're making history for the club. I always feel as though the first time you do something, like the FA Cup or the European Cup in ‘77, it's always a special occasion when you first do it, and of all the great memories I have from my career, I'd say the ‘65 FA Cup and the ‘77 European Cup stick out because it was the first time Liverpool had ever done it. When did you first realise that Gerry Byrne had broken his collar bone? Well I didn't know during the game, I don't think any of the players did. We knew he was badly injured but we'd no idea what had happened. It was just one of those things that happened, but when I think about it, and when I look at old videos and see him playing the whole second half with a broken collar bone it shows you how hard Gerry was. He was a hard player, one of the hardest players I've ever played with. The Inter Milan home game followed shortly after Wembley, and it’s famous for Shankly ordering Byrne and Milne to take the FA Cup onto the pitch just before the game to whip up the crowd and intimidate the Italians... Yes, it was a great psychological ploy really. To take the FA Cup round, knowing we'd never won it before, against Inter Milan who at that time were the best team in the world as they'd just beaten the South American champions, well it got the fans going and made a great difference to the game. We were really up for it. Do you think the Inter players were intimidated? I don't know if they were intimidated, I mean they played in the San Siro which was a very intimidating place of course. I think they may have been surprised at the amount of noise and what was going on though. Is that the loudest you've heard Anfield? Well the Inter Milan game and the St Etienne game were the most memorable ones of my career. Great games, noisy games. But fantastic football matches. At the time did you think that the away leg of the Inter Milan tie was fixed? Well at the time you don't know whether its fixed or not, but things happened which shouldn't have happened. They kicked the ball out of Tommy Lawrence's hands from behind and then put it in the net. But we didn't win the game, we lost the tie and even though it was proven years later that the ref had taken a bung, at the time you just play the game and get on with it. It must have been sickening though? Yeah it was, because we would have been close to the final, and to get to the final of the European Cup is a great achievement, but it just wasn't meant to be. When you got injured in 1970-71 and Brian Hall took over at right midfield, did you think your Anfield time was up or did Shanks always reassure you he'd find room in the team? I had a cartilage operation and it took a long time to come back, I was out for about two months. In the meantime Brian Hall had come in on the right wing and done very well, so I knew I wasn't going to automatically get back in the team. It wasn't until a guy called John McLaughlin - a local lad and a very good player who was playing centre midfield - got injured that Shanks put me in the side in centre midfield, and I created a whole new career there. It must have been a huge shock when Shankly resigned. What are your memories of it? Well I just couldn't believe it. It was in the close season and I was on my way to the Lakes with the wife and kids, and as we left the house the phone went. My wife said leave it but I went back in and answered it. It was a guy from the Echo and he said "Have you heard the news? Bill Shankly has resigned" Obviously I couldn't believe it, but we headed off to the Lakes. I was very recognisable in those days with playing for Liverpool, so we had a weekend up at the Lakes and everyone just kept coming up to me wanting to know about Bill Shankly. Would you say there was much difference between Shankly and Paisley were in terms of how they wanted the team to play, or did Bob just carry on the way Bill left off? I don't think there was a great deal of difference really. There was a great difference in personality of course. Shanks was a great motivator and a bit of an extrovert, whereas Bob was an introvert, a very quiet man. But both got the best out of players with their own methods. But in terms of change, no, everything just continued as it did before. Same training, same way of playing, things just carried on and Bob went on to win 19 trophies in nine seasons or something. Incredible. Everyone has stories about Shankly, and I'm sure they've all been told now. But what's your favourite 'Shankly moment'? Oh there's that many stories that you hear about Shanks. They’ve all been told now I’m sure. My favourite though? I don't know really… I suppose the one which stands out for me was when he signed Alec Lindsay. Alec was one of the worst trainers there could ever be. He had a fantastic left foot, but when we were doing pre-season training Alec was probably last at everything. Then we got the ball out and were doing reserves v 1st team, and Alec wasn't showing anything at all. So one day, Shanks called him aside with Bob and said: "Listen Alec, when you were at Bury you were up having shots at goal, you were back defending, you looked a different player." So Alec said to Shanks "No, that wasn't me up and down the field, it was a guy called Davie Kerr." So Shanks says to Alec "No son, the red hair" Alec replied "Yeah, Davie Kerr had red hair" So Shanks turns to Bob and says "Jesus Christ Bob, we've signed the wrong player!" Of course Alec went on to be a great full back and had perhaps the best left foot I've seen in my life." Tell us what you remember about St Ettienne? Not a lot actually. It was a great game, a great occasion. I've seen clips of it since, but the great thing about that game of course was the David Fairclough goal. When you think about David, he scored a lot of goals but this was probably the best he ever scored. Such control, he took it brilliantly, and to do it in the heat of the moment the way he did, it was absolutely brilliant. And Rome? I said before that the first time you ever do anything its always the best, so obviously this was an unbelievable occasion. Paying in Rome, at that stadium, with so many Liverpool fans…. I've never seen so many travelling fans. It was just Liverpool's night. It was Kevin Keegan's last game, and I thought he was the best player on the pitch that night. It was a fantastic occasion in the clubs history. Who was better, Keegan or Dalglish? Oh I don't know, they were two different types of players. I suppose if you ask me who was the best player Liverpool ever had, I'd have to say Kenny Dalglish. Billy Liddell was brilliant for me, but in my time at Liverpool I'd have to say Kenny Dalglish was the best. What did the other players make of Keegan's 'superstar' status? Did it cause any problems? No, no problems. Kevin was the first player to have an agent, and he was a big, big player. Probably the biggest player since George Best in terms of being a 'superstar.' He was a smashing guy though Kevin, and everybody got on well with him, he was definiteley one of the boys. Who was the best player you played against? George Best, without a doubt. What was the best Liverpool side you played in? That’s difficult to judge, because each team has it’s own merits. There were the 60’s and the 70’s teams, I didn’t play in the 80’s. The two sides I played in were great sides, and I’d hate to say which was`better. I just feel fortunate to have played in such great teams. Was there much difference in the style of play between those sides? No I don’t think there was. Obviously Shanks was still there for the early part of the 70’s, and when Bob took over it was still the same players and we played the same way. We trained the same way too as Bob just stuck to the tried and tested. You were famously only booked once in your entire career. What do you remember about that incident? I remember it well. It was the replay in the league cup against Nottingham Forest. We’d drawn at Wembley and the replay was at Old Trafford. Pat Partridge was the referee, and he’d give a penalty against Phil Thompson, which was an awful decision. He tackled the guy about a yard outside the area. The guy fell inside the area and he gave them a penalty, which upset us. Then I just went for a ball with Peter Withe, a scouser. Anyway, the two of us went for a ball and he was a tall lad and I caught him in the chest. I think everyone was surprised when he took my name. It was unfortunate, and it’s been a talking point ever since. I think at the time Liverpool tried to get it scratched off but it wasn’t. Players now earn absolutely obscene amounts of money. Even the crap ones are millionaires. Someone as good as yourself would be making money hand over fist if you played now. Do you ever think about that? No I don’t look at it that way. I enjoyed every single minute and I think I was fortunate to be signed by Bill Shankly, who was probably the best manager ever, not just at Liverpool. I played in successful teams with great players, and the money wouldn’t have changed my life. I’ve enjoyed my life, and still am doing. I’ve had a lovely life and still do have. Being an ex-player means I still get to do interesting things, like last weekend I was in Athens as a guest of the Greek branch of the Liverpool supporters club. I’ve got my family round me, all my friends, I enjoy where I live and everything I do. So the money would have been nice, but at this particular time I look at it think it doesn’t matter to me. So you wouldn’t swap your success and medals for a less glittering career and a 50k a week pay cheque? Oh God no I wouldn’t, no. Not at all. I feel myself to be very fortunate to have played at a time when Bill Shankly arrived, we were in the second division and I was there for the whole change of Liverpool football club. History was made, and I regard myself as a part of that history because I was there for such a long time. I wouldn’t change that for any amount of money.



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