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  1. Report by Dave Usher Groundhog Day. It feels like we’ve lost every home game 1-0 for months. I actually said that to someone yesterday and they corrected me that the Derby actually ended 2-0. Not to me it didn’t. I’d blocked that second goal out because the penalty they got was so egregious. So the point remains. Every fucking home game seems to be the same now. We never score in the first half anymore and we barely score any in the second. As soon as we concede you know it’s over. We have plenty of the ball but give up more chances than we create. We usually have a bright ten minutes to start the second half but when that doesn’t produce a goal it all just fizzles out. Every. Fucking. Game. The worst part about this loss was that I absolutely expected it. We’re the Champions, we’re facing a bottom three team and I’m going into it absolutely convinced that we’ll lose. It wasn’t irrational either as there was absolutely nothing to suggest we would win the game other than wishful thinking. We’re playing so badly right now at Anfield that I don’t think we’re capable of beating anybody. I’m made up that Champions League tie has been moved because there’s definitely some kind of mental block with the players at Anfield now. Not that we’re much better away from home, but we aren’t quite as shit. I think the sight of the empty seats might just be depressing them and reminding them what they’re missing. They’re clearly feeling sorry for themselves, it’s blatantly obvious every time they go behind. It’s not that the lads aren’t trying, but they aren’t going out there with that mentality where they just refuse to lose either. Every team we come up against wants it more. Fulham wanted it more. Just like Brighton did. And Everton. And Burnley. And loads of other teams that have beaten us. I can’t even keep track now as we’re losing all the fucking time. It doesn’t matter who plays either, the performance is exactly the same regardless of personnel. You can bring in Shaq or Origi up top, Neco at full back or Keita or Ox in midfield, what does it matter? None of them are doing any better than the first choice players they’re replacing, who themselves aren’t delivering. It’s all fucked now and I don’t know how we get out of this. The hole seems too deep. Klopp doesn’t know how to get us out of it. I said that the other night but it’s just becoming more and more obvious. He just stands there, watching in stunned silence. Occasionally there’s a rueful smile when we miss a rare chance or a decision goes against us, but he was actually angrier when we were good. There are no bollockings, no calling players out publicly, he’s just backing them 100% and taking all the blame himself. Not that I’m holding that against him. Who knows what his mental state is right now after what he’s had to deal with. I’d like to see him take the fucking stick to the players instead of feeding them carrots all the time, but he must have his reasons. Some of this mess is on him but most of it is on the players. They were top at Christmas but now look at them? There’s just no way that can be pinned on Klopp. He might be unable to fix it but I’m not going to say he’s the one that broke it because he isn’t. The players’ toothless performances and general lack of fight in the face of adversity did that. And you know, I’m getting sick of hearing about how the lack of centre halves is the cause of this. Nah, it just fucking isn’t. We’re letting in one goal a game but somehow that’s enough for us to always lose. It shouldn’t be, but it is. Remember the days pre-Virgil when if we conceded three we’d go and score four? Now it takes three months to score four goals. This is just a teaser, click here to view the full report Please note that Match Reports are only available to website subscribers. Subscriptions cost just £2 a month (you need to register first) and can be purchased here.
  2. It would have been a good week if we hadn’t lost to Chelsea. But we did lose to Chelsea so now it’s another shitty week in an ever increasing list of them. The one straw to clutch is that other than City everyone else is shit too, but it’s not really much comfort given how bad we are. City beat West Ham 2-1 which was a good result for us. Two months ago I couldn’t imagine thinking that way but so much has changed since then and none of it for the better. City led through Dias but Antonio’s close range strike tied things up. Stones won it late on but Diop was within a whisker of an equaliser right at the death. West Ham gave a good account of themselves and could easily have snatched a draw with a bit of luck and some better finishing, but City’s winning streak goes on. And on. And on. They’re close to beating their all time winning run now but does anyone actually care? None of these records mean shit in empty stadiums. Call it sour grapes if you like, but this is a hill I’m prepared to die on. This isn’t proper footy and when it comes to records there should be a big asterisk next to all of it. That’s not even a dig at City. They’ve been the best team by a mile and will be deserving Champions. It isn’t their fault that it should have a huge asterisk as they can’t control these circumstances. It’s just a fact that winning all these games in empty stadiums is not as credible as doing it in front of fans. That doesn’t mean I don’t wish we were in their position because I do. So anyway, moving on. That absolute fucking clown show at West Brom then. Everyone was going mad about that and my Dad even rang me as it was happening to ask if I was watching as he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Maybe I’m just becoming hardened to it now but I wasn’t surprised and didn’t actually think it was THAT big a deal, probably because the outcome was right even if the situation itself was ludicrous. The mistake Mason made was blowing the first whistle to allow Dunk to take the free-kick while the keeper was still lining up the wall. There’s nothing in the rules to say he can’t do that but it’s really poor form and it shouldn’t happen. He realised his error and blew the whistle again just as the ball was about to cross the line. Whatever happens after that is going to leave one team majorly pissed off. VAR got involved but that was only to determine whether the ball had already crossed the line before the second whistle. I don’t really see what difference it makes as all Mason has to do is say he made a mistake, he shouldn’t have blown the whistle while the keeper was lining up the wall, and order the free-kick to be retaken. Instead he awarded the goal which pissed off West Brom and then he disallowed it which pissed off Brighton. It was kind of impressive in its own way. It’s not easy being that utterly hopeless. The simple thing to do would have been to say “I didn’t realise the keeper wasn’t ready, take it again”. Brighton wouldn’t have been happy but tough shit. They’d have been livid if it had been their keeper lining up his wall and they would have expected the goal to be disallowed. I can understand why Dunk would be annoyed because he claims he asked Mason if he could take it and he said “yes” and then blew the whistle. Dunk did nothing wrong, it’s entirely the fault of Mason, but the goal shouldn’t have stood. Kyle Bartley had a different take on it. He said Mason told him he blew the whistle not to signal that the kick could be taken, but because there was some jostling in the wall and he wanted to sort that out. I don’t doubt Bartley’s word but that’s a blatant lie by Mason. If that was why he blew the whistle why did he initially give the goal? He signalled that it was a goal and it was only when presumably VAR had a word (or he saw the look of thunder on Fat Sam’s face) that he corrected himself. So for me this was embarrassing for Mason but at least the right decision was made in the end and there was no miscarriage of justice. The exact same thing happened to us last season against Brighton. Alisson had been sent off, Adrian came on to defend the free-kick and the ref (Atkinson I think) let Dunk take it while Adrian was still lining up the wall. And you know what? Fucking nobody had any problem with it. No-one said shit except us. All the media and pundits showed no sympathy about it and the goal stood. Thankfully we won the game but frankly it was scandalous that the goal counted and that no-one seemed to care. Refs ALWAYS allow the keeper to get his wall set. It’s just how it’s always been done. Should it be the case? Maybe not. I don’t mind if they change that but it has to be right across the board. You can’t have keepers thinking they will be allowed to line up a wall only for some fucking random weirdo ref to suddenly blow his whistle and catch them out. So regardless of what the rulebook says, morally that should never have been a goal and the right outcome was reached eventually. This is just a teaser click here to view the full article Please note that PL Round Ups are only available to website subscribers. Subscriptions cost just £2 a month (you need to register first) and can be purchased here.
  3. Report by Dave Usher Probably the most disheartening thing about this was that I’m sure none of us were surprised. I actually said in a group chat before the game “I’ll be shocked if we win tonight”. Beating Sheffield United was important to stop the bleeding (albeit temporarily as it turns out) but it was never really going to have any bearing on this. It wasn’t that I envisioned us to be outplayed and lose by a few goals. That was never likely as we rarely get dominated by anyone. I expected exactly what we got because it’s the same performance we’ve seen over and over again since December. This is who we are now. A team that has a lot of the ball but who can’t score. When you actually look at the starting eleven we fielded it wasn’t THAT depleted. Of course we are missing some key players but it doesn’t look like a bad line up on paper. We’re just shit though aren’t we? And it isn’t the patched up defence that’s the problem. In fact, all of the lads who have filled in at the back this season come out of it with varying degrees of credit. They aren’t the ones that have let us down. Our problems are at the other end. Opposing keepers often don’t need to even make a save when they come up against us. Chelsea didn’t do anything special and I thought a lot of the praise they were getting was greatly exaggerated. What they did do though was what most teams are doing against us now. They nullified the front three and exposed the space we leave at the back. The truth is that it’s no longer difficult to do either. I mean shit, even Aston Villa’s fucking youth team did both for 45 minutes. Chelsea can do that easily because they have quality all over the pitch. That’s why I didn’t think we could beat them in our current state. They’re better than us. That’s just a fact. Half the league are better than us right now. More than half probably, the form guide since we smashed Palace will back that up. This is just a teaser, click here to view the full article Please note that Match Reports are only available to website subscribers. Subscriptions cost just £2 a month (you need to register first) and can be purchased here.
  4. tlw content

    Opposition View: Chelsea

    After ending their four game losing streak in the league against Sheffield United on Sunday evening, Liverpool will look to break another drought this time at home to Chelsea. The Reds have gone six league games since picking up the three points at Anfield. You have to go all the way back to the 16th of December against Tottenham since their last home win. During this bleak period, Liverpool have scored just two goals (Mane vs West Brom, Salah Penalty vs City). Their opponents this evening have been rejuvenated under the stewardship of former Borussia Dortmund and PSG manager Thomas Tuchel. Currently Chelsea have gone nine games without defeat in all competitions conceding just two goals in the process. With teams such as Man United and Leicester going through a form dip, this clash increases in its importance for both these teams and their top four prospects. Blues correspondent @writekaranwrite from @chelseaseason delivered terrific insight yet again regarding the West London outfit. Firstly what are your views on the sacking of Frank Lampard. Do you think it was the right decision or premature? It’s a difficult one to answer. I guess it all really does depend on what your goals are as a club and are you willing to be patient enough for a couple of seasons to achieve them. At the start of the season when we had this talk you asked me if Lampard was the right man for Chelsea and would the club be willing to give him more leeway when the results dry out. I definitely thought that was the case and I guess, at one point, so did the Chelsea board. Of course, the lack of results on the pitch played a part, but I think where Lampard crucially lost the plot was his lack of man-management skills. Senior players like Marcos Alonso and Antonio Rudiger were completely shunted out of the squad, while the likes of Cesar Azpilicueta, Olivier Giroud, Jorginho, Andreas Christensen, to name a few, were used sparingly. Mind you, most of these guys are veterans or have been at the club for years and, while I don’t think anyone of them actively campaigned with a "Lampard Out" sign outside Abramovich’s office, none of them would have fought for his survival either. The first thing Thomas Tuchel did upon his arrival at Chelsea is to call upon these experienced heads and the results have definitely backed up his decision. So, maybe, Lampard has the potential to carve out a great career in the near future, but these are the things one only learns from experience. I’m pretty sure he will learn from the experience and get better with age. Sackings are always a major dent in professional pride for a manager but do you think Frank will be better for the experience of managing such a big club early in his career? Oh, I definitely do! When Lampard was appointed as the Chelsea manager in 2019 after spending just one year at Derby, there was this feeling that maybe this job came too early in his career. However, the transfer ban meant that Frank could sit back, soak up the time and go about his job without the monumental pressure of being a Chelsea manager because no one expected us to compete for the titles, not even our own board. Top 4 was the bare minimum and with you guys running away with the title and blowing teams away in the process, we could just sit back and compete for the Champions Leagues spot without the usual added pressure. But spending 200 Million in a couple of months really changes the perspective of the board and the fans. Lack of pre-season, new signings failing to gel in the squad, untimely injuries, bad man-management skills, amongst other things resulted in an enormous build-up of pressure which was always leading towards the eventual sacking, as it often does at our club. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and Frank Lampard and Jody Morris would now sit back and reflect on how things could have been/should have been done and handled differently. There were plenty of positives too such as the rise of Mason Mount, Reece James, Tammy Abraham. It wasn’t all bad and Frank and co should be better off with this experience under their belt even if it arrived a touch too early. Looking at the new man on charge, what are your early impressions of Thomas Tuchel and have you noticed any changes in formation/playing style etc? My early impressions of Thomas Tuchel are very positive. He looks like a guy who wants to play on the front foot with a major share of possession and isn’t afraid to take tough decisions when need be. Everyone in the team seems to know their roles which has been highlighted time and time again during the player interviews and the Gaffer also seems to have brought back a bit of squad harmony by reinstating the senior, shunted out members back into the team and that has only helped us in a positive way. I also quite like his press conferences. Instead of sounding like a trained robot with vague replies and clichéd nonsense in front of the journalists, his answers and viewpoints are quite honest and insightful, something that I definitely admire. In terms of tactics, yeah, there have been a lot of noticeable changes. While you guys have seen us in a 4-3-3 for quite a few years (under Sarri, Lampard), we would be starting in a 3-4-3 at the Anfield on Thursday. In fact, this is how we might just line up against you guys: Mendy; Azpi, Christensen/Thiago Silva, Rudiger; Alonso, Reece James, Kante, Kovacic; Werner, Havertz, Mount. Fitness permitting, having Thiago Silva would be a major boost for Tuchel and I have a sneaky suspicion that we might just start with Havertz as the false 9 and use Kai and Werner’s runs to disrupt the back line of Liverpool, although we haven’t done it before, so we’ll see. Having Giroud go up against Kabak could be another possibility. Watching the last few games, Kabak seems to have a problem dealing with the long balls and crosses and with so many forced changes at the back, communication gaps/problems do arise, something that Giroud can exploit. Apart from that, we play with a lot more possession than we did before. However, the biggest tactical change we’ve had under Tuchel is we don’t attack with as many players as we did under Lampard (both of our no.6 stay outside the opposition box to manage the counter-attacking threat), hence we don’t score many goals (or concede as many either). There are also a lot more tactical fouls in us now, which, no doubt, won’t go down well with you guys. And what else? Keep an eye on our Right Wing. Most of our attack will feature Reece James or Callum Hudson-Odoi (whoever starts) taking on the guys and delivering crosses and cut-backs into the box. The lack of fans in stadiums is certainly a negative aspect of the game at present. But in terms of a new manager in a new league, do you feel this can help Tuchel get his message across without the usual pressure from supporters? 100%. I think most of our fan base was unhappy with the sacking of Frank and they would have definitely let it be known in a stadium full of supporters. While it is no way Tuchel’s fault, I think he would have found it pretty hard to cope with that kind of mutiny. It could have impacted, not only him, but also the performance of the players who have found it easier to focus and regroup under a new manager and start from scratch instead of having that extra pressure of facing 40,000 fans up to twice a week after Lampard’s sacking. It’s been more than a month now. The squad seems to have settled in under the new manager, we haven’t lost yet, the win against Spurs and Atletico Madrid have been massive and we are sitting on the thereabouts of top 4. I think all of these factors have really helped Tuchel get his message across to the squad and things should be much rosier once the fans are allowed back into the stadium. Kai Havertz and Timo Werner came to the Premier League with much fanfare. It is never easy to come to a new league and perform instantly so how have you seen their first season to this point? Certainly not what the fans expected, but for different reasons really. Kai Havertz has been rather unfortunate since his arrival to Stamford Bridge. The 21-year-old arrived at Chelsea with no pre-season under his belt and struggled to hit the ground running. He did score a hat-trick in the EFL Cup and seemed to be getting back on track before he was hit by Covid-19 which set him back for another month. He returned in December under Frank, but since then has been hampered by minor injuries and niggles and is yet to play a major part under Thomas Tuchel. The good news, however, is that he has been fit and training for the last few days and is in contention to start on Thursday. My assessment: Definitely not a season Kai or the Chelsea fans expected after investing 70 odd millions, but I've seen enough of him to say that he's a supremely talented player with great footballing intelligence and has got everything to succeed at the highest level. I have high hopes for him and he should be given a run of games before the pundits and fans crucify him and label him a failure. Timo Werner has been a completely different story, though. The German actually hit the ground running and scored a bunch of goals, which coincided with Chelsea's great run at the start of the season. Then something happened, Timo forgot his shooting boots and started missing everything, easy goals, sitters, you name it. There have been no fitness issues, language problems or anything else that points to this sudden run of barren form, but it has been as simple and mind-boggling as that, easy misses, loss of confidence, rinse and repeat. Frank Lampard looked for solutions to get him back to his best and got sacked trying. The arrival of Thomas Tuchel did give him new energy, a new starting point, though, and the German is starting to look like he's getting his confidence back, although the goals still have been few and far in between. My assessment of Timo: He looks like a confidence player who scores goals in bunches until he doesn't. Although, to his credit, there have been no sulking or hiding on the pitch. He runs, sprints, tries harder than most would, but it's obvious that there are some major flaws in his game when the opposition sits back deep and there are no spaces for him to exploit and run into. These things need to be addressed for him to become a consistent threat for Chelsea. Like many players, Christian Pulisic has had a stop-start campaign due to injury. Do you think working with his old boss from his Dortmund days will be able to bring the best out of the youngster on a consistent basis? This was supposed to be the breakthrough season for Christian Pulisic after ending the previous season on a high. The 5-3 loss against Liverpool last season where he came off the bench and completely changed the game comes to mind, but here we are, yet again, with Pulisic and his constant injury problems. There's no doubt that the American has got the talent and skill to succeed. We've already seen that in flashes. The arrival of Thomas Tuchel should only help him, but it has never been his talent that has been in doubt. It's the question of him keeping himself fit to get a run of games, get his rhythm back and start producing week in week out. I don't know how Tuchel will be able to get the best out of him until Pulisic and the medical team sort out his injury woes. From some future stars of the game to someone who is like a fine French wine and just getting better with age in Olivier Giroud. Has he suddenly turned into one of your most important players? Olivier Giroud is one of those players from whom you know what you are going to get and then he delivers exactly that which is a rare feat in a team with a lot of inconsistent performers. If I'm being honest, Olivier Giroud and Christian Pulisic were the reasons we managed to finish in the top 4 after the project restart under Lampard. A lot of the Chelsea fans, including me, assumed that the Frenchman would have a major role to play under Frank this season and it surprised a lot of us when that wasn't the case. Tammy Abraham, for all his qualities, still hasn't got what it takes to start week in and week out for us. Timo Werner delivered, then struggled, and then continued to struggle badly. Maybe, that was the hint Frank should have taken and given more opportunities to the experienced head and dressing room leaders, Giroud definitely being one of them! But Lampard demanded a specific style of play, which demanded the Striker to continuously make runs behind the opposition defence. Giroud hasn't got the pace to do that and was overlooked yet again. Thomas Tuchel has definitely identified his qualities and seems to tweak his tactics to accommodate his skillsets with the wingbacks providing crosses and cut backs for the Frenchman time and time again, while Giroud also using his strength and hold up play to bring Mason Mount and Timo Werner into the game, which suits us perfectly for the time being. Is Giroud one of our most important players? Definitely. He seems to be getting better with age because he focuses on what works for him and doesn't try to change his game anymore. He's 34. That time is gone. You know what you are going to get from him and, more often than not, he delivers. The last time these two teams met at Anfield, it was an occasion that no one associated with Liverpool will ever forget with the presentation of the Premier League trophy. Around seven months later and things look a little different. Are you still wary of playing the Reds at Anfield despite their current winless streak at home? We would be fools not to. I’ve got a massive respect for Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp and Michael Edwards and for what (and the way) they have achieved in such a short time. Liverpool are still the defending Champions. The injury problems have impacted you guys badly and I think a lot of the criticisms, especially from Gary Neville and Roy Keane, have been baseless and plain stupid. In fact, I struggle to think of any things Roy Keane says that actually make any sense. The 5-3 game last time was a special occasion for Liverpool and you guys fully deserved to lift the Premier League trophy, but things have taken a wrong turn for both of us since then, really. There's still the Champions League to aim for, so there's that! Yes, I'm still wary of playing Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool at Anfield, though there is more hope this time that we can aim for the three points. We have seen plenty of games between the top six become extremely dour affairs during this lockdown season. These two teams have plenty of attacking talent on display so hopefully we will get plenty of goalmouth action. What is your overall prediction? Both of the teams have plenty of attacking talent and, no doubt, we will get some entertaining action on Thursday night, but I doubt we would get a goalfest like we did the last time at Anfield. The arrival of Thomas Tuchel has turned us into a much more organised team at the back and we have conceded just 2 goals under the German's tenure, one of those being an own goal. I still think it will be an entertaining game with both teams having spells of dominance and looking threatening on the transition. It's a tough one to call. With a Champions League berth on the line, both teams will go for a win. Let's see, I've seen enough mistakes at the back from the Reds in the last few games to give us a slight edge. It might be the first time in a few years, but I'm calling it a 0-1 win for the visitors.
  5. tlw content

    Opposition View: Chelsea

    After ending their four game losing streak in the league against Sheffield United on Sunday evening, Liverpool will look to break another drought this time at home to Chelsea. The Reds have gone six league games since picking up the three points at Anfield. You have to go all the way back to the 16th of December against Tottenham since their last home win. During this bleak period, Liverpool have scored just two goals (Mane vs West Brom, Salah Penalty vs City). Their opponents this evening have been rejuvenated under the stewardship of former Borussia Dortmund and PSG manager Thomas Tuchel. Currently Chelsea have gone nine games without defeat in all competitions conceding just two goals in the process. With teams such as Man United and Leicester going through a form dip, this clash increases in its importance for both these teams and their top four prospects. Blues correspondent @writekaranwrite from @chelseaseason delivered terrific insight yet again regarding the West London outfit. Firstly what are your views on the sacking of Frank Lampard. Do you think it was the right decision or premature? It’s a difficult one to answer. I guess it all really does depend on what your goals are as a club and are you willing to be patient enough for a couple of seasons to achieve them. At the start of the season when we had this talk you asked me if Lampard was the right man for Chelsea and would the club be willing to give him more leeway when the results dry out. I definitely thought that was the case and I guess, at one point, so did the Chelsea board. Of course, the lack of results on the pitch played a part, but I think where Lampard crucially lost the plot was his lack of man-management skills. Senior players like Marcos Alonso and Antonio Rudiger were completely shunted out of the squad, while the likes of Cesar Azpilicueta, Olivier Giroud, Jorginho, Andreas Christensen, to name a few, were used sparingly. Mind you, most of these guys are veterans or have been at the club for years and, while I don’t think anyone of them actively campaigned with a "Lampard Out" sign outside Abramovich’s office, none of them would have fought for his survival either. The first thing Thomas Tuchel did upon his arrival at Chelsea is to call upon these experienced heads and the results have definitely backed up his decision. So, maybe, Lampard has the potential to carve out a great career in the near future, but these are the things one only learns from experience. I’m pretty sure he will learn from the experience and get better with age. Sackings are always a major dent in professional pride for a manager but do you think Frank will be better for the experience of managing such a big club early in his career? Oh, I definitely do! When Lampard was appointed as the Chelsea manager in 2019 after spending just one year at Derby, there was this feeling that maybe this job came too early in his career. However, the transfer ban meant that Frank could sit back, soak up the time and go about his job without the monumental pressure of being a Chelsea manager because no one expected us to compete for the titles, not even our own board. Top 4 was the bare minimum and with you guys running away with the title and blowing teams away in the process, we could just sit back and compete for the Champions Leagues spot without the usual added pressure. But spending 200 Million in a couple of months really changes the perspective of the board and the fans. Lack of pre-season, new signings failing to gel in the squad, untimely injuries, bad man-management skills, amongst other things resulted in an enormous build-up of pressure which was always leading towards the eventual sacking, as it often does at our club. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and Frank Lampard and Jody Morris would now sit back and reflect on how things could have been/should have been done and handled differently. There were plenty of positives too such as the rise of Mason Mount, Reece James, Tammy Abraham. It wasn’t all bad and Frank and co should be better off with this experience under their belt even if it arrived a touch too early. Looking at the new man on charge, what are your early impressions of Thomas Tuchel and have you noticed any changes in formation/playing style etc? My early impressions of Thomas Tuchel are very positive. He looks like a guy who wants to play on the front foot with a major share of possession and isn’t afraid to take tough decisions when need be. Everyone in the team seems to know their roles which has been highlighted time and time again during the player interviews and the Gaffer also seems to have brought back a bit of squad harmony by reinstating the senior, shunted out members back into the team and that has only helped us in a positive way. I also quite like his press conferences. Instead of sounding like a trained robot with vague replies and clichéd nonsense in front of the journalists, his answers and viewpoints are quite honest and insightful, something that I definitely admire. In terms of tactics, yeah, there have been a lot of noticeable changes. While you guys have seen us in a 4-3-3 for quite a few years (under Sarri, Lampard), we would be starting in a 3-4-3 at the Anfield on Thursday. In fact, this is how we might just line up against you guys: Mendy; Azpi, Christensen/Thiago Silva, Rudiger; Alonso, Reece James, Kante, Kovacic; Werner, Havertz, Mount. Fitness permitting, having Thiago Silva would be a major boost for Tuchel and I have a sneaky suspicion that we might just start with Havertz as the false 9 and use Kai and Werner’s runs to disrupt the back line of Liverpool, although we haven’t done it before, so we’ll see. Having Giroud go up against Kabak could be another possibility. Watching the last few games, Kabak seems to have a problem dealing with the long balls and crosses and with so many forced changes at the back, communication gaps/problems do arise, something that Giroud can exploit. Apart from that, we play with a lot more possession than we did before. However, the biggest tactical change we’ve had under Tuchel is we don’t attack with as many players as we did under Lampard (both of our no.6 stay outside the opposition box to manage the counter-attacking threat), hence we don’t score many goals (or concede as many either). There are also a lot more tactical fouls in us now, which, no doubt, won’t go down well with you guys. And what else? Keep an eye on our Right Wing. Most of our attack will feature Reece James or Callum Hudson-Odoi (whoever starts) taking on the guys and delivering crosses and cut-backs into the box. The lack of fans in stadiums is certainly a negative aspect of the game at present. But in terms of a new manager in a new league, do you feel this can help Tuchel get his message across without the usual pressure from supporters? 100%. I think most of our fan base was unhappy with the sacking of Frank and they would have definitely let it be known in a stadium full of supporters. While it is no way Tuchel’s fault, I think he would have found it pretty hard to cope with that kind of mutiny. It could have impacted, not only him, but also the performance of the players who have found it easier to focus and regroup under a new manager and start from scratch instead of having that extra pressure of facing 40,000 fans up to twice a week after Lampard’s sacking. It’s been more than a month now. The squad seems to have settled in under the new manager, we haven’t lost yet, the win against Spurs and Atletico Madrid have been massive and we are sitting on the thereabouts of top 4. I think all of these factors have really helped Tuchel get his message across to the squad and things should be much rosier once the fans are allowed back into the stadium. Kai Havertz and Timo Werner came to the Premier League with much fanfare. It is never easy to come to a new league and perform instantly so how have you seen their first season to this point? Certainly not what the fans expected, but for different reasons really. Kai Havertz has been rather unfortunate since his arrival to Stamford Bridge. The 21-year-old arrived at Chelsea with no pre-season under his belt and struggled to hit the ground running. He did score a hat-trick in the EFL Cup and seemed to be getting back on track before he was hit by Covid-19 which set him back for another month. He returned in December under Frank, but since then has been hampered by minor injuries and niggles and is yet to play a major part under Thomas Tuchel. The good news, however, is that he has been fit and training for the last few days and is in contention to start on Thursday. My assessment: Definitely not a season Kai or the Chelsea fans expected after investing 70 odd millions, but I've seen enough of him to say that he's a supremely talented player with great footballing intelligence and has got everything to succeed at the highest level. I have high hopes for him and he should be given a run of games before the pundits and fans crucify him and label him a failure. Timo Werner has been a completely different story, though. The German actually hit the ground running and scored a bunch of goals, which coincided with Chelsea's great run at the start of the season. Then something happened, Timo forgot his shooting boots and started missing everything, easy goals, sitters, you name it. There have been no fitness issues, language problems or anything else that points to this sudden run of barren form, but it has been as simple and mind-boggling as that, easy misses, loss of confidence, rinse and repeat. Frank Lampard looked for solutions to get him back to his best and got sacked trying. The arrival of Thomas Tuchel did give him new energy, a new starting point, though, and the German is starting to look like he's getting his confidence back, although the goals still have been few and far in between. My assessment of Timo: He looks like a confidence player who scores goals in bunches until he doesn't. Although, to his credit, there have been no sulking or hiding on the pitch. He runs, sprints, tries harder than most would, but it's obvious that there are some major flaws in his game when the opposition sits back deep and there are no spaces for him to exploit and run into. These things need to be addressed for him to become a consistent threat for Chelsea. Like many players, Christian Pulisic has had a stop-start campaign due to injury. Do you think working with his old boss from his Dortmund days will be able to bring the best out of the youngster on a consistent basis? This was supposed to be the breakthrough season for Christian Pulisic after ending the previous season on a high. The 5-3 loss against Liverpool last season where he came off the bench and completely changed the game comes to mind, but here we are, yet again, with Pulisic and his constant injury problems. There's no doubt that the American has got the talent and skill to succeed. We've already seen that in flashes. The arrival of Thomas Tuchel should only help him, but it has never been his talent that has been in doubt. It's the question of him keeping himself fit to get a run of games, get his rhythm back and start producing week in week out. I don't know how Tuchel will be able to get the best out of him until Pulisic and the medical team sort out his injury woes. From some future stars of the game to someone who is like a fine French wine and just getting better with age in Olivier Giroud. Has he suddenly turned into one of your most important players? Olivier Giroud is one of those players from whom you know what you are going to get and then he delivers exactly that which is a rare feat in a team with a lot of inconsistent performers. If I'm being honest, Olivier Giroud and Christian Pulisic were the reasons we managed to finish in the top 4 after the project restart under Lampard. A lot of the Chelsea fans, including me, assumed that the Frenchman would have a major role to play under Frank this season and it surprised a lot of us when that wasn't the case. Tammy Abraham, for all his qualities, still hasn't got what it takes to start week in and week out for us. Timo Werner delivered, then struggled, and then continued to struggle badly. Maybe, that was the hint Frank should have taken and given more opportunities to the experienced head and dressing room leaders, Giroud definitely being one of them! But Lampard demanded a specific style of play, which demanded the Striker to continuously make runs behind the opposition defence. Giroud hasn't got the pace to do that and was overlooked yet again. Thomas Tuchel has definitely identified his qualities and seems to tweak his tactics to accommodate his skillsets with the wingbacks providing crosses and cut backs for the Frenchman time and time again, while Giroud also using his strength and hold up play to bring Mason Mount and Timo Werner into the game, which suits us perfectly for the time being. Is Giroud one of our most important players? Definitely. He seems to be getting better with age because he focuses on what works for him and doesn't try to change his game anymore. He's 34. That time is gone. You know what you are going to get from him and, more often than not, he delivers. The last time these two teams met at Anfield, it was an occasion that no one associated with Liverpool will ever forget with the presentation of the Premier League trophy. Around seven months later and things look a little different. Are you still wary of playing the Reds at Anfield despite their current winless streak at home? We would be fools not to. I’ve got a massive respect for Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp and Michael Edwards and for what (and the way) they have achieved in such a short time. Liverpool are still the defending Champions. The injury problems have impacted you guys badly and I think a lot of the criticisms, especially from Gary Neville and Roy Keane, have been baseless and plain stupid. In fact, I struggle to think of any things Roy Keane says that actually make any sense. The 5-3 game last time was a special occasion for Liverpool and you guys fully deserved to lift the Premier League trophy, but things have taken a wrong turn for both of us since then, really. There's still the Champions League to aim for, so there's that! Yes, I'm still wary of playing Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool at Anfield, though there is more hope this time that we can aim for the three points. We have seen plenty of games between the top six become extremely dour affairs during this lockdown season. These two teams have plenty of attacking talent on display so hopefully we will get plenty of goalmouth action. What is your overall prediction? Both of the teams have plenty of attacking talent and, no doubt, we will get some entertaining action on Thursday night, but I doubt we would get a goalfest like we did the last time at Anfield. The arrival of Thomas Tuchel has turned us into a much more organised team at the back and we have conceded just 2 goals under the German's tenure, one of those being an own goal. I still think it will be an entertaining game with both teams having spells of dominance and looking threatening on the transition. It's a tough one to call. With a Champions League berth on the line, both teams will go for a win. Let's see, I've seen enough mistakes at the back from the Reds in the last few games to give us a slight edge. It might be the first time in a few years, but I'm calling it a 0-1 win for the visitors. View full article
  6. Seven players who were then on the books at Liverpool were selected for the last World Cup, but (injuries permitting) there are set to be even more Kop idols appearing at the Euro 2020 finals this summer. From defensive dynamos to midfield maestro's, which Anfield favourites can you look forward to seeing on international duty at this upcoming tournament held throughout Europe? Let's take a look. Jordan Henderson Reds skipper Henderson is also England vice-captain behind Harry Kane. Although competition for places in the Three Lions midfield is strong, "Hendo" is very much a senior player for Gareth Southgate around which there's a youthful feel to the national team who are hoping to go all the way with the semi's and final held at Wembley. Virgil van Dijk The Netherlands have been in the international football doldrums for a few years, but will return to the big stage at Euro 2020. National captain Van Dijk is obviously a key player for club and country in central defence but he faces a race against time to recover from ACL surgery and currently he must be rated as a big doubt. FAB Virgil! Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain Back to England and midfielders; Southgate and Jurgen Klopp alike have shown real faith in Oxlade-Chamberlain despite his injury record. If he can stay fit, then a Euros squad berth beckons for "the Ox". After all his problems, who could begrudge him that? Georginio Wijnaldum Dutch midfielder Wijnaldum is another key part of their setup under former Everton boss Ronald Koeman. The Netherlands could be a force again thanks to the presence of both "Gini" and Van Dijk in the spine of their side. Trent Alexander-Arnold Anfield academy product Alexander-Arnold is in with a real shout of being England's first-choice right back at the Euros. After helping them qualify for the finals so impressively, he can play a big part in fulfilling the promise that England hold as they head into this summer’s tournament. Xherdan Shaqiri Although he's largely been on the fringes at Anfield since a cut-price move from relegated Stoke City, Swiss star Shaqiri is surely too classy to miss out on a fifth senior international tournament with his country. Joe Gomez The England players from Liverpool just keeping on coming. Defender Gomez has certainly been part of Southgate's plans. It's to be hoped that the defender has put a spat with former Reds winger Raheem Sterling while on international duty, behind him come the Euros. Like Van Dijk, he also faces a race against time to overcome a serious knee injury. Divock Origi Like Shaqiri, Belgium forward Origi hasn't always found first-team opportunities easy to come by at Anfield. He has still managed to make an impact off the bench, however. Origi does have the prolific Romelu Lukaku ahead of him in the international pecking order, but hopes to be on their Euros roster. Harry Wilson Wales winger Wilson is on loan from Liverpool at Cardiff for this season, but that still counts! After helping the Dragons qualify for a second consecutive European Championship, this ex-Derby County loanee is in line for a first taste of international tournament football under Ryan Giggs. Betting on Euro 2020 Like any major tournament in the game of football, the interest around the betting for Euro 2020 is extremely popular, especially with England heading into the summer with high hopes of going far. According to the latest freebets.com's Euro 2020 Betting Odds, England are actually favourites with some bookies at 5/1, with other firms having them heading the market with Belgium. However, World Cup holders France are in there at 6/1, which may come as some surprise considering their excellent performance on home soil in 2018. Further down the betting, prolific tournament specialists Germany are 8/1 alongside Spain, while holders Portugal are as big as 12/1 with some bookmakers.
  7. Report by Dave Usher Yeah I’ll take that all day. When I saw our line up before kick off I’d have snatched your hand off for any kind of win. The performance didn’t matter too much, we just needed the points. As it turned out we got both. It’s funny because prior to the game I was getting wound right up by Souness and especially Keane. It felt like Keane was setting it up to go off on one if we lost. He was talking like there is absolutely no way we should be losing the game and there was no context applied to anything he was saying. Lack of confidence due to four defeats on the spin, half a team out injured, ill or in bereavement. We had a makeshift centre back pairing, we had our third choice keeper in goal and even our midfield was missing two of the three first choice players. Yet Keane is giving it the “stop making excuses about injuries, you’re Liverpool Football Club. Sheffield United have lost twenty games this season. Just go out and dominate them”. It pissed me right off, especially as he seemed to have forgotten that the Blades recently beat Manchester United at Old Trafford. As it turns out though it panned out exactly the way Keane said it should do and by the end of the game I was thinking “yeah losing to them really shouldn’t have been a concern at all”. We dominated. We created far more chances than they did and in the end the win was comfortable. It was a good performance blighted only by some erratic finishing. You’re not going to convert every chance you create but we should be converting more than we did here, and more than we do in general. It turned out fine though because we converted one and we got a rare stroke of good fortune on the other. This is just a teaser, click to view the full article Please note that Match Reports are only available to website subscribers. Subscriptions cost just £2 a month (you need to register first) and can be purchased here.
  8. tlw content

    Opposition View: Sheffield United

    After a rare week off from competitive action, Sunday night sees Liverpool look to end a stretch of four consecutive defeats in the league as they visit Sheffield United. Liverpool and the Blades were undeniably the two standout storylines from the 2019/20 season. Liverpool by ending a three-decade wait for league glory while Sheffield United surprised everyone by showing remarkable poise to deservedly finish in the top 10 in their first season back in the Premier League for over a decade. While last season was a dream, undoubtedly this has been a nightmare for both teams. They will each fall well short of their pre-season goals for various reasons, which have been well documented. Whenever approached to take part in this series, the crew from @Blades_Mad have been extremely accommodating and honest about their team, which in turn gives a great insight to our readers. While it looks likes they will be heading back to the Championship after this season, hopefully it wont be too long before we cross paths once again in the top flight. In your view, what are the specific areas that have dropped off for Sheffield United this season? Great question. One that is difficult to answer in some respects. But I’ll give it a go! A big one, and I’m sure Liverpool fans can vouch for this, but we miss the crowds so much. Bramall Lane has been a cauldron of noise during Chris Wilder’s tenure, none more so than during our time in the Premier League. We miss the home faithful so much. so that’s that one out of the way. Again, one that I’m sure you can relate to, we’ve had injuries to major players in our squad. Jack O’Connell out for basically the season, then we’ve had the likes of Berge, Egan, Fleck and Stevens missing for large periods - arguably the heartbeat of our team right there. We lost Dean Henderson back to his parent club Manchester United. That’s taken a lot of adapting to and Aaron Ramsdale has found it difficult this season, but equally so have the majority of our other new signings. Rhian Brewster, who you’ll know really well of course, is yet to get off the mark for the Blades, although he has only started sporadically under Chris Wilder. Our summer recruitment has proved to be bit of a stinker to be honest, and it’s left us fielding sides which are pretty much like for like from last season when players are fit. How that can happen after another summer of spending raises serious questions and is probably a major factor into where we lie in the league table. Chris Wilder received strong support from the owners recently and in a Football sense that is fantastic to see. Do you get the feeling that despite the challenging season he has the supporters still onside and do they accept that relegation is highly likely? Firstly, yes we have accepted the relegation IS going to happen, not likely. You’ll be hard pushed to find many, if any, who believe we can pull off the miracle of all miracles and survive. Even Chris Wilder himself last week admitted as much after our defeat at Fulham. And yes, Wilder has the vast majority of the Blades faithful on his side. Whilst he cannot be immune from constructive scrutiny and criticism this season (which is fair although some would even dispute that), he is still definitely the right man for Sheffield United. He has some huge credit in the bank, and rightly so he should be here next season. He’s the best man for the job. Most Blades are still behind the man that gave us our football club back, despite this torrid season. With where you are currently placed, do you have a sense of frustration that you are so adrift at the bottom that you can’t drag teams down into the relegation scrap? Of course. We had a slight spurt of results last month, beating Manchester United on their own patch, and also wins against Newcastle and West Brom, but we continue to set records for the wrong reasons. We thought we might have a slight sniff a few weeks ago, but results from those above us (such as Burnley and Brighton winning at Anfield - thanks guys haha!), and then coupled with our back to back losses at West Ham and Fulham respectively, has put the final nail in the coffin I’m afraid. With that said, the bounce back is usually more important than the fall. What will be biggest lesson to take out of this season that will see you return to that extremely confident team from the 2019/20 season? Another great question. Probably the recruitment side of the football club. We have unearthed many gems in Chris Wilder’s time as manager, such as John Fleck and David McGoldrick on frees, Jack O’Connell for a few hundred grand and John Egan for four million, but as previously alluded to, our summer signings have proved to be extremely questionable, and we feel like we’ve had to settle for second choice on many of the signings for one reason or another (such as Villa offering better packages to players such as Cash and Watkins). Hopefully the lads who signed in the summer and haven’t hit it off yet can fire on all cylinders in the Championship next season. You’d have hoped we would have a strong side for that division should we keep the bulk of the squad together (which we should). But yeah, better recruitment, perhaps a more vast and varied strategy where we explore different markets instead of paying over the odds for home-grown talent. How enjoyable has the FA Cup been as a respite from the league? I wouldn’t call it enjoyable to be frank. We got our first win of the season against Bristol Rovers in January (narrowly, mind you), and another tight win at home to Plymouth. And then, yes you guessed it, another close game with Bristol City, which we won by a single goal also. But in terms of getting to consecutive FA Cup Quarter-Finals, yeah that’s something the club can be proud of. We have Chelsea in the next round away from home. If we manage to progress through that tie I will be starting to think our name might just be on the trophy after all haha! Which Blades player(s) have you developed a new level of respect for due to their performance in this tough season? Probably the usual suspects such as John Egan and Chris Basham. But I’m going to go for David McGoldrick. He seems to be the only one scoring, although still quite infrequently, but he’s begun to add goals to his game. Just what was missing from his outstanding campaign last season. Jayden Bogle had also been a great attacking threat down that right hand side, and looks a breath of fresh air, so a special mention to him. Liverpool and Sheffield United more than a lot of PL clubs feed off their fans to go that extra mile. How hard has it been feeling helpless watching them struggle and on a positive note what will the emotions be like walking into Bramall Lane on match day again? As I mentioned earlier in this piece, I’d go as far to say that Sheffield United and Liverpool miss their fans more than any other club in the Premier League. What I would say in respect to ourselves, the importance of 30,000 Blades fans behind the team gives them that extra lift, but even more so when we’re up against sides who pound for pound just have better players. No skirting around it, the majority of teams we come up against in this league are far better than us, so to try and level that out a bit when teams visit Bramall Lane, the crowd really can be that twelfth man. Cannot wait to get inside Bramall Lane, hopefully sooner rather than later. The start of next season I’m pinning my hopes on. Yes, we may have been fighting for a European spot the last time we were inside the Lane, but starting the season afresh in the Championship is something that we have to embrace and do the best we can and try and make a swift return - with a packed Bramall Lane! The Reds have certainly had their difficulties so far in 2021. Even though you are in a similar boat in terms of confidence levels, do you feel you have the ability to make it an uncomfortable evening for the reigning champions? Do we have the ability? Hmmm. Probably. But do I think we will? Not really. We’ve been losing with barely a whimper recently, despite some of the tight scorelines. I will be shocked if Liverpool don’t get back to winning ways here on Sunday night, given our form, and lack of first choice players available. It’s a battle between the most patched up defences in Premier League history, you’d have to say! The difference is, you have Mane, Firmino and Salah up top! Chris and Jurgen have not seen eye to eye on a few matters this season. But they are cut from the same cloth when it comes to the staunch support of their players and the game as a whole. Do you envisage a nice glass of wine (or two) after the game to settle any differences? For sure, I can see that. Chris Wilder spoke on Friday about his admiration for Jurgen, and the Liverpool boss has done the same for Wilder in the past. I do think it became a little personal earlier in the season and a tad childish from Klopp, throwing a few cheap digs in here and there, but Chris Wilder gives it as good as he’s got also! As you say, they’re cut from the same cloth. Nothing wrong with a bit of honesty and war of words between managers sometimes, but I’m sure they will have pre and post match pleasantries at Bramall Lane on Sunday night! Have you have a prediction for this clash? 0-2 Liverpool. We won’t keep a clean sheet, and we most probably won’t score either. A comfortable night for the Reds. Hope I’m wrong of course! Be nice to say we’ve beaten Manchester United and Liverpool in what has otherwise been a forgettable season.
  9. After a rare week off from competitive action, Sunday night sees Liverpool look to end a stretch of four consecutive defeats in the league as they visit Sheffield United. Liverpool and the Blades were undeniably the two standout storylines from the 2019/20 season. Liverpool by ending a three-decade wait for league glory while Sheffield United surprised everyone by showing remarkable poise to deservedly finish in the top 10 in their first season back in the Premier League for over a decade. While last season was a dream, undoubtedly this has been a nightmare for both teams. They will each fall well short of their pre-season goals for various reasons, which have been well documented. Whenever approached to take part in this series, the crew from @Blades_Mad have been extremely accommodating and honest about their team, which in turn gives a great insight to our readers. While it looks likes they will be heading back to the Championship after this season, hopefully it wont be too long before we cross paths once again in the top flight. In your view, what are the specific areas that have dropped off for Sheffield United this season? Great question. One that is difficult to answer in some respects. But I’ll give it a go! A big one, and I’m sure Liverpool fans can vouch for this, but we miss the crowds so much. Bramall Lane has been a cauldron of noise during Chris Wilder’s tenure, none more so than during our time in the Premier League. We miss the home faithful so much. so that’s that one out of the way. Again, one that I’m sure you can relate to, we’ve had injuries to major players in our squad. Jack O’Connell out for basically the season, then we’ve had the likes of Berge, Egan, Fleck and Stevens missing for large periods - arguably the heartbeat of our team right there. We lost Dean Henderson back to his parent club Manchester United. That’s taken a lot of adapting to and Aaron Ramsdale has found it difficult this season, but equally so have the majority of our other new signings. Rhian Brewster, who you’ll know really well of course, is yet to get off the mark for the Blades, although he has only started sporadically under Chris Wilder. Our summer recruitment has proved to be bit of a stinker to be honest, and it’s left us fielding sides which are pretty much like for like from last season when players are fit. How that can happen after another summer of spending raises serious questions and is probably a major factor into where we lie in the league table. Chris Wilder received strong support from the owners recently and in a Football sense that is fantastic to see. Do you get the feeling that despite the challenging season he has the supporters still onside and do they accept that relegation is highly likely? Firstly, yes we have accepted the relegation IS going to happen, not likely. You’ll be hard pushed to find many, if any, who believe we can pull off the miracle of all miracles and survive. Even Chris Wilder himself last week admitted as much after our defeat at Fulham. And yes, Wilder has the vast majority of the Blades faithful on his side. Whilst he cannot be immune from constructive scrutiny and criticism this season (which is fair although some would even dispute that), he is still definitely the right man for Sheffield United. He has some huge credit in the bank, and rightly so he should be here next season. He’s the best man for the job. Most Blades are still behind the man that gave us our football club back, despite this torrid season. With where you are currently placed, do you have a sense of frustration that you are so adrift at the bottom that you can’t drag teams down into the relegation scrap? Of course. We had a slight spurt of results last month, beating Manchester United on their own patch, and also wins against Newcastle and West Brom, but we continue to set records for the wrong reasons. We thought we might have a slight sniff a few weeks ago, but results from those above us (such as Burnley and Brighton winning at Anfield - thanks guys haha!), and then coupled with our back to back losses at West Ham and Fulham respectively, has put the final nail in the coffin I’m afraid. With that said, the bounce back is usually more important than the fall. What will be biggest lesson to take out of this season that will see you return to that extremely confident team from the 2019/20 season? Another great question. Probably the recruitment side of the football club. We have unearthed many gems in Chris Wilder’s time as manager, such as John Fleck and David McGoldrick on frees, Jack O’Connell for a few hundred grand and John Egan for four million, but as previously alluded to, our summer signings have proved to be extremely questionable, and we feel like we’ve had to settle for second choice on many of the signings for one reason or another (such as Villa offering better packages to players such as Cash and Watkins). Hopefully the lads who signed in the summer and haven’t hit it off yet can fire on all cylinders in the Championship next season. You’d have hoped we would have a strong side for that division should we keep the bulk of the squad together (which we should). But yeah, better recruitment, perhaps a more vast and varied strategy where we explore different markets instead of paying over the odds for home-grown talent. How enjoyable has the FA Cup been as a respite from the league? I wouldn’t call it enjoyable to be frank. We got our first win of the season against Bristol Rovers in January (narrowly, mind you), and another tight win at home to Plymouth. And then, yes you guessed it, another close game with Bristol City, which we won by a single goal also. But in terms of getting to consecutive FA Cup Quarter-Finals, yeah that’s something the club can be proud of. We have Chelsea in the next round away from home. If we manage to progress through that tie I will be starting to think our name might just be on the trophy after all haha! Which Blades player(s) have you developed a new level of respect for due to their performance in this tough season? Probably the usual suspects such as John Egan and Chris Basham. But I’m going to go for David McGoldrick. He seems to be the only one scoring, although still quite infrequently, but he’s begun to add goals to his game. Just what was missing from his outstanding campaign last season. Jayden Bogle had also been a great attacking threat down that right hand side, and looks a breath of fresh air, so a special mention to him. Liverpool and Sheffield United more than a lot of PL clubs feed off their fans to go that extra mile. How hard has it been feeling helpless watching them struggle and on a positive note what will the emotions be like walking into Bramall Lane on match day again? As I mentioned earlier in this piece, I’d go as far to say that Sheffield United and Liverpool miss their fans more than any other club in the Premier League. What I would say in respect to ourselves, the importance of 30,000 Blades fans behind the team gives them that extra lift, but even more so when we’re up against sides who pound for pound just have better players. No skirting around it, the majority of teams we come up against in this league are far better than us, so to try and level that out a bit when teams visit Bramall Lane, the crowd really can be that twelfth man. Cannot wait to get inside Bramall Lane, hopefully sooner rather than later. The start of next season I’m pinning my hopes on. Yes, we may have been fighting for a European spot the last time we were inside the Lane, but starting the season afresh in the Championship is something that we have to embrace and do the best we can and try and make a swift return - with a packed Bramall Lane! The Reds have certainly had their difficulties so far in 2021. Even though you are in a similar boat in terms of confidence levels, do you feel you have the ability to make it an uncomfortable evening for the reigning champions? Do we have the ability? Hmmm. Probably. But do I think we will? Not really. We’ve been losing with barely a whimper recently, despite some of the tight scorelines. I will be shocked if Liverpool don’t get back to winning ways here on Sunday night, given our form, and lack of first choice players available. It’s a battle between the most patched up defences in Premier League history, you’d have to say! The difference is, you have Mane, Firmino and Salah up top! Chris and Jurgen have not seen eye to eye on a few matters this season. But they are cut from the same cloth when it comes to the staunch support of their players and the game as a whole. Do you envisage a nice glass of wine (or two) after the game to settle any differences? For sure, I can see that. Chris Wilder spoke on Friday about his admiration for Jurgen, and the Liverpool boss has done the same for Wilder in the past. I do think it became a little personal earlier in the season and a tad childish from Klopp, throwing a few cheap digs in here and there, but Chris Wilder gives it as good as he’s got also! As you say, they’re cut from the same cloth. Nothing wrong with a bit of honesty and war of words between managers sometimes, but I’m sure they will have pre and post match pleasantries at Bramall Lane on Sunday night! Have you have a prediction for this clash? 0-2 Liverpool. We won’t keep a clean sheet, and we most probably won’t score either. A comfortable night for the Reds. Hope I’m wrong of course! Be nice to say we’ve beaten Manchester United and Liverpool in what has otherwise been a forgettable season. View full article
  10. So after the derby I switched off from footy completely until today. Ignorance is bliss and I’ve had four days of it. I barely knew any scores before writing this and I certainly haven’t looked at the table. I genuinely don’t know where are and I don’t want to know. I’m back to it now though, watching MOTD and getting pissed off at teams around us picking up points. Or at least that’s what I expected. In reality, I’m feeling surprisingly calm about it all. West Ham are above us and I no longer care. I’ve accepted our fate and I’m almost detaching the Reds from any of this now. Usually I see everything from the perspective of ‘how does this affect us?’ but I’m not feeling that now. Our season is done. We might have the Champions League to keep things interesting for a little while (I’m not even looking beyond Leipzig even with a 2-0 lead) but other than that, there’s no point to any of this now. I'm not going to let what West Ham or Chelsea or Everton or United or anyone else do get me down. Our season is a car crash, if we somehow managed to rally and salvage something then great, but I'm not pinning any hopes on it. Not with players dropping like flies every other week and all manner of other shit continually being heaped on them I’m holding out no hope for that. We defied the football gods last season by winning the league and now they’re just throwing everything at us. This week alone we’ve lost to Everton at Anfield, lost Hendo for months and now Alisson’s Dad died tragically in a freak accident. It’s just fucking relentless. So I’m not living it day to now as it’s too depressing. There’s no diary his week because of that but I’ll do this round up because it’s almost as though I no longer have a horse in this particular race. I just want our season over so we can reset, regroup and start afresh. I’m hoping that next season will be different because we’ll have fans back and hopefully a fully fit squad, but we’re still going to have the same cunt refs so that’s a concern. I’ve said a hell of a lot about the officiating this season and it’s mostly been about how we’ve been screwed by it. I’m leaving that aspect out of it out completely in this and just talking about it from a general viewpoint and not looking at it through red tinted glasses. So I’ll start with Fulham’s win at home to Sheffield United. Lookman broke the deadlock on the hour mark but Sheffield United were denied a stonewall penalty late on when the Fulham keeper booted a Blades player. He did (unintentionally) block the ball with his standing leg, but the other leg (the one he was trying to tackle with) was high and reckless and just smashed into the opponent’s shin. I don’t give a shit about Fulham or Sheffield United so I have no preference as to who won or lost and I can look at this from an entirely neutral perspective. And that failure to award a penalty to Sheffield United is just inexplicable. You just can’t explain that. It’s incidents like this which have really brought home just how much VAR has fucked the game and warped our perspective on it. I don’t necessarily blame the ref on the pitch for that one as he might not have seen it clearly. It was a packed penalty area and I don’t know what his view was like. It used to be that an incident like this would happen and we’d complain a bit and say “I can’t believe he missed that” but we’d also know that a referee only had one look at it, at normal speed, sometimes not from a great position or with players obscuring his view. So you’d feel aggrieved but you could also understand how it could happen. Now that’s just not the case. These things can’t be excused. They have someone else reviewing it with the best technology available and the ref has the chance to look at it again himself in case he’s missed it the first time. So really, appalling decisions like this should have been removed from the game. Instead, it’s gotten worse. And the absolute worst part of it is when we have to listen to Peter fucking Walton or that bald headed little fucking weasel Dermot Gallagher telling us how the decisions were in actual fact correct and that we don't have a clue what we're talking about. You can argue it’s because they’re just shit and that’s certainly not something I would dispute. They are shit, relatively speaking. But that doesn’t explain it fully. We can all say that these fellas are fucking useless but these are the best referees we have. They’ve worked their way up through the system to the top level. Here’s the thing. All of these refs are fucking miles better than me or you would be if we were in the middle. Whoever was on VAR for this game is a much better referee than I am, yet he still saw that challenge and said 'no penalty'. How come they keep making these inexplicable decisions even when they have the benefit of replay? It makes no sense, and "they're just shit" doesn't cover it. Seriously, someone please explain to me how come they can make decisions that are so bad that 99% of everyone else who watches it can see it’s wrong? I’ll use this incident as exhibit A but I could just as easily use the Man City offside goal against Villa the other week. Literally everyone who saw that said it was wrong and they’ve since said that they’re changing how offside is going to be interpreted so that can’t happen again. It didn’t need changing as THERE WAS NO EXCUSE FOR IT HAPPENING TO BEGIN WITH!! There are countless other examples I could list if I could be arsed. I don’t need to because you’ve all seen them. It’s not like I’m making this up. VAR was supposed to reduce these mistakes but instead they seem to be doubling down on shit decisions. Chris Wilder was rightly furious but he’s wide of the mark when he said that the small clubs just don’t get the decisions. It’s not a big club v small club issue. Shit, so many small clubs have benefited from scandalous decisions against us this season and we’re the fucking champions. There is no bigger club than us and we’re suffering more than anyone. Wilder is right to call out the officiating but he’s undermined his argument by playing the ‘downtrodden little club’ card. Just call them out for being egotistical cunts who are making it up as they go along and that they are virtually untouchable. That’s the point he and every other manager should be making. They should be campaigning weekly about getting rid of VAR because it’s managers and players who can force that issue. There’s fuck all the fans can do other than refuse to go back into stadiums, but that’s just not going to happen. Anyway, moving on. Taki scored again as Southampton drew with Chelsea. Lovely finish it was too. Not sure about him patting the badge though. What’s that all about? Bit weird I thought. He’s been playing in midfield for them and he looks really dangerous. Bit annoying that we hardly ever played there for us and was often stuck out wide. This is just a teaser, click here to view the full article Please note that PL Round Ups are only available to website subscribers. Subscriptions cost just £2 a month (you need to register first) and can be purchased here.
  11. It's no secret that Liverpool's domestic form has plummeted to its lowest ebb since Jürgen Klopp arrived at Anfield back in October 2015. The Reds recently endured their sixth Premier League defeat of the year to cross town rivals Everton at the weekend. It has left the title race well out of reach, with Liverpool more realistically looking to challenge for a top four spot in the Premier League and ensuring Champions League football continues to be a feature of the Anfield fixture list next season. Despite enduring difficult times at home, many bookmakers around the world are currently slashing the odds on a Liverpool final finish in the Champions League. Australian betting sites among others currently have the highest odds on Liverpool as one of the top favourites to make a third final appearance in four years. The Reds reversed their current fortune by romping to a standout victory against RB Leipzig in the first round of 16 tie last week in what was a standout performance reminiscent of better times. It has led many betting sites to slash their odds on favouring Liverpool to make a mark in this season's competition. Currently Liverpool are both among the four favourites to make it to the Champions League final at around 4/1, and slightly elevated price of 7/1 to go all the way and win the tournament for a seventh time in their history. In fact Jürgen Klopp need not cast his eyes too far back into the club's history and should take the famous 2005 season as distinctive encouragement for his team to boost his European campaign. Few Liverpool fans will need reminding of what took place on that balmy night in Istanbul back in May 2005, as Liverpool overcame the odds to register a fifth European Cup to their name in 21 years of waiting. Benitez's soon-to-be champions of Europe didn't fare well in their domestic campaign that season either. It went awry fairly quickly for the Reds in the Premier League, succumbing to defeats to Bolton Wanderers, Manchester United and Chelsea in the opening weeks. Patchy form throughout the campaign ensured Liverpool never managed to raise themselves above fifth position all season. On top of troubled times in the league, Liverpool went out of the FA Cup at the first instance, succumbing to defeat against Burnley in the third round of the competition. Ring any bells? Liverpool's domestic campaign may not have won many plaudits, but it led to a firm focus on European affairs that saw Benitez and his boys etching their name on club football's highest honour by the end of the season. This current incarnation of Liverpool has experienced a different trajectory it's true. Injuries have ravaged the side leading to them slipping down the table dramatical. The defensive line has been hit particularly hard and has seen Klopp's side spiral from a seemingly successful Premier League title defence to rank outsiders. Like Benitez, Klopp has already admitted defeat in the Premier League. However, his side is still packed with talent, and more importantly, talent that has distinctive European experience. Many members of the current squad are veterans of two European finals and have the nouse to know what it takes to go all the way. The latest effort away to Leipzig will certainly spur the side with encouragement. Cup competitions are notoriously unpredictable, but if Klopp and his side can sharpen their gaze on European affairs it could well and truly turn the season around.
  12. Report by Dave Usher Ok so this one will be REALLY brief. I’m not in the least bit surprised by what happened because records have been falling all over the fucking place lately. Unbeaten home record gone. Three losses at home for the first time in fuck knows how long. Now it’s four losses in a row for the first time in almost a hundred years. So yeah, if Everton were ever going to win ‘at Anfield’ it was now. This isn’t Anfield though. We all know it. This isn’t even football. It’s fucking shit and it’s fucking bent. That penalty decision was so bad I didn’t even get angry, I just shrugged. It did look as though finally we’d see VAR do its job properly but no. Andre Marriner knew it wasn’t a penalty and told Kavanagh to go and look. When that happens, I can only recall one other time when the ref stuck to his original decision (ironically it was Marriner refusing to give a pen against Fabinho at Fulham). Yet this Manc cunt looked at it for two seconds and stood by his clearly wrong decision. He didn’t even look at it from a different angle or take a second viewing just to be sure. Why? Because he WANTED to give a pen. Simple as that. Same as that other bellend on VAR last week wanted the Leicester player to be onside. Any time there's a decision to be made these fuckers are allowing their own bias to decide what they want to give. Half the fucking refs in the league are from Manchester but they all support Altrincham or fucking Bury apparently. If any of you were remotely surprised by this then I don’t know what to tell you. If by this point you still think this is legit and simply down to incompetence then there really is no decision that will ever change your mind. I mean seriously, what is it going to take for you to accept what’s going on? When there's a chance to fuck us they take it. But we didn’t lose just because of that penalty. That merely saved Everton from having to see out the final fifteen minutes, which they may or may not have done. We looked as though we’d ran out of steam by that point anyway and I never felt as though we’d equalise. But we were robbed of the opportunity by that ludicrous penalty. We’ve got a history of scoring really late goals against them and that might have caused some nerves at their end, but the pen saved them from that. I've never seen a penalty given for that before and I doubt I ever will again. Not unless it happens to us again anyway. Kavanagh should be made to explain himself but there's no accountability. They can just give whatever decisions they like without any kind of comeback. This is just a teaser, click here to view full article Please note that Match Reports are only available to website subscribers. Subscriptions cost just £2 a month (you need to register first) and can be purchased here.
  13. Well it could have been worse. Our losing streak continued but other than City, pretty much everyone else is shite as well, which softens the blow a little. All the media focus seems to be on our bad run but it’s not just us. United, Spurs, Everton, Arsenal… all of them have records similar or worse to ours over the last half a dozen games. Yeah that’s right, Ole’s “flying United” have only won two of the last six and they’ve dropped points to the likes of West Brom and Sheffield United. I’ll start with Spurs who threatened early against City but were eventually just worn down and lost 3-0. Kane hit the inside of the post with a brilliant free-kick but that was as good as it got as Gundogan gave them the runaround. That’s a lot of G’s there. Bit of a tongue twister. City were awarded a penalty when Hoibjerg clashed with Gundogan. I don’t think it was a pen as I don’t see what the Spurs player could have done to avoid that. Not that I’m arsed. I would be if what City did have any relevance to us but it doesn’t, so they can win every game from now until May for all I care now. City are so desperate for a reliable penalty taker now that Rodri has been given a go. All the forwards are shite from the spot and it’s only a matter of time before Ederson is on them. Rodri scored, but only just. Lloris almost had it. Gundogan made it 2-0 when he stole into the box unnoticed to collect a pass from Sterling and toe poked it past Lloris. That’s exactly the kind of goal we NEVER score and it’s what you need to do against a packed defence. Spurs had everyone back, but Sterling held onto the ball and waited for the late run of Gundogan. None of our midfielders would make that run which is why so much responsibility is on our front three. I’m not criticising our midfield players individually, as they’re playing to instructions, but this is why City have so little trouble against mark the bus teams. You only have to look at how we struggle against Burnley and then compare it to the way City put four or five past them every time. Gundogan added another from a brilliant ball by Ederson. What he did to Sanchez there should illegal. I actually felt sorry for the poor bastard. Gundogan has 11 goals in his last 12 games but I don’t see him doing anything that Gini couldn’t if he was given licence to. We hardly ever let the midfielders run ahead of the ball into the box though. To be fair we’ve had a lot of success playing like that, I just think maybe it’s time to tweak some things against the shithouse teams. City have completely re-invented themselves and currently nobody has an answer to it. Eventually teams will figure it out, they always do. That’s why you need to keep evolving. To be fair that’s why we signed Thiago and Jota but at no point this season has Klopp ever been able to pick his strongest team. There’s been some talk that City are thinking of naming a stand after recently deceased City legend Colin Bell. The stumbling block is they’re concerned about the inevitable confusion it would cause as everyone would immediately think of Guardiola whenever they heard reference to ‘the Bell End’. This is just a teaser, click here to view the full article Please note that PL Round Ups are only available to website subscribers. Subscriptions cost just £2 a month (you need to register first) and can be purchased here.
  14. Report by Dave Usher How refreshing was that? All the shit we’ve been fighting through these last few weeks just felt like it could be put to one side as the Champions League returned. I knew we’d win this game. I’m not being wise after the event as I posted on the forum the day before that we’d win. I’d have been shocked if we hadn’t. Why? A couple of reasons. Firstly, that cabal of bent refs who have been undermining us at every turn since the season began would have no influence on this game. It’s a level playing field and on a level playing field there are very few opponents that worry me. Second in the Bundesliga or not, Leipzig aren’t on that list. Secondly, I’ve been talking for a few weeks about 'rock bottom' and whether I felt we’d reached it or not. I didn’t think it was Burnley and that was proven to be right. I hoped it might have been Old Trafford in the cup and briefly it looked as though that was the case as we won our next two games. It was a false dawn though. I knew it wasn’t Brighton because we had Man City and Leicester next. I feared the worst for both of those games and ‘the worst’ is what we got, especially at Leicester. Not ‘worst’ as in performance, but more about how that whole thing went down. We played well until the officials got involved. The finish to that game was just brutal and a shock to everyone’s systems, especially the players. And that’s why I felt that Leicester was rock bottom and that the road back would start against Leipzig. I’m not ready to declare all of our problems are over with, not least because this weekend we’re back in the hands of Premier League officials. Everton don’t scare me one little bit. There isn’t even 1% of me that’s worried about Everton. I have about a 75% concern about the officiating though and that's why it's hard to ever be confident about winning league games now. A lot of it is out of our control. In the Champions League I don’t have that fear. Not because the officials are flawless and get everything right. They make mistakes and we’ve had some terrible refs in Europe. The difference is that any mistakes they make are honest mistakes. They aren’t out to get us. It’s a level playing field and that’s all I ask for. After that, may the best team win. Or the luckiest, whatever. If this was a Premier League game we’d have lost. Performance wise it wasn’t that much different to Leicester. We played some good stuff and were clearly the better side in both games. But there were two big factors in why we lost one and won the other. Officiating and luck. I can’t say this for certain as there’s no way of knowing for sure, but if Premier League refs had been in charge of this game it would have been a different outcome. I saw a comment on Twitter that absolutely nailed it. It was something like “the best thing about playing in Europe is that when Sadio and Mo are fouled we get free-kicks”. Yep. And those little things make a massive difference to games. Refs don’t always stiff you by giving penalties and red cards. Often it’s death by a thousand cuts. Sadio got fouled early in this game and the ref not only booked the lad who committed the foul, he also pulled out a yellow card for his mate who protested about it. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. So THIS is what proper referees do. It’s been so long that I’d forgotten. This is just a teaser, click here to view the full article Please note that Match Reports are only available to website subscribers. Subscriptions cost just £2 a month (you need to register first) and can be purchased here.
  15. Report by Dave Usher There's a lot to unpack here but even so, I'm going to try to keep this as brief as possible again, not least because I didn’t even see any of it after it went 1-1. Maybe if I had kept the TV on I’d be more pissed off about the way we capitulated, but I didn’t see the capitulation though so that’s not my primary focus of anger. I switched it off because I’ve had enough. This sport is rigged. Officials are dictating the outcomes of games for reasons I’m not going to speculate on. I don’t know why this complete dishonesty and utter lack of sporting integrity is happening, I just know that it is. Because I see it virtually every week. Not just in our games either, although we do seem to be on the receiving end more than most. I’ve seen too much evidence of it this season to put it down to bad luck or acts of random incompetence. It isn’t that. If you want to tell yourself it is because you don’t want to look like a conspiracy loon or bad loser or whatever, that’s fine. Have at it. Keep telling yourself this is happening because referees are shit. Funny how we never benefit from that ‘shitness’ though, eh? This was the straw that broke this particular camel’s back. I don’t think I’ve ever switched off before the end of a game before. Certainly not with this long to left to go. I had to though. For my own sanity. I couldn’t watch anymore of this shit. There’s only so much you can take before completely snapping and if I’d kept that TV on I’d have done something I regretted. I love my big TV, I don't want to see it with the coffee table embedded in it. So I switched it off and went into another room. I knew what was happening because I had my phone and the lads in various group chats were posting about it but I didn’t see it so somehow it wasn’t as bad. That equaliser being allowed to stand broke something in me though. I’ve honestly had enough now, I don’t even want to watch footy anymore as it’s corrupt as fuck. I’ve been saying it for months and not just relating to our games, but in general. On those close offside decisions they decide what decision they want to make and they then manipulate the lines to fit. This is just a teaser, click here to view the full article Please note that Match Reports are only available to website subscribers. Subscriptions cost just £2 a month (you need to register first) and can be purchased here.
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