Keep your mails coming to theeditor@football365.com.

 

Martial and Rashford: Right-foot Robbens without the skill
This is my first mail in 4 years since Rooney was finally shipped out of United, if you could facilitate my return to the mailbox that would be fantastic and appreciated.

I’ll start with a positive – Thiago was beautiful to watch yesterday. It reminds me of the joys of football that we don’t see much nowadays – midfield masterclasses, defence-splitting long balls, flying wingers, crunching tackles, a Vidic headed goal from a corner, two strikers with a telepathic understanding. The footwork that was alluded to in the 16 conclusions was Messi/Iniesta like.

OK let’s get down to it… I’ve become very bored by football in these last few years, teams are so well drilled defensively now that you seldom see a winger running at a fullback at pace. It’s basically just 9 men behind the ball, wingers passing sideways or having their weak cross blocked. Yawn.

Which leads me to my point…

Rashford and Martial suffer from a chronic lack of trickery when they do actually get a chance to run with the ball.

They are right-footed Robbens without the skill. They don’t bother to drop the shoulder before they cut inside – meaning they just end up running across the pitch. Sometimes it works but most of the time it doesn’t.

They could really benefit from adding some tricks to their game – a drop of the shoulder and quick feet like Thiago or a stepover or two like Greenwood, a drag across stepover like Nani used to do – just to give themselves that half a yard to make use of their pace. How about some body faints to keep the opponent guessing?

Instead they just run and hope their pace will win the day. I’m sick of seeing them both moping around with a forlorn look on their faces.

P.s Dave Tickner – and seemingly everyone else these days – can you stop starting sentences with “Look” (or “Listen” for that matter). Thanks.

Cheers F365, see you in 2025.
Silvio Dante

 

Ole has put Liverpool back on their perch
Reading 16 conclusions and the mailbox it seems that plucky little man united got the result that they played for and good on them. In truth, they did. They played for nil nil, like they have against big teams, and they got it. But why did they do that? They did that because Ole is afraid of Liverpool. I hadn’t thought that winning the league once was enough to put Liverpool back on the perch claimed by Fergie but Ole definitely thinks that we are back there. Like Voldermort choosing Harry Potter over Neville Longbottom, Ole has looked at Liverpool and said they are better than us, we should be afraid, and we should play like we are afraid. They were and they did.

The comments after the game were that Liverpool are a great side and that they were working hard to go toe to toe. What nonsense. This Liverpool side is not the side that won the league and champions league. Its worth repeating but there are two midfielders in centre back and the midfield include an Anfield debutant. It was the first time the midfield had started together. United chose to be afraid of them and positioned their midfield in their own area.

Before the game we did a combined XI on the BBC. A United mate chose De Gea whilst I chose Allison. We called it a coin toss. In truth De Gea never left his 6 yard box and had £300,000,000 of players in his area to limit shots. Allison’s average position would have been further up the pitch than Fred. Allison can also stop shots with his feet. Allison over De Gea all day long.

With Pogba starting on the ‘right’ it was clear that he was going to come inside to help Bruno with McT, Fred and the full back not leaving their third. The aim being to ping balls into the space for Martial and Sir Rashford (not sarcastic, I am very proud of him) to chase. And so it was. The balls were largely in accurate. Rashford isn’t a centre forward and didn’t have his timings right. But what a stupid tactic. Mourinho would have played Fellaini upfront on the toes of the centre backs and would have torn Henderson and Fab really struggling. Why not play Pogba there? Do united still have Ighalo?

Perhaps Klopp’s mind games did work. There was definitely less cut in cut backs and flops than what we would usually see in a united game. With that tactical innovation nullified it makes the game plan of run really fast into the box whilst everyone else watches seem even more cowardly.

What does Bruno do when he doesn’t have a penalty to take?

16 conclusions suggest that Mane and Salah are slow and ponderous. Obvious nonsense. In the last few games the MOTM have been the full backs or goal keeper. This game included with Luke Shaw. The 40m signing is having a good time at the moment. Although, isn’t your job easier when you only have to do half of it? You can’t get turned around because you never go forward. You have a nice long time to watch as your opposite full back carries a wayward lofty attacking pass to no man’s land forward 50 yards. Same on the other side with £50m AWB. When you can apply all of your attention to half your job it becomes very easy to be good at it.

Same for £85m Maguire. Ole is so worried about him being turned that he played him on the edge of the 6 yard box with £60m Fred on his toes. If these guys want to get a nil nil they will. Its up to United fans if they are happy that that Liverpool team, in the worse form of 4 years, whilst decimated with injuries should be feared then fine. That is up to them. Do explain why Ole is any different to experienced winners Mourinho and van Gaal?

With a whole league of teams, including the country’s wealthiest super club, playing to create only one or two chances game, will we see a rule change soon? Perhaps a roll back of the rule that the area no longer has to be empty for goal kicks so that players have to actually run back into the box like scared little kittens rather than starting there. Perhaps the fans paying £100 to watch their team have two shots whilst cowering in fear will change that. I spent the week with two children under 4 in isolation waiting to see if they were going to get symptoms from a virus that could leave them with permanent damage and this game was the worst 90 minutes of that week by Ole’s design. (Kids are fine.)

City for the league then?
Alex, South London

 

Bruno Fernandes
Bruno was completely and utterly anonymous
against Liverpool and dare I say it, put in the sort of performance I would come to expect from a certain Man City player when it comes to big games.

Nobody can deny that Liverpool have been poor and I had been dreading yesterday’s game for weeks. Bruno was the star player of the month, the signing of the calendar year, the man who makes it happen, yesterday he was abysmal.

Gary Neville was moaning and groaning about him been missing in action and that he needed to man up and stop Thiago from “running the game”. There was a moment in the first half where I believe he broke the ball by kicking it at least 100 yards into the twilight sky in an attempt to set Rashford away. Truth be told, that ball was so bad it crossed into the territory of being dangerous to other players. It could have lead to another player receiving  an acquired brain injury if it hit somebody on the head.

Liverpool were bad. But my oh my United were dreadful. Henderson, playing out of position, managed Pogba with ease. Fabinho dominated Marcus Rashford throughout the game. Luke Shaw was fantastic.

Bruno showed passion and dissent at the end, but if I were him, I would have been happy to be put  out of my misery.  He is lucky it wasn’t an underage match as his father would have surely given him a bollicking all the way home in the car.
Jamie, Eire

 

That match highlighted one similarity between Bruno and the ginger prince that is our Kevin in the debate about who is better. When it comes to a big game, neither player shows up. It’s probably why they’re playing for substandard teams in a substandard league. If they were as good as they were made out, they’d be winning champions leagues not paddling assists against Burnley.
Sean

 

Frustrated but happy Man Utd fan
United got a fair bit of stick in the mailbox this morning, mostly from Liverpool fans who are obviously a bit sore, and mostly due to the first half performance which was likened to West Brom’s tactics. Putting aside that West Brom’s tactics worked at Anfield hence replicating them is not a terrible idea, the first half from United was thus because of Liverpool’s excellence. They started very quickly which was kind of expected but their ball retention was brilliant, they pressed and surrounded Fred and McTominay whenever they were on the ball, and they won every single second ball in the first 30 minutes. It was like watching the Liverpool of 2 years ago such was their energy and control. Most of their attacks came down the left from Robertson, that was until Ole changed round the front four. For all of Pogba’s good work recently he is just slow getting out to defend the wing, Robertson more or less had free reign till he reached Wan Bissaka. Ole moved Bruno out to the right, Martial left, and Rashford central which basically nullified Liverpools attacks and United began to get on the ball a bit more.

The half time whistle thing was a little bizarre, but even more bizarre was how big a deal its being made into. On the issue of timing, I’m not sure but I don’t think the time shown on the TV and the referees watch are synced, so a matter of a few seconds difference across 45 minutes isn’t out of the realms of possibility. Regarding Liverpool being through on goal, no they weren’t. The whistle was blown whilst the ball was in the air and United defenders pulled up, if the whistle hadn’t gone Lindelof could easily have headed back to the keeper or leaned into Mane and prevented him from controlling the ball, enough said I hope.

In the second half Liverpool still pretty much dictated the pace of the game, for all the fuss made from missing Van Dijk and Gomez having 4 central midfielders on the pitch gives them supreme control of the ball. For me this is where the argument that their attack is suffering because of the defensive issue falls down, their replacement CB’s being midfielders gives them more options when attacking. I’m sure United would benefit if Maguire and Lindelof could pass like Bruno and Pogba, so why is Liverpool’s increased passing ability from defence detrimental. Also trying to argue the midfield if worse off due to the shift when you’re bringing Thiago in as an understudy is feeble at best, if Liverpool can’t adapt slightly to increase his effectiveness that’s a failure of coaching. As a team their defensive stats are still amongst the best and I still think they are top for least chances conceded and for shots conceded, its their attacking stats which are falling off a cliff recently.

In truth Liverpool are just not trying those devastating passes anymore, the cutting long cross field passes into their wide attackers have disappeared. There were a few late in the game, TAA passing deep across to Robertson high up the pitch who quickly fired in a cross, and they nearly scored from them. It can only be a tactical change from Klopp which is clearly hurting results. To me it looks like Liverpool are a bit of a one trick pony, that the one trick that pony could perform was spectacular is to their credit but this season has shown this team is fairly easy to disrupt, not by the opposition but by circumstance and time.

All in I quite enjoyed the game, and feeling frustrated at the end because United failed to capitalise on their opportunities to win is much better than the languid disappointment I felt at this time last year. So good job lads, we go again.
Dave, Manchester

 

Stop the moaning, Klopp…
I find it very odd that Klopp insists on going on about injuries even now. Normally, I couldn’t care less about what Klopp said, but considering he said this once again as an excuse as to why he couldn’t beat United, I feel a need to respond. I mean, sure we get it, you have injuries in the squad, but if it is such a problem then you should have signed a couple players on loan as a solution. We are 18 days into the transfer window, and Klopp has made no effort whatsoever to sign even one player, and yet continues to moan about injuries at every opportunity. At this point, it simply feels like an excuse to hide behind and explain away his own shortcomings as a manager to challenge for the title this season.

And I can’t believe how easily some Liverpool fans accepted that they are now only a top 4 team. What was that line about small club mentality again?
I’ve also heard the fatigue excuse being thrown around several times. First of all, what an abysmal excuse this is given Liverpool had the whole week off for this one and we had to play a tough away game at Burnley in midweek. But then again, having watched a Liverpool game for a change, the fatigue angle also feels like an excuse to try to explain away the bigger problem that those three just don’t seem to want to play together. Liverpool are so out of form not because of injuries, or fatigue but by their front three playing as if for the first time together. No wonder that the loss of Jota has hit them so hard. At least one of them (Mane) wants to not be there, and probably would have left (like Pogba) if not for Covid.

As for United, another decent game. I am pleased that there are still some people in the world like Cathal who very kindly still refer to us as title challengers.  However, I do find it odd that its only Liverpool fans (leading up to this game, terrified of losing, and needing yet another excuse) and the hype media that are doing this. This game, like the Man City game shows that we are not quite there yet to contest for titles, and what needs to be improved upon. The defense is looking more solid by the day, and lately we’ve become a difficult team to score against, but the attack clearly needs more work. I now fully believe that Ole and his coaches can continue the excellent work they’ve been doing and turn United into a side that is both more clinical, and better capable of controlling games. Onto the next game!
MM, Man United, India (And then there’s Lee who has never seen Salah dive!!!)

 

Can we have a moratorium on Liverpool fans citing injuries at centre back please? Because it is in every mailbox twice a day and, with van Dijk and Gomez out for the foreseeable, can we please just take it as read, rather than have to cite it over and over and over?

Van Dijk’s injury is hopefully a one-off caused by a nasty challenge. Hopefully he is back sooner than later and isn’t badly affected in the long term, but (and I hope I am wrong about this, because i don’t wish injury on anyone) Joe Gomez seems to just be one of those players that will always have issues with his joints, ligaments musculoskeletal issues,etc. He is only 23 and misses a substantial amount of most seasons through injury. It can’t bode well to have already had a couple of major layoffs after surgery at 23, whatever the reason. Sadly, he just seems to be one of those players.

I sincerely hope Gomez’s career doesn’t have the same trajectory, but it all feels a bit Phil Jones-y.

Matip as well, while not as bad, seems to be in a place where he is not going to be available as consistently as you might like.

With the above in mind, van Dijk is unfortunate, but happens, Gomez can reliably miss a chunk of the season and Matip is probably going to miss out on football as well. The fact that it all happened at once…not really that surprising.

Each player has my sympathy, but the club doesn’t. Nobody made them sell their fourth senior centre back in the summer and not replace him. No-one made them swap one of their most promising u23 centre backs for Jota. Noone made them sign Thiago instead of a centre back when they already had ample cover in midfield and attack. The manager and fabled transfer committee made those decisions, so presumably the plan was always to play Fabinho and Henderson out of position in the, not really that unlikely, event that three senior centre backs were missing.

Reflecting on the game yesterday, it feels like a missed opportunity for United. A poor first half but when they tried they created the (very small) number of better opportunities. Felt like a performance that lacked ambition against a team with a defensive crisis (of their own making). Its probably an admission from United that they know they aren’t quite there yet…
Andy (MUFC)

 

I wanted to pick up on the common complaint of Liverpool’s injury crisis, particularly in defence and note that Liverpool went in to this season with only 3 senior centre-backs in their squad – and one of those was Gomez who is now on his 4th/5th serious/lengthy injury in his short career.  Added to that they don’t have a huge amount of flexibility to fill those spots or seemingly enough confidence in the youth should the worst happen.  Neither full-back is an emergency centre-back as we see with other clubs, and whilst Fabinho has done well there it weakens the midfield quite a lot it seems.City have 5 centre-backs (Dias, Stones, Laporte, Ake, Garcia) and 2 decent cover options in Walker and Fernandinho.  Chelsea have got 5, Man U have got 4/5, Spurs have got 4 with a couple of good emergency options in Davies and Tanganga, Arsenal had at least 6 and a few options like Tierney for emergency.

It is fine to moan about a injury crisis but the moaning only appear so loud because it is costing Liverpool points and it has exposed a thin area of their squad that Liverpool could have addressed themselves.  I am sure fans of most clubs will point to their own injury crisis as well.

Even without hindsight it seemed like a mistake from Klopp to go in to this season of all seasons with only 3 senior CB’s, and I’m surprised it is something that hasn’t already been addressed in the January transfer window which is now nearly 3 weeks old.

Liverpool have been excellent in the transfer market since Klopp arrived and the huge success of the best signings and trophies that followed have probably rightly allowed some of the poorer signings to fade in to the background.  This season might see some more scrutiny.  A huge amount of the spine of Liverpool’s success are now reaching the age when there needs to be thought to their succession, but other than Jota I cant see anyone to seriously replace that spine, Mane, Salah, Firminho, Henderson, VvD, Wijnaldum, Milner, Thiago, Matip – all 28/29 plus.  As an Arsenal fan our Invincible side broke up all too quickly as a lot of players peaked at the same time/age and the players coming to replace them weren’t up to scratch.  Begrudgingly this is where Fergie always had the edge, his ability to get the next one in and keep that balance in age profile and keep the hunger in the squad.

I’m sure there will be plenty of Liverpool fans replying with all sorts of stats and facts to show they’ve been hard done by with injuries and how other clubs get to spend £50m on back up centre backs but they clearly made a big mistake leaving themselves so exposed in the centre of defence this season.
Rich (AFC)

 

 

Liverpool negligent on squad
When you look at the current slump impacting Liverpool,  it has to be said that the squad is being managed poorly.  The players are in a bizarre moment where no rotation of players based on performance is clearly hindering the team.  Mo Salah has been very poor since he gave his interview where he explored leaving.  Drop him.  Put him on the bench and give Shaqiri or Minamino or Origi a game.  Firmino would have lost his place in the team had Jota remained fit.  Surely one of the worst and most negligent decisions of the season by a manger was for Klopp to play him in a dead rubber in the champions league with the cost being a long absence through injury.  Tsimikas was injured in the same period.  So even if the club look to rest one of Robertson or Trent, they cannot do it without playing kids.Mane is throwing strops and openly showing dissent in the face of being substituted or not passed to?  Drop him.

Give Minamino or Shaqiri or Origi a game.  Gini is looking to leave the club and is in the middle of contract battle/ media speculation before big games, all of the signs are there for a club to be distracted. Yet, Gini cannot be dropped because none of his replacements can stay fit. Surely team morale must be low.  Minamino scored his first goal for the club in the only recent good performance and is sidelined now for four games.  Origi has not got a look in.  How can fans expect to see performances of quality from fringe players if they are out in isolation.  Surely Minamino must be regretting his decision to come to Liverpool as he cannot get a game even when the fabled front three have been producing relegation from at the top of the pitch.  Trent needs to be dropped.  It is not enough to hope that he rediscovers his from as the he consistently gives the ball away.  Teams have used basic coaching to figure out how to blunt the creative element of the team and surely now it is lunacy to persist with the current setup given how bad the performances have been?

But the club must persist with this current setup because of a dysfunctional group of injury prone players.  Keita, Ox, Matip cannot be considered options anymore as they can never stay fit.  So sell them to whoever will pay the money.   It is not good enough to settle for an excuse list when there was a reasonable expectation of competing for the league and Champions League.   Even on the goalkeeping position, Alison is prone to injury and Adrian is prone to one or two calamities a game. To sell Lovren and not replace him was negligent considering Gomez and Matip are constant injury problems.  VVD being out for the season is one unexpected problem, but the other two lads getting injured is to be expected.

The Club is waiting for some magic ideal player to come along in the Summer but at what cost to this season?  If one of the midfield is struggling, our replacement options are injured.

Liverpool’s media circus need to pour greater scrutiny over these issues and stop looking at every issue as a positive.  Only now, three months into the injury crisis, has the narrative started that maybe it is unwise to have TWO starting midfield-players playing CB. If such an issue was going on in any other club, it would be called negligence and poor management.  The idea put forward which implies that the fans should accept mismanagement of human resources because they are x amounts of points from the top is a from of denial.
Mike

 

Not just Liverpool, the entire league has run out of steam
Dear Editor,

I genuinely don’t know what’s come over me this season (probably a pandemic) but I still can’t be really mad/upset/disappointed with Liverpool.

I find myself thinking so we’re not top, but we’re not out of it. The Van Dijk, Gomez, Thiago, Keita, and Jota injuries have been a huge mitigating factor. I honestly don’t know how we are still up there.

You might argue that Thiago and Jota were unexpected and nice additions, so have not been relied upon, but they came in to help push us to another level.

From a league point of view I’d still say we’re in the mix. The centre-half debate will rage, but we won’t sign one. We’re fooling ourselves thinking it would be a magic bullet – the reality is we need Fabinho in the midfield and anyone coming in would play alongside not instead of him back there. Forget Matip, playing one in four and it’s not going to improve.

We’re still battling, but the team is dysfunctional without the best centre-half and best holding midfielder in the World (stuck at centre-half unable to influence), are we really surprised? February Jota is supposed to be back. Thiago will get sharper and Shaqiri simply must play more. But the reality is it’s the worst season of football I think I’ve ever seen. There’s no stand out team and even the better teams are all deeply flawed/knackered. Like us the players continue to go to work each day, like us they must be feeling it. United are top, but really they all look ready for the summer – as an aside Euro 2020 (?) really should be cancelled, no?

If I could sum up the 2020/21 season in one word: Lethargic.

Cheers,
Marc

 

Crunch time…
It’s a bit of a cliche to talk about the “defining period” in a particular club’s season, but it seems very apt for Liverpool right now. Our run of fixtures goes…

Burney (h)
Man United (a) – FA Cup
Tottenham (a)
West Ham (a)
Brighton (h)
Man City (h)
Leicester (a)
Leipzig (a) – Champions League
Everton (h)

4 league matches against direct rivals, a tricky tie at West Ham, games against Burnley and Brighton, both of whom we failed to beat last time we played them and 2 tricky away cup ties.

If we don’t see some rapid improvement, the wheels are in danger of falling off this season. I really can’t see past City for the title now. What is alarming though from a Liverpool point of view is that we’re now looking shaky for a place in the top 4. I’ve faith in Klopp and I hope things will come good, especially as players return from injury (Jota especially) but the teams around us are all playing better than we are. A crucial month ahead begins on Thursday.
Mike, LFC, London

 

Quick, blow the whistle…
Don’t say I didn’t tell you so. I mentioned the pro Man Utd refereeing bias last week and Paul Tierney proved it yesterday. With six seconds still to play he blows the whistle for half time just at the point where Sadio Mane was through on goal.

This raises two questions. Firstly (and most obviously) when was the last time you saw a referee blow up EARLY, after the injury time board has been shown, but more worryingly, when do halves ever end with an attack in full flow, the common recognised and accepted refereeing practice is to end the half with play in a neutral state.

Of course it goes without saying, that foul count was 15-6 in favour of Man Utd, in a game largely dominated by Liverpool.
Dale (open your eyes) Marlow

 

Amen for Johnny
Morning F365

Great article by John Nicholson.

The whole no celebration is simply embarrassing, players constantly touching each other during the game in a contact sport.

My wife asked why are they not allowed to celebrate anymore? I simply answered “ because there is no common sense anymore”.

Roll on the new world… please for all of our children and the hope common sense comes back.
Ade ( 20 is maybe not coming ) Guildford

 

Crystal Palace
Dear Football365,

I spent my Sunday evening doing an online quiz run by a pub in Nottingham, but at the Etihad, it was Manchester City asking all the questions.

*Manchester City opened the scoring in the 26th minute. Not sure how anyone can consider them genuine title contenders if it takes them 13 times as long to score against Crystal Palace as Liverpool did.

*In the grand scheme of things if there was a game Wilfried Zaha would need to miss in order to recover from a slight injury, it would be something like this one. However, it did seem like all the eggs were in his basket and the team were out of sorts because of his absence, instead of having prepared for a game without him. Roy Hodgson changed his system to a 4-5-1, with Jordan Ayew up front and a three-man midfield of James McCarthy, James McArthur and Luka Milivojevic.

*Ayew was presumably picked to compensate in part for the loss of Zaha’s dribbling and in part to lead the pressing, and his 78 minutes yielded one of Palace’s two attempts on goal (neither were on target). When he was withdrawn, his replacement was Michy Batshuayi, who touched the ball 7 times and completed four passes.

The use of these two strikers, instead of Christian Benteke, didn’t make a lot of sense. Hodgson used Ayew and his pressing against Liverpool and it was disastrous – it didn’t generate many chances and those that did come weren’t taken (not always because of Ayew). Benteke would have given John Stones and Ruben Dias a battle and if he could hold the ball up, he could have created space for teammates.

*Last year Palace pulled off the bargain of the summer when Gary Cahill arrived on a free transfer from Chelsea and significantly improved the defence. This season, the loan move for Batshuayi looks like one of the worst bits of business; not only is he unable to play in the team’s preferred system, his arrival came at the expense of being able to loan someone who would have added dynamism to the midfield.

*No one genuinely expects a team like Crystal Palace to face the title contenders and compete on the same level. The problem is that we are fast becoming a team that passively rolls over in those games with barely a whimper, who tend to become teams that sleepwalk into a relegation battle. Again, no one would start a Roy Out hashtag on the strength of a 0-4 defeat to Manchester City, but the manner of the approach and the quality of the performances should give the club reasons to consider whether or not a different manager taking a different approach would be better for the club in the medium to long term.
Ed Quoththeraven

 

Bruceball
Been daydreaming most of the morning about what the new ‘gloves off, absolutely shite TM, Bruce’s way’ football will look like tonight!  I’m imagining…

Darlow taking a 10 yard sideways goal kick to dummett, who then picks out Hayden on the edge of his own box, he drops the shoulder and on the 180 spreads its diagonally to Murphy, he passes it infield to Hayden’s midfield pivot partner Longstaff who occupies the ‘false 10’ space in behind the second line of the arsenal press.  Longstaff plays it in behind the advanced Arsenal right fullback into the path of Almiron.  Miggy drives towards the byline, looks up and pulls the ball back to the penalty spot to a waiting Andy Carroll, wallop! Carroll finds the top left corner!

Goal!!!!!!!

Bruce, Agnew and the other one applaude in approval!

The scoreboard adjuster changes the score to Arsenal 5 – Newcastle 1!

Bruceball at its finest.
Ratt Mitchie NUFC (how’s the bullshit did you say?)

 



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