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Man Utd and Liverpool are actually in the same predicament
As we all quietly leave City to run off with another title and Utd and Liverpool fans continue our petty squabbles, here’s a different take of how we are actually in the same predicament, It is just that Liverpool have a different and easier way out.
The top flight used to require a first XI and a few extras to make up the numbers from the bench. Then with the Premier league and its associated riches the top clubs could sprinkle some continental flair to spice things up. The next phase came with Jose who realised that you needed a whole squad and now we’ve moved on to a place where those squad players need to be good enough to get into the first XI on merit rather than a back up for the clear first choice. If you can’t afford that then you’re relatively stuffed unless you have a freak ‘Leicester’ season with little or no injuries.
City, over a number of years have bought into this, literally. Man Utd and Chelsea have spent enough to buy into this but not got anywhere close. And Liverpool/Klopp have bought very well to rather create a great first XI but with a squad who, with a few notable exceptions are noticeable downgrades on the starting XI.
While Liverpool can look forward to players returning from injury and probably a boost to the squad in the summer, many of their current problems will go away as their stars return. Some say they have been found out but I disagree. It is a bit hard to claim they’ve been found out when their injuries make the starting XI unrecognisable from last year. It is a lot easier for attackers to express themselves when they don’t have to worry about what’s going on behind them with peak Alisson and VVD behind you to give the ball back if you accidentally let it past you. All we’ve really discovered is that Liverpools midfield are not as good in central defence as their chosen central defenders – ground breaking stuff for sure. The psychological hit of all these losses is what may be tough to overcome and repair.
As for Utd, we have much bigger problems. We do have a depth of squad who can come in and replace first team players with little change to the overall quality. The problem however, is the overall quality to begin with. While Fernandes is clearly top class, Pogba is inconsistent, injured and needs to go, De Gea has an adequate replacement only because he has stumbled from his best, Mata/Matic/Fred are reliable but never going to scare opposition. We have a wealth of same-ish central defenders, none of who stand out, and we have a one dimensional attack. Fixing this is not easy and not cheap. Utd are not going to admit Maguire was an expensive mistake because he now can’t be benched and we won’t get any bidders for him because he probably earns a million a day and is contracted until at least 2050 with an option to extend so we’re stuck with him. Utds long contracts on high wages is probably our biggest hamstring yet we keep doing it. We’ll always lack creativity when we have to play 2 holding midfielders in an attempt to protect an above average yet regularly vulnerable defence.
7 and 8 out of 10 players (Fred, Macguire, Matic – on a good day they’re an 8, normally a 7) can make up the numbers but you need at least 4 or 5 players to be 8 and 9 out of 10 performers (Fernandes, De Bruyne, Salah etc) Liverpool have that when all fit. Utd do not. City probably have about 15 of them.
Personally, I’d want Utd to run down the contracts of all the squad players over a certain age and give youth a chance. I’d rather have Shoretire and co taking a place on the pitch than the likes of Matic, Mata, Jones and co. Unfortunately that is a strategy that would have had to start years ago and it didn’t. Can anyone explain the strategy of these long contracts for squad players? It’s why we can’t ship players on without taking a huge loss where Liverpool make profit from many of their sales – why won’t utd learn?
Our biggest hope other than Fernandes is for Donny who can’t get a game, Scott McTominay who is a class player all round, Rashford on one wing, Greenwood in kicking on and some very promising youth. But we’ve always had very promising youth and only a small number ever make it.
I may be enjoying Liverpools losses right now but they’re still in a way better place than we are and will be stronger next season. Will we be?
Jon, Cape Town (at least we have progressed from needing to play Perreira and Lindgard from the start – wishing JLingz the best as he resurrects his career at the Hammers though. If City won the treble, would anyone notice?)
Liverpool faith being tested
I must admit as a Liverpool fan my faith is being tested a bit this year. The deep satisfaction of recent triumphs remains but this year has been a trial of fire. No game arrives without a fresh injury concern. Personal tragedy seems to stalk the squad like a crow. Luck feels like it is against us, the narrative has turned from wonder to disdain of Klopp, his methods and players.
Liverpool have been found out, are a tier 2 club, play one dimensional football that the most rudimentary defence can stop now and easily counter for a winning goal or two. We must discover how to become a decent mid table team one commentator opined. It doesn’t get much grimmer as seasons go. No fans to support you, the low life opinions waking you every morning on social media, where to turn to, where to see hope. Walk on and all that.
I remember a few years ago writing a letter (can’t remember if it was published) about Klopps evolution. At the time Liverpool were a devastating attacking team who would put score you but were vulnerable to shopping 2-3 goals a game. The jury were put on Klopp. He can only play one way, heavy metal football will only get you so far, he can’t organise a defence. It was pretty dispiriting at the time.
My letter wondered if Klopp was in fact building from the front. Against common wisdom to build from the back, had Klopp and his team decided to sign cut price attackers and midfielders when they were available and before their system of talent spotting was recognised and prices jacked up. In time I speculated Klopp would spend big on his defence to complete his picture. You don’t need me to tell you the rest.
This is not intended as a self-congratulationary email. The reason for writing is I feel now like a felt then. The jury is out on Klopp and his methods. In some ways it is better now (lots of nice trophies on the shelf) and in some ways worse (we look like a dogs dinner of a football team most weeks). But as they say the darkest hour comes before the dawn to here goes…
My theory is Klopp has had a plan for Liverpool’s evolution since he arrived. From the first few years (see above) and arriving at their present incarnation as a squad. The covid happened, then VVD, then the whole Pooh snowball starring rolling as hasn’t stopped since. What was meant to happen was this I suspect: Liverpool were to remain at their present incarnation for one more year, strong defence, geggenpressing, narrow wins with Thiago and Jota adding variety to the mix. Should’ve been enough in front of buoyant home fans to win the league again, maybe even champions league.
Klopp and his analysts are well aware opposition teams are figuring us out so a gradual move towards a new system was being considered. Contrary to some opinion Klopp is not a one trick pony, his preferred system at Dortmund was 4-2-3-1 but this relies heavily on an out and out no. 9 to spearhead the attack. Bobby Firmino for all his gifts it ain’t. A new no. 10 had been signed (minamino) and was being groomed for next season. So I think the next step in Liverpool’s evolution was to go big on a number 9 this coming summer.
Liverpool’s sights are not on competing or challenging, they want to be the dominant club in England and Europe for the next 10 years. Make no mistake this is the target ambition. We’ve seen Real and Barca dominate with Ronaldo and Messi in tow. I am convinced Liverpool have been targeting either Mbappe or Haaland for some time and the relative parsimony of their spending has been to put money aside for this big transfer. Once in place the next step of the teams evolution wouldve taken place. This is what the Nike deal is about, this is the plan.
Now God laughs at mans plans we know, everything has gone to hell in a hand basket so the above may lay in tatters. Liverpool will do well to finish top 4 this year (city, United, Leicester and Chelsea look nailed on for me). I doubt whether one of the best players in world football would sign for a club without champions league football, unless this has been agreed long ago or Klopps powers of persuasion are completely off the chart. Liverpool may need to try and scrape top 4 or win the thing again for the fun of it (champions league no 7 anyone – very unlikely but a boy can dream) in order to keep the show on the road.
But I for one choose to believe there is a plan and Liverpool evolution has hit a bad patch but can still recover and next years will be brighter for us all, and us and city will have a title battle for the ages.
Who should Chelsea sign?
Will Ford’s article on the players Chelsea should sign got me thinking about what this Chelsea squad needs in the summer, and I can’t think beyond two positions: striker and centre back. And both positions aren’t as easy to fill as fans think.
Chelsea currently have Giroud, Abraham and Werner up front. The German is a left forward/left winger/centre forward (basically anything but a leading striker) which means it’s just the ageless Frenchman and (the still) young Tammy. If someone like Erling Haaland has to come in (who will cost around £130 million in truth) then one of Giroud/Tammy has to go. And I am not sure if it’ll be an easy call on either player! There’s also Michy but that’ll need an entirely new mail…
At the back, Chelsea need a new defender and for all of Rudiger’s return to the squad, he kind of hot-and-cold in games and the team deserves better stability there. While signing a shiny, new toy will fix that, there’s also one Tomori currently prancing around in Italy and, hoping Milan stick to their miserly self and not pay the agreed buyout amount, he is one that’d fit like a glove. I love Frank Lampard but his decision to bin Tomori to a third/fourth choice CB, ahead of the ‘unwanted’ Rudiger, but then bringing the German in over him, made zero sense. Easily one of the most baffling decisions Lampard made in his short stint. There’s also the Marc Guehi at Swansea who has been one of the best Championship defenders, but he’d probably be sent on another loan (in a bigger league) before anyone at Chelsea start considering him.
Also, how much influence do managers at Chelsea have in signing players? And should they have any? Only asking because no one lasts long and (almost always) incoming managers get stuck with some, if not a lot, of the deadwood from the previous “era” that they are forced to work with/around.
I love that certain fans call United fans ‘Glory hunters‘. Not every football club fan can be from the city where the team is. Nor do they have to support that team either. There are many different reasons why to choose a team, local, historical, family ties, childhood hero’s, simple appeal or that ‘je ne c’est quoi’.
I choose United as an Irish man because we are so close to England and we all support one of their teams as ours are shit. Irish football infrastructure is a joke. So we all usually go for either United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Newcastle, Leeds, Spurs and Everton. It is generally one of these clubs you will mostly find supported.
The teams I felt most attracted to both as a club, its players and style were United, pre roman Chelsea and Newcastle. I liked that they were thrilling, had passionate players and played attacking football. I chose United as they were very good, enjoyable to watch and I felt somewhat aligned with Ferguson as he reminds me of my grandad. They always give youth a chance and if you add in Roy Keane, John O shea and I was happy. You also got to see them on the tv often which was a plus.
Since choosing them all I have ever heard from Liverpool fans is that I am a glory chaser, that Liverpool are the biggest team in England because of what they’ve won, they’re history…Talk about glory chasing ay?
The other part was that every single year was ‘Our year’. Sometimes justifiably and most times not. Since United last one Liverpool fans try to paint United fans as old Liverpool fans when we are not. I had to hear all through my childhood about how the things some fans weren’t alive to witness boast about. I had to hear that the Liverpool ‘quadruple’ was better than the United Treble. As you can read, I have no issue with debate, but as you may also be able to read, not a big fan of delusion.
Sad at the demise, yes. Sad with the manager choices and transfers? yes. If your team was the richest in the sport and still never came close you too would be mad when it seems so glaringly obvious. Liverpool started to do the right thing and it has paid off. United are following suit.
We have a former hero as our manager who is doing reasonably well, is growing into the role, and the team is looking and playing the best it has in years. Rashford is breaking barriers as an icon. The club was very helpful with the community before & during the pandemic. All of this makes me proud regardless of trophies. But please let’s go and win some trophies again!
Happy 20th anniversary ENIC!
20 years of ENIC fun facts!
1) 1 trophy – a haul equaling the mighty Wigan, Birmingham and Portsmouth
2) Net spend past 5 years 17th in the premier league even behind the beloved Mike Cashley
3) stadium build financed by debt facilities in the club’s name
4) yet property around the ground purchased by the Tavistock Group (ENIC)
6) until recently Levy highest paid chairman in the premier league and paid a £3m bonus for delivering an over budget and late stadium build.
7) Shrewd’ Levy Part 1 (transfer market) – £42m Davidson Sanchez, Adebayor first player to be paid £100k per week on a permanent deal, Gedson Fernandez whose not Bruno Fernandez and collectively the Bale money p****d up a wall.
8) ‘Shrewd’ Levy Part 2 (managers appointed) – including Dim ‘Gillet’ Deadwood but not Pleat 10 managers in 20 years – Ramos, AVB, Santini anyone?
9) Regrettable leavers who went to clubs who invest meaningfully in their playing staff and win trophies – Carrick, Berbatov, Modric, Bale, Walker.
David Harris, Sydney
Harry’s questions answered
I enjoyed Harry’s questions, so here’s some answers that have absolutely no authority
What is a football club for?
Representing a city/area?
Giving supporters something to dream about?
Providing a sense of community and common ground between people?
To be a force for good?
Is it all of those things? And, if so, which is most important?
Most of those things really, apart from producing “content”. And yet something different to everyone. I grew up relatively near my club (Manchester United for sake of clarity/accusations of bias) but not in Manchester (that said I still look out for the results of the various Northwich clubs when non-league football is actually taking place). I guess the locality and affinity with the city/area/region is a part of it. I want to be entertained, I want us to win things, I want the hope and even the destruction of that hope and everything in between. I enjoy travelling to places and meeting someone else who is a United fan, whether they’re in Salford or Sussex or South East Asia (I once had a Balinese waiter give me an in-depth analysis of the performance of various youth players in a pre-season friendly, much to the bemusement/annoyance of my ex-wife), there is a real kinship. I’ve attended games with some regularity in the past without being a regular, and I know plenty of Arsenal/Brighton/Gillingham/Northwich Vics fans who pour scorn on that. But who is anyone to tell anyone what their club should be or mean to them? As long, ultimately, as football is a force for good. And I believe it is most of the time, and that’s probably the most important thing
Does a Rashford goal mean more than a Martial goal?
No in the sense that they all count, Jeff. Yes in the sense that you always feel that bit more pride when “one of your own” (whatever that means, it’s at times a very problematic phrase) comes through the ranks. To borrow a marketing slogan I once saw “This Means More” when its someone who grew up loving the club they play for, or takes what that club “embodies” (again, whatever that means) to heart and gives their all/becomes a part of the fabric of the club (I’m thinking your Cantonas, Henrys and to a lesser extent your Van Dammes)
Is Jurgen Klopp more or less fulfilled by his job than Chris Wilder?
Probably the same. They have a job to do at a certain level in certain circumstances and with certain circumstances and probably their fulfilment is intrinsically tied to that. Maybe Chris Wilder aspires to one day manage the Champions, maybe Jurgen Klopp would be happier back at Mainz, but they’re probably just attached to the jobs they’re doing
Does being knocked out in the semifinal of the Champions League (Man City) FA Cup (Spurs) or Championship playoffs (Derby) feel any different?
I doubt it, it’s all relative. City aspire to be European Champions, Spurs aspire to win something, Derby want to be back at the top and Burgess Hill Town want to beat the Dog and Duck Vets XI. It’s all relative, and it’s always the hope that kills you
How will Arsene Wenger be judged by history?
As a fantastic, pioneering manager who’s club got slightly left behind as footballing eras transitioned. Ultimately he probably should have moved on around 2006-08 when it became clearer that Arsenal weren’t as well placed to compete with United/Chelsea and then eventually City. Would it have destroyed Arsenal? Who knows, guess it depends who would have got the job.
Is it better for a chairman to indebt a club in pursuit of glory, or to aim only for the financial stability of premier league survival?
Depends on the club but probably the latter. Ironically United/Liverpool are probably well placed enough to opt for stability given their enduring, eurgh, “brands”. It’s more for the clubs in between (from a purely recognition and commercial success perspective) them and the teams at the bottom to take the risk. Some have been successful, some haven’t, guess it’s whether you’re the kind of person who’s happy with what they’ve got or always wants more.
Is falling short with Pochettino any different from falling short with Mourinho?
Only in that Pochettino is a more endearing character. It probably hurts more for their fans that Tottenham didn’t win anything under Poch, especially as with Jose you know it’s likely to end in tears eventually. But I’m not a Spurs fan so not my place to say.
In what circumstances is it okay for a team to move to a new stadium?
Necessity, be that financial, to enable growth or the old stadium not being fit for purpose. Circumstances where it is not okay include moving your club to Milton Keynes, owners selling the land and not thinking/bothering to buy the land their new stadium is built on (which sadly happened to Northwich Vics, leaving them still without a permanent home to this day), vanity projects (see Darlington’s 25,000 seater white elephant) and moving your club to Milton Keynes, a point that shouldn’t need reiterating but seemingly should have been by the FA 20 years ago
Does the team who ‘play the right way’ deserve to win?
Philosophically yes, realistically no. Martha should be the number one band in the country but Coldplay are the ones whose albums are on sale in Tesco. It’s not always a bad thing though, there’s plenty of us who would take not winning a trophy under Ole over not winning a trophy under Moyes/LVG/Mourinho.
Is Malcolm Glazer’s money better or worse than Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s? Or Roman Abramovich’s? Or Mike Ashley’s?
Yes and no. Money is money, and in a perfect world the source of that money wouldn’t be ladening clubs with debt, sports washing or creating an unlevel playing field. For every moneybags owner like Abramovich there’s a story of clubs getting inflated wealth and then hung out to dry when the owner gets bored or arrested. Football should be sustainable, it should give the opportunity to achieve bigger things, but it shouldn’t be a vanity project or an opportunity for the rich to do as they please. At least the first three mentioned don’t sell massive mugs.
Does anyone still care about 3pm kickoffs?
Yes, for the tradition and for the protection of the football pyramid. Stick every game on TV when the world re-opens and we’ll be saying goodbye to a significant number of clubs outside of the top flight as attendances dwindle and Sky/BT/Amazon take a further stranglehold on things. But that’s another debate for another time
I’m sure that definitively answers those questions, but if you disagree well…that’s the joy of being a football fan really isn’t it? If we all agreed it would be boring.
Mike, Burgess Hill (the Northwich of Sussex)
In answer to Mikey, CFC’s question re- favorite bikes, my answer would be his very own Eidur Gudjohnsen against Leeds in 02-03. Giroud’s and Alli’s were nice of course, but the ball popped up very nicely for them. The added difficulty in connecting with a cross first time increases the impressiveness of Gudjohnsen’s by order of magnitude. I beseech you to check it out on YouTube- besides being a great goal it guarantees a rush of nostalgia for fans of the early/mid 2000’s PL.
Paul, Gooner who can’t do a bicycle kick