Tag Archives: klopp

Emery’s Second Season

It eventually came down to the finest of margins.

Our last two matches in the Premier League and the Europa League final.

After more than fifty matches throughout the season, it boiled down to how we would perform in 270 minutes.

If we won all three?

It would mean a return to Champions League football at the first time of asking from Emery – and a big shiny European trophy to boot.

We would be competing in the summer for the European Super Cup, we would have banished our European hoodoo and announced our comeback to the big stage in the best possible way.

Instead, we were treated to an insipid 1-1 draw at home to Brighton, followed by a win over Burnley (too little, too late by this point) and then a calamitous performance in Baku where we were sent back to London with our tail between our legs by Chelsea.

From where we sit now, looking back, hindsight really does bring things into focus.

We could be remembering what constituted to be a wonderful season, culminating in a win over our London rivals on a European stage, lifting the Europa League.

We could be looking forward to a return of that famous Champions League anthem and more importantly, the extra clout and transfer budget that comes with inclusion of the European Cup.

Unai Emery would be looked upon as taking us in the right direction, instead of doubts on whether he is the right man for the job.

Never mind a little common sense – we missed out on all of the above because of our own failings!

It would be fantastic if everybody could take the equivalent of a mental cold shower, and look at things from a different perspective.

Yes, it is our own fault that we are in what is now a compromising position thanks to missing out on the Champions League.

However, have we not closed the gap?

Has Emery not made progress on where were when he took over – with largely the same squad that Arsene Wenger had?

 

sevilla-unai-emery_3286561
Woah there, gib me a shance!! 

 

We missed out on the top four by a solitary point. We missed out on the top3 by two points. Despite us picking up just one win on the home straight, we still only fell short by the finest of margins.

Jurgen Klopp, the buck-toothed, bespectacled coach heralded by all as a genius, finished in eighth spot in his first season.

Granted, he was then awarded a wad of cash to spend to revitalise his squad, but it shows what margins a new coach can bring. Klopp didn’t manage to do much in his first season, other than probably the most important factor – one that isn’t instantly tangible.

The roots of his tactics, his famous press, the demanding fitness ability that all players had to adhere to? That was instilled in that disappointing first season. The window of transition from where they were, to where they can now adapt their formation and tactics dynamically? That takes time.

Emery too, needs the time to ensure his tactics are bedded in. That press we saw in the games we flickered to life? The wins over Chelsea, spurs, United? That is what we can now expect next season, albeit a lot more frequently.

We dropped off constantly last season, our defence struggled to adapt to new instructions, plus last season began with two tough fixtures, which in turn put pressure on subsequent games.

Emery will be under no illusions regarding who he needs in and shipped out in order to strengthen and carry out his formulas into battle. The list will already be drawn up, and pre-season will see us again begin to hit the cardio emphatically in order to maintain the lung-bursting orders from Emery. The very same orders that will see us improve once again.

Our fanbase needs a dose of realism. Emery, nay, all coaches, need a window of time to instil their own virtues. Even the mightiest of oaks still need years to flower.

Yes, our transfer activity may not be as it should be for a club of our standing, but as we are self-sustaining, we can only spend what we make. We cleared around £40m last season?

Well, that’s how much we’ve got to work with.

Fear not though. Emery’s expertise will start to show next season. His excellent pedigree wasn’t obtained in a cereal packet, he earned it and if given time, he can show us how.

We have to support, rather than call into question everything.

At the end of the season, when the dust settles, let’s see where we are.

 

Does contact constitute a penalty?

The recent match between tottenham and Liverpool illuminated an alarming facet of the modern game.

The game ended in a 2-2 draw, but only thanks to some erroneous decision making that was then judged by the majority of authority figures to in fact, be on the correct path.

The game swivelled on two late penalties – both for tottenham – and on close inspection, with the aid of slo-mo technology and a myriad of angles, we can surely all see that both spot-kicks were incorrectly given.

Since when does contact constitute a penalty?

We can forgive the referee, Jon Moss, for giving them. In the speed of the game, some things take on entirely different views and mistakes are commonplace. If VAR was in place though, then neither would’ve been given, right?

Jon Moss was in conversation with his fourth official for the final penalty – when Virgil Van Dijk ‘collided’ with Erik Lamela – and after a lengthy discussion, he judged that the Dutchman had brought down the Argentine winger. Moss even asked the fourth official for the use of VAR – even though the technology wasn’t available for this game.

If Moss was so unsure that he needed the benefit of a TV replay, surely he shouldn’t have given it?

Jurgen Klopp raged after the game, the German coach was obviously convinced his side had bagged the points after Mohamed Salah had scored in extra time to put Liverpool 2-1 up.

Mark Clattenburg was asked in the days afterward regarding the awarding of both spot kicks and said that both were incorrectly awarded – but he was in the minority.

Harry Kane, when asked by BBC Sport about the award of the first penalty, when he went over Lorus Karius’s dive, said “I felt contact so I went down. I’m not going to jump out of the way because it’s football.”

Dejan Lovren was incensed about the penalty, and Van Dijk was quite candid, saying that Kane dived.

The second penalty, Jurgen Klopp said of Lamela;

“The softest touch in the whole game decided the game. Lamela was already on the way down.”

The PGMOL, Jermaine Jenas, former referee Dermot Gallagher and a host of other supposedly respected voices in the game all branded the penalties correct.

What does the actual law state for a penalty though?

‘If a player commits a direct free-kick offence in the penalty area, then a penalty is awarded.’

What constitutes a direct free-kick offence?

‘A direct free-kick is awarded if a player commits any of the following in a careless, reckless manner or using excessive force

charges

jumps at

kicks or attempts to kick

pushes

strikes or attempts to strike

tackles or challenges

trips or attempts to trip.

Did either incident involve any of the above? Does any of the above mention that contact constitutes an automatic spot kick?

No.

Raheem Sterling, Ashley Young, Delle Ali, Harry Kane, Ander Herrerra are all serial offenders, using a trailing leg or their forward impetus to sway the referees into a decision. Even our own players aren’t above simulating to earn an advantage – Welbeck vs AC Milan anyone?

Contact is going to be made in the game, and when a corner is swung in, players clamber over each other to gain leverage, yet no spot kicks are given. Harry Kane used Laurent Koscielny to climb and score the winner in the recent North London Derby, yet he wasn’t pulled up for this.

There are instances when players are unfairly penalised for not going down under a tackle, as the referee believes it isn’t a foul as the player hasn’t fallen to the ground like he’s been shot.

It is this that has led to players feeling justified in going to ground when they feel any form of contact. Why should their team lose out?

The game has changed, but it’s on dangerous footing. The current decision making is inconsistent and it can lead to massive errors.

Errors that can hardly have bigger ramifications with the financial rewards in the game.

VAR needs to be the impartial factor we all know it could be, but if match officials believe that contact constitutes a penalty, then what hope is there?

Liverpool Vs Arsenal – The Pre-Match Warm-Up

After nearly a month since our last Premiership match, Arsenal return to league matters today with a difficult trip to Anfield.

It was a 2-0 win over Hull city which was our aforementioned previous league game, but since then, the small matter of a humbling at the hands of Bayern Munich has resulted in a severe loss of confidence in the side. 

The dearth of matches may not be great for us fans, but it does at least give our players some much needed respite – from the physical demands and also the scrutiny they are under. Recent form and the title slipping away yet again before the business end of the season has seen disenchantment rise amongst fans, and the media have fixed their spotlight on the club.

This game against Liverpool doesn’t exactly give us the best opportunity to overturn our poor form against the so-called big clubs either. Our recent record at Anfield is poor, and Liverpool’s record against their Top4 rivals is strong in contrast.

This is illustrated by their excellent victory over tottenham in February, which was sandwiched between lacklustre losses to Hull and Leicester. Liverpool seem to have a problem geeing themselves up for the lesser lights of the league – but this means they will be primed for our visit.

Arsene Wenger confirmed in his latest press conference that Mesut Ozil missed training during the week through illness but should be available for selection. Aaron Ramsey has returned to first team training but a lack of match fitness should see him on the bench. Aside from Santi Cazorla, Wenger should have a full squad to pick from.

There can be no excuses this time around, as opposed to the corresponding fixture at the start of the season, when an inexperienced defence cost us in a 4-3 loss. We have nearly everybody fit and raring to go. Maybe a shake up in attack could do the trick?

Alex Iwobi is off-form, and Lucas Perez has displayed his readiness in every cameo he has made. A start for Lucas at the expense of the young Nigerian makes perfect sense for both players, but will Wenger choose to drop Iwobi?

Klopp is well aware of his side’s defensive failings, so Lucas Leiva may slot into midfield to add extra cover against our plethora of attacking options. The key will be Alexis and Walcott. If Alexis is on song, then it will take two defenders to contend with him. If Theo is on form and firing, then his pace is unrivalled within the Reds defensive numbers. 

the first twenty minutes will tell all. We are notoriously slow starters aside from those rare games when we finally click. Those halcyon matches shine brightly amidst the gloom, and we get about two of those matches a season. We have had one already with our win against Chelsea earlier this season, can we reproduce it again?

It is high time we bucked our trend against our big rivals. If we do not, then a battle to stay in the Champions League places becomes a dogfight.

After our recent match hiatus, the fixtures start to fly after this game. We need every single one of our players to finally find some form, and some spirit if we are to achieve anything this season.

It begins today at Anfield.

Predicted Lineup; Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Xhaka, Theo, Ozil, Lucas, Alexis

Predicted Scoreline; 2-1 Arsenal. 

Welcome To The Premiership Pep

It seems there may just be a little more substance to the claim that the Premiership is the toughest League in Europe after all. 

Pep Guardiola, fresh from constructing what many profess to be the greatest club side in recent memory – Barcelona circa 2009 – and leading Bayern Munich to another inevitable Bundesliga, his arrival at Manchester City was meant to signal the herald of a new era of domination at The Etihad. 

With seemingly bottomless funds to acquire the cream of Europe’s talent, and a manager that had crushed all comers who foolishly stood in his way in Spain, Germany and the rest of the continent, it was the portents of doom for the rest of the Premier League.

No one told them though.

As of this current moment, Manchester City stand not at the zenith of the competition they were supposed to win, but eight points away from the top. 

This sees Pep Guardiola in uncharted territory, as he not only struggles to keep his side’s credentials as title contenders, but also to ensure a vital Champions League spot for next season. The fallout from City not achieving a top four spot should be earth shattering, but the underlying fact of the matter is that this is not the perfect storm that sometimes befalls an unwitting manager. 

It is entirely his own doing.

Pep joining City was the worst kept secret in football, and the club announcing his acquisition during the previous season whilst Manuel Pellegrini was still at the helm was a bad PR exercise and harmful to the team when there was still much to play for.

It did mean that Guardiola could identify targets before he took the wheel at The Etihad, and that would give him ample time to construct a side that could play the style he wanted. The possession-based football which had garnered so much adulation and silverware.

Guardiola utilised City’s powerful chequebook and signed John Stones, Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus, Ilkay Gundogan, Claudio Bravo and Nolito to the tune of just over £170m. He also felt he had seen enough of England goalkeeper Joe Hart to judge that he was incapable of playing out from the back to a sufficient standard, and loaned Hart to Torino.

The only defensive signing he made was John Stones – for nearly £50m. This was the same Stones who the season before had been left out of the Everton side due to poor form. Stones had only played two full seasons at the top level, so a £50m fee was a bit steep even if Stones had shown glimpses of real potential. 

With City’s backline creaking in Pellegrini’s last season before being replaced by Pep, the new manager’s first error was overlooking the one weakness that could derail his grand plan before he could fully implement it. 

Vincent Kompany, the lynchpin of City’s two title wins, had played less than half of their games in 2015-16. His injuries were totting up and showed no signs of being rectified, so an experienced head in the centre of defence was required to help Stones tow the line. Another centre-back, Eliaquim Mangala, was allowed to leave on loan to Valencia, as defensive troops thinned yet further.

This left Nicolas Otamendi and Stones as their first choice pairing. The aging Pablo Zabaleta was still effective but was far below the level he had set himself previously, and Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna were solid, but also were not at the level they had shown in years gone by. Then there was Aleksander Kolarov, who could take a mean free kick but defensively was not the most watertight in a positional sense.

These were the men who would be charged with providing the solid foundation on which Pep’s mesmerising football would sit on. Then there was Claudio Bravo.

The keeper who had played under Pep at Barca could spark attacks with his passing from his box, and was drafted in as first choice in place of Joe Hart – a tried and tested Premier League keeper who had shared the golden glove award in the season before. 

It is a move which has backfired terribly. Claudio Bravo has looked anything but assured in the frenetic pace of the Premiership, and this change of speed has seen his normally cool dealings with the ball morph into bouts of hot panic amongst the City faithful.

Despite these errors of judgement by Guardiola, it seemed as if the side had enough about them – especially in attack – as by the end of September, they were without loss in the league and sat above their rivals. It led to the media waxing lyrical about the manager and declare an early end to league proceedings, as Guardiola had began in ominous fashion and would surely continue in the same fashion that he had done in Spain and Germany?

Many great football icons and minds have said that it is easy to win when you’re already winning, but getting back on the horse is a far more difficult job once you’ve been dumped unceremoniously on your backside. A true test of mettle would be how Guardiola and his men would deal with a loss. 

The month of October saw City fall to tottenham, draw with Everton, get humped by Barca, draw with Southampton and lose to Man United before ending the month with a face-saving win at West Brom. One loss had snowballed into five games without a win. Pep was feeling the heat and it appeared as if teams had figured out that City were still a side in transit. They were trying to play in the manner that their manager wished, but the Premier League does not allow for a recovery period or a term of adjustment. It kicks you when you’re down and taunts you for trying to get back up.

Since then, City have dropped points a further five times, and yet the media have pointed at the fact that the Spaniard is still coming to terms with a new country, a new league, a new squad. What has been overlooked is his financial outlay, his terrible planning in terms of transfers, and his indignant refusal to switch tactics.

Pep has had ample cash to rectify the shortcomings he now faces in his team’s defence. He instead opted to go with what he already had at his disposal, aside from John Stones. There would always be a period when Stones’ lack of experience would cost him, and with a lack of cover and Pep seemingly unable to choose a settled back four, it has seen performances littered with errors. 

Then we have the fact that the side he inherited is more than capable of winning the league. The man he replaced at The Etihad – Pellegrini – had to put up with the fact he was embarrasingly replaced as boss before his last season had ended and yet he still took his side to the top four. They have riches in their side that would walk into the majority of teams across the continent. 

The media’s refusal to unleash these criticism’s that they would have no hesitation to fling at his rivals has seen a rise of ignorance toward Guardiola’s failings. The man who was apparently infallible is now overseeing a team which is not performing at their best – and has not done since September. They have lost to big teams and small, and in Europe they may have progressed to the latter stages again, but isn’t this the least that should be expected? 

Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho, Jurgen Klopp. These managers have made a rod for their own back by their continued standards. If they slip, then to varying degrees they will face the heat from the flashing bulbs and myriad of questions from the paparazzi. By an extension of their own excellence, they now have to answer to all and sundry when there is even the tiniest of slips.

Pep Guardiola oversaw football from the gods at the Nou Camp, and maintained the superiority that Bayern had cultivated in Germany. With each of these sides though, he was picking up a team which was already crafted. He has never built a side from the ground up, or even had to patch up a squad that was severely wounded.

He has been allowed to concentrate solely on tactics as he has taken over a team which already comprised all of the parts needed. At Barca, Frank Rijkaard had won La Liga twice and the European Cup. The Dutchman had overhauled an underachieving side with a subtle blend of youth and new signings, and the trophies that were netted were a signal of the work that Rijkaard had done. When Guardiola took over, the side he inherited were already present. He obviously made some changes and took them to the next level, but fundamentally, the foundations were already there. 

When he arrived at Munich, he was handed a side that had just won a treble of German Cup, Bundesliga and the Champions League! 

At City, he had a team that needed a little TLC, but he was still given a team that was worthy of contending for honours. He wasn’t exactly given a team that needed a radical overhaul. 

He has never been at a post that required him to change a side, or to even patch it up. All the sides he has managed have had a sqwuad that is more than capable of cutting it at the top. This City side is the nearest he has come to performing all the tasks that every manager at every other club has to contend with, and he is showing his relative lack of experience. 

The Premier League is another factor in the equation which sees Pep struggle. In Spain, he had to contend with the giants of Real Madrid, but other than their perennial rivals, they had precious little in the way of obstacles to stop them on their way to La Liga. Similarly in Germany, it is another two horse race.

In the Premiership, it may have been the same case a few years back, but in the last ten or so years, there have been at least three or four sides at the beginning of each campaign that could have potentially gone on to win the competition. This season, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, tottenham and United will all be in the mix for the top four. All viable opponents which stand in the way of not only the title, but enabling City to sit at the top table in Europe.

His recent press conferences have seen the Spanish boss become rankled with questions that Wenger, Klopp, Mourinho and the rest are old hands at batting away. These queries are not exactly barbed, but yet the clipped responses and bristling words that Guardiola have thrown back are classic signs that the man is on the back foot. 

Pep will get the time he needs to oversee the changes he needs to make in order for City to play in the fashion which saw Pep’s Barca rule Europe, but in the meantime, his stubbornness to change his tactics as his men struggle to adapt has seen other teams take advantage. Change is good, but more often than not, it needs to be done incrementally. Just ask David Moyes.

Guardiola is still a top manager, but for the first time he has work to do. The time and funds he needs will be provided to him, but if he refuses to adapt his tactics and continues to ignore the gaps in his defence, then time and money will matter little.

The crown on Pep’s bald head is slipping. Welcome to the Premier League. 

Liverpool Vs Arsenal – Match Preview

Kick-Off – 2000hrs

A match between two of the Premier League heavyweights is enough to whet the appetite, but with the history these two clubs bring to the table and with some explosive past encounters – this match is always a highlight of the fixture calendar.

With Arsenal sitting on top of the Premiership and Liverpool not quite giving up hope of a Champions League spot, three points from this game is a must for both Klopp’s men and Wenger’s.

image

Continue reading Liverpool Vs Arsenal – Match Preview