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The Athletic - LFC related articles

Discussion in 'The Football Forum' started by Hass, Jun 3, 2020.

  1. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

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    Champions League qualification: What do Liverpool, Chelsea and Leicester need to do to finish in Premier League top four?
    [​IMG]
    By Charlotte Harpur May 20, 2021[​IMG] 43 [​IMG]
    In a season when the title, runners-up spot and the three relegation places have all been sewn up with time to spare, there is still plenty to decide as we go into Sunday’s final round of Premier League fixtures.
    The European places are in flux, with every team from third to 10th technically still able to nab a spot in one of three competitions — the Champions League, the Europa League and the new Europa Conference League.
    The Athletic has taken a look at what each club needs to do on Sunday to qualify for their priority tournament.
    Champions League qualification

    Chelsea
    Chelsea are in control of their own destiny. An away win over Aston Villa would secure third place on 70 points and guarantee Champions League qualification.
    That would represent a significant achievement for Thomas Tuchel, who took over in January with the club ninth in the table.
    If, however, Liverpool and Leicester City both win on the final day while Chelsea draw or lose, they would qualify for the Europa League instead.
    Of course, if that happened, they could still qualify for the Champions League by winning that competition’s 2020-21 final against Manchester City next Saturday (more on the ramifications of that game in Porto later).
    Liverpool
    After goalkeeper Alisson’s heroics at West Bromwich Albion, Leicester’s midweek loss to Chelsea and their win against Burnley 24 hours later, Liverpool are now fourth, level on points with Leicester but with a superior goal difference.
    The Champions League spot is theirs if they match Leicester’s result on Sunday, regardless of what Chelsea do. Liverpool meet Crystal Palace while Leicester face Tottenham Hotspur, with both top-four chasing sides having the advantage of playing at home in front of their fans.
    Leicester City
    Having won the FA Cup, Leicester are guaranteed European football next season but will they sneak into the Champions League places after losing out at the death at the end of 2019-20?
    They are level with Liverpool on 66 points but have the inferior goal difference. They must beat Tottenham at home and hope Chelsea lose to Villa or Liverpool fail to win their old boss Roy Hodgson’s final game as Palace manager. If Chelsea and Liverpool both win, Leicester would have to better Liverpool’s score by four goals to finish fourth.
    A point will also be enough for Leicester if Liverpool lose to Palace.
    Europa League qualification

    West Ham United
    West Ham are sixth on 62 points. A draw at home to Southampton would keep them in the top six and secure the second Europa League spot. If they lose though, Tottenham (and, technically, Everton) could overtake them, leaving David Moyes’ side to be Europa Conference League trailblazers.
    It would take Spurs picking up all three points in Leicester and Everton winning at Manchester City with an eight-goal swing to keep West Ham out of European competition altogether.
    Tottenham
    Europa League football is out of Spurs’ hands. They have to overcome Leicester and see if West Ham lose to Southampton.
    If they stay seventh, Tottenham would go into the Europa Conference League. If Everton better their result to poop City’s title party though, or if they fail to get maximum points in Leicester while Arsenal win at home to Brighton & Hove Albion, Spurs will be without European competition entirely.
    Europa Conference League qualification

    Everton
    Everton are level on points with Tottenham but three points behind West Ham with a vastly inferior goal difference. Assuming they don’t beat Manchester City by at least seven goals, their Europa League hopes are over.
    Instead, they can focus on the final push for… Europa Conference League qualification. That’s how you save a season.
    If they better both Tottenham’s and Arsenal’s results, they will secure seventh place.
    Arsenal
    All that remains for Arsenal is the prospect of the Europa Conference League.
    Their fate, however, is out of their hands. Sitting ninth, one point behind Everton, their match against Brighton is a must-win. They also have to hope that Tottenham and Everton don’t win their games.
    Leeds
    After a phenomenal run over the last 10 games — 21 points from 30 — Leeds have what could be called an outside shot of securing European football going into the last game of their first season back in the top flight.
    However, they would need Tottenham, Everton and Arsenal to lose, and mastermind a 15-goal swing on Spurs in seventh in their home game against relegated West Bromwich Albion.
    Well, it has been a strange season, after all.
    What happens if Chelsea win the Champions League?

    The only spanner in the works is if Chelsea finish outside the top four and then win the Champions League.
    What would change is that they would qualify automatically for UEFA’s No 1 club competition next year. But it would not really hurt Leicester or Liverpool if they have managed to overhaul the Londoners in the table. They would still take a place alongside them in the 2021-22 Champions League.
    Only seven clubs from England qualify for Europe, no matter what the finishing positions or the nationality of the European trophies’ winners. So, if Chelsea finish fifth and win the Champions League, there will only be one Europa League representative from England next season (the team that finishes sixth). The club who finish seventh would still get a place in the Europa Conference League.
    What if Manchester United win the Europa League?

    The Europa League winners are handed a Champions League place for the following season but, by finishing second in the Premier League, United have secured that anyway, so nothing will change.
     
  2. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

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    Supporters on the Liverpool board represents a welcome power shift
    [​IMG]
    By Simon Hughes May 20, 2021[​IMG] 76 [​IMG]
    There is an easy way to understand what the agreement between Liverpool’s supporters’ trust and the club’s board means in real terms.

    If John W Henry woke up in Boston one morning and decided it was necessary to change the sausage roll supplier on a match day at Anfield, he would still be able to go ahead and do it. If he decided, however, that he wanted to join a breakaway league then he’d have to work his way through a system first, consulting those who hold a deeper, more localised relationship with the institution he owns.

    There will be breakers in place that have the potential to intercept any of his ideas. Supporters will have a greater influence than they ever have without holding the same level of responsibility or risk as the owners.

    Given that the new arrangement will be wrapped up in the articles of association that define the club’s existence, it will mean any future owner of Liverpool will inherit this relationship as part of their undertaking. If it is all signed off, this could be a groundbreaking day for English football at an elite level.

    A couple of weeks ago, the Spirit of Shankly group had asked for two seats on Liverpool’s board and ultimately, they have only negotiated for representation of one delegate at board level. It might seem they have not got exactly what they want but in reality, they have potentially obtained more than they ever asked for. By contractual law, Liverpool’s owners now have to consult them before taking the biggest decisions. If they do not, they could find themselves in a courtroom.

    This represents a power shift. It is not what has happened at Chelsea, where two fan board representatives are bound by confidentiality and restricted by company law which means that whatever thoughts they have, they ultimately have to cede to the club’s wishes.

    Considering where Liverpool’s owners and its supporters stood after the collapse of the Super League, this is a spectacular development. It is true that Liverpool’s supporter base has been less visible in their wrath compared to Arsenal and especially Manchester United over the last month. There have been no demonstrations outside Anfield. That, however, does not mean they have been any less active.

    The frustrations with Fenway Sports Group (FSG) are real and in too many cases justified. Yet there is also an understanding that they have done more to develop the infrastructure at Liverpool than either the Glazers at United and Stanley Kroenke at Arsenal, owners that have barely done anything since their arrival and have merely sat on their asset. At Anfield, there are figures to negotiate with. The same cannot be said at Old Trafford or the Emirates.

    There had been a genuine belief that Liverpool’s owners could be persuaded of a better way because of their appointments on Merseyside, those who were cut out of discussions around the Super League. FSG, through Liverpool’s chief executive Billy Hogan, were warned at the start of their discussions that if talks did not amount to profound change then it was possible the scenes that caused the postponement of Liverpool’s game at United at the start of this month could be witnessed at Anfield. If this reaches a positive conclusion, it should reflect well on Hogan and enable him to avoid some of the mistakes of his predecessors.
    When each element of Liverpool pulls in the same direction, it can be an irresistible force but it does not take much to upset a fragile ecosystem. FSG must realise now that a clearer line of communication with fans can be beneficial if managed carefully, saving them time on projects and schemes destined never to get off the ground.
    They came to realise their reputation had hit rock bottom. There was arguably more outrage at their involvement in the ESL because more was expected of them. Reparation was given a priority status yet it is also safe to say they realised the benefits of being the first of the bad guys to turn the other way.

    The devil will always be in the detail but the signs are promising and there should be a wider spirit of optimism surrounding today’s announcement. The new structure at Anfield has not been designed for the supporters but by them. The model is one that will surely encourage others to try and replicate in some recognisable form.
     
  3. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

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    Liam Millar: Liverpool’s Canadian winger ready for step up after Charlton loan
    [​IMG]
    By Caoimhe O'Neill 6h ago[​IMG] 7 [​IMG]
    Liverpool winger Liam Millar is likely to be loaned out to a Championship club next season to build on a positive half-season with Charlton Athletic in League One.
    The 21-year-old Canada international’s parent club have already received a significant number of enquiries about him from sides in the second tier.
    Liverpool believe a higher level of competition will draw an improved level of performance from the left winger, who moved to London from Toronto with his father at age 12 to join Fulham’s academy. Millar’s father, Alan, is an electrician in the TV and film industry and has worked on shows including Game of Thrones and Peaky Blinders.
    In 2016, Millar moved to Liverpool’s academy and worked his way up the youth ranks at the club. He played for the under-18s when Steven Gerrard was their manager and later made the step up to the under-23s. Millar was loaned out to Kilmarnock for what was meant to be all of 2019-20 but by his own admission he struggled to adapt to the Scottish Premiership and he was back with Liverpool even before the pandemic forced an early end to the season north of the border last March.
    His January move to Charlton in the English third tier, however, has been more fruitful.
    The feeling at the south London club is that Millar added a new edge to their attack as they made a push for the play-offs — though they missed out on goal difference in the end. They were impressed with Millar’s pace as well as his ball control. He contributed two goals and six assists in 27 appearances — the last of which came in a 1-0 win over champions Hull City on the final day of the regular season — yet his delivery was not always on point.
    It is something Charlton supporters became frustrated with and Millar was, in turn, a player who at times divided opinion.
    “I thought I was going to be giving quite a controversial view that actually I quite liked him,” says Louis Mendez, who covers Charlton for the BBC. “In terms of striding down the wing with the ball, he is one of the best players we have had for a while. But his final ball, his final delivery, sort of let him down. It has been a cause of frustration for quite a few fans.
    “In my opinion, he was one of our better players in terms of taking us up the pitch and creating chances. If he could have a final ball or cross that delivered every single time, he would have stood out as one of the best players in the league — it was just that final decision making and delivery that let him down a little bit.”
    Nobody was more frustrated than Millar, though. When a shot was misplaced or a cross overhit, he was fuming with himself. The forward, who is close friends with national team-mate Alphonso Davies of Bayern Munich, demands much more.
    Mendez was impressed with this aspect of Millar’s character.
    “He never hid,” he explains. “He would always pick the ball up and try again. When Diallang Jaiyesimi got injured, Liam was pretty much our only outlet. There was one specific game, against Peterborough at home (last month), where we ended up losing 1-0 but we felt we played quite well in it. Liam was the man who made everything happen, I think he touched the ball more than anyone in the side that game. The team always looked to him to get them forward up the pitch.”
    [​IMG]

    Millar playing for Liverpool Under-23s (Photo: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
    Speaking to Charlton TV last weekend, Millar noted what an important learning experience it had been for him at The Valley after struggling in the Scottish top flight last season.
    “I think the important thing for me was, I had a bit of a rough spell in Scotland and I didn’t do too well at times,” he said. “But I think that I have come here and I have matured over time. When I came here, I was still used to under-23s football. I was doing the same thing over and over and over again. Then I went through a rough patch where I wasn’t playing at my best. I know that’s football but I had never really experienced that before.
    “At the -23s, not to be cocky or anything, but it was too easy for me. I was at that point where I had to move on and get league football. I came here and I think I matured a lot. There were times when I was very predictable but I think, towards the end now, I was able to go outside or inside and not just one way. I have improved on a lot of things, so for me, it was a positive loan spell.”
    Away from the invaluable lessons he has learnt, the personal growth and the regularity of his football, the main positive for Millar is that he is now on the radar of second division clubs.
    Those at Charlton were naturally keen to know whether or not Millar would like to rejoin them for a full season’s loan spell next term. His answer respectfully hinted he sees his next move as being to somewhere in the next league up.
    “I think it is just about decisions on whether I want to go and challenge myself in the Championship or wherever it is,” he said while standing alongside Charlton legend Alan Curbishley, who was a keen admirer of his football throughout his stay at The Valley. “It’s always an option and I am more than happy to come back here, because I had a great experience.”
    Mendez thinks the “Liverpool player” label that clung to Millar’s shirt all season made some Charlton fans unfairly expect more from him. “Because he has come from a big club like Liverpool, a lot of fans assume he is going to be the finished product already,” he adds. “But I do think a lot of people forget how young he is.”
    Decisions over Millar’s future are currently on hold because the father of one has a busy summer of football ahead of him with Canada.
    First up, Millar will be hoping to feature in World Cup qualifiers against Aruba on June 6 and Suriname three days later. Canada will then take part in the CONCACAF Gold Cup — the North and Central American version of the European Championship, staged in the US in July — a tournament and experience Millar will relish alongside Davies and co.
    What is known is that Liverpool will not cash in on Millar this summer, as the club are hopeful he will continue to improve. That end-product issue mentioned above is just one area among others they note he needs to sharpen up.
    “He’s still far away from playing at Liverpool,” says Mendez. “Clearly, there are things for him to improve on but they do say decision making is something you get better at with more experience — and that would probably be the main thing for him. I would definitely have him at Charlton again if he was up for it.”
     
  4. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

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    Supporters on the Liverpool board represents a welcome power shift
    [​IMG]
    By Simon Hughes May 20, 2021[​IMG] 97 [​IMG]
    There is an easy way to understand what the agreement between Liverpool’s supporters’ trust and the club’s board means in real terms.

    If John W Henry woke up in Boston one morning and decided it was necessary to change the sausage roll supplier on a match day at Anfield, he would still be able to go ahead and do it. If he decided, however, that he wanted to join a breakaway league then he’d have to work his way through a system first, consulting those who hold a deeper, more localised relationship with the institution he owns.

    There will be breakers in place that have the potential to intercept any of his ideas. Supporters will have a greater influence than they ever have without holding the same level of responsibility or risk as the owners.

    Given that the new arrangement will be wrapped up in the articles of association that define the club’s existence, it will mean any future owner of Liverpool will inherit this relationship as part of their undertaking. If it is all signed off, this could be a groundbreaking day for English football at an elite level.

    A couple of weeks ago, the Spirit of Shankly group had asked for two seats on Liverpool’s board and ultimately, they have only negotiated for representation of one delegate at board level. It might seem they have not got exactly what they want but in reality, they have potentially obtained more than they ever asked for. By contractual law, Liverpool’s owners now have to consult them before taking the biggest decisions. If they do not, they could find themselves in a courtroom.

    This represents a power shift. It is not what has happened at Chelsea, where two fan board representatives are bound by confidentiality and restricted by company law which means that whatever thoughts they have, they ultimately have to cede to the club’s wishes.

    Considering where Liverpool’s owners and its supporters stood after the collapse of the Super League, this is a spectacular development. It is true that Liverpool’s supporter base has been less visible in their wrath compared to Arsenal and especially Manchester United over the last month. There have been no demonstrations outside Anfield. That, however, does not mean they have been any less active.

    The frustrations with Fenway Sports Group (FSG) are real and in too many cases justified. Yet there is also an understanding that they have done more to develop the infrastructure at Liverpool than either the Glazers at United and Stanley Kroenke at Arsenal, owners that have barely done anything since their arrival and have merely sat on their asset. At Anfield, there are figures to negotiate with. The same cannot be said at Old Trafford or the Emirates.

    There had been a genuine belief that Liverpool’s owners could be persuaded of a better way because of their appointments on Merseyside, those who were cut out of discussions around the Super League. FSG, through Liverpool’s chief executive Billy Hogan, were warned at the start of their discussions that if talks did not amount to profound change then it was possible the scenes that caused the postponement of Liverpool’s game at United at the start of this month could be witnessed at Anfield. If this reaches a positive conclusion, it should reflect well on Hogan and enable him to avoid some of the mistakes of his predecessors.
    When each element of Liverpool pulls in the same direction, it can be an irresistible force but it does not take much to upset a fragile ecosystem. FSG must realise now that a clearer line of communication with fans can be beneficial if managed carefully, saving them time on projects and schemes destined never to get off the ground.
    They came to realise their reputation had hit rock bottom. There was arguably more outrage at their involvement in the ESL because more was expected of them. Reparation was given a priority status yet it is also safe to say they realised the benefits of being the first of the bad guys to turn the other way.

    The devil will always be in the detail but the signs are promising and there should be a wider spirit of optimism surrounding today’s announcement. The new structure at Anfield has not been designed for the supporters but by them. The model is one that will surely encourage others to try and replicate in some recognisable form.
     
  5. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

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    Liam Millar: Liverpool’s Canadian winger ready for step up after Charlton loan
    [​IMG]
    By Caoimhe O'Neill May 21, 2021[​IMG] 24 [​IMG]
    Liverpool winger Liam Millar is likely to be loaned out to a Championship club next season to build on a positive half-season with Charlton Athletic in League One.
    The 21-year-old Canada international’s parent club have already received a significant number of enquiries about him from sides in the second tier.
    Liverpool believe a higher level of competition will draw an improved level of performance from the left winger, who moved to London from Toronto with his father at age 12 to join Fulham’s academy. Millar’s father, Alan, is an electrician in the TV and film industry and has worked on shows including Game of Thrones and Peaky Blinders.
    In 2016, Millar moved to Liverpool’s academy and worked his way up the youth ranks at the club. He played for the under-18s when Steven Gerrard was their manager and later made the step up to the under-23s. Millar was loaned out to Kilmarnock for what was meant to be all of 2019-20 but by his own admission he struggled to adapt to the Scottish Premiership and he was back with Liverpool even before the pandemic forced an early end to the season north of the border last March.
    His January move to Charlton in the English third tier, however, has been more fruitful.
    The feeling at the south London club is that Millar added a new edge to their attack as they made a push for the play-offs — though they missed out on goal difference in the end. They were impressed with Millar’s pace as well as his ball control. He contributed two goals and six assists in 27 appearances — the last of which came in a 1-0 win over champions Hull City on the final day of the regular season — yet his delivery was not always on point.
    It is something Charlton supporters became frustrated with and Millar was, in turn, a player who at times divided opinion.
    “I thought I was going to be giving quite a controversial view that actually I quite liked him,” says Louis Mendez, who covers Charlton for the BBC. “In terms of striding down the wing with the ball, he is one of the best players we have had for a while. But his final ball, his final delivery, sort of let him down. It has been a cause of frustration for quite a few fans.
    “In my opinion, he was one of our better players in terms of taking us up the pitch and creating chances. If he could have a final ball or cross that delivered every single time, he would have stood out as one of the best players in the league — it was just that final decision making and delivery that let him down a little bit.”
    Nobody was more frustrated than Millar, though. When a shot was misplaced or a cross overhit, he was fuming with himself. The forward, who is close friends with national team-mate Alphonso Davies of Bayern Munich, demands much more.
    Mendez was impressed with this aspect of Millar’s character.
    “He never hid,” he explains. “He would always pick the ball up and try again. When Diallang Jaiyesimi got injured, Liam was pretty much our only outlet. There was one specific game, against Peterborough at home (last month), where we ended up losing 1-0 but we felt we played quite well in it. Liam was the man who made everything happen, I think he touched the ball more than anyone in the side that game. The team always looked to him to get them forward up the pitch.”
    [​IMG]

    Millar playing for Liverpool Under-23s (Photo: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
    Speaking to Charlton TV last weekend, Millar noted what an important learning experience it had been for him at The Valley after struggling in the Scottish top flight last season.
    “I think the important thing for me was, I had a bit of a rough spell in Scotland and I didn’t do too well at times,” he said. “But I think that I have come here and I have matured over time. When I came here, I was still used to under-23s football. I was doing the same thing over and over and over again. Then I went through a rough patch where I wasn’t playing at my best. I know that’s football but I had never really experienced that before.
    “At the -23s, not to be cocky or anything, but it was too easy for me. I was at that point where I had to move on and get league football. I came here and I think I matured a lot. There were times when I was very predictable but I think, towards the end now, I was able to go outside or inside and not just one way. I have improved on a lot of things, so for me, it was a positive loan spell.”
    Away from the invaluable lessons he has learnt, the personal growth and the regularity of his football, the main positive for Millar is that he is now on the radar of second division clubs.
    Those at Charlton were naturally keen to know whether or not Millar would like to rejoin them for a full season’s loan spell next term. His answer respectfully hinted he sees his next move as being to somewhere in the next league up.
    “I think it is just about decisions on whether I want to go and challenge myself in the Championship or wherever it is,” he said while standing alongside Charlton legend Alan Curbishley, who was a keen admirer of his football throughout his stay at The Valley. “It’s always an option and I am more than happy to come back here, because I had a great experience.”
    Mendez thinks the “Liverpool player” label that clung to Millar’s shirt all season made some Charlton fans unfairly expect more from him. “Because he has come from a big club like Liverpool, a lot of fans assume he is going to be the finished product already,” he adds. “But I do think a lot of people forget how young he is.”
    Decisions over Millar’s future are currently on hold because the father of one has a busy summer of football ahead of him with Canada.
    First up, Millar will be hoping to feature in World Cup qualifiers against Aruba on June 6 and Suriname three days later. Canada will then take part in the CONCACAF Gold Cup — the North and Central American version of the European Championship, staged in the US in July — a tournament and experience Millar will relish alongside Davies and co.
    What is known is that Liverpool will not cash in on Millar this summer, as the club are hopeful he will continue to improve. That end-product issue mentioned above is just one area among others they note he needs to sharpen up.
    “He’s still far away from playing at Liverpool,” says Mendez. “Clearly, there are things for him to improve on but they do say decision making is something you get better at with more experience — and that would probably be the main thing for him. I would definitely have him at Charlton again if he was up for it.”
     
  6. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

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    Alisson’s header, Shaw’s resurgence and Bruce’s dog: Saying goodbye to the 2020-21 Premier League
    [​IMG]
    By The Athletic UK Staff and more May 22, 2021[​IMG] 78 [​IMG]
    From the highs of Alisson’s header to the lows of the Super League shambles, this season has been… strange. With no supporters in the ground for the vast majority of it, the games have been eerie and the players and managers more detached than ever.
    But to recap the Premier League campaign that is about to draw to a close, our writers bring you their key (and trivial) observations from a season like never before. And hopefully one like never again.

    Best moment of the season
    Michael Cox:
    Alisson’s 95th-minute headed winner for Liverpool against West Brom. I would actually say that has been the only truly memorable moment of an otherwise dreadful campaign — mainly because of the lack of supporters, but also because of the lack of drama at either end of the table.
    Carl Anka: This dissolution of the Super League. For 48 hours, a collection of monied individuals attempted to rewrite reality and create a newer, duller footballing world… and then football fans banded together to stop them. A new threat may arise in future, but now supporters have implicit knowledge that the sport they enjoy has been designed by the few. Which means it can be redesigned by the efforts of the many.
    Daniel Taylor: Marcus Rashford taking on the Establishment and, let’s face it, giving them a bit of a chasing. Just a pity the absence of crowds meant non-Manchester United supporters couldn’t show they appreciated him, too.
    Oliver Kay: Football behind closed doors isn’t remotely the same, so it was uplifting to see the fans returning — briefly for some in December and again for everyone in this final week. And I loved the scenes of celebration outside Stamford Bridge the other week when the news came through that Chelsea were pulling out of the appalling travesty that the “Super League” represented. It was heartening that the protests were led by the fans of the bigger clubs, summed up by that Chelsea fan with a banner saying “We want our cold nights in Stoke”. This season has underlined how important supporters are in making football matches feel meaningful. They also have a huge part to play in trying to save the game from the clutches of megalomaniacs.
    Simon Hughes: Tempted to say Alisson at West Brom too, but in the interest of offering something different, let’s go with Manuel Lanzini’s majestic last-minute equaliser at Tottenham, this after West Ham were 3-0 down with 10 minutes left. Before Alisson, it was the only time in a campaign undermined by VAR where I knew nothing was going to interrupt my enjoyment of the moment. Plus, Lanzini’s shot hit both the crossbar and a post on the way in. And you don’t see that happening very often.
    [​IMG]

    Alisson provides the moment of the season for many – as an attacking player (Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
    Nick Miller: On the pitch: It’s not been a vintage season for drama or competitiveness, but Stuart Dallas’ second goal for Leeds away to Manchester City sticks out, if only because it beat City at a time when they looked pretty unbeatable, and it allowed you to think for a brief moment that they wouldn’t just steamroller everyone. Off the pitch: The evening the Super League collapsed.
    George Caulkin: The wider response of football to the Super League bollocks, forcing that hilarious, humiliating climbdown. After years of being ignored, or worse, it’s good to be reminded that supporters do have some power, albeit there has to be a collective will to use it. Reform, of some sort, is coming. Good. Greedy bastards.
    Stuart James: Hard to look beyond Alisson’s goal. There’s always a little bit of excitement when you see a goalkeeper going up for a corner, even though you know that they are far more likely to get in the way than do anything remotely useful. Then Alisson goes and does that. And what a header it was, by the way.

    Worst moment of the season
    Cox: The Super League stuff. I’m not staunchly against some form of European league one day, if inequalities within top-flight leagues persist, but you very obviously can’t cherry-pick sides based upon revenues, then have no relegation. It was handled appallingly.
    Anka: It’s been a difficult year for everyone. Football has been a much-needed release for many, but there have been moments where the love of football has given way to senseless hatred. No footballer should be abused on social media. Karen Carney should do her job as a pundit without her name trending full of hateful comments. Players taking a knee shouldn’t be booed.
    Taylor: “Sooner or later, we’re going to lose a young life,” one coach told me when I started writing about how difficult it can be for players who have been released from academy systems. At the time, I wanted to think he was being over-dramatic. And then came the tragedy of Jeremy Wisten, formerly of Manchester City’s academy.
    Kay: I’ve already mentioned the “Super League”, so I’ll just say any of the many occasions when goals were disallowed or penalties or red cards were given on the basis of flimsy video evidence. I would trust Sian Massey-Ellis making an offside call with her naked eye more than I would trust David Coote, or whoever, dragging lines across a computer screen. I feel like every minute lost to a VAR review takes a day off my life.
    Hughes: The lost minutes of my life waiting for a message to reach us from Stockley Park, only for a decision to be referred back to the referee on the pitch. I will never get them back and neither will you. Where there are humans involved, there is potential for human error. VAR means it is now possible for two officials to make a mistake in the same game rather than one. They can now spend as many as six minutes deciding what to do… and still get it wrong. I find myself asking the same question regularly: What is the point in all of this? Better to accept that officials, like players and managers, make mistakes in games and move on.
    [​IMG]

    A Super League without promotion and relegation was a non-starter with fans (Photo: Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images)
    Miller: On the pitch: Wolves striker Raul Jimenez’s head injury against Arsenal in November: you always tense up at moments like that, because with a serious knee injury or similar, realistically the worst that could happen would be the end of a player’s career, but something like that could be life-changing. Off the pitch: The Super League even being a remote possibility.
    Caulkin: It’s not a moment, it’s the whole thing. Having no fans has been awful. Football is pretend, anyway, but without anybody there, what’s the point? There’s no emotional backdrop, no resonance, no heft, no pull, no lingering joy from inconsequential moments, no comedy swearing. The game finishes, and you turn your TV off.
    James: The shambles of the Super League has to be straight in at No 1. Not that it was really a surprise to learn that the owners involved have so little regard for managers, players and supporters. And how can I not mention VAR? Patrick Bamford’s “offside” goal for Leeds against Crystal Palace, when he was penalised for pointing where he wanted a team-mate to play a pass, was one of far too many farcical decisions.

    Most surprising moment of the season
    Cox: Not particularly a “moment”, but Aston Villa smashing Liverpool 7-2 must be among the most surprising results since the formation of the Premier League.
    Anka: A goalkeeper scored the winning goal in the 95th minute of a game. With a header. A brilliant one.
    Taylor: Daniel Gray sums it in his book, Extra Time: 50 Further Delights Of Modern Football, in a chapter entitled Goalkeepers Going Forward. “What a joyous waste of time it normally is. No goal is scored. The fantasy vanishes … His efforts were a beautiful interruption,” Gray writes, “as if a stickman had entered a Michelangelo painting.” And then, in the fifth added minute of a game at West Bromwich Albion, Alisson delivered the most hilarious, mind-bending goal of the season.
    Kay: Not so much a moment as a day: October 4, when Tottenham won 6-1 at Manchester United and Aston Villa then thrashed Liverpool 7-2. Seriously, what the hell was that all about? You would have got much shorter odds on Alisson scoring a 95th-minute winner at The Hawthorns.
    Hughes: Maybe surprising is the wrong word but this, I think, has been a season of firsts. Who can remember Manchester United scoring a winner from a penalty at Brighton after the referee had already blown to signal the end of the match? Who can remember Liverpool having a goal disallowed at Spurs for a handball by Roberto Firmino near the halfway line without Eric Dier fouling him being taken into consideration, nor his own handball which prompted Firmino’s alleged indiscretion?
    Miller: Alisson’s goal, obviously, but Aston Villa beating Liverpool 7-2 is up there.
    Caulkin: I was at the Amex Stadium in March to see Brighton tear Newcastle apart for the second time of the season. They lost 3-0, they were truly appalling, they were 17th and it felt like the end. I was sure they were going down. Their recovery since then has been impressive and – shock of all shocks – occasionally fun to watch. Fair play.
    James: Graham Potter managing to actually upset someone. To be fair to the Brighton head coach, he did swiftly apologise for celebrating the winning goal against Manchester City earlier this week.

    Player you were most wrong about
    Cox: Victor Lindelof was terrible in Manchester United’s first game, a 3-1 home loss to Crystal Palace, and I never really understood what he was all about. But he’s largely been excellent in United’s big games and contributed heavily to their run of clean sheets in those matches.
    Anka: Jannik Vestergaard. Last season, while covering Southampton for The Athletic, Vestergaard threw me for a loop. Here was a 6ft 6in centre-back who was shaky in the air — and not much better when the ball was on the deck. This season, he’s been a revelation. Leicester once tried to buy him for £25 million and everyone scoffed. Whoever tried to get that deal across is a wizard.
    Taylor: Luke Shaw. I had started to think that if Manchester United had serious ambitions of re-establishing themselves as Premier League challengers, they needed to upgrade at left-back. But Shaw is 25 now – older, wiser, and making up for the years of drift.
    Kay: There have been so many players who have proved people wrong this season. I wasn’t one of those who wrote off Jesse Lingard or John Stones, but I was surprised by the scale of their resurgence. And Nathaniel Phillips has been a revelation. But my nomination in this category is Patrick Bamford. I didn’t doubt that he could do well in the Premier League in terms of his all-round contribution, but if I’d been guessing how many goals he would score for Leeds this season, I think I would have said seven or eight. He’s gone way beyond that.
    Hughes: Thiago’s performances over the last month have improved dramatically but for most of the season, he has looked like the right player for Liverpool at the wrong time. COVID-19 and a serious injury provide mitigation, however. So let’s go instead with Phillips, who might still prove himself to be a Championship defender but has not looked too out of place in a team where nearly everything has gone wrong but who go into the final game knowing they’ll qualify for the Champions League with a win.
    Miller: I don’t think I was alone in writing Lingard off, so seeing him do so well on loan at West Ham has been pretty heart-warming. The romantic in me also thought/hoped Gareth Bale would roll back the years at Tottenham.
    [​IMG]
     
  7. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

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    Part 2

    A forgotten man for the first half of the season at Manchester United, January loanee Lingard was helped West Ham to the brink of European qualification (Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA Images via Getty Images)
    Caulkin: I don’t think I really had any fervent opinions either way on stuff like this, but it’s been great to see Bamford answer all those questions about whether he could cut it in the Premier League. Like the rest of his team-mates at Leeds, he’s been brilliant.
    James: Timo Werner, I guess. I really did think he would score 20-plus league goals for Chelsea this season. Perhaps we underestimate at times how difficult it is to adapt to a different competition. It still feels like he could come good next season, though. I think.

    Team you were most wrong about
    Cox: West Ham have defied my pre-season prediction table by a greater margin than any side since Leicester won the title in 2015-16. Tomas Soucek and Declan Rice have been excellent in midfield and the January loan signing of Lingard was transformative, but I’d still struggle to explain how they were in the running for a Champions League place for most of the season.
    Anka: West Ham. When David Moyes returned for a second spell in charge halfway through last season, I said the problem with West Ham is it is owned by people that do not know what West Ham is, and predicted they would get relegated in 2020-21. Moyes has shown the owners what the club should be about — hard work, communal spirit, and bloodying the noses of the bigger boys in London. Some managers can drive Formula One cars, Moyes has steered the fixer-upper sedan that is West Ham into the top half with skill.
    Taylor: Liverpool. Yes, it wasn’t realistic to think they would maintain their points-per-game ratio from the previous two seasons. Yes, maybe a slight drop-off should have been expected. But nobody could have foreseen the spectacular mid-season collapse that took the now-deposed Premier League champions out of the title race.
    Kay: West Ham. Everything coming out of the club last summer — and for most of the past five years, really — was so gloomy and miserable. When they then lost the first two games, they looked like a relegation waiting to happen. But Moyes has done a fantastic job to re-energise the team. And while I expected a drop-off from Liverpool this season, particularly after losing their three senior central defenders to injury, I didn’t expect the scale of the collapse they suffered in mid-season. To their credit, they’ve recovered well, but I could never have imagined them looking as broken as they did for that period.
    Hughes: West Ham. Had them down for avoiding relegation, narrowly. Qualifying for Europe (which they will, unless something mad happens on Sunday) is an incredible achievement. I wonder whether they’ll be able to perform with the same confidence and freedom once fans properly return, however.
    Miller: Liverpool. I wasn’t sure they would win the league again, but I didn’t think they would end up this far behind. I also thought Arsenal would be exciting: not necessarily good, but at least play some entertaining football. More fool me. In the other direction, West Ham, who I thought would be a disaster; and every August I convince myself that this is the year Burnley will drop. Chapeau, Dychey.
    Caulkin: I’m sure most people will say West Ham, and that’s probably the right answer. There were whispers about trust breaking down between manager and board at the start of the season, but Moyes has rebuilt himself after the disaster of Sunderland. I also thought Tottenham would win something before the inevitable Mourinho implosion.
    James: Where to start? I never imagined Liverpool would make such hard work of trying to finish in the top four – then again, who could have foreseen those injuries in central defence. West Ham breaking into the top six… I didn’t see that coming either. Did anybody? I also thought Chelsea would perform a lot better, partly based on the signings of Werner and Kai Havertz, who both started the season in my fantasy team; looking back, that flawed summer recruitment cost me a place in the top four of The Athletic league.
    [​IMG]

    It’s been a frustrating debut season at Chelsea for Timo Werner (Photo: John Berry/Getty Images)

    Signing of the season
    Cox: It’s obviously Ruben Dias, but I’ll throw in Raphinha as an alternative. I really wasn’t aware of him before he joined Leeds from French club Rennes, but from his full debut against Arsenal, he looked tremendously exciting. He can shoot from range, cross well and makes good decisions on the break.
    Anka: Dias took a while to warm up but he not only healed a strange Manchester City defence (as well as John Stones for England) but served as another example of how we have no idea who is a great centre-back until a month after they’ve displayed their greatness. He’s 6ft 2in and broad-shouldered in a way that makes you think he should be clumsy, but he is able to contort his upper body in such a way he can get around the pitch and bully attackers far better than he has any right to. And he’s only just turned 24 years old.
    Taylor: Dias. Not an original selection, but an easy choice in a year when someone very high up at Manchester United had confidently assured me there were no outstanding centre-backs on the market.
    Kay: Dias has been fantastic for City — player of the year, in my opinion — and Edinson Cavani has proved an inspired addition for Manchester United. In terms of the more under-the-radar signings, Ollie Watkins and Raphinha have been excellent. And, of course, Lingard’s loan move to West Ham.
    Hughes: Watkins. I like Villa — strong defence, aggressive and creative in midfield, fast wide players. Last season, they had a lot of this but were missing a focal point up front and, despite good performances, lost too many games. Watkins has been transformational for their results. I think they are now only a couple of players away from challenging for Europe.
    Miller: Dias. As City’s manager Pep Guardiola said earlier in the season, it’s not just that he has been brilliant, but that he seems to make everyone else play better too.
    Caulkin: With the obvious nod to Dias, Lingard’s loan move has been a career jump-start. I’ll also mention two Newcastle players: Joe Willock for his goals. Callum Wilson for his goals and just being an actual centre-forward.
    James: Wesley Fofana would have to be one of the leading candidates. He’s been exceptional for Leicester and there must be a few of the top clubs asking themselves how they missed out on the 20-year-old central defender. There’s a lot to like about Raphinha at Leeds and what a find Tomas Soucek has been for West Ham. Obviously, Dias has been excellent too, but he did cost City £65 million.

    Irrational gripe of the season
    Cox: It’s taken until the final week of the season before no club had a game in hand. It’s just annoying.
    Anka: This has been the weirdest, most unconventional and dysfunctional season ever… but now its champions are the richest team in the league and two of the three promoted sides have been relegated. “The best endings are surprising, yet inevitable”, but something is lacking to the narrative conclusions of 2020-21. Fulham vs Newcastle on Sunday once looked like being a last-day relegation play-off. Instead, everything has concluded on a fatigued whimper.
    Taylor: You can have a selection. 1) Goalscorers not thanking the player who laid on the ball. 2) Statements written by spin doctors and purportedly from managers, players or owners (you’re not fooling anyone, Joel). 3) Corners being taken with the ball hanging over the line. 4) Journalists who have never stood on an away end in their lives criticising fan protests.
    Kay: All my gripes are entirely rational and justifiable, thank you. But I want to get something off my chest. It should not be considered “clever” to win a penalty — or to get an opponent sent off — by deceit. It shouldn’t even be possible in the VAR era. But somehow it has become acceptable, as has squealing and rolling around in the hope of getting an opponent booked.
    Hughes: And let’s go to Peter Walton for the reasons above.
    Miller: TV commentators being made to apologise for audible swearing by players and managers. That said, it has been pretty funny to hear the increasingly passive-aggressive ways those commentators have expressed their apologies.
    Caulkin: This has nothing to do with football. When weather forecasters say “the temperature is going to be six degrees today, but it’s going to feel like minus two”. Surely our system of measuring temperature is all wrong? If it feels like minus two, then it’s minus two. Why does nobody agree with me about this?
    James: Playing on when somebody is clearly offside annoys me a lot more than it does some people. And I also get worked up by players preventing free kicks from being taken quickly facing no punishment. Deliberately kicking the ball against an opponent in that situation is frowned upon, but I’m all for it.

    Quote of the season
    Cox: I liked Ralph Hasenhuttl’s “the worst thing you can do against Burnley is go 2-0 down”, because it sounds obvious, but Southampton actually came back from two behind to beat them 3-2 last month, and therefore demonstrated that 2-0 is a dangerous lead, so he was completely wrong.
    [​IMG]

    New signing Dias has tightened Manchester City up defensively and chipped in at the other end too (Photo: Matt McNulty – Manchester City/Manchester City FC via Getty Images)
    Anka: Brighton head coach Potter did a fantastic interview with BBC Radio 5 Live last month where he gave insights on his degrees and the importance of emotional intelligence in coaching as well as this titbit: “Every league, there are clubs who have bigger finances and different resources. But that’s the beauty of football — and you have to use what you have to try to be competitive and do your best to find a way to beat the system. which is the financial power. But as you can imagine, that does not just happen, it takes weeks, days, or months. It takes a bit of time — that’s what we’re trying to do.” Football is about hope. Potter is able to articulate that in a way we often find difficult.
    Taylor: Newcastle head coach Steve Bruce expressing his support for the game’s social-media boycott weekend (try to read this next bit in his voice). “I was talking with my son about the abuse a referee was getting and he said, ‘Dad, it’s nothing compared to what you get’. I looked and I was, like, ‘Wow’. But on the flip side, social media got me my dog back after it ran away from a firework display.”
    Kay: “I don’t like it, and hopefully it doesn’t happen” — James Milner’s beautifully succinct on the “Super League” fiasco.
    Hughes: I get the feeling this could be the end of Sam Allardyce as a manager, although I wouldn’t be surprised if we ended up seeing more of him as a pundit now he’s leaving the West Brom job. He’s always had a lot to say for himself, so it wasn’t really a surprise to hear him complaining about Michail Antonio on Wednesday night after the West Ham forward suggested everyone knows what to expect from an Allardyce team. I could understand any manager taking offence at being described as predictable but Allardyce has long tried to tell everyone he isn’t a long-ball merchant, thus implying he is something he isn’t. If it proves to be his last press conference as a manager, it was a fitting way to bow out.
    Miller: “Same coach, different players.” One of the things about the old Jose Mourinho was that, while arrogant, he did have some sense of self-awareness. The fact that he said this without thinking maybe he was the problem, rather than his Spurs players, suggests that quality has disappeared along with many others.
    Caulkin: “We were absolute shite, absolutely frigging hopeless.” Bruce after Newcastle became the first team to lose to Sheffield United in the Premier League this season.
    James: As above, Liverpool’s Milner giving his take on the Super League: “I don’t like it, and hopefully it doesn’t happen.” We wondered at the time whether players would say how they really felt. Milner, to his credit, didn’t shy away from expressing his thoughts live on Sky, straight after a match.

    Which match would you pay to rewatch live?
    Cox: Any one played without supporters is automatically out of the running here. So I’m going for Liverpool 2 Tottenham 1 shortly before Christmas, a game between two sides who were, strange at it seems now, joint-top at the time. It featured a last-minute winner, and the 2,000 fans in attendance made it feel proper, and also sang some nice tributes to Gerard Houllier, who had passed away that week. That’s the kind of thing I want to experience at games.
    Anka: Leeds 1 Manchester City 1 is one of those glorious examples of how football at the cutting edge is about interpreting space and should be a teaching resource for years to come. But the real answer is Aston Villa 7 Liverpool 2. When someone asks you to explain the silliness of English football, show them that game.
    Taylor: Manchester United 6 Leeds 2. How often do you come away from a match in which one team have sieved six goals and still admire them? Yes, Leeds’ defending was far too obliging. But the good always outweighs the bad with this side. So many pundits wanted to write them off, to the point of ridicule, after this defeat. It was silly then and even sillier now.
    Kay: Journalists have been in a very privileged position this season, but watching matches in empty stadiums hasn’t been anything like the thrill we’re used to. It’s actually a pretty dispiriting experience. I’m not saying “football without fans is nothing”, because clearly the game itself is what attracts us in the first place, but football in empty stadiums is eerie and I’m not convinced it would be worth paying for.
    Hughes: Everton 2 Liverpool 2 deserved a live audience. Even after the most absorbing games, I have found myself wondering just how great it would have been in front of a Goodison Park filled with baying supporters.
    Miller: West Brom vs Liverpool — but only the 95th minute.
    Caulkin: Genuinely, none.
    James: Probably the madness of Aston Villa vs Liverpool. I certainly remember thinking at the time that I didn’t want it to end. It was like a game of basketball. Not that I’m a fan of basketball. Anyway, where on earth was Adrian going on that cross?
     
  8. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

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    Hodgson can expect low-key Anfield farewell after awkward marriage that turned doubters into mutineers at Liverpool
    James Pearce May 22, 2021[​IMG] 136 [​IMG]
    For Roy Hodgson, the journey ends at Anfield.
    It’s not the venue he would have picked to bring the curtain down on his four seasons as Crystal Palace manager and, most probably, a 45-year coaching career. It’s hardly a stadium littered with happy memories for him.
    After all the fanfare at Selhurst Park on Wednesday night, Sunday’s final farewell will be more low-key. The Kop usually welcome back former Liverpool managers with open arms but, in Hodgson’s case, there will be little outpouring of emotion.
    It will be respectful but most will simply be apathetic regarding his presence. The 10,000-strong crowd will have more important matters on their mind — like inspiring Jurgen Klopp’s side to the victory they require to guarantee Champions League qualification.
    The man who has had the shortest individual managerial reign in Liverpool’s history stands between them and completing the salvage act of a top-four finish.
    Hodgson’s 191 days in charge at Anfield stands as the major blight on his club CV. That wretched period during the 2010-11 season explains why the adoration felt for the 73-year-old at so many stops across Europe on his footballing odyssey is in stark contrast to how he’s regarded on Merseyside.
    Liverpool fans have always stood accused of not giving Hodgson a fair crack of the whip after he was appointed as Rafa Benitez’s successor. His backers point to the work he did at Fulham and West Bromwich Albion on either side of his short stay in the north west as proof that he took on an impossible job at Anfield, given the state of the club both on and off the field, that he was simply doomed to fail.
    But neither statement is either fair or true.
    Even those supporters angry at how Benitez had been cast aside or upset at the decision not to give the job to Kenny Dalglish wanted to see Hodgson succeed. They didn’t have delusions of expecting a title challenge under him. What they wanted more than anything was hope and leadership, as Liverpool lurched dangerously close to the brink of administration under the ruinous regime of owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett before Fenway Sports Group completed their takeover that October.
    Instead, they found themselves with a manager who dampened expectations at every turn and alienated rather than energised the lifeblood of the club.
    Yes, anyone would have had their work cut out operating in such a turbulent environment but the fact is that Hodgson made a difficult situation worse. Brought in to steady the ship, he almost sank it.
    When he was sacked in January 2011, Liverpool had 25 points from 20 matches. They were 12th in the Premier League table — but just four points above the relegation places.
    Chairman Martin Broughton and managing director Christian Purslow, whose main task was to sell the debt-ridden club, hadn’t appointed a manager before, and it showed. They interviewed Manuel Pellegrini, who’d just left the Real Madrid job after a 96-point, 102-goal season, and future World Cup 2018-winning France coach Didier Deschamps but viewed Hodgson as the safer pair of hands.
    In fact, he was a poor fit for Liverpool on every level. Dalglish knew it. The club ambassador had initially been part of the process of identifying the right candidate but backed away and threw his own hat into the ring when he realised Broughton and Purslow were leaning towards appointing Hodgson.
    The contrast with how Klopp set about capturing hearts and minds when he took over at Anfield five years later could hardly be starker. One delivered on his promise to turn “doubters into believers”. The other only succeeded in turning doubters into mutineers.
    Yes, Hodgson inherited problems in the squad. Javier Mascherano was desperate to leave for Barcelona and belatedly got his wish. Fernando Torres also wanted to be elsewhere, having become disillusioned with Liverpool’s financial woes and failure to compete for the biggest prizes.
    But Hodgson also inherited Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Glen Johnson, Daniel Agger, Pepe Reina, Dirk Kuyt and Lucas Leiva.
    Yes, money was in short supply, but he squandered £8 million of what was available on the signings of Paul Konchesky and Christian Poulsen. Neither should have been anywhere near Liverpool.
    Joe Cole, who was sent off on his league debut for the club, flopped badly following all the hype that accompanied his arrival as a free agent on a £100,000-per-week contract after leaving Chelsea. Though as Hodgson rightly pointed out as his tenure spiralled out of control, that expensive mistake was made by Purslow.
    Where Klopp is a master of picking the right words at the right time, and getting his message across through the media, Hodgson kept on missing open goals in a way that would even make Ronny Rosenthal blush.
    [​IMG]

    Liverpool were only off the bottom of the table on goal difference after eight games under Hodgson (Photo: Barrington Coombs/PA Images via Getty Images)
    At his introductory press conference in the old main stand’s trophy room, he was asked about his biggest coaching influences. A painting of Bill Shankly hung on the wall above him.
    “That will be Don Howe and Dave Sexton,” he responded enthusiastically.
    A 2-1 win away to Trabzonspor in the August to secure a Europa League group-stage spot was described as “a famous European night”.
    Asked if there was any stadium quite like Anfield for atmosphere after a rare home win, Hodgson replied “the San Siro and Old Trafford are excellent”.
    Tap-ins don’t come any easier, Roy.
    He never seemed able to grasp the size of the club he had taken over. He also failed to fight Liverpool’s corner when required.
    “Maybe Sir Alex had a better view of it than me. He’s entitled to any opinion he wants to have,” wasn’t the riposte fans expected after Manchester United counterpart Ferguson had accused Torres of cheating to try to get John O’Shea sent off.
    That 3-2 reverse at Old Trafford in the September was followed four days later by a humiliating League Cup exit to Northampton Town on penalties at Anfield. In the build-up, Hodgson had described visitors then sitting 17th in League Two, with one win from their first seven league matches, as “formidable” opposition.
    October brought a miserable 2-1 home defeat to newly-promoted Blackpool, which sent Liverpool into an international break in the bottom three for the first time in nearly half a century. “The fact is, when you are in the relegation zone, you are in a relegation battle. Things look really, really bleak,” was Hodgson’s verdict. Hardly a defiant rallying call.
    Then, when the season resumed, came the infamous 2-0 derby defeat at Goodison.
    Anger over such a spineless display intensified when Hodgson walked into his press conference and called the performance “as well as we’ve played all season… to get a result here would have been utopia”. Liverpool were only off the bottom of the table on goal difference.
    It wasn’t the only occasion when he left the onlookers bewildered as he took exception to lines of questioning.
    “What do you mean, ‘Do my methods translate?’ They have translated from Halmstad to Malmo to Orebro to Neuchatel Xamax, to the Swiss national team, so I find the question insulting,” he said. “To suggest that because I have moved from one club to another, that the methods which have stood me in good stead for 35 years and made me one of the most respected coaches in Europe don’t suddenly work is very hard to believe.”
    After one game at Anfield, he loudly greeted a national newspaper reporter who had travelled up from London with the words: “You really are slumming it coming up to this part of the world.” He later told one Liverpool-born correspondent that his “problem” was that he was “too Scouse”.
    [​IMG]

    Hodgson also failed to convince in press conferences during his time as Liverpool manager (Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
    Relationships in the dressing room also became strained.
    Agger never saw eye-to-eye with him. The classy Danish centre-back didn’t enjoy being told by his manager to “fucking launch it”. Neither did the full-backs embrace being ordered to rein in their attacking instincts. Johnson, who had been told to limit how many times he ventured past the halfway line, was angered by Hodgson publicly criticising his form.
    Eyebrows were raised in one team meeting when he urged his players to be “more like Manchester United” after Ferguson’s team had made a late fightback from 2-0 down to get a draw at Aston Villa.
    There was friction at times with club doctor Peter Brukner. After promising fans Torres would start a Europa League dead rubber against Utrecht in the December, Hodgson backtracked and left the striker out due to fears he might get injured. He said the medical department had “made him see sense”. It smacked of someone not in control.
    For all the PR blunders and the abject failure to connect with supporters though, it was the brand of football and results that ultimately did for Hodgson.
    Being risk-averse is fine when the target is to simply keep a team up, but not at Liverpool. The style was direct and negative — the antithesis of the Liverpool way.
    “Roy Hodgson was the type of manager who goes into every game thinking he might get beat. ‘They’ve got this, that and the other…’. It was never, ‘We’re Liverpool, we’ll do this’,” Carragher said in 2018. “It was the sort of thought process a manager in the bottom half of the table would have — you think you’re going to lose every game, so you make it as hard as possible for the opponent.
    “Liverpool supporters feed off every word the manager says. His word means more than anyone else’s. If you’re getting that wrong, it’s not good. I don’t think Roy Hodgson recognised the significance and how to use the media to convey his message. Rafa (Benitez) and Gerard (Houllier) were a lot savvier on that front, even though they both had difficult starts, like Roy.
    “He didn’t ‘get’ the club in the way the foreign managers before and after him did. He’d managed so many clubs, I think Liverpool became just another club for him — albeit a much bigger one.”
    Like Poulsen and Konchesky, Milan Jovanovic was another summer 2010 signing who struggled.
    The Serbian attacker had agreed to join from Standard Liege when Benitez was still in charge.
    “I can’t say anything bad against Hodgson,” he told The Athletic last year. “He treated me well from the start, always correctly, and behaved like a gentleman.
    “But my impression is that Liverpool, at that time, needed to play more offensively. I didn’t feel anything special in the dressing room. There wasn’t any warmth between us. I spent all my spare time at home.”
    It didn’t take John W Henry and Tom Werner long after their £300 million takeover that autumn to realise they would need to recruit a new manager to halt the club’s slide and lift the gloom.
    They hoped to wait until the next summer to make the change, but it soon became clear that wouldn’t be possible.
    The show of dissent from the stands just after Christmas during a 1-0 home defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers, who were bottom of the table at kick-off, was unprecedented. It remains the only time Hodgson’s name has been chanted by the Kop. It was done sarcastically, as they championed him for the England job.
    [​IMG]

    Hodgson unveils summer signings (l-r) Milan Jovanovic, Danny Wilson and Joe Cole in July 2010 (Photo: John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
    Petrol was poured on the flames post-match when Hodgson bemoaned that “ever since I came here, the famous Anfield support hasn’t really been there. I have to hope the fans will become supporters”.
    He apologised the following day, but there was no way back.
    It was damning that 9,000 fans with tickets stayed away from the 2-1 New Year’s Day win over Bolton Wanderers.
    The final nail proved to be an abject 3-1 defeat at Blackburn Rovers on January 5, when the “Hodgson for England” chant from the away end was deafening. Dalglish’s name also echoed around Ewood Park. When the home fans sang, “You’re getting sacked in the morning”, those visiting from Merseyside joined in.
    No Liverpool manager has faced such an open show of dissent before or since.
    Hodgson’s car-crash post-match press conference was halted by Ian Cotton, the club’s director of communications, after just three questions.
    Three days later, the axe fell after Dalglish, who was on the Silver Wind cruise ship in the Arabian Gulf, answered Fenway Sports Group’s SOS call to take over as caretaker boss.
    Hodgson had warned there was “no magic wand” shortly before his exit but Dalglish instantly transformed the mood in the dressing room and in the stands. He guided Liverpool to a sixth-place finish via a run that saw only two losses in 15 league matches.
    The manner in which Hodgson bounced back to enjoy another decade at the top level with West Brom, England and Palace commands respect. His resilience and his longevity are remarkable. Palace will sorely miss the stability he’s provided in keeping them in the Premier League.
    The suggestion the Liverpool job was too big for him has always annoyed Hodgson. He points to the work he did at Inter Milan but he didn’t lift any silverware in Italy, despite having players of the calibre of Roberto Carlos, Javier Zanetti, Youri Djorkaeff and Ivan Zamorano. His last trophy remains the Danish Super Cup — their version of the Community Shield — 20 years ago with FC Copenhagen.
    He led England to three straight major tournaments but didn’t win a single knockout-phase tie in them.
    “I don’t really know what I’m doing here,” he told the waiting media after his reign ended with that embarrassing 2-1 last-16 defeat to Iceland — infamously a country with roughly the same population as Leicester — at the European Championship five years ago.
    Liverpool fans spent six months asking themselves the same thing during the 2010-11 season.
    There will be polite applause rather than any semblance of hostility towards Hodgson on Sunday. No grudges are held. His career deserves recognition.
    The sight of him back on the Anfield touchline will spark painful memories of just how far Liverpool had fallen.
    Amid all the tributes as he calls it a day, history shouldn’t be rewritten.
    It was a tough time to be managing Liverpool but Hodgson was the biggest factor in why his stay was so brief.
     
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  9. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

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    Liverpool academy’s rising stars: Meet the Class of ’21
    [​IMG]
    By Caoimhe O'Neill May 23, 2021[​IMG] 22 [​IMG]
    From the midfielder nicknamed “The Wand” to defensive players who have rubbed shoulders with Jurgen Klopp’s first team and forwards who are the envy of clubs across the country, there is no doubting that Liverpool’s academy is brimming with talent.
    The Athletic brings you individual profiles on 25 young footballers on the books at Kirkby. Some have been with the club since they were five years old, while others joined the party as recently as January. Some you will have heard of, others you might be reading about for the first time.
    Each of them has their own story and each has played their part in some way for Marc Bridge-Wilkinson’s Under-18 side on their way to tomorrow’s FA Youth Cup final against Aston Villa, plus some honourable mentions for a handful who have been unavailable.
    It began with a 22-minute hat-trick from schoolboy Ethan Ennis against Sutton United and there have been wins against strong opposition in Manchester United, Leicester and Arsenal since then. In the semi-finals, underdogs Ipswich Town put up a fight but Liverpool advanced to the final by coming from behind to win 2-1.
    Whatever happens tomorrow evening, the strength of this team suggests that the future bodes well for Liverpool…

    Goalkeepers

    Harvey Davies
    What a year it has been for the 17-year-old, who is a first-year scholar at the club. In April, Davies was named as a substitute for both Champions League quarter-final legs against Real Madrid. He has also spent a fair amount of time training with the first team in recent months.
    The Liverpool-born Davies initially made his debut for the under-18s in the FA Youth Cup against Tottenham in 2019-20 and has been a key player this time around on the path to the final.
    “I have known him for a long time, he’s the year below me but to see how he’s developed through the academy years has been great,” his team-mate Jarell Quansah tells The Athletic. “He’s been training with the first team quite consistently and he’s deserved it to be honest. When you walk out with him, you feel comfortable, you feel like every game you are going to keep a clean sheet which is a good thing to have when you are a centre-back.”
    Jakub Ojrzynski
    Known as “Kuba” to his team-mates, he moved to Liverpool from Legia Warsaw in 2019. The 18-year-old, whose father Leszek is a former player and manager, was swept off on a pre-season tour of the United States soon after his arrival at the club. He has featured regularly for the under-18 and under-23 teams this season and was on the bench for the first team against Sheffield United.
    “It was really good to see Kuba on the bench for the senior team. Everyone knows he was there because of injuries (to Alisson and Caoimhin Kelleher) but still there was a lot of buzz about it,” explains Przemek Soczynski, who is a talent ID co-ordinator based in England for the Polish FA. “Kuba started at Korona Kielce then at Legia Warsaw where he was doing really, really well and that’s when Liverpool came in. He has been known in Poland for a number of years. He’s regarded as a big talent. He’s played in the under-15s, 16s, 17s for Poland and now he has been called up to the Under-19s.
    “His technique is really good. He worked with a very good coach in Legia Warsaw, a specialist called Krzysztof Dowhan; he is a highly rated coach who trained Artur Boruc and Lukasz Fabianski in the past. Kuba is a good shot-stopper but he also just knows how to be a goalkeeper. He is among the top three young Polish goalkeepers.”
    Fabian Mrozek
    The summer after Ojrzynkski’s arrival, Liverpool signed another young Polish keeper. Mrozek’s route to Kirkby was different to that of his compatriot; he started out at third-tier MKS Kluczbork before joining FC Wroclaw’s academy. In his first season at Liverpool, the Poland youth international has featured nine times for the club’s under-18s.
    “Fabian signing the contract with Liverpool was a surprise,” Soczynski says. “He is a lesser-known goalkeeper, he played a few games this season for the under-18s so everyone is still looking at him wondering what he can give. But I know from Liverpool they are very happy about him. Sometimes it is really hard at a club like Liverpool where there are a lot of goalkeepers and they get rotated a lot. It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen in the future but he is definitely a talent as well and I am hoping he will break through to the Under-23s maybe next season or if not, (maybe he could) go on loan.”
    Oscar Kelly
    Another Liverpool-born goalkeeper, Oscar Kelly has been with the club since the under-9s. He is yet to feature for the under-18s competitively but was part of the FA Youth Cup-winning squad of 2019 and the UEFA Youth League squad which reached the last 16 in the same season.

    Defenders

    Billy Koumetio
    Koumetio has only been playing at centre-back since he was 14 but you would not have guessed it. Before that he played as a winger and then as a left-back at Lyon’s academy. In 2018, he moved to another French side US Orleans but within six months, after a successful trial, Liverpool had signed him.
    The towering defender is one of the most well-known members of Liverpool’s academy, having made a name for himself during pre-season with the first team last year when he came on as a substitute to star against Stuttgart and Salzburg.
    “Everyone has taken to Billy,” a senior Liverpool source told The Athletic at the time. “He has really showcased his ability but it’s also his personality which gives him a real chance.”
    The French 18-year-old played in the League Cup and Champions League this season and was named on the bench four times in the Premier League.
    “His career is in its infancy and he’s got a long way to go technically and tactically but there’s no doubting his potential,” Barry Lewtas, Liverpool Under-23s manager, said.
    [​IMG]

    (Photo: John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
    Jarell Quansah
    Quansah joined Liverpool’s pre-academy at the age of five and is now Liverpool Under-18s captain. The Warrington-born defender, also an England youth international, has been a real leader at centre-half.
    “He trains properly. He acts and he handles himself — around the building, on buses, wherever you are — in the right way,” his manager Bridge-Wilkinson tells The Athletic when asked what makes Quansah a good captain. “The example he sets is not just for the group that we have but for the younger groups, too. He sets the example for everyone. He has been a worthy captain, and I think he’s performed in that role really well.”
    In February, the 18-year-old, whose grandfather Sam played for Ghana in the 1950s, was given a three-and-a-half-year deal by Liverpool (with the option of another year) to match the progress he has made this term.
    Lee Jonas
    Jonas is a centre-back who started at Everton before switching to Liverpool at under-12s level. Now 16, he has made 16 appearances for the under-18s during 2020-21. Jonas, whose aunt is famous boxer Natasha Jonas, is already well ahead in his development and is one of the youngest players to feature for the under-18s in the past year.
    “Lee Jonas has done really well,” said Bridge-Wilkinson. “I think the key thing is that all of the boys in this group we think have got potential. We think they have all got an opportunity to improve and get up and around our first team. What we have had this season because of COVID and because of injury problems, we’ve had boys (like Lee), who are first-year scholars, who have picked up opportunities that in years gone by they may not have got. We know all of these boys have got lots of potential and we are really grateful we have been able to give them the game time to show that potential to other people as well.”
    Stefan Bajcetic
    As exclusively revealed by The Athletic in December, Liverpool stole the march on Manchester United to sign Bajcetic from Celta Vigo for a fee of €250,000 (about £224,000). After being drafted into the under-16s set-up the centre-back soon moved up to the under-18s.
    “He has amazing physical characteristics. He is extremely quick, makes good recoveries, has a great spring, is really impressive in the air and carries the ball cleanly out of defence,” Alex Otero, youth football co-ordinator at Celta Vigo, told The Athletic in January. “It was clear he was a standout player in his age group. He can really play and help construct attacks, but he is also noticeable for his comfort with (his) left and right foot and the ability to play on the right or left of the centre-backs. That is quite rare.”
    James Norris
    Affectionately known as “Jay” or “Chuck”, Norris is not only an outstanding young left-back but a vocal leader too.
    “He has so much energy, so much aggression, so much passion for wanting to win,” Quansah said. “He’s another leader on the pitch as well. He’s always trying his hardest to pull the team forward. If we are in a tough patch, Chuck is always there to pick everyone up and get everyone going again.”
    Norris is another academy player who has represented England at youth international level (having played for the under-18s in March). This season the accuracy of his passing and shooting has caused problems for various opponents and he has two goals and three assists in 15 appearances.
    Conor Bradley
    The 17-year-old joined in 2019 having been tracked by Liverpool since he was 11 and last summer signed a professional contract with the club. Rated highly in his native Northern Ireland, he played for Dungannon Swifts’ youth side Dungannon United before moving to Liverpool. Overseeing youth development at the time for Dungannon was Dixie Robinson.
    “Conor has proven (to be) very versatile,” Robinson tells The Athletic. “He has played in several positions during his time at Liverpool. He has now settled into a right wing-back or a full-back role. He’s done really well. He was always fit but his physical condition has gone to another level being at Liverpool.
    “I remember times when he would suggest he go in as the goalkeeper, such was his versatility. That showed from a young age. He has been happy to play anywhere and is comfortable doing so. He’s a great lad. He was always jolly, always hard-working and would play the game with a smile on his face. Because Northern Ireland is such a small place we had known a lot and heard a lot about Conor when he was much younger.”
    Bradley has established himself as a mainstay at full-back for the under-23s and has trained with the first team. “He’s ticking all the right boxes at the minute and long may that continue,” Robinson says.
     
  10. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

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    Part 2

    Sean Wilson
    Sean Wilson is one of three players — along with Max Woltman and Tyler Morton — who joined Liverpool from Wallasey outfit Greenleas JFC as an under-7s player.
    Wilson excels at right-back but can play anywhere across the backline, including on the opposite side. Wes Warrington, his former coach at Greenleas, says he has always been naturally gifted at full-back.
    “Sean was good. He was very, very fast and strong for a little lad. Nobody would outrun him,” Warrington — whose son Lewis (now at Everton) played in the same youth team as Wilson — says. “He was very good on the ball, his passing… he was another nice kid, down to earth. On the pitch he was a 10 every week.
    “We always had him in the back because if any of the balls went over the top he was always the quickest to get back. He was like a leopard. He was so quick. But then he could bring the ball out and he could play. They were playing some lovely football at six years old.”
    Luke Chambers
    Luke Chambers is another talented full-back on Liverpool’s books. Despite having injury problems, the left-back has enjoyed a stellar first term with the under-18s and made 11 appearances. Chambers joined up with the academy as an under-9 player and scored his first goal for the under-18s against Burnley in April.
    “You could go through every single one of our players… they have all got so much potential and Chambo falls into that category as well,” Bridge-Wilkinson told The Athletic. “He started the season fantastically well and then missed a big chunk of time through injury. And although now he’s fit, raring to go and get back into the team at the minute, he hasn’t quite managed to take James Norris’s position. Chambo is ready and willing as soon as he is called up and I am sure that just like everybody else he will have a really good career in the game.”

    Midfielders

    Dominic Corness
    Nicknamed “The Wand”, Corness can weave magic with his left foot and even scored twice from corners in a 5-0 win over Stoke City’s under-18s last year. The midfielder was scouted playing for local side Netherley Woodlane Legion alongside Layton Stewart and was brought to the club at the age of five. He scored four times in 2020-21 and set up seven goals.
    “Dom’s a really intelligent footballer. He’s obviously got a lovely left foot which allows him to play an extensive range of passing in his game — short, long, crossfield,” Bridge-Wilkinson told The Athletic. “He can take on dead-ball situations, he can score. Over the last year or two he has developed physically as well. He’s a really capable footballer. The biggest quality for me is he is such an intelligent footballer he plays the game very sharp upstairs. He plays a little bit ahead of others at times. He’s definitely someone we like to see play.”
    [​IMG]

    (Photo: Nick Taylor/Liverpool FC/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
    Luca Stephenson
    Stephenson joined the club later than most of his team-mates, arriving from Sunderland at under-15 level. His stock has been steadily rising and in September 2020 he signed his maiden professional contract with the club. Since making the recent step up from the under-16s, Stephenson has not looked back. The 17-year-old has been a mainstay at defensive midfield in the run to the FA Youth Cup final.
    “You always need that player in the middle who is going to break everything down so it just makes your job easier. Sometimes I will be sitting at the back with a cigar out having Luca do all my dirty work and I just play the nice passes,” his team-mate Quansah said.
    Tyler Morton
    Combining under-23s football with the under-18s’ FA Youth Cup run, Tyler Morton has had an outstanding season scoring 10 goals and creating seven assists in all competitions. And in January he penned a five-year deal with the club.
    Sensational goals against Everton and Chelsea for the Under-23s earlier in the campaign proved just how technically gifted he is, however, it was his header against Manchester United’s Under-18 — which knocked them out in the fourth round — which may well be his most important goal to date.
    The 18-year-old midfielder joined Liverpool from Greenleas at the age of seven along with Woltman and Wilson. “He’s the same player now,” one of Morton’s former coaches at Greenleas told The Athletic in April. “He always saw things before they would happen. He was quite telepathic really and is a very intelligent player.”
    “Tyler was technically fantastic. Left foot, right foot, even at that age it just stuck to him like glue. He reminded me of a mini-Pirlo and that’s what I used to call him,” said Wes Warrington, another of his former coaches.
    Isaac Mabaya
    Isaac Mabaya is a midfielder by trade but has proven his versatility in recent months having played in a number of roles including right-back. Having stepped up from the under-16s, Mabaya, who also plays for England at youth level, has made a real impression. In his 17 appearances for the under-18s in 2020-21, the 16-year-old has scored four goals and made five assists.

    Forwards

    James Balagizi
    Like many in this class of 2021, Balagizi is a player who catches the eye as soon as you watch him play, with his superb ball control, dribbling and vision.
    Having originally left the academy to join Manchester City’s youth set-up, Liverpool were overjoyed to get him back when City failed to enroll the forward into St Bede’s (the private school they send their top youngsters to). As revealed by The Athletic, it cost Liverpool £9,000 in compensation when the attacking midfielder returned to the club at Under-11s level — which looks a steal when watching the 17-year-old now.
    “He’s come on leaps and bounds,” Bridge-Wilkinson said before Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Arsenal in the quarter-finals. “He’s doing really well. He’s a lovely boy and he’s great to have around. He’s a character. There are lots of characters in this group which is really good. It keeps the spirit bright and bubbly. We have fun, we train properly but we have fun. And his performances in recent weeks since his injury have just got better and better.”
    Balagizi provided two assists on the night at Anfield — his ninth and 10th of the season. He has been the standout provider and performer all term and there is tangible hope he will make the step up in the years to come.
    Max Woltman
    Woltman has been in sensational goalscoring form in recent months. The centre forward, who has also played in midfield and on the wing, has scored 13 times and made seven assists in 29 appearances. He scored twice against Leicester in the last 16 of the FA Youth Cup and again in the quarter-final win against Arsenal. Woltman followed up those displays with a vital assist for Melkamu Frauendorf’s winner against Ipswich.
    At 17 the Wirral-born attacker is one of the youngest in the side but that is something he is all too familiar with. “He was a talented young lad,” says his former Greenleas coach, Wes Warrington. “He was four years old (when he came to Greenleas) so he was nearly a year younger than everyone else. You could see the ability he had then, the ball would just stick to him and he was just technically a good, little player. It was a pleasure having him for those three years before he signed for Liverpool. He was a cracking lad and I knew he was talented.
    “A lot of the lads were a lot bigger because he was still only tiny at the time but it did not faze him one bit. He would love a tackle and scored some very important goals in finals for us. He was a little superstar.”
    Mateusz Musialowski
    Nicknamed “the Polish Messi”, Musialowski has had a fine debut season at Liverpool since joining from Lodz last summer. The Poland youth international, who has 12 goals in 24 games, had been scouted by Arsenal but with the London club stalling, Liverpool swooped in amid interest from Manchester City, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax.
    His scintillating solo goal against Newcastle is the best example of what he is capable of. It was a strike that stopped Mohamed Salah from claiming a seventh consecutive Liverpool goal of the month award and one that Salah himself would have been proud of.

    “We don’t have many players like him who are fearless on the pitch and can dribble past two or three players. He’s not a player Polish people are used to. He’s got the wow factor,” Soczynski, the Poland FA’s talent ID co-ordinator based in England, said earlier this year.
    Krzysztof Lazik was a youth coach at one of Musialowski’s first clubs, Rakow Czestochowa. He remembers first meeting the winger at the age of nine. “What can I say? He was still a child but you could stand for hours and watch him play football,” Lazik said when speaking with The Athletic. “Mateusz has always stood out from his age group and even higher. At the club, he often played with the older groups. Compared to his peers, Mati was a player distinguished by his speed, technique and tenacity.”
    Melkamu Frauendorf
    Frauendorf joined Liverpool last summer after six years at Hoffenheim’s academy. He was born in Ethiopia before moving to Germany as a child and in 2019 he was selected to play for Germany’s Under-15 side.
    “He already had great capabilities,” Danny Galm, one of his coaches at Hoffenheim, tells The Athletic. “He was very dynamic, had great stamina, tempo and understanding of the game. It was the right decision to let him play with the 2002-born boys as a 2004 player — he quickly made his way. His unbelievable physique, he may not be a muscleman but he is nonetheless very dynamic, ‘handlungsschnell’ (a German football-specific term meaning capable of taking the right decision quickly), good ball possession, and supports his team-mates.”
    Galm, who stays in contact with Frauendorf, was sent a video of his winning goal against Ipswich Town. The midfielder, who can also play on the wing, scored within two minutes of coming off the bench to score the goal which booked Liverpool’s place in the FA Youth Cup final.
    “I was delighted,” Galm adds. “I’m glad when I see him leave his mark. He has never been the greatest goalscorer but when he scored it was always very important goals. I’m very delighted to see things like this and I wish him all the best not only for the final, in which I am sure he will push himself to the limit, but for his future.”

    Honourable mentions for…

    The following players would have been involved in the cup run this season but for injuries or, in Kaide Gordon’s case, being cup-tied having recently moved to the club. Despite their absence tomorrow, they are key parts of the academy group and are tipped for bright futures.
    Layton Stewart
    Already a name most fans will recognise, Layton Stewart, is one of the most exciting talents at Liverpool’s academy.  The young striker’s style of play has been likened to that of Fernando Torres and saw him promoted to the Under-23s last season after having netted 15 goals for the under-18s.
    As revealed by The Athletic in March, Steven Gerrard, Robbie Fowler and Kenny Dalglish all reached out to Stewart when he suffered a season-ending ACL injury, which highlighted the close-knit nature of the club as well as just how highly Stewart is rated both on and off the pitch.
    [​IMG]

    (Photo: Nick Taylor/Liverpool FC/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
    Tom Hill
    Bridge-Wilkinson gave Hill the captain’s armband but he suffered an ACL injury days before the new campaign in September. In the previous season the Formby-born midfielder, who joined the club at Under-6s level, had scored nine times in 24 appearances for the Under-18s and Under-23s combined.
    “Tom is such a good personality,” Lewtas told The Athletic in October. “You see it in the way he plays the game. He’s tough. Yes, he’s going to be missing some football but he seems to be taking it in his stride. He’s very focused on what’s ahead of him.”
    Hill, who plays on the right of midfield, made his Liverpool debut in the League Cup at Villa Park and will be hoping he can add to that when he makes his return next season.
    Harvey Blair
    Blair made a bright start for the under-18s, scoring twice in four outings, but he has missed most of 2020-21 through injury. In his press conference ahead of the FA Youth Cup final, Bridge-Wilkinson name-checked Blair as someone he could do with having at his disposal going into the game against Aston Villa.
    The Huddersfield-born attacker moved from Manchester United to Liverpool seven years ago. In October 2020, during his injury lay-off, Blair was given his first professional deal and was back at Kirkby signing an extension in March 2021 which keeps him at the club until 2023.
    Oakley Cannonier
    The Yorkshire-born Cannonier arrived at Liverpool from Leeds United’s academy as an under-12 player. Now 17, the forward is fast and can finish. He already has his name etched in Anfield folklore for the role he played in passing the ball to Trent Alexander-Arnold whose quick corner caught Barcelona out in the Champions League in 2019.
    While that was a proud moment for Cannonier and his family, a source close to the player says both Cannonier and the club are keen for the player to be remembered for more than his role in that iconic goal.
    Cannonier, whose two younger brothers are also on the books at Liverpool, is sidelined with a hamstring injury and is set to make his return to action next season. The Athletic also understands he is close to penning his first professional deal with the club.
    Kaide Gordon
    Gordon was handed his senior debut for Derby County by Wayne Rooney in December 2020 and the forward, who can play anywhere across the front line, was dubbed “the best 16-year-old in the country” when he swapped Pride Park for Liverpool in January 2021.
    Having been cup-tied, he was unable to feature in Liverpool’s run to the final but only needed a 20-minute cameo debut with the under-23s in their final game of the season to score his first goal for Barry Lewtas’s team.
    “He is one of the best I’ve seen,” Derby’s academy director Darren Wassall told The Athletic in January. “I don’t know all of them (16-year-olds in the country) but he is up there. Whenever we played against the other big clubs he was always there or thereabouts in terms of talent… you certainly wouldn’t want to swap him.
    “His ability is very exciting, he’s got a lot of pace and talent. He’s got a fantastic left foot, first touch, an ability to run with the ball and dribble with it. He’s lethal with his delivery from set pieces. He sees a pass, he can score goals. His potential is massive.
    “When you are talking about a 16-year-old, you don’t want to put too much pressure on him by saying all that — but he has got it. He’s got potential — and that’s all it is at the moment — to be whoever he wants to be.”
     
  11. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

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    Liverpool securing Champions League football is huge for Klopp and now a big summer beckons
    [​IMG]
    By James Pearce May 24, 2021[​IMG] 145 [​IMG]
    Two places lower, 30 points fewer and six more defeats than a year ago. But for Liverpool, the final Premier League table represents a triumph in the face of adversity.
    When Jurgen Klopp says guiding the club to Champions League qualification ranks right up there with his greatest achievements in management, those aren’t the hollow words of a manager desperately trying to put a brave face on a season of rank mediocrity.
    Klopp is right. Considering the hurdles thrown in Liverpool’s path over the past nine months, a third-place finish is remarkable. There was no silverware to add to the spoils of recent years, but the gutsy salvage act has restored pride and hope.
    [​IMG]
    The rapturous ovation from the 10,000-strong crowd that accompanied Klopp and his players on their lap of appreciation on Sunday spoke volumes.
    Cast your mind back to early March when the deposed champions were beaten at home by a Fulham team doomed to relegation. Liverpool had suffered six successive home league defeats at Anfield for the first time in the club’s history. They hadn’t scored from open play at home in 12 hours of football. Vulnerable at one end, they were toothless at the other.
    They were eighth in the Premier League, 10 points behind Leicester City, and had taken just 10 points out of the last 36 on offer. Most supporters just wanted the season to end.
    But from the depths of despair Klopp masterminded a spirited revival. Slowly but surely, fluency and belief returned. Eight wins, two draws, 26 points from the last 30. Having clambered back into the top four for the first time since February in midweek, Liverpool climbed another place higher on Sunday and banked an extra £2 million in prize money courtesy of Chelsea’s defeat to Aston Villa.
    How did Klopp do it? Restoring Fabinho to the holding midfield role was crucial after his spell as a makeshift centre-back. The presence of the Brazilian helped unlock the true potential of Thiago, who excelled in the final month of the campaign.
    It was a difficult first season for the Spain international following his move from Bayern Munich, with a knee injury and the malaise around him making his adaptation period tougher. But, belatedly, he flourished and the smart money suggests he will be one of the stars of the Premier League in 2021-22. Watching him run the show in recent weeks it seems hard to believe that he didn’t even merit a start for either leg of the Champions League tie with Real Madrid.
    For too long, the outstanding Mohamed Salah was carrying the burden of goalscoring responsibility almost single-handedly but Klopp managed to get more out of Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane during the run-in.
    The only shame on Sunday was that Salah didn’t add to his tally and missed out to Harry Kane in the race for the Golden Boot, but a return of 31 goals in all competitions is still immense. It was the first time Mane had scored twice in a league game since the victory at Stamford Bridge in September.
    [​IMG]A Flourish chart
    Trent Alexander-Arnold couldn’t have done any more to force his way into England’s squad for the European Championship. If he’s overlooked by Gareth Southgate, it would be genuinely baffling. On the other flank, the tireless Andy Robertson has been a model of consistency and his endurance is awe-inspiring.
    During a season dominated by defensive injuries, it seemed fitting that Nathaniel Phillips and Rhys Williams emerged bloodied and bruised from an ultimately routine 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace. Both rookie centre-backs have enhanced their reputations significantly.
    In truth, any chance of retaining the title disappeared when the talismanic figure of Virgil van Dijk limped off with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament at Goodison Park in October. The void was impossible to fill. Liverpool did well to still be leading the way at the turn of the year when they had 33 points from 16 games but when Joel Matip also joined Joe Gomez on the list of season-ending injuries, the wheels came off.
    Throw into the mix the absence of inspirational captain Jordan Henderson and attacker Diogo Jota for long periods — coupled with the heartbreaking personal tragedies that Klopp and Alisson had to deal with during a global pandemic — and the scale of what’s been achieved is magnified.
    The final table suggests that Liverpool would have qualified for the Champions League without the extra two points secured by Alisson’s dramatic late header against West Bromwich Albion but it’s difficult to quantify just how much of a lift that iconic moment gave them as they kicked on and swept Burnley and Palace aside.
    There was sadness as well as joy at Anfield on Sunday. Guards of honour were assembled to say goodbye, first to legendary kitman Graham Carter, who has served the club for 35 years, and then midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum. The Holland international departs as a free agent after failing to agree a new deal.
    “I’m fighting against tears right now,” he said. “The people in Liverpool have shown me love during the five years. I will miss them. I hoped to have played many more years for the club but unfortunately, things went different. I have to start a new adventure. I didn’t sign somewhere else.“
    Liverpool have a policy of not dishing out lucrative long extensions to players over the age of 30 but they may live to regret not making an exception for Wijnaldum. He leaves as a bona fide Kop legend.
    He was there from Klopp’s first summer, when the rebuild started, and was integral to both the Champions League and Premier League triumphs. His impact off the bench against Barcelona will be part of Anfield folklore forevermore. He has always epitomised the selfless team ethic Klopp created and his durability has been as impressive as his ability to look after possession as if his life depended on it.
    ”Yes, it is very emotional for me because I lose a friend and I will miss him,” Klopp said. ”I am really sure he will find a great place. Each club interested in him should call me and ask about him. Then you will take him, definitely, because I could not be more positive about what he did here. It looks like the time is over but nobody can take our memories from us.”
    Wijnaldum will take some replacing and there’s more work to be done in the transfer market. RB Leipzig centre-back Ibrahima Konate tops Liverpool’s list of defensive targets and Klopp also needs another attacking option as Divock Origi’s race is run. There’s plenty of deadwood to be shifted to bolster the kitty.
    Any potential concerns in terms of keeping hold of elite talent should be over after Liverpool retained their place among Europe’s elite. Landing their top targets should be easier given the financial windfall of Champions League football for a club that has to live within its means. That’s why this late resurgence was so pivotal.
    “Becoming champion was not possible for us this year,” says Klopp. “In the harder moments you can show the most and we really stuck together. If someone would have told me weeks ago that we can finish the season in third, that was absolutely out of reach and felt impossible. From nowhere to the Champions League in five weeks is a massive achievement.”
    It really is. Klopp’s Anfield reign went off the rails but it’s firmly back on track. Something valuable was rescued from the wreckage of this season. Now a big summer beckons to ensure that mood of positivity continues.
     
  12. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

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    Alexander-Arnold interview: ‘A lot of people offer opinions. I listen to the select few that matter’
    [​IMG]
    By James Pearce May 24, 2021[​IMG] 28 [​IMG]
    Trent Alexander-Arnold hasn’t been able to avoid the noise.
    Since being dropped from the England squad by Gareth Southgate in March, the debate has raged on TV, radio phone-ins and across social media about his potential involvement in this summer’s European Championship.
    Every mistake has been pounced on by critics as proof that Southgate was right, every piece of individual brilliance held up by others to argue that Alexander-Arnold simply can’t be overlooked.

    The latter has far outweighed the former with the 22-year-old right-back’s outstanding club form crucial in propelling Liverpool to Champions League qualification. He will discover his fate on Tuesday when Southgate announces his squad.
    “I don’t actively go looking to find it but yeah it’s been everywhere,” he tells The Athletic. “Everyone has an opinion on stuff like that. It’s there on Monday Night Football or Match of the Day and they are programmes I watch. There’s been a lot of talk about me and it’s difficult to hide away from it.
    “But I’d say I’ve got a buffer of reading things and not allowing it to get to me. I can read it or hear it and then just put it to the side. It’s not that it upsets me or fires me up in terms of creating a siege mentality.”
    [​IMG]

    Alexander-Arnold excelled in Liverpool’s win away at Arsenal in April (Photo: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
    It wasn’t always like that. Alexander-Arnold learned to develop a thick skin after breaking into Jurgen Klopp’s team at the age of 18.
    “Yeah, I’d say it came over time,” he says. “At first, everything you read about yourself as a young player you believe is true. You think it’s real when that’s not really the case.
    “I came to understand that, even though a lot of people offer their opinions, there are only a select few whose opinion really matters. Those are the people who make the decisions about your career and whether you play or not. Those are the people I listen to. Those are the ones I care about the most.”
    Scrutiny and criticism comes with the territory when you’re a Premier League footballer but what Alexander-Arnold isn’t prepared to accept is the growing problem of social media abuse. He has seen first-hand the impact it’s had both on his family and his team-mates. It’s why he’s backing BT’s new Hope United initiative which is bringing players together from across the Home Nations to tackle online hate ahead of the Euros.
    The 20-strong ‘squad’ managed by Rio Ferdinand and Karen Carney includes the likes of Marcus Rashford, Gareth Bale, Lucy Bronze, Andy Robertson and Jordan Henderson. They will draw on their own experiences to raise awareness, educate social media users and drive more support for change.
    [​IMG]

    The 20-strong Hope United ‘squad’ will be managed by Rio Ferdinand and Karen Carney, and coached by Eni Aluko and Robbie Savage (Pic: BT Sport)
    “When BT told me about the scheme and what it intends to do, it was a no-brainer for me really,” Alexander-Arnold says. “It’s something that’s needed to happen for a while and something I hope everyone will get behind. Change is what everyone is hoping for and wants. It needs to happen. Hopefully this is the starting point.
    “The abuse has definitely got worse in recent years. On a daily basis, more and more people are using social media. It’s become integrated into our society, especially with the younger generation. It’s a minority of people who overstep the mark but they create a lot of noise. They feel like they can get away with things. They get at players.
    “Being subjected to that kind of thing doesn’t have a positive impact on anyone. Personally, I don’t really pay attention to it. I know it happens, I just don’t tend to go searching for it. But just because I haven’t felt it personally, it doesn’t mean that I don’t empathise with the people who have.
    “Unfortunately, I’ve seen the hurt it can cause. A lot of players check what messages they receive after games and what comments they have got under their photos (on Instagram). I’ve never really been one to do that.”
    Alexander-Arnold, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita were all racially abused on Instagram after defeat to Real Madrid in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
    “Me personally, I don’t really feel it,” he says. “I’ve created kind of a strong outer shell to comments, whether that’s about race or my performances or anything like that.
    “But the sad part about that for me was seeing my family upset. It’s not nice for parents to see their children being racially abused on a huge platform. It’s not nice and it’s not right. Them not being able to protect me from that was tough for them. For me, it’s more about the impact stuff like that has on the people around me.
    “It’s something we talk about as a squad. Not so much the abuse we get individually, but more how we can go about trying to solve the problem together. It shouldn’t be something that you just have to accept.”
    Alexander-Arnold believes the four-day boycott supported by players and clubs across football a month ago sent out a clear message to the social media companies that they can no longer get away with simply burying their heads in the sand. Now it’s about maintaining that pressure.
    He wants to see an end to the anonymity that users currently enjoy and proper punishments for those who break the law. He has noticed how quickly platforms react to take down video footage of goals over copyright concerns in contrast to how they handle racist, sexist and homophobic comments.
    “It comes down to money. Things that implicate someone’s pockets have been looked upon until now as more important than combating horrendous abuse,” he says. “We saw the outcry over the Super League and rightly so. Every man and his dog was all over that. But it seems that only a select few of us are willing to stand up against online abuse and demand that proper action is taken.
    “The unity within football with the boycott was great to see but really it comes down to the social media platforms and what changes they are willing to put in place.
    “I could go on there now, it would take me less than a minute to create a fake account and start messaging people. There would be no repercussions. There would be no one coming to get me. No one would know it was me.
    “That’s the power social media has. It gives you that chance to communicate with so many people all over the world in a matter of seconds. It can be used in wonderful ways. We’ve seen that over the past year or so with how it brought people together during the pandemic.
    “Sadly, a minority of people abuse that power that they’ve got. With it being anonymous, they feel that they can get away with saying whatever they want and they won’t be caught or punished.
    “The social media platforms have to create a way of knowing who is behind an account before it’s created. They need to ask for personal details and ID so these people are traceable. Until that changes, I can’t really see us really moving forward on this.”
    Alexander-Arnold has 6.2 million followers on Facebook, 5.3 million on Instagram and 1.7 million on Twitter. He’s one of the most marketable footballers on the planet and has lucrative sponsorship deals with the likes of Under Armour and Red Bull.
    Earlier this year Arsenal legend Thierry Henry removed himself from social media. “The sheer volume of racism, bullying and resulting mental torture to individuals is too toxic to ignore,” he said. Henry explained that he won’t be back “until the people in power are able to regulate their platforms with the same vigour and ferocity that they currently do when you infringe copyright”.
    Has Alexander-Arnold ever considered following suit?
    “For me, the positives still outweigh the negatives,” he says. “It’s important to have that connection with the fans and those who support you. I use social media to see what the people I look up to are doing. It gives you the chance to see into their lives. You feel more attached and connected to them. That’s the power it gives you.
    “Sometimes I’ll scroll (through my mentions on Twitter) but it depends on the game and the result and whether I’ve got the time. I guess there’s a pressure to be prominent on social media as a player these days but I’m sure all the sponsors would back a decision from me and my team if we thought it was the right call to do what Thierry did.”
    Alexander-Arnold composes his own tweets but another pair of eyes look over them before they are published to avoid any unwanted headlines.
    “They all come from me but there is that buffer. You want to make sure you get the right messages out and what you’re trying to say comes across in the right way. After games, when you’re tired, it can be difficult to think of captions. Sometimes it helps to have someone else there.”
    Most Liverpool players turn to WhatsApp to read messages from family and friends rather than social media when they return to the dressing room after matches. But Klopp’s squad loved seeing the reaction online to Alisson’s dramatic winning goal against West Bromwich Albion.
    “During a time when fans weren’t allowed in, social media gives them a voice to celebrate and be happy. We could see how much that goal meant to everyone and how much they care about the club,” he says.
    The players came together to issue a strong collective condemnation of the doomed Super League plans on Twitter and Instagram last month. That was organised by captain Henderson, who then handed over control of his social media channels to an anti-cyberbullying charity.


    “The more voices you have together, the more powerful it is,” adds Alexander-Arnold. “The decision was taken by the senior players that it would be best to do it as a unit. To stand together as a team and as a club. Jordan is an unbelievable person as well as being an exceptional footballer. His values, morals and ethics are always on point. He knows what to do at the right time. That’s what makes him such a fantastic captain. He’s in touch with the fans and able to relate to them.”
    With so much of the season played behind closed doors, there’s been a tendency for younger players especially to look to social media more for affirmation in the absence of any feedback on match days from the stands. Wales international Neco Williams, Alexander-Arnold’s understudy, was left devastated by the torrent of abuse he received online earlier this season.
    “As a youngster, it’s all part of learning and growing into the role,” Alexander-Arnold says. “The bigger the stage you play on, the worse it’s likely to get. Neco dealt with it really well. He’s got the right people around him. He’s bounced back from that and has trained unbelievably well.
    “Sometimes it can be genuinely hard to gauge if you’ve played well because you’re so focused in the game. And sometimes watching a game on TV and watching a game in the stadium can look very different. So with the grounds being empty there’s probably been more checking on social media to see the reaction and that’s not always fair.”
    So influential on the field, Alexander-Arnold is determined to also be a vocal force for good off it. He has great respect for how Rashford has campaigned on child poverty and Raheem Sterling has emerged as one of football’s most prominent voices in the fight against racism.
    “They have found something they believe in and are passionate about and they keep pushing it,” he says. “We all want the world to be a safer, better place and that starts in our cities and our country. This generation of footballers have a lot more power than those who came before.
    “We’re able to get our own words and our opinions out there without them being misconstrued or manipulated by newspapers like we’ve seen at times in the past. We’re lucky to have that and it’s a great weapon for us to use as a force to bring about change.
    “Hope United allows us to do that. Different nationalities, races and genders, all standing together, showing that we’re united in the fight against hate online.”
    BT’s Hope United will rally the UK to tackle online abuse as part BT’s commitment to digitally upskill the nation. To find out more about how you can play your part, watch BT’s Tech Tips at bt.com/hopeunited. Together we can beat online hate.
     
  13. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

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    Trent Alexander-Arnold’s crossing problem – one of the dilemmas facing Southgate for his Euro 2020 squad
    [​IMG]
    By JJ Bull May 25, 2021[​IMG] 197 [​IMG]
    Trent Alexander-Arnold has been an integral part of Jurgen Klopp’s brilliant team for three seasons, providing key attacking contributions from an advanced position on the right of a 4-3-3, ending the 2019-20 title-winning season with more assists than any other Liverpool player and second only to Kevin De Bruyne in the Premier League.
    Former Brazil star Cafu — also a superb, attack-minded full-back in his day — praised Alexander-Arnold as a “sensational player” and a future Ballon d’Or winner last June, just one of many who have expressed their admiration for the talents of the quick-thinking and technically gifted 22-year-old.
    The approving voice that Alexander-Arnold really needs to start hearing, though, is that of Gareth Southgate, who just doesn’t seem to be that into him. Would the England manager be making a huge mistake by leaving Alexander-Arnold out of his squad for the European Championship later today?
    The issue for Southgate is one of defensive stability, and potential reasons for Alexander-Arnold’s international omission aren’t difficult to find if we look for them. Simply put, he isn’t the best when it comes to preventing crosses and defending in one v one situations, and opposition managers have noticed as much.
    A fairly typical pattern of play Liverpool encounter is the opposing team playing a long pass from deep aimed between the right-back and right-side centre-back towards a runner.
    Liverpool’s system depends heavily on the attacking width provided by their two full-backs:
    [​IMG]
    An obvious, natural consequence of this is that they will leave space behind when in their attacking set-up:
    [​IMG]
    Klopp’s solution to this has been playing Gini Wijnaldum on the left and Jordan Henderson on the right of a three-man central midfield, two players with excellent tactical and positional awareness who move into the spaces when necessary to prevent the opposition exploiting them.
    However, the injury problems Liverpool have suffered this season have resulted in Henderson and Fabinho rarely being picked in their preferred positions, and the constantly shifting midfield trio hasn’t afforded the same level of cover. Additionally, without Joe Gomez’s recovery pace or Joel Matip’s anticipation at right centre-back, Liverpool are weaker defensively.
    This helps explain many of the problems the team have encountered this season, with Alexander-Arnold’s advanced positioning not as well supported as during the 2019-20 season and the team more exposed to opposition attacks. This has had repercussions on how Liverpool go forward too, with Alexander-Arnold contributing seven league assists this season in comparison to 13 in 2019-20, and 12 in 2018-19, a natural drop-off considering the circumstances.
    Opposition managers have targeted Alexander-Arnold as a weak link since that 2018-19 season, focusing wing play or long passes down Liverpool’s right side. Every single one of their opponents in the Champions League this season focused the majority of their attacks on the left side in all but two games, the first group matches against RB Leipzig and Midtjylland, who both then tilted towards that wing in the reverse fixtures. In the Premier League this season, Chelsea had 44 per cent of their attacks wide left as they won 1-0 at Anfield and Leicester focused 53.3 per cent of their play on the left in a 3-1 victory over the champions at home.
    There are, of course, plenty of games in which Liverpool have won and lost where their opponents have mixed things up and balanced their attacks over both sides or through the middle, but the amount of times that teams are weighted heavily towards their left suggest it isn’t a coincidence.
    Alexander-Arnold isn’t just targeted because of his advanced positioning.
    The way Real Madrid focused their attentions on him in particular was blatant, playing diagonal balls between him and Nat Phillips at right centre-back (RCB, below) in their 3-1 Champions League quarter-final first-leg win in Spain, looking for Vinicius Junior and Ferland Mendy on the left wing:
    [​IMG]
    That game was one of Alexander-Arnold’s most difficult defensive performances in a Liverpool shirt. His inability to prevent players going past him one v one proved problematic, winning just 25 per cent of his eight duels, committing three fouls (the most of any player) and also giving away possession more than any other player.
    Mendy realised he had the beating of him as early as the 12th minute.
    In the example below, Lucas Vazquez switches play to the left and finds Karim Benzema on the wing…
    [​IMG]
    …Vinicius has moved inside, tight to Alexander-Arnold, as Benzema has drifted wide into space. Benzema brings the ball down…
    [​IMG]
    …Mohamed Salah comes out to close him down as Alexander-Arnold starts to move closer to the winger, anticipating the overlapping run of Mendy.
    [​IMG]
    Mendy now runs onto the ball, Alexander-Arnold goes to meet him… and is beaten by the simplest of turns as Mendy simply shifts onto his right foot, skips past and accelerates towards the Liverpool penalty area.
    [​IMG]
     
  14. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

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    PArt 2

    Alexander-Arnold’s body positioning shows too much of the inside of the pitch to Mendy, and a lack of conviction in the tackle means he is dribbled past easily. Mendy crosses into the area, but Vinicius heads wide of goal.
    [​IMG]
    Former England defenders Jamie Carragher and Alex Scott demonstrated the problem with Alexander-Arnold’s defending in their post-match analysis of the game, showing the sort of technique and body positioning which are so important in these situations:

    Real Madrid are what can safely be refered to as a pretty good team and therefore perhaps an extreme example of a full-back making a mistake — any player can have an off day, after all — but the concern is that there are examples just like this scattered throughout the season against all manner of opposition.
    Here’s one when facing Nathan Redmond of Southampton.
    [​IMG]
    Southampton didn’t focus a majority of their attacks on the left (37 per cent left vs 41.8 per cent right) in this game, which ended 2-0 to Liverpool, but still tried to isolate Alexander-Arnold one v one with Redmond.
    In the example above, Alexander-Arnold can be seen shaping up to take on Redmond, who is dribbling at pace. Alexander-Arnold has positioned his body side on, presumably anticipating that the winger will run up the wing — which makes sense — but is straight-legged, putting him at a disadvantage if he needs to push off to accelerate and chase his opponent. As becomes clear immediately, this is exactly what he has to do, because he doesn’t time the tackle properly, or attempt it with the necessary aggression.
    Redmond’s subtle trick of slowing down — for just a moment — before bursting to full speed completely catches Alexander-Arnold out. Fortunately, Phillips (just to the right of the white circle containing Alexander-Arnold and Redmond in the grab below) is able to slide in and clear up the danger.
    [​IMG]
    Here’s a similar example from the same match.
    This time, Redmond receives the ball in space wide on the left, and Alexander-Arnold pushes out to engage early (following the yellow line).
    [​IMG]
    The most sensible thing to do in this situation is to show Redmond wide by positioning his body in line with him, somewhere between closing off the inside of the pitch and opening up the wing. He should be poised to push off and accelerate should Redmond hug the touchline and run up the line, which is exactly what he does. Redmond faces up one v one as Alexander-Arnold gets into position, with knees bent and body side-on to show the play wide.
    [​IMG]
    However, as Redmond gets closer, Alexander-Arnold adjusts his body shape so all the weight is to his right, making Redmond’s decision an easy one.
    [​IMG]
    Redmond has waited for Alexander-Arnold to commit and now simply pushes the ball past him. With his full-back off-balance and unable to adjust, the winger sends a cross into the Liverpool box.
    [​IMG]
    Nobody is able to make use of it, but it’s another example of the kind of thing Alexander-Arnold could do with improving.
    Here’s something similar, from the 1-1 draw with Newcastle at Anfield.
    The ball is switched out to the Newcastle left wing and Alexander-Arnold pulls out to engage the wing-back, Matt Ritchie. He wants to deny Ritchie the chance of crossing and force him back towards his own box.
    [​IMG]
    Ritchie shapes to cross with his left foot and Alexander-Arnold falls for it, committing far too early.
    Suddenly, Ritchie’s simple fake has allowed him to cut back and move beyond his full-back, as per the yellow line below…
    [​IMG]
    … and from this new position he has space and time to look up and aim a cross (blue line) into the middle on his right foot.
    [​IMG]
    As in the previous example, nothing comes of this delivery, and so Liverpool effectively get away with one.
    There are, of course, plenty of examples of Alexander-Arnold getting his positioning, body shape and timing spot on too — even in the very games featured here — and despite these isolated incidents making it look like a real problem area, the data actually points to him being better at winning tackles than some of his peers.
    [​IMG]
    The statistic in the table above which will worry Southgate is the Dribbled Past Rate.
    The England manager will have seen the same data, which suggests Alexander-Arnold is better at tackling and winning the ball than is perhaps perceived, but won’t be able to look past what he sees on the pitch.
    When Kyle Walker is beaten by an opponent, he has lightning acceleration and the pace to recover, Reece James is physically stronger and more aggressive in the tackle, while Aaron Wan-Bissaka is relentless in his attempts to win the ball back, making the fifth-most number of tackles in the Premier League this season and the joint-most last season. However, none of that trio are as productive in the attacking third as Alexander-Arnold:
    [​IMG]
    Liverpool get so much out of Alexander-Arnold because of their risky tactical approach, and the reward is often worth it.
    His performance against Manchester United in Liverpool’s 4-2 win at Old Trafford earlier this month was outstanding, hitting superb long passes from deep which sent the forwards beyond the last line of defence, setting up a goal with a brilliant free-kick cross and winning the ball back high up the pitch on several occasions too.
    His delivery from set pieces could prove a valuable tool for England, as could his ability to move into midfield positions and help overload central areas. No matter his faults, he is an excellent player.
    Southgate’s tactical system is unlikely to make the best use of Alexander-Arnold’s creativity and technique in attack, nor his ability to move inside and play as an auxiliary central midfielder, making a more solid defender a better fit for what the manager wants.
    England will be more conservative and positionally rigid during Euro 2020 than Liverpool ever are and if the wingers are expected to attack and stay positioned for counter-attack opportunities, Southgate really needs to be able to depend on his full-backs stopping crosses into the box and winning their one v ones.
    It is for this reason that Alexander-Arnold, despite his unquestionable talent on the ball, is considered behind the likes of Walker, James and Kieran Trippier.
     
  15. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

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    Liverpool close in on Ibrahima Konate deal and intend to activate release clause
    By David Ornstein and James Pearce
    22 Comments
    [​IMG]
    Liverpool are closing in on the signing of Ibrahima Konate and intend to meet the RB Leipzig defender’s release clause.

    Konate, 22, has a €41 million release clause in his current contract which needs to be paid up front rather than in installments.

    There has been rival interest in the France youth international, who has enjoyed a promising campaign for Leipzig in the Bundesliga.

    But Liverpool have been in the driving seat for some time and The Athletic first revealed they were in the process of finalising a deal for him in David Ornstein's weekly column in March.

    Liverpool do not intend to keep Ozan Kabak at the club, however.
    What are Liverpool's defensive plans this summer?

    Liverpool made Konate one of their primary transfer targets earlier this year.

    It is understood that Liverpool do not intend to sign Kabak, who arrived at the club on loan from Schalke in January.

    Liverpool have the option to make that loan move permanent for £18 million plus add ons, but have decided against such a plan.

    Kabak, who made 13 appearances after arriving on loan from Schalke, is aware of Liverpool’s intentions and is now speaking to other clubs, having attracted the interest of Leipzig.

    Kabak had hoped to stay at Anfield on a permanent basis after relishing the opportunity to work with Klopp in recent months.

    A decision on the future of 24-year-old English defender Nat Phillips has not yet been made.
    Who is Konate?

    Despite injuries limiting Konate to fewer than 100 appearances for Leipzig, he is among the most promising talents in his position.

    Konate has been linked to a number of Europe’s biggest teams, having established himself in the heart of Leipzig’s defence alongside his compatriot Dayot Upamecano, who is primed to join Bayern Munich this summer.

    Konate, who stands at 6ft 4ins, is a part of the France Under-21 team which will this month play Holland in the quarter-finals of the U21 European Championship in Hungary and Slovenia.

    Konate's involvement means a deal is unlikely to be finalised until the tournament is concluded.
     
  16. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

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    Liverpool season review: Alisson’s high, Van Dijk’s low – and that Champions League scramble
    [​IMG]
    By Caoimhe O'Neill 5h ago[​IMG] 22 [​IMG]
    Aaaaaand breathe.
    Liverpool failed to retain their Premier League title but did manage to pull a Champions League qualification spot out of the bag when all had, for a time, looked lost.
    It has been a season that saw Jurgen Klopp’s mentality monsters rocked in January, February and March after what had been an impressive start to the campaign. The losses of Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip to injury took a heavy toll on Liverpool’s title defence. Six consecutive defeats at Anfield saw a record run of 68 games without defeat at home shredded.
    The injury crisis felt never-ending and even hindered the progress made by new signings Diogo Jota and Thiago. Curtis Jones enjoyed a breakthrough season and for all the talk of Trent Alexander-Arnold’s struggles, the right-back found his best form to end the season in style.
    Nathaniel Phillips, Ozan Kabak and Rhys Williams were among the unlikely heroes of the season. Fabinho and Jordan Henderson, who both took knocks themselves and spent time on the sidelines, were also crucial in helping out in defence when called upon.
    Getting knocked out of the Champions League in the quarter-finals by Real Madrid was one of several low points. Many will wonder what might have been had Liverpool been able to turn it around at Anfield in the second leg.
    Their lack of end-product frustrated at times but only four points dropped over the final 10 league games saw them clamber up to finish third. It was a convincing end to a turbulent campaign.
    This is our look back on their 2020-21 season.

    Player of the season: Mohamed Salah
    He may have missed out on claiming what would have been a third Golden Boot in four seasons on the final day but Mohamed Salah’s goalscoring kept Liverpool afloat at times this season.
    The Egyptian scored 22 times and also contributed five assists in the league as Liverpool wrestled a third-place finish — something that did not feel possible when that home losing streak saw them take a nose-dive down to eighth in March.
    Liverpool’s finishing was frustratingly lacking at times, but Salah held his own to score consistently — and more often than not, to do it emphatically with that gifted left foot. In doing so, he has become the first Liverpool player to score 20 goals or more in three different Premier League seasons.
    This makes him the undisputed pick for their player of the season and also makes the case so clear as to why he is one of Liverpool’s greatest ever goalscorers.

    Best moment of the season: Sadio Mane seals Champions League
    When Sadio Mane’s second goal deflected in against Crystal Palace on the final day. (You’ll be wondering why I am not talking about Alisson’s winner against West Brom — don’t worry, we will get to that.)
    That Mane goal made it 2-0 with 16 minutes to go, putting the game out of Palace’s reach and ensuring Champions League qualification for next season. But, most importantly, it was met by something few goals have been this season — the sound of live celebration.
    The cheers and applause from the 10,000 Liverpool fans inside Anfield that greeted Mane’s strike helped to round off a tricky season for Liverpool.
    A goal at a Kop End that has, for the most part, been without supporters since last March was a fitting way to sign off.

    Worst moment of the season: Virgil van Dijk’s injury
    Shipping seven goals away to Aston Villa was woeful. Losing six league games at Anfield on the spin and letting that proud unbeaten record crumble was worrying. Owners Fenway Sports Group’s central role in the Super League debacle was outrageous and regrettable.
    However, it was Virgil van Dijk’s season-ending knee injury that would prove the most damaging for, and defining to, Liverpool’s season.
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    Everton’s Jordan Pickford inflicts a serious knee injury on Van Dijk (Getty Images)
    Suffered at Goodison Park early in just the fifth league fixture, it was to be a moment which ultimately rendered Liverpool unequipped in the fight to retain their title. It was the start of an ominous injury pile-up too, with fellow centre-backs Gomez and Matip soon to be listed among the casualties, too.
    Liverpool managed to stay unbeaten domestically after Villa Park, though, and were top as we entered 2021. Though the absence of Van Dijk — a defender who had featured in all 38 games last season — would take its toll, however, and Liverpool suffered mightily for it.

    Funniest moment of the season: Getting thrashed at Villa
    If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry… yes, the funniest moment of Liverpool’s season was their 7-2 humbling away to Villa.
    The absurdity of the champions of England getting completely rolled over and pulled apart at Villa Park by a side who barely dodged relegation last season was initially a harrowing experience. But once it got to seven and the goals for Villa were deflecting in left, right and centre, it kind of became laughable.
    Liverpool even took the heat off Manchester United, who had been defeated 6-1 by Tottenham at Old Trafford earlier that Sunday.

    Goal of the season: Alisson
    There was only going to be one winner here. And it is, of course, Alisson’s winning goal in stoppage time against West Bromwich Albion.
    The first goal of the Brazilian’s career and the first time a goalkeeper has scored for Liverpool in the club’s 129-year history.
    And let’s be honest, it was one of the greatest goals, and endings to a game, many of us will ever witness. It had the bizarre energy of Divock Origi’s unexpected last-minute winner against Everton in 2018 and the euphoria of a night like the Barcelona comeback at Anfield all rolled into it.

    The significance of the goal was way beyond it proving vital in ensuring Liverpool qualified for the Champions League — which it helped to do.
    It was scored by Alisson, a man who lost his father in the most tragic of circumstances in late February. He was unable to attend the funeral back home in Brazil or be with his family to grieve because of COVID-19 travel restrictions. He missed one game and was right back in between the posts.
    A very special goal made even better by the fact it was scored by such a special person.

    Game of the season: Manchester United 2 Liverpool 4
    I’m inclined to pick the 7-0 win away at Crystal Palace because of the brilliance of that performance. It was vintage Klopp. It was Hollywood football. Every goal was a goal of the month or, indeed, goal of the season contender. But as we now know, performance-wise, the Liverpool engine didn’t run so smoothly after that trip to Selhurst Park.
    So, for game of the season, I am going with the 4-2 win over Manchester United on May 13.
    It was Liverpool’s first at Old Trafford since 2014 and Klopp’s first there as manager. Even without fans tucked up in the away section it was a special feeling to get a rare win at the home of their biggest rivals — and it kept Liverpool’s hopes of Champions League qualification well and truly alive.

    Quote of the season: Jurgen Klopp’s goodbye to Georginio Wijnaldum
    The interview given by Alisson to Sky Sports right after his last-gasp winner at The Hawthorns was very emotional and you would be hard-pressed to find a person who didn’t have a tear in their eye when the goalkeeper was talking about his late father.
    Along with Alisson’s interview, Klopp’s final programme notes of the season were emotive to read.
    The manager paid tribute and said farewell to Georginio Wijnaldum, who looks set to depart as a free agent after five years of distinguished service.
    “On the playing staff we have a hugely important player who is out of contract with us,” Klopp wrote. “This is hard to write because you never say never and at the time of writing this, he has not confirmed his intentions for next season. But I must recognise him just in case this is his Anfield farewell. Gini Wijnaldum. An LFC legend now and forever. What this person — this wonderful, joyful, selfless person — has done for our team and club I cannot sum up in words, in truth, because my English is not good enough.
    “He is an architect of our success. We have built this Liverpool on his legs, lungs, brain and his huge, beautiful heart. If – and it is still if – he goes, he does so knowing we as his team-mates are eternally grateful for having this special human being come into our lives. I love him and he will always be family.”

    Piece you most enjoyed writing: The next generation
    As well as covering the men’s and women’s teams, I have also really enjoyed covering Liverpool’s academy sides. The under-18s made it to the FA Youth Cup final and my preview piece for that game, which brought our subscribers a closer look at 25 young players on the books, is my favourite of the season.
    It helps shine a light on some of the wonderful talents coming through at the club and the excellent work being done at the academy.

    Stat that sums them up: League champions (of fair play)
    The stat which oddly caught my eye as the season concluded was one of fair play.
    Liverpool topped the fair play league for a fifth season under Jurgen Klopp. This means they were shown the fewest yellow and red cards combined. That no side has ever done so for more than two seasons running in the Premier League shows the level of maturity and control in this squad.
    The fact no Liverpool player was sent off all season in their 53 matches just shows how professional and well-drilled this team is.

    Wish for next season: Champions again (with a fit-again trio)
    That Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip all return to full fitness and are back to their best to help Liverpool try to regain the Premier League title.
    Fans do not want another Champions League qualification dogfight going into the final game. They want title No 20 secured. They want the trophy parade they missed out on last year because of COVID-19 and will by next May have waited 32 years for.
    Ultimately, they want Liverpool to be champions again.
    And they want to be at Anfield, and 19 other grounds across the country, to see it happen.
     
  17. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

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    Hillsborough disaster: A pervading sense of history repeating itself
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    By Simon Hughes May 26, 2021[​IMG] 41 [​IMG]
    I was fortunate enough to grow up living over the road from a park and in the early 1990s, I’d spend most of my evenings playing football.
    My dad, who probably loves football more than me, could not resist getting involved himself.
    Lots of other kids would join in with their dads. We’d have a big game. They were glorious days. The sun always seemed to be shining.
    But on one occasion, a man walked slowly past. His hands were placed behind his back and his head was bowed. I sort of recognised him. He always looked sad. He lived nearby. His house backed onto the park. I can remember my dad telling me that he’d lost his son at Hillsborough. The man was called Christopher. His son had the same first name as me. He was 12 years older. He was Simon Bell.
    It would take 25 years for the details of Simon’s life and death to be laid bare in a courtroom. In 2014, his sister Fiona read out a statement on behalf of the Bell family. It turned out Simon had a younger brother called Duncan. When Duncan and Simon attended their first match at Anfield together, they got off the train at Sandhills. Duncan wanted to see if there was a shortcut to the ground and ended up being chased by a group of boys. Simon saw what was happening and scared the boys away. He was a typical big brother.
    Fiona described him as being “always popular with people; he could talk to adults as though they were friends”. Yet it was only after his death that the Bells found out how respected he was. His mother Joan remembered seeing 17-year-old Simon before he set off for the FA Cup semi-final on April 15, 1989.
    Simon told her he might be home late as he would go to the nearby Northern Cricket Club on the way back from Sheffield. She asked him to pop in and see her before going anywhere else.
    The knock on the door never came. Simon was crushed to death later that day, beside two friends. Gary Church was 19 and Christopher Devonside was 18. The verdict from the Hillsborough inquests, which concluded nearly two years after Fiona’s statement, analysed 14 points of contention.
    It would find that Simon was one of 96 people who died in the disaster. It would find that there had been errors in police planning. It would find error in the way the police had manned the turnstiles at the stadium. It would find error from the police command. It would find error in the decision by the police commander to open the gates. It would find error around the issue of stadium safety. It would find planning error on behalf of Sheffield Wednesday but it would not find error in the conduct of Sheffield Wednesday’s staff.
    It would find that the stadium design had contributed towards the crush and resulting deaths. It would find that stadium engineers could have done more. It would not find that supporters had caused danger. It would find error in the ambulance response. It would find error in the police response.
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    96 Liverpool fans died as a result of the disaster on April 15, 1989 (Photo: David Cannon/Allsport)
    Most significantly, it would find unlawful killing. After the last verdict was read out, I decided to jot down a few thoughts. It was April 26, 2016. I was sitting in front of a computer screen more than 27 years after the disaster, unsure whether it was my place to write anything at all.
    I was only five years old when Hillsborough happened. I couldn’t remember the day. I couldn’t remember the aftermath. But I lived with its legacy. It affected every person in the city one way or another. I could remember Liverpool losing the league title in injury time to Arsenal in May 1989 and my dad telling me it didn’t really matter.
    I could remember being taken to the corner shop on Forefield Lane in Crosby that summer by my nan who was minding me while my parents were at work. An old man was arguing with the shopkeeper. “If you don’t stop selling that shit, I’ll buy my paper from the place on Endbutt Lane,” he told him.
    Considering Endbutt Lane was a 10-minute walk away and the old man had a walking stick, I considered it quite a statement. As he left, without buying anything, he turned to my nan and apologised for swearing. It transpired that copies of a publication that had printed lies about the role of Liverpool supporters at Hillsborough were still being sold in some places, despite a boycott.
    We went on holiday that August, to Menorca. I could remember conversations near the pool and at the bar at night. They made me feel uncomfortable. I remember a heavy-looking father of two with an indeterminable middle-England accent and tattoos who kept making confident jokes about “you” Scousers, as if we had landed on the island having flown there from a different planet.
    My mum wasn’t the type of person to tolerate it. She’d confront situations if she was unhappy. I think she called him a male chauvinist pig. That was her standard insult for men she didn’t like. He ended up leaving first, along with his tattooed wife.
    From there, each anniversary was marked by a procession underpinned by hopelessness. It was only between the 15th and 20th anniversaries that I really began to appreciate the unfairness of it all.
    Around the time of Hillsborough, I was too young to grasp its magnitude: the sorrow, the anger, the raw injustice. Liverpool had been framed as maudlin. Everyone had a chip on their shoulder. We felt sorry for ourselves. I did not recognise this image. The opposite was the case. It had to be.
    What happened at Hillsborough and in the quarter of a century since was, all at once, the most desperate, the saddest and the most inspiring story ever told. The families never gave up. In 2016, I concluded that the verdicts from the inquests told any person that you should never be afraid to go your own way and to stand against authority, the bullies and the liars.
    Not everyone will believe you. But you’ll get there in the end. Beneath all of that, I hoped Simon Bell’s family felt a little bit better.
    As it was pointed out to me today, had 96 police officers or 96 politicians been unlawfully killed at Hillsborough, things would have no doubt been very different.
    Instead, after nearly five years when suffering families have been told not to comment on legal proceedings because it might jeopardise the pursuit of a fair hearing, a judge has essentially thrown out the whole criminal case against two former police officers and an ex-solicitor on a technicality.
    Former chief superintendent Donald Denton, former retired detective chief inspector Alan Foster and former solicitor Peter Metcalf were accused of trying to minimise the blame put on South Yorkshire Police following the disaster by altering statements. However, judge William Davis said the statements had been prepared for the public inquiry chaired by Lord Justice Taylor in 1990. He said this was not a statutory inquiry and therefore not considered “a court of law”. This meant it was not a “course of public justice” that could be perverted.
    This means the only conviction has been against Graham Mackrell, then secretary of Sheffield Wednesday, who was found guilty of a single safety offence, and fined £6,500.
    Within an hour of the judge’s ruling, Jonathan Goldberg, a QC who had previously acted on behalf of South Yorkshire Police, was allowed by Adrian Chiles, a radio presenter on the BBC, to accuse the Liverpool supporters of “perfectly appalling behaviour” on the day of the disaster, causing “a riot”. At no point did Chiles challenge him despite the overwhelming evidence and the findings against those claims, which include not only the results of the inquests in 2016 but the Hillsborough Independent Panel review four years before that.
    On Merseyside, there is a pervading sense of history repeating itself, one where those claiming victory rewrite the story. The accusations by Goldberg were as inaccurate as they were appalling.
    Families, who were informed about the development from a room in Liverpool’s St George’s Hall by video-link, had barely been able to process what was happening before smears were transmitted to a national audience.
    It was an awful moment for broadcast journalism and an awful day for justice, the scales of which — as Manchester mayor Andy Burnham put it — are not just weighed against football supporters but “against ordinary people”.
    Ordinary people like Simon Bell and his family.
     
  18. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

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    Wijnaldum has experience in making tough calls when it comes to his own career
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    By Simon Hughes May 27, 2021[​IMG] 13 [​IMG]
    Ten summers ago, Georginio Wijnaldum was 20 years old. He had scored 14 goals from midfield for Feyenoord in the 2010-11 season but his efforts were not enough to qualify the team for Europe. He wanted to move to England. The only contact by the end of May, however, had come from Benfica and Twente.
    Feyenoord would have preferred that he went abroad. “That should be the most logical next step for a Feyenoord player,” said Martin van Geel. The club’s technical director had presented Wijnaldum with the “ultimate offer” in an attempt to extend his contract beyond the summer of 2012 but his agent, Humphry Nijman, thought it did not reflect his importance or his potential. Wijnaldum agreed with his representative.
    In the meantime, Cor Pot, the coach of the Dutch under-21s, had advised Wijnaldum to stay in more familiar surroundings. “Of course all young talents have the dream of playing in England or Spain,” he said. “But I think Wijnaldum would do even better to wait.”
    Feyenoord needed to clear old debts. Ajax were watching Wijnaldum’s situation closely but the player knew he could not go there. He did not even ask himself what any future life would look like for a Rotterdammer representing Amsterdam.
    Ultimately, the only offer that satisfied Feyenoord’s demands came from PSV Eindhoven. Not an easy move to make, necessarily. It was not the one that Wijnaldum had dreamed of. Yet it began to make sense. Van Geel suggested Wijnaldum was leaving his home town with a heavy heart. Wijnaldum donated part of his signing-on fee to Feyenoord’s academy. Attitudes softened.
    The process shows Wijnaldum, whose place in the Holland squad for this summer’s European Championship was confirmed yesterday, is experienced in making difficult calls when it comes to the direction of his own career. His departure from Liverpool should not really come as any surprise, given his determination to get out of Feyenoord, the club that signed him as a 13-year-old and gave him a professional debut inside three seasons.
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    Wijnaldum as a young player at Feyenoord (Photo: Anoek De Groot/EuroFootball/Getty Images)
    It was thought at the beginning of discussions about a new contract with Liverpool two years ago that a new deal would mark his importance to the team as well as his status within the hierarchy of the dressing room, where he was one of the captains.
    When James Milner signed for Liverpool from Manchester City at 29, he became one of the club’s top earners but any sort of equivalence was not awarded to Wijnaldum (then only 28) despite service that has been influential to Liverpool’s growth. On Sunday, Jurgen Klopp described Wijnaldum as “an architect of our success – we have built this Liverpool on his legs, lungs, brain and his huge, beautiful heart…”
    Liverpool wanted to keep him and this time, Wijnaldum wanted to stay but neither party ultimately wanted it enough because no compromise was found. Liverpool, like Feyenoord, appreciated the needs of their own financial landscape to ensure the whole operation made sense. It is, after all, easier for the club to attract proven talent now than it was in 2015 when Milner arrived. Wijnaldum, meanwhile — as in 2011 — never lost a measure of his own self-worth and was prepared to walk away despite the emotional connections that have been formed since he arrived from Newcastle.
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    Wijnaldum says goodbye to the Liverpool supporters at Anfield (Photo: Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images)
    Liverpool’s position pre-dates the pandemic and so does Wijnaldum’s. The losses incurred because of COVID-19 have since reinforced Liverpool’s stance. At the same time, those global events have reduced Wijnaldum’s options.
    When Emre Can signed for Juventus in 2018 having run down his contract at Anfield, the German midfielder earned nearly £13 million in signing-on fees. Several sources have told The Athletic this week that even if Wijnaldum signs for Barcelona, it will not be based on terms he may have anticipated not so long ago. One source with particularly well-established links to Barcelona even wonders whether Wijnaldum might end up returning to Anfield on a contract that suits the club’s current position more than the player’s.
    The photographs of Nijman entering the Nou Camp on Tuesday morning beside Wijnaldum’s lawyer Jan Kabalt are a reminder that the conversation is moving on but the sense of flux at Barcelona means nothing is certain until the ink is dry on any contract.
    Nijman is an uncompromising figure who has a track record of standing firm during negotiations. Barcelona, on the other hand, have become an increasingly difficult club to deal with.

    There are suggestions from Spain that president Joan Laporta has allowed Lionel Messi’s brother to become an intermediary in transfer strategy this summer in an attempt to keep the Argentinian in Catalonia. Earlier this year, the club messed Manchester City’s Eric Garcia around so much and managed to haggle demands down but still didn’t complete a deal. A source close to the club suggests this was because of their well-documented financial problems.
    Much seems to depend on the future of Ronald Koeman, who was not Laporta’s appointment. Laporta, whose previous presidency helped inspire the most successful period in the club’s history, understands the importance of the youth system. Might Wijnaldum’s arrival interrupt the progress of Ilaix Moriba, an 18-year-old who featured in 14 La Liga games this season?
    The last time Wijnaldum appeared at the Nou Camp, it was as a centre-forward for Liverpool. Having done Klopp a favour that night, he was dropped for the second leg before his two goals as a substitute improbably sent Liverpool through to the Champions League final. He, better than anyone else, knows that anything can happen. The future might not be exactly how he thought it might be. But you sense he’ll find a way to make it work for him.
     
  19. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

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    Konate deal is close, but Liverpool need to sell deadwood before they buy more players
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    By James Pearce 4h ago[​IMG] 89 [​IMG]
    Signing an elite centre-back has long since been the priority for Liverpool this summer.
    It’s the area of Jurgen Klopp’s squad that most desperately needs reinforcing after a season blighted by a defensive injury crisis.
    The Athletic revealed in March that Liverpool were planning to sign RB Leipzig’s Ibrahima Konate and, barring any late hitches, the France Under-21 international will become their first arrival of the summer window.
    Liverpool are prepared to trigger his release clause of £35 million, which has to be paid in one lump sum rather than instalments. The Bundesliga club are resigned to losing Konate, who has attracted interest from across Europe.
    Klopp views the 22-year-old as having all the qualities required to compete for the right to partner Vigil van Dijk at the heart of his back four. At 6ft 4in, he’s aerially dominant but also comfortable with the ball at his feet. His pace is ideally suited to Liverpool’s high-line style.
    Liverpool also considered the merits of Villarreal’s Pau Torres and Duje Caleta-Car of Marseille but view Konate, who has made nearly 100 appearances for Leipzig in all competitions since arriving from French side Sochaux in 2017, as the more complete package with the greater long-term potential.
    Any concerns about Konate’s injury record have already been alleviated by medical tests. He’s currently fully fit and preparing to face Holland in the quarter-finals of the Under-21 European Championship on Monday.
    Liverpool will certainly be better stocked in the centre-back department than they were a year ago, when the decision not to replace Dejan Lovren following his departure to Zenit Saint Peterburg backfired.
    Van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip all then suffered serious injuries, which limited them to just 22 league appearances combined in 2020-21.
    That trio are on course to return to the fold during different stages of pre-season, with Gomez the most advanced in terms of his rehabilitation. Klopp’s squad are due to report back for training on Monday, July 12 — the day after the European Championship final.
    [​IMG]

    Van Dijk’s return will be a huge boost to Liverpool next season (Photo: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
    Liverpool’s outstanding form in the final two months of the season — they took 26 points out of the last 30 on offer to finish third in the Premier League — was partly inspired by Fabinho’s return to his usual holding midfield role. There’s a determination to ensure they have sufficient depth in future so he’s not required to play as a makeshift centre-back again in 2021-22.
    Ozan Kabak moved out of his house in Formby on Monday and said his goodbyes, after being informed Liverpool won’t trigger their option to buy him for £18 million following the end of his loan spell from German club Schalke.
    The Turkey international was a stop-gap solution after arriving on deadline day at the end of the winter window.
    He performed well after a difficult start and hoped he had done enough to earn a permanent move to Anfield. However, the decision to pursue Konate – coupled with the progress made by Nathaniel Phillips and Rhys Williams – meant committing the funds required to keep Kabak wouldn’t have made sense.
    Ben Davies didn’t play a single minute after his move from Championship club Preston North End for an initial fee of £500,000 midway through the season. The 25-year-old defender has been told that Klopp sees parallels with how Andrew Robertson needed months to adjust to the team’s style of play when he arrived from Hull City in the summer of 2017.
    Liverpool aren’t currently looking to off-load Davies, who will be assessed along with Phillips and Williams in pre-season before decisions on their futures are made. Much will depend on what kind of shape Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip are in, and whether they are properly fit to start the new campaign when it kicks off on August 14.
    Phillips and Williams considerably enhanced their reputations with their form over the run-in, when Kabak and Davies were both injured.
    Whether Liverpool need to sign a back-up goalkeeper this summer will hinge on whether Adrian decides to sign a new contract.
    The club are keen to retain the services of the popular Spaniard, whose current deal expires at the end of next month. Adrian, who has offers to return to his homeland, is considering his options and talks are ongoing.
    Caoimhin Kelleher climbed above Adrian in the pecking order over the course of this season, and the 22-year-old will be rewarded with a new contract in the coming months to reflects his status as the club’s No 2.
    A new deal for first-choice keeper Alisson will also be a priority for sporting director Michael Edwards when the Brazilian returns to Merseyside after playing for his country in the Copa America this summer. His stock has never been higher and Liverpool want to ensure he’s tied down long beyond the end of his current contract in summer 2024, and on improved terms.
    Contract extensions were on hold during the pandemic as the financial impact took its toll but those matters will start to be addressed later this summer. Jordan Henderson, Van Dijk, Roberto Firmino, Fabinho, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane all have two years remaining on their deals.
    In terms of his full-backs, Klopp is content with Kostas Tsimikas and Neco Williams as back-ups for Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
    Tsimikas has endured a difficult first season following his £11.75 million move from Olympiakos as he struggled for both form and fitness. However, there’s a belief he will be better equipped to ease the burden on Robertson in 2021-22. The Scotland captain started all 38 Premier League games this season, with Tsimikas making just two brief substitute appearances in the top flight. Klopp also has James Milner and Gomez, who can both play full-back if required.
    It remains to be seen how Klopp will fill the void created by Georginio Wijnaldum’s emotional exit following the expiration of his contract. Like Robertson, Wijnaldum didn’t miss a league game all season and Klopp’s warm tribute to the Dutch midfielder underlined how much he is going to be missed, on and off the field.
    Senior Anfield sources have indicated that signing a replacement for Wijnaldum is not regarded as a necessity. They point to Henderson’s imminent return to fitness and the fact that academy graduate Curtis Jones is expected to have a bigger role in 2021-22.
    Thiago also belatedly flourished after a tough start in English football following his summer move from Bayern Munich and should be more influential next season. Klopp has already declared that he intends to keep faith with Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Despite ongoing speculation, The Athletic understands that Brighton & Hove Albion’s Yves Bissouma is not a target.
    Further new arrivals after the expected signing of Konate will be influenced by how much is generated from player sales.
    Another attacker will be required if, as expected, Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri depart. There’s also a decision to be made on the future of Takumi Minamino, whose half-season loan at Southampton petered out after a bright start.
    Origi’s place in Anfield folklore is secure given the iconic moments he’s given supporters over the years but he needs to pursue a new challenge after scoring just once in 17 appearances in 2020-21. The Belgium international, who has previously attracted interest from Wolverhampton Wanderers, is valued at around £20 million.
    Sporting director Edwards has a reputation for negotiating bumper fees for unwanted fringe players but the financial impact of COVID-19 will make that more difficult this summer.
    Liverpool will listen to offers for Harry Wilson and Marko Grujic following the completion of their loans at Cardiff City and Porto respectively. They are each valued at around £15 million.
    Loris Karius, Sheyi Ojo, Ben Woodburn, Liam Millar and Taiwo Awoniyi could also be sold.
    Awoniyi is the most valuable of that quintet after recently being granted a UK work permit. The 23-year-old striker has spent the past six years out on loan at a number of clubs across Europe, most recently Union Berlin. Fulham, West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City have already shown interest in the Nigerian. Liverpool would sell for around £8 million.
    Liverpool don’t envisage any more high-profile exits. Klopp is planning for next season with Mane and Salah both still on board. Talk of trying to prise either Kylian Mbappe away from Paris Saint-Germain or Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund has been dismissed by senior club sources.
    Klopp’s attack will be bolstered in pre-season by the return of Harvey Elliott. The teenager enjoyed a highly productive season-long loan at Blackburn Rovers in the Championship, where he scored seven goals and registered 11 assists.
    Elliott will get opportunities in the warm-up matches in July when the squad will be depleted by players being granted three weeks off following their commitments at the Euros and Copa America. He is determined to use that time to convince Klopp that he can help Liverpool challenge for glory in 2021-22 rather than be loaned out again.
    With key personnel returning from long-term injuries and belief restored after a morale-boosting end to the season, Klopp is largely content with what he’s got. “Little adjustments” was how he has described what’s required in the transfer market.
    Once negotiations with Konate’s representatives are completed, the young Frenchman should be the first new face through the door.
    A couple more are likely to follow him in, but it won’t be a busy summer regarding incomings at Liverpool.
     
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  20. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

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    Porto chase Grujic as Liverpool aim to raise £60 million-plus in summer sales
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    By James Pearce Jun 9, 2021[​IMG] 90 [​IMG]
    Marko Grujic was the first signing of Jurgen Klopp’s Anfield reign. This summer, he’s one of the most valuable assets Liverpool are preparing to sell to bolster their transfer kitty.
    Porto, where the Serbian midfielder spent the 2020-21 season on loan, are the front-runners to secure his services on a permanent deal.
    With plenty of interest in Grujic, Liverpool are increasingly confident they will command a fee of around £15 million for the 25-year-old. Sporting director Michael Edwards has also fielded enquiries from a number of clubs in Italy and Germany, but Porto are currently in the box seat.
    Grujic blossomed under the guidance of coach Sergio Conceicao last season as he clocked up 36 appearances in all competitions for the Portuguese side. He caught the eye in their impressive run in the Champions League as they knocked out Juventus in the last 16 before losing narrowly to eventual winners Chelsea in the quarter-finals.
    Conceicao, whose side finished second behind Sporting domestically, recently ended speculation about their coach’s own future by him penning a new three-year contract and he’s made it clear that he wants Grujic on board for next season, too. Porto had initially hoped to extend the Serbian’s loan for a further 12 months but with Grujic down to the final two years of his current deal, Liverpool informed them that they will only consider permanent offers.
    Midfielder Sergio Oliveira, the Portugal international, is being pursued by Fiorentina and his sale is expected to give Porto sufficient funds to buy Grujic.
    Liverpool look certain to make a hefty profit on a player who cost them £5.1 million from Red Star Belgrade in January 2016. He was initially loaned back to his hometown club for the rest of that season.
    Despite his undoubted potential, Grujic was never able to convince Klopp that he was worthy of a regular starting place at Anfield. He has made just 16 senior appearances in all competitions for Liverpool and hasn’t featured in the Premier League since he faced Brighton at the Amex Stadium in December 2017. He scored his only goal for the club in the Carabao Cup thrashing of Lincoln City last September.
    “The challenge (at Liverpool) is so big,” Grujic told The Athletic last season. “There are a lot of quality midfielders at the club. It’s honestly hard to get a chance.”
    He spent the second half of the 2017-18 season at Cardiff City before heading to Hertha Berlin for two seasons on loan. He enhanced his reputation in the Bundesliga, with coach Pal Dardai describing him as “by far the best midfielder I’ve seen in my time at the club” but they couldn’t afford to make the move permanent.
    Last summer, Liverpool were willing to sell Grujic for £18 million but a potential switch to Werder Bremen fell through shortly before the deadline after discussions over the fee failed to reach a suitable compromise. With his midfield department so heavily stacked, Klopp ultimately sanctioned a loan to Porto last October, with no option for the Portuguese club to buy.
    Grujic had initially hoped that the departure of Georginio Wijnaldum, who is on the brink of completing a move to Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer, would lead to him being given the opportunity to revive his Anfield career on his return.
    However, with Fabinho, Thiago, Jordan Henderson, Naby Keita, Curtis Jones, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner for competition, a parting of the ways now appears to be the best option for all parties. At the age of 25, Grujic’s main motivation is to play regularly and he accepts that’s unlikely to be the case if he stays at Liverpool.
    Further incomings following the £35 million signing of centre-back Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig will be partly influenced by how much Edwards can raise from sales.
    Liverpool’s sporting director is well known for driving a hard bargain, having commanded bumper fees previously for fringe players who were surplus to requirements like Christian Benteke, Dominic Solanke and Jordon Ibe.
    However, that task is made more difficult this summer by the ongoing impact of the global pandemic on clubs’ finances.
    The belief is that Liverpool can still raise in excess of £60 million from sales. Harry Wilson and Divock Origi have similar valuations to Grujic. Wilson, who spent last season on loan at Cardiff City, knows that his future is unlikely to be resolved until after Wales’ campaign at the European Championship is complete.
    While Liverpool will hope that a number of eye-catching performances at the tournament spark a bidding war for Wilson, Origi’s absence from the Belgium squad underlines how far his stock has fallen over the past 12 months.
    He scored just once in 17 appearances in 2020-21 and needs to pursue a new challenge. Offers are also expected to come in for Xherdan Shaqiri, who only made seven starts in all competitions last season. Southampton retain an interest in Takumi Minamino following the end of a mixed loan spell on the south coast but Liverpool are currently planning for pre-season with the Japan international on board.
    It remains to be seen if they receive a bid in the meantime that tests their resolve to keep Minamino, who struggled to establish himself at Anfield following his £7.25 million arrival from Salzburg in January 2020. Liverpool certainly have no intention of sanctioning another loan.
    Taiwo Awoniyi, who is valued at around £8 million, could also be moved on, along with Loris Karius, Sheyi Ojo, Ben Woodburn and Liam Millar.
    Away from transfers, owners Fenway Sports Group are pushing on with their commitment to invest further in the club’s infrastructure.
    Liverpool City Council will next week consider the club’s £60 million plans to redevelop the Anfield Road End of their stadium. It would add around 7,000 extra seats to lift capacity to around 61,000.
    The planning application includes a request for Anfield to be allowed to host other sporting events such as American football “around two or three times per year”.
    If it gets the green light, then the hope is that construction work would start later this year and would be completed for the 2023-24 season.
     

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