Premise: So I’m pretty inconsistent at blogging. Last year I went through spells where I was writing once a week and everything was fine but then I’d lose motivation and would publish nothing for three months. It’s just that when it got to December /May, and with university deadlines and assessments looming, I just didn’t have the time. I hope this year will be different.
I thought that a monthly review of everything Liverpool Football Club would fit into my schedule better. And this, as the title suggests, is it. A monthly round up and analysis of the key issues and games surrounding LFC.
This will be the first of ten. Who knows where we will be come the end of May? I certainly don’t. But this is the start, this was August.
2nd: Roma 2-1 Liverpool (friendly )
6th: Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona (friendly )
7th: Mainz 4-0 Liverpool (friendly )
14th: Arsenal 3-4 Liverpool
20th: Burnley 2-0 Liverpool
22nd: Burton 0-5 Liverpool (League Cup)
27th: Tottenham 1-1 Liverpool
August in Edinburgh was certainly interesting. The city, as it is every year, was transformed by the Edinburgh International Festival. Streets were packed due to the influx of thousands of performers and millions of visitors, hundreds of venues popped up across the city and you couldn’t miss the fireworks that went off over the castle every night.
August, for me however, is only ever about one thing and that of course is the start of the league. It’s probably the most exciting time to be a football fan. It’s the one point in the season where everyone is optimistic. Doubts and fears are forgotten. How can you stand before a 38 game season and not dream of glory at the end?
August, for me this year, was slightly different. Keen to capitalise on living in Edinburgh during the fringe, I got a job. But with Saturdays being our busiest day, it meant that I missed all but one of Liverpool’s opening three league games. Thankfully that game was our opening win and after three long months it felt so good to be watching The Reds again. And what a show they put on. Four incredible goals, four manic celebrations in Milnes on Rose Street. Nothing beats that feeling and boy I had missed it. The next two games were different. I was in work and relying on updates from my phone. After half an hour against Burnley I was furious. We were already 2-0 down and I wanted to know what the f*** was going on. And then against Spurs we were one up. I heard we were playing well. I was hoping, no I was waiting for a second goal to flash up on my phone but instead I got an equaliser. A point, but not necessarily a bad one.
Inconsistency was the theme of the month and that is where I will begin the review. Our business, or lack of it in certain departments, off the pitch has been interesting. There has been all the drama surrounding Mamadou Sahko and all the fury about our left-back situation. I’ll discuss all of that too.
But August, that was August. The Festival gone for another year. Edinburgh returned to normality. I hope you enjoy the review and I’ll see you next month.
So, four points from our first three league games. If you asked me at the start of the season I reckon I’d have said that four points would be about par. Four points, however, feels disappointing and, of course, it is because of the Burnley result. Burnley skews everything. If we had beaten Burnley but lost at Spurs and drew at Arsenal I think people would be looking at four points differently. But no matter how bad Liverpool were against Burnley it is important to remember how good we looked in spells in against Arsenal and Spurs. It has only taken three games but I think Liverpool have already shown how good and how bad they can be. A flash of a 10, a glimpse of pace, movement, goals but also the glare of a 0, of calamitous defending and tepid football. We’ve seen both ends of the scale.
It was the story of last season but will it be a recurring theme this campaign? It’s clear how we want to play. We want to be fast, direct, dangerous. We want runners and numbers in the box. We want movement. But we also want to catch the opposition out, we’ll press from the front, chase, harry in numbers. We did this in spells against Arsenal and Spurs but could not replicate it against Burnley. We couldn’t replicate it against Burnley because it’s harder to play our way against Burnley. Arsenal, naively, gave us space. Burnley gave us the ball, sat back and soaked it all up. Liverpool had over 80% of the ball but couldn’t score. The challenge this season, as it seems to have been ever since Suarez left, will be breaking down and beating teams that are happy to sit back and let us play. This is what Leicester do best, it won them the league for goodness sake. Our approach to that game, our first back at Anfield, will be fascinating. Hull and Chelsea, although all different to each other, pose similar challenges. If Klopp and Liverpool can figure this out then I don’t see why we can’t put a good stretch of consistent form together.
Liverpool haven’t bought a new left back. Why haven’t we bought a new left-back? After Alberto Moreno’s performance in Liverpool’s Europa League final defeat to Sevilla, many thought that strengthening that position would be Jurgen Klopp’s top priority ahead of the transfer window. But here we are, three months later and with the window shut, with no new left-back. Liverpool weren’t afraid to spend money this summer, Saido Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum were signed for a total of over £55 million, and although there seemed to be plenty of targets, Jonas Hector, Ben Chilwell and Raphaël Guerreiro were all linked, Klopp has seemingly found an alternative from inside the club.
It’s evident that James Milner will be Liverpool’s first choice left-back for the season. He started against Barcelona at full-back, missed out against Arsenal due to injury but went straight back into the side for Burnley and Spurs. Even if Moreno hadn’t given away a penalty and then got caught out of position for Arsenal’s opener two minutes later in what was a completely disastrous performance, Milner it seems would have replaced him for the next game.
Moreno’s performance against Arsenal further highlighted Liverpool’s deficiencies in that position, and the fact that James Milner is the answer to the problem has alarmed, irritated and puzzled large sections of supporters. Milner, although not a full-back, brings a lot to the table. He has excellent delivery from wide areas, he’s good in possession and he’s, theoretically, Liverpool’s best corner and penalty kick taker. But he’s not a full-back. It is frustrating that we didn’t try harder to sign Hector who seemed to be a good fit, a German international who proved his quality thanks to a solid Euro 2016, and would have been available for around £20m.
As for Moreno, he will have to get used to losing his place 30 year old, right footed midfielder but, crucially, he is still at the club. Klopp has demonstrated his ruthlessness this summer. If he doesn’t fancy a player he gets rid of them but Moreno is still part of Klopp’s plans. I think that Klopp sees Moreno as his long-term left back and that his qualities, his pace for instance and his ability to quickly shuttle up and down the pitch, make him an ideal full-back in a Jurgen Klopp team. However, Moreno has been making defensive errors at big times in big games for two seasons now. Klopp will try to coach this out of him this season but will Moreno ever learn? He hasn’t shown any signs of developing defensively since his arrival from Sevilla in 2014. I trust Klopp and I can see why Klopp hasn’t decided to make buying a left-back his number one priority. I just hope that we haven’t needlessly left ourselves short and I really hope we aren’t looking back at this in May saying, again, ‘why didn’t we buy a left-back’.
THE SAHKO SITUATION
The Sahko Situation. Where do we begin? I think everyone was surprised to hear that Klopp wanted him out of the club – albeit temporarily – and then I think everyone was surprised to find him, after the transfer window had shut, still at the club. Sahko had offers to join Stoke or West Brom on loan but turned them both down and now it seems that he will fight for his chance. I highly doubt, however, that he will get his chance. Sahko has been told that he won’t play this season and it now appears that the Frenchman is now Liverpool’s 6th choice centre-back behind Lovren, Matip, Klavan, Gomez and Lucas.
There are two problems with Sahko, one is his fitness, which we have known about for a while, but the other, his attitude, emerged after he was sent home from the club’s pre-season tour of America. The defender was late for the team’s flight to the US and also missed a training session.
At the time, Klopp’s decision to send Sahko home was seen as a wake up call to the player and a warning to the squad that ill discipline would not be tolerated . He was also injured. That’s why I don’t think I thought much more about it. I had just assumed that Sahko would return home, get his act together and then go back into the team once he had recovered from his injury. Something else must have happened, and this is where we have the problem with this story. Fans are angry, understandably, at the idea of one of our best defenders not being selected. But fans are angry despite not knowing the full story. Something else must have happened and that must have been the final straw for the manager. Klopp wanted Sahko to leave and be someone else’s problem with the idea that he can get regular game time, Sahko missed three large chunks of last season because of injury, and get his head together. Instead he will be watching games from the stands.
The Sahko Situation. A strange one. You want to see your best players on the pitch and Sahko is certainly one of our best defenders. But if Klopp can’t work with him or if he sees him as a destructive influence in the dressing room then I can understand it. Football is a team sport and Klopp places a lot of emphasis on being a good team. I just wish that he had left, like Joe Hart did, and I think that trying to win over the manager by not doing what he wants you to do is an odd move.
It’s been an interesting month to not watch a lot of football. As I mentioned earlier, I was working a lot this month so I was only able to watch the Arsenal game. Therefore I have been relying on Twitter for post match reaction and… well it hasn’t all been very pretty. Twitter is great for many things but is has its considerable downsides. One thing I can’t stand is how reactionary it is. People no longer take their time to think or put their point across in a measured manner. It’s just all so immediate. Lots of Liverpool fans were angry during August. I’ve discussed a few of these points of contention here; people angry about getting rid of Sahko, people angry that we haven’t bought a new left back, people angry about people being angry, etcetera. Lots of people were angry but not a lot were taking their time to think that, as I’ve discussed, maybe Klopp knows what he’s doing. Maybe, you know because he’s Liverpool manager, he sees things that you aren’t able to, that he knows these players a lot better than you do.
Anyway back to my point, if you looked at Twitter after we were beaten by Burnley, as I did having not watched the game, you would have got the impression that we are not good enough, that Sturridge doesn’t want it, that Henderson shouldn’t be anywhere near the team let alone be captain, that we are going to finish 8th again, when, really, it’s just one game of football. It was a weird game of football too. Liverpool had all of the ball but couldn’t break through. It happens to Barcelona or Bayern Munich once or twice during a season and it happened to us against Burnley. These things happen, but there weren’t many people on Twitter on that Saturday night who were saying that.
Man(e) of the Month
Mane’s impact has been incredible. He excited us for the first time against Barcelona before producing one of the most impressive debuts in a red shirt ever against Arsenal. When Mane arrived from Southampton he brought with him something that was often lacking last season; pace. I had never really appreciated before just how quick Mane was but he is by far the fastest player I have ever seen play for Liverpool. His goal against Arsenal was spectacular and it showcased just what he brings to the team. He’s an outball, he can knock the ball past any defender and beat him for pace, just as he did to Calum Chambers, and he can score. I also never appreciated before how hard he works for the team. He’s honestly everywhere.
Perhaps the biggest indication of Mane’s impact was how Liverpool performed when he was absent. Mane was ruled out of the Burnley game and Liverpool immediately looked slower and more pedestrian. He went straight back into the side against Spurs and, again, Liverpool looked brighter. I’m incredibly excited already and I can’t wait to see more.
Coming Up in September:
10th: Liverpool v Leicester
16th: Chelsea v Liverpool
20th: Derby v Liverpool (league cup)
24th: Liverpool v Hull