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Man City have one major advantage over Liverpool in title race


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City’s major advantage over Liverpool
This weekend highlighted something I have been pondering for a while, namely; Manchester City have a massive advantage over Liverpool because they have no real rivals.

Having come from obscurity to challenge for honours, City only really have a local rivalry in terms of ‘cup finals’ to the other team. Even then, as they have won so little and are so inoffensive, Utd would rather lose to City and hand them the title than let Liverpool climb back on their perch. Couple this with Everton who don’t have the distraction of any other close rival and whose one and only desire is to stop Liverpool winning, and we already have 2 teams who see both their games against Liverpool as must not lose.

Furthermore, we have Brendan Rodgers at Leicester, eager (rightly) to prove a point following his sacking from Liverpool, plus this new-found, internet based ‘rivalry’ with Spurs.

Meanwhile, City have Pellegrini at West Ham talking about how he has a soft spot for them and is happy to see them succeed.

Therefore, the playing field of 19 opposing teams is not exactly level.

Of course, whilst I expect all teams (and their subsequent professional players) to play to the best of their ability each game, and therefore I don’t expect any teams to really roll over against City (see Liverpool vs Blackburn in 94/95), it is undeniable that the teams above lift their games and put their bodies on the line against Liverpool in a way they don’t against City.

Thoughts?
Dom (for what it’s worth, I thought the first goal yesterday was OK. It’s the Watford penalty that stumped me) Littleford

 

Liverpool conclusions
I expected a mauling but United were good. The plan to run James and Rashford down the channels beyween the fullbacks and centre backs worked well, keeping TAA and Robertson cautious. United looked well drilled and motivated, it was quite the contrast from previous weeks.

That said, Liverpool were largely awful. Their use of the ball was terrible, case in point being the long balls launched at Mane by Andy Robertson. They might have wanted to get him one on one with his defender but my word they made hard work of it. Wijnaldum aside the midfield was non existent. What happened to the Jordan Henderson who was supposed to be a newly liberated creative force st the end of last season? Time to give AOC or Keita an extended run?

The impact of losing Salah shows how dependant Liverpool on the front 3. Even when that trio don’t play well, they generally have enough quality to nick a goal but without Salah’s added threat and nothing coming from midfield, it was easy work for United. Reinforcements most definitely are required as Origi simply isn’t good enough. Lallana would have been a better option unless Klopp thought he’d end up in Firmino’s way.

Daniel James looks a player for which OGS deserves credit. That said, it was hilarious to watch Van Dijk flatten him.

VAR, grrr arrgh etc.
Alan, Córdoba

 

VAR works fine
Clubs like it, referees like it, players like it.

Every other sport with it likes it.

It’s going nowhere, it works and if you get upset about it because you don’t understand how the Premier League have set the boundaries for its use, then that’s your fault.

Also every single person who writes in complaining is pictured by everyone reading as a composite of Harry Redknapp, Neil Warnock and a decanted tin of Spam.
Tim Sutton

 

More VAR…
A lot of Liverpool fans in the morning mailbox about how ridiculous VAR is, how one sided the referee was etc, so wanted to offer the United perspective:

In response to Tyla’s query about how it’s possible for Liverpool to have 68% possession and commit 14 fouls to United’s six – it’s not some sort of JFK conspiracy  — Liverpool committed a lot of fouls to prevent United countering. Hell, United may have had more possession had they not been fouled so quickly and repeatedly!

On the Origi VAR point – I suppose that the referee formed the valid opinion that Origi lost possession of the ball because of a heavy touch, then threw himself to ground after feeling such a minimal amount of contact that there is a strong argument it wasn’t a foul. Maybe the VAR officials (who are presumably trained to realise that slow motion replays of contacts make them look heavier than in real life, and even after that it looked like Lindelof was giving his leg a tender, under-the-dinner-table caress one might give to a lover) felt the original decision was correct.

In any case, the ball was already lost, a lot happened between the incident and the goal and it happened in an innocuous area of the pitch such that it had no bearing on the resulting goal. Suck it up.

I know Liverpool fans probably feel hard done by, particularly with the knowledge that, had Salah been playing in Origi’s place, they would have had a player in that position with the “special talent” for winning free kicks in such circumstances. But the outrage and teeth gnashing over what was, frankly, a judgement call needs to be toned down – particularly from Jurgen Klopp, as he’s in real danger of damaging his new veneers.
Andy (MUFC)

 

Somebody should tell Origi that if you want to con the ref at least hold on to the leg you got tapped on rather than your other leg. In response to Liverpool fans claiming a foul, yes he was caught slightly but his reaction was due to the fact he lost the ball rather than the little touch, he knocked it to far saw McTominay coming in and threw himself on the floor simulation all day long. I also felt the hand ball was really harsh, I know the ruling etc but he didn’t try to control the ball with his hand so it’s a real pisser for Mane.
The game itself panned out really well for United with Liverpool never looking like scoring until Robertson’s shanked cross reached Lallana with Ashley Young caught flat footed as per. Hopefully this can kick start a bit of a revival up to January when Ole can bring in some more fire power and a creative midfielder. Onward and upwards and all that.
Paul Murphy, Manchester

 

Maybe part of the problem with VAR is the fans? Their expectations of and their responses to VAR are like a self-wind up toy notching up the fury.

It seems to me there is a clear pattern emerging of decisions only being overruled if they are deemed objective i.e. handball or offside. Anything else is subjective. It can be ‘wrong’ but the higher principle is the ref is always right even if the decision is subjectively wrong to other people.

So any expectations that VAR will get all decisions right is proving to be futile, however merited that expectation might be. The fans’ responses of being so critical of the referee or VAR reviewing in football has probably been a factor in this more bunker like interpretation. The louder you scream the more our reason to protect the referee.

I don’t particularly agree with this use of VAR and I could have done without VAR but it is here to stay. I am guessing that the powers that be are hoping once everyone has got used to the consistent inconsistency then it will be less controversial.

BTW I thought Ole had done his VAR homework by asking his defenders to be so robust in the tackle in the hope they could force a quick transition. Lindelof’s tackle on Origi fell into the subjective category and was worth the risk, especially once it was clear the referee was letting this tackle go. Rashford’s in out movement was perfect. Obviously we didnt deserve to lose and didn’t.

So I guess I am saying that all fans may need to just suck this up or just keep self-winding up. At least we can still have our post-match refereeing talking points. C’est La Var!
David lfc

 

Going by what happened in the Prem across a handful of games something needs to be done immediately. VAR was supposed to cancel out the dismal refereeing in the premiership but instead it’s backing terrible decisions and sometimes calling it’s own terrible decisions also.   It’s costing millions. Worldwide betting getting tanked by these clowns, not to mention every point counts at the top and the bottom that could make or break someone’s season. There is zero accountability from anyone to the point we don’t know who is even the VAR officials. It’s basically a mild form of match fixing.

I heard Gary lineker brush it off on MOTD as, we all knew it was going to have its problems??? How does it have problems? You’re stopping the game and rewatching the incident. How can you get it wrong?! No other sport that uses it ever gets it wrong so that’s why I’m beginning to think it’s not on the level. Against Liverpool yesterday Origi was kicked, whether it hurt him, whether he grabbed whatever it’s irrelevant, it was a foul plain and simple. Gary Neville mentioned before the match that the only way utd really stood a chance was if they got a decision like this. He was right. If you cut the Man Utd, Martin Tyler Gary Neville love in on commentary, who were super excited that Utd were running about for once and were praising them like globetrotters, Utd didn’t create anything else, got 11 players behind the Ball and nearly took the win which VAR nearly handed them. Leaving me and I’m sure more football fans at odds to whether to continue watching. Conclusion VAR is a joke and so is the refereeing standards in the premiership.
JB

 

In regards to the VAR incidents of United-Liverpool, as far as I can recall of the matches I’ve watched, the EPL VAR have mostly sided on keeping the On Field ruling on if the matter is a subjective one. All fouls pretty much have some degree of subjectivity to them and fall under this (with the exception of two footed tackles) which I assume is why a lot of penalties aren’t given on review that many have said should have been given.

Objective decisions like line offsides and handball goals are of course regularly overturned since they are black and white.

Before the season began, I recall the EPL have said that their VAR system would focus more on keeping on field decisions the same or something about respecting it and some such. In this regard, EPL VAR have mostly been consistent on this in its implementation.

This is very different from how FIFA VAR and UEFA VAR work, where On Field refs are to make the final decision on video review after flagged by the VAR team. The advantage of this is that you mostly have one decision maker thaf can correct their own mistake and have a consistent intepretation in the match, but at the cost of much more delay and stoppages.

I can still respect the EPL way of doing things as it allows it to overturn the category it is best at (objective types) while respecting On Field real time decisions for subjective ones even though I generally prefer FIFA/UEFA versions.

My problem with it at the moment and that they should go out and ACTUALLY SAY that they are doing this subjective/objective split that they seem to be practicing in their rulings. Just officially tell us what is a VAR overturnable offense type as opposed to pretending that it is applied to everything.

Because if they don’t, people have and will continue to expect it to apply to everything as if it were a second full referee with video access even though it isn’t in practice. Do this, mention the advantages for adopting the approach and it will be better accepted.
Yaru (Oh who am I kidding, of course it won’t) Malaysia

 

While the mail box are discussing the attributes of video technology in football versus rugby I’m surprised no one mentioned two incidents over the weekend.  In the Frace versus Wales game Aaron Wainwright was being strangled and then elbowed by Sebastien Vahaamahina. For the record, Vahaamahina is 6ft 8 and 19sr 12. Wainwright had the audacity to shout to the ref blatantly trying to influence the referees decision. Disgraceful.

On the other hand Ogri was brutally attacked by Lindelof, the physicality of the challenge rendering him unable to stand, the inertia of the challenge making him roll through 360 degrees whilst the shock simultaneously making him forget which part of the leg the searing pain was coming from.

No wonder it’s difficult to make decisions when you consider the level of play acting that goes on in Rugby.
Paul (West Ham, back to the old routine)

 

Football fans are never going to be objective
In response to Tyla and at risk of being the flip-side of the coin of myopia, quoting possession stats to back-up the fact that Liverpool committed more fouls that United is neglecting to recognise the argument against Man City and their tactical fouling. Just because you have a lot of the ball, doesn’t mean you don’t foul a lot, Liverpool weren’t quite meeting the targets I expect Pep would request but there was a lot of tactical fouling to negate the counter-attack. In fact, I would love to see the stats of fouls committed against teams that play a counter-attacking style of football, as United are forced to do due to us having no-one who can split a defence with a pass.

I have to then laugh at the irony of the statement ‘if you are allowed to stop attacks without giving away free-kicks’ (I added the hyphen for you, you’re welcome), as I saw a game where Liverpool were doing that more. I guess football fans are never going to be objective.

Cheers,
Paul, Man Utd

 

Martin Atkinson
Martin Atkinson sure does love a none call for Liverpool.

Quick little jaunt down mailbox memory lane saw me lose my sh*t last season when Atkinson had an absolute howler in the LFC vs LCFC in which he refused to send Maguire off for a stonewall red. A game that would ultimately go on the cost Liverpool the title.

Why is such a controversial referee consistently given high profile games? Clearly the FA has learned their lesson by keep Jon Moss far away from these types of games.

Twenty-two years is a long time to be at the top of your game in any aspect of life, clearly Atkinson is past his sold by date.

It would be nice if the governing body of the top league and football would define clear and obvious because Dermot Gallagher saw it as a foul. Wouldn’t that make it clear and obvious that Atkinson got it wrong?
Brian (You know United are sh*t when Lallana scores against them) LFC

 

Commentator bias
So seemingly another weekend game where Martin Tyler seemed crushed about Liverpool scoring a late goal against Man Utd. Curious to know if anyone out there thinks about commentators biased for/against  their team? Ian Crocker used to annoy me for years where he used to always pick ‘the lesser side’ when they were playing. So so sure about the Tyler bias though….
Hugh Cork/London (Tyler’s commentary for Henderson’s Chelsea goal is so quiet.though..)

 

Spurs conclusions
I was at the Spurs vs. Watford game on Saturday and here’s my non-VAR related 2 cents/5 conclusions

Apart from brute strength, I’m not sure what Moussa Sissoko really offers. In 96 PL games for Spurs he’s scored 1 goal and has 7 assists. You may argue that it’s not his job to score/create, but whoscored.com lists ‘tackling’ as his weakness, and he certainly isn’t a player that controls the tempo. This may be If Spurs still consider themselves a top team, Sissoko needs to start offering something more than a couple of powerful runs every game or he needs to be moved on. Longer being really, really **** isn’t a good enough reason to start in our midfield every game.

With Watford sitting deep for so much of the game, our back four became Spurs’ most ‘creative’ players. I lost count of the amount of times Toby Alderweireld drifted an aimless cross into the penalty area and sadly I don’t think I counted a time the fullbacks went beyond their Watford counterpart. Eriksson’s form, fitness and commitment can be questioned, but he has been our chief lockpicker for a long time and without him playing/playing at his best, we look blunt.

Yes, the needless flicks and constant quest for nutmegs can frustrate, but I rated Dele Alli’s performance. When he received the ball, his default was to drive it forward. Often the tighter the space he’s in the better he is. Dele also has a genuine understanding with Kane and his dip in form may be correlated to him playing further away from Spur’s talisman. Get them two closer and Spurs could start ticking again.

That defence. Urgh. We are crazily susceptible to a long ball over the top. As much as Aurier isn’t fit for purpose (save for one amazing tackle near the end of the game – more of that please!) and Rose’s form has nose-dived, I’m putting most of blame at Poch’s door. The defence just isn’t balanced (to high/too deep/full-backs gone AWOL) and we’re missing a proper defensive midfielder. I get why Dier isn’t in the team but his defensive diligence and ability to fill in the gaps when the full-backs pushed on was a key part of our game plan. Now we don’t have that option there are holes everywhere.

Please hurry back Hugo! We’re sorry and we miss you.
David C, Battersea (Poch in, but we need to turn a corner soon)

 

Enough Roy
I have honestly had enough of Roy Keane. Why is he still a pundit? Why is he so angry all the time? And why do people like that sort of thing? He claimed that Utd and Liverpool players were ‘going to war’ and ‘going into battle.’ No they bloody aren’t Roy! They are playing a football game. I do not personally know anybody in the forces but I am sure those that are would be pretty insulted by seeing football compared to war. Keane is nothing more than a living embodiment of the stupid overly macho tribalism that infects football and see’s people physically fighting each other because they support a different team. His sort of attitude is why abuse is screamed at people who are simply doing their job. Yes we all love it when players show passion for the team and match they are playing, but at the end of the day that is all it is, a game, not a battle, not war, a game. Grow the hell up Roy and for god sake cheer up.
Andrew (Welwyn Garden City)

 

Weekend thoughts
Dear Football365,

Ordinarily the team threatening to run away with the league title being held 1-1 by the team in 14th would be a bit of an upset, but all indications seem to suggest Grantham Town were good value for their point away at South Shields.

*Crystal Palace losing 0-2 to Manchester City is not a result that will greatly affect either team’s season in any way. The visitors kept their opponents at arm’s length for the majority of the match, and when the Eagles did threaten, Ederson pulled off some impressive saves.

*For all the talk of Palace having a relatively good record against Manchester City, this is largely false. Since 2015, for games played at Selhurst Park, they have avoided defeat only once, with a goalless draw, and lost the other three games by a combined score of 2-6.

*There was an element of fortune to the visitors’ opening goal. As far as I could tell, it bounced of Gabriel Jesus’s shoulder at an angle of approach that suggested clean contact with his head would have sent it miles wide. The second goal was a thing of beauty though – a quick counter upfield, a pass from Raheem Sterling it wouldn’t occur to 99.9% of players to even attempt, and a perfect volley from David Silva. Shots that go in off the crossbar may be the most aesthetically pleasing goals, but there’s something enjoyable about efforts that land the conceding keeper on his backside the way Silva did to Wayne Hennessey. Sometimes you just have to tip your hat.

*Manchester City’s decision to start two midfielders at centre-back raised some eyebrows, but made it clear how they were determined to play: taking Brian Clough’s philosophy of “they can’t score if we’ve got the bloody ball” to the extreme, and through keeping possession as much as possible, minimise the amount of actual defending they would need to do. For Palace, this presented an obvious point of attack but one that threatened their own strength. By starting with Jordan Ayew, it enabled more effective pressing from the front than Christian Benteke would have offered, but when the Belgian striker was introduced, he immediately offered a goal threat.

*That’s stage one of Crystal Palace’s horrific run of five fixtures over. Next up is the Arsenal away on Sunday, in the Ian Wright-Eddie McGoldrick derby.

*One of my pet theories, that I’d appreciate someone from the area weighing in on, is that South Shields are currently the  highest-placed positive force in the North East. Upwardly mobile and currently top of the NPL, their game on Saturday attracted 2014 fans.

For context, only four teams in all of Non-League drew more fans to a game on Saturday: Notts County, Chesterfield, Hartlepool United and York City (are magic), all of whom have played in the Football League within the last four years. In fact, the season that York dropped down to Non-League, South Shields were in the Northern League Division One (Step 6).  Clearly they are doing something right to get that many fans coming week after week, so good luck to them.
Ed Quoththeraven









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