This week’s Monday Verdict assesses whether Liverpool are going slightly stale under Jurgen Klopp, Crystal Palace’s short-termism and whether Arsenal are better off without Mesut Ozil.
Klopp needs a trophy, but signs so far are worrying
It’d be foolhardy to write off any side at this stage in the Premier League title race, given we’re only just witnessed the fifth round of matches and teams are very much still finding their feet.
But the alarm bells must be ringing at Anfield with the harsh lessons of last season not yet being learnt this time around.
A clash with Burnley must surely be classed as a must-win match for any side with title aspirations, even though I’m quite sure the Clarets will continue upsetting the Premier League establishment this season.
The Reds had 35 shots on Saturday, but for all they huffed and puffed, but could not blow the Burnley house down, to leave their hordes of fans travelling home disappointed – and worse yet questioning how far the Reds had progressed during the last 12 months.
One of those days, perhaps. But for various reasons, they are becoming more and more familiar for Liverpool and Klopp.
Granted, it may have been a different Liverpool this season had the likable German have landed all his transfer targets, but the class of 2017/18 already has that same history-repeating feeling about it.
To me Klopp is probably the most likable personality in the British game. But there’s only so far that will get you if the team doesn’t show signs of progress this year.
I’m not saying failure to win the Premier League will be seen as a failure; but the failure to challenge for it, probably will.
I’m not saying either that Klopp should be replaced any time soon. Far from it. However, I do agree with those who suggest Klopp needs a trophy this season probably more than any other manager, with only perhaps, Pep Guardiola under more pressure to deliver.
Klopp is absolutely a great asset for Liverpool and for the Premier League in general, but failure to either make a sustained title challenge, and/or win a trophy will see some serious questions asked about his credentials.
Granted, there will be those who disagree simply because he’s a great guy and extremely likable, but being nice can only get you so far and the time to deliver at Liverpool is here….
Long road ahead as Hodgson gets to grips with huge Palace task
Roy Hodgson predicted “more pain” for Crystal Palace before “light at the end of the tunnel” after his side lost 1-0 in his first game on Saturday. Not exactly what Steve Parish wanted to hear after recruiting the former England manager.
Hodgson, 70, the oldest ever permanent managerial appointment in the Premier League took over the reins from Frank De Boer last week and Palace fans and owner Parish would have been hoping for a honeymoon period at the very least.
With four defeats from four under their belts, Parish and Hodgson were gunning for a “reaction” from the players. That didn’t happen, as Hodgson’s hoof-ball style posed Southampton very few problems, while their intensity looked a step down from their performance last week.
But for a 10-minute spell after half-time when Palace grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck, Saints looked composed and the more likely side to score again after Steven Davis had given them the lead.
In fact Palace were disappointing and they were far more impressive last week in defeat at Burnley – De Boer’s final game in charge. The home side’s goal led a charmed life at Turf Moor last Sunday as Palace managed to play through Burnley.
On Saturday lunchtime though, Palace’s long balls forward were rarely accurate enough, and when they were, Christian Benteke’s flicks found only visiting defenders. While throwing Scott Dann up front late looked like a desperate measure from a manager on his ninth life and smacked of a game from League Two rather than the top tier.
“I still believe in the long-term, these players will pick themselves up from where they have been knocked down to.
“It’s going to be a long road and there might be some more pain before we see some light at the end of the tunnel,” said Hodgson after the defeat.
Long-term thinking is certainly not in the thoughts of Parish, had it been, he would have given De Boer longer than the four games he had.
Parish in choosing Hodgson has gone down the short-term route, totally changing tact in a few months after offering De Boer a three-year contract and the chance to build a style of play in the summer.
Rumours of a fall-out between Parish and De Boer have been mooted, and it may well be that a breakdown in the pair’s relationship was crucial in the decision to axe De Boer.
Of course it’s Parish’s prerogative to change his mind and employ a short-term vision rather than the fashionable long-term outlook. Who’s to say that employing manager’s on 12-month contracts for an instant impact and short-term success is not the way to go?
But Hodgson, Parish’s short-term fix, referring to “long-term” and a “long road” will not be music to Parish’s ears and may well have him looking to the heavens.
Rooney, Schneiderlin show exactly why United were right to sell
Wayne Rooney, Manchester United’s all-time record scorer, returned to Old Trafford on Sunday as an Everton player following his summer switch, and frankly missed the opportunity to show his old club what they were missing.
United claimed a 4-0 triumph but Rooney had two brilliant opportunities to bring the Toffees level before he went off, the second of which he fired straight at David De Gea from close range instead of picking his spot.
Morgan Schneiderlin, offloaded to Everton in January after a disappointing 18 months at United, then handled to give away a late penalty as Everton unravelled, conceding three times from the 83rd minute onwards.
If there were any doubters who questioned United’s decision to sell these two players, they’d have been ended there and then on the evidence of Sunday’s display.
Ozil-less Arsenal do have a resolute side
Trips to fellow top-six clubs have proved brutal for Arsenal in recent times.
Last season they claimed just one point from those five away games, though none of those results were as worrying as the 4-0 drubbing they suffered at Anfield last month.
Credit then to Arsene Wenger’s men then for holding Chelsea to a Sunday stalemate at Stamford Bridge.
The Gunners were disciplined and spirited and Wenger must decide if it was purely coincidental that it was a performance delivered without the injured and much-maligned Mesut Ozil….
Coutinho back – but it’s Mane who is the one Liverpool miss
On Saturday Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho started for the first time since seeing a move to Barcelona fail to materialise over the summer.
The Brazilian international was a key figure as ever for the Reds but they could not break down a resolute Burnley side, who claimed a 1-1 draw at Anfield despite Liverpool having 35 shots on their goal.
In that respect, Liverpool dearly missed the suspended Sadio Mane. With him in their starting line-up, the Reds have won over 60 per cent of their games.
Without him, Klopp’s side have won just five of 13, fewer than 40 per cent. The bad news is Mane remains suspended for the next two games too.