Monday Verdict: Signs in place for United title bid next term

Date published: Monday 6th February 2017 9:00

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp comes in for criticism, plus thoughts on Neville’s ‘idiot’ rant, Manchester United’s revival and Diego Costa’s China move.

 

Klopp an intelligent guy – but why has he left defence to rot?

I consider Jurgen Klopp to be an intelligent guy. He’s also one of the best coaches in world football and arguably the most charismatic too. The Premier League, and Liverpool in particular, are extremely fortunate to have him – and I hope he’s here for a number of years yet….

And here comes the ‘But’…. For a man seemingly at the top of his profession, I find it ludicrous to see how during three transfer windows now at Liverpool he’s failed to seriously strengthen his defence.

Liverpool’s defensive struggles are nothing new. They largely undermined Brendan Rodgers’ side who came so close to winning the Premier League title in 2013/14 and is a problem which, by and large, has failed to have been addressed since.

 

Which team is most likely to miss out on a Champions League spot?

  • Tottenham
  • Arsenal
  • Liverpool
  • Manchester City
  • Manchester United

 

In the three transfer windows Klopp has overseen at Liverpool, he has signed eight players at a total expenditure of £69million.

Of those signings, four (Loris Karius & Alex Manninger, Ragnar Klavan and Joel Matip) have been defensive / goalkeeping recruits. Matip, bought on a free transfer from Schalke in the summer is the only one of that bunch to consider himself a first-team regular.

During that same three-window period, Klopp and Liverpool have sold £73m worth of players, making their spend during the German’s reign £4million in the black.

Whether the frugal approach employed at Liverpool is to do with Klopp or their hierarchy I’m not 100% sure, but with the German insisting much of his focus this summer will be on strengthening his attacking options, surely he’s missing the obvious?

Has Klopp got caught up in all the plaudits being heaped on Liverpool’s attacking player earlier this season  – or is the German just blind to the problems the rest of the footballing community can see?

Either way, if Liverpool are to make a splash in the transfer market this summer – and I’d assume Klopp will spend around the £60m-£75million mark – the smart money must see him spend it on a new goalkeeper and a rock solid centre-half.

Granted, Daniel Sturridge may move on and a new signing can come in to replace the England man with those funds, but any outgoing expense Liverpool make simply has to be on strengthening their rearguard.

Virgil van Dijk and Joe Hart are two gettable targets that spring to mind and I’d urge Klopp to splash his cash on these two before going all out for yet more attacking talent.

With Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Divock Origi and currently Sturridge at his disposal, that’s not an area that needs much addressing.

But if Liverpool are to ensure future Premier League challenges don’t fall by the wayside, and if Klopp is to prove himself as reverred a coach as he’s pegged out to be, he’d do well to remember the old English footballing adage about building from the back….

James Marshment

 

READ MORE

Hamann – Liverpool mad to give Klopp a six-year deal

Carragher dismissive of Liverpool’s top-four hopes

Stats reveal just how bad Liverpool’s form is

It makes no sense for Liverpool to play like this – Klopp

 

 

Arsenal fan no ‘idiot’ for Wenger banner

Arsenal fan: Irks Gary Neville

Not for the first or last time this season, Gary Neville’s comments sparked a social media frenzy after he blasted an “idiot” Arsenal fan for revealing a ‘time to go’ banner clearly directed at Arsene Wenger.

It wasn’t just a passing comment, either, as Neville then proceeded to question the fan’s thought process and suggest that he was wishing for Arsenal to fail so he could justify bringing the banner.

While it is still refreshing to hear these strong views in a mundane world of punditry, Neville became a hypocrite when he decided to single out the frustrated fan.

Neville had spent the vast majority of the game criticising Arsenal (and quite rightly too) for their consistently weak mentality as they were bullied out of another match against a title rival.

He said: “It just feels like the same. Not strong enough, not resilient enough, not powerful enough and not good enough ultimately to compete in a match of this nature in an important part of the season when they can apply a bit of pressure to their rivals.

“They have fallen well short.”

And while the players have to take some of the blame, there are no prizes for naming who is ultimately to blame for Arsenal spinning around the same old circle of despair.

What Neville failed to understand in that moment is Arsenal fans are quite simply sick of having to accept mediocrity season after season after season.

It is depressing, it is draining, it is, by Arsenal’s standards and resources, completely unacceptable.

What we saw when the Sky camera cut to that particular supporter was someone who has had enough and wants to see change. He is far from alone, either.

He will have no doubt paid good money for his ticket and has every right to show his displeasure at the very familiar scene he was having to witness.

As a Manchester United die-hard, Neville is not going to be operating on the same emotional level as Arsenal fans, so for him to feel he is the right place to criticise to that extent is quite simply baffling.

The real “idiot” is the guy next to him wearing a half-and-half scarf!

Mark Scott

READ MORE: Neville berates ‘idiot’ Arsenal fan for anti-Wenger banner
READ MORE: Oxlade-Chamberlain covers tracks after ‘liking’ anti-Wenger tweet
WATCH: Wenger’s reaction to Chelsea defeat

 

Manchester United are on their way back

A lot of talk this season has revolved around what Manchester United don’t currently have compared to their rivals at the top of the Premier League.

They don’t have quite enough star power, for example, apparently, compared to Manchester City. They don’t have the stability of an Arsenal or Tottenham. They don’t have the attacking sparkle of what Liverpool, well, used to have.

However, recently they are showing what they do have that many of the others don’t, and that’s consistency.

Jose Mourinho’s men seem to have been treading water for a while, with too many draws allowing the top four to keep them out of striking reach, but their ruthless 3-0 win at Leicester this week took them to within just two points of the Champions League places.

There was probably always going to be a few teething problems for Mourinho, and he appeared to be doubting even himself for a spell earlier this season.

But while the spectacular Man Utd sides of the past still feel some way off returning, they have found solidity, as one defeat in 20 games will tell you, and it’s serving them very well.

Title contenders? Not this season. Chelsea are just too strong. But there are some signs of the club really to accumulate some of its old strength and it has to be ominous viewing for the rest. And next year is a different story…

Michael Graham

 

Premier League need not fear about Chinese Super League invasion

Diego Costa: China move talk seemingly over

January was largely dominated by huge-money bids from Chinese Super League clubs for Premier League stars, well, players, and the closure of the transfer window doesn’t appear to have dampened those reports.

Last week, fresh rumours were abound that Diego Costa would finally make the switch to the CSL he seems to want this summer, probably after securing a second Premier League title with Chelsea.

It’s an interesting situation with Costa because, with all due respect to the other players who have headed east, he would be the first top Premier League player to take up the option. But here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter if he does.

There is obviously a huge amount of money on offer in China and the intent to use it as a hook to attract players with name value from Europe is clear. The Premier League, though, has never been about the names.

It was just as fun and vibrant and unpredictable back in its first season, when an Ian Olny and Andy Ritchie-inspired Oldham Athletic produced a daring last-day escape from relegation and Mark Robins and Jeremy Goss were firing Norwich into Europe as it is now.

It’s the character, passion, intensity, and downright relentless ridiculousness of the Premier League that is it’s heart, not its big-name players, and those players would do well to remember it. Frankly, they need English football far more than we need them.

Michael Graham

 

Palace doing a fine job of making Allardyce look the fool

Sam Allardyce: Disappointed with penalty decision

I can’t have been the only one think Sam Allardyce’s appointment at Crystal Palace would soon have the Eagles soaring up the table? All it seemed was needed was a little defensive organisation and the creative talents in their side would do the rest, right? Wrong!

If anything, since Allardyce came in at Selhurst Park, results have gotten even worse with the 0-4 defeat at home to fellow strugglers Sunderland – the manager’s old club – surely their nadir…?

The players at Palace are in serious danger of making Allardyce look stupid and tactically unaware – exactly what he isn’t – and further damaging his reputation which was seriously tainted by his England experience.

It’s bad enough the manager dancing a silly jig with the Palace mascot before the game kicked off to make him look an ass; the result by half-time and only slight second-half improvement doing little to change that perception…

 

James Marshment

Enjoy Defoe while you still can

Jermain Defoe was in sensational form once again for Sunderland this weekend, as he kept pace with the Premier League’s top scorers courtesy of a brace against Crystal Palace.

No Englishman has scored as many league goals this season as Defoe and since the start of last season, he has scored a colossal 32 goals in just 61 appearances – in very poor Sunderland sides.

At 34-years-old, his England days are probably behind him, and whether or not they should be is a debate for another time.

However, what should be said is this: Enjoy Defoe whilst you still can. He is arguably the last of the age of the striker, at least that England will produce.

Fact is, scoring goals no longer seems to be enough for academy ‘forwards’ these days. They have to be able to play out wide too, they have to be able to bully defenders with size and strength, they have to be able to play up front alone as a matter of routine.

Nimble thinking, instinctive finishing, and being alive in the penalty box almost appear to be the last things on the list that English academy coaches want to see in their strikers. We may have to wait an awful long time for another Defoe.

Michael Graham

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