Liverpool have ‘two bigger priorities’ than replacing ‘aging’ stars

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Glass half empty
Tim time definitely has a glass half empty approach to life (or perhaps that’s glass half full, if he’s not a Liverpool fan.) It’s certainly an interesting take on a Liverpool squad, that most people would describe as being relatively young.

I’ll come to the age argument shortly, lets first deal with the assertion that the loss of Lallana and Shaqiri are somehow a massive blow to Liverpool. Now, I’m not sure how much he’s watched of Liverpool but these two are barely squad players, let alone key players so I’m sure we’ll cope without them.

Now onto age. Apparently, the fact that Mane, Salah, Firmino and Van Dijk are 28 is a problem. Let’s tackle VVD first. He’s a centre back, who by all accounts looks after himself very well. He’s not likely to be put on the scrap heap any time soon. John Terry and Rio Ferdinand played at the top level well into their 30’s. Centre backs do not tend to peak when they’re young. If anything he’s not even peaked yet.

As for the front three, I think that Tim is living in the past. The truth is that 30 just simply isn’t old anymore and 28 certainly isn’t. Modern footballers have had the absolute best in nutrition and fitness conditioning throughout their entire lives. They last longer than they used to. They also look after themselves better. I don’t really imagine that Salah, Mane and Firmino are out on regular drinking sessions in Liverpool. Do you?

But let’s look at the facts. Of the top 4 scorers in the Premier League, 3 (Vardy, Aguero and Aubameyang) are 31 or older. The top scorer in the Bundesliga is 32. The top 2 in Italy are 30 and 35. Of the top 6 in Spain, 4 are 31 or older.

Players last longer these days. Salah, Mane and Firmino do not need to be replaced any time soon. If we waited till next season to bring someone in, that would be no problem. The truth about Liverpool’s squad is that the only player who’s age is a concern is Milner, who is not a first team pick. Man City have far more key players who are past 30 than Liverpool do. The youth squad also looks like there is plenty of young talent coming through. Age is not a concern.
Mike, LFC, London

 

Tim Sutton’s mail encapsulates the negativity of so many people and shows football fans to be among the worst culprits. Let’s start with the suggestion that players of 28 are ‘at our past their peak’ because that thinking comes from the old world rulebook which Liverpool (and others) have long since ripped up. First off the old rule of ‘once a player is 30 he’s rubbish’ hasn’t applied for years with plenty of the best professionals lasting a lot longer at a higher level than was the norm 10-20 years ago.

The gentleman telling us Salah is nearly finished at 28 was probably among those questioning his fee on the basis he ‘already failed in England’ previously. We apparently also overpaid for Mane, played Firmino in the wrong position (up front?!) and Van Dijk was a grossly overpriced ‘bad character’ who downed tools at his previous club. Remember when Henderson was going to be a makeweight for Clint Dempsey?

We were told Klopp couldn’t organise a defence and we’d never win anything with him, because it took more than 11 minutes to buy a good defender and we lost a few finals so therefore that’s how it will always be. We were told in 2014 it was our best chance to win the league in a generation and would have to wait decades, especially when Guardiola went to City. We were then told we’d never be as good as 18/19 again because we didn’t buy any players last summer, because if you don’t buy anyone you obviously go backwards. We were told we’d never get 97 points again by the same people who blindly assumed Man City would remain forever immortal.

We were told we’d never put a team or squad like this together but now we have the next line is that we either won’t sustain it or it won’t do it again. Maybe we should enjoy and appreciate the achievement rather than looking for reasons to invalidate it or suggest it won’t continue. The funny thing is when the topic turns to United or Spurs for example, a common throwaway line is ‘it only took Liverpool 2 players to get to the top’ as if it’s easy. You just buy two world class players and that’s it, all sorted. Job done.

Principally I do not disagree that Liverpool need to strengthen the squad and importantly the first team – all the best clubs recruit well when on top with the ability to spot when a player is just about to ‘go over the top’ and replace them at the right moment. An attacker to compete with the front three – all correctly identified as being 28 – is highly desirable but probably not a top priority this year.

For me a more technical midfield option – Coutinho, Maddison etc – and a versatile quick left sided player are two bigger priorities. We do still lack the creativity at times to break down stubborn sides and albiet we have acceptable and promising cover for Trent on the right – Milner, Gomez, Williams – we do struggle without a quick left sider in Andy Robertson’s absence so short of going full Brendan and playing Salah at LWB I think we need cover there.

Much of the above depends on who leaves; Klopp has the rare quality of being able to bring in new players while keeping their inferior predecessors happy enough to stick around and do a job occasionally – Lovren, Lallana, Shaqiri etc – but nobody can do that forever. Plenty of players warming Liverpool benches are still young and good enough to play every week at other Premier League sides and will want to do so, but a long held achilles heel has been the lack of a squad despite a good team so it’s a nice problem to have.

Of course now we’ve reached the top of the mountain we’ll find it’s probably even harder to stay there, which is why only City have retained the title in the last decade so please don’t claim Klopp or Liverpool are finished if we don’t win it next year. Yes keeping this going is probably a near impossible ask, but plenty probably said that in the 70s so if it’s all the same to you I’m going to stop listening to people who are simply waiting for failure.
Martin (YNWA)

 

Hi

Well I think Tim Sutton’s letter was the type (‘i’m bitter and I just hate Liverpool but i’ll try to dress it up as something else’) we’d all been expecting to land not too shortly after Thursday night.

Just a few things Tim,

a) Really can’t help you with, ‘This means more’, a ludicrous marketing slogan that is nothing whatsoever to do with fans, it’s a thing that 99.9% of us just laugh at. This esteemed website hasn’t been shy of slipping in that shot of the Anfield tunnel with it emblazoned down the side though I note, probably cos they know it’ll pray on the minds of a certain type of person and it’ll contribute to certain responses. If I could momentarily dip into the generalizing, snide digs jar myself it wouldn’t surprise me if it was invented by at an advertising agency by a man called Tim.

b) ‘The Liverpool Way’? Not been a thing for a long, long time (possibly journalists or ex-player talking heads trot it out now and again) however when it was it was completely justified, representing an unbroken connection of managers and coaches that stretched from 1959 to 1998 until Gerard Houllier took sole charge from Roy Evans. Even then Phil Thompson and Sammy Lee were assistants / coaches. If you choose to relate it to some sort of elitist attitude, then again, your choice. But in the 21st century Liverpool have tried, and often failed, with many new, different ways.

c) ’30 years of hurt’?! To be fair you’ve answered your own bizarre made up claim by pointing where this phrase originates. Have Liverpool fans been disappointed by not winning the title for 30 years? Of course, we were involved in title challenges (some closer than others) under six different managers in that period and couldn’t quite get it over the line. What fan wouldn’t reasonably be frustrated by those circumstances? However, 30 years of – hurt?! In that time we’ve been Champions of Europe twice, been to another two finals, 1 win & 1 RU in the UEFA/Europa, 3 FA Cup wins in 5 finals, a generous smattering of League Cup wins, UEFA Super Cups and Charity Shield appearances, won some of the most memorable finals and matches of recent times…….oh and we’re Champions of the World! We’ve not been hurting, relatively speaking we’ve had a great time, we just wanted to win that one trophy that had kept eluding us.

It’s funny because we’ve spent most of this century being told (admittedly by divvies on the internet who are not representative of all football fans) how Liverpool couldn’t consider themselves this, that or the other because we hadn’t won the Premier League and now we have, a few characters emerge to tell us how little it actually means!

And will we go on to dominate the millennia? Right now, I really couldn’t care less. Yes some of our players are no longer teenage prodigies and Jurgen Klopp will not manage us forever. But the management of Liverpool FC both on and off the pitch have performed admirably in this last half decade so I look forward to seeing what the next one holds.
Cheers, Rob

 

I’ll bite on Tim Sutton’s email where he points out Liverpool’s team will be one year older for the next season. Not sure I would have worked that one out on my own.

It seems that one can use the ‘past their peak’ phrase for any player over 25 these days. After all, the team will actually be only a couple of months older when they start the season and they looked pretty convincing on Wednesday.

Klopp is staying until 2024 so he has a few years yet to change the team is and when needed. Look at Utd and Chelsea who will both look dramatically different in a two year period.

One key point that was not considered is that this team was not put together by buying superstars. Apart from perhaps Allison, none came in a the finished article. Under Klopp, Liverpool does not look to bring in superstars but players he can mould and work with. When Coutinho was sold Klopp didn’t buy another Coutinho. They’re not going to buy an Mbappe. They might buy a Tralee. I did think Werner would be a good fit but a year too early.

Klopp will look to some good youngsters who are already playing his way in the academy and soon, all at the same training ground, so they can fit right into the team when given minutes. Curtis Jones will likely replace Milner as he ages out. And if other players show they can fit will get a similar chance so they only have to bring in one, perhaps two players with more experience to start rotating the team in the next four years.

Liverpool have never been in a better position with their best players locked into long term contracts, a strong bond in the squad and the ability to keep the current players with the success they are having.

I am sure if you support another club like City or Utd you would be clutching to straws like Tim that they will be having to use walkers to get around in August.
Paul McDevitt

 

1. Compromised and anti-climactic…it’s not our fault thst covid occurred, nor that other teams were not as consistent2.Asinine ignorance and “..it matters more”…so when Fergie was quoted telling prospective players “…there is no other club like this…” and Wenger responded to the latter allegedly vaunting  Man U saying “…every man has the prettiest wife at home…”, I presume Tim thinks those comments were assinine and ignorant too? I don’t know any manager who hasn’t said similar things. They’d soon lose the dressing room, the fans and the board if they said the opposite!
3. 30 yrs of hurt…yes it has hurt, not because we presume the title belongs to us, but because we have come close on 3 occasions and dropped out of the top 4 and as a low as 8th for a number of years. We wished we had done better!
4.Ageing squad?…Those players, with a few exceptions (Milly), are at their peak, and did Tim nit view the Lge and FA cup games, where lots of youth were given a run out?

All in all, Tim, you don’t like Lfc at this moment in time. If this was your club, you wouldn’t feel that way. That’s fine, but just be honest and say it without the waffle, barbs and self-justification

Peace & Love
Lui Iacobucci (LFC since Shanks when we got beat at Anfield by a fantastic Arsenal side, but Shanks post game i/v made me fall in Love)

 

Tim,

If you really are eager to go fishing, you should be aware that the lockdown rules are relaxed enough now that most waterways in England and Wales are open for business, so to speak.

Regards.
Theo, LFC, Liverpool

 

Tim Sutton’s a happy chap isn’t he?

Good lord, makes you wonder whether there’s any point trying to enjoy football in the first place.
Red Paul

 

Where do Liverpool go from here?
The big question that I have seen bouncing around recently is people wondering, “Where do Liverpool go from here?” Unlike after Madrid, there is a serious sense among the fans of mission accomplished. Klopp and his squad have now achieved the two major aims of all the large European teams: win their domestic league and the European cup.

Clearly the goal now should be to build a dynasty. To build a team that will be spoken about in the same breath as Ferguson’s United, Pep’s Barcelona, the 70s-80s Liverpool team, and Di Stefano’s Madrid. At the moment, Klopp’s Liverpool are more comparable to Mourinho’s Inter, a team that was phenomenal for a one or two seasons, but ultimately will be remembered as nothing more than a flash in the pan.
Oliver, London

 

Asterisks
Before the Premier League restarted we heard a lot about asterisks in the history books if Liverpool won the league without all games being completed. Watching the first half of the Man U v Norwich game I wondered why I haven’t seen any discussions about asterisks being applied to other competitions this year.

In the end the Premier League will be finished this year with all games played more or less as usual, just later than usual.

The same can’t be said of the FA Cup or Champions League, with both changing to single leg fixtures for the latter stages. In the FA Cup this just means no replays but in the UCL it means the eventual winner will have played 3 less games than in other years.

Surely that means that the eventual winner has had an “easier” run than in other years. No second legs means no second leg comebacks, and we’ve seen some amazing comebacks to change the course of a tie just in recent years. (Just imagine how PSG might have done in the last 3 years if they hadn’t had to play second legs!)
Joe, LFC

 

*
Edwin Ambrose 

 

Ole looks more in charge now…
I’ll spare everyone my joy and pride in seeing my favorite team win their first title since 1990.  When I left Ireland to move to the United States in 1988, I just figured your team winning nearly everything was normal.  So it’s a bit like life I suppose; it seems easy enough when you’re new on the scene, but eventually life kicks you around a good bit, and it’s finding things other than trophies or the job of your dreams to find true happiness.  And then maybe you get a trophy or a new job, and you realize it’s made all the better from the lessons you learned without those things.  And this is what I thought today watching Manchester United struggle to beat Norwich City.

If you are a young fan of theirs like I was of Liverpool, and you are finding those things to sustain and grow yourself during this lean spell, I would point to this: Ole looks transformed in the dugout when you watch him during a game.  He looks in charge.  Does that make sense?  He’s still himself, which is smiling and friendly, but it looks more natural now somehow.  In this age of stats, useful and not, I think still trusting your eyes and instincts is beneficial in some cases because sometimes the change starts with your manager parking in whatever space he wants.  Anyway, thank you to all the fans of other clubs for the kind words about Liverpool, and I wish your teams this success one day whether it’s a promotion or a Premier League title.

Cheers,
Niall, Denver

 

Sterling? Unlucky?
It always annoys me when someone who hits the post is described as ‘unlucky’.  They’re not — they missed the target.  Yes it was close, but luck had nothing to do with it.

Which brings me to Sterling, and the golden chance to win the game for City the other day — because, make no mistake, if that one goes in Chelsea will fold like an old card table.  But that’s my problem with Sterling: this is a 30-goal a year man who should score 50 given the great positions he gets in and the number of chances he has.  At that moment, in that game, when I realized it was Sterling on the ball, my heart sank.  And it was right.
Ray, Toronto

 

On being a temporary Arsenal fan
In lieu of our expected Euro 2020 fantasy football draft, my friends and I have instead used the condensed premier league season for a similar tournament. Having 4th pick, it was perhaps fait accompli that I would have to pick Pierre-Emerick Aubamayeng, that elite striker who  hasn’t hadn’t blanked for 3 league games in a row since 2014. I say “perhaps” because he was, in fact, my first choice. I’d already decided I’d pick him ahead of any Manchester City and Liverpool players on the basis that they, having less to play for, might be more prone to rotation.

There were also two other reasons  that I was happy to watch on smugly as Salah, KDB and Mane were picked before I had my turn. The first was that, after the “free hit” of the “extra” Manchester City game, Arsenal had 3 relatively easy games against two relegation candidates and a Southampton team with nothing to play for. The second was that I’d been reassured by the collective wisdom of the footballing pundits across the internet that Arsenal had turned a corner under Mikel Arteta, that he was getting a tune out of Nicolas Pepe, Mezut Ozil and David Luiz, and that they at last seemed to be playing with organisation and the clear semblance of a plan. I will come back to this but, regardless, these were also the reasons I drafted Pepe and Ozil into the team. The ultimate consequence of this is that I’ve become invested in Arsenal’s season in a way I would not have been otherwise, and I thought I would share my observations of being new to caring about Arsenal. My competitiveness at these sort of drafts also means that I’ve watched every premier league game so far. There are two things I want to say.

The first is that, without the weltschmerz that presumably develops as part of being an Arsenal fan, I don’t think that the games so far do suggest the sort of malaise that’s being written about, especially not given the progress before lockdown. Manchester City was always going to be hard, but Arteta clearly had a plan that they stuck to gamefully for most of the first half. During that period, he lost two players to injury which not only ruined his strategy for substitutions but also introduced David Luiz into a game that he was presumably not ready to play. After this, they folded. During the Brighton game, I again saw a team with a plan that dominated an entire game but that contrived to lose it. It happens. Against a surprisingly strong and motivated Southampton team (with Ings possibly the best player in the league over the first two games), they put in a professional performance to win away from home. If anything, the main concern would appear to have been Guendouzi who, if Neil Maupay’s allegations are true, has the sort of attitude that would be toxic to any team of people anywhere in any profession. But even with regards to him, and whatever’s happening with Mesut Ozil, Arteta is showing a quiet, strong leadership that I’d be quite reassured by were I an Arsenal fan. In short, I don’t think it’s anywhere near a crisis. They’ve not been fantastic but they’ve had more issues with personnel and injury than any other team so far. Perhaps it’s the repetitiveness of this, and the weariness that comes with it, that leads Arsenal fans to frustration. I think their collective overreactions to the restart have something to do with this, and that what they’re really suffering from is akin to an infinitely more trivial version of PTSD; where past trauma can colour even the smallest setback in an overwhelmingly negative light. It’s OK, Arsenal fans, Mikel will keep you safe.

The second thing I’ve always suspected, but now feel I have experienced first hand, is how hindsight-driven the average football journalist is. It is literally not possible for a club to move from a tidy team showing signs of upward progress to a disorganised mess in the space of an away defeat to the second best team in the league but, yet, this is what the collective writings of internet football journalism would have had you believe after that game. Either they already were, or they’re not.

If it is the former then I defy anyone to find a free article written about Arsenal during the lockdown that stated they were struggling or remained in a malaise under Arteta. Such articles arguing the point are theoretically possible i.e. “I know Arsenal have been getting results but they’ve been lucky compared to the expected goals statistics” or “I know Luiz and Ozil have been playing well, but I’ve noticed that Luiz is still doing X,Y and Z every game and has been getting away with it and/or Arteta and Ozil aren’t getting on.” or “I’ve been reliably informed that Matteo Guendouzi’s preoccupation with his wage packet is upsetting the tree-planting philanthropist playing at right back.” Yes, they are possible but, no, there aren’t any. Every single article on the subject appears to be written with hindsight and, as Arthur Conan Doyle once wrote, it is easy to be wise after the event.

Equally, I didn’t really read one post-Brighton underplaying the situation, and making the points that I’ve made above about how it’s probably just more a bump in the road of an otherwise upward trajectory. It seems quite clear cut, on this website as much as anywhere else, that it must either be feast or famine, and that a nuanced view would be too complicated. As a long time reader, the thing that makes me particularly sad about Football365 is that, using Mediawatch, you’ve trained us all to spot this bad habit. Now, however, you seemingly engage in as much kneejerk journalism and clickbait headlines as the websites you highlight in that section, none of which a portion of your readers will read. Maybe that’s how it is. Maybe that’s what people want, and that its how websites make money. It’s just something that’s hit home harder following Arsenal. My actual club, Everton, is presumably a much easier club to write about when it comes to “picking a lane” and writing authoritatively about in a way that doesn’t sound wrong in hindsight because, as we all know, they will finish between 6th and 10th every season until the end of eternity.

For those who are interested, Pepe, despite his goal, is skating on very thin ice and I’ve now traded out Mezut Ozil for Abdoulaye Doucoure. Up the Hornets.
Paul Hetherington

 

Tim’s 16 conclusions request
Firstly, well played to all the fans of other clubs congratulating Liverpool. It’s really appreciated and a good reminder that constant tribalism and bias is only a facade and we are all in this together in our love of the beautiful game. I used to really hate Man Utd with a passion. I started betting on them in the late 90s as a way to ease my pain. I once grumpily walked into a betting shop after THAT final, threw my betting slip over the counter, he counted out £500 and without a smile I shoved it in my pocket and walked out. However after Fergie built his 3rd good team with Ronaldo Rooney and Tevez I just let it all go and admired the football and what a truly great manager Fergie was. They played football in the right way and destroyed teams.

I would like to think this Liverpool team is a likeable one. Klopp is a good man. He comports himself with dignity and humility with the odd digression. The team has no idiots in there. They are professionals who are not caught out at sex parties or drunkenly crashing cars at 6am whilst wearing odd slippers.

Also, especially for Tim from Ireland here are the 16 conclusions from the Chelsea Man City game he craves so much……

1) both teams came into this with diametrically opposite requirements. Chelsea want to cement 4th place, Pep is building for next year and trying different things out

2) the City squad must be in a strange place. Miles behind the leaders but Pep the constant perfectionist wanting everyone on their game, it must be tricky for all concerned to truly focus and give everything

3) Phil Foden should send a thank you case of wine to the Klopp residence. Without their utter destruction of the opposition this season he would still be sitting on the bench wondering when Pep would finally let him loose

4) Riyad Mahrez is a quality player. When he was jinking for fun as Leicester did the impossible it was always a concern that he would move to Manchester and waft along like a feather on the breeze with his £150k a week happy to get 17 minutes here or there and maybe a full game midweek at the mighty Orient in the Carling/Coca Cola/Carabao cup. Wasted talent always feels like we all cheated

5) is Bernard Mendy one of the most frustrating players there is. The absolute antithesis of what Pep wants. Casual, crazy sometimes catastrophic, but what a player. Sending Pep catatonic on a weekly basis and acting like a Sunday league over 45s player with a huge hangover

6) once Chelsea got the first goal it was over really wasn’t it. City can now truly move into practise mode. It’s actually a relief I would imagine

7) has a penalty ever been celebrated as vociferously in both London and Liverpool? I’m struggling to think of an example ?

8) the hatred with which Chelsea supporters seem to show Liverpool and is thus reciprocated must surely soften now? When next the Chelsea coach visits Anfield surely Thank You signs and a warm embrace from Klopp to Frank must follow ?

9) Christian Pulisic, a man supposedly the only one of the Chelsea squad that Frank doesn’t follow on Instagram ?! He is ‘the quiet one’ I assume but he undoubtedly has talent. He might not have much fire but he does have ice in those veins when he slots home. Should play behind the forwards in a free Coutinho-esque Liverpool role but may be pushed back to the bench once Timo arrives and Frank plays 4-3-3. It would not surprise me if Pulisic ends up leaving after next season. You heard it here first….

10) Frank deserves enormous credit for this season. It was a huge transitory season for the Chelsea team but the kids did good and will have benefited from the break to recharge the batteries. With Ziyech and Timo on the way next year is looking big

11) This very website stated Chelsea have 6 centre backs but not one of them is any good. I know everybody wants Koulibaly but surely Chelsea have to scratch that itch ?

12) Chelsea’s next 3 games are West Ham, Watford, Palace. 3 wins and champions league qualification is in the bag. They will overtake Leicester who are having wobbles of their own so a 3rd place finish after selling your best player and going through a transfer ban is surely a big tick in the box for this season

13) if Pep keeps experimenting what does that mean for his tie with Real Madrid on a 2-1 knife edge? With no fans there will Real who are fighting for the domestic league with Barcelona be more battle ready ? If Pep fails again what does that mean ? With a year left on his contract and his wife back in Spain surely an emotional reunion with Barca and a big send off for Messi is coming ? Again…. you heard it here first

14) I’m struggling now…….

15) I woke up in Hong Kong on Friday to a new record of WhatsApp messages. It was a funny day. I worked from home but ended up having Sky Sports news on and watching the same reports over and over again in between emails and calls. It was emotional……

16) It’s our year
Hong Kong Ian (happy and drunk for at least a week) YNWA

 

The return of Robben…
Over the weekend news broke that some of you may not have heard about, Arjen Robben has come out of retirement to play for FC Groningen whom he started his career with before moves to PSV, Chelsea, Real Madrid and finally Bayern, I can already see him scoring at least a handful of goals by cutting in onto his left foot and striking the ball firmly into the corner of the net, you know it will happen, but you cannot stop him.

It made me ponder who else started off their careers at FC Groningen and they truly have produced some stars over the years, players such as Ronald Koeman, Virgil Van Dijk, Hans Hateboer and the new name on every club’s transfer target list Orkun Kokcu, we know of the Ajax, Chelsea, Barcelona and Schalke academies and the talent they produced but what other underrated clubs have produced some top players over the years? Would be great to hear fellow Mailboxers thoughts.
Mikey, CFC (The list of Schalke’s academy players is one I strongly suggest you all take a look at)

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