Mails on ‘grinding’ Liverpool, magic Nigel and more…

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Liverpool and luck
As I watched the replays of the challenge on Mane to force the throw-in, I couldn’t help but think of Fred and his claims of ‘Liverpool Supporting VAR’ and how we’ve been lucky. The truth is, we have been getting many bounces in our favour. The throw-in could have gone in Spurs’ favour. But it didn’t. This was another time when a 50-50 call went our way this season.

Liverpool are grinding out the league at the moment. Yes we may be 14 points clear at the top(!) but we’ve been grinding out results for a while now. The single-goal victory over Spurs was our third 1-0 in our last four league games. We are yet to play our free-flowing game consistently; I’m sure many Reds will agree we have played better than we are currently playing under Klopp. Our mentality might be brilliant but the football is a few clicks off.

You need a combination of good results and good fortune to win the league. Right now it feels like the good fortune is going a long way to securing the good results. Might it be because of Klopp’s constant chatting to the fourth official? Possibly, but I think it is more down to the team try, try, trying so hard to succeed. Herr Klopp is paying his part but so too is Lady Luck.
Wik, Pretoria, LFC

 

Nigel Pearson’s magic
On March 21st, 2015 something special happened to Nigel Person. I am not sure what, but it was magical. Maybe he stumbled upon Mauricio Pochettino’s personal diary filled with all his best tips & tricks. Or maybe watching a centre mid pairing of Bentaleb and Mason made him realize he should never lose a football match again (sorry, I’m a Gooner). Maybe Mike Dean (the referee that day) gave such an gesticulated yellow card, that his brain reset. What ever it was, it was the day Nigel Person turned into a world class football manager.

Before that day, Nigel Pearson was pretty average, he had tasted some success at Southampton, when kept them in the Championship in 2008, and in 2009 when he won League One in his first venture with Leicester. In the end he managed to earn himself a shot at the Premier League by winning the Championship in 2014, in his second spell with Leicester. Despite his success at the lower levels, the Premier League was a different beast, as his Leicester team Really struggled and won only 4 of their first 24 games, leaving them in last place on enlightenment day.

If we were to take an arbitrary number, such as 15 (you’ll understand why later), and count Nigel Pearson’s results back from, and including March 21st 2015. We find that Pearson’s Leicester side won 2, drew 3 and lost 10. That averages to 20.26 points when stretch out over an entire season. That kind of form gets you finishing 20th in 6 of the last eight years and 19th in the other two. A struggling, to put it kindly, Premier League manager.

Then, a visit to Tottenham on a Saturday afternoon in March. A fun, memorable game that will go down in pub quizzes for eternity, as this was the day Harry Kane scored his first Premier League hat-trick. There was also a first Vardy goal since September 2014, which started a run of 4 in his last 10 games. He hasn’t really stopped scoring since. The game itself eventually finished 4-3 to Spurs who kept up their top 4 push and, Leicester, well Leicester looked doomed.

But, something happened. Since that game of football, Nigel Pearson has managed 15 games (there you go) in the Premier League across 2015, the end of 2019 and early 2020. He has won 11, drawn 2 and lost 2 Of those games. The two lost games were to 2019/20 Liverpool (who doesn’t lose to them?) and 2014/2015 Chelsea (title winners that year). That run of form means Pearson is averaging 2.2 points per game. Expand that average over an entire season and you have a team that earns 83.6 points a year. That amount of points, finishes him in the top 3 every season for the past 8 years, and even winning the whole damn thing once.

All this points to one of two things. Either Pearson has figured out mind control or he is just a very, very good football manager who is finally getting the recognition and success his work has deserved. He has twice taken teams, seemingly doomed to relegation and kept one up, and it is looking more and more likely to do it a second time. The first time, he was rewarded with the sack in the summer, before Ranieri road the winning horse through the finish line in 2016 and getting all the glory. I wonder if Watford will give him a chance to have a full season?

Oh, and the final fun fact? That one Premier League that would has been won less than with 83 points in the last 8 years? That would be Leicester’s win in 2015/16. Imagine the possibilities if they had kept him……
Adam Miller (Whats the odds on Watford winning the 2020/21 Premier League?)

 

Broken Hart
Has anyone gone from elite to shite status quicker, and more prematurely, than Joe Hart?

The second Pep said “sorry not sorry” he seemed to go from obvious City+England No.1 to absolute liability and someone you’d cringingly shuffle past while pretending you didn’t recognize them.

Trying to think of any comparable decline I briefly thought of Rooney due to his later Utd years, but his one year back at Everton was surprisingly good while his time in MLS was genuinely outstanding.

The reports that AC Milan rejected Hart in favour of Begovic provoked the thought, and the fact I was amused at idea Hart was even linked with Milan provoked the e-mail.
Calum, Scotland

 

Who’s down with KDB
Hardly news news I realise, but De Bruyne. Bloody hell, what a player! I used to love watching City because of David Silva, and while he’s still fantastic, I now watch City because De Bruyne is truly something special. All this despite him being named “Kevin”.

It also makes me happy that at Liverpool we have our own KDB, we just happen to play him at right back…
Henry, LFC, Köln

 

Done a Fulham
The club said we weren’t doing a Fulham, the fans said we weren’t doing a Fulham, even Football365 and Storey said we weren’t doing a Fulham.

We are Villa and we have done a Fulham.
Paul

 

Worst debut ever?
Well some say Danny Drinkwater’s move to Aston Villa could be his last chance at proving he is still a top Premier League player that can do a job for a team, after that debut performance against Manchester City it could prove to be a very long half season ahead.

He doesn’t quite eclipse Jonathan Woodgate for the worse debut ever, but he might just make the Top 10, do any other Mailboxers know of any other players in history who have had awful first team debuts for their new clubs?
Mikey, CFC

 

 

Villa’s victory
From my school days I can recall that the last goal before the whistle went was the winner. Although this is now over 30 years ago, I cannot imagine football has changed all that much, so congratulations to Aston Villa for a resilient if somewhat sneaky win.
Lee, Boro and as surprised as everyone else about our recent resurgence

 

Sorry, Jurgen
We should all be ready to admit when we’ve been wrong. And oh boy was I when I last wrote to you fine folk back in July – when the transfer window ended – to bemoan Liverpool’s seemingly bizarre decision to not bring in any established first teamers to help us navigate the humungous fixtures coming our way, particularly in December with the added Club World Cup trip.

Well. As it is known to all and sundry Liverpool just went ahead a smashed through everything. I would have been surprised if we’d simply maintained our form from last season. But in August we became the European super champions; in December we became the champions of planet earth; last weekend we knocked out The Ev with an 18-year old scoring a worldie, and on Saturday we just set a new record that means… oh who honestly cares, we’re finally heading for the Premier League title and to think six months I was crying about us not having enough fullbacks. Turns out it was all in hand.
Tom

 

Conclusions confusion
I like others am very confused by Saturday’s 16 conclusions on the Spurs v Liverpool game. It’s normally an article I look forward to but the prognosis was that basically Liverpool should have lost / drawn and or that Mourinho would be the happier manager…? I will state however that LFC didn’t play their best stuff by far with too many players underperforming, TAA , Robbo , Henderson and Gomez the main culprits but they still found a way to win.

Most of this stems from the two decent chances Spurs missed in the final 15 minutes.
Right so let’s perhaps look at chances created throughout the game rather than just use recency bias and focus on the last 15 minutes.

Firstly LFC having had a shot from Firmino cleared off the 3 yard line by the impressive debutant , the Ox then managed to hit the inside of the post rather than the back of the net. Secondly Van Dijk then proceeded to head the ball straight at the goalie from 3 yards ( at least he forced the save).

Spurs chances were the Son sky over the bar when handily placed , and the Lo Ceslo one missing the target from 3 yards when stretching to reach the ball which was the better of the two and should have at the very least hit the target.

Expected goals shows Spurs at 1.10 and Liverpool at 1.78 so arguably the correct result should have been 1-2.

As for the which of the managers went home happier , well if losing at home whilst parking the bus and playing a false 9 at home whilst moaning about not being able to play the same way without Kane is being happy then smile on. Other teams have major players missing through injury as well you know Jose.

However perhaps the manager who had just won away at one of the other big six sides , whilst keeping another clean sheet and setting a European and premiership points record might have a sly grin on his face.
DL (Conclusion: 38 unbeaten) LFC , Geneva

 

…It’s the first time in many years Ive read something on F365, and thought what a load of bollox spouted. Clearly you watched the game blindfolded and pressed unmute when the post match interviews were on of the managers.

Klopp was unhappy because there is a standard to be maintained, and improved upon every game. Liverpool should have been 3-0 up at half time, guilt edge chances missed. The game got very boring when a team parks the bus even at 1-0 down and their defenders are barely higher than midway through their own half, even in possession or the rare occasion they find themselves in our box. Spurs were very scared, and its a shame as the the bulk of these players got to the CL final last year and performed better in that game than they did yday at home.

Liverpool beat Spurs operating at 60% – thats really the only conclusion to draw from that game. Also Robbo’s wasnt a challenge that was even yellow, he didnt go over the ball, he poked the ball away with his toe if you watch it, and then where was he going to put his foot/leg? It was a natural follow through, you cant pull your leg away in milliseconds.

F365 – don’t resort to click bait content (because you disagree with an article does not make it clickbait – MC) and trying to stir up controversy where there is none. Doesn’t suit the website who has a dig at other media and calls out their BS (rightly so btw) to resort to the same things.
Ash, LFC.

 

…They won the CL last season.
They’re surely going to win the league this season at a canter.
Yet their fans get their panties in twist when a writer has the temerity to praise their opponent, which, if anything, is indirectly a compliment to Liverpool where even a narrow loss to them is commendable.
Wonder why they get such bad rep.
Hope it’s only “vocal minority” as usual.
LFC Hater, obviously (You can’t criticise then without hating them.)

 

…​Just want to point out that Opta’s calculation has Spurs and Liverpool be on level with 1.7 xG each. Seeing the chances of that game, especially towards the end and you can see Spurs had some chances they should have reasonably converted at least one. Seeing Klopp’s total anger during some vulnerable moments at the end, it was not part of his plan.

Someone said Mourinho got his tactic “almost” right. He didnt, he got it right (for a draw anyways) in terms of chance creation, but the strikers let him down. Considering Spurs’ dreadful form the entire season under both managers against the yet-undefeated league leaders, he did alright.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, his replacement at Man United, is the only manager to have taken league points from Liverpool this season.
Yaru, Malaysia

 

No apology for pissing on Liverpool’s chips
There’s much discussion to be had when talking about Mourinho’s tactics nowadays, but when Minty LFC questions the tactics during Chelsea’s rain on Liverpool’s parade in 2014 and asks whether he have lost his job the following season as a result of said tactics, I just have to remind him that Mourinho actually won the league in 2015 before the shit show of the 15/16 season. Pedantic I know but hey. I don’t know about the Chelsea player who was apologetic about the way Chelsea played that day, or the interview to which Minty referred to, but I would wager that the players were happy to be the title-ruining pricks that day, as they were when they beat Spurs to give Leicester the title. That was the upside to winning, as well as the points to secure third place.
Juanito

 

Waiting on Chelsea
Since the Cheslea transfer ban was lifted it’s been open house in the press for transfer rumours. The problem is that football journalism Is very speculative, any headline will do as long as it’s a headline (Football365 excepted of course). So I’ve been trying to reason it out.

The problem with this of course is the assumption that Chelsea’s transfer policy is guided by reason. However, I can’t see why that should be doubted. The club has had successes and afilures in the transfer market but hasn’t notably done anything that defies all logic or suggests a tiotal lack of plan. So let’s proceed on that basis.

What do we know or what can we reasonbably infer? Firstly, the cjub has invested a lot in its academy and must be pleased that this is providing first team results and Lampard has said that team spirit and squad balance are paramount. On that basis who, if anyone should Chelsea buy? It’s worth noting that Chelsea may buy nobody; Lampard has said he wouldn’t be unhappy with that but that, of course, isn’t going to make any newspaper headlines so is no good to the press. It does, however, raise the question of what targets Lampard has been set for the season. Buying no one is probably enough for a top six finish, maybe not enough for a top four finish and maybe not enough for a shot at progression in the Champions League. So Lampard’s targets are a factor but remain unknown.

Let’s now look at speculations. The most recent is 28 year-old Dunk from Brighton at a suggested £50 million. That makes no sense to me. The weakest of the four centre backs is arguably Christensen and he has just received a vote of confidence from Lampard. The club could buy a much younger Ake for less and will have Ampadu available next season. Why then buy Dunk?

So what does make sense? Two positions spring immediately to mind. One is left back and there seems no immediate prospect of help from the academy for that position so any speculation there is possible. The other position is striker and, again, there seems to be no potantial academy graduate. Again, all speculations are possible but the possibility of former academy graduate Boga, now making aname for himself in Europe, should not be overlokked as a cheap and potentially very useful option.

Time will tell.
Ian (CFC) Hugo

 

VAR corner
I’ve seen a few people complaining about the lack of a VAR intervention on the incorrectly awarded throw in in the lead up to the Liverpool goal, not least of all Mourinho himself.

Isn’t it the case that the video ref will never intervene on things like throw ins, but only for penalty box incidents, goals, red cards etc? I do take the point that it’s a bit ridiculous they are looking for accidental handballs in the lead up to goals, but not other incorrect decisions. That’s a problem with the rules though – a goal should never be ruled out for the kind of accidental handball we saw at the West Ham match.

Also, how soon before does the indiscretion have to be to rule out the goal? If the ball goes dead, is that a cut off point? Genuinely asking, I have no clue.

Let’s say the powers that be (whichever acronym based organisation that is, who bloody cares), decreed that the video ref was to review all decisions, including throw ins. Imagine the delays. The technology isn’t good enough or quick enough as things stand. As is evidenced by the four minutes it can take a referee watching replays to make a decision on a penalty.

Don’t get me started on these idiotic lines to judge an offside either. Judging the body parts of athletes travelling really fast to the millimetre only works if you can align that precisely to the exact moment the ball is played. Which at the moment, they can’t.

Despite the above, I’m still in favour of the use of technology in football, though it must and will improve. Crucially, the humans who conjure up the rules around it will need to remove their heads from their arses at some point to make much needed changes to its current implementation.
Spoons (Damn it, that was a VAR mail. I feel dirty) LFC

 

…Sorry Oliver, but if they start using VAR on throw-ins I will f*cking shoot myself.

Clear and obvious mistakes only. This can easily apply to offsides – if he’s not clearly off then he’s on.
Andrew, Banbury

 

…Haven’t written in for ages but Juanito in today’s mailbox has opened a wound with his wish for VAR for Garcia’s “ghost goal”.
In my opinion, which is obviously fact, the ref bottled it that night. Let me explain. If he hadn’t given the goal, it was a penalty as Cech brought down Baros before it dropped to Garcia. If he had done his job properly it was a penalty to Liverpool and a red card. VAR would give that decision today. So likely 1-0 Liverpool but Chelsea down to 10, and a likelihood of a 2 or 3 nil win. He went for the easy option of giving the goal and keeping Chelsea in the tie
Let it lie Chelsea fans
John B (Isle of Man)

 

…Very quick one here, as I almost spat out my beer when the commentator for the Pool Spurs game said something that has been alluded to again in the last mailbox. To paraphrase: “It’s very difficult to know what is going on with two versions of the handball rule”. Say what? Were people locked in a state of bafflement every time Alisson drew the ball into his chest? This has happened since the dawn of football and I think even our Brexit addled little brains can cope with using context to comprehend things.

Personally, I think the rule change is fine and dandy because the attacker should be seeking to make a difference to the ball’s flight with a direct and very defined action, whereas a defender will often rely on something more passive and percentage based to block, and may frequently not be in control of exactly where a ball might connect, as it isn’t their action which is determining the direction of the ball.

Does that make sense or have I gone mad?!
Adam, LFC

 

Postcard from Norn Iron
For those of you who are interested in a title race instead of a procession, look no further than Northern Ireland where there are currently five teams (in a 12-team division) challenging for the championship.

The standings are:

Glentoran (50 points from 24 games, goal difference 25)
Cliftonville (50 from 23, GD 25)
Crusaders (49 from 25, GD 35)
Linfield (47 from 22, GD 30)
Coleraine (47 from 25, GD 27)

Monday night’s big game is Cliftonville vs Linfield on Sky Sports AND IT’S LIVE!! The other three challengers will be hoping the result is a draw.

The Glens, with new investment, are a revitalised side, searching for their first league championship since 2009. Eleven years is a long time for a side considered to be one of Belfast’s ‘Big Two’.

Cliftonville have enjoyed a resurgence, finding defensive resolution to go with their much-vaunted strike-force. They’ve had more recent success, with league titles in 2013 and 2014. The Glens and the Reds enjoyed breakthrough Boxing Day victories over their main rivals, Linfield and Crusaders respectively.

Crusaders (my team) established themselves as early front-runners, culminating in a 1-0 win over Linfield. However, a patchy run of results saw Crusaders drift away from the top. An upturn around this New Year period, including a first away win at Coleraine since 2016, means that all is not lost.

Linfield started as favourites but it looks like they might be paying for their European exertions. The Blue Machine was doing a good job in getting results but they’ve hit the skids recently, culminating in a humiliating Irish Cup exit at the hands of Queen’s University. It’s now win the league or bust for last season’s champions.

Coleraine reappointed Oran Kearney in the summer and reverted to the force they were in 2017-18, when they won the Irish Cup and only lost one game in finishing league runners-up. They are hard to beat but too many draws may cost them.

The stakes are even higher this season because our UEFA coefficient dropped, meaning that there are only three European places up for grabs – the league champions, the runners-up and the Irish Cup winners. European money is a key source of income for our clubs, so that’ll add to the scramble at the top of the table.
Matthew, Belfast

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