The climb. The climb is strenuous. Harsh and gruelling. Every move done with care and thoughtfulness; the climb may be hard but the fall is unpleasant. But there are not many better feelings than a successful climb. You get to the top of the mountain, and amidst the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment, you savour the view from the top. But here’s one thing you overlook when standing at the top, one thing you never think of when admiring that sight from up above: the only way now is down. The climb was gruelling and rewarding, but to be mobile and prevent stagnation, the only move you have is to go lower. The cruel and unyielding reality that is.

So, Mohammed Salah. The Premier League’s latest golden boot winner. The record-breaker for goals in a 38-game season. 32 league goals. 44 in all competitions. The man who reached ludicrous heights for Liverpool last season. There were always going to be eyes around waiting for Salah in his second season at Anfield, can he do it again? 44 goals as a winger is a preposterous record, expecting it to be done more than once at any point is a little impractical, expecting it to be done in successive seasons is almost herculean.

But that’s the issue Salah faces now. Because he bagged over 40 last term, a current read of three league goals in three months is almost unacceptable by the Egyptian’s standards. But should those be his standards? Shouldn’t there be a difference between reaching a height, and setting a bar? In this modern football world of black and white, perhaps. Don’t meet up to your previously supercilious standards and you’re disappointing. Don’t recreate such outrageous levels you once did and you’re criminally underperforming. Leicester City’s fairy-tale league-winning season will never be forgotten, yet the fact that they’re on a third manager since then means they’ve struggled to get out of the shadow of that 2015/16 season: the Foxes know that season was a one-off and can hardly ever be repeated, yet a taste of what has been achieved, however unfancied or unlikely to happen again, is also a prospect of what can be achieved.

Failure, in most cases, is relative. Little success is comparatively seen as no success. So, in the eyes of many, Mohammed Salah is currently failing, as a result of three league goals of in seven games, his current goal to games ratio in the league will be absurdly compared to that of the whole of last season; 0.4 to 0.8. In truth, Salah has looked less of himself, not just in the goals, but his overall influence on a game, his movement et al. But again, failure is relative, which means this would have been next to no big deal had Salah scored, say, 14 goals last term.

However, this is what Salah has to live with now, and the onus is on him to return to a semblance of last season’s form. And what better way to make known your that you’re still king, than with a top performance against the champions. Liverpool host Manchester City this weekend, a side they beat in three out of four games last season, Salah scoring against City in each of those three victories. The Reds have been tipped by many as the side to run City close in the league this season, so a this game poses a chance to make a statement that they can indeed push the champions to the limit, and for Salah it represents a chance to make a personal statement of his own.

Salah will probably not reach the level he did last term, and he’ll probably not avoid the analysis that will come with that. But he can start to find a middle ground, a consistent level of performance that shows he’s no one-off and takes him out of the shadows of last season’s heights. The only way from the top of the mountain is down, but it’s up to Salah to land, not fall.

Elsewhere:

  • Things are at a stage for Manchester United, where every failure is met with a dagger of criticism, whether or not it’s merited, whether or not it’s over the top. They host winless Newcastle this weekend, a game Jose Mourinho has described not winning as unacceptable. Right now, that’s quite an understatement.
  • Fulham have been branded as entertainers in the Premier League so far, but that’s starting to look like a smokescreen tag to cover their failings, the Cottagers are one place above the relegation zone, with just one win all-season. So perhaps this is not the best time to face an Arsenal side who have won eight games in a row, and despite their entire lack of convictions, will be chockfull of confidence as they travel to West London.
  • And in the biggest contender for least exciting match of the weekend, Huddersfield travel to Burnley this weekend. The Terriers are lodged at the bottom of the table, winless and remarkably toothless, and it’s not outlandish, even this early, to say this game is vital to their survival chances.

Fixtures

Manchester United v Newcastle

Burnley v Huddersfield

Crystal Palace v Wolves

Leicester v Everton

Southampton v Chelsea

Tottenham v Cardiff

Watford v Bournemouth

Fulham v Arsenal

Liverpool v Manchester City

Published in International Watch

Time will never not keep making fools of us. A year ago, a meeting between Chelsea and Liverpool had very different headlines; the champions against a Reds side who are soft-centred and increasingly vulnerable at the back, a game between Antonio Conte’s Blues who rose to every adversity and Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side who didn’t look like they could compete on two fronts. When the season began, this fixture, still some two months away back then, was seen as a Chelsea side who’d take an enormous amount of time to achieve cohesion and buy into Maurizio Sarri’s philosophy against a Liverpool team who are Champions League finalists and now look the most furnished to challenge league champions Manchester City.

It’s still mostly seen as the latter, but Chelsea beginning the season in much more upbeat fashion than many thought makes it look like both sides are closer than initially assumed. Not that Sarri is among those who think so. ‘They (Liverpool) are a step ahead of us at the moment’ said the Italian manager. ‘We have started to work all together only about 40 days ago, less 10 for the international break, so for us it’s a bit early. We have to work then, maybe, in one year we will be at the same level as Liverpool’.

Chelsea began the season with five league wins from five, then preceded to play out a goalless draw at West Ham in their sixth, in a game that serves a timely reminder that the Blues are far from fully acclimatised to Sarri-ball. ‘We need to move the ball quicker, I think’ Sarri added. ‘We need more improvement without the ball. We are improving in the defensive phase. In the last two or three matches we’ve done very well. But we have to improve in the offensive phase, especially in this kind of match’.

And the Italian is not wrong on the Blues having to improve on the offensive and defensive fronts. Liverpool are increasingly becoming a balanced side, offensively formidable and defensively resolute, which means Chelsea have to set up an unlockable defence and find a key up front. Eden Hazard has shown he could be that key, the Belgian skipper who seems to be enjoying life under Sarri, and whose moment of individual audacity decided events when both teams met in the League Cup on Wednesday.

That game may be likely to be taken in sequestration, as League Cup fixtures generally are, but it should do no harm to Chelsea’s confidence as they host the would-be champions this Saturday. Chelsea are still as a bit of underdogs in this game, but the Blues have always seemed to love being in unfancied positions, and coming up with the goods.

For the acclimatisation that the Blues still have to do, for all the general consensus about Liverpool being a cut above the Blues, a win at Stamford Bridge this weekend and the Blues go above them, and have a chance of starting October as the country’s top side. It’s always being parlous to write them off.

Elsewhere:

  • Newcastle know they can ill-afford another result that’s not a win, especially at home. Rafa Benitez’s Toon Army host Leicester this weekend, and there’s the fear of whether the Spaniard’s demeanour over players is rubbing off on the squad. Another defeat, and the questions won’t go away.
  • A win at Everton, a clean sheet against Chelsea, West Ham are starting to look an actual team, with a plan. But whatever progress they’ve made will be tested this weekend when they host Manchester United. United are not in the most bubbly mood themselves, with potential civil war and mutiny probably making it the right time to face the Red Devils.
  • Cardiff remain winless, and the Bluebirds still seek lift-off. They host Burnley this weekend, who, for all their overachievement last season and them getting their first win last weekend, are the kind of opponents whom a win against won’t be too fanciful.

Fixtures

West Ham v Manchester United

Arsenal v Watford

Cardiff v Burnley

Everton v Fulham

Chelsea v Liverpool

Huddersfield v Tottenham

Manchester City v Brighton

Newcastle v Leicester

Wolves v Southampton

Bournemouth v Crystal Palace

Published in International Watch

Liverpool are not as good – David Moyes

Sunday, 23 September 2018 19:33

David Moyes has doubt over Liverpool

The former Everton and Manchester United manager claims the present Jurgen Klopp’s side are not as good as Benitez’s assembled team of the early 2000s.

Liverpool have won their first six games of a top-flight season for the third time in history (1978-79 and 1990-91).

The last year Champions League final, were also on fire on their return to Europe – were they defeated French side, PSG – 3-2 at Anfield.

David Moyes believes The Kops good run-of-form does not make them a favourite to win the Premier League and that the present Liverpool side is inferior to that Benitez’ team that had the likes of Gerrard, Mascherano and Xabi Alonso.

Moyes, as quoted by Skysports: “I think they’ve got a really good team, but you look back at teams over the years at Liverpool and they had great teams when it was Alonso, Mascherano, Gerrard, and Torres up front.

“This is a good Liverpool team as well – I don’t know if it’s quite as good as that team at that time.

“They’re playing a good style, with forward players who are exceptional, and because of that, I think they’re a real threat.

New signing from Stoke City Xhedran Shaqiri started his first game for Liverpool yesterday but was hauled off at half-time for James Milner.

Klopp has had to answer numerous questions over his decision to substitute the Swiss, who was instrumental in the 3-0 win over Southampton.

Moyes said Shaqiri’s removal might down his confidence but assumed Klopp have a special programme for the former Stoke player.

“When you play as well as he did and create goals, you are hoping to boost your confidence.

“But I think Liverpool have got a big programme coming up, I’m sure Shaqiri will play a big part in it, and maybe the manager was thinking a bit further afield than this game.”

 

Published in International Watch

‘It’s all well and good putting eight goals past Dijon, but it’s in matches like this that you have to stand up and be counted’. Adrien Rabiot didn’t mince his words, or hide, in any way, his discontent. After Paris St. Germain had lost, despite taking the lead through the midfielder, 3-1 at Real Madrid in the first leg of last 16’s Champions League tie, BEIN Sports wanted a word. He gave them a few that would ring loud in the continent. Simply put, for all their dominance on the domestic front, PSG’s measure of success, the yardstick to define their achievement, for the umpteenth, was the Champions League.

But, barely a month after Le Parisiens put eight past Dijon in Ligue 1, they would suffer a late collapse at the Bernabeu. Two weeks, one Neymar injury, one misty night in Paris and another listless display later, the side from the French capital were tumbling out of Europe in a 5-2 aggregate loss, a defeat that made The Guardian’s Barney Ronay label them as ‘plastic Galacticos, while newspaper L’Equipe’s reaction the following morning read, to English, ‘All that, for that?’.

And that question has been posed again, after PSG looked so remarkably second-best at Liverpool, in their opening Group C game of competition, they didn’t deserve the sense of what might have been that comes with conceding a late decider, as they did. Except the sense of what might have been is not about the result, but rather how different things would seem if they looked a team, performed like a unit, not a mash-up of names. Again, ‘all that, for that?’ For all the money spent, the players assembled, the promise of a Parisian project, is that really what they could come up with? PSG have constantly tried and failed to break the glass ceiling in Europe, since their return to the Champions League in 2012, they’ve never gone beyond the quarter-finals.

Whether by looking tactically out of place (against Manchester City in 2016), simply getting dusted off (Barcelona, 2015), failing to withstand pressure when push turned to shove (Chelsea, 2014), or simply collapsing (Barcelona, 2017), PSG have contrived to fall pre-maturely in the continent, all while being dominant in France (only once since 2012 have they failed to win the league, only once have they failed to win the French League Cup, and only twice have they failed to win the Coupe de France in that time). So, it’s not ludicrous to suggest that PSG’s increasing dominance on the domestic front is playing a part in their continent travails. As UEFA Champions League co-commentator Stewart Robson put it at Anfield, with the intensity of the French first division much lower than in Europe, PSG are always likely to come up shocked should opponents up the ante in the Champions League.

Perhaps that explains why the football was so un-Tuchel like, no pressing game, especially not from the front, from a side coached by a manager who once sounded out his appreciation for the opposition gaffer’s style in a game where his own side lost 5-1. At Anfield on Tuesday, a style was non-existent, the collective performance next-to-nothing, even Rabiot himself failed to stand up and be counted here, almost like the side were waiting for an individual moment or something out of thin air to pull them out of the mire. And the fact that it almost did, that one run at the Liverpool defence from Neymar resulted in an equaliser by Kylian Mbappe, should just about increase their ire, about how much they are capable of, but how little of it they show.

Perhaps this is nothing other than early days under Thomas Tuchel, an awakening that the gaffer would adapt them to sooner than later, and not many sides will get much joy at this seemingly cacophonously impenetrable fortress that is Anfield. But PSG’s growing stature means bouts of criticism are likely to fall in after every setback, particularly if the setback is so recurrent. Tuchel, post-match, described the result as illogical. Perhaps his mind was taken back to the time when his Borussia Dortmund side conceded late goals to lose at Anfield in the Europa League in 2016, which the sucker punch was almost impossible to swallow. Here, though, if there was any sense of injustice over the late goal, is that PSG hardly deserved to have had a shout up until then.

Elsewhere:

  • PSG may have begun Group C on the back foot, but it doesn’t look too damaging early on. Particularly after, in the other group game, Napoli did everything other than score in Belgrade, Carlo Ancelotti’s side getting held to a goalless draw by Crven… Red Star Belgrade!
  • For 84 minutes, Mauro Icardi was a passenger at the San Siro. The Inter skipper had cut a frustratingly isolated figure, and had taken 14 of the most unnoticed touches a player can. But his 15th, his first shot of the game, was an unadulterated volley that found its way to Spurs’ bottom corner. Inter had averted defeat, and via the bonce of Matias Vecino in stoppage time, completed a turnaround against a Spurs side still far from all right, and yet were in control for virtually the entirety of the second period.
  • Schalke looked to have eased their woes, a Ralf Fahrmann save from an Alex Telles penalty early in the first half, and a goal from Breel Embolo midway through the second, seemed on course to get Domenico Tedesco’s side back on track after a troubling start to the Bundesliga. But thanks to Moussa Marega’s theatrics, Porto were awarded another penalty, an opportunity they wouldn’t pass up. Plenty of positives for Die Konigsblauen, yet the most important- excuse this- ‘P’ has just one next to it in all competitions this season.
  • It’s easy to say this afterwards, of course, but there was an air of inevitability when Lionel Messi stepped up to take his free-kick in the first half against PSV. The first of three goals on the night for the Barcelona skipper, who has eight hatricks in Champions League.
  • Real Madrid began their CR7-less assault on Europe with a win over Roma, where they racked up 30 shots, double figures of corner-kicks, scored three times, yet should have gotten at least three more.
  • Speaking of Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese skipper was also in Spain when Real were tussling with Roma. But 400 kilometres away, at the Mestalla, Ronaldo was sent off in the first half for having the audacity to get a coming together with Jeison Murillo, an inexplicable decision that reduced the best player in the world to tears of frustration. Juventus shook off that setback to come away with a 2-0 win, via a pair of Miralem Pjanic penalties, but we’re unlikely to have heard the last of this game.
  • Two goals and an assist from Paul Pogba, who spearheaded Manchester United’s comfortable victory at Young Boys, the Swiss side simultaneously impressing and showing why they are likely to do little more than finish bottom of Group H.

Results

Valencia 0-2 Juventus; Young Boys 0-3 Manchester United; Real Madrid 3-0 Roma; Viktoria Plzen 2-2 CSKA; Manchester City 1-2 Lyon; Shakhtar 2-2 Hoffenheim; Ajax 3-0 AEK Athens; Benfica 0-2 Bayern Munich; Galatasaray 3-0 Lokomotiv Moscow; Schalke 1-1 Porto; Liverpool 3-2 PSG; Red Star Belgrade 0-0 Napoli; Inter 2-1 Spurs; Barcelona 4-0 PSV; Club Brugge 0-1 Dortmund; Monaco 1-2 Atletico Madrid.

Published in International Watch

Sound the alarms. Read them the last rites. Prepare the caskets. Tottenham have lost two league games on the bounce. There’ll always be the inevitable inquest whenever Spurs suffer defeat, and sometimes it can be borderline ludicrous, but following a ‘home’ loss to Liverpool, whatever scrutiny they have- and will come under- is more than justified. Spurs were listless, hapless and lucky to only lose by the odd goal in three.

‘Everyone who watched could see it was a difficult game’, said Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino. ‘Liverpool are a great team. We made a lot of mistakes and were punished, and it’s difficult when you concede those chances’. Pochettino, whether inadvertently, pointed out one of Spurs’ problems this season, making mistakes. Perhaps because of the number of the players the North Londoners had in the latter stages of the FIFA World Cup, but Spurs have looked a tad off the pace so far this term, not least in the games they won- even in that 3-0 victory at Old Trafford, they looked second-best for much of the first half.

And they were far from good enough in the opening exchanges in this game at Wembley, only the offside flag and a handful of save by goalkeeper Michel Vorm kept them on terms. But when the goal came, close to halftime, Vorm played a culpable part in it, fumbling a corner, which eventually led to Georginio Wijnaldum heading the visitors in front. Spurs may have started the game on the back foot, but this goal concession happened when they were hauling themselves back into it, and that looks like another unenviable trait with the Lilywhites: an ability to concede a goal out of next-to-nothing. That tendency to concede when they look to be gaining a foothold on proceedings is starting to look constant, a situation that cost them last season in the UEFA Champions League against Juventus, at Manchester United and Arsenal in the league, cost them at Watford before the international break a fortnight ago, and very nearly did for them against Fulham in the second weekend of the season.

But that doesn’t overshadow the fact that Spurs were very much second best here, and in-between Roberto Firmino putting Liverpool two up, Vorm had saved from Sadio Mane, Mohammed Salah (again) and Naby Keita. Liverpool looked a cut above without really having to be at their maximum, proof that Jurgen Klopp’s side might be clicking into an all-round, cohesive gear, and also evidence Spurs being really poor.

So, the question, are Spurs going through a blip, or does it seem like they have peaked and are falling back down? ‘It’s so important to keep calm and to assess the team in the right way’, noted Pochettino afterwards. ‘I’ve not changed my vision of the team from the beginning when we beat Newcastle. My thoughts are the same, we still need to improve, the circumstances are different this season and our responsibility as a coaching staff is to not talk about the perception, but to talk about the reality’.

Pochettino pointed out that there’s always room for improvement whatever results they get, echoing his words after the win at Old Trafford, but the reality is, with Spurs, it’s almost always a case of extremes. A win and it’s another sign of improvement from a continuously emerging team who opted for cohesion by not making any signings in the summer; a defeat it’s another proof of the lack of nous from a side who haven’t won any trophy yet, who ignored the glaring need for depth by not making a single signing in the summer.

Spurs need not panic within themselves, this might just be a case of key players suffering burnout after their World Cup, and had Son Heung-Min been rightfully given a penalty, they may well have gotten a point, and the storyline may well have been of them learning to get something from games without being at their best.

But in this league, and sport, of increasing extremism, where every good thing is the best and every blip is a crisis, Spurs should know how quickly they can get labelled ‘yesterday’s prospects’ and ‘today’s nearly-men’.

Elsewhere:

  • Spurs’ problems, and Liverpool winning their first five league games for the first time in almost three decades; all smokescreens to distract us from the most important event of the weekend: it’s taken four seasons, but Wijnaldum finally has a Premier League away goal!
  • Newcastle looked to have Arsenal on the ropes at St. James Park, despite the scoreline being goalless, were hardly troubled at the back, and looked like they could get a goal themselves. Perhaps they were shocked by Granit Xhaka rifling home a free-kick for the visitors, but after they fell behind, they seemed apathetic, and eventually succumbed to another meek defeat against a top-six side. For the first time in 31 years, the Toon have lost their first three home league games.
  • A Chelsea hatrick against Cardiff for Eden Hazard, who looks to be enjoying life under Maurizio Sarri. His manager has suggested he (Hazard, not the manager himself) can bag up to 40 goals if he gets to being ’25 metres’ from goal, not his usual ’60 metres’. More importantly, the Blues have five wins from five, and have not fully acclimatised to Sarri’s smoking brand- sorry- of football.
  • Wolves have two league wins in a row, and two clean sheets in a row. Their latest victory, at home to Burnley, saw them have 30 shots on target. Yes, thirty!
  • Leroy Sane needed less than two minutes to make his mark, the man who’s come under some criticism and has hardly appeared this season, got on the score-sheet in his first start for Manchester City this season, as the champions ran out 3-0 winners over Fulham.
  • It was the perfect birthday gift for Manuel Pellegrini, as his West Ham side finally got their first points of the season, an Andriy Yarmolenko double giving the Hammers a much-needed and much-deserved win over Everton at Goodison, a ground where the Chilean manager has never lost in the Premier League.
  • Wilfried Zaha returns for Crystal Palace, and scores the only goal as the Eagles win at Huddersfield. Unbelievable.

Results

Wolves 1-0 Burnley

Manchester City 3-0 Fulham

Bournemouth 4-2 Leicester

Watford 1-2 Manchester United

Chelsea 4-1 Cardiff

Everton 1-3 West Ham

Tottenham 1-2 Liverpool

Newcastle 1-2 Arsenal

Huddersfield 0-1 Crystal Palace

Monday Night Football: Southampton v Brighton

Published in International Watch

‘Result-wise it could not have been better. Performance-wise, we know we can improve and we really know that we could have already done better’. Jurgen Klopp’s words on his Liverpool side’s performance could have barely been more apt, after the Reds laboured to another league victory, this time against Leicester. That was a fourth win in a row, a third in which the display was arduous, but it keeps them top of the standings.

‘In the beginning we played fantastic football, then we fought for the three points, that’s how it should be’, added the German manager. ‘And that’s why we won the game’. The ability to fight for the points is what the Merseyside club have been accused, with justification, of lacking- the football is always easy on the eye, but when push turns to shove, they crumble. Not so far this season. They may have begun with a demolition of West Ham at Anfield, but they followed that up with a hard-fought win at Crystal Palace, which wasn’t sealed until the final seconds. Then came victory over Brighton at Anfield, another difficult showing which required a late save from goalkeeper Alisson Becker to preserve the three points.

And now this, a 2-1 win against the Foxes that probably wouldn’t have ended that way in previous seasons. As Klopp said, they began with a dominant front-foot display, only 10 minutes had gone when Sadio Mane put them in front, the Senegalese forward’s fourth goal in as many league games, and for much of the first half-hour, they had a foothold on proceedings at the King Power stadium. Leicester grew into the game, but when Roberto Firmino headed in a second just before halftime, victory looked a given.

Then came the moment that gifted the hosts a route back in the game. With less than 20 minutes to go, Virgil van Dijk played a back-pass towards Alisson, whose status as a goalkeeper with a tendency for flamboyance is growing, having performed a neat chip over Brighton’s Glenn Murray the weekend before. On this occasion, it wasn’t so glamorous, his attempted Cruyff turn went wrong, and he was robbed of possession by Leicester substitute Kelechi Iheanacho, who fed Rachid Ghezzal for his first goal for the Foxes, and they were back in the game. ‘I’m not going to be stupid and make the same mistake’, said the Brazilian. Alisson’s moment of blunder seemed inevitable, especially in his early days at Liverpool, where he’s expected to play the role of a goalie as an extra outfield man. ‘It was clear that it could happen one day that we concede a goal because of that’, said Klopp. ‘It needed to happen so it will not happen again. I think today was the day’.

That goal brought Leicester back in the game, but there would be restoration of parity for the hosts, as Liverpool held on once more for another strenuous win. The performance after the break was hardly one to set the pulses racing, but unlike previous seasons, there was no concession of an equaliser, no set-piece that caused panic in their box, no defensive individual that had hearts in mouths. ‘These moments are very important’, said Van Dijk. ‘You need to get the win over the line.’

Liverpool’s attack will surely start to dominate their headlines sooner rather than later. Right now, though, nicking it through hard-work will do nicely.

Brave Bluebirds Beaten at home

For the most part of the first 20 minutes, it looked like Arsenal would run away with things in South Wales. They had taken a deserved lead through Shkodran Mustafi, and bossed the game, while Cardiff looked like anything but a Neil Warnock, no compactness or solidity at the back, and at the other end Harry Arter had blown a chance even before conceding. But the hosts would grow into the game, and on the cusp of halftime, Victor Camarasa ensured they would be the final of the 92 teams in the Premier League and Football League to score a league goal this season. Arsenal retook the lead in the second period through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but Warnock’s side responded again, through Danny Ward. The Gunners would end up with the points, though, Alexandre Lacazette getting the winner inside the final 10 minutes. The Bluebirds are still winless in the league so far, but this was a definite cause for optimism.

Elsewhere

  • Southampton finally got off the mark for the season, bagging their first win of the season at Crystal Palace. A huge relief for Mark Hughes at Selhurst Park, where the Eagles showed they are still toothless without Wilfried Zaha, and Christian Benteke still can’t score.
  • Another game for Newcastle at the Etihad. Another defeat for the Magpies. Another game against a top-six side. Another defensive-minded defeat. Next!
  • Respite for Manchester United, who got their second win of the season at Burnley- a dominant win too-, despite a penalty miss by Paul Pogba and a red card by Marcus Rashford. Respect.
  • Four wins out of four for Liverpool, Chelsea and… Watford!!! The Hornets showed their mettle by coming from behind to grab victory at home to Spurs, whose manager Mauricio Pochettino had warned that the Londoners would crash if they rode on the back of their win at Old Trafford. A poor performance from the visitors resulted in a deserved defeat. Watford have begun with four successive wins, for the first time since 1987.
  • Four league losses in a row for Manuel Pellegrini at West Ham, who tasted defeat at home to Wolves late on. In Frank de Boer terms, that’s grounds for sacking; the fact that, after the international break, they play three of last term’s top-six in their next four games means it may get significantly worse before getting better.

Results

Leicester 1-2 Liverpool

Crystal Palace 0-2 Southampton

Watford 2-1 Tottenham

Chelsea 2-0 Bournemouth

Cardiff 2-3 Arsenal

Burnley 0-2 Manchester United

Manchester City 2-1 Newcastle

West Ham 0-1 Wolves

Brighton 2-2 Fulham

Everton 1-1 Huddersfield

Published in International Watch

Fenway Sports Groups reject a proposed bid to take over Liverpool

Liverpool have turned down a proposed £2billion takeover bid from Sheik Khaled Bin Zayed Al Nehayan turned down.

Daily Mail reports that Sheik Kahled approached representatives of Liverpool's owners over the course of several months in late 2017 and into early 2018.

Fenway Sports Group purchased the Reds for around £280 million in 2010, but rejected Khaleed’s, a cousin to Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour proposed bid to take over the club.

The £2billion offer would have been the most expensive takeover in the history of football had Liverpool owners had conceded.

According to the reports, Sheik Khaled, does not possess the immense wealth of City's billionaire owner Sheik Mansour, but remains one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the Arab nation.

 

 

Published in Transfer Rumors

The duo of Liverpool and Man City have won their first two games, but Stuart Pearce believes Liverpool will win this year’s Premier League title.

The Merseyside club last won the English top flight league last in the 1989-1990 season but have been tipped to break the deadlock this year following a series of impressive signings.

Pearce, former England youth manager said the title race this season would be between last year winner, City and Liverpool, but predicted that the 18-time champions would nip it over their other rival.

"I personally think they'll (Liverpool) win the league this year," Pearce told Skysport.

"I think it's a two-horse race between them and City and they might just come out on top. I'm seeing a belief within the group that I probably haven't seen before from the back end of last season.

“They're hungry as well. They lost the Champions League final and the manner in the way they lost the final will hurt them.

"They didn't win the league last year so I think they've got the hunger in their belly. They're chasing that first title for however long and I think that hunger will get them over the line."

 

 

 

Published in International Watch

Sergio Ramos takes swipes at Liverpool manager

The Real Madrid captain has told Jurgen Klopp to take due to a charge of his business, so as to be a top coach.

Sergio Ramos has said Klopp persistence criticisms of him over his challenge on Salah was to distract people from the fact that the Liverpool manager had lost many finals.

Ramos and Klopp turned enemy aftermath of the last Champions League finals, where the Spaniard dislocated Liverpool’s talisman Mohammed Salah’s shoulder.

It later emerged from video replays that the defender also hit goalkeeper Loris Karius with the post.

With the game ending 3-1 in favour of Real Madrid, Klopp, since then, had attacked the defender a couple of times – and at a press conference last week, the German said he would rather be a bad loser than win in Ramos’ fashion.

And ahead of Real Madrid’s UEFA Super Cup clash against Atletico Madrid in Estonia, the defender, at a press conference had some strong words for the former Borussia manager, who had lost six out of seven finals.

“I’m not going to talk any more about this issue, because there was too much coverage already, ”Ramos said. “You can respect the opinions of each person, but I already gave my opinion.”

“But again I did not want to grab (Mohammed Salah’s) arm. In fact, he grabbed me first.

“I think it was something that happened during the game, and I never intended to injure any fellow footballer.”

The Real Madrid captain said further: “Maybe he (Klopp) wants to justify himself after losing the final because it was not the first final he lost.

“He should take care of his own business and leave alone players like us, who have a lot of experience and showed a high level for such a long time. Let’s see if he can say the same as a coach. In fact, I have voted for him (as one of the best coaches).

“I did not take care much his opinions. He was one of the best coaches of the season, and I voted for him. Maybe that will keep him quite a little bit.”

 

Published in International Watch

Premier League 2018/19: Prologue

Friday, 10 August 2018 10:08

 

What is this really? A list of things to look out for ahead of the new season? A list questions to be answered ahead of the new campaign? A load of nonsense by Spotkick to generate attentio… okay, maybe not that last part.

Hence, we called it a prologue, the 2018-19 Premier League trailer; the thing before the real thing begins: 

 

An actual title race this time?

Yeah, yeah, Manchester City, we get it, you steamrolled to the title with all the records broken, whatever. But that also meant in four years, we haven’t had a real title race. Commendations to Spurs for trying to make something of two of the last four seasons, but still, there’s been little doubt over the state of the league winners going into the final two months for the first time since 2014. City look like favourites for the title again, but Liverpool’s summer spending has many tipping as the likeliest side to challenge the champions. The others, though, pose questions and reasons for doubt. Spurs made no action in the window, Manchester United haven’t had the best preparations, to say the least, Chelsea have new management and a lot of room for improvement, and Arsenal approach a season of the unknown. On paper, it looks like there are only two sides vying for the title, but it’s never played on paper is it? Yet it’s probably too much to ask for a six-team title race.

 

The unknown case of the Gunners

It’s gone from expecting the Gunners to implode in mid-February and wondering whom Arsene Wenger would push his irritation at, to a sense of the unknown at the Emirates. Wenger has departed after 22 years, Unai Emery is the new boss in Red North London, areas of weakness have been supposedly bolstered, and there’s the feel that the fans are stepping into the unknown with a touch of optimism. Suddenly, making a stern prediction on the Gunners seems a tough call. We no longer know what lies behind that Hornsey Road curtain.

 

Will Chelsea become- oh God- likeable?

It’s the supposed constant in West London, Chelsea are the formidable ruthless machine, hiring and firing reputable winners one after the other, thriving in their short-termism, and being hated by everybody else, like having an eternal dislike for Channels Television because they had the gusto to interrupt your cartoons with news programmes back when you were a kid. But could that change? For once in the Roman Abramovich era, the Blues have gone against their archetypal mode, appointing a manager who has nothing in terms of trophies, in Maurizio Sarri. Sarri comes with a mode of playing that will take some getting used to, it took a while for his style garnered fruit with Napoli. That means Abramovich seems settled to adopting a style that’ll require patience and practice, so no sign of short-termism, no hiring of a name laden with silverware. Which could equal, a style of play that could be pleasing on the eye, plus the fact that their system will take some getting used to, as the Community Shield proved, which could mean a few unpleasant results in the early days of the campaign, and a few unlucky outcomes may well generate some empathy. They may well be the new Premier League, gulp, .

 

Jose’s dissatisfaction hanging over Red Manchester

The grumpiest man in Manchester, The Guardian called him, United’s manager hasn’t expressed elation over United before the season begins, his claims over the club’s relative transfer inactivity and the unavailability of some of his players, who had the audacity to represent their country at the World Cup. Eyes have already been set at the Portuguese, who approaches his third season at Old Trafford, the period of calamity in his managerial timeline, and his grumpiness hasn’t taken away the limelight. All signs point towards a ticking time-bomb at the Theatre of Dreams, or is it all a smoke-screen to bait into playing United down as outsiders? The opening game of the season may set the tone.

 

2019: The year of the Reds?

Raise your hand if you’ve seen and been annoyed by this before: this could be Liverpool’s season. Before you snort in derision and walk away, look at the signs; mainly the transfer window. Having bolstered their defence with the acquisition of Virgil van Dijk last January, they seem to have plugged that goalkeeping hole with the acquisition of Alisson Becker from Roma, have added some solidity and security in midfield in the arrivals of Fabinho and Naby Keita, and the signing of Xherdan Shaqiri does their attack no harm. With Daniel Sturridge apparently staying and Adam Lallana fit for the start of this campaign, Liverpool finally boast sufficient squad depth to mount a lasting challenge. Don’t fold under pressure, and it really could be their year. (Spoiler alert: It probably won’t)

 

Neil Warnock, his point to prove, and his fiery atmosphere

Two: number of times Neil Warnock has taken a side into the top-flight.

Zero: number of times he’s achieved survival with them.

Either by suffering relegation or getting discarded halfway, Warnock and the Premier League don’t mix. And after leading Cardiff to their unexpected promotion last term, this may seem like his chance to put things right, so the manager wouldn’t want for motivation ahead of 2018-19. The odds are stacked against the veteran manager and his side, who are favourites to be relegated, which could mean no pressure or so much pressure. Survival may not come, and Warnock may not last long at the helm this term, but expect some feistiness from the Sheffield-born man. His list of spats and finger-pointing is quite something- even Sean Bean can attest to it. Has already made previous with Pep Guardiola and Nuno Esprito Santo last season, surely there’ll be more this time.

 

Battle to be best of the rest

There’s little denying the drawn-out gap between the top six and the rest, like titans watching the gods dining at the pantheon. Last season, Burnley in seventh place were closer to the relegation zone than they were to sixth place, the season before that it was Southampton in eighth that were in that scenario. We’ll always have Leicester’s crazy one-season stand in 2015/16, but the reality is, the top six are quite a cut above the rest. Speaking of Leicester, the Foxes do have a shot at being the best of the rest. Despite the loss of Riyad Mahrez, the summer has been good, highly-rated Championship playmaker James Maddison has joined from Norwich, Ricardo Pereira plugs that hole at right-back, while Jonny Evans is a bargain at 3million. There’s a worry over the future of manager Claude Puel, whom was the subject of fans discontent in the second half of the campaign, and a bad start could the Frenchman be sent packing. Everton also have a right to fancy their chances; a season of amends is likely to be on the cards after last term’s debacle, but they still possess a quality side and finally have their sought-after managerial target in Marco Silva. West Ham shouldn’t be out of the question, problems still lie in East London but the summer has looked promising for the first time in a while. Then there’s the other promoted duo. Wolves and Fulham will probably want to consider themselves as the winners of this transfer window, Wolves managing to lure top-class goalkeeper Rui Patricio to the club, as well as Joao Moutinho, while Fulham snapped up Jean Michel-Seri, once a target of Barcelona’s, as well as World Cup winner Andre Schurrle. Rarely before did newly-promoted sides fancy themselves capable of much more than survival right after coming to the big time.

Published in International Watch

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