HomeFootball / SoccerWhy Liverpool should actually be favourites for Premier League title

Why Liverpool should actually be favourites for Premier League title

by foot.biz

Are Manchester City now inevitable? They have to go to Anfield, remember. Plus, mails on Palace, West Ham, Joey Barton and more.

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Liverpool have given themselves a chance

Liverpool are unlikely to win the league, but the squad management to keep in contention, despite injuries, has been excellent.

If players return from injury on time, Nunez exceeds his xG, Haaland doesn’t, and Rodri takes a month off, we might have a chance.

Aidan, Lfc (we’re going to need a lot of luck, but at least might make things interesting)

READ: Problem-solving Liverpool top Premier League winners as Arsenal are worst 5-0 victors

Man City reputation is just a fixture list quirk

The firm belief that Liverpool can’t ‘withstand Manchester City in full second-half-of-the-season mode’ is repeated more than once across F365 this week and seems intuitively right, based on the narrative of City going up a gear from January onwards. And the stats back it up – in four of the last five seasons, City have had a better points-per-game from this point in the season than before it, the only exception was when 21/22, when they nearly blew an 8 point lead after 21 games, scraping home by a point.

But it weirdly ignores two things about the Liverpool/City rivalry. Firstly, Liverpool themselves have improved in the latter stages of the last two seasons – massively so (more than half a point per game better than the first 21 games of each season). And, even accounting for injuries and fatigue surely a new-ish squad under an experienced management team can be expected to get better, not worse?

The second thing is that, in four of the last five seasons, City have played Liverpool at home in the second half of the season. This fixture list quirk accounts for all​ of their apparent improvement after the new year- swapping the timing of their victories at the Etihad for the draws/defeats at Anfield in those seasons would make their late season form no better than early season. Moreover, doing that would make Liverpool look like the kings of the second half of the season over the last few years, not City.

This season of course, City go to Anfield and try to improve on their one league win in 20 years. The one guarantee about the game is that Henderson and Fabinho won’t be the centre back pairing (apart from the ref being from Greater Manchester, perhaps).


Meta nonsense

A few weeks ago following a Spurs win, I wrote in giving Dave Tickner a bit of stick for including four (4 !!!) separate Spurs entries in the subsequent Winners & Losers column. I can’t recall whom Spurs had defeated then, nor do I remember whether my letter was published to the mailbox, but I do know I said something along lines of which insinuated Mr Tickner had pulled an extremely “Chief Liverpool FC Writer move” in exhibiting such partisan and unashamedly cloying sycophancy.

Crikey what to do now that Mr Tickner has (rather very cleverly) done the same with four more (yes 4… again !!!) separate entries for a Liverpool (LFC !!) victory but to remark upon how utterly meta this latest move is. Kudos. Next level stuff this is. To really channel that legendary chief writer we all know and love though, you’ll have to give the entire Liverpool starting eleven 8s, 9s and 10s in a post-match ratings feature the next time Liverpool have drawn or lost a fixture, and you’d have to make witty little quips while fan-boy gushing even when the performances on merit are 5s and 6s.

Then, we’ll really have something… a mic drop of mic drops… the kind that cause Echoes and reverberations. But until then I applaud this most recent effort.

Eric, Los Angeles CA

(Or, and this could blow your mind, he was trying to write Winners and Losers on just four Premier League games in which the only really impressive performance was from Liverpool – Ed)

Crystal Palace are a hamster

Apologies if this dredges up some childhood trauma for people but the only way I can really describe the situation at Crystal Palace is a bit like the death of a primary school class’s hamster: in a way, everyone’s responsible, but there are differing theories as to who is most responsible.

For starters, the players have not been playing well enough. They are averaging basically one goal per game (22 from 21), the third lowest in the Premier League, and have an xG of 27.42, the fifth lowest, so it’s not even as if lots of chances are going begging. Their passing and especially their crossing have been generally below the standard of a Premier League team, they concede possession too easily and give away too many easy goals. However, beyond all this there has been little sense of players being unhappy at the club or wanting to leave.

The chairman and the directors/investors also came in for some criticism at the weekend. They took the decision a while ago to prioritise funding renovation of Selhurst Park, an understandable and justifiable decision with long term benefits to the club. However, this has meant less money available to spend on players who could have improved the first team squad, which has been exposed by injuries to a couple of key players. The argument for using money this way is that the higher the club finishes in the Premier League, the more money they win to put towards other investments.

Then there’s the rumours that Steve Parish and John Textor have fallen out over the former’s decision to vote for restrictions to loans for multi-club ownership models such as the one owned by the latter, who is also rumoured to be looking to sell but any potential investors would want to buy out Parish, who doesn’t want to sell his shares.

It’s complicated, because the chairman has a responsibility to safeguard the future of the club, but there comes a point where a lack of investment in playing personnel jeopardises any potential stability.

Then, there’s the manager. Roy Hodgson’s return to Palace at Easter began with a win against Leicester City that appeared to combine his previous defensive solidarity with a freedom that got the best out of the attackers, something that felt like an ideal combination.

Since then, however, he has reverted to the kind of tactics people got fed up with at the end of his previous stint in charge, and unsurprisingly, people are getting fed up with them again. What’s worse, for someone whose reputation is built on solid defending, his team are prised open too easily, despite defending too deep to be able to launch many meaningful attacks. He is committed to keeping his strongest team on the field, as much as possible, but time and again this season he has left it too late for any substitutes he does bring on to make any sort of impact, and his overplaying of certain players has contributed to injuries.

The other trouble is that as much as you wouldn’t change a winning team, this isn’t a winning team, so you’re left with starters who are complacent because they know they won’t lose their place, and reserves who know they’ve got no chance of winning a starting place.

Increasingly, Hodgson resembles a card player folding the first time anyone raises the stakes; all of his experience tells him he can’t win with the hand he’s been dealt, so it’s better to concede this round as soon as possible and wait until there is one you can win, even if a bit of risk and a bit of holding your nerve might bring great rewards.

Supporters are unhappy because the club is performing well below its potential, and also because from the outside, concerns are dismissed as first world problems. Other times, Palace fans are praised for the atmosphere they generate at all games, home and away; it’s frustrating being told we should be grateful for what we have, when what we have is an average of six home wins per season amid multiple games where we drop points from advantageous positions and it looks like we aren’t trying to win; or when we have a board that wants to prioritise an academy, but sticks by a first team manager who doesn’t trust young players.

Much like Hodgson when his team are drawing, the board seem to be waiting as long as possible to see what happens before they decide to act. It’s easy to see why people feel like they’re being taken for a ride, and that their support is being taken for granted, as they receive little in the way of goodwill or otherwise in return.

There are lots of things the club needs to sort out, and most of them are the interpersonal relationships throughout the organisation. They need to get their act together sharpish. It’s great fun still being small time enough that “my mate a London cabbie” rumours get taken semi-seriously, but in reality, they’re in the Premier League, they should bloody well act like it.

Ed Quoththeraven

Hammer time

Interesting that there were no emails on Monday about the end of the Sheffield United vs West Ham match, perhaps it shows how little interest there is for games that don’t include the big 6?

Anyway, West Ham were poor and were thoroughly outplayed for most of the game by a team sitting 7 points from safety (10 if not for Everton). It wasn’t until the introduction of Ben Johnson in centre midfield that we actually had any control of the game. Maybe all full backs should just play in the middle of the park now as apparently that is their best position.

Clear red card tackle from Rhian Brewster, surely players know by now that you cannot fly in with both feet off the ground like that? West Ham players knew it was a poor tackle and reacted accordingly, Coufal receiving a yellow card for his complaints. Considering his complaints were proved to be correct, the caution seems a little harsh, but the second yellow he received was nailed on.

Still, all we needed to do at that point was defend a free kick and we can walk away with three undeserved points. When the second ball was swung back in to the box and Areola got nowhere near it, colliding with McBurnie, my immediate reaction was penalty. However on the replay I would say that McBurnie actually fouls Areola first, catching him with a flailing arm. It cannot be a coincidence that McBurnie hits more opponents with his arms than anyone else – he is definitely ‘that’ type of player. But like I say, my first reaction was penalty and it probably doesn’t fall under the shocker category by the ref so I understand why it was not reviewed.

What I cannot understand though, is how on earth the foul on Bowen right at the final whistle was not either given by the ref on the field or sent for review by the VAR. Actually, that isn’t true. I can understand that the ref bottled it – he didn’t want to give a third penalty in the game after two red cards in injury time for a match that for 85 min he probably thought was quite straightforward. But the VAR is there to correct those errors and take those kinds of emotions out of the decision making process. Ahmedhozic doesn’t look at the ball and just grabs Bowen round the waist, pulling him to the ground. Absolutely baffling that nothing happened and in fact Sheffield United got the free kick!

There is nothing new to add to the debate on VAR. It is crap. Everyone knows it is crap. But apparently we are now stuck with it. The best you can hope for each weekend is that it isn’t your team’s turn to get shafted.

Andy the Hammer

Come on Palestine

​We’re all aware of the Premier League irritation of losing players to the Asian & Africa Continental tournaments in January, but in a period of utter darkness for Palestine, I would like to share a feel good story.

Palestine have qualified for their third consecutive Asian Cup having also qualified in 2015 & 2019. In the previous two tournaments Palestine have failed to get out of their group, failed to win a game and scored only once. Their first game of this tournament involved a 4 – 1 defeat to Asian heavyweights Iran. However, in their second game they performed heroically to secure a 1 – 1 draw against UAE, in a game Palestine really should have won given their dominance.

Next up tomorrow is Hong Kong (the lowest ranked team in the group) and a win would (almost certainly) see Palestine qualify for the last 16 whilst simultaneously securing their first Asian Cup tournament win in 9 attempts.

We all know what is going on in Gaza and the West Bank, and whilst I’ll avoid allowing this article to take too much of a political turn, it would be great if the Palestinian Football team received the same type of support the people of Palestine have received through global protests in the past months.

Kick off is at 3.00pm UK time on Tuesday 23rd January for those what wish to watch Palestine v Hong Kong, and possibly some history being made.

Naz, Gooner

Don’t write off Barton as a moron

Normally a big fan of Johnny Nic, but I couldn’t disagree with him more when he’s writing about Joey Barton today. Fact is, Barton wouldn’t be coming out with this guff if he didn’t realise that there’s a healthy market for this sort of thing. Worse than that, his views are considered permissible in Great Britain in 2024, at least by a significant proportion of the commentariat.

Bigots of all stripes, be they racists, misogynists, homophobes, transphobes, or some sort of niche prejudice that I can’t think of at the moment, have been emboldened in both the UK and US more than they have at any point since the 1980s, and they are able to spread, and more importantly monetise their views with impunity. Regrettably, the ship hasn’t sailed at all.

Barton isn’t a moron, who’s spouting 1970s cliches because he’s a moron. He’s a Bad Person, who is deliberately and cynically propagating views that he knows will chime with a target market who will reward him for it, financially and with adulation. This sort of rabble rousing will get people killed, and Joey Barton knows this, and doesn’t care.

Dara O’Reilly, London

What a pr*ck though

Joey Barton you piece of rubbish.

I don’t always like the panels on every show all the time either mate, I do not start calling people out as equitable to brutal, evil serial torturers and murderers.

Imagine the families of the victims of Fred and Rose West, having to hear this utter filth, belittling their loved ones’ suffering, because Joey f**king Barton feels that they have in essence ‘tortured and murdered commentary’.

Come on man.

Get a grip on yourself.

If you think someone is crap at punditry, fair enough, not sure it has to be sprayed out for everyone to hear, but do it in a decent manner then, having a productive conversation about pundits who can improve and offer genuine advice on how to do so.

Manc from SA ( Gender doesn’t make a great pundit, plenty of the guys are rather average, even in commentary, it isn’t a secret that many folks are quite lucky to be in the role within football that they are.)

Red benchmarks

Enjoyed the Bournemouth/Liverpool game (mainly for the comic timing of the crowd taunting and then the goals!), but the Kluivert challenge got me thinking. In its similarity to Jones’ challenge against Spurs on Bissouma, it should probably have been a red card. Gusto on Willian last week probably should have been, too if we’re aiming for consistency. I should say that I was also ‘happy’ with the red for Jones. I could definitely see why it was red worthy, so no complaints there.

There have been 41 red cards in the Premier League so far this season. We know that referees look at decisions, and then Howard Webb and Michael Owen analyse them further, but in terms of ‘fairness’ (if the concept exists), would it not be a good idea to use the thought process of ‘this challenge received a red previously, therefore we shall award it a red, now’? I’m not talking about Dalot being done for two instances of dissent in thirty seconds whilst Odegaard and Jorginho can do what they want for a game, but the Jones tackle could provide a benchmark and can be pointed to if there are complaints.

I guess the issue is the subjectivity as ever; the Jones one looked accidental, and he was being pushed hence being off balance when he made the tackle. Similar to Kluivert yesterday; Mac Allister was tussling with him prior to the challenge on Diaz. Both challenges have been called ‘orange’, though Kluivert should have at least been booked, surely? And how VAR didn’t see Jota being battered as an obvious error I’ll never know.

Apologies if this is rambling. It sort of made sense in my sleep-deprived mind…! Looking forward to some civil discussion on it going forward.

Also, how good are Saints at the minute?!

Hope you’re all well,

Stu, Southampton

Took the Chevy to the Levenshulme

It was only when I noticed it was Levenshulme Blue writing in, a contributor whose letters are hilarious, that I decided it wasn’t actually a serious point being made.

I’m assuming it’s a he, so he is one of the greatest posters I have read over the fifteen + years of reading these pages.

Deliriously delusional. Poetically paranoid. Insanely insane.

Good man, Levenshulme…keep ‘em coming.

Dan Mallerman

…Oh Mr L Blue. So desperate for any indication that your club isn’t totally and utterly corrupt that now United hiring one of your executives is PROOF that 115 charges are all made up.

Could it be that United’s new corrupt, polluting, tax dodging billionaire simply knows game when he sees it?

Seriously, being hired by Jim Ratcliff is not the ringing endorsement of ethical and legal integrity that you hope.

Something something, you don’t know how time barring works yadda yadda.

Alex, South London

…@ Levenshulme Blue, Manchester 19, or, the only reason for United being able to steal such an important cog is because City and the man himself know he’s had an absolute cakewalk signing deals with nonsense sponsors for years.

Don’t really know do we, all just one of many possible reasons and you, me, or neither of us could be right. That being said, at least of half your argument is around Utd making sound decisions in recruitment so….

Al (no apology needed)

…Contrary to Levenshulme Blue, Manchester 19, the fact that United signed a City CFO/COO means that there is a big chance that he & City are both guilty, and City are just getting rid of him so they don’t have a C level executive on board who has to be banned from football in a year or two. The amount of stupid decisions that United made in the last decade, there is definitely a HUGE chance that City have just played United again. Like they did with Fred, Maguire, Ronaldo, Sanchez and more.

I for one have zero faith or hope left in anything related to United. I fully expect City to be 100% guilty of their 115 charges, and somehow United to get relegated for it. There is no hope, there is no tomorrow.

Also, 90m for Antony is a singular reason for this club to be in the state they are. What the hell was anyone thinking! I can’t get over how Onana & Antony came in for close to 150m and made the club so much worse than before. A blindfolded DDG would be 10x the keeper Onana will ever be. Who lets these people bid or put money in the market? Rather play some 18 year old kid from the academy! I play better than Antony 100%, and I haven’t played in 3 years now.

PS: Watching Arsenal & Liverpool win big just depressed me out of football in this cold gloomy and dark winter break. Don’t remember the last time United won big or even had a dominating performance.

Aman Sheth

…On Levenshulme Blue’s assertion that United’s appointment of Berrada means City aren’t guilty of the 115 charges… does it bollocks.

It could just as easily indicate the first rat leaving the sinking ship… not that I think that’s true either!

The fact is that, yes, Berrada was involved in sponsorship, but we have zero insight into his personal involvement with the suspicious ones (City do currently have 47 commercial partnerships, of which at least a couple are with non-UAE companies you may have actually heard of!). Logic would suggest that a guy who was really impressive in his sponsorship-related role probably wasn’t just involved in the allegedly dodgy ones – just ringing the big boss in Abu Dhabi and asking him to get Emirates to sign the sponsorship deal isn’t exactly full-time job that suggest the guy is ready for much more responsibility, is it.

The fact is, United have gone for him because City, allegations about the source of their funding aside, are an exceptionally well run football club – the best run in the world (it pains me to admit) – and by all accounts Berrada is highly regarded within City).

Put City’s key people at United, with United’s vast and legitimate commercial power, and they’ve proven they can do the job well. It stands to reason there are individuals there who it’d be a coup to hire…

It clearly gives zero insight into alleged misdemeanours.

Nice try though.

Andy (MUFC)

MEDIAWATCH: Man Utd chief to copy ‘Man City tactic’ as Ten Hag ‘overhaul’ leaves them down to bare bones

Source : Football365.com

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