Rangnick isn’t fun for Liverpool fans, ’embarrassing’ Man Utd and…

Liverpool fans are unlikely to have as much fun now Ralf Rangnick is in charge, while Man Utd were ’embarrassing’ after Arsenal’s opening goal.

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Not planning to wreck it Ralph
It all seemed pretty sensible stuff at the press conference yesterday. Obviously he’s open to staying on – he’ll never get an opportunity like this again. But he can’t fix United in 6 months. Pep won nothing in his first season at City. Jurgen took several years to make us the terrorising behemoth we are now. Granted, Tuchel took less than 6 months but that doesn’t suit my argument, so I’ll ignore it.

There’s so much work to do , 6 months can’t possibly be enough. But all he has to show is definite progress and an actual sustainable definable style of play. Then what would be the point of moving him upstairs only to start again with a new guy?

This isn’t the Ole situation. He got the permanent job based on passion, good will and nostalgia. Ralf will need to do more than help people feel better about themselves.

But my God it’s a challenge. De Gea has rediscovered his form, which is a welcome start. Varane’s quality is not in question, but it’d be helpful if he was fit more often. Wan-Bissaka will defend well in a structured team but he’ll never be a successful attacking full back. Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire though have actually forgotten how to play football. He’ll have some graft to do to recover their confidence. And just as much to help people have confidence in them.

McFred is beyond me as a concept. They wouldn’t even be on the bench at the top clubs. There’s no magic that can be worked there to turn them brilliant. Fernandes is world class however, he just needs the new manager to settle in quickly and he’ll be back in full form in no time. Pogba needs to be elsewhere. That’s all there is to that. Sancho has started to show what he’s about. Form is temporary, class is permanent and Sancho has plenty. Play him in a proper way in a proper team and United will see the player Dortmund had.

Rashford is good , if a bit hot and cold for my tastes. And Ronaldo is Ronaldo, you know what you’re getting with him these days. He’ll press a bit more to show some goodwill but it’ll be token stuff. He scores goals and nowadays that’s literally all he does. But with over 800 of the things to his name you’d be insane to discount him. I actually rather like the Cavani-Ronaldo combination- so much class. But the age is obviously ridiculous and Cavani’s fitness record here is pretty bad.

There’s not 6 months of work to fix this, but it doesn’t need to take 4 years either. Add an actual world class defensive midfielder and there’s an awful lot to work with. You’d be phenomenally lucky to get one in January but we got Virgil then and that was a game changer. But if you don’t get one until the summer you’d be moving Ralph on before he’d got a full deck of cards to play with. It seems unlikely.

It’s going to be fascinating to watch. Either he is a legendary German inspiration who’s going to redefine the club or he’s been ignored all these years by the big boys for a reason.

It just won’t be as much fun for Liverpool fans to watch as when Ole was at the wheel. The last few months have been wonderful.

But maybe Ralph Rangnick really is the man to deliver a big plate of schadenfreude . Can’t say I fancy eating it much though.
James, Liverpool


That was a great game, really enjoyable for the neutral. Had it all, controversy, comebacks, crowd giving it both barrels to each other. Agree with the mocking comment in the earlier mailbox that for all the goals and chances it did show why neither of these teams will be winning the league anytime soon. Anyway, genuine question for United fans — is Bruno Fernandes that good? I know he scored but he seemed to spend the entire game snarling and shrugging, trying shots from outrageous distances, moaning at less talented teammates — which is Ronaldo’s job isnt it?

I don’t really watch United games that much- is he out of form or is his nose out of joint cos Ronaldo is on pens now?
Dan, London


Arsenal opener
The most embarrassing element of the goal scored by Arsenal when De Gea was lying on the ground was the manic celebration when the ref announced it would stand. They ran around like it was the goal to end all goals, not that they had shot into an empty net.


Why Man Utd struggle at Old Trafford
After watching the horrendous football on display yesterday I think I’ve finally seen why Man United have been struggling at Old Trafford. Away from home we can get away with absorbing the pressure and hitting teams on the break. But when you’re at OT you’re obliged to attack. After just a few minutes dithering you can feel the tension build up in the stadium. Now that’s a problem for a team that doesn’t have attacking patterns of play. An even bigger problem if you don’t have solid midfield screening. Maguire gets a lot of flack, but he had a few important interceptions stepping forward and stopping attacks when McFred was bypassed. He could be the biggest beneficiary of a proper DM. Fred excelled against Chelsea because there was Matic behind him and he was now free to focus on disrupting play, which is his strength. Now when him and Scott are in the pivot they neither have the competence to stop counter attacks when the team has bombed forward, nor the technical prowess to create from deep as is required from a 2 man midfield. This, for me, is the first thing Ralf needs to fix.


Cristiano Ronaldo
It’s pretty funny that God of work rate and professionalism Cristiano Ronaldo would be at odds with very high work rate and professionalism.

Yeah the Olé thing went tits up because under Olé they were definitely going in a direction and then Ronaldo came in rather unnecessarily and a team that was moving forward without him suddenly became a team that had to move forward with one person less and had to play the god at front, by law.

It was unfortunate but Olé’s rein was characterised by (admittedly more) runs of promise interspersed by clown college stuff. It may have happened anyway, just so happens that when it may have happened they got an undroppable figurehead. If it didn’t happen when it actually happened, it would have happened again even without Ronaldo being there.

It messed with things for sure, but Ronaldo was an opportunity that couldn’t be passed up, because arguably what it really was was everything everything as is but the caveat that you have to play the best player in the world.

I foresee some chopping done quite soon, maybe not in January but certainly by summer. Ralf will identify his best players as the season goes on and relay that information to whoever comes in and give them the opportunity to make slight alterations to his suggestions, if any.

Ronaldo is a gift, he’ll be his Huntelaar, only he’s way better than Huntelaar ever was.
Dave (Everton have reverted to mid 90s Everton), Dublin


The reality of the Ronaldo press and his March commitment
Mediawatch’s quote of Opta’s statistics on Ronaldo’s pressing (impressive though the increase in stats was), misses a pretty glaring point – he was absolutely f***ed after about 80 mins, having only played 26 mins in midweek. Many of his goals this season have, to much celebration, come after the 80 minute mark. He may be the fittest 36 year old Rangnick has ever seen, but even the fittest 36 year old forward can’t do it 40 games a season, 90 minutes a game. And that, Rio, is why Ronaldo is still the problem.

And by the way – is CR7 going to be giving his all for Utd in March in the run up to Portugal’s crucial world cup play offs, when Utd they play City, Spurs and Liverpool in consecutive games? Is he b****cks. Poor old Rio, it’s ‘Ole’s at the wheel’ all over again.


Arsenal need Calvert-Lewin
Does anyone remember that episode of Red Dwarf where Rimmer finds out that the reason the alternate version of himself – Ace ‘he’s quite a guy’ Rimmer – was successful was because he was kept back a year?

That’s where I think Arsenal are. In many ways we’re back where we were when we were just about scraping into the Champions League.

We’re being routinely beaten by the Champions League teams and Brentford meaning we’re not quite ready for a go at the big time yet.

While the aim is the Champions League, I think we need a return to Europa League football next season and then see where we are.

We must move Heaven and Earth to get Calvert Lewin though – Auba is the equivalent of that bright kid who used to sit at the back of your French class playing his Gameboy right now.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London


Spurs musings
Well that was much better yesterday! Easily the best Spurs performance this season, although that is not saying much.
As you guys have already said, you can see the Conte effect in motion. There is more drive and desire from the players, the formation change has helped and they are pressing like they should be.

I always wondered why Nuno never tried a variation of a back 3 with wing backs? Despite this squad not really being used to it, it did seem to be the best formation to suit the players we have. I wondered if he was reluctant to use it as it is not “The Tottenham Way”.

Anyway, back to last night, there were definite improvements, but for me Davinson Sanchez is a walking liability. I am nervous when he plays and quite frankly am surprised he was still picked (albeit on the right) after the Mura debacle. I also wonder what Joe Rodon has to do to actually get a run in the team? Everytime I watch him he is solid if unspectacular and he must be frustrated at seeing the likes of Sanchez and Dier (who has begun his usual cycle of starting well with a new manager before brain farting a goal about 6-10 weeks in) ahead of him all the time after the numerous mistakes they have made!!

In midfield, Skipp had his best performance in a Spurs shirt. I feel that there is a good player there, but I am slightly biased, I love a homegrown talent, but at one point Mason, Winks and Dele were potentially good players who put in good performances so I hope he keeps himself level headed and feet on the ground. If a more creative type were to come into the team to replace one of Skipp or Holjberg I would choose the latter on current form. Skipp currently seems more dependable than his more experienced partner.

Either way, it was a good performance and clearly we did benefit from the suspension of the Burnley game. I hope the first team continues to improve but there are definite improvements to be made to the squad. Some of these players are in the last last last last chance saloon and Conte needs to be allowed to ship out and bring in as he sees fit. Hopefully, this will be the case, otherwise Levy is going to have a hard time worming his way out of the uproar that will inevitably follow.
Northern Spur

In defence of Everton…
I re-watched the Liverpool-Everton match this morning after getting my booster shot yesterday and sleeping for 12 straight hours.  Waking up refreshed for the first time in a month, I decided to delay getting to work and focus on thinking about a hobby.  I think Everton are getting unfairly criticized for their performance.  That match was wide open at halftime and Everton looked more likely to score at the start of the second half.  Liverpool converted their chances, but were sloppy throughout; Everton didn’t convert their chances, and were sloppy in that pass before the assist.  It happens, but I don’t think Everton fans should be overly critical.  They showed a combination of grit and tactical acumen necessary to break down the high press.  Their lone goal could have happened two or three more times had the game swung in their favor in terms of a lucky bounce or deflection going another way.  I can’t understand Klopp praising Liverpool’s performance.  The counter-press was effective, but it could have gone either way.
Niall, Bethany Beach


More on Everton…
There has been some speculation, mostly merited, on the question of what Everton fans want and what would make them happy. the succinct answer is this: the tragedy of the Everton fan is the absence of narrative.

All any football fan wants is to be part of a story, and the better the story the happier the fan. This applies to minnows battling relegation, newly-promoted sleeping giants, and superclubs tilting toward their seventh European title alike. If the fans can make a decent story out of it, you’re away.

But if there’s no clear sense of who you are or how you fit into the footballing landscape, it’s a big ask to get fans excited on a game-to-game basis.

What is an Everton? One, even two decades ago it was a club battling valiantly to overcome the gap between the best and the rest. Towards the end of Moyes’ tenure, though it was a tune he played well, there was a sense that we’d heard this song too many times before, that we could no longer be excited by the underdog story: ‘Hey, we’ve overperformed as an underdog for so long, can’t we just be a dog for once?’

But for all the mild existential crisis that greeted Moyes and Martinez, the greatest blow for the established narrative was the arrival of Farhad Moshiri. Suddenly you’re spending money like a big dog, but failing to get even the modest outcomes of the try-hard underdog. From season to season, you vacilate between ‘best of the rest’ challenger and grist to the lower-mid-table mill.

The main reason Everton fans are now thinking about relegation is not because it’s a realistic prospect (though it certainly is) but because at least the relegation dogfight would give us a narrative hook to latch on to. Depressingly enough, we are, en masse, wishing ourselves to be a pre-takeover Newcastle : a once great club, bought low by mismanagement, fans united against the sinister forces of capital, desperate for the shot at redemption that would show the world just what this club means (a lot) and is (a Big Thing).

The problem is, we all know that even that simplistic story will be hard to find. Sack Rafa, keep Rafa: the only thing that can change that narrative, ultimately, would be a change in results (possibly resulting from a change in management, or in corporate structure) that took us back to trying for those runner-runner-up European places.
But the joy in that is now fucked: we’re not a satisfying underdog, because we’ve spent too much. We should be better, according to other fans and ourselves, but we aren’t. What are we, then?

I don’t really know the answer there, beyond the basic facts: Everton is a once great club that never quite made it big in the transition to the premier league. For a time, they huffed and puffed and were kind of good, under the financial restrictions of a debt-laden club.

Then they got taken over by a billionaire benefactor. But instead of working on the principles that had kept the club standing in the lean years, the owner was hubristic: he thought he could turn the underdogs into champions by will alone. And, since a billionaire’s will knows no expression but money, he spent, and he spent, and he spent. And by the end of his spending, the club was still there, exactly where it started, only, somehow, a bit worse off and a lot richer.

Instead of looking the underdog, they now looked the fool.

See, narratively,  that ending fucking sucks. Nobody learns anything, nobody grows, nothing changes. Things start a bit shit, get a bit shitter and stay that way. Not a great ending, narratively speaking.

Of course, in football there is no ending. We keep on going, year after year. Eventually, something will come to put a full-stop on the chapter. But I can’t see that full-stop being anything pleasant.

Ah well. Downbeat endings are, perversely, often the most satisfying. I guess this is one.
Thomas B


Dirty City?
Can’t resist an opportunity to get on my soap box when the topic of City’s tactical fouling comes up, so here are my thoughts.

Every team does it to one degree or another, and other teams are rightly punished for it, but with City it is an essential component of the way they play – overload in attack every single time, foul high up the pitch so you aren’t exposed – its infuriating.

Now people will trot out that they actually consistently commit fewer fouls than most teams and they do, but we all know that’s a red herring – it’s been written about extensively how frequently they foul when out of possession and how they’re consistently about the quickest to commit a foul when they’re out of possession.

People also trot out that they’re just using the rules of the game to their advantage, but they aren’t – they have developed a tactic that deliberately relies on breaking the rules and getting away with it… it’s the same logic as patting  a team on the back for running a doping programme and not getting caught (not saying the two offences are comparable in terms of seriousness).

The issue about their fouling is that, of course, it generally happens in the opposition half, so it inexplicably doesn’t get punished accordingly. I would say that when you lose possession in the opposition half and have all ten of your players i
high up the pitch, that’s a “promising attack”, and per Law 12 they should get a yellow every single time they do it (particularly because what they’re doing is so brazenly), but there is seemingly some unwritten rule that refs won’t caution it unless it’s in their own half, which just isn’t the rule. Then there is the fact that they do it in a persistent and co-ordinated way which, again, is a yellow card offence under rule 12, but it just seems like City have an allowance for a few extra cynical fouls because its acknowledged that that’s their style – you know, like how Stoke used to be allowed to break the first leg for free, the second was a stern talking to, and only when the stretcher got deployed a third time did the yellow card come out.

The thing is, it is a style of play that just doesn’t work if the fouling was properly policed. Even if you disagree with my reading of Law 12 (you’d be wrong), then I’d say the rules aren’t adequate, as a system that relies on fouling your opponent ruins the match as a contest and it is, fundamentally, boring to watch a team chuck all their men forward and know that there’s no real risk of them getting punished on the counter. It’s like the back pass for sucking the joy out of a game and should be an offence (or, you know, the existing offences applied properly).

I’m not saying City wouldn’t find a way to get by without it mind, they’re objectively quite good at football…
Andy (MUFC)

What a fabulous footballing team they. There football and work rate is second to none. After watching Aston Villa, who I thought were poor and should concentrate more on playing football instead of diving and trying to win a foul out of nothing. They were embarrassing. The last 15mins shown they have no strength on the ball and because of this I do expect them to finish in the bottom half of the table. Yes and they were the home team
Ron C


Thank you to all the die-hard stats fans out there proving/disproving how dirty City are. What none of these stats tell you is why or how the foul occurred.

Most fouls are a result of an accident. A poor challenge. Mistimed attempt to get the ball. A piece of trickery that beats a defender.

The problem I have with Man City is each and every foul seems to be done deliberately to stop attacks or individual players in certain ‘low yellow card’ areas of the pitch. Not a mistimed tackle, very much a timed foul. Sure other teams/players do this occasionally but not as a deliberate tactic.

We all love a bit of statting but they don’t tell the full story or measure how football makes us feel.
Funstar Andy


The past…
Funny thing nostalgia, makes you think things were better in the past, not because they actually were but because you were happier and enjoying life more back then.

Enjoyment of football is subjective so I don’t want to say Graham is wrong for preferring arsenal. I watched arsenal a lot under Wenger and I honestly never enjoyed it. I’m not really a fan of constant diving (looking at you pires) or pointless passing (I don’t like Barca for the same reason). I do enjoy swift passing exchanges but not when they seem to have no direction and under Wenger that’s how they often were, a lot of 6 passing were three would achieve the same goal. In fact it was so common that it was a running joke that arsenal were trying to pass the ball in the net.

City are guilty of this too sometimes but not during the season which I mentioned in which they did attack every team relentlessly in search of goals. There weren’t many occasions during that season that city scored one goal then tried to maintain that, arsenal did do it plenty during the invincible season. I’m not saying there’s no skill in defending a one goal advantage because that’s pretty tricky. But for me I admire and enjoy the ruthlessness of a team who chases goals, and gets them. If Wenger were in charge of Liverpool during the everton game he’d have told his team to keep possession at 2-1 and run the clock down. maybe the thing I enjoy the most about Jürgen is he doesn’t do that, his team always searches for goals and never sits back to defend a lead. Doesn’t always work but it is mostly entertaining and ambitious.

During their 100 point season city were like this too. Utterly ruthless. I didn’t disagree with his point about Italian football because that was definitely Italian footballs hey day.


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