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MARTIN SAMUEL: All Liverpool was not be Manchester United… but they failed

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martin samuel all liverpool was not be manchester united but they failed

It was such a glorious opportunity for Liverpool. How did they blow it? They were more than just respected, more than just appreciated. They were revered, they were venerated, hell, they were even popular.

That’s the hardest trick of all for champions, certainly emphatic ones: to be liked.

Yet when Jurgen Klopp’s hard-working, quick-thinking, all-action team clinched the title last season, only the bitterest rival could begrudge them. 

Liverpool were rare emphatic Premier League champions who were liked and revered

Liverpool were rare emphatic Premier League champions who were liked and revered

And all they had to do to remain right there, at the pinnacle of English football, was not be Manchester United. And they couldn’t pull it off. Couldn’t not be the club that turns up to every Premier League meeting with a self-serving, bad idea. Couldn’t not be the club that wants to tyrannise 14 others.

Couldn’t not be the club that demands the power, the glory — and all the money. Couldn’t not be the club that would sell English football out to Rick Parry, or UEFA, or Andrea Agnelli at Juventus for a sack of cash.

That’s all Liverpool had to be. Not Manchester United. And they blew it. 

So when Everton line up against Liverpool on Saturday, it will mean more, but not in the way Anfield’s marketing department imagines.

It will mean more because a club it was thought represented the best turned out, in its machinations, to represent the worst. It means more because many people feel so greatly let down including, it seems, some of Liverpool’s supporters. They are as perplexed as anybody that a club so successful within the established parameters of the English game, should end up on the same side as its evil twin.

Roy Hodgson was as good as dead to Liverpool fans the moment he spoke of his fondness for Sir Alex Ferguson, but it looks as if John Henry and the Glazer family have been cosy for years, while plotting to carve up English football.

‘The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again,’ wrote George Orwell in Animal Farm, ‘but already it was impossible to say which was which.’

But they ruined that when owner John Henry tried to sell English football out for a sack of cash

But they ruined that when owner John Henry tried to sell English football out for a sack of cash

In philosophy at least, Manchester United and Liverpool are now indistinguishable. 

Yet, as Christian Purslow of Aston Villa — a former Anfield executive — asked Liverpool chairman Tom Werner at Wednesday’s Premier League meeting: What was not to like? Certainly for the owner of a Premier League club. The workings of the top division of English football could not be simpler or more efficient. Everyone makes money, or should.

The top finishers each season pass through a platinum door to the riches of European football, while the three worst clubs are relegated. And that’s it. We can argue about the trickle down effects to the pyramid below, but anyone who thinks Project Big Picture was really about that probably believes gullible isn’t in the dictionary, too.

So why might an elite club be dissatisfied? Think of the summer Manchester United have just had. It began with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer boasting of how United could exploit the financial crisis caused by coronavirus to plunder the transfer market, and ended with them recruiting a free agent in Edinson Cavani, because the clubs around wouldn’t sell.

Covid-19 has wreaked havoc across many industries but, before it, Premier League clubs were strong financially.

Many remain so, despite losses. They do not need, or will not yield, to Manchester United’s money. If they do, it is only for an exceptional price, like the £80million that teased Harry Maguire out of Leicester.

Change the rules to aid Manchester United’s financial advantage, weaken those outside the Big Six, enforce stricter FFP regulations to thwart owner investment, and maybe United could better exploit the world they had created. 

Henry's Fenway Sports Group had been discussing the idea of Project Big Picture for some time

Both Liverpool and United held secret talks with EFL chairman Rick Parry

Henry (L) and Man United’s Joel Glazer (R) were behind the plans to carve up English football

As it is, with some very straightforward principles and voting procedures, the Premier League is as competitive as it can be.

And as a simple league, it is conservatively run. That is why 14 votes are needed to pass rules or bring about change. It wards off radical or kneejerk measures. The 14-6 vote is a lock to prevent the creation of selfish cabals.

The founders did not wish for changes to be made 11-9, or even 12-8. They required more than a two-thirds majority. And the most collegiate members and clubs have always understood and deferred to that.

In popular imagination, Ken Bates, the former chairman of Chelsea, could start a fight in an empty meeting room.

In fact, he is remembered as one of the most solid supporters of the Premier League’s equal voting principle, even when it went against him.

There have always been factions within the whole, big and small concerns. Even before the arrival of Roman Abramovich, Chelsea were among the smaller of the big boys.

Yet it was Bates who often reminded his fellow members what they had signed up to, and that they had to carry 14, like it or not. This kept it fair. Bruce Buck, Chelsea’s current representative, has a more conciliatory manner, but is not married to voting equality like Bates. 

Ex-Chelsea chief (R) Ken Bates was a big supporter of Premier League’s equal voting principle

Ex-Chelsea chief (R) Ken Bates was a big supporter of Premier League’s equal voting principle

There never was a golden age of football club ownership — Tottenham nearly fell off a cliff in the old Football League — but one imagines David Gill would have played his hand rather differently than Ed Woodward of Manchester United last week. Gill was a fine politician, always first to arrive at Premier League meetings and deep in conversation with his fellow executives. But never those at the elite end.

Gill used that time to try to carry the 14, to get a few recruits to whatever supposedly innocent cause Manchester United were espousing.

He worked the directors’ suite at Old Trafford, too, in a way Woodward does not.

‘Put it like this,’ said one voice inside those meetings, ‘the five substitutes proposal would never have failed had Gill been around.’

Manchester United were the most successful club in the Premier League, but Gill’s shrewd politicking ensured they were never at war with the other 19 shareholders.

That has now changed; but the disappointment comes seeing Liverpool treading the same path. For a club so fond of slogans, being Not Manchester United could have emerged as the strongest identity of all. Not in big print on a poster, but by positioning Liverpool at odds with the grasping nature and base motivations of the European elite.

Had Liverpool emerged with an altruistic plan to help the lower leagues through this economic crisis, that did not include the opportunistic monetary and power grabs, what heroes they would have been.

It's sad to see Liverpool tread the same path as a self-serving club like Manchester United

It’s sad to see Liverpool tread the same path as a self-serving club like Manchester United

Now that would be a club capable of living up to the idea that this means more. That would be a club of the people, one whose principles would justify the rhetoric many find cloying. 

It isn’t that Liverpool under its current ownership have never made mistakes. There was the infamous £77 ticket for best seats in the new stand, and the decision to furlough lower paid staff this year.

Yet, very quickly, faced with supporters’ protests, the board relented. It listened, which is more than many do.

Now think of the good Liverpool have done under Fenway’s stewardship: rebuilding the historic Anfield site rather than moving to a new ground; appointing a superb, charismatic manager in Klopp, who has greatly enriched English football culture; delivering a brilliant, diligent, selfless yet highly skilled team, one of the finest this country has produced; becoming European champions, world champions and domestic champions.

Liverpool under Klopp have given us some of our greatest games and most admirable achievements. 

To concede the title as they did to Manchester City two seasons ago, then find the strength and will to win it the following campaign, was a feat many believed could not be accomplished. 

Liverpool's modern and carefully cultivated reputation went down with the ship Big Picture

Liverpool’s modern and carefully cultivated reputation went down with the ship Big Picture

Their senior staff are much admired, too. Michael Edwards runs the finest recruitment department in the country, and Liverpool have barely missed in the transfer market in recent seasons.

The day-to-day operation is steered from New England by Mike Gordon, president of Fenway Sports Group and regarded as one of the sharpest minds in sports ownership.

Yet somehow, and perhaps quite unfairly, this hugely respected executive tier have been dragged into an unseemly civil war by Henry, the billionaire at the helm of FSG.

Parry has been pumping the idea that Henry is a benign influence whose only thought is to help the English football pyramid, yet that view now generates the most hollow laughter.

There are great and good people at Liverpool, and it is a great and good club.

But the modern reputation it has cultivated so carefully went down with the ship Big Picture.

Hapless Harry isn’t exempt from stick, Gareth

England manager Gareth Southgate sprang to the defence of the beleaguered Harry Maguire, rounding on his critics as ‘some people who should know better’.

Most likely, he means former professionals who were damning in their judgment of Maguire for Manchester United, before he even joined up with England.

Yet, overwhelmingly, calls on Maguire have been entirely professional, focusing on his defensive positioning, decision-making, awareness and speed of reaction to events, all of which have been disappointing lately. Some have contrasted this with his transfer fee, although at a world record for a defender, that is entirely understandable, too.

What purpose does it serve if those asked for professional opinions pull their punches?

We can all see the game.

Harry Maguire has been rightly criticised for his recent performances on the pitch

Harry Maguire has been rightly criticised for his recent performances on the pitch

Hammers cam not a concern

Reflecting on his time away from West Ham’s players, David Moyes — now recovered from coronavirus — said he kept up using CCTV cameras installed at the training ground.

This shows how times have changed. Former West Ham bosses would have needed a similar system at Faces in Gants Hill, or the Epping Forest Country Club.

Clarke might be forgiven… Parry won’t

Greg Clarke, chairman of the Football Association, told the Premier League meeting on Wednesday that Rick Parry was the most dangerous man in football. It didn’t take long for evidence to emerge.

On Thursday, Parry’s EFL released one of the many versions of Project Big Picture, a discussion document it implies Clarke authored. It mentions the creation of a Premier League 2, with top tiers of 18 clubs each, and the rest of the leagues below combined with the three National Leagues to comprise five divisions, a catchment of all lower-tier clubs from Sunderland to Farsley Celtic. There would be no League Cup and no FA Cup replays, and the possibility of Premier League B teams in the competitions below.

It was plainly released to embarrass Clarke, just as the project’s unveiling — supported by Parry — blindsided the Premier League clubs.

Clarke has so far escaped criticism by shamelessly reinventing himself as the Premier League’s biggest fan, while admitting participating in meetings that went behind the backs of all but two of its members. 

Parry’s people, meanwhile, are trying to paint the swift demise of his big idea as a victory, because the EFL have a seat at the table in the strategic discussions about football’s financial future.

Two points here. The first is that this does not necessarily give the EFL a position in the Premier League’s review, more the general one that is taking place throughout the game; secondly, that even if there was a movement towards greater cooperation, there exists a majority of Premier League clubs who feel very strongly that Parry’s backside should not be anywhere near that seat.

He treated them as the monkeys and two clubs as organ grinders. Clarke may just about be forgiven, but Parry won’t.

Rick Parry won't be forgiven for treating 18 clubs as the monkeys and two as organ grinders

Rick Parry won’t be forgiven for treating 18 clubs as the monkeys and two as organ grinders

Money in football needs to be healthy, not fair 

One final point about football and finance. All the talk is of making it fair. It’s not meant to be fair. We know the bigger clubs generate the most money. Fairness would let them keep it. But it would destroy the competition. So we should not be aiming for fair. We should be aiming for healthy.

This means preserving the pyramid at the bottom end, and preserving competition as much as possible at the top, while also acknowledging merit and worth. This is the balance that must be struck.

AVB can’t claim credit for Bale

Ahead of Gareth Bale’s debut for Tottenham this week, his former manager Andre Villas-Boas has claimed credit for the tactical switch that transformed his career. He said he played Bale further forward after January 2013, a change that brought him 15 goals in 18 games and a move to Real Madrid.

Yet that season, Tottenham finished outside the top four, behind Arsenal, were knocked out in the fourth round of both domestic cups and eliminated from the Europa League by Basle at the quarter-final stage.

It’s about improving the whole, not one. Nobody will be lauding Jose Mourinho if he gets similar performances from Bale, but also Tottenham, this season.

Regardless if Jose Mourinho gets Gareth Bale firing, he won't get praise unless Spurs improve

Regardless if Jose Mourinho gets Gareth Bale firing, he won’t get praise unless Spurs improve

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Ben Chilwell delighted with Chelsea’s clean sheet in Champions League draw with Sevilla 

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ben chilwell delighted with chelseas clean sheet in champions league draw with sevilla

Ben Chilwell claims Chelsea can still feel positive following their opening Champions League group game despite only gaining a 0-0 draw at home to Sevilla.

The Blues are big favourties to progress from a group that also features Rennes and Krasnodar, and on paper the Spanish side are likely to pose their biggest threat.

But Chelsea went into the match having twice blown the lead to draw 3-3 against Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday, including conceding a last-minute strike.

Ben Chilwell played the full 90 minutes in Chelsea's Champions League draw with Sevilla

Ben Chilwell played the full 90 minutes in Chelsea's Champions League draw with Sevilla

Ben Chilwell played the full 90 minutes in Chelsea’s Champions League draw with Sevilla

The Blues had previously come underfire following sloppy defensive performances this term

The Blues had previously come underfire following sloppy defensive performances this term

The Blues had previously come underfire following sloppy defensive performances this term

The left back played the full 90 minutes against Sevilla on Tuesday night and felt the Blues could take big positives from shutting out the Europa League holders.

‘It was important to get a clean sheet. We knew people were looking at us after the weekend, and we were defensively solid today,’ Chilwell said on BT Sport 3.

‘It would have been nice to get a win at home, but we will take the draw.

‘There were moments where we were under pressure, but the whole team were organised and all put a shift in, defensively as a team it was very good. 

But Frank Lampard's side put in a professional display to earn a 0-0 draw with Sevilla

But Frank Lampard's side put in a professional display to earn a 0-0 draw with Sevilla

But Frank Lampard’s side put in a professional display to earn a 0-0 draw with Sevilla

Chilwell was part of a summer spending spree that saw Chelsea spend over £220million, with veteran defender Thiago Silva also coming in on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain. 

Chelsea had previously kept just two clean sheets from their first seven games this season and only one of those came against a top-flight side when they defeated Crystal Palace 4-0 at Stamford Bridge at the start of the month.

So the former Leicester City full back admits expectations are high at Stamford Bridge this term. 

Summer arrival Edouard Mendy came into the side in goal to replace Kepa Arrizabalaga

Summer arrival Edouard Mendy came into the side in goal to replace Kepa Arrizabalaga

Summer arrival Edouard Mendy came into the side in goal to replace Kepa Arrizabalaga

Veteran defender Thiago Silva was also recalled for the opening night in Champions League

Veteran defender Thiago Silva was also recalled for the opening night in Champions League

Veteran defender Thiago Silva was also recalled for the opening night in Champions League

‘We are Chelsea, you expect a clean sheet, so you are going to get criticism,’ he added.

‘It was important to keep working hard on the training pitch and we showed that defensively we are a good outfit.’

Former Blues midfielder Joe Cole agreed with Chilwell, as he praised his former side for showing a more organised performance in defence.

Joe Cole was impressed with Chelsea's defensive play in the 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge

Joe Cole was impressed with Chelsea's defensive play in the 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge

Joe Cole was impressed with Chelsea’s defensive play in the 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge

Cole, who won three Premier League titles at Stamford Bridge praised Chilwell’s contribution to a backline that featured fellow new signing Silva as well as goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.

‘Ben nailed it when talking about the organisation,’ Cole also told BT Sport. ‘The resoluteness of the team was outstanding. They got it right tonight. Chilwell was outstanding. If you’re going to win games, you have to keep clean sheets. You have to do the ugly things.

‘Having the three new signings, it made such a difference. You can see the pride they took in that. The whole team engaged together as a unit. They saw the problem and dealt with it.’

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Jurgen Klopp hits out at Jamie Carragher after questioning Liverpool’s reluctance to buy a defender

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jurgen klopp hits out at jamie carragher after questioning liverpools reluctance to buy a defender

Jurgen Klopp has hit back at Jamie Carragher after the former Liverpool defender questioned why the club were reluctant to sign a centre back in the summer.

The Premier League champions are expected to be without star defender Virgil van Dijk for the rest of the season after he suffered anterior cruciate ligament damage following a reckless Jordan Pickford tackle during the weekend’s Merseyside derby.

Carragher believes that Liverpool are now short at the back as a result of Van Dijk’s injury and should have ‘gone big’ in the summer, but Klopp has taken umbrage with his comments and claimed he could not have kept another centre half happy. 

Jurgen Klopp has hit back at Jamie Carragher over his comments about signing defenders

Jurgen Klopp has hit back at Jamie Carragher over his comments about signing defenders

Jurgen Klopp has hit back at Jamie Carragher over his comments about signing defenders

Carragher suggested Liverpool should have signed another defender in the summer window

Carragher suggested Liverpool should have signed another defender in the summer window

Carragher suggested Liverpool should have signed another defender in the summer window

‘We went into the season with three centre backs plus Fabinho as cover and some youngsters,’ Klopp said.

‘It’s hard to have four world-class centre halves.

‘If anyone wants to tell us we made a mistake – I think Carragher mentioned already – there are a few reasons why they don’t do this job.’

He also claimed Liverpool are now a centre back short following Virgil van Dijk's injury

He also claimed Liverpool are now a centre back short following Virgil van Dijk's injury

He also claimed Liverpool are now a centre back short following Virgil van Dijk’s injury

But Klopp responded to Carragher and said he could not have kept another defender happy

But Klopp responded to Carragher and said he could not have kept another defender happy

But Klopp responded to Carragher and said he could not have kept another defender happy

Carragher however then defended the comments, tweeting: ‘Not once this season have I said it was a mistake for Klopp not to buy a centre back for the exact reason he states.’

On Sky Sports on Monday, Carragher said on Liverpool’s defensive situation: ‘Dejan Lovren went and they didn’t replace him so they only have three centre backs and one of those, Joel Matip, is always injured.

‘There are question marks now about Joe Gomez. So there is no doubt that Liverpool had to go big in the transfer market.’

Carragher defended his comments saying Klopp has not made a mistake in not signing one

Carragher defended his comments saying Klopp has not made a mistake in not signing one

Carragher defended his comments saying Klopp has not made a mistake in not signing one

It was those comments that made Klopp angry, but Carragher’s fellow Sky pundit Gary Neville saw the funny side of it, reacting to the former centre back’s riposte by tweeting: ‘In-fighting already’ with the boxing glove emoji and laughing faces.

Carragher however did call on Klopp not to make the same mistake again and believes the Anfield club should target RB Leipzig and France centre back Dayot Upamecano early in the January transfer window.

The former England international also put Wolves captain Conor Coady in a sticky spot following their 1-0 win over Leeds, asking the current England defender if he would consider a return to Liverpool after claiming Klopp was eyeing him, which was laughed off.

Carragher however did encourage Liverpool to go after Dayot Upamecano in January

Carragher however did encourage Liverpool to go after Dayot Upamecano in January

Carragher however did encourage Liverpool to go after Dayot Upamecano in January

He also cheekily asked Wolves captain Conor Coady if he would like to re-join the Reds

He also cheekily asked Wolves captain Conor Coady if he would like to re-join the Reds

He also cheekily asked Wolves captain Conor Coady if he would like to re-join the Reds

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Eddie Jones says Owen Farrell is working on tackle technique after his ban for horror hit

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eddie jones says owen farrell is working on tackle technique after his ban for horror hit

Eddie Jones has revealed that England skipper Owen Farrell has been working on his tackle technique in light of his recent red card.

Farrell was banned for five weeks and missed Saracens’ crucial Champions Cup run-in after he was sent off for a reckless hit on Wasps youngster Charlie Atkinson.

It left lingering questions about the fly-half’s temperament, but Jones revealed the No 10 will continue as skipper after naming a 32-man squad to face the Barbarians.

Owen Farrell was sent off for a reckless hit on Wasps youngster Charlie Atkinson in September

Owen Farrell was sent off for a reckless hit on Wasps youngster Charlie Atkinson in September

Owen Farrell was sent off for a reckless hit on Wasps youngster Charlie Atkinson in September

‘Owen and I have ongoing conversations,’ said Jones. ‘There’s not a day where we don’t talk or text each other. And now he’s in camp, it’s face to face. He’s aware of his responsibilities as England captain — he made a mistake in a game. We’ve moved on from that and now his job is to be the best England captain he can be.

‘He’s always working on his tackle technique. I was walking through the gym this morning before we were going to catch up, he was doing some extra work with John Clarke. That’s a constant work-on for not only Owen, but a lot of our players.

‘The laws of the high tackle have become increasingly tight, which is for the welfare of the players and all of our players are conscious of their responsibility.’

Preparations for the fixture at Twickenham have been hit by the uncertainty around the Premiership final. Wasps’ involvement will hinge on results from their latest round of Covid testing on Wednesday, with Bristol on standby to face Exeter in the event of their withdrawal.

Farrell goes in lower for tackle on Alex Mitchell during an England training session last week

Farrell goes in lower for tackle on Alex Mitchell during an England training session last week

Farrell goes in lower for tackle on Alex Mitchell during an England training session last week

It means Jones is unable to call on a number of household names, including recent European cup winners Henry Slade, Jack Nowell and Kyle Sinckler. However, Jones named 11 uncapped players in his squad and could use the curtain-raiser to blood some exciting new talent.

‘I was particularly impressed by a number of Exeter players who did well in what was a good- quality European Cup final,’ said Jones. ‘I was also very pleased for Bristol to win their first trophy. I always look at those games as selection games.

‘They’re important games because they’re high-pressure and you see the guys play under the pressure of winning or not winning a trophy. We’ve had that previously with Saracens being a dominant team in Europe, and now we’ve got Exeter.

‘It’s been a tough time for the country. A lot of people have lost their jobs and a lot of people have had losses in their family. We’re conscious of our responsibility to put a smile on people’s faces.

34632610 0 image m 60 1603223606521

34632610 0 image m 60 1603223606521

‘The attitude in the camp has been first-class and this week we move into preparation for the Barbarians, so things are a bit more serious and we’re knuckling down to prepare for a game.’

England will go into the match without Lions star Elliot Daly, who is recovering from a leg injury.

‘Elliot has had a bump on his leg — I was speaking to him this morning — for a good period of time,’ revealed Jones. ‘It hasn’t really worried him and he’s trained. We’re not sure what’s wrong, so we’re going to get some tests done and we’ll wait and see what the answer is.

‘I’d rather not say which part of his leg, let’s just wait and see. We’ll do all the various tests and he will see a consultant, and then we’ll have a pretty good idea of where he’s at.’

Meanwhile, the confusion around the Premiership final has also affected Wales’ preparations, with Bristol No 10 Callum Sheedy unable to join the training camp.

Wales assistant coach Neil Jenkins said: ‘It would have been nice to have had him in from the start but, from our perspective, him playing in finals is good for us. That’s his bread and butter.

‘The same with Tomas Francis — it’s fantastic for them.’

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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