Blooding the Youngsters

Every year when the cups kick into action the old debate arises about the big clubs playing youngsters and exiting the competition at an early stage and then being accused of not respecting the competition. Of course if they proceed in the competition playing those youngsters then everything is good and nobody cares.

I think that managers should be able to manage their squads however they see fit. They should not be forced to pick the best 11 players for every match of the season and who determines exactly what each team’s best 11 is anyway. Part of the excitement of the cup for me is seeing young players given their chance at competitive football and if they can handle the pressure. Giving these youngsters their chance in the Premier League is not always viable for some teams as avoiding relegation or staying in the top 4 is the top priority and it’s difficult to test youngsters until they are in a safe enough position to do so.

The other argument is that with the amount of games that the top teams are playing with European and domestic games included players are more likely to get burned out. So why not give the youngsters a chance in the cup games. I would even go so far as to say put a cap on the amount of senior players you can use in the cups, at least start with the League cup as a trial. This will give more youngsters more chances to breakthrough and level the playing field a little so that lower league teams have a chance in the cup. This could also benefit youth football in general as it always seems like an area the UK are lacking in compared to other top European footballing countries.

The other thing we have to remember is that most other European countries don’t have 2 cup competitions unlike England. This is a perfect reason why we should reserve this competition for youth players only. Many people complain that youngsters aren’t getting enough chances and others are complaining that the cup competitions aren’t being respected. We can’t have it both ways. Make the League Cup a youth competition for U21’s only with maybe each team being able to play a maximum of 3 senior players. This way youngsters get their chance to play higher level competitive football which may eventually give them a quicker route into the Premier League teams.

Liverpool firing again

With 8 goals in the past 2 games Liverpool appear to be firing again but the truth is they won both games at a canter barely breaking sweat.

Of course the class of opposition (Red Star Belgrade and Cardiff City) at home didn’t put up much of a fight but having watched both matches I’m still expecting more. As a fan of the Reds maybe I’m expecting too much after the highs of last season.

After Coutinho left Liverpool in January there was a massive hole left in the Liverpool midfield. Although Coutinho is irreplaceable Oxlade-Chamberlain got his chance and really showed what he is capable of. A completely different option than Coutinho but very effective with his fast powerful runs from midfield creating space for others.

Since the start of this season Liverpool have been playing the midfield 3 with a combination of Milner/Henderson/Wijnaldum/Keita. All great players of course but similar styles, passers, ball protecters and play breakers. None of them with the exception of maybe Keita play with the same dynamism as Oxlade-Chamberlain but in the case of Keita it’s too early to tell. The bottom line is in offensive terms Liverpool have dearly missed Oxlade-Chamberlain and I think that has contributed to the lack of goals.

With recent injuries to Keita and Henderson a spot has opened up in the midfield and now Shaqiri has got his chance. A slightly different type of player again, clever with an eye for a pass and he has certainly shook up the offensive style of Liverpool. With several assists and a goal to his name already, coinciding with Liverpool’s increasing form it’s going to be difficult to drop him from the team.

The point I’m trying to make is that Liverpool need a Shaqiri or Oxlade-Chamberlain type player in the midfield, someone who can link the midfield better with the front 3. With their improved defence, they certainly don’t need 3 sitting midfielders and with Fabinho being slowly introduced into the first team that could leave a huge competition of 5 midfield players for just 2 positions and that’s not even including Lallana and where he fits into the picture.

This is all theoretical of course and the likelyhood is Klopp will continue to chop and change his midfield based on form and fitness and the the fixture schedule but if everyone is fit and uninjured this gives Liverpool an absolute wealth of options in the middle of the park and a potential headache for Klopp keeping them all happy. If Klopp succeeds there can surely be no excuses if Liverpool fail to win some silverware this season.

Ronaldo Returns to Rape Utd

I mean it in a purely footballing sense of course. Juventus are a relentless machine these days but it’s a long time since they had a genuine superstar in their team.

Despite Ronaldo’s 33 years he doesn’t show any signs of easing up. Many footballers at that age are thinking about retirement and transitioning to an easier league or settling for a high salary in USA or China with little pressure on their shoulders. Ronaldo on the other hand doesn’t shy away and seems to thrive on the pressure of playing for a top team.

Of course he has bad sides to his persona, like his tantrums, his vanity and his multi-coloured boots that can infuriate football fans but one side of his persona that I admire is his professionalism and dedication to his job. He is a superfit athlete and although he’s not the same marauding winger he started out as all them years ago, he’s transitioned to a powerful and deadly centre forward.

His mere presence in that Juventus squad should give all the players a boost, the professional and impressionable ones at least, which seems to be most of the team. They should want to keep up with him and prove that he’s not the only superstar in the team.

Ronaldo has helped Real Madrid win the Champions League in 4 of the last 5 years. In 2 of those 5 years Juventus were the loosing finalists so even before Ronaldo they clearly have the European pedigree to compete with the other top teams but what they’ve been lacking all those years was a superstar player. Now with Ronaldo in their team it surely gives them an edge over most teams in Europe and they are my favourites to win the Champions League this year.

Real Madrid look a lot weaker without Ronaldo and with no superstar replacement it’s hard to see them winning it.

Bayern Munich are also struggling in their own league and without any noticeable major signings they don’t look like they have a chance.

Barcelona have also not strengthened much but they have their own superstar in Messi therefore are one of the favourites.

The last of the big boys is Man City and with Guadiola’s experience and City’s relentless pace in the PL they are also one of the favourites but with the Ronaldo effect my money is still on Juventus.

The Mourinho Show is Back

No matter what the circumstances, Mourinho always manages to become the centre of attention but this time it was to the detriment of his Man Utd side as they were the better team in the 2nd half and perhaps marginally deserved the win.

Of course this time Mourinho was prevoked into his reaction by the childish actions of the Chelsea coach, something you’d expect more from players on the pitch than a middle aged man. The players didn’t disappoint though as they had their own hand bag throwing session on the pitch in the immediate aftermath of the Mourinho melee.

I’m not the biggest Mourinho fan, I don’t like his style of play nor his personality. He’s a bad winner and a bad loser and that’s why he doesn’t get the respect that he thinks he deserves. All of this putting 3 fingers in the air to remind everyone how many Premier Leagues he won and why he deserves respect is hypocritical as Arsene Wenger also won 3 Premier League titles and what respect did Mourinho show him?

Man City stroll to another win?

It seems like Man City strolled to another win but if you break it down into separate incidences it may not have been so easy. Vincent Kompany could have easily received a straight red card for this nasty thigh-high tackle on Aaron Lennon inside the 1st minute of the match but the referee opted for the ‘it’ s too early in the match for a red card’ solution.

Man City’s 2nd goal should also not have stood since the ball was out behind the by-line before being crossed in for the resulting goal. These are 2 major decisions that went against Burnley and massively aided to the apparent ease with which Man City breezed past. Burnley themselves offered next to nothing going forward though so even with 10 men you would still fancy Man City to win this one.

Impotent Liverpool relying on defence

As a Liverpool fan it’s strange to see them with a decent defence, they haven’t had one since the days of Carragher and Hyypia but in van Dijk and Gomez they seem to have found a good partnership. However Klopp still breaks that up occasionally by putting Lovern in the team which is disappointing as he can be so rash in the tackle where as Gomez, dispite his youth seems much more controlled and calm when defending.

At the other end of the field Liverpool are unrecognizably out of sorts. Salah, despite his goal continually gave the ball away when an easy pass was available and the rest of the team, possibly due to the many changes, couldn’t put any other clear cut chances together. All of the forward players were guilty of giving the ball away on multiple occasions and resulted in a very frustrating performance for all Liverpool fans.

On current form it’s hard to see Liverpool and Chelsea keeping up with Many City’s relentless charge and with Spurs and Arsenal sneeking up behind them while the attention is off, Liverpool and Chelsea could be looking over their shoulder instead of looking above them.

grass sport game match
Photo by Pixabay on

The Premier League is back!

After another short but painful international break the Premier League is back.

Maybe it’s just me but I really don’t see the point in all these short international breaks at the start of the season. Even some of the players can’t be bothered to receive the honor of playing for their country due to unfitness or some mysterious sudden injury dispite playing every minute of their club matches this season. No doubt they will show up injury free and fully fit again this weekend for their club.

What I don’t understand is how any international coach can really build up any kind of momentum with his squad when they have a week and a half together on 3 separate occasions over the first 3 months of the season. Some players could be injured, unfit or lacking form and with such a limited time together seems counter productive to the development process.

I’ve always thought that a good idea was to have an international month in December or January where all leagues take a break and all international squads can meet up and play their matches during that time. That way international coaches can have their squad together a much longer time and build some kind of momentum and unity within the squad.

This could benefit club football as much as international football as non-internationals could get a mid season break from football and clubs would also be able to build up their own momentum at the start of the season instead of being constantly interrupted by short international breaks and protential fractious club/International relations due to players getting injured during that short time away with the international squad.

Quite often you’ll see a club team go on a successful run of results in the 2nd half of the season as at that point they may not be in any cup competitions and there are no international breaks to break up the momentum. This is something you very rarely see at the start of the season as clubs cannot build that momentum due to the constant breaks.

Of course these ideas would cause a massive upheaval in the fixture schedule and countries and clubs would take a long time to agree to any such changes but it’s well worth considering.

Let’s get back to the good news, the Premier League is back this weekend, the hustle and bustle of the English game, the whining and fining of the managers and the singing and swinging of the fantastic supporters, don’t you just love it?