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Our attack deserves more credit


In all the frustration and disappointment of dropping two valuable Champions League points thanks to the 2-2 draw with Sevilla on Tuesday, there hasn’t been enough praise given to the attack.

In Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah we have one of the most exciting front trios not just in the Premier League but in the world. All three are capable of moments of magic and brilliance and the two wide men are incredibly quick. They have gelled quickly and promise to get even better as the season progresses. Credit should be given to how well Salah has settled into the side since his arrival from AS Roma this Summer in a deal that is looking like better and better value. There have been conflicting reports over the fee paid to the Italian but it matters little when he represents such wonderful business at under the £40m mark in a market that got more and more crazy as the Summer went on. He has had a similar impact to the one Mane brought when he arrived from Southampton a year earlier. The duo have caused havoc already this season and it only promises to get more exciting.

Another reason to get excited about how good this threesome can get is that they will soon have Brazil international Philippe Coutinho pulling the strings behind them. After failing to get his move to Barcelona done before deadline day, the former Inter Milan man has returned to the squad and appears to be getting on with business. He may well look to secure a switch to the Camp Nou next Summer, but until then we will have him acting as playmaker to a highly fluid attacking trio and that can only excite supporters. Obviously we will have to wait a few more games until we finally see the four of them line up in the same eleven domestically thanks to Mane’s three-match suspension following his dismissal against Manchester City last weekend. But we could see them together in the next Champions League fixture against Spartak Moscow in just under a fortnight.

The inept defending exhibited by the defence has seen them take many of the headlines so far this season while the attack have looked sharp and exciting in most games. A clear case in point is the 3-3 draw away against Watford on the opening weekend of the season. The defence allowed the hosts to score three very avoidable goals as the attacking trio all grabbed a goal each in a game that showed just how exciting they were capable of being. Salah was a constant threat down the right, with Mane cutting in from the left and Firmino roaming around the centre showing why he is worthy of wearing the number nine shirt for the club.

If the Brazilian can add penalties to his tally this season he could easily notch twenty plus goals. He tucked away the one at Vicarage Road nicely, but he saw his second deflect off the post against Sevilla this week. If he is to continue handling those duties he will need to slot away his next one or further questions will be asked of him taking the spot kicks.

Before Mane was given his marching orders at the Etihad on Saturday, Liverpool were proving to be a threat to the City defence and Nicolas Otamendi was walking a fine line following an early booking. Salah could, and certainly should, have tucked away a great chance at 1-0 and that would have put a very different complexion on proceedings. Mane wouldn’t have subsequently been sent off, such as the chain of events would have been, and the pair could have continued to press City’s defenders into mistakes. It is a shame that the former Chelsea man didn’t slot that glorious chance home and it did highlight the work he still needs to do with his final ball and finishing. It is testament to his quality that he gets into so many promising positions, and he has already bagged his fair share of goals and assists this season, but he still needs to improve his decision making in the box. Hopefully that will come over time and all the signs are there that this trio are something for supporters to get very excited about.

It is a crying shame that our defence cannot match the quality of the attack ahead of them on the pitch, but it is fortunate for our prospects that we have such a threat at our disposal. It is a far cry from a few years ago when our attack consisted of Mario Balotelli, Rickie Lambert, Fabio Borini and terminally injured Daniel Sturridge. The England international remains a dangerous option to have from the bench and he has shown that he still has an eye for goal with his poacher’s goal against Arsenal a few weeks ago. Another England international in the shape of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain offers us pace from the bench and his versatility will come in useful as the season unfolds. We also still have their international colleague Adam Lallana to return from injury and he too can lay on chances for team-mates as well as contribute some valuable goals.

Despite all the frustrations over our backline, there are still several reasons to be cheerful and our superb attack is certainly one of the top ones.

Defensive problems all too predictable


Liverpool have made a start to the campaign that many supporters could have easily predicted back in August.

The defending just hasn’t been good enough so far and Tuesday’s 2-2 draw with Sevilla and Saturday’s 5-0 hammering at the hands of Manchester City have seen many fans go from frustrated to infuriated. City’s victory was dismissed as inevitable my many onlookers due to Sadio Mane’s first-half red card – which also took much of the focus away from the collapse that followed it. But the way in which Jurgen Klopp’s side gave up two valuable Champions League points against the other side aiming to top the group angered a lot of the supporters and further highlighted just how flimsy the backline has been so far this season.

City cut through the defence at the Etihad with ease following Mane being sent off for the high boot in Ederson’s face after Liverpool had been arguably the better side in the first half, despite going 1-0 behind. But it was one way traffic after that and most of the team appeared to give up the fight and accepted what they must have considered inevitable. It should not have been seen that way, but the second goal quickly arrived and the defence looked utterly incapable of damage limitation.

Despite Ragnar Klavan’s woeful performance against Pep Guardiola’s expensive side, few pointed to the absence of fellow central defender Dejan Lovren as a factor in the manner of the loss. The former Southampton centre-back quickly showed why nobody was saying he was missed when he dropped another of his trademark clangers by failing to clear a simple cross into the box against Sevilla, allowing them to open the scoring. He wasn’t the only player at fault during the build-up to that simple tap-in, but his error was the most glaring. Both Emre Can and Joe Gomez could have dealt with it and Alberto Moreno was caught out of position, as usual, as he watched Wissam Ben Yedder claim a simple tap-in. But Lovren’s failure to clear the ball was the most obvious mistake and he was rightly criticised for it.

But all of this could have been avoided had Klopp decided that it was Southampton defender Virgil Van Dijk or nobody this Summer. The Premier League club made it clear in early June that they would not be considering any offers and were determined to report Liverpool for the “illegal approach” they considered had taken place. But Klopp hung on in there until the last day of the transfer window and no bid materialised following the club’s public apology to Southampton. It has been widely reported that no offer would be made unless the south coast club invited one and none of Liverpool’s rivals were going to make a futile bid to open the door for Klopp to sign his man. With that knowledge, a loan offer for Schalke centre-back Benedikt Howedes, who joined Juventus for the season, should have been the minimum course of action. The German international is a seasoned defender who has previously been in a partnership with Joel Matip at the Bundesliga club. It would have made total sense to bring him in for the season and then go back for Van Dijk.

While it is admirable for Klopp to be determined to sign his number one targets, it makes no sense to do it at the expense of the greater good. It was clear to just about every onlooker that the defensive unit was not good enough and the individuals which comprise it were not up to the task of a domestic campaign with the added Champions League matches. Having Matip, Lovren, Klavan and Gomez as the four central options is not even close to good enough for the aspirations the club and supporters have for this season. Someone like Howedes would have at least added experience and know-how to a backline under mounting pressure following yet another campaign of conceding too many goals.

Another option would have been to attempt to hijack Tottenham’s move for Ajax defender Davinson Sanchez. The twenty-one year old Colombian is a powerful defender with bags of pace and plenty of confidence in his locker. He was relatively expensive at £45m, but with the prices in the current market added to our need for improvement at the back, it wouldn’t have been a bad deal by any means. But instead of offering him the chance of regular first-team action, he is on the fringe at Wembley this season as Spurs further improve an already excellent defensive lineup.

Many supporters have pointed to another option Klopp had available to him this Summer: Mamadou Sakho. But the France international was long cut adrift at Anfield and was always going to be shipped out on deadline day. And it speaks volumes that the only interest he could muster was from Crystal Palace, West Brom and Leicester City. He is severely overrated by many fans and his attitude has held back whatever talent he has at his disposal. An ability to behave himself initially irritated Klopp and then a lack of clarity with the club’s medical staff over the fat burners infuriated the German. His time at the club was in serious jeopardy after being sent home from the preseason tour and he all but sealed his fate by refusing to go out on loan in the Summer of 2016. He had absolutely no chance of being handed a reprieve and I personally don’t think the defence would have been a great deal better off for his presence. He’s clearly a better defender than Klavan, but despite having more talent than Lovren he also makes his fair share of errors. We need better than all three.

Cameroon international Matip shouldn’t be above criticism either. I would say he is clearly our best central defender at present, but he too is prone to moments of confusion which lead to goals. He didn’t cover himself in glory against Watford, City or Sevilla and he needs a more reliable and consistent defensive leader alongside him. Klopp can see this and wanted to partner the tall man with Van Dijk, but once the accusations of underhand tactics were made by Southampton that deal was off the table for the Summer at least. This is where a stop gap deal for Howedes would have made sense again. Perhaps contact was made with his agent to see if something was possible and he said no in favour of joining the Italian champions, but nothing has turned up in the news to suggest that we did look to bring him in. It would have made absolute sense to me and was a metaphorical defensive clanger in a growing catalogue of literal ones.

Anyone who watched Matip play for Schalke and/or Cameroon before he arrived at Anfield would have been aware that he suffers from moments of blurred concentration and a lack of focus, but with enough quality around him he is more than capable of being second fiddle to a lead central defender and it is a real shame that he won’t be partnering Van Dijk until the new year at the soonest (if you’re a huge optimist).

Behind the back four lies another issue: the goalkeeping situation. I personally don’t think Loris Karius warrants being picked in the Champions League, or at home against Arsenal for that matter, following Simon Mignolet’s improvements last season. Signing the German youngster last Summer seemed to ignite something in the Belgian international and he deserved to be a part of the side which started the European campaign this season after his role in securing qualification. Klopp clearly sees Karius as a long-term number one, but the former Mainz man just hasn’t played with enough confidence to be given the nod, for me. Further to the issue over whether or not he should be played is the issue of rotating the keeper behind an already uncertain defence – it just doesn’t make sense to me. We need stability at the back to bring the best out of the players in those positions and it can’t be helping them to see a different face behind them on such a regular basis.

On top of the soft centre in our defence, we have seen the return of Alberto Moreno to the left-back spot and absence from the other side of the injured Nathaniel Clyne. Moreno has impressed with his attacking play so far this season, which is much improved, but his defensive game is still lacking. He was one of several players at fault for Watford’s second goal in the 3-3 season opener and he just watched as Sevilla opened the scoring on Wednesday. Many thought we had seen the last of him when James Milner, a right-footed midfielder, was preferred in the position last season. But, lo and behold, he’s back in favour and doing his best to seize the unexpected opportunity handed to him. Andrew Robertson was signed in the Summer and has so far only been seen in the 1-0 home win over Crystal Palace – a game in which he was a resounding man of the match. He should be given more chances based on Moreno’s continuing defensive struggles, in my view.

In Clyne’s absence, we have seen two relatively untested young talents given chances to show what they can do in the right-back position. Trent Alexander-Arnold has been touted as a potential successor for the former Southampton man and he did his chances no harm with a superbly taken free-kick against Hoffenheim. But his nerves and indecision against City last weekend showed that he still has a long way to go – and he would admit that himself as he continues to develop his undoubted potential. While Gomez showed that he can contribute with a fine outing against Arsenal, he also proved that he is a work in progress with some naive moments against Sevilla – including two bookings that will see him suspended in continental competition.

Many will say that the system doesn’t support the defenders enough and there is some weight behind that argument. But it is not the main factor in the woes we have seen, regardless of the lack of defensive shielding coming from the midfield – which has been another problem for us so far this season. But that’s another story.

Chelsea plot move for two Liverpool targets

Conte is not satisfied with Chelsea’s transfer business

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte is set to make moves to sign two Liverpool transfer targets.

The Italian boss will make bids to take Southampton defender Virgil Van Dijk and Arsenal midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to Stamford Bridge in the coming week.

That’s the claim being made by The Express in what they say is an “exclusive” report on the transfer plans of the Premier League champions as they look to defend their title this season.

Liverpool remain interested in signing both Van Dijk and Oxlade-Chamberlain before the transfer window closes at the end of the month, but both deals have proved difficult to get going.

Southampton are determined not to let Holland international centre-back Van Dijk leave St Mary’s this Summer and are said to be resolute that he will certainly not be joining Liverpool.

While England international midfielder Oxlade-Chamberlain has just a year left on his contract at Arsenal and manager Arsene Wenger is hoping that he will either honour his deal or sign a new one.

But that isn’t stopping Conte from plotting some big money offers for the two players as he looks to snatch them from under Jurgen Klopp’s nose.

Barcelona set to increase Coutinho offer

Coutinho wants to leave Liverpool for Barcelona

Barcelona are set to return with a fourth bid for Liverpool playmaker Philippe Coutinho.

That’s according to an “exclusive” report by The Express, in which they are claiming that the Brazil international will be the subject of an offer worth a potential £130m.

The Spanish giants have seen three offers rejected for the twenty-five year old already this Summer as they look to replace his compatriot Neymar following his switch to Paris Saint Germain.

Liverpool owners FSG are determined not to let Coutinho move this Summer and have already rejected a transfer request made by the former Inter Milan midfielder.

Manager Jurgen Klopp has not made too many public comments on the situation and has simply stated that the final decision is not his over whether or not to keep Coutinho.

Many supporters are speculating that Klopp would sanction an exit for the Brazilian after feeling let down by his decision to hand in the transfer request on the eve of the new season.

But most are hoping to see FSG remain firm in their refusal to let him move and would like to see him remain a part of the squad next season.

One thing is for sure, Barcelona will need to make a more acceptable offer than their third bid – which included all manner of unlikely add on clauses and staggered payments.

De Boer doesn’t want Sakho

Sakho did well during his loan spell at Selhurst Park

Crystal Palace manager Frank de Boer is resisting calls to sign Mamadou Sakho from Liverpool.

That’s according to an article by The Daily Mail, in which it is claimed that the Dutchman does not see Sakho as an ideal fit for the style of football he is looking to introduce at Selhurst Park.

Sakho spent the second half of last season on loan at Palace after being frozen out of the Liverpool side by manager Jurgen Klopp and he became something of a cult hero with their fans.

Despite the France international putting in some impressive performances before his season was prematurely ended thanks injury, Klopp does not want to reintegrate Sakho into his squad.

That has seen the former Paris Saint Germain skipper put up for sale with a reported fee of £30m placed on his shoulders – and de Boer is not prepared to sanction that sort of offer.

The former Netherlands international defender has only made one permanent signing so far since taking over from Sam Allardyce at the Premier League club earlier this Summer.

He raided former club Ajax to sign defender Jairo Riedewald as he believes that the Dutch youngster is a better fit for the tactics he is deploying.

Palace have lost both their games so far in the Premier League this season with the 1-0 defeat at Anfield on Saturday following up a 3-0 loss at home to promoted Huddersfield Town.

Reds in race to sign Draxler

Draxler is a World Cup winner with Germany

Liverpool are in the race to sign Paris Saint Germain attacker Julian Draxler.

That’s according to a report by The Mirror, in which it is claimed that Premier League rivals Manchester United and Arsenal are also in the hunt to land the German international.

The French club have reportedly made Draxler available for transfer having signed Brazilian superstar Neymar from Barcelona in a £200m deal this Summer.

Manager Unai Emery is also hopeful of signing France international Kylian Mbappe from rivals AS Monaco in another big money deal and hasn’t dropped his interest in Arsenal star Alexis Sanchez either.

PSG are looking to bring in funds by selling some other players and Draxler is said to have been identified as a player who won’t get as much game time this season.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp attempted to bring his compatriot to Anfield back in January, but Draxler opted for a move to PSG instead and could now get the chance to join the Reds after that previous rejection.

The report claims that the French club are only looking to bring in £32m for the former Wolfsburg man having paid out £40m for his services earlier this year.

That would represent a good bit of business for whichever club signs him – if he does make an exit from the Parc des Princes.

Juventus plot Van Dijk move

Van Dijk has made a transfer request this Summer

Liverpool are set to face additional competition for Southampton defender Virgil Van Dijk.

That is because Italian champions Juventus have joined the race to sign the Holland international from the Premier League club, according to a report by Gazzetta dello Sport.

Reds manager Jurgen Klopp has been chasing the twenty-six year old all Summer long and has so far been unable to bring the ex-Celtic centre-back to Anfield.

Southampton are determined not to sell the much sought-after defender and have rejected his recent transfer request following the decision to make him train away from the rest of the first-team squad.

Van Dijk is keen to join Liverpool and has rejected advances from Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Everton in order to make it clear to Southampton that he wants to be a part of Klopp’s squad.

But the Saints are refusing to enter negotiations with anyone over a deal for the defender as they seek to keep him at St Mary’s for the upcoming season.

This hasn’t prevented Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri from identifying Van Dijk as a possible replacement for Italy international Leonardo Bonucci, who joined rivals AC Milan earlier this Summer.

Valencia defender Ezequiel Garay and Lazio stopper Stefan de Vrij are other possible targets for the Serie A club.

Klopp not panicking over lack of signings

Klopp has struggled to land his targets this Summer

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has said that he is happy with his squad and won’t panic if he doesn’t make any further signings this Summer.

The transfer window closes in a couple of weeks and the German has so far signed just three players for the new campaign.

Four members of the squad have been moved on, but striker Danny Ings has returned to fitness along with captain Jordan Henderson.

And Klopp is not worrying too much about the prospect of seeing no new faces arriving in the coming fortnight.

“You can obviously see the whole market worldwide is quite difficult, a few teams are still looking and we are looking.” he said.

“When I am not actually on the pitch or not thinking about training or the next game of course we think about what we can do.

“But if the transfer window would have ended yesterday we already would have a team which I like and could play football with.

“Of course injuries here and there are not too cool but in this moment it is still a good team.

“We will see what happens, I cannot change the answer because I don’t know. It is nothing like ‘There is a contract, sign it’.

“A few things can happen on both sides (in and out) but everything leads in the direction of August 31 and I can imagine it will be a busy day.

“If we are involved in this busy day I don’t know but we will see.” he finished.

Liverpool fans will be hoping that Klopp can bring in some more reinforcements ahead of the transfer deadline at the end of the month.

Barcelona admit to Coutinho struggle

Coutinho handed in a transfer request last week

Barcelona sporting director Robert Fernandez has admitted that the Spanish club are struggling to get a deal done for Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho.

The Catalan club have seen two offers rejected for the Brazil international and are concerned that they won’t be able to get a deal over the line before the transfer window closes.

“Not just Barca but any team looking for top quality players are getting involved in a very difficult situation in this market.” he said.

“Why? Because the market is where clubs like us want to sign top quality players. There’s no buy-out clauses so that makes things trickier.

“Yes, we are negotiating with clubs to make several signings, but in all awareness of the difficulty. We need to work our way into a favourable situation and hopefully close these deals as quickly as possible.”

“Dembele and Coutinho are two important players that we like a lot and have done for a long time. They have the conditions, the right age and could adapt to our football. They would be good to have here. That’s the reality.

“With respect to Liverpool and Dortmund, when there are negotiations you need time, you need to work things into a favourable situation for players and ourselves.

“We still have days ahead of us, would like to move things faster, but do admit they’re two players we would like here. But it’s the clubs who will have the final say on if we finally achieve those two transfers.” he finished.

Many Liverpool supporters will be hoping that Coutinho is still a Red when the transfer window closes.

Bilic warns Reds about Lanzini move

Lanzini in action at Anfield last season

West Ham United boss Slaven Bilic has warned Liverpool that Manuel Lanzini is not for sale.

The Argentina international has been linked with a move to Anfield as a possible replacement for fellow South American and Barcelona target Philippe Coutinho.

But Bilic insists that Lanzini is happy with the London club and is not looking to make an exit as speculation intensifies over a possible switch to Anfield this Summer.

“I speak to Manu every day, he is happy.” he said.

“He feels at home, he feels liked. You can see it, you don’t have to talk to him and you can see by how he is smiling and is happy.

“He broke into the Argentina national team, so he knows if he plays for West Ham he has a chance of getting a better contract with West Ham and playing for Argentina.

“I am sure he is going to stay with us. He knows he is wanted. He knows the chairman and the board. He was on loan and we took an option even before we had to.

“We activated it with him. He was wanted and was voted the Players’ Player of the Year. It is a good thing also, it makes him feel really wanted. He likes it here.”

And the former Croatia international feels that too much power is with players and their representatives in the modern game, with several players trying to force moves before the transfer window closes.

“The power is too much on the side of the players and their agents.” he said.

“It’s hard for the managers. Although sometimes you are in the other situation and I was in that situation a few times.

“But I never, ever advise or ask the players to stop training. That’s low. That is low. It should not be like that.” he finished.

Liverpool supporters have shown differing opinions over a potential move for Lanzini, so many won’t be disappointed by Bilic’s words.