LFC NEWS

Ideal Liverpool fix already learned Jürgen Klopp methods as USMNT transfer 'chance' emerges

Liverpool.com - 1 hour 38 min ago

After just 11 months at the helm, Jesse Marsch was sacked as Leeds United boss earlier this week. The American coach had won just four matches from a possible 20 in the Premier League this term, which perhaps explains why the Yorkshire club decided to make a change.

Throughout his tenure, Marsch attempted to instill an intense brand of football which involved pressing high up the field, and he acquired a number of transfer targets to execute his approach, including several USMNT stars. Over the past two windows, the Whites have signed Brenden Aaronson, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams.

The latter in particular performed reasonably well under Marsch. In fact, still experiencing his debut year in England, Adams could act as a wildcard transfer solution for Liverpool to consider given the change in regime that awaits at Elland Road.

READ MORE: Liverpool could find next Bukayo Saka and copy Arsenal if Champions League prediction comes true

READ MORE: Philippe Coutinho transfer update, $128m Manchester United bid - Liverpool rivals round-up

Now 23 years old, Adams was a top target for Marsch upon his Leeds United appointment around a year ago. The pair have now joined forces at three different clubs including the New York Red Bulls and RB Leipzig.

The American international isn't necessarily inclined to deliver stardust on the pitch like Thiago Alcântara or Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne, but he's a functional performer who has a skill set that Jürgen Klopp seems to require on Merseyside.

Liverpool are ranked 10th in the Premier League right now, having won just eight of their 20 bouts. Their most recent contest consisted of a 3-0 loss at the hands of relegation-threatened Wolves, with many of Klopp's issues stemming from his tired and aging midfield department.

Adams is a diligent and hard-working runner in the center of the pitch, almost depicting shades of Jordan Henderson and James Milner during their respective primes. He is known for covering ample ground for his teammates, which captures why he first emerged as a prospect within the infamous Red Bull network.

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Teams under the Red Bull umbrella are wedded to the core values of the energy drink brand, which is why those sides tend to showcase pressing, vitality, adventurousness and attacking football, similar to Liverpool under Klopp.

After initially emerging on the New York scene as a teenager, Adams made the switch to Europe in 2019. After three years in the Bundesliga representing RB Leipzig, Marsch — who is a coaching product of the Red Bull network — took him to Leeds United.

So far this season, Adams places second in the division for tackles and interceptions, and those strengths are relevant considering Liverpool's ongoing defensive issues and their desperate need for a physical and athletic midfielder who will shoulder much of the workload for Klopp's more creative talents.

As a true Red Bull product, Adams has Klopp's ways ingrained into his nature and without Marsch by his side, a potential transfer move could open up in the near future, especially if Leeds United continue to flirt with relegation.

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Categories: LFC NEWS

Liverpool could find next Bukayo Saka and copy Arsenal if Champions League prediction comes true

Liverpool.com - 2 hours 38 min ago

It's been a tough start to 2023 for Liverpool. Possibly one of the worst starts to a new year in the club's history. And as the rest of the Premier League continues to pull ahead of Jürgen Klopp's side, things are slipping away when it comes to achieving the club's objectives.

The Champions League is the ultimate competition. That's a universally agreed statement. Ask any player what they would prefer to win, and the Champions League trophy is normally the biggest priority. European nights under the floodlights and playing in major stadiums against the best teams on the continent and the best players in the world is what's it's all about.

Six-time champion Liverpool knows that more than anyone. The European trophy is synonymous with the football club. It's where Liverpool belongs.

READ MORE: Philippe Coutinho transfer update, $128m Manchester United bid - Liverpool rivals round-up

READ MORE: Departing Liverpool data head who recommended Jürgen Klopp has already settled FSG ‘sack’ truth

However, given the club's poor form since the start of the year, qualifying for next year's Champions League is looking unlikely. At this point, while not impossible — with Liverpool having achieved a similar miracle thanks to Alisson back in 2020/21 — it very much looks like an uphill battle, one that is dependent on a certain amount of fortune.

What is more likely is Liverpool potentially playing in the Europa League or the Europa Conference League next season, although even that is far from guaranteed. But should the Reds qualify for either of those two competitions, it's still a better situation than not playing in Europe at all.

Especially because Europe can be extremely beneficial to Jürgen Klopp's side. After all, it was a run to the Europa League final back in 2016 that first motivated Klopp's Liverpool to go on to achieve bigger and better things. And it's still a trophy up for grabs against tough teams and different styles of opponent in European football.

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That last part could be especially beneficial for Klopp in order to bed his youngsters in. Right now the likes of Bobby Clark, Ben Doak and Kaide Gordon are going to be given limited opportunities since Liverpool are not competing in any of the domestic cups.

However, the Europa League could open the platform for them to impress and catch the eye.

It's a competition that was extremely beneficial for Arsenal in that sense. The likes of Buyako Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah all benefited hugely from playing in the Europa League, testing themselves against tough opposition before making their mark in the Premier League as well.

Teams in the Europa League can often be significantly inferior to Premier League levels, especially in the group stages. That would mean more opportunities for Klopp to test his younger players out during that part of the competition, rather than trying to accommodate them in an altogether more difficult and higher-stakes Champions League campaign.

Liverpool of course don't want to remain in the Europa League or the Europa Conference League forever. But for one season, while Klopp rebuilds his team and integrates some of his younger players to rejuvenate the squad, dropping out from the Champions League could in some ways even prove to be beneficial for the club. For proof, just look at Saka, who is making his case for the Player of the Season accolade after a grounding in Europe's second-tier competition.

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Philippe Coutinho transfer update, $128m Manchester United bid - Liverpool rivals round-up

Liverpool.com - 3 hours 38 min ago

Liverpool has moved on considerably since Philippe Coutinho departed Anfield in 2018 (even if the Brazilian's current side is only a point behind in the Premier League standings).

There is no doubt that Coutinho has fallen a long way since that move to Barcelona and the latest club supposedly interested in signing him is yet more proof of that.

READ MORE: Departing Liverpool data head who recommended Jürgen Klopp has already settled FSG ‘sack’ truth

READ MORE: I went to Dortmund to watch Jude Bellingham and returned even more desperate for Liverpool transfer

Manchester United, meanwhile, is keen on signing a $128m forward. Here, Liverpool.com looks at some of the top stories involving the Reds' rivals.

Mega Manchester United transfer

Manchester United is prepared to spend a whopping $128m (£106m/€120m) to sign Napoli forward Victor Osimhen in the summer, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport, with the Italian side holding out for the Nigerian's full release clause.

Osimhen is a deadly striker and is exactly what Erik ten Hag's side needs to find in the summer, when Anthony Martial is expected to depart. Harry Kane is another option that has been mentioned (via The Mirror).

Spending the full $128m would match the British record fee that Chelsea paid for Enzo Fernández last week when he was signed from Benfica, with transfer fees only heading one way.

Liverpool.com says: This would be another sensible, if incredibly expensive, addition for Manchester United to make. Under Ten Hag, they are heading in the right direction again.

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Coutinho transfer rejected

Former Liverpool star Coutinho's career has not gone the way that the Brazilian would have anticipated when he left the Reds in 2018 for Barcelona and he is set for another reminder of that, according to one report.

TeamTalk suggests that he has rejected an approach from the Turkish side Galatasaray, which then led them to make a move for AS Roma forward Nicolò Zaniolo instead.

Zaniolo is expected to seal a move from the Serie A outfit before the Turkish transfer deadline tomorrow (February 8). The only start Coutinho has made under Unai Emery came in Aston Villa's defeat to Stevenage in the FA Cup last month.

Liverpool.com says: Coutinho was an incredible player at his peak but that seems like such a long time ago now. If he can find some fitness and form again, he should be an asset to Villa, but that feels some way off becoming the case.

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Categories: LFC NEWS

Why Nat Phillips still misses out despite Liverpool centre-back struggles

ThisIsAnfield.com - 5 hours 38 min ago
With injuries and ill form blighting Liverpool’s centre-back ranks this season, there have been calls to turn to Nat Phillips. So why is he still missing out?

The Bolton Baresi is back on the bench.

After packing his bags for Swansea and Benfica in years gone by, Nat Phillips seemed set to join Galatasaray on deadline day.

But in light of Ibrahima Konate’s hamstring problem leaving Liverpool light at centre-back, Naldini has been stood down to provide injury cover yet again.

It’s unlikely that Phillips will enjoy any significant game time, despite this campaign’s unfortunate parallels with the 2020/21 season.

Since signing his new contract in the summer of 2021, Phillips has made just nine appearances, mostly in the Carabao Cup and FA Cup – two competitions Liverpool are no longer in this season.

 Liverpool's Nathaniel Phillips (L) and AC Milan's 40-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic? during the UEFA Champions League Group B Matchday 6 game between AC Milan and Liverpool FC at the Stadio San Siro. Liverpool won 2-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

 Liverpool's Nathaniel Phillips (L) and AC Milan's 40-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic? during the UEFA Champions League Group B Matchday 6 game between AC Milan and Liverpool FC at the Stadio San Siro. Liverpool won 2-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Cult heroics and Cruyff-turning Zlatan in his own box at the San Siro aside, Phillips has legitimately earned his place in Liverpool history with his brief run in the first team.

During the dramatic 2020/21 run-in, when the Reds surged from eighth to third, Phillips played nine out of 12 games. Liverpool won eight and lost one of those nine. The three he missed? Two draws and one defeat.

Jurgen Klopp famously said that Liverpool’s success was built on Gini Wijnaldum‘s “legs, his lungs, his brain and his huge, beautiful heart.”

But that run to the Champions League final last year, the near-miss of quadruple immortality, and the lovely Darwin-Nunez-transfer-fee-sized financial boost that came with it? That was built on Nathaniel Phillips.

Yet he was never given a shot at truly cementing a long-term place in Liverpool’s first team, even amidst the struggles of this season.

 Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker looks dejected as Wolverhampton Wanderers score the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Liverpool FC at Molineux Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

 Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker looks dejected as Wolverhampton Wanderers score the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Liverpool FC at Molineux Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool have now conceded more league goals in 20 games this season than they did all of the previous campaign.

Confidence is drained, results are poor and Klopp has recently criticised the body language of his senior players.

Perhaps now is the time for a proven character, one who once famously admitted “if I ever lose a header, it proper winds me up.”

So should Phillips get a chance? Is he indeed better than Joe Gomez, as some claim? Or is Klopp right to keep him on the bench?

Let’s look at some data and some footage to find out.

The data

That 2020/21 season was Phillips’ most sustained spell in the side, playing 17 games in the Premier League as well as making his Champions League debut.

Following the 3-0 humiliation at Wolves, Gomez has actually played 17 Premier League games this season, so it’s a useful data set to compare Phillips’ impact with the events of the current campaign.

* Click to view full image

An important thing to note here is that the messing around has stopped: Nat Phillips is a good player.

Look at these numbers.

The man can pass the ball, he wins his headers (the eye test could have told you that – OK, now the messing has stopped) and he can even dribble past opponents if he has to.

Throw in a chance created every two games from centre-back (he got an assist versus Man United and scored against Burnley, two games Liverpool ultimately won) and you’ve got a Premier League centre-back.

It’s no surprise the likes of Newcastle, Southampton, Bournemouth and Wolves have all been credited with an interest over the past few transfer windows.

However, when we widen the field slightly the issues begin to emerge. First, let’s add some context to the percentage statistics.

* Click to view full image

Phillips is clearly so much more involved than Gomez is; required to intervene far more frequently.

The difference in overall duels, aerial duels and clearances is astounding. Yet he still lags behind for ground duel success and ball recoveries, as well as committing more fouls.

In a Klopp side, the forwards and the midfielders defend so intensely from the front that a centre-back is typically less active than defenders from other sides – more likely to play an offside trap or shepherd a loose pass out of touch than make a last-ditch tackle or clear one off the line.

Phillips’ heroics were endearing – and welcome. But they were necessary because he was playing in a Liverpool team that was struggling.

We must also then add context to Gomez’s numbers from this season. The 25-year-old is representing a struggling side currently 10th in the league.

 Liverpool's Joe Gomez looks dejected after the FA Cup 4th Round match between Brighton & Hove Albion FC and Liverpool FC at the Falmer Stadium. Brighton won 2-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

 Liverpool's Joe Gomez looks dejected after the FA Cup 4th Round match between Brighton & Hove Albion FC and Liverpool FC at the Falmer Stadium. Brighton won 2-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

His form has been as inconsistent as the team’s; for every composed, clean-sheet performance in victory over Man City, there’s a goal-conceding error in defeat to Leeds.

The fact that he’s still outperforming Phillips’ peak performance – more accurate with the ball, more accurate in winning tackles, less prone to conceding fouls – in a season like this is telling.

If Phillips were to have nailed down a place in the starting XI before now, he’d have needed to reach not just the level of Liverpool this season, but that of Liverpool at their best.

Konate was signed in the summer of 2021, and a quick comparison of the stats reveals why Liverpool invested £35 million on him rather than sticking with Phillips.

* Click to view full image

The volume shows that Konate slotted into a much better-functioning unit than Phillips – it’s easier to play with Virgil van Dijk than Ozan Kabak, presumably.

But the per-90 data shows that Konate immediately offered more quality, too.

The Frenchman’s pass accuracy, ground duel success and fouls conceded numbers are superior, while he also put up comparable numbers for aerial duels, interceptions and blocks.

From the numbers alone, the picture is becoming clear of how useful Phillips was as a firefighter – and how the standards Liverpool must strive for long term were slightly beyond him.

There are also a few moments on the pitch that may have influenced the club’s thinking.

Tactical analysis

 Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp (C) chats with Ozan Kabak (L) and Nathaniel Phillips (R) during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Aston Villa FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

 Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp (C) chats with Ozan Kabak (L) and Nathaniel Phillips (R) during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Aston Villa FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

For the Champions League quarter-finals with Real Madrid in 2021, Phillips was paired with on-loan Kabak.

The two were trusted to play the Liverpool way – keeping a high defensive line, stepping up to play offside and supporting the forward press by squeezing the opposition inside their own half.

Occasionally a ball would get through, requiring the defence – in this case Phillips and Kabak – to sprint backwards and/or win a one-on-one duel.

In this example, a team failure put Phillips in a one-on-one situation, and he was found wanting…

Liverpool are playing a high line without any pressure on the ball.

As Toni Kroos prepares to pick out Vinicius Jr’ run, Phillips is still trying to push up to play offside, while Trent Alexander-Arnold is already running back.

Nothing about Liverpool’s approach here is coherent…

Phillips has a chance to either intercept the ball or block Vinicius’ path to goal.

What he cannot do is allow Vinicius to take the ball down and get a clear sight of goal…

…but that’s exactly what happens.

Vinicius takes the ball down comfortably, shrugs off Phillips’ desperate pullback and goes through one-on-one…

Phillips tries to recover and block, but he’s never catching Vinicius, who confidently sticks it past Alisson for 1-0.

Still, this is Vinicius Jr – a player much maligned by the Madrid press at the time, he’s since become a world-class operator.

Liverpool learned as much when his goal settled a 1-0 defeat in last year’s Champions League final.

Phillips wasn’t the first defender bested by the Brazilian, and he wouldn’t be the last.

The decisive second and third goals in the 3-1 away defeat in 2021 had nothing to do with Phillips, and he was selected again with Kabak for the return leg at Anfield.

But there was a moment in that game which neatly summed up his limitations.

Liverpool are trying to break down Real’s low block. Alexander-Arnold is pressed on the far side.

Rather than play a slightly riskier short pass inside (orange line), he goes backwards to Phillips on the halfway line (white line)…

It’s not Trent’s best pass, but it’s a fairly standard passage of play.

Receive the back pass, play it short to the other centre-back, and the ball can get circulated to the opposite flank (orange).

Instead, Phillips miscontrols it. Not once…

…not twice…

…but three times. Karim Benzema is able to steal the ball and, from almost nothing, Liverpool are now defending a dangerous situation.

Vinicius Jr is understandable, but here a 32-year-old Benzema easily outpaces Phillips, leaving Kabak to try and delay his run forward.

Real have multiple options arriving as backup, with Liverpool struggling to draw back in from their expansive possession structure…

Phillips is able to get back as Benzema holds the ball up, but both he and Kabak are drawn to the ball.

One of them should be covering the space inside (orange line), which is now free for Vinicius to burst into. Instead, they’re practically standing on each other’s toes…

Benzema cuts onto his left, turning Phillips inside out. Vinicius arrives in the box, but Benzema’s attempt to find him deflects off Kabak and strikes the outside of the post.

Liverpool scramble the ball clear…

Miscontrolling the ball, lack of pace, poor decision-making and finally a lack of agility.

This is not the body shape of a defender in control. There’s also no awareness of the threat of Vinicius over the shoulder.

Liverpool got away with this one, but went on to draw 0-0 and exit the competition on aggregate.

This isn’t intended as an attack on the player, who we’ve established is a solid centre-back.

Not every player can be as complete as Van Dijk, or as dominant as Konate, or as quick as Gomez. But controlling a fizzed ball and passing it along the halfway line must be a minimum requirement.

If you’re already a yard or two slower, not the most agile and not the most experienced either, there’s absolutely no margin for error.

 Liverpool's Nathaniel Phillips during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Crystal Palace FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

 Liverpool's Nathaniel Phillips during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Crystal Palace FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Here lies the tragedy of Nat Phillips. Too good to languish on the bench, not quite good enough for the first team, and bizarrely unable to get a permanent move to pastures new.

It’s likely he’ll knuckle down and provide thoroughly professional squad cover for the rest of the season, before – surely – he finally gets his move away.

But in the meantime, if Liverpool are defending a narrow lead at the end of a game, we might yet see him rise from the bench to win a vital header away…one last time.

* Statistics via Squawka

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Categories: LFC NEWS

New fixture date, LeBron kit & Doak injury – Latest Liverpool FC News

ThisIsAnfield.com - 5 hours 57 min ago

Tuesday’s Liverpool news round up includes the rearrangement of a Premier League fixture, the first word from the club on a new LeBron James themed kit, and an update on the fitness of Ben Doak.

Fixture news AT LAST

The Premier League have finally announced a new date for Liverpool’s home fixture against Wolves, which was initially postponed last September.

Having already played Wolves three times since the turn of the year, most recently in a 3-0 league defeat at Molineux last Saturday, it’s now been confirmed that Liverpool will face Julen Lopetegui’s side yet again in the coming weeks.

The game is set to take place on Wednesday, March 1, with kickoff at Anfield set for 8pm (GMT).

No broadcast information has been confirmed for the clash, which is unlikely to be shown live on TV in the UK.

The rearrangement of the Wolves fixture means Liverpool’s other game in hand, an away trip to Chelsea, now cannot be played until April at the very earliest.

There is now the possibility that Liverpool will face Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal ALL within the first week back after the March international break.

Here, we explain more.

3 things today – New kit, Doak & Carvalho

Liverpool FC x LeBron ? pic.twitter.com/3vMI6wSCoR

— Liverpool FC Retail (@LFCRetail) February 7, 2023

  • Liverpool have officially unveiled a special edition jersey in collaboration with NBA star LeBron James, who has been an LFC shareholder since 2011
Latest Liverpool FC news – Lucas wants a title!

Am I a Premier League champion ?

Lucas Leiva (@LucasLeiva87) February 6, 2023

  • Takumi Minamino has not made the impact hoped for at new club Monaco, leading to wild claims he could have been signed as a “marketing stunt”
  • After Liverpool’s 3-0 defeat to Wolves, there are serious concerns over where they will finish by the end of the season. Here, we explain what they need to avoid their worst-ever Premier League points tally
Man City charges latest

 Manchester City's manager Josep 'Pep' Guardiola during the FA Community Shield friendly match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at the King Power Stadium. Liverpool won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

 Manchester City's manager Josep 'Pep' Guardiola during the FA Community Shield friendly match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at the King Power Stadium. Liverpool won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)
  • Man City have turned to lawyer Lord Pannick to challenge the Premier League case against them, and could be paid up to £80,000 day for his work, according to The Lawyer. No guilt whatsoever, though!
  • Many Premier League clubs want to see City kicked out of the division if they are proven guilty, according to Sky Sports
  • And City’s pursuit of Liverpool target Jude Bellingham could be complicated by the storm engulfing the club, according to the Telegraph
Throwback of the day & match of the night

Remember these two?!

NEW: The obscure Liverpool duo once named among world’s most exciting teenagers https://t.co/2Jjc3TPeM7

— This Is Anfield (@thisisanfield) February 7, 2023

Four FA Cup replays tonight, but no Premier League teams involved.

Alternatively, Flamengo take on Al-Hilal in the Club World Cup semi-finals at 7pm (GMT), and Juventus face Salernitana in Serie A at 7.45pm.

Take care, Reds!

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Liverpool can’t play postponed Chelsea fixture until APRIL at the earliest

ThisIsAnfield.com - 6 hours 49 min ago

After a new date was announced for Liverpool’s postponed Premier League meeting with Wolves, we now have a clearer idea of when their other game in hand against Chelsea could be played.

On Tuesday, it was confirmed that the Reds’ latest meeting with Wolves has now finally been pencilled in for Wednesday, March 1 at 8pm (GMT), having initially been postponed in September.

Liverpool’s away trip to Chelsea was also called off several days later due to concerns over policing resources in London around the Queen’s funeral.

And the rearrangement of the Wolves fixture means Liverpool’s trip to Stamford Bridge now cannot be played until April at the very earliest.

 Liverpool's Darwin Núñez (L) challenges for a header with Chelsea's Benoît Badiashile during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

 Liverpool's Darwin Núñez (L) challenges for a header with Chelsea's Benoît Badiashile during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

With both the Reds and Chelsea set to play their Champions League last 16 fixtures in the coming weeks, there are now no available slots for their league meeting until the week commencing Monday, April 3.

Neither team are still in the FA Cup, but both now have league fixtures pencilled in for when the FA Cup fifth round and quarter-final ties are due to take place.

This means that, with the fixtures as they currently are, there is no room for the game to be played any time before the international break at the end of March.

Possible slots for Chelsea away fixture

 Liverpool's Cody Gakpo is challenged by Chelsea's Lewis Hall (R) during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

 Liverpool's Cody Gakpo is challenged by Chelsea's Lewis Hall (R) during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)
  • W/C Monday, April 3
  • W/C Monday, April 10*
  • W/C Monday, April 17*
  • W/C Monday, May 1
  • W/C Monday, May 8*
  • W/C Monday, May 15*
  • W/C Monday, May 22

* Would require permission from UEFA due to concurrent Champions League matches

Should the match be pencilled in for the first week of April, it would come between Liverpool’s away fixture at Man City and their home clash against Arsenal.

Some way to resume action after the internationals!

However, if the match doesn’t take place that week, then it is unlikely to be played until May, with the Champions League quarter-finals and a round of Premier League fixtures (where Liverpool are due to face West Ham) filling the other midweek slots in April.

Although there is a chance that both teams won’t feature in the Champions League quarter-finals, if the game was to overlap with those matches then it would require the green light from UEFA.

That may present an issue as UEFA do not usually allow Premier League games to overlap with Champions League fixtures.

 Liverpool's Mohamed Salah looks dejected after missing a chance during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

 Liverpool's Mohamed Salah looks dejected after missing a chance during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The same can be said for the semi-finals – due to take place in mid-May – which leaves the weeks commencing Monday, May 1 and Monday, May 22 as the only other available slots where it could be played.

With the match now only able to take place within the last two months of the season, both teams will be hoping they still have something to play for at that point, with Chelsea currently ninth in the table and Liverpool 10th.

A decider for a Europa Conference League spot? At this rate, you wouldn’t bet against it.

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Arsenal vs Everton and Liverpool vs Wolves rearranged for March

the Athletic - 8 hours 18 min ago

Arsenal’s Premier League game against Everton and Liverpool’s match against Wolverhampton Wanderers have been given new dates.

The fixtures had initially been postponed from September due to the death of Queen Elizabeth II, when the Premier League cancelled a round of matches out of respect for the monarch.

The two games will now be played on Wednesday, March 1.

Neither match will be shown live in the UK, as the initial fixtures were not selected for broadcast.

Arsenal’s match against Everton will kick off at 7.45pm GMT (2.45pm ET / 11.45am PT), while Liverpool’s game against Wolves will start 15 minutes later.

The Everton game will come in between a trip to Leicester City and the visit of Bournemouth for Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal side.

For Sean Dyche’s Everton, the trip to Arsenal falls between a home game against Aston Villa and an away fixture against Nottingham Forest.

Liverpool will play Wolves in between a trip to Crystal Palace and a home game against Manchester United.

Wolves, meanwhile, face a trip to Fulham and the visit of Tottenham Hotspur either side of the rearranged game.

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

Man City's uncertain future is perhaps the price for the 15 years it all came so easily

(Photo: Getty Images)

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Manchester City’s Premier League titles: Who would benefit if honours were stripped?

the Athletic - 9 hours 41 min ago

Manchester City have been charged by the Premier League with more than 100 alleged breaches of its financial rules after a four-year investigation and the spotlight has swiftly turned to the potential ramifications.

The reigning champions of England have been referred to an independent commission over alleged rule-breaking between the 2009-10 and 2017-18 seasons.

City, who say they “welcome” the review, have won six Premier League titles since they were purchased by the Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008, but the commission could impose punishments ranging from a fine and points deduction to expulsion from the Premier League.

How likely is it that the club be stripped of their Premier League trophies and who could stand to benefit should the most severe sanctions be served? Here, The Athletic re-examines City’s most recent top-flight successes.

@media (min-width:500px) {.iframe-podcast-height {height: 200px;}}@media (max-width:500px) {.iframe-podcast-height {height: 165px;}}Manchester City’s Premier League titles

2011-12 (runners-up: Manchester United)

Manchester City had finished the 2009-10 season — the start of their alleged rule-breaking, according to the Premier League — in fifth place under new boss Roberto Mancini, before climbing to third by the end of the 2010-11 campaign.

But they finally captured the Premier League crown — their first league title since 1968 — in 2011-12, and glory came in the most dramatic of circumstances.

Mancini’s side, now buoyed by Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri, as well as Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure, had tussled with their Manchester rivals from the off as United edged a five-goal Community Shield thriller, but revenge was emphatic.

A 6-1 derby thrashing at Old Trafford rubber-stamped the arrival of the side Sir Alex Ferguson dubbed the “noisy neighbours” and though the gap between the foes stood at eight points at one stage in April, only goal difference separated them heading into the final day.

United looked destined for glory as they led 1-0 at Sunderland while City trailed 10-man QPR 2-1 in the embers of a topsy-turvy season, but Edin Dzeko struck and then Aguero rifled a 94th-minute winner that felt immortal and embodied City’s startling ascent.

2011-12 PL top four (without Man City) League positionTeamPlayedPointsGoal difference

2013-14 (runners-up: Liverpool)

Manchester United reclaimed Premier League supremacy in the 2012-13 season as Ferguson signed off with silverware, but City were back on top the following term after replacing Mancini with Manuel Pellegrini.

The Chilean boss nicknamed ‘The Engineer’ added new cogs in the form of Fernandinho, Jesus Navas, Stevan Jovetic and Alvaro Negredo, and though they topped the table for only 15 days, it was Liverpool who malfunctioned when it mattered.

Brendan Rodgers’ side won a crunch game between the sides at Anfield in April to move seven clear at the top, but they subsequently stumbled — Steven Gerrard did, quite literally — and City roared to the finish line to triumph by two points.

2013-14 PL top four (without Man City) League positionTeamPlayedPointsGoal difference

2017-18 (runners-up: Manchester United)

Pep Guardiola guided City to a third-placed finish in his first season of 2016-17, but he delivered the club’s third title in seven years after a dominant campaign the following season.

Ederson, Bernardo Silva, Kyle Walker and Aymeric Laporte were fresh arrivals as City secured top spot by mid-April after closest rivals Manchester United suffered a shock home defeat by West Brom that left them 16 points behind with five games to go.

Guardiola’s side lost just two matches all season and became the first Premier League team to reach 100 points thanks to a last-gasp winner from Gabriel Jesus against Southampton on the final afternoon.

2017-18 PL top four (without Man City) League positionTeamPlayedPointsGoal difference

2018-19 (runners-up: Liverpool)

Guardiola’s now formidable team couldn’t quite achieve centurion status again, but they did become the first side to win back-to-back Premier League titles since Manchester United in 2009.

This triumph came at the end of a relentless battle with Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp’s side lost just once — to City in a game that saw John Stones stage a remarkable clearance to deny Sadio Mane, with goal-line technology subsequently showing the ball was just 11.7mm from crossing the line in its entirety.

Liverpool amassed a remarkable 97 points but Guardiola’s City went one better in a season of the smallest margins.

2018-19 PL top four (without Man City) League positionTeamPlayedPointsGoal difference

2020-21 (runners-up: Manchester United)

Liverpool were finally able to overcome Manchester City to win their first Premier League title in the COVID-19-affected 2019-20 season, but Guardiola’s serial winners were soon back on top.

Their start to the 2020-21 campaign was by no means electric, though. After eight games, Manchester City were in the bottom half of the table having won just three times.

A staggering unbeaten run — that has become a trademark of Guardiola’s time at the club — followed as only two Premier League teams took points off them in a span of 19 games.

Manchester United and West Brom held Manchester City to a pair of draws but a subsequent 15-game winning run meant there was only one ever going to be one winner of the Premier League.

2020-21 PL top four (without Man City) League positionTeamPlayedPointsGoal difference

2021-22 (runners-up: Liverpool)

The 2021-22 season brought another titanic title race between Manchester City and Liverpool, the outcome — like in 2019 — was the same.

Fans returned to stadiums in the Premier League to watch Guardiola and his players dominate English football for another year.

As it had done previously, constant pressure from Liverpool spurred Manchester City into playing their best football and they reached 93 points, a tally just a point greater than that of Klopp’s side.

Needing a win to confirm the title, fans at the Etihad feared the worst when Aston Villa doubled their lead in the second half. Goals from Ilkay Gundogan either side of Rodri’s perfect finish — all in the last quarter of an hour — led to another dramatic final day title triumph.

2021-22 PL top four (without Man City) League positionTeamPlayedPointsGoal difference What about City’s other titles in this timeframe?

City have not just racked up the Premier League titles in the investigation’s timeframe.

Stoke and Watford were beaten finalists in City’s respective FA Cup wins of 2011 and 2019.

City also won six League Cups between 2014 and 2021, beating Sunderland (2014), Liverpool (2016), Arsenal (2018), Chelsea (2019), Aston Villa (2020) and Tottenham (2021).

How could City be punished?

All the potential sanctions are set out in rule W.51 of the Premier League’s handbook and there are several, ranging from a simple telling-off to expulsion.

Of all the possible sporting sanctions, several experts believe a points deduction seems most likely.

The biggest question would be whether a deduction would apply retrospectively to the seasons in which the breaches occurred or the season in which the case is decided.

“I would expect that if there is a points deduction it would be applied to the season in which the decision is made rather than retrospectively,” says James Hill, a legal director specialising in sports regulatory matters at Onside Law.

“That way the club faces a tangible sporting sanction going forward.

“Should the commission want to punish the club retrospectively, it may elect to use its power to impose such other penalty as it sees fit under Rule W 51.7; to strip the club of previous titles, for example.”

What about expulsion?

Hill notes: “The Premier League will want to see justice done but the primary interest of the Premier League is ensuring it has the most attractive product involving the best teams and players.”

City have vowed to defend the charges, though given FIFA Statues would not allow any appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport so Premier League rules would be final and binding.

A verdict is not expected in the case for months if not years, but the threat of sanctions will hang over Pep Guardiola’s side until a resolution is found.

go-deeper

(Photo: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

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Liverpool’s starting XI vs Everton: Our writers make their picks

the Athletic - 11 hours 38 min ago

“We caused our own misery,” said a deflated Jurgen Klopp after Liverpool’s dismal 3-0 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers.

A seventh Premier League defeat of the season left them 10th in the table, 11 points adrift of fourth-placed Newcastle United. Klopp is battling with the impact of injuries, fatigue, dramatic loss of form and the sapping of belief caused by a succession of chastening setbacks.

After being given Monday and Tuesday off, the squad will reconvene at the AXA Training Centre tomorrow. Preparations will then start for Monday’s Merseyside derby at Anfield, with relegation-threatened Everton, buoyed by victory over leaders Arsenal in Sean Dyche’s first game in charge, targeting a first win across Stanley Park in front of supporters since 1999.

How can Klopp trigger a response? What changes in personnel should be made as Liverpool seek a much-needed derby triumph to lift the mood?

The Athletic’s Liverpool correspondents reveal the XIs they would name and why — and you can have your say in the comments section below.

@media (min-width:500px) {.iframe-podcast-height {height: 200px;}}@media (max-width:500px) {.iframe-podcast-height {height: 165px;}}James Pearce: Phillips deserves to return

Virgil van Dijk is on the comeback trail. Klopp has said he expects the commanding Dutch defender, who hasn’t featured since damaging his hamstring against Brentford on January 2, to take part in elements of team training later this week. His return to the back line can’t come soon enough. Liverpool have sorely missed his leadership.

It’s unclear whether he will be available for the Merseyside derby or, more likely, held back for the trip to Newcastle United five days later. His training load will be gradually increased. No risks will be taken, especially with the first leg of the Champions League last-16 tie against Real Madrid coming up at Anfield on February 21.

Even if Van Dijk isn’t available to face Everton, Klopp needs to change things defensively. Yes, his options are limited with Ibrahima Konate also sidelined with a hamstring problem, but centre-backs Joel Matip and Joe Gomez struggled badly in that miserable defeat at Molineux. There was a lack of physicality and communication, especially during that error-strewn opening spell.

It’s time to turn to Nat Phillips. With his aerial ability and combative nature, he’s perfect for the challenge of coming up against Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Phillips, who would relish a first Premier League start since August, won’t get bullied.

Phillips had hoped to secure a move away in the January window but those hopes were dashed by Konate’s injury. Now he deserves the chance to shine.

In midfield, it’s time to recall captain Jordan Henderson in midfield after four games out of the starting line-up. Starting Diogo Jota is a big ask given he hasn’t played since October, but he’s a great option to have off the bench. I’d give the front three who fired blanks at Molineux the opportunity to make amends.

Andy Jones: Jota is the superhero Klopp needs

Liverpool need a superhero, somebody to provide and a spark that has been missing for too long. Step forward, Jota.

How they have missed their “pressing monster” whose season has been dismantled due to injuries, with his most recent coming against Manchester City in October, where he picked up a serious calf injury. It is a big ask for the Portugal international to come straight back into the side but, with a week of training, his energy and intensity from the front could provide a springboard for others, who have looked lethargic.

Jota has not scored for Liverpool since April, and as a player who feeds off the energy and aggression these games provide, this is the perfect match to end that barren run.

Equally, I would take Gakpo out of the firing line to give him a breather following a less-than-impressive start to his Anfield career.

I spent the last three years covering Dyche’s Burnley, so there were no surprises with his tactical approach against Arsenal and he will be asking the same from his players again.

Long aerial passes will be a key factor and Liverpool cannot afford to get bullied. If Van Dijk is fit he plays but that looks unlikely. Including Phillips, because he was born to head the ball, should prevent Everton from dominating the aerial part of the game. Then it is a toss-up between Matip and Gomez; after the former’s recent errors, it has to be the latter.

Stefan Bajcetic is a risk because of the physicality Everton’s central midfield presents, but there is no case for anybody to step into his role. Liverpool do need more leadership (and height) on the pitch, so a return for captain Henderson for Naby Keita seems suitable.

Caoimhe O’Neill: Henderson can offer leadership

Liverpool are lacking in confidence, leadership and positive body language. One player who can help fix that is Henderson, which is why I would start him against Everton. Every team needs a player like Henderson, someone who can be the on-field personal trainer barking orders and encouragement at team-mates.

Alongside him in midfield, I would keep playing Bajcetic, who has been one glimmer of hope amid the recent gloom, and place his fellow Val Minor alumni Thiago to his left.

go-deeper

There are lots of questions surrounding this Liverpool team at the moment and one of the bigger ones will be who plays at centre-back.

Phillips has to come in and will hopefully bring a shift in energy and momentum to a defence that crumbled again last weekend. Matip did not cover himself in glory against Wolves but you would hope he can put that behind him for the visit of Everton. Full-backs Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold retain their places, as do the front three.

Mohamed Salah is not in his best run of form but we all know he can change that in a few fleeting seconds. Gakpo and Darwin Nunez need to be on their A-games. They have failed to have a positive impact in recent games and that needs to change. And in the eyes of fans, there is no better time to do it than when Everton visit.

(Top photo: Jordan Henderson, Nathaniel Phillips and Diogo Jota; all Getty Images)

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Lucas Leiva asks question on every Liverpool fan’s mind after Man City charges

ThisIsAnfield.com - 13 hours 41 min ago

After news that Man City have been charged by the Premier League over a number of breaches of financial rules, Lucas Leiva was among those asking the question on the lips of every Liverpool fan.

On Monday morning it was revealed that the Premier League have referred a host of alleged breaches of financial rules by Man City to an independent commission, following on from four years of investigations.

It’s been described as an “unprecedented” situation, with big questions being asked as to which punishments City will face if found guilty.

The allegations extend over a nine-season period between 2009/10 and 2017/18 and include breaches pertaining to player and manager contracts, and overstated sponsorship income.

This period of time involves one of Liverpool’s battles with City for a league title, 2013/14, with Liverpool fans, and now former players wanting to know the same thing.

Are Liverpool 2013/14 Premier League winners?

Lucas, who played a key role in the squad that were runners up to City in that season, attempted to find some clarity about the situation on Twitter on Monday night.

Am I a Premier League champion ?

— Lucas Leiva (@LucasLeiva87) February 6, 2023

No I don’t . I just asked as I am confused !! https://t.co/PejMfWWamc

— Lucas Leiva (@LucasLeiva87) February 6, 2023

Jose Enrique, the former Liverpool left-back who was also at the club during that time period, asked the same question, and also joked about the idea of a parade:

Am I a premier league champion?

— José enrique (@Jesanchez3) February 6, 2023

When is the parade reds ? I want to celebrate been a premier league champion

— José enrique (@Jesanchez3) February 6, 2023

Those tweets were, of course, slightly tongue in cheek, but there are still big questions as to what punishments City could face.

The possibility of fines, transfer bans, points deductions and even relegation have all been touted.

On Monday, the Independent‘s Miguel Delaney stated that “this genuinely could end with relegation, if alleged breaches are proven.”

Understandably, many Liverpool fans are pondering over what could have been, and the scenes that would unfold in the unlikely event that the Reds are crowned 2013/14 Premier League champions:

Without the financial dopers, Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool:

– Win 3 titles in 6 years
– Hold the PL record points total of 99
– Become invincibles in 18/19
– Win the domestic treble in 21/22

Sickening.

— David Martinez (@DMARTINEZ_85) February 6, 2023

https://t.co/7Aq0eVHu51 pic.twitter.com/hBGTmGEXWz

— Michael (@michaelttfw) February 6, 2023

Likely to be at least 2-3 yrs of court cases, & even then, if City found guilty of PL charges, possible further appeals.

But if regulations ARE shown to be broken to win titles, call it what it is: financial doping. Meaning a lengthy ban and all those titles stripped. Full stop.

— David Maddock (@MaddockMirror) February 6, 2023

FSG bought the club under the premise that @premierleague and @UEFA had specific financial rules by which a club should be run

They subsequently optimised the structure and revenues of @LFC to maximise performance under said rules

This resulted in Alltime great run of results

— SimonBrundish (@SimonBrundish) February 7, 2023

Aly Cissokho and Iago Aspas realising a PL winners’ medal is heading their way… pic.twitter.com/7uFacahfUD

— Henry Jackson (@HenryJackson87) February 6, 2023

If you think I’m fully on board with an open top parade for the 13/14 season with Stevie and Suarez singing singing along to @JamieWebster94 then you are 100% correct. #LFC

— Stu (@Kopstu) February 6, 2023

Reports suggest it could be some time until any sanctions against City are put into place, but it’s certainly a situation Liverpool supporters will be monitoring closely.

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Former Liverpool defender “broken” by serious injury on Man of the Match debut

ThisIsAnfield.com - 14 hours 59 min ago

It was a rollercoaster debut for one former Liverpool defender in the Championship, who was Man of the Match but suffered a serious injury.

One of 11 ex-Reds who made moves in the January transfer window, Martin Kelly swapped West Brom for Wigan on loan for the remainder of the campaign.

Unfortunately, there are now fears he has played his first and last game for the Latics, after suffering a worrying knee injury off the ball in Monday’s 0-0 draw at Blackburn.

The 32-year-old had produced a stellar display on his debut, with a series of timely interventions and one vital tackle to stop Bradley Dack from scoring, and he even saw a goal disallowed at the other end.

But after 75 minutes he was forced off and replaced by another former Liverpool player, Steven Caulker, having caught his studs in the turf.

Kelly’s left knee twisted badly and he was already in a brace after the game, when he picked up his Man of the Match award from the EFL.

Im a broken man, devastated is an understatement. The boys will build on a good performance thanks for the support and appreciation out there ?? pic.twitter.com/rWQiFVtotD

— Martin Kelly (@MartinKelly1990) February 6, 2023

“I’m a broken man, devastated is an understatement,” he wrote on Twitter.

“The boys will build on a good performance. Thanks for the support and appreciation out there.”

The stalemate was manager Shaun Maloney’s first in charge, having replaced another ex-Liverpool defender, Kolo Toure, at the end of January.

Providing an update on Kelly’s injury, as reported by the Wigan Observer, Maloney described the situation as “devastating,” seeming to cast doubt over his continued involvement.

[embedded content]

[embedded content]

“I thought he was brilliant, I thought he was very brave in possession, and out of possession as well,” said the Latics boss.

“The challenge he made was a goal-saving, match-saving.

“His injury doesn’t look good, it doesn’t look good at all. I hope that changes in the next few days, but I’m devastated for him.

“We brought him in as a leader off the pitch, as much as what he can bring on the pitch.

“He’s been brilliant with us while he’s been here, and we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed.”

 Liverpool's Martin Kelly in action against Oldham Athletic during the FA Cup 3rd Round match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

 Liverpool's Martin Kelly in action against Oldham Athletic during the FA Cup 3rd Round match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Kelly came through the academy at Liverpool before making his first-team debut against PSV Eindhoven in 2008, going on to make 62 appearances for the club.

He then joined Crystal Palace in 2014, spending eight years at Selhurst Park before heading to West Brom on a free transfer last year.

Liverpool midfielder Tyler Morton came off the bench for Blackburn in the 0-0 draw with Wigan, having been named as a substitute for a second successive game.

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23 points adrift – Liverpool’s Premier League results this season compared to 2021/22

ThisIsAnfield.com - 16 hours 38 min ago

Liverpool have played 20 games in the Premier League so far and already find themselves 15 points behind their 2021/22 pace, and 23 adrift of their respective fixtures from last season.

Twenty games, eight wins, seven defeats and five draws, all amounting to 29 points from a possible 60.

We don’t have to tell you the Reds have stumbled with great flair this season, the proof is in the results and the performances.

Jurgen Klopp‘s side currently sit tenth in the table and 21 points behind leaders Arsenal. Last season, the Reds were second with a gap of six points to Man City at the top after 20 games.

It means Liverpool have dropped eight positions in the table, have 15 points less, have scored 22 fewer goals and conceded 12 more after 20 fixtures this season in direct comparison to last.

But how do Liverpool compare regarding respective fixtures as opposed to just after 20 games? Clue, not any better.

Liverpool form table 2021/22 vs. 2022/23

Liverpool form table 2021/22 vs. 2022/23

* Green = win, Red = defeat, Yellow = draw

The findings do not make for pretty viewing, with Liverpool 23 points worse off this season than last. That’s right, twenty-three.

Clubs relegated in 2021/22 have been swapped with promoted sides (Fulham for Burnley; Bournemouth for Norwich; and Nottingham Forest for Watford).

It is a combination that amounts to a point differential of minus five, with the respective games last season earning the Reds nine points as opposed to four this time around.

 Liverpool's Thiago Alcântara during the FA Premier League match between Brentford FC and Liverpool FC at the Brentford Community Stadium. Brentford won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

 Liverpool's Thiago Alcântara during the FA Premier League match between Brentford FC and Liverpool FC at the Brentford Community Stadium. Brentford won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)
  • Reds have 23 fewer points in these fixtures compared to 2021/22
  • Improved results only twice (against Man City and Tottenham)
  • Only 7 results have remained the same (six wins, one draw)
  • These 20 games in 2022/23: 29 points vs. 2021/22: 52 points

In seven fixtures there has been no change and only two have improved: Man City (H) and Tottenham (A), with draws against those two teams in 2021/22 turned into victories this season.

In total, Klopp’s side have walked away from a fixture with fewer points than in the respective game last season 11 times.

On six occasions a victory in 2021/22 has turned into a defeat this season, against Man United, Arsenal, Forest/Watford, Leeds, Brighton and Wolves.

From 52 points from these fixtures in 2021/22 to 29 this season, it’s a stark decline and one that needs arresting before Klopp’s side plummets to more new lows.

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Liverpool should have three Jude Bellingham 'plan B' transfer alternatives ideal for Jürgen Klopp

Liverpool.com - 20 hours 38 min ago

In any form of negotiation, putting all your eggs in one basket is never the solution. Even if that's what it feels like that Liverpool is doing at the moment, that certainly won't be the case when it comes to Jude Bellingham. He may be Jürgen Klopp's primary target, but the club's recruitment team should have alternatives lined up just in case.

Bellingham is a unique profile in world football, particularly due to his age, but also because of the kind of multi-faceted roles he can play in the midfield. He's an all-rounder; the perfect box-to-box player with the kind of high-intensity playing style that suits Klopp's gegenpressing style.

Both when it comes to reprising the ball and winning defensive duels as well as making an impact in the final third, Bellingham ranks highly among his peers in Europe's top five leagues. He may be the full package, but that doesn't mean that Liverpool doesn't have other possible alternative options the club could target.

READ MORE: Erling Haaland is 'copying' Mohamed Salah at Liverpool as 'wrong club' transfer claim rings true

READ MORE: Arsenal just exposed potential $40m Liverpool transfer mistake as Everton offer rare FSG guidance

With Bellingham's price tag set to be in and around the $120m (£100m/€112m), it's a fee that may be beyond FSG's financial means., especially if the club is planning on making further additions to the squad, as should be the plan considering the current status of Liverpool at the moment.

Bellingham alone won't be enough to solve Liverpool's problems. At least two midfielders are probably needed to complete the squad.

One alternative solution to Bellingham, in that case, could be to bring in two players: one with defensive qualities and another with more offensive traits. But again, that would probably only maintain the imbalance in the Liverpool midfield that is very prominent at the moment.

A better solution would be to find players who are of a similar profile as plan B options and bring them in instead should negotiations for Bellingham fall through.

One such option could be Enzo Le Fée. FBref lists him among the top 10 most similar midfielders to Bellingham and at first glance that may not seem to be the case considering Le Fée is much shorter standing at just 1.7 meters as opposed to Bellingham's 1.86 meters, but statistically, they have a lot more in common.

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Both robust midfielders, Le Fée is someone who contributes a lot defensively. He ranks in the 94th percentile for tackles made per 90 averaging 3.27 in Ligue 1. But then again he also averages a high volume of goal contributions at 0.35 per 90 in the Ligue, which is not too far away from Bellingham's own 0.39.

Older by three years and playing for Lorient, Liverpool would undoubtedly be able to lure him to Anfield for far cheaper than Bellingham, and his arrival would definitely give room under FSG's budget to also invest elsewhere in the squad.

Another similar option that might be a little bit more expensive is Dominik Szoboszlai. Officially, the Hungarian plays more as a right-sided midfielder for RB Leipzig, but in reality, he is very much a central player; it's the position he has played since his youth days and still does for his national team, as his heatmap demonstrates.

Szoboszlai is again a player who wins a high volume of defensive duels and competes in a high volume as well just like Bellingham. This season, in all competitions, he has won 60 per cent of his 6.68 defensive duels per 90 as per Wyscout. Bellingham averages 5.96 defensive duels and wins 64.6 per cent which is not too dissimilar. They average around the same amount of interceptions per 90 (Szoboszlai 4.0, Bellingham 4.96), and if anything, Szoboszlai is a greater creative presence in attack.

Jude Bellingham is one of Liverpool's targets for the summer. (Image: Joachim Bywaletz/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

He averages 5.56 shot-creating-actions per 90 this season, which is far more than Bellingham's 3.40 as per Fbref and Szoboszlai also averages a lot more in the final third with 0.78 goal contributions per 90 in the Bundesliga this season.

Liverpool's relationship with RB Leipzig may make negotiations easier for the 22-year-old, who is three years Bellingham's senior, and while the Germans will demand a reasonable figure for the Hungarian international captain, it won't be anywhere near the same range as the fee for Bellingham.

A final option for the Reds could be another Ligue 1 player currently playing for AS Monaco. At 24 years old, Youssouf Fofana is the oldest player on the list, but he could still be a solid investment.

Not as offensively gifted as Liverpool's other candidates, Fofana does however bring defensive solidity which is much needed in Klopp's midfield at the moment. But at the same time, his underlying numbers suggest he can make similar creative numbers to Bellingham.

For example, as per Wyscout, Fofana averages similar numbers to Bellingham when it comes to smart (Fofana 1.39 and Bellingham 1.58) and key passes (Fofana 0.24 and Bellingham 0.26) per 90. When it comes to shots, Bellingham has only taken on 12 more around the same sort of minutes played, and both of them are also good at progressing the ball into dangerous territories. Fofana averages 2.06 progressive runs per 90 while Bellingham averages 2.11, highlighting their similarity when it comes to carrying the ball forward with their feet.

Based on these numbers, the French international would certainly be an intriguing alternative option. Perhaps his baseline numbers based on goals and assists are not necessarily as flattering as Bellingham, but the underlying numbers suggest he could still be a smart alternative recruitment who would be able to bring many of the same elements as the England international to Anfield for a fraction of the price.

Missing out on Bellingham would undoubtedly be disappointing from Liverpool's perspective, but it wouldn't necessarily signal doom and gloom. Liverpool can still make smart recruitments, and the aforementioned trio are an example of that.

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FSG transfer plan slammed as Naby Keïta 'decision' is 'confirmed' - Liverpool news round-up

Liverpool.com - 21 hours 38 min ago

Liverpool's transfer planning has been slammed by Graeme Souness, who claims three Reds men were 'bullied' during the game with Wolves over the weekend, while a decision over Naby Keïta's future has supposedly been made.

READ MORE: Erling Haaland is 'copying' Mohamed Salah at Liverpool as 'wrong club' transfer claim rings true

READ MORE: Arsenal just exposed potential $40m Liverpool transfer mistake as Everton offer rare FSG guidance

Here, Liverpool.com rounds up the three Reds stories that you need to read on Monday, February 6.

Midfield slammed

Liverpool legend Graeme Souness has slammed the Reds' transfer planning under FSG and labeled their midfield as an obvious weak spot.

"A year ago they should have been looking at midfield players to buy last summer," he said. "A year ago, this was starting to show itself, the midfield. The best midfield they had was Wijnaldum, Henderson and Milner: high energy, not technically brilliant, but just high energy and they bullied players.

"They won it high up and they’d give it to the lads, the front three, and they’d go from there. Theirs is not a problem that is easily solved right now because you’re looking at the midfield of Naby Keïta, the young Spanish boy (Stefan Bajčetić) and Thiago, and they’re getting bullied, and if you’re getting bullied in there you’re on the back foot most of the time."

RedBird Capital investment

RedBird Capital Partners is NOT in talks with FSG over increasing their stake in the company that owns Liverpool FC, the ECHO reports, despite claims emerging over the weekend.

The Daily Mail had claimed that RedBird could increase their 11 per cent stake in FSG by a further 20 per cent, which could raise around $1.2bn for the Liverpool owners.

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But the ECHO's sources say that no talks have been held and nor are they planned. Instead, RedBird is nothing to do with the potential sale of Liverpool FC, where a partial sale is the preferred option at the moment.

RedBird could increase its stake in FSG in the future, but for now is focused on other projects, including its investment in Serie A side AC Milan.

Naby Keïta 'decision'

Liverpool midfielder Naby Keïta is 'on the verge' of leaving as a free agent at the end of the season, according to Sky Germany's Florian Plettenberg, who reports that a decision has been made.

It was always likely to be the case that Keïta would leave when he entered the last year of his deal and he spent most of the first half of the season injured, so this apparent confirmation is no surprise.

The suggestion is that a move to Germany is a possibility for Keïta but he will not join Galatasaray despite claims from Turkey that a move there was an option.

A switch back to the Bundesliga, where Keïta still has a good reputation for his work with RB Leipzig that earned him a big-money move to Anfield in 2018, would make a lot of sense.

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Erling Haaland is 'copying' Mohamed Salah at Liverpool as 'wrong club' transfer claim rings true

Liverpool.com - 22 hours 38 min ago

One of the many painful subplots for Liverpool fans this season is the relative downfall of former rival Manchester City.

Both last season and in 2018/19, City was almost robotic in its consistency as it battled the Reds for the title, amassing a combined 190 points and pipping the Reds by one each time.

It's only now that Liverpool has fallen off a cliff that City's standards have slipped, with Pep Guardiola's side on course to finish with a mere 81 points. It's an added insult, leaving supporters to rue what might have been.

READ MORE: Arsenal just exposed potential $40m Liverpool transfer mistake as Everton offer rare FSG guidance

READ MORE: Julian Ward transfer masterstroke should benefit Liverpool and help copy Michael Edwards move

On Sunday, City lost 1-0 to Tottenham Hotspur, and while it didn't lose any ground on Premier League leader Arsenal, it felt like a major blow.

That's because it had the opportunity to close the gap to two points (albeit having played a game more) following the Gunners' defeat at Everton on Saturday, but it couldn't take it.

But why are City looking so fallible all of a sudden? Could it be because, as explored here, it was the threat of Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool that brought out the best in it?

Or has its headline summer signing backfired?

"They are a different, and lesser, team with [Erling] Haaland in the team," Jamie Carragher declared on Sky Sports following Sunday's defeat.

"City have scored the exact number of goals [53] as [this stage] last season... However, they've conceded more and are easier to counter-attack against now."

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Carragher went on to explain that, in his eyes, Guardiola's system only utilizes '60 per cent' of Haaland's potential, and even suggested that 'he might have picked the wrong club to actually get the best out of him' when he made the transfer to Manchester.

This seems like a remarkable claim in light of the Norwegian's extraordinary record this season.

He's a full eight goals clear of Harry Kane, who scored the winner at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, at the top of the charts and has already scored enough to win or share the Golden Boot in 15 of the previous 30 Premier League seasons.

As per Football 365, he's also bettered the best single-season Premier League tallies of competition legends like Fernando Torres, Sadio Mane, Michael Owen, Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink and Dwight Yorke. He only needs one more to match Sergio Aguero's all-time high.

Single-handedly, Haaland has out-scored eight of the 19 remaining teams in the division, including Chelsea.

And at his current rate of 1.25 goals per game, he'll score 22 or 23 more before the season is out, should he feature in each match. That would see him the end season on a scarcely believable haul of 47 or 48 goals.

Erling Haaland of Manchester City could follow Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (Image: Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

In doing so, he would not only surpass but obliterate the record for most goals in a 38-game season (Mohamed Salah's 32 in 2017/18) and a 42-game season (Alan Shearer's 34 in 1993/94 and 1994/95).

While all of this would no doubt feel somewhat hollow if City is the victim of a stunning upset at the hands of Arsenal, Haaland would surely have to win the Player of the Year Award.

Despite the brilliance of the Gunners, on track for a 95-point campaign, and the magnificent individual efforts of stars like Martin Ødegaard and Bukayo Saka, the striker's historic efforts must be recognized.

Indeed, there are clear parallels with Salah's triumph in 2017/18 ahead of City's centurions.

That City side is, by the numbers, the greatest the Premier League has ever seen. It set new records for points (100), goals scored (106), wins (32), margin of victory (19 points) and goal difference (+79).

And yet, the history books don't show a Player of the Year winner alongside it because Salah could not be overlooked.

Liverpool only finished fourth but Salah scored 32 goals and provided 11 assists in 36 appearances, one of the finest solo campaigns ever in English football.

This year, then, we might well see Haaland follow in its footsteps, even amidst the serious question marks surrounding City's number nine and the team as a whole.

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Why Dortmund's implosion under Klopp should worry Liverpool fans

Liverpool FC on Sky Sports - Mon, 02/06/2023 - 14:00

Almost a decade ago, Jurgen Klopp's Borussia Dortmund went from German champions and one of Europe's most-feared sides to barely being able to win a match as the German's seven-year spell at the club came to a shuddering halt - so could things be repeating themselves now at Liverpool?

Heading into the 2014-15 season, Dortmund were once again expected to be the main challengers to Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich. The two clubs, like Liverpool and Man City's recent Premier League's battles, had enjoyed a fierce rivalry ever since Klopp had taken over at Signal Iduna Park in 2008, with the Bavarians beating Klopp's team to the Bundesliga in 2013-14.

However, with Klopp having only signed a new contract at Dortmund in October 2013 - ring any bells anyone? - hopes were high at the Westfalenstadion they could repeat their back-to-back title wins under him in 2011 and 2012.

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  • Newcastle (A) - Saturday February 18, 5.30pm - Live on Sky Sports
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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Wolves and Liverpool

The club, though, would have to try to wrestle back their Bundesliga crown from Bayern without one of the key architects behind their recent successes, Robert Lewandowski, who had agreed to move to the Allianz Arena that summer.

As with Sadio Mane's departure from Liverpool to Munich in June this year, Klopp had tried but failed to persuade his influential forward to stay, leaving a huge hole to fill in attack the following season.

during the UEFA Champions League Round of Image: Klopp saw star men like Robert Lewandowski leave during his time at Dortmund

Similar to when Liverpool beat City to claim the Community Shield in July, there were no obvious signs of the struggles to follow as Dortmund confidently dispatched Bayern 2-0 to win the German Supercup in August 2014.

This, after all, was still very much the same side who only lost the 2013 Champions League final against Bayern to a last-minute Arjen Robben goal, although looking back now with the advantage of hindsight, it was also an ageing team that had been going flat out under Klopp for the previous six years.

Jurgen Klopp and Borussia Dortmund lost to Bayern Munich in the 2013 Champions League final at Wembley Image: Klopp and Dortmund lost to Bayern in the 2013 Champions League final at Wembley

None of that, however, explained how the team suddenly went from being Bayern's closest challengers just a few months earlier to one that had just 11 points to their name after 12 games of the campaign, including a dreadful run of five straight defeats that sent them spiralling into the drop zone in November.

It was Dortmund's worst start to a Bundesliga season and one that left their coach bewildered and angry: "It's a brutal, s***** situation, crazy," he said at the time.

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Melissa Reddy explains some of the problems Liverpool head coach Jurgen Klopp needs to address if they are to see an improvement in results

And like with this season at Anfield, the club's form in Europe was oddly unaffected by their travails at home as they topped a tough-looking Champions League group, with every win immediately followed by claims the corner had now been turned.

Markus Weinzierl, head coach of Augsburg celebrates victory whilst Juergen Klopp, head coach of Dortmund looks dejected. Image: Klopp watches on as Dortmund lose again in the 2014-15 season, this time to lowly Augsburg

But frustratingly, it had not as Klopp's trusted lieutenant, Peter Krawietz, recalls in Rafa Honigstein's book, 'Klopp: Bring the Noise': "In the Champions League, we did OK, we qualified for the knock-out rounds, but that only made us wonder if we were lacking the right attitude in the league. You're in a spiral, going round in circles, going down. And we didn't manage to get out of it."

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Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher says Jurgen Klopp is the man to lead a summer rebuild at Anfield, suggesting they need four or five new players

Dortmund's nosedive in results was certainly not helped by Ciro Immobile's struggles in attack, as the man brought in to replace Lewandowski found it hard to adapt to life in the Ruhr Valley and for the first time under Klopp, their transfer business was questioned.

However, as with Liverpool this season, the problems ran far deeper than just the departure of one key player.

Jurgen Klopp and Borussia Dortmund lost to Bayern Munich in the 2013 Champions League final at Wembley Image: Klopp and Dortmund lost to Bayern in the 2013 Champions League final at Wembley

Dortmund were not only suffering from injuries to several key players - Klopp called it "the worst injury crisis in the history of football" - which meant they were unable to rotate as often as the manager wanted, but the packed schedule also led to less time on the training pitch in which to iron out their mounting problems in what became a vicious cycle.

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Paul Merson says Liverpool are 'a million miles off' as they suffered a big defeat at Wolves

Klopp bristled at suggestions from the press that the gegenpressing style he had implemented so effectively at Westphalia had now led to burnout and injuries among his players, snapping back with: "a wretched question, Bayern have injuries too, but they can compensate them better," when a journalist suggested as much ahead of facing Munich.

But it was not just a lengthening injury list that was the problem, Dortmund had become to find it increasingly hard to break down teams who came to Signal Iduna Park with a low block and looking to play on the break.

Jurgen Klopp Image: As with Liverpool this season, Klopp's Dortmund lost several key players to injury in the 2014-15 campaign

Klopp's side would routinely dominate games, creating numerous openings, only to squander them and then lose to a goal scored on the counterattack.

"We kept losing games in exactly the same way," recalled Krawietz. "We were extremely vulnerable to counterattacks. We played games where we enjoyed plenty of possession, created good chances, but lost 1-0 or 2-0 because of a couple of counterattacks."

We kept losing games in exactly the same way, recalled Krawietz. We were extremely vulnerable to counterattacks. We played games where we enjoyed plenty of possession, created good chances, but lost 1-0 or 2-0 because of a couple of counterattacks. Peter Krawietz, 'Klopp: Bring the Noise'

And as has also happened at Liverpool this season, the German was quick to dismiss suggestions the rest of the league had now worked his side out, telling a local reporter as much: "I'm not looking for a fight, so I will even answer the stupid questions. If you say we've been 'found out', what does that say about the work of opposition coaches for the last few years? Were they unable to see what our game is?"

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Jurgen Klopp refused to answer a question from Athletic reporter James Pearce following Liverpool's 3-0 defeat by Wolves on Saturday, instead asking another reporter to ask the same question

Either way, though, the pressure was clearly telling on Klopp, who as well as scolding journalists in press conferences, was also berating referees and their assistants, leading to numerous red cards and hefty fines, both traits we have seen repeated this season.

"I don't recognise myself sometimes on the touchline," Klopp said after one particularly volcanic eruption at a fourth official in Naples had led to his dismissal from the touchline.

Incredibly, at the midway point of the season, the team were still languishing in the relegation zone, with only goal difference keeping them off the bottom of the table.

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Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp will serve a one match touchline ban after losing his temper during their 1-0 win over Manchester City

However, the midseason winter break came at exactly the right time for Klopp and his beleaguered Dortmund players, unlike what has happened at Liverpool since the campaign resumed again after the pause for the World Cup,

"We had at last a chance to regenerate and practice a few things without the pressure of competitive football," says Krawietz. "It was clear that with a bit of rest for the legs and heads, we'd be able to get it right, that this team could function again."

Head coach Juergen Klopp of Dortmund reacts during the press conference after the Bundesliga match between Eintracht Frankfurt and Borussia Dortmund Image: Klopp shows the strain after another Dortmund defeat in 2014-15

They did as Dortmund slowly managed to pull themselves up the table when the campaign resumed after a six-week hiatus, helped by a four-game winning run in February 2015.

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Jurgen Klopp says his Liverpool side's concentration levels must change after they were soundly beaten 3-0 away at Wolves

In fact, for a while there was even belief Dortmund could scramble into the Champions League places, only for them to finish seventh and with it qualification for the Europa League third qualifying round.

But it was a demoralising 3-0 home loss to Juventus in the Champions last 16 in March that ultimately convinced Klopp his time was up at the club, the shock announcement coming the following month with Dortmund lying an incredible 37 points behind the leaders Bayern.

Jurgen Klopp Image: Jurgen Klopp announces his departure from Dortmund in 2015

All this just 18 months after Klopp had agreed a two-year contract extension to keep him at the Westfalenstadion until 2018, and less than two years on from contesting the final of Europe's premier club competition in what's a warning to Liverpool fans just how quickly things can turn sour in football.

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Gary Neville shares his thoughts on Liverpool's current poor performances which he believes are well below the level they should be at

Klopp himself may refute suggestions the same thing is happening now at Liverpool, saying last month about his Dortmund exit: "Seven years and it was just a situation that players constantly got bought by other clubs. It was a really hard job to do, constantly making two steps back. It was really intense and really exhausting, which is the reason why I said we had to stop it here, but I didn't have an energy problem, not at all.

"I have absolutely no problem with energy and the situation is completely different here. I can understand that I left after seven years (previously) and now we are in a difficult situation and people take that (view) but, if you think twice about it, you realise the situation is completely different."

Klopp won a domestic double in 2012 with Borussia Dortmund and won the Bundesliga for a second consecutive year as well (Timur Emek/picture-alliance/dpa/AP) Image: Klopp won a domestic double in 2012 with Borussia Dortmund and won the Bundesliga for a second consecutive year as well (Timur Emek/picture-alliance/dpa/AP)

However, if you had told Dortmund supporters in May 2012 that the man who had just guided them to a league and cup double - their second straight Bundesliga title - would had left the club within three years, you would have been laughed out of town.

Watch Liverpool vs Everton live on Sky Sports Premier League from 6pm on Monday; kick-off 8pm

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Nev: Liverpool need to wake themselves up | 'Man Utd look happy again'

Liverpool FC on Sky Sports - Mon, 02/06/2023 - 12:30

Liverpool need to wake themselves up after a slump in form, Sky Sports' Gary Neville said on the latest Gary Neville Podcast, while Manchester United look happy on the pitch again.

Liverpool were beaten 3-0 by Wolves in the Premier League on Saturday in another worrying performance for the Reds. They are yet to win a league match in 2023.

Neville says Liverpool's players must start to improve and although they may have had some "credit" after a successful few years, questions must start to be asked.

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The Sky Sports pundit said on his podcast: "Defensively, they were shambolic. Individually, collectively, they were too easy to play against. It's not going perfectly well up front for them either, [Cody] Gakpo, [Darwin] Nunez and [Mo] Salah just haven't quite hit it off yet as a front three and that might take some time.

"The rest of the team is in a bit of a mess and they're conceding really poor goals. It was almost the first time I've seen after a game where Jurgen Klopp is almost apologising.

"They're nowhere near, it was almost a 'where do they start' type of reaction after the game. There are internationals in that back four - in fact, all of them are - and they're nowhere near good enough.

"There's absolutely no excuse for that. There are other teams who have had injuries defensively who have managed better.

"I don't know why they've gone to pieces like they have. There will be people who say 'this happened in his seventh year at Dortmund', but I dismiss all that nonsense.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Wolves and Liverpool

"There's the ownership stuff that needs to be sorted out, they might be looking at other clubs thinking 'we need to spend more money and we need a rebuild', but at the moment, I just think if you're getting the best out of the players you've got at the moment - and Liverpool have got a good squad and they've got some injuries, that's a factor, but the players that are out there should still be doing a lot better than they are.

"That wasn't good enough from Liverpool and what they've achieved over the last few years. It was well below the standard. They need to wake themselves up.

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Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher says Jurgen Klopp is the man to lead a summer rebuild at Anfield, suggesting they need four or five new players.

"The way I see it is if you build up enough credit, you go easy on them for a period of time because you're entitled to a bit of a dip - you don't go overboard with Man City [after defeat against Spurs] because of that.

"But it's getting to that point with Liverpool where there are really worrying signs and performances and individual performances are well below the level."

'Man Utd competing and looking happy'

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights of Manchester United against Crystal Palace in the Premier League

For Neville's former side Man Utd, things are starting to look better. They were 2-1 winners at Crystal Palace on Saturday - although had Casemiro sent off - and are now three points behind Manchester City in second place.

Neville says the players are starting to look happier on the pitch after some difficult years, comparing it to a disjointed-looking Man City at the moment.

"I don't think Man Utd will get there [to the Premier League title], I think they'll fall short. With the Eriksen injury too, they're just not quite there," he said.

Gary Neville on Casemiro's red card...

"Erik Ten Hag summed it up well - he thought there should have been other punished in the same way, he wanted consistency, but Casemiro took a risk and you've got to be careful.

"Referees don't want to interfere but they will with something like this. It looks quite bad when you freeze it, although he does let go quite quickly. I don't think he actually has him around the neck, it just looks like he has with his gloves on."

"But they're doing really well, they're competing and they look happy again, and that's a really big thing. Manchester United players need to look happy on the pitch if you're a Man Utd fan. I'm sure Everton fans are thinking the same and many other clubs who have had miserable times, you look at Newcastle and how they're happy again.

"I don't think they will win it, I never thought they would win it. I did think Man City would win, but I'd be worried if I was them. United look a happy bunch, City at this moment in time look a little bit moody. I thought Spurs did too a few weeks ago, but they've come out of it and City need to come out of it as well.

"City look like they need the manager, the players and coaching staff in a room and saying 'come on, let's speak our minds' because it looks like there's a grumble in there.

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Gary Neville admits he's not as sure about Manchester City's title challenge following events and performances at the club over the last fortnight

"But United look together, look solid and look like their trajectory is going up… they're in a good position and there's a big game coming up in a few weeks against Newcastle in the Carabao Cup final. It's a brilliant fixture that has jeopardy written all over it in terms of what both clubs have been through. There's a lot on that game, but there's a lot to play for."

Nev on Chelsea - 'I'm not sure about eight-year contracts'

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Gary Neville shares his views on long term deals that we have seen Chelsea showcase in the January transfer window

Neville was also at Stamford Bridge on Friday Night Football as Chelsea's multi-million-pound squad drew 0-0 with local rivals Fulham.

But it is the Blues' January spending spree that Neville is unsure of, particularly the long length of some contracts offered to players.

"With Chelsea, there's going to need to be time. They need time to bed in new owners to the club, new principles, the new manager and you've got new players," he added on the Gary Neville Podcast.

"So there's new everything and there's time needed before anything else. But you can't get away from this staggering spend - I said 'jaw-dropping' on Friday.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights of Chelsea against Fulham in the Premier League

"I'm not sure about it. It doesn't feel right to me in the sense of is it the right approach? Ordinarily, you'd might spend two or three hundred million, bed four or five in, then you might bring in another couple in the summer after - it's an 18-month process, but they've done it all in one hit.

"You might get the same result in the same speed by doing that so we have to wait and see now.

"I did sign a seven-year deal but the thing with me was I was from the city, I loved the club and I was never going to leave. It could've been done on a handshake and it would've been honoured by both sides.

"But I'm not buying these eight-year contracts [at Chelsea]. The argument for them is it beats FFP, so I get that and that's a reason to do it, but they're saying it's a strategy.

Chelsea forward Mykhailo Mudryk Image: Chelsea forward Mykhailo Mudryk signed an eight year deal with the club

"When Chelsea went crazy in the summer, I called it chaotic with the way they went about it. Now, when they do it twice, it isn't chaotic, it's a strategy - it's what they do. They mean to do it.

"When they give the briefings and they talk about these long contracts locking young players in for eight years and they have certainty, that comes with great risk.

"There's no such thing as certainty with an eight-year contract. Let's say Mudryk becomes a Messi in four years and Chelsea could say 'well we have him locked down for another four years on a lower wage'.

"Mudryk will then kick off, his agent will kick off, he'll down tools and say 'I want more money' and they'll end up having to pay him the Messi wage anyway, or they'll have a very unhappy player for the last four years who will feel like he's been exploited because he signed an eight-year contract at the age of 20 or 21.

"In football, in this country with players coming from international soil, I do not see how an eight-year contract can be honoured if the player progresses to become something far greater than he is today.

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Gary Neville and Karen Carney take on Jamie Carragher and Kelly Cates to travel from Craven Cottage to Stamford Bridge using as many modes of Green Transport as possible whilst completing Green Actions along the way

"I don't see the benefit of an eight-year deal. If you sign a five-year deal and the player does brilliantly after two years, you've still got three years on them.

"I just don't get it [eight-year deals]. I don't understand it, I don't see where it brings any benefit to the actual club other than FFP and the accounting benefit.

"I'm struggling a bit to think the wheel can be reinvented and they've found something really clever that no one else has spotted. They could look like the smartest people in two years, or they could look pretty stupid. It will be one or the other, I don't think we'll get an in between.

"We have to allow time to see how this plays out."

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Bellingham future, Man United and Liverpool takeovers, Charlton’s £10m buyout

the Athletic - Mon, 02/06/2023 - 07:45

Matt Slater, The Athletic’s football news and investigations reporter, takes over the Monday column this week. David Ornstein is away.

Real Madrid have long identified England international Jude Bellingham, 19, as a priority signing. However, at the Santiago Bernabeu, the Premier League is considered the Borussia Dortmund midfielder’s most likely destination, reports Mario Cortegana.

The Spanish club have been working on a deal for months, with chief scout Juni Calafat taking care of relations with the player and his family. Bellingham’s father, Mark, manages his career.

But Liverpool and Manchester City are pushing hard, and Real Madrid are becoming resigned to the fact that the financial muscle of the Premier League is almost unbeatable.

Chelsea, for example, spent £290million ($350m) in the January window, with the signings of Mykhailo Mudryk (£88million from Shakhtar Donetsk) and Enzo Fernandez (£106million from Benfica) inflating the market even more. This can only strengthen Borussia Dortmund’s negotiating position and it is now very unlikely Bellingham will be sold for much less than £110million.

La Liga clubs spent only £25million collectively in January, less than what 10 of the Premier League’s 20 clubs spent. It is a financial gulf that reinforces Real Madrid’s stance on the proposed European Super League. They argue that elite signings can only be taken on by state-owned clubs or teams backed by foreign capital.

La Liga, Premier League

Real Madrid will continue to pursue Bellingham, although they are realistic that the package they could offer — in terms of transfer fee and player’s salary — would be below anything offered by a Premier League club.

The money on offer is not the only consideration for Bellingham as he contemplates his next career move, but Madrid would need him to follow the example of Aurelien Tchouameni in 2022, when the Frenchman made it clear to Monaco that he only wanted to wear white.

Dortmund believe Premier League clubs are in pole position but, from their point of view, Real Madrid have not made an offer for their player and they want Bellingham to renew his contract when it ends in 2025.

@media (min-width:500px) {.iframe-podcast-height {height: 200px;}}@media (max-width:500px) {.iframe-podcast-height {height: 165px;}}Should Liverpool and Manchester United take down the ‘For Sale’ signs?

If we were to compare Fenway Sports Group’s (FSG) attempt to sell Liverpool to the sale of a house, it might be time to try a different estate agent. Because three months in and… no firm bids, not much buzz.

The team’s dire form is not helping but the real issues are out of FSG’s hands.

On a macro level, the global economy is struggling to shake off the twin effects of COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine. And money is more expensive than it has been for years, as interest rates went up again on both sides of the Atlantic last week.

On the micro level, you have the fact that two weeks after the FSG announcement, the Glazer family put that lot up the road on the market, too, by saying they would listen to bids for some or all of Manchester United. That cast some shade over Liverpool’s prospectus.

Not that the Glazers are doing much better. They do have one bidder in the shape of Sir Jim Ratcliffe. But the 70-year-old Brit did not become a petrochemicals billionaire by overpaying for anything and he will not get involved in a bidding war if there is nobody to bid against.

 Getty Images) Sir Jim Ratcliffe is the only bidder to have publicly expressed an interest in buying Manchester United (Photo: Getty Images)

Both sets of owners decided to test the market after watching the lively auction that took place for Chelsea last year. As everyone knows, that process ended up with Todd Boehly and his partners Clearlake Capital paying £2.5billion for the London club.

That price made the sports industry sit up and wonder if the Premier League’s biggest clubs were now being valued in the same way as National Football League franchises, which go for 10 times annual revenues. But the Chelsea price tag is now looking a little lumpy, particularly in the more cash-strapped times of 2023.

Should Liverpool and Manchester United take down the ‘For Sale’ signs, then?

No, not just yet. The Qataris are looking for a minority stake in a Premier League power and it will most likely mirror the 10 to 15 per cent stake they are looking to sell in the current star of their football portfolio, Paris Saint-Germain. Various funds are eyeing that opening.

And some of the losers in the Chelsea process are interested in buying stakes in either Liverpool or United, with Crystal Palace co-owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer at the front of that particular queue.

There has been speculation about bids from Saudi Arabia but they have not gone beyond that — suggesting separation from the Saudi sovereign wealth fund that bought Newcastle United in 2021 might be beyond even the finest legal minds money can buy.

It has been reported that FSG may be able to persuade RedBird Capital Partners to almost triple its investment in the transatlantic sports empire from 11 per cent to 30 per cent, a move that could realise an additional £1billion for Liverpool’s owners, a good chunk of which would almost certainly be invested in the business.

RedBird, however, already owns Toulouse and a majority stake in AC Milan. It is not commenting on whether it wants more of Liverpool’s ownership group but is not believed to be actively thinking about it either.

Is it time, then, for English football’s two biggest clubs to knock 10 per cent off their asking prices, get the photographer back in and order some cheese and wine for the open house?

Sheffield United bidder and an airline that has not got off the ground

The Nigerian ‘billionaire’ linked with a £90million takeover of Championship club Sheffield United is the director of an airline company — but there is no evidence a Tingo Airlines flight has ever taken place, report Joey D’Urso and Matt Slater.

In November 2020, a post on Dozy Mmobuosi’s personal Facebook page said “fly with Tingo Airlines today” and described routes between London and west Africa.

The company is registered in England as Tingo Airlines Limited and declared a share capital of £1billion in August 2019, with Mr Mmobuosi the sole shareholder.

It is registered at an address in Harpenden in Hertfordshire — but the address was removed in December 2019 with a note saying it was “invalid or ineffective and was forged”.

Tingo Airlines Limited is also facing an active proposal to be struck off at Companies House, the UK’s registrar of companies, as it is nearly three months late with filing basic paperwork.

An Instagram page for Tingo Airlines links to a website that does not exist. It also shares images of an Airbus A321 that appears to be digitally doctored to apply the ‘Tingo Airlines’ livery, removing a door and adding too many windows in the process.

Tingo Images taken from Tingo Airline’s Instagram page (Photo: @TingoAirlines via Instagram)

In an interview with Vanguard Nigeria in November 2019, Omiete Iyenemi Charles, described as acting CEO of Tingo Airlines, said the company is “in the process of obtaining our UK Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC)” but there is no evidence of Tingo having an AOC.

Justin Williams, chief operating officer of InsightX, a due diligence and reputational risk agency that has worked with 10 Premier League clubs, said: “The issues raised in relation to Tingo and Mr Mmobuosi by The Athletic demonstrate how important it is that football clubs commission in-depth intelligence and due diligence on all potential investors, partners and sponsors.”

Mmobuosi’s bid for Sheffield United is being assessed by the English Football League, which applies its owners’ and directors’ test to all potential investors. The EFL will be seeking answers to questions about the source and sufficiency of the Nigerian’s funds.

Mmobousi and Tingo have not responded to requests for comment. Sheffield United declined to comment.

Southampton’s Nathan Jones under pressure after ‘certain people’ comments

Nathan Jones’ future at Southampton is under increased scrutiny following his side’s 3-0 defeat to Brentford on Saturday, with the club reviewing comments he made in the post-match press conference, writes Jacob Tanswell.

Under Jones, Southampton have lost six of seven Premier League games and are yet to score first in any of them. The club are rooted to the bottom of the league and three points from safety.

Jones Southampton appointed Jones in November but he is already under pressure (PhotoL Robin Jones/Getty Images)

Rasmus Ankersen, co-founder of Southampton’s ownership group Sport Republic, made the decision to appoint Jones and was at Saturday’s match. He stayed in his seat as the players made their way down the tunnel at full-time.

Ankersen and Jones hold a debrief after every game.

Jones’ comments after the heavy loss took aim at supporters, players and staff inside the club, with the Welshman saying “there are certain people in the village and players in the building that we have to work with”.

His claim that there “weren’t many better than me” while he was at Luton Town for “aggression, clean sheets, defending in your box and xG (expected goals)” has also been privately disputed by some inside his new club.

Southampton’s next fixture is the visit of relegation rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers on February 11, which is being regarded as a crucial game for the team and Jones.

Happy Valley? Charlton set for £10m buyout by US group led by former Sunderland co-owner Methven

Charlton Athletic have been the victims of almost every ill that bad ownership can bring.

But things may be looking up for the League One side, on and off the field. A 2-1 win at Exeter City on Saturday was the fourth in five games, a spell of form that has taken them from 19th to 12th.

That improvement started soon after December 20, when the club announced four key hires: a new manager in Dean Holden, ex-Sunderland CEO Jim Rodwell as chief operating officer, technical director Andy Scott and Ed Warrick as finance director.

If this seemed like uncharacteristically bold and decisive action from the club’s US-based owner Thomas Sandgaard, it is because it was: the appointments were all recommendations from a group that is set to buy Charlton from Sandgaard in the coming days.

The group is led by Charlie Methven, the former journalist and PR man who became a co-owner of Sunderland in 2018. That experience did not go so well, as viewers of the Netflix documentary Sunderland ‘Til I Die will remember, but the Old Etonian certainly has experience of trying to revive a dozing giant.

Charlie Methven, Sunderland Methven is set to return to English football with Charlton (Photo: Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images)

Methven and Warrick are partners in a takeover vehicle called SE7 Partners, SE7 being Charlton’s London postcode, and their group includes Simon Lenagan. Methven was an advisor to Simon’s father Ian Lenagan when he owned Oxford United a decade ago.

But most of the money for the purchase of the club, which is costing about £10million, is coming from a group of US investors who have previously owned a Major League Soccer franchise.

Promotion looks unlikely this season but a return to the Championship will be the Anglo-American group’s primary goal in 2024. Once there, serious consideration can be given to fixing one of Charlton’s long-standing problems: the fact that they are a tenant at their stadium and training ground.

Former owner Roland Duchatelet still owns those property assets but the club is only paying him £500,000 a year in rent, so buying the them back off the 76-year-old Belgian is not a priority for the time being.

UK government to finally reveal ‘bomb’ to support football

Two prime ministers ago, the UK government promised it would use a “legislative bomb” to stop the Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ from joining a European Super League, a threat that played very well with the gallery.

The government has not had many hits since then, which is why it is so excited to finally tell everyone what that legislative bomb will look like on Wednesday.

The immediate response to the ESL crisis was to commission the former sports minister Tracey Crouch to conduct a fan-led review of football’s governance. And, to her credit, Crouch broadened the scope of the review by trying to tackle the game’s financial issues, which seemed particularly pressing in the wake of the bankruptcies at Bury and Macclesfield.

wimbledon-football AFC Wimbledon fans celebrate their roots in January 2022 (Photo: Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images)

Crouch published her review in November 2021, with the headline recommendation being the creation of an independent regulator for football.

Fifteen months of lobbying, counter-lobbying and political turmoil later, the government is ready to agree with her by publishing a white paper. This will set out the legislation that will create a new regulator for the game with responsibility for vetting prospective new owners, ensuring clubs are up to date with their payments and preventing anyone from forming closed leagues with fellow aristocrats abroad.

The white paper has actually been ready for release for a few weeks, as demonstrated by last week’s leak to The Sun newspaper. But newish prime minister Rishi Sunak has been waiting for a day without any strikes in the UK to ensure as much front-page real estate as possible for the real launch.

And the government is determined to underline its fan-friendly credentials by holding the press conference at the home of AFC Wimbledon.

The League Two side was founded in 2002 by fans of Wimbledon FC, the club the Football Association allowed to be moved to 60 miles north to Milton Keynes.

It is a decision that has never been repeated nor forgotten, and just another example of why football has not been very good at regulating itself.

A22 still talking to clubs about revised Super League plans

Speaking of the European Super League, the Madrid-based investment firm behind the competition will also be reading the UK government’s football white paper with interest. After all, the legislative bomb was aimed at them.

The firm in question, A22, had something of a relaunch last year as it geared up for its legal challenge against the football authorities it blamed for the collapse of the ESL project in April 2021.

That challenge was heard by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) last August, with A22, egged on by the three clubs that have refused to give up on the breakaway league — Barcelona, Juventus and Real Madrid — on one side; and governing bodies FIFA and UEFA on the other.

Super League Real Madrid, Juventus and Barcelona are not giving up on a Super League (Photo: Visionhaus/Getty Images)

In November, the court’s advocate general gave his detailed opinion on the case. It is non-binding, so the court could ignore it when it delivers its final verdict next month, but that does not happen often and the opinion did not go A22’s way.

However, A22 is nothing if not dogged. Last week, it issued a triumphant press release to draw attention to the fact that a court in Madrid had decided to restore the injunction it issued in April 2021, preemptively blocking UEFA from punishing the ESL clubs for trying to start a rival competition to the Champions League.

It was this ruling that ultimately led to the matter being sent to the ECJ, as the Luxembourg-based court is the final arbiter on matters related to fair competition within the European Union.

What to read next on The Athletic…

But while A22 celebrated the Madrid court’s decision to agree with its earlier ruling, pending whatever it is the ECJ decides, UEFA and everyone else who is trying to move on from the ESL just shrugged. Reactions to A22’s press release ranged from derision to indifference.

That said, A22 has continued to talk to clubs about its revised plans for an ESL. And clubs, particularly ones outside the Premier League, which is looking quite European Super Leaguey itself at the moment, will always listen.

And once it has learned what new obstacles the UK government is proposing to place in its way, A22 intends to say a bit more about how it intends to create a competition that gives Europe’s biggest clubs more games against each other, while maintaining a merit-based connection to domestic leagues.

If A22 can square that circle, nobody will ignore its next press release.

(Top photos via Getty Images; design: Sam Richardson)

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