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October 19, 2018

It's a matter of time before Salah revives himself

Liverpool midfielder Emre Can/FILE
Liverpool midfielder Emre Can/FILE

I don’t think there is anyone who truly believed that Mo Salah could keep scoring the way he did last season. And sure enough he is having a lean spell.

Every time he seemed to touch the ball last year, he turned something or nothing into a goal.

He is still as effective with his passing and energy and he is definitely not a selfish player.

I went up to Anfield to watch him play against Manchester City’s tough defence and again, he ended up with no strikes.

However, his infield play was good and he is certainly still the fans’ favourite.

Manager Jurgen Klopp will give him every chance and so will his support team of Firmino, Mane and his midfield. I think it is only a matter of time before the goals start flowing again.

 Fabianski is flappy no more

 If you believe all you read online you could be forgiven for thinking that West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini only has eyes for Marko Arnautovic and Andrly Yarmolenko.

However, I can reveal to you that he is most pleased with his goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski who has played some superb matches during the last few weeks.

Lukasz used to be cruelly called “Flappy-handski” because he made many errors.

Now it is a different story and his improvement has been nothing short of remarkable.

He comes in for crosses at exactly the right time, is very competent with good ball strikes and his footwork playing out the ball has been excellent.

When at Arsenal he made mistakes, was more consistent at Swansea but Pellegrini has brought the best out of him at West Ham. During the past few weeks West Ham’s defence has shown signs of settling down with Fabianski behind them.

Pellegrini’s start at West Ham was awful but he stuck to his game strategy and things have turned around.

 Could this be Fabinho’s chance

 I talked with Liverpool yesterday following the injury sustained by James Milner against Manchester City at the weekend.

James underwent a scan and this revealed only minor damage.

However, it is unlikely he will make the trip to Huddersfield next week and will possibly miss the games against Red Star Belgrade and Cardiff City.

32-year-old James hopes to return before November but this depends on Liverpool’s medical team.

Liverpool are also still missing Lallana and Oxlade-Chamberlain.

It could be the chance new signing Fabinho has been waiting for. Manager Jurgen Klopp is taking his time with the Brazilian and feels that he needs to adapt to Premier League football.

He has an impressive pedigree having started out with South American side Fluminense before moving to Europe and joining Real Madrid and Monaco for whom he was a star.

He has also been capped 5 times for Brazil. Fabinho said this week, “Since pre-season I believe I have understood the way Jurgen Klopp plays and the way the team plays.

It’s a new experience for me because the manager has a different style of work from the way I’m used to.” 

Fabrigas, Luiz and Barclay shine under Sarri

 Speaking over breakfast this week at Chelsea’s training ground, Cesc Fabrigas heralded Mauricio Sarri as the best manager he has played under.

The 31-year-old midfield playmaker has featured under Arsene Wenger, Pep Guardiola at Barcelona, Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte.

Not a bad list that includes some of the world’s best managers.

Cesc says the 59-year-old chain smoking Sarri has revitalised his career.

“I wish he had come a bit earlier to be honest, it’s a little bit late in my career now but I am very happy with him.

The way the boss sees football is something that in the future, if I go into management, it is the way I would like my teams to play.

It is really interesting how he works.”

David Luiz was frozen out of the team under previous manager Antonio Conte but has now become the solid central rock in Chelsea’s Sarri defence.

Ross Barclay was hailed as one of football’s brightest new stars when he was a teenager but the past few years have seen his career stutter and stop.

Now Sarri has brought the best out of Barclay and he is playing very high quality football.

Last Sunday he used his strength to enable Eden Hazard to score Chelsea’s opener against Southampton and then he out-muscled Wesley Hoedt to release Hazard again with a perfect pass and the Belgian scored.

Barkley then scored himself to put the shine on a polished afternoon.

Barclay, like Fabrigas says that Sarri pays attention to detail and gives players confidence.

Ably supported by Blues legend Franco Zola the chain smoking new manager is bringing the great times back to Stamford Bridge.

 Cahill for Saints?

 I might be biased because Chelsea’s Gary Cahill is a neighbour of mine in Cobham, home to Chelsea’s training ground, but I think it would be a mistake for Mauricio Sarri to sanction his sale to Southampton.

Gary always plays with commitment and is solid at the back, reliable and confident.

However, his starts this season have been limited and at 32 years of age he wants more regular first team football.

The drive to Southampton takes around 80 minutes so attending matches and training would be easy and probably means he could stay in his current home. 

Burnley getting back on track

 Burnley are getting their act together at last! After four league defeats and an early exit from the Europa Cup to Greek side Olympiacos, there were shockwaves running around Turf Moor.

Seventh place in last year’s campaign seemed a long time ago.

Manager Sean Dyche, ever creative in his thinking, decided the players had to bond together more.

He decided that every morning each player would pick up another player and drive to training together.

Footballers these days tend to drive to training alone in their luxury cars.

Ben Mee said, “You get to know each other much better, spending up to two hours sitting in a car together and talking. We have a tightly knit unit and we do have to stick together and create the team spirit we need. It is all about getting things back on track. He also added, “Our fans trust us and there is no pressure out there. They know we will turn it around and they will come along with us for the ride.”

 Unhappy Christensen

 Andreas Christensen thrived under previous Chelsea manager Antonio Conte.

He played 40 games last year against all the top teams.

Under new manager Mauricio Sarri it is a totally different story and Christensen has not featured except for three games in the Europa League and the Carabao Cup which usually features second string players.

Sarri has preferred David Luiz at centre back and Antonio Rudiger to partner him. Andreas said this week, “I cannot have so much patience again.

I am 22-years-old and I really want to play so it’s clear that I do not see myself staying if my current situation does not change.

It’s too early to talk about leaving but it is not a good situation for me.” If he decides to go, there will no shortage of clubs lining up for his signature.

 The Ox fighting for fitness

 Liverpool’s England international Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is staying positive and working hard in the Red’s Melwood Training ground gym.

Lifting weights and improving his leg muscles are part of the rehabilitation programme set out by the medical training staff. Alex suffered multiple ligament damage last April in Liverpool’s 5-2 win over Roma in the Champion’s League.

He of course missed the final.

Alex is also working on a treadmill, exercise bike and battle ropes and would you believe he has even taken up boxing although he has to take it easy.

I am told it is unlikely he will make it back into first team football this season because of the severity of the injury but it is responding well to treatment and he remains upbeat and hopeful.

He said this week, “I’m staying positive, that’s the sort of character I am. I’m in good spirits and I am progressing well and that’s for sure.”

No one argues with Troy Deeney

 I love an amusing story and Watford gave me one this week. Manager Javi Gracia imposes fines on his players when they are late for training.

However he doesn’t personally confront the players to tell them the total of their fine at £100 for every minute they are late.

Instead the imposing captain Troy Deeney tells them and collects the fines and nobody argues with him! Gracia says that he is always there to check everyone’s arrival because he starts at 7am and training is at 10am.

Once the fines are collected the team go into breakfast, then the gym in preparation for full training, watching videos analysing opponents and previous matches to highlight improvements.

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