• Arguments and discussions are in full flow this week regarding Liverpool. Can they reproduce the sort of form which saw them win the league by a mile last season?
• Manchester United legend Patrice Evra has questioned Manchester United about the signing of Donny Van de Beek from Ajax.
The secret to Leeds success
Aston Villa had a reality check when they were beaten 3-0 by Leeds. The reason for the emphatic win is simple. Leeds manager Marco Bielsa has installed a punishing fitness programme which is far tougher than any other in the Premier League. Basically, the Leeds players are expected to train every day unless it is a matchday and even then Marco likes to see his team arrive early for some warm-ups.
Local Leeds boy and defensive midfielder Kalvin Phillips has been speaking about how shocked he was when the new training programme kicked in. Kalvin admitted that everything in the Premier League is faster and the skill levels higher than the Championship.
He used to work box to box but now, in the much faster Leeds set up he is more likely to deliver through the middle for his strikers to latch on to passes and hopefully penetrate defences.
He told us: “I could not believe it, every day we train. It is not the norm! We catch teams by surprise with our fitness and speed through the middle of the pitch. Aston Villa, for instance, were caught out so many times as we attacked by going forwards — not sideways, not passing back but going forward at a pace all the time. It is exciting for fans and gives us many opportunities to create chances.” It is the Bielsa way of playing.
Is Klopp right not to bring in fresh talent?
Arguments and discussions are in full flow this week regarding Liverpool. Can they reproduce the sort of form which saw them win the league by a mile last season?
Jurgen Klopp thinks they can without making any mega signings with Konstantinos Tsimikas and Takumi Minamino joining this summer and they are hardly big profile names. Liverpool’s owners have told Klopp and other directors that money is always available but if the manager wants to spend £50million he can go ahead in January.
However, that player must be involved in 30 games per season and not just be a squad player. The reasoning is that players can be brought through the academy and prioritised to join the senior squad. Can Klopp again motivate a team which has won the league, the Champions League, Uefa Super Cup and the Club World Cup to the previous levels of excellence without importing a couple of proven players?
When you have been so successful, it is hard to start all over again the following season and achieve those same spectacular heights. Several big names in football question how wise Klopp’s tactics are. Sir Alex Ferguson for instance was always refreshing his Manchester United squads. During the nineties and in the early 2000s United were a dominant force with a superb squad.
However, the boss still brought in mark signings such as Rio Ferdinand, Jap Stam, Ruud van Nistlerooy and Juan Veron. Quality arrivals keep the existing players on their toes and they know they cannot relax and rest on past successes. I keep hearing the name Antoine Griezmann around the Liverpool camp and he could be one to lift the focus on refreshing the team, especially if Gino Wijnaldum leaves.
Klopp’s confidence in his decision not to bring in greater strength might be tested to the limit now that Virgil Van Dijk has sustained a long-term injury. And with Fabinho and Joel Matip also injured, Klopp will probably turn to 19-year-old centre back Rhys Williams. He is a good player. However, he lacks the experience to marshal Liverpool’s defence. I am told that Matip could be fit in time but a Saturday morning assessment will be made.
Van de Beek far from happy
Manchester United legend Patrice Evra has questioned Manchester United about the signing of Donny Van de Beek from Ajax. Evra said this week: “Nothing against the kid, but why have they bought him? He’s watching every game from the stands. We don’t need him and that’s the truth.”
Evra has a point because against Chelsea last weekend Solskjaer brought on Pogba, Cavani and Greenwood as his substitutes. Van de Beek was left sitting watching the game and he looked dejected. Apart from the Champions League game in midweek he has not started a game at first whistle kick-off for United and isn’t used to being left out of a game.
He was delighted to start the Leipzig match but it is the Premier League where he wants to extend his reputation and I am wondering how this signing will work out for the player and United because it won’t be too long before the youngster starts looking around for the exit door.
The fact is that Pogba and Fernandes play in the same position as Van de Beek which again brings us back to the question of why United invested in a player who specialises in a position they already are well covered? Solskjaer hit back this week and defended his actions and choices.
He said: “It’s going to be a long season and of course the depth of our squad is better now. Donny, Nemanja and Paul started on the bench but they are all experienced international footballers. “It’s not easy but we have so many games this season and they are all going to play a big part at different times. Don’t worry, Donny will be playing regularly,” said Solskjaer.
Nice words from the manager but I wonder how long this young talent will sit in the stands and listen to words of encouragement when what he actually wants is regular first-team football where he starts and finishes each match.
Liverpool fans follow Newcastle in rejecting TV charges
There has been a wonderful follow up to my story last week of Newcastle fans refusing to pay £14.95 to watch their team on TV. This is extra to the monthly subscription already paid and has caused anger among supporters who feel they are being taken advantage of.
Newcastle fans instead donated the £14.95 to local food banks and raised £16,000 to help struggling families. Now Liverpool fans have done the same thing and donated £81,000 to local charities instead of watching the Reds play Sheffield united.
Sheffield United look to strengthen
Following their relegation from the Premier League to the Championship, Bournemouth have sold many of their top players, who earned big salaries. Sheffield United have identified another player they want to prise from Bournemouth’s depleted squad.
David Brooks is a midfielder who played for Sheffield United and then transferred to Bournemouth. However, his return to Bramall Lane looks a strong bet. Manchester United were looking at Brooks during the summer break but the interest did not result in an offer.
Blades manager Chris Wilder has already signed Liverpool’s Rhian Brewster for £23.5million and Sander Berge from Belgium club Genk. Wilder’s problem is scoring goals and he believes that Sheffield will benefit from Brook’s speed and ability to move around midfield with bursts forward to create chances for the strikers.
Traore to stay at Wolves
Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santos is confident he can keep his star winger Adama Traore despite his name being linked with many top European clubs. He said Traore is “delighted” to be back at the club after making his debut for Spain earlier this month.
Wolves collected a lot of cash by selling Diogo Jota (to Liverpool) and Matt Doherty (to Tottenham). Traore is the player Nuno wanted to keep and he will join Raul Jimenez, Joao Moutinho and captain Conor Coady with improved contract terms which I am told will approach £100k-a-week.
Traore joined Wolves in August 2018 for an £18million transfer fee from Middlesborough. Nuno has used him as an attacking wing-back, winger and striker and he has constantly tormented defences with his speed and skill.
Arteta full of praise for Luiz
Mikel Arteta says that bringing David Luiz to the Emirates was the perfect move for the Gunners. Not only has he brought stability and creativity to the backline but he fits perfectly into Arteta’s defensive plans. Luiz is also inspirational in the dressing room and is very popular with other players, many of whom look up to him. When at Chelsea, he once bought the entire team brand new expensive watches…not just for his close friends at Chelsea but everybody!
Arteta explains it this way: “The way he’s been performing in training is phenomenal. He’s won everything in different countries and he brings that with him. I want him to perform and he’s doing that on the pitch in a very positive way. I’m really happy for him. He doesn’t need a lot of management. All he needs is for us to trust him and he has had incredible moments and difficult moments in his career but big athletes go through those moments.”
Spot kicks at United
Manchester United’s spot penalty kick-taker Bruno Fernandes has been highlighting the other players he trusts to score from the spot. In a training ground conversation with manager Ole Gunner Solskjaer, Fernandes said that if he is unavailable to take the kick then it should be one of three players: Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial or Paul Pogba. Fernandes has netted nine times from nine penalties so his flawless record gives him the right to voice an opinion.