• Liverpool meet their fierce rivals Manchester United this Sunday and know that another below-par performance will make them particularly vulnerable to a top of the table side full of confidence.
• Substitutes must wear masks in the stands and goal celebrations must not include handshakes and hugs.
This week, Liverpool have been examining what has been going wrong in recent matches. The Reds have managed to win only two of their last six. Manager Jurgen Klopp has spent much of the week working with individual players and analysing Liverpool’s problems. Apart from the injuries to players such as Virgil van Djik, the main problems seem to include a lack of killer instinct from both Sadio Mane and Mo Salah.
He has also identified failures to keep the ball under pressure in defence. Trent Alexander-Arnold has been particularly wasteful when he has the ball and gave it away 38 times against Southampton, a game which they lost 1-0. That is the most wasteful of any top division player this season.
Klopp has been defending the 22-year-old this week and said: “There are explanations for this season. But Alexander has had good games as well and he knows Southampton was not his best form and he will improve it.”
Liverpool meet their fierce rivals Manchester United this Sunday and know that another below-par performance will make them particularly vulnerable to a top of the table side full of confidence.
In a different training strategy this week, Klopp has been playing eleven against eleven, drafting in all members of the first-team squad. That way, he reasoned, the players could train under pressure and weaknesses could be identified.
United’s new kid Diallo needs to put on a few kilos
Manchester United’s new signing Amad Diallo will find life in the Premier League very different to playing for Atalanta in Serie A. The £37m (Sh5.5bn) winger has been given the No 19 shirt which was once worn by Marcus Rashford.
However, Denis Cerlini, the man credited with schooling the youngster, says that although Amad is lightning fast and can dribble his way round defenders, he does not possess a strong physical presence and is not good at heading the ball. United plan to give Diallo a nutritional plan to enable him to put on some weight and have worked out a programme to strengthen his muscles.
Cerlini worked with Diallo when he first arrived from Ivory Coast and the coach confirmed that he has great technical ability and said that he will be very popular with other players because of his likeable personality.
Covid restrictions end celebrating goals
The FA has brought in tougher Covid-19 restrictions and warned clubs to instruct their players that social-distancing must be respected or they will face disciplinary measures.
The FA is desperate to keep Premier League football going during the current dramatic rise in Covid cases. Substitutes must wear masks in the stands and goal celebrations must not include handshakes and hugs. The Professional Footballers Association have also contacted club players to inform them of the new restrictions.
Rice in talks with Chelsea
I have heard that Chelsea are in deep negotiations with West Ham for the transfer of Declan Rice and it is going well. Chelsea are in the fortunate position of having cash to spend, supplied by billionaire owner Roman Abramovich.
When and if Rice makes the move, West Ham will, at last, have the money to import players and manager David Moyes is looking for a striker to replace Sebastien Haller, who has joined Dutch club Ajax and he also wants a midfielder.
The Hammers have only Michail Antonio as their current striker but he is injury-prone and the club could soon face a crisis. Moyes has his eyes on Red Bull Salzburg striker Patson Daka and the Zambian could be available for £25m (Sh3.7bn).
Liverpool former doctor calls for a season break
It has generally been agreed that Premier League football does not need to take a break during the current lockdown despite the Covid-19 virus running out of control. However, many club doctors are saying that a break might be inevitable. Former Liverpool doctor Peter Brukner, speaking from his home in Australia, says that 18 players tested positive for the virus last week. He said: “The big issue is, are
you putting the safety of players and staff in danger? There are some very difficult decisions to be made but, the way things stand at the moment, I think they’re going to have to take a break.”
He pointed out that both Crystal Palace and West Brom managers, Roy Hodgson and Sam Allardyce are in the over 70’s vulnerable category. Several players have explained how long-term symptoms of Covid has affected them. Chelsea’s Kai Havertz, United’s Paul Pogba, Newcastle’s Allan Saint-Maximum and Jamaal Lascelles have all experienced after-effects despite being
declared fit to restart training.
Haaland in and Pogba out at United
Last summer Manchester United were very keen on Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho.
He was thought, by most people, to be the person who could push United’s challenge for a top-four spot this year. The deal was never completed and United are succeeding without his help. I am told that the United board are no longer so keen on bringing the England winger to Old Trafford and instead are looking to spend money on Sancho’s team-mate at Dortmund, Erling Haaland.
The striker has scored an incredible 33 goals in his last 32 matches and the 20-year-old Norwegian is currently linked with both Real Madrid and Barcelona however United have the spending power and are very much in the race to sign him if Solskjaer and the board agree he is needed to strengthen the forward line.
Meanwhile, United have accepted that Paul Pogba will leave the club. Pogba and his manager Mino Raiola do not intend to sign another extension to his contract which expires in October 2022 and so a transfer this summer would enable United to get a decent fee for his services. Real Madrid, Juventus and Paris St-Germain have all shown interest.
Parker delighted with Lookman
Ademola Lookman is delighted he decided not to sit on the bench at Germany’s RB Leipzig. He returned to London, joined Fulham on loan and is proving to be one of the best forwards in the league.
Against Liverpool he gave the backs a torrid time, running through the defence, playing short passes and shooting for goal. Fulham manager Scott Parker is also delighted that he brought Ademola and he has given the London club new hope after a tough start to this season’s campaign.
Ademola‘s one big fault, according to Parker, is that he lets negative remarks on social media affect him and his game. He takes all the remarks to heart, is sensitive and it worries him. Parker is determined to toughen up his mentality, his personal strength and confidence.
McTominay proud to wear captain’s armband
This week was very special for Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay. He was handed the captain’s armband for United’s match against Watford in the FA Cup.
He said: “When the manager told me the captain’s armband was mine for the first half it was a surreal moment. I feel so proud. I’ve been at this club since I was just turning five-years-old so basically, I have 18 or 19 years associated with United. I absolutely love this football club and it’s been my whole life so it is a real honour.”
Solskjaer said: “He’s got great character, good attitude, comes in every day and does the right things, lives his life properly and wants to be the best he can be. He always goes out there and gives his very best.”
City players gradually returning after Covid-19
Manchester City’s Ferran Torres was a happy man this week as he tested negative for the coronavirus. He was back in training alongside Ederson and Tommy Doyle who had also previously been diagnosed with the illness. Manager Pep Guardiola was delighted that Kyle Walker and Gabriel Jesus were also able to sit on the bench in the Carabao Cup last week and both played in the FA cup win against Birmingham on Sunday.
Torres posted on Twitter: “Happy to be back after my period of isolation. It was my second positive test for Covid in nine months and I feel fortunate that I have overcome it; I send my love to people who are fighting against the virus every day and a big hug to those who have sadly lost loved ones.”
Pep said that he is pleased to welcome his first-team players back however Scott Carson, Cole Palmer and Eric Garcia are still in isolation.
More players out at Manchester United
By the time you read this, I am expecting Manchester United defender Timothy Fonsu-Mensah to have left Old Trafford. He has been talking to Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen and I was informed the deal was agreed by Ole Gunner Solskjaer for around £1.5m (Sh225m).
Fosu-Mensah is talented but has started only three times in four years at United. Despite this, he has earned three caps for his native Netherlands which brought him to the attention of several European clubs. I am not sure, at the moment, if he will actually leave this weekend or later this month but he could go for free in the summer.
Either way he is definitely leaving. Brandon Williams is another United player who is talking about leaving so that he can get regular playing time. Williams is still only 20 years old and it is possible either Southampton or Newcastle could take him on a loan deal. In other United news, Odion Ighalo will leave at the end of his loan period this month and the club is still awaiting bids for Sergio Romero and Marcus Rojo.
Big Sam looking for new talent
Big Sam Allardyce has now had the chance to assess his players and he is convinced the only way to get West Bromwich Albion out of their relegation fight is to bring in new talent.
He said this week: “I think we need to bring in new players more than any other club in the Premier League. We’ve let Charlie Austin go to QPR so that creates another opening. We are looking at other areas once we have secured a centre forward.”
He revealed that he is keen to sign Bournemouth’s Josh King if the price is right. Allardyce has already signed Scotland international Robert Snodgrass as part of his rebuilding plan.