Tagged: Liverpool

Annd We’re Back: Quick Thoughts on the Arsenal, the Champions League and the World Cup

It’s been way too long since I did this but I’m hoping to get back into it and eventually get a regular schedule again. There will be a lot of shorter pieces like this or posting various interesting articles like I used to and eventually transition to more of my writing.



Watching Arsene Wenger’s last home game was nothing like watching the last game at Highbury. No stakes, no real excitement. Just a meh feeling. A 5-0 win definitely looks good but it had little meaning. There was some decent football on display but none of these players excite me.

Arsenal is definitely a Europa League team now. The new manager, whoever they may be, has a lot of work cut out for them. I wouldn’t mind a squad overhaul but it the moves that are made have to make the Gunners capable of getting back into the Champions League in one shot.

Like all Arsenal fans, or at least I think all, I’m ultimately sad Wenger is gone. I’ve been on the Wenger out side of things for a while now but I’ve always appreciated what he did for Arsenal. The Europa League exit to Atletico Madrid was disappointing even though it was expected. The team’s lack of leadership and real quality was clear.

On to the new era Gunners.


Champions League

I’ll keep it short as far as the Champions League final is concerned.

I hope Liverpool wins. If Mohamed Salah doesn’t falter on the big stage, and there’s no reason to believe that since he hasn’t so far, then Liverpool have a good shot. I would say they have an even better chance if they defend well and hit Real Madrid on the counter but that approach is unlikely. What I’m expecting is an open, fast-paced game. It will come down to goalkeeper mistakes/finishing chances. We shall see.

If Real Madrid win then hats off to them. Winning the Champions League three times on the trot in this era would be a superb achievement. Madrid has had an extremely tough run this season and there were very few times that it seemed they were on the ropes in the knockouts.


World Cup

There’s a World Cup this year and I don’t know about you but I’m not excited yet. Maybe it’s because of Russia, maybe Qatar or FIFA still trying to restore its reputation after the scandal a few years back. It just doesn’t feel like a World Cup year.

The growing behemoth that is club football also acts as a distraction despite the fact that most of the major leagues in Europe have been a formality for a few months.

I think/hope it will turn out alright as Brazil’s did in the end. No Oranje for me to cheer for but there’s still France and Spain, all the African teams and the federation of Lionel Messi, I mean Argentina. It’s his last chance and I really would like him to win the big one to end all arguments. Except he’ll still have his critics even if he carried Argentina to the final while using a mind-control device to guide Gonzalo Higuain on his key one-on-one opportunities, and organized the defense at the same time.

The sure favorites right now would be Germany, France, Brazil and Spain but there should be a lot of intriguing games. One other factor that will certainly provide entertainment will be the introduction of VAR, as reported here by CNN. 

I’ll probably do some more preview stuff as we get closer.

Liverpool must change after Europa League defeat to Sevilla – ESPN FC

Liverpool must change after Europa League defeat to Sevilla – ESPN FC

Change was coming with or without the loss to Sevilla. I think that goes without saying. It does seem like Liverpool were fuelled more by emotional than an overwhelming brilliant tactical plan in the wins over Dortmund and Villarreal and in the first half against Sevilla. We can say over and over that a full preseason under Klopp and some key signings and they’ll be trouble domestically next season.

Liverpool’s collapse shows Jürgen Klopp needs greater control amid the chaos

Karius, Hector & Chilwell Are Exactly the Type of Signings Liverpool Should Make

Liverpool success in European competitions a nice tonic to Premier League woe – ESPN FC

Liverpool success in European competitions a nice tonic to Premier League woe – ESPN FC

I like Sevilla but a win would be really great for Liverpool. Could kick-start a new period of success. Possibly.

While it’s understandable that the author below would argue fewer games would actually benefit Liverpool domestically, that alone doesn’t mean losing the final would be worth it. The Champions League schedule wouldn’t be as tasking as the Europa League one Liverpool had this season, plus a lot of the injuries come down, possibly, to Klopp pushing players during the middle of the season, an EPL season at that, without the winter break he’s used to. A full summer should help rectify that, along with the addition of a couple of players. Yes, the team may not be torn apart but higher quality additions interested in the UCL would help with depth both in Europe and domestically. Liverpool is a side that should be challenging on all fronts regular. The one season off one season on in Europe won’t cut it for a club of their stature and there’s no guarantee that no European football means a chance at the title increases.

Why losing the Europa League final might actually be best for Liverpool

Liverpool moving firmly in right direction under Jurgen Klopp – ESPN FC

Liverpool moving firmly in right direction under Jurgen Klopp – ESPN FC

Agreed. Klopp could get Liverpool back into the Champions League without a full season. I don’t see Rodgers doing anything similar if he had stayed on.  It will be nice to have a really competitive Liverpool back in the Premier League next season.

Premier League Chaos Has Claimed the Elite: Can Incoming Bosses Rise Above It? | Bleacher Report

Premier League Chaos Has Claimed the Elite: Can Incoming Bosses Rise Above It? | Bleacher Report

Really good piece here. Next season will be really interesting and at first glance one would think the incoming high-profile managers will be key and basically restore order. We’ve already seen what Jurgen Klopp can do without a full preseason. Mauricio Pochettino is setting himself apart as well while Wenger is declining at Arsenal. There are other good managers and teams throughout the league but with the resources they have the big clubs look likely to return to the top.

Heavy metal arrives in Liverpool as Klopp dumps Dortmund – ESPN FC

Heavy metal arrives in Liverpool as Klopp dumps Dortmund – ESPN FC

Yes, it was hectic and sloppy at times but there were some great elements in the attacking sense for Liverpool against Dortmund. One of those memorable nights at Anfield. A couple new additions and a full preseason under and Liverpool will be very dangerous next season. They’re even in with a chance in the Europa League.

Does Manchester City and Liverpool’s European form suggest better times on the continent? | The Boot Room

Does Manchester City and Liverpool’s European form suggest better times on the continent? | The Boot Room

My piece on the Premier League’s possible chances in Europe next season.


Liverpool and Manchester City, despite their respective malaise in the Premier League, carry the torch for English football in Europe.

As things stand, the Reds and the Citizens are in good positions in their respective ties against Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain. The French and German squads are the favorites but will be disappointed after the first leg. Both sides gave up crucial away goals at home, with PSG in a particularly worrisome position having let in two goals. If neither side is able to turn things around then the Premier League will have semifinalists in both the Europa League and the Champions League.

Despite the strong position of both clubs, questions could be raised over whether this resurgence is a sign that English football is on the rise again, or that Premier League clubs will continue to struggle on the continent again next campaign.

The Premier League’s European performances in previous seasons means Liverpool’s and City’s European runs are somewhat surprising.

The fact that it’s these teams in particular makes it even more of a shock. Liverpool and City are enduring poor domestic campaigns, with the Reds unlikely to get a Champions League spot and City, expected to fight for the title when the season began, fighting to stay in the Champions League positions.

One could say that both clubs are in transition, though Manchester City’s is certainly self-inflicted. Liverpool benefited from a managerial change midway through the season actually and it’s unlikely they would be here without Jurgen Klopp. City announced the impending arrival of Pep Guardiola and that has left his predecessor, Manuel Pellegrini, trying to keep the ship afloat until the summer. Still, both teams are on the verge of making it to European semifinals.

Liverpool made their way to this stage by topping their group undefeated, two wins and four draws did little to excite, before narrowly edging German side Augsburg in the round of 32. Their Round of 16 game tie against Manchester United suggested they may yet make a mark on the tournament. Tournament favorites, Borussia Dortmund, would have been forgiven for being a bit nonchalant upon facing their second English side after brushing aside Tottenham. Even with Klopp, their former manager, in charge Dortmund would expect to progress.

Manchester City continue to wobble domestically but finally found some luck in Europe this season. The Citizens topped their group that included Juventus and got one of the easier Round of 16 draws in Dynamo Kyiv. A tie against fellow nouveau riche side, PSG, was not ideal given the French Champions defeat of Chelsea in the previous round. Two goals in Paris means City just need some level of defensive fortitude to progress. Good luck with that.

Should they both progress, the bonus for the Premier League is that there will be more distance between themselves and the Serie A in UEFA’s coefficient rankings. The Premier League’s hallowed fourth spot in the competition was already safe as these sides have gone further than any Italian team. A trip to the semifinals would make it a very good year for the Premier League. It may just be the beginning. Or not.

The Premier League’s presence in Europe next season will be different.

Current league leaders, Leicester City, will almost certainly join the Champions League party with Tottenham likely to join them. Arsenal look set to continue their under-performance on Europe’s grandest stage as well but there’s no telling which Manchester club, or West Ham, will be fourth. Should Liverpool pull off a shocker and win the Europa League then they too will be in the Champions League.  Manchester City won the Capital One Cup but if they get a Champions League spot then their place in the Europa League could go to any one of West Ham, Stoke City, Southampton, Liverpool or, quite incredibly, Chelsea depending on how those sides finish in the league. There’s also the small matter of the FA Cup winner entering the Europa League as well, with Crystal PalaceEverton and Watford joining either Manchester United or West Ham in the battle to entertain in Europe next season.

Such a wide array of options means the likes of Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Claudio Ranieri, Mauricio Pochettino, Slaven Bilic, Arsene Wenger, Alan Pardew, Roberto Martinez, Quique Sanchez Flores or, least likely, Antonio Conte could be leading out Premier League teams next season.

Ranieri, Pochettino and Wenger seem assured places but the remaining pool of candidates for either European competition is intriguing. One would think that the Premier League has a chance of replicating, or surpassing, this season’s current European performances.

Manchester City and Liverpool finish their European ties on Tuesday and Thursday of next week. A trip to the semifinals for either Premier League side might be strange now but it could become a regular occurrence starting next season. One thing is for certain. The Premier League will continue to entertain in Europe.

Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool remind English football what it is good at | Football | The Guardian

Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool remind English football what it is good at | Football | The Guardian

You would think that English teams would be better at an organized pressing game. Given the glimpses we’ve seen from Liverpool since Klopp’s arrival one can only imagine how good they might be with a full preseason and some ore players to Klopp’s liking. They may even be in the Champions League next week season if he can somehow pull of a Europa League win.

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool project continues to take shape

Is Borussia Dortmund Better for Mario Gotze Than Liverpool? | Bleacher Report

Is Borussia Dortmund Better for Mario Gotze Than Liverpool? | Bleacher Report

Yes, Dortmund seems to have the better future currently but I think Gotze would be swayed by working with Jurgen Klopp again. Liverpool has some solid talent as well and given some time they can be a force again. It’s a tough decision either way if that’s what it comes to for Mario Gotze

John Barnes: England’s First Black Superstar

Here’s My First Piece in A Series Looking at Some of Football’s Greatest Talents in the Past. Enjoy.

Credit: EMPICS Sports Agency

Credit: EMPICS Sports Agency

“He Scored! And England, amazingly, are into the lead…right on half-time.” Those were the words of the commentator just a few minutes after a piece of magic by an Englishman. A priceless reaction to what was a very surprising moment.

John Barnes had mesmerized the crowd, and his opponents, with a slalom dribble that left three Brazilian defenders in his wake, and a goalkeeper grasping at thin air, before slotting into an empty net. Looking back, Barnes says in an interview, ‘When you’re dribbling, it’s instinctive. It’s not like when you score a free-kick and you know what you wanted to do. I didn’t know what I’d done until I saw it. I thought, “That looks all right”. It was like an out-of-body experience. I scored a better goal for Watford against Rotherham. This was iconic because it was in the Maracana against Brazil, but it was a friendly.”

As for the goal itself Barnes recalls, “I remember beating Leandro and I remember seeing the goalkeeper in front of me. That’s all. Tony Woodcock was the only one who was miserable because I didn’t pass to him. He’s never forgiven me. The goal changed perceptions of me.”

Throughout his entire career he was capable of producing such moments, something many of his contemporaries in the top levels of English football can attest to.

Sir Alex Ferguson is one manager who regretted not signing the Liverpool legend, and the likes of Sir Tom Finney and George Best had nothing but praise for the left winger. Liverpool teammates in different generations all remember the brilliance that Barnes regularly produced, with one teammate in particular, Peter Beardsley, calling him “The best player I ever played with, bar none. For three or four years at the end of the ’80s, John was possibly the best player in the world.” The fans affections for Barnes was clear as the winger was twice voted in the top ten for best Liverpool players when polled by Liverpool FC TV.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Barnes moved with his family to England at the age of 12. Barnes’ father always urged his children into sports and Barnes made sure to continue his football in his new home, even turning out as a central defender for Stowes Boys Club. He was eventually spotted by Watford and signed for the London club at the age of 17. Under the management of Graham Taylor, the young Barnes blossomed and became an attacking force on the left-wing for the Hornets.

Watford were in the midst of a rise to what was then known as Division 1, and the 17-year-old Barnes had little trouble making an impact.

Despite his age, his mixture of pace, power and technique made him a handful for opponents and he scored 13 goals in his first professional season. Those goals, and his assists, played a major role in Watford finishing their rise and entering the top division. The step up to Division 1 didn’t faze the youngster and he helped Watford to a second place finish in their first season in the top league. An FA Cup final was to follow a year after against Everton but the Hornets were 2-0 losers in that game. On a personal level, Barnes continued to impress and that understandably prompted interest from top clubs in Europe and abroad.

Interestingly, Liverpool was the only club to make a bid. With the resulting move, Barnes ended a six-year relationship with Watford to join the Reds under Kenny Dalglish. It was with the Reds that he became star, and showed his mental strength.

Credit: Liverpool FC

Credit: Liverpool FC

Barnes continued to dominate opponents with his skills and was integral in Liverpool’s Division 1 victory in the 1987/88 season. His performances led to recognition from his peers in the form of the PFA Player’s Player of the Year award to go along with his Football Writers’ Association Footballer of Year award. He had risen to every challenge on the field throughout his career but was soon to meet some off it.

The Liverpool winger was one of those on the pitch on the day of the tragic Hillsborough incident, when Liverpool met Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup semi-final. Barnes was deeply affected by this tragedy and he withdrew from the England squad’s upcoming match to attend funerals of some of the victims. He also met with survivors in the hospital and mentions conversing with fans who implored him to play on for the club .

His star status on the field also led to personal attacks as Barnes was subject to constant racial abuse from the stands.

From his days at Watford Barnes recalls “I remember as far back as 1981 playing at places like Millwall and West Ham when you’d get the usual monkey noises and bananas being thrown onto the pitch.” Initially, even Liverpool fans were wary of their new signing. His first season did a lot to sway opinions but Barnes’ temperament also played a big part. The simple fact is that none of it seemed to matter to him as Barnes stated, “I considered them to be ignorant, so I never responded to it because I thought they would have won if it had affected my game.” One memorable incident occurred against rivals, Everton, where he casually back-heeled a banana that was tossed next to him while he was on the pitch. Barnes lack of reaction to the ignorance, his wonderful skill and his professional demeanor made him a legend to another demographic entirely and brought respect from those not of his own skin color.

Barnes may not have been the first black English player, as the likes of Arthur Wharton, Andrew Watson and Walter Tull all came before him and played significant parts in breaking down barriers, but he was the most successful, and the best. His successes also surpass South African-born Albert Johanneson, who was probably the most famous of them all before Barnes. Barnes was a role model who handled his criticism and racism with grace and was disciplined and hardworking in his profession.

It helped that he continued to produce at one of England’s greatest clubs.

Barnes continued to link with the likes of John Aldridge, Peter Beardsley, Ian Rush and Ray Houghton to terrorize Liverpool opponents. Another league title came in the 1989/90 season and two FA cups and a league cup were added as well. Barnes remains one of the few players to win multiple FWA Footballer of the Year awards when he won it again in 1990. His ten years at Liverpool were an undoubted success. Barnes did suffer a loss of pace after a difficult injury to his Achilles tendon but a switch to central midfield allowed him to further showcase his vision and passing abilities. The only thing missing at club level was participation in Europe and that wasn’t possible thanks to the ban on English clubs in Europe due to Liverpool’s part in the Heysel disaster. Things didn’t come together on the international stage either.

Barnes was among another core group of talented attackers for the national side but, like the recently defunct Golden Generation, he failed to reproduce his club performances and achievements. There were moments, the Maracanã goal most obvious of all, but if there was one real slight on his career it would be his ineffectiveness in an England shirt.

Part of that was down to tactics, as the player himself hinted at the difference between Liverpool’s style of play and England’s. Stuck out on the left-wing in a rigid system, Barnes was unable to replicate the movement and passing he did with his club mates. Big tournaments like the 1988 European tournament and Italia 90’ ended in disappointment on a personal level, though the national team did regain respect in latter tournament. Still, 79 caps is the tally for a player who was once was the most capped black player in the English squad and a trailblazer for those who followed.

As time began to wind down on his career, Barnes took on a veteran role at the club in his new midfield position. He helped the likes of Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman progress before eventually moving to new pastures. Short stints at Newcastle, where Kenny Dalglish signed him again, and Charlton eventually led to Barnes retiring after 20 years as a professional.

The Maracanã goal may live on as one of Barnes’ greatest achievements as it so brilliantly highlights the player at his best. He defied belief for many of those watching and made a mark on this game in how he handled himself in tough times and never faltered off the field of play. Barnes did something few other black players before him had done and carved out a place as a legend in one of England’s biggest clubs.

*Any quotes from Barnes taken from this documentary, this documentary and this interview.