Free Friday, November 13th 2020: International Football Abuse and A Deeper Defensive Line?

Free Friday, November 13th 2020: International Football Abuse and A Deeper Defensive Line?
November 13, 2020 Daniel Rhodes
In Free, Free Friday


Best posts of the week:

Chosen by Chris Rowland and Daniel Rhodes.

1 – Praise for Mo Salah from Simply Red:

Not only is he scoring goals, he is also providing quality passes into the box. Seems to have developed even further from an already world-class level. Plus, he’s running his socks off and doing more than his fair share of defending as a forward. Simply brilliant.

2 – JNG85 on players playing international football these days:

If I was an elite footballer (quite the stretch, but please bear with me) I would think long and hard whether it was in the best interests of my vanishingly short career to turn up for my national side. We can all point to a number of sensible footballers that took this view as their career developed, such as James Milner.

When we discuss the matter of hectic schedules, particularly domestically, I wonder what role the players union has in matters. If the players union was looking out for the welfare of its members it would surely lobby, and lobby aggressively, against the powers that be who formulate these barmy schedules.

I got into the NFL about 10 years ago. When I started watching it the league and the owners were mooting extending season from 16 games to 18. I am sure that many of you here are aware at the sheer brutality of American Football and the high attrition rate during the season. To suggest extending the league was madness from a player welfare perspective. The players union fought extension plans tooth and nail, and there has not been much talk of it in recent years.

This leads me to wonder where the football players union is when its players need it to fight for their protection.

3 – NickM on how the injury might impact us tactically:

Not only does this injury mean that we lose another of our first choice centre backs, but we also lose our quickest centre back and the one who also appeared to have been tasked with replacing VvD in terms of passing the ball long to the wings.

I think right now we will be looking at strategies to cope with that loss which may well include playing a deeper defensive line because of that loss of pace. I think we will possibly switch to playing with two 6’s rather than two eights in order to provide more defensive cover, or we may also see one of our full backs remaining deep in order to have a more solid three.

What I imagine we won’t be wanting to do, is expose our central defence in the same way that we would have when the defence was VvD & Gomez or Matip. There might be a slight up side to all this and that is that teams may see us as defensively vulnerable and therefore play a slightly more attacking style of football which may allow space for the front three or four to try and exploit. It is unlikely but it does also remain a possibility.

4 – Jeff on the season so far and dealing with adversity:

I think we all remember how Mo Salah was knocked out of the European Champions League final and how it appears Karius was concussed and should have been properly treated before play was allowed to resume and the fact that these two incidents played a massive arguably a determining role in Real winning the match.

What was the response of Liverpool FC to this. Well, next year Liverpool won the European Club Championship and game away 1 measly point away from doing the double.

What was the club’s response to just missing winning the Premier League title. It went out last year and won the title for the first time in 30 years.

If you want to extend this story, how did Liverpool do last year with injuries or the previous year with injuries when down 3-0 to Barcelona? We all know the answer to this question. This year as with last year Liverpool have suffered massive injury woes especially losing VVD.  How has the club done since VVD was hurt? I would say great.

Paul wrote a book a while ago entitled Mentality Monsters and if you think the Liverpool at that time was comprised of mentality monster players what do you think about the lads who time after time after time overcome horrible set backs to perform at a high level on the pitch and as a rule amass points more often that not getting wins?

I have written in the past about the belief in North America that a team has to learn how to win matches and make no mistake about it this team has learned how to win matches. You cannot make the same claim about other teams in the Premier League. In the recent past Liverpool have had a horrible record at City and today’s draw was better than the club has done in recent years. Fergie for what every you think about him showed how to win the Premier League and one of his secrets was drawing matches at teams that MIGHT be a threat to Man U winning the Premier League.

I wrote before the match that I thought Klopp was taking a book out of the page of the great Juve teams of the late 70s and early 80s and if you saw this team play I believe you would have said that today Liverpool had definitely adopted that model. It may take a few matches to sort things out and the return to fitness for Thiago but I think this style of playing will be very effective for Liverpool and other teams will struggle to deal with it.

It was not that long ago when Liverpool had little if any quality depth but last season and this season showed those days are long gone. Given how last season went and given the reality of the fixture congestion this season depth of the squad and injuries are going to play a major role perhaps a determining role in who wins not only the Premier League title but also the European Club Championship and the depth of Liverpool is a huge plus in this world.

Has Liverpool gotten off to a perfect start? No, but I agree with Paul Liverpool are doing just fine.

5 – Paul Tomkins:

Gomez Abused By International Football

To have had so many international football friendlies, crammed into an already packed schedule, appears obscene. All the travelling, for non-competitive games, in times of global pandemic, seems equally obscene.

While players are often developed in the countries that they play for (albeit that is not a given, as it could just be that one grandparent was born there and they developed their trade in another part of the world), it is club football fans who essentially pay the players’ wages. Club football fans are the ones who pay all the big television subscriptions and match tickets (up until Covid-19) that keeps the game solvent. How many people would subscribe to just watch England play?It seems a bit elitist to say that countries cannot have their “own” players, but they are not the ones paying to develop them or further improve them. Domestic and Champions League football pays for these players to do their jobs, and it’s their fans that fund it. International teams take those players, and often break them; what do they care if there’s not another game for a month, or maybe three months?

And it just adds injury to actual injury and insult that you have people like David Moyes saying that he voted against having five subs this season, in contrast to the major leagues in the rest of Europe, because – as with trying to get last season cancelled – he thought it would help West Ham. Screw the players and their welfare.

The 14 non-Big Six clubs seem to spend their entire time trying to find ways to hold English football back, so that they may retain their position in the top tier. Turkeys may not vote for Christmas but Moyes, et al, are a detriment to the top league in a number of ways; one of which was to vote to not narrow the pay gap between the top tier and the Championship, which itself turns most of those 14 clubs fearful of relegation and often means the football they play to stay in the top flight is dull and attritional.

Bigger clubs may have bigger squads, but they are playing Champions League games every week right now; and then to throw in not two but three internationals at the start of the Champions League group games, and three more halfway through the Champions League group games, seems insane. To not allow more subs seems insane, given that this schedule was known in advance.

You can argue that Jürgen Klopp overplayed Joe Gomez this season, but he did not set the schedule, and he had van Dijk, Joel Matip and Fabinho, the three other options, all injured. He also has a duty to the paying fans to try and win as many games as possible and to not put out kids who are not ready and who could be savaged by criticism as a result – although he has also played some kids, too, and supported them publicly.International managers then take these athletes, who are finely tuned at the top clubs week in and week out, and get to run them ragged for two weeks, often with far less understanding of the sports science – given that there isn’t the money or expertise in the international game, and some nations do not have the experience required.

The old metaphor of them taking Ferraris and driving them around car parks doing doughnuts springs to mind, although it could be more like taking thoroughbred race horses and having them cart industrial engines around as if they are raggedy old Shire horses, then have them doing some actual donkeywork for good measure.

No wonder Alex Ferguson spent his career denying his players access to international football; something his increasing power within the game allowed him to get away with, and which gave Manchester United a further advantage.

And how many ultra-serious knee injuries can you get in one season? And can you assign them all to the centre-back personnel? Virgil van Dijk’s ligaments were shattered days after starting three international games in a week, which can’t have helped his body be in a fresh condition overall, even if the challenge on him was horrific. Joe Gomez’s knee is in pieces in preparing for three international games in a week. Given the horrendous injury list, it’s a miracle that Liverpool are the best-placed team to win the league (out of the Big Six, and based on the difficulty of fixtures already played), and have three wins from three in the Champions League, including two tough away games. To retain the title, it’ll have to be done without both Gomez and van Dijk. We can just hope that they are back in time for next season, whenever that may be.

Articles published since last Friday:

Sunday Nov. 8th:

A Very Good Point at City. And Why the League Table Is Lying by Paul Tomkins.

And at least the Reds won a legitimate penalty for the kind of foul on Sadio Mané that usually gets ignored (he was clattered far worse in the box against West Ham). With four penalties in eight Premier League games the Reds are getting them relatively thick and fast, although Leicester, topping the table, have a scarcely believable eight – three won at The Etihad in similar fashion to Mané’s, although a couple had less contact. Leicester and Manchester United remain the kings of the spot-kick award.

But you can now also add a ridiculous handball penalty to the list of VAR calls to absolutely shit on the Reds this season; although at least Kevin De Bruyne did the decent thing and hit the spot-kick well wide. Joe Gomez was pulling his hands out the way and into the silhouette of his body as he ran (how can you run with your arms behind your back and stay balanced?), and it was “never a penalty” according to Gary Neville. It was no more intentional than the one with Joao Cancelo.

Again, I thought that the VAR images exonerated Liverpool and Gomez, as with Mané being offside against Everton and Fabinho’s foul against Sheffield United clearly being outside the box. The movement of Gomez’s arm was clearly to get it out of the way – moving in the opposite direction to the ball, and hitting him when his arm was close to his body. But this is a crazy world right now and some of the craziest people are at Stockley Park.

Monday Nov. 9th:

Post-Match Analysis: Man City 1 -1 Liverpoolby Daniel Rhodes.

Ten shots to seven in the Reds’ favour is no mean feat, in fact it’s the first time we’ve outshot Pep’s side in the Premier League at their ground since 15/16. But when we dig down into the shot quality, ours was very low at 0.06 and only one big chance (the penalty), whereas Man City’s was 0.12 from seven shots (including three big chances).

Tuesday Nov. 10th:

Unravelled – the Rich and Varied DNA of Liverpool’s Goalsby Andrew Beasley with an intro by Paul Tomkins.

After Liverpool only had six penalties in all competitions in the whole of last season, they’ve already had four in 2020/21. Hell, the two they had against Leeds on the opening weekend was double the total they had between December 27th and their final match of the last campaign.

And for the first time ever, Mohamed Salah has taken four in a row (or five including the final one of 2019/20), and has slotted them all home. The interesting thing is, all four of them have gone into a different sixth of the goal, as defined by Opta.

TTT stalwart Jon Rushton is handling publicity for a new feature-length documentary on the inside story of the 2019/20 Premier League winning season. The End of the Storm is out on digital and DVD from 30th November. 

With intimate access to manager Jürgen Klopp and club legend Sir Kenny Dalglish, and interviews with first team players including Jordan Henderson, Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino, Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker combined with passionate Liverpool fans from around the world, The End of the Storm is directed by James Erskine (One Night In Turin) and released by independent distributor Altitude (Diego Maradona).

The soundtrack features a new recording by multi-platinum selling, Brit Award winner Lana Del Rey of You’ll Never Walk Alone. For more information, please contact Jon Rushton (

That line from last month’s article on Sadio Mané didn’t take long to come to pass, did it? And as Diogo Jota’s Atalanta hat-trick occurred in November, it played no part in the voting process for this article.

Liverpool’s new number 20 wasn’t voted as The Tomkins Times’ man of the match for any game in October, which is unusual for a player of the month. But he certainly contributed to the final three games, scoring winners against Sheffield United and West Ham United, with an opening goal against FC Midtjylland sandwiched in between.

And while goals always capture the imagination, it’s more interesting to poke around in the less glamorous aspects of the game, to see what else a player offers. What was it Pep Lijnders said?