FRIDAY’S BIG HEADLINES
Things fall apart
You have to be an extremely bad team to lose five games in a row at home. Relegation bad. ‘Crisis club’ bad. Cracked-club-logo-in-the-newspaper-splash bad. Incredibly, that is the depth to which Liverpool’s season has now plunged thanks to a 1-0 defeat to Chelsea at Anfield which, like a UV bulb swung around a hotel room, brought every single horrible truth to light. That comfy bed you’ve spent so much time on over the past two years? Yeah, look what it’s been covered in the whole time.
Mino Raiola dies aged 54
This was an evening with simply no upside for Liverpool, who were outmanouvered by Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea and created chronically few chances as they succumbed to a fifth consecutive home defeat for the first time in their history. After 68 undefeated at Anfield, five defeat in a row. It’s almost hard to get your head around the scale of this collapse. There are no quick fixes. Unless Jurgen Klopp does something dramatic, this has the stench of a team in permanent decline.
Seventh in the league. Twenty-two points off Manchester City. Eight defeats in 27 games. The title they waited 30 years to win has already been lost. Champions League football may now be a stretch. This season is a dumpster fire, if the dumpster in question was also attached to a giant meteorite heading straight for the heart of the planet, committing all seven billion people on it to certain death. It’s basically an incredibly bad season.
No one could, or should, contemplate sacking Jurgen Klopp. If anyone has earned the right to rebuild Liverpool, it’s him. But now the question is how deep and how broad the rebuilding goes. Liverpool will be a much better team, for instance, when Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez can play again, and Jordan Henderson and Fabinho can spend a whole season in midfield. But things are not so simple in attack, and especially not when it comes to Mohamed Salah, who last night was subbed off after only 62 minutes.
He looked distinctly unimpressed and so too was his agent, who tweeted this not so cryptic message to mark the occasion:
Has Salah’s future at Liverpool reached a full stop? It’s certainly possible, even if Klopp tried to carry on like there was nothing strange about taking off Salah with 30 mins to go and goals needed to rescue Liverpool.
"In that moment he looked like he felt the intensity tonight and I didn’t want to risk it. It is all fine, I make decisions that I think are right in the moment,” said Klopp. "Just bringing fresh legs, it’s not often with Mo, he played a lot of games. I could’ve taken off Sadio [Mane], Bobby [Firmino], at this moment it looked like Mo, the most.”
Liverpool are hurting right now, and their number one priority is to stop this disastrous losing streak at home. But the ripple effects of last night's fresh humiliation could be felt across the summer.
VAR, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing
If you weren’t already of the opinion that VAR is an absolute abomination and that the recent rule changes which have been implemented alongside it, primarily those around handballs and offsides, were a complete blight on the game we all love, then last night supplied the final shred of evidence you needed.
Genuine question: is there now anyone in the country who still thinks this is all an improvement on what we had before? That football’s actual soul hasn’t been eroded by the nonsense we see on a weekly basis?
In the Liverpool v Chelsea game, Timo Werner had a goal disallowed because his elbow was offside – never mind the fact that this effectively punished him for being alert as his feet were firmly in an onside position and he was getting the jump on a defender. No, thanks to the ridiculous new rules and the use of VAR, a perfectly fine goal was removed from the record books.
And it was even worse as Fulham saw Josh Maja have a goal ruled out in their 1-0 defeat to Tottenham for a completely unavoidable moment when the ball was struck against the arm of Mario Lemina in the build-up.
It’s simple: VAR is wrecking football and sucking all the joy out of one of the most precious moments in life, when your team scores a goal. It was clear this would happen from day one. At this point let’s simply hand over to Scott Parker, who addressed this beautifully last night:
"We're trying to make the game so pure and so sterile and trying to control every single phase and every single moment to an absolute tee and that's where the problem lies for me. What we want to see as fans and spectators is goals, excitement, and I'm sorry to say that VAR is killing every bit of that.
"No longer do you celebrate a goal because you're hanging on thinking it might be disallowed and then you have a 10-second check. You're losing the raw emotion of the game we absolutely love and it's a shame.
"My opinion has not changed. My opinion has always stood for this in terms of how I see VAR and I always knew that slowly along the way, the experiences that people face will only have a damaging effect.
"You're going to get to a point where really, there's going to be no emotion in the game and the moment is gone. Tonight is just about common sense for me.
"I think over the course of the season when you look at it and the decisions we've faced, I think we've been on the wrong end of them. The game against Newcastle comes to mind, the Cavaleiro penalty against Liverpool, and certainly that is the case. This is what it is, I'm not one to look back or whinge or moan, I'm just giving you my opinion on VAR and where our game is going, that's all it is.
"There's certain things in life you need to let breathe a little bit, you need to see its originality sometimes and let it be and football is one of them. If you want to make the game sterile and pure, then you're going to get the game you're seeing here.
"It's soon going to become a game where there is no real emotion because it gets taken out with the disappointments or the experience that players, fans and coaches are going to go through."
Richarlison sends Everton into fifth
In the third Premier League game last night, Richarlison’s goal gave Everton a 1-0 win over West Brom that puts them into fifth place.
That’s it. That’s the story.
IN OTHER NEWS
Isn’t Zlatan Ibrahimovic the new Stick to Sports guy? In which case why was he firmly not sticking to sports and instead offering up a frankly woeful attempt to sing at Italy’s famous Sanremo festival last night?
Ibrahimovic used to be quite charming in his own arrogant way but those comments about Lebron James and activism mean he no longer gets the benefit of the doubt around these parts. This is a shambles.
What’s that? You want footballers who really can sing? Take it away, Chris Waddle and Basile Boli…
Huddersfield take on Cardiff tonight in the Championship while Valencia clash with Villarreal in La Liga. And among the highlights across the weekend: Bayern v Dortmund, Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid and Manchester United v Manchester City.
Monday’s Warm-Up will be entirely populated by punctuation! Don't @ me.
Agent Raiola says health status is 'p***** off' after death reports
'Political award' - Ibrahimovic says Ballon d'Or snub due to ‘Mr Perfect’ criteria