England are out of the World Cup, then. Some people often try to play down the importance of a manager and those that have looked into the statistics would point out that the best ones only add a few points to a season’s total. Yet a quick look at England’s exit from the tournament will help you realise the difference between the best managers and those with tactical inexperience. I like Gareth Southgate and think some of the stuff that he’s done with his team this summer has been interesting. The work on penalties that he evidently did with the lads is simple, but virtually no other manager has done it in recent years. I also think he’s done well in terms of bringing the players and supporters closer together.
– Restored national pride
– Given the team an identity
– Believed in youth
– Inspired a generation
– Took England to their first World Cup semi-final in 28 years#GarethSouthgate #eng #WorldCup2018 pic.twitter.com/GMcELGig2k
— Media Village (@themediavillage) July 12, 2018
Yet the reality is that he’s still a manager who lacks experience and was perhaps a little bit naive in his tactics last night and, indeed, throughout the tournament. If we’re all being dispassionate and honest about it, England have had one of the easiest journeys ever to a semi-final. That doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve credit for beating what was in front of them, but when he came up against anything that tested his tactical acumen, he failed. Colombia’s switch to a back three, for example, seem to throw him entirely and in the end it took a degree of fortunate in a penalty shootout to get past them. Sweden were never going to pose much of a risk, but Croatia always were and I thought he got his tactics wrong last night.The decision to go defensive so early was a bizarre one, with Jesse Lingard running the ball to the corner to waste time after just sixty-two minutes. Croatia were all over the place in the first-half but England didn’t push home their advantage and in the second-half allowed them to control proceedings. As with many managers before him, Southgate also allowed what press reaction would be to dictate his starting eleven. Harry Kane might finish the tournament with the Golden Boot, yet his performances were all average at best and the team was carrying him for most of its time in Russia. Yes, he’s brilliant at penalties but he offered absolutely nothing against Croatia and wouldn’t have lasted the ninety under a better manager. That’s to say nothing of his decision to shoot when Sterling had an open goal in front of him, such is the extent that the Golden Boot seemed to matter more to him than England’s progress.
First English journalist to do a serious article on how Harry Kane cost England a place in the World Cup Final in order to try to win the golden boot gains my unwavering respect
— CROATIADEVOTEE 🇭🇷 (@DKeith0904) July 12, 2018
Equally Dele Alli was a passenger and should’ve been replaced by the far more impressive Ruben Loftus-Cheek in the starting lineup. None of this is to say that Southgate is a poor manager or should be sacked. Everyone has to learn somewhere and he’s shown far more class in four weeks than Sam Allardyce has in an entire career. I think he’ll learn from this and if he knows where he went wrong then it will be interesting to see England develop under his guidance ahead of the Euros in 2020. I hope he does indeed come back stronger from it because it’s been nice to see so many people getting excited by football who normally wouldn’t be. If England want to progress, however, then looking at his performance in the tournament according to the play and not the progress is the best place to start.
The Runners And Riders Of The Rumour Mill
Having said all of that about England, Southgate and the World Cup, there is now just one match of any worth remaining in the tournament and by the time I write next week’s transfer rumour piece it will be all over. That means that the press will not be able to write about it any more and so links to players will increase exponentially. Here are the last of the vaguely sensible ones, then…
It’s been interesting to see changes to the mood occur in recent times. Despite the fact that a couple of Liverpool’s main targets have been away at the World Cup, some supporters have still become increasingly annoyed that we haven’t been signing players every hour of the day. What links have there been this week that might start to assuage them?
This isn’t a new name on the transfer rumour list, nor is it one that’s even getting many people all that excited. Yet I’m not entirely sure I agree with the disappointment I hear when his name is mentioned. He’s not a player that gets the blood pumping, but he really doesn’t need to be. What we need is a squad that can compete in several competitions for the course of a year. If you could turn back time and bring on Shaqiri or a half-fit Adam Lallana to replace Mo Salah in the Champions League final, which one would you opt for, I wonder? I know what my answer is. The Swiss player isn’t a footballing genius that will put pressure on the front three, but I’m not sure that that’s what he’s being brought in to do.A quick look at Manchester United’s title winners over the years shows countless bang average players who played more games for them than you’d imagine. John O’Shea, Wes Brown and Mikaël Silvestre are all names that spring to mind. I think that Jürgen Klopp is looking at his squad and wants some experience in it in a number of positions, so for the £13 million it’s rumoured we’ll need to pay to bring him in it makes complete sense to me. It’s also possible that the manager wants to be able to play different formations depending on the opposition and Shaqiri will give him the flexibility to play a variety of them. He’s more of a ‘traditional’ wide man, meaning that the German will have options if he wants to rest one of the front three.
Likelihood Rating: 9/10
This is more of a ‘not move’ rather than a move, actually. Liverpool have been linked with Alisson Becker since midway through last season, with the Brazilian receiving a decent ovation from the Kop when Roma arrived on Merseyside for our Champions League semi-final against them. The mistake by Loris Karius in the match against Tranmere Rovers seemed to intensify the need for a new shot-stopper, leading to reports from some quarters that we’d actually lodged a bid that was close to £60 million for him with the Italian side. It didn’t take long for the Liverpool Echo and other local journalists to rubbish that rumour, however, and the reports emerging from the club now seem to be that we were interested in him earlier in the year but that that interest has cooled.
Widespread reports in Italy on €65m Liverpool bid for Alisson…completely wrong (unfortunately). NO bid from @LFC, no contact at all with player or club. No plans to bid at this stage either. Was some interest earlier in window, but cooled and not revived. #LFC
— David Maddock (@MaddockMirror) July 12, 2018
The big question is whether that’s because the club genuinely aren’t interested in him any more or that the fact that he seems to favour a move to Real Madrid means that we’re simply claiming we’re not interested to save face. I’m wiling to bet that the truth lies somewhere in the middle, as it happens. Alisson definitely appears to be more interested in a move the defending Champions League winners than us, but I also wonder whether his performances in that competition as well as the World Cup have made Michael Edwards and team consider whether he’s actually even worth the money being asked for him. Those in the know say that he was brilliant in Serie A last season, but on the two biggest stages he’s performed in recently he hasn’t made a save of note. The interested appears to be dwindling…
Likelihood Rating: 2/10
This now seems like a hit-list of previous rumours brought back to life, but there’s definitely a reason to discuss Nabil Fekir’s possible transfer. According to the Daily Mirror, the Frenchman has informed Lyon that he still wants to move to Liverpool and it is his dream to be allowed to do so. As a result, it’s believed that he’s received a promise from the club to re-open negotiations once the World Cup is over. Given that the only person that’s been taking about the move for the past four weeks is the club’s chairman Jean Michel Aulas, I’m not even remotely surprised that the move isn’t as dead in the water as it might have appeared. I’m also not shocked that things appear to be gearing up to resurrect it now that the World Cup is coming to a close.All of the reports before the tournament got underway suggested that Liverpool wanted it to be tied up before things kicked-off in Russia. That’s almost certainly because of a fear that Fekir might have a brilliant month and his price would shoot-up exponentially. Now that that fear has failed to manifest, however, the requirement to rush anything through has disappeared and the Reds can call Aulas’s bluff. It also means that the Reds can bring in second or third opinions on the Frenchman’s knee and negotiate a restructured deal for the forward. It’s believed that Liverpool have made clear to Lyon that the original £53 million deal that they struck is off the table, so it’ll be interesting to see how things progress from here.
Likelihood Rating: 7/10
The only players that are regularly being linked with moves away from Merseyside at the moment are youngsters, which is interesting. It suggests that Jürgen Klopp has no interest in reducing the size of his senior squad, though I still expect to see a few more departures of the likes of Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge before the summer’s up. Here’s the main link this week:
Canada isn’t a country known for its footballing talent, which might explain why eighteen-year-old Liam Millar has already got an international cap despite not having made an appearance for the Liverpool first-team. He performed well for Steven Gerrard in the Under-18s last season, though, and found the back of the net on nineteen occasions. The forward’s work rate and performances were enough to catch the eye of Jack Ross at Sunderland and now the youngster http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/sport/16349734.transfer-round-up-benitez-explains-merino-departure-leeds-interested-in-middlesbrough-striker-sunderland-signing-liverpool-youngster/?ref=rss&utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitterseems to be heading to the North-East to join the Academy of Light.It’s not a departure that will upset many. I, for one, wouldn’t have been able to pick Millar out of a lineup before I read the article about his likely departure. Yet, as I said a moment ago, I think it tells us a lot about what’s going to happen this summer. Jürgen Klopp is understandably reluctant to lose too many players that he feels he’ll be able to use this season, yet younger lads will be looking at that and wondering where they’re going to get their chance for progression if they remain at Melwood. Some of the most well-known of the youth players, like Ben Woodburn and Ryan Kent, must be wondering if they’re going to play much, so it’s little wonder that other such as Millar are deciding to look for a fresh start.
I said last week that pre-season would tell us a lot about what the manager’s thinking will be for the season ahead. The mistake from Loris Karius at Tranmere certainly asks more questions than provides answers, so, with the deal for Alisson apparently a no-go, I’m willing to bet we’re going to be linked with even more goalkeepers before the summer’s over.
Until next week…