Tag Archives: Sadio Mane

DOES NEW LIVERPOOL SIGNING MEAN Something’s jota give?

Liverpool’s recruitment kicked into gear in dramatic fashion last weekend as they unveiled the signing of Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich, quickly followed by Diogo Jota from fellow Premier League club Wolves.

It was the latter which caught many by surprise, without being linked to the Portuguese star, suddenly he was a Liverpool player as the Premier League champions tied up a £41 million deal to sign the 23-year-old.

Often used as a wide forward Jota ticks the ‘need backup for the front three’ box in Jurgen Klopp’s squad. Although it remains to be seen who may depart Anfield in the coming weeks, coupled with options such as Divock Origi, Xherdan Shaqiri, Takumi Minamino as well as a host of youngsters, it seems the Reds have now got all backup bases covered.

Just where will Jota fit in with the title holders?

Often used as a left inside forward throughout his career in Portugal and since his arrival in England, Jota is capable of operating through the middle although it seems likely he will mainly be used out wide.

Although currently occupied by Sadio Mane, Jota will see his fair share of match action. It has long been used as a stick to beat Klopp’s Reds but their apparent nonplussed attitude towards domestic cup competitions could well change with additional strength in depth.

Jota could well make his Liverpool debut in such a competition when they travel to Lincoln City on Thursday night for the Carabao Cup Third Round.

Whilst the infallible Liverpool front three are arguably the best in the world it is a fair argument to say without one the others fail, as well as the drop off in quality with the previous understudies being too high to afford to rest anyone during even the most strenuous periods.

Now, however, with quality of the likes of Jota waiting in the wings, Klopp will be far more willing to perhaps rest his star men in certain matches, as well as having the capabilities from the bench to change the direction of travel of a match should it not be going his side’s way.

The Stats

From a numbers perspective whilst Jota doesn’t quite match up with the current Liverpool wide men, although neither Mane or Salah were hitting the numbers they are now prior to their Anfield arrival. Klopp and his staff could well be about to take another prestigious talent up a number of levels.

Jota struck 33 goals in 111 league Wolves performances, and has also recently bagged his first international goal amidst his first four caps.

In 34 Premier League appearances last term, the Portuguese star scored seven times and assisted once. By comparison Mane scored 18 times and assisted seven in just one more outing.

Clear to see the position sharers are somewhat apart on the numbers front, although that gap could be accentuated by the differing levels of teams they were in.

Summary

Ultimately Jota is unlikely to be a regular starter to begin with and at just 23, the Portuguese international has plenty of time to grow into his Reds career, without any pressure to begin with.

Jota will most likely be utilised at the forefront of what Liverpool will hope to be a prolonged cup run, whilst providing an energetic and slightly alternative option off the bench in Premier League action.

Should, god forbid, any of the front three pick up an injury, Jota at least offers high quality backup with proven English top flight experience. Something almost everybody can agree was previously missing from the squad, despite the unrivalled success of the last 18 months.

Community Shield Preview- Can FA Cup winners Arsenal upset Champions Liverpool?

Arsenal take on Liverpool on Saturday in the traditional English football curtain raiser with a noticeable difference this year. For the first time ever the Community Shield will be played behind closed doors.

Although many see the game as a glorified friendly, with silverware on offer and the chance to iron out any withstanding issues from pre season in a competitive fixture, both managers will be using the game to make their final preparations for the upcoming Premier League season, which kicks off on the 12th September.

Factor in new signings and returning loan players looking to stake a claim for a starting berth for the new campaign and it becomes clear that this game will provide more than just a run out for both teams.

Liverpool will hope to go one better than last year, when they were beaten finalists at Wembley, losing out to Man City on penalties. They haven’t won the competition since 2006 and will be looking to add the Shield to the Premier League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup which they won last year.

Jurgen Klopp has almost a full squad available for the game, with two stars missing out through injury. PFA Young Player of the Year Trent Alexander-Arnold has been nursing a minor injury, which forced him to miss the entirety of Liverpool’s pre season training camp and fixtures in Austria.

He is expected to return to full training after the Shield final along with captain Jordan Henderson, who has been out since sustaining a knee injury against Brighton in July. He did travel with the Reds to Austria but completed his own rehabilitation training.

A look at Klopp’s starting eleven for the champions’ final pre season fixture, a 2-2 draw with RB Salzburg, gives a huge indication to the team he is likely to select on Saturday, bar any last minute injuries.

Alisson started in goal with Gomez and Van Dijk at centre back, Andy Robertson at left back and young Welshman Neco Williams deputising for Alexander-Arnold at right back.

A midfield three of Keita, Fabinho and Wijnaldum was deployed along with the attacking trio of Mané, Salah and Firmino, arguably Liverpool’s best XI with the players available.

Van Dijk could be a doubt for the game however, after suffering a nasty cut to the eye which left him bloodied and forced Klopp to withdraw him as a precaution.

One player pushing for a start is Rhian Brewster who has continued his goal scoring exploits for Swansea in the Reds’ pre season fixtures. He netted three in two games, and has impressed Klopp and his coaching staff since returning to Merseyside.

He will likely make an appearance off the bench in the final along with new signing Kostas Tsimikas, who arrived for a £12 million fee earlier in the month. Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliot, Takumi Minamino, James Milner and Adrian should also be named on the bench.

Arsenal meanwhile, will be looking to get their hands on the shield for the first time since 2017 and send out a warning to the league that they will be top four challengers this season.

Mikel Arteta’s men have been preparing for the upcoming campaign at home and played their first friendly on Tuesday, just 24 days after they lifted the FA Cup at Wembley.

They defeated MK Dons 4-1 at the MK Stadium with relative ease as forgotten man Mohamed Elneny opened the scoring and youngsters McGuinness, Nketiah and Nelson also got in on the act.

The Gunners also named a strong starting eleven, with goalkeeper Bernd Leno returning between the sticks after a spell on the sidelines through injury.

Cedric Soares, a permanent acquisition from Southampton started at right back, with William Saliba making his first appearance for Arsenal after spending last season on loan in France with St Etiene.

His centre back partner was Rob Holding who unfortunately scored an own goal whilst Kieran Tierney played left back.

Maitland-Niles, who is linked with a move away from the Emirates started in midfield along with Elneny, Xhaka and Saka, whilst Aubameyang and Nketiah were paired up top.

Reiss Nelson made an impressive cameo from the bench, (which was made up predominantly of youth players) and is pushing to start at the weekend. Nicholas Pepe, new signing Willian and David Luiz weren’t included in the squad, but are likely to be handed starting roles for Saturday’s final.

Héctor Bellerin also missed out against MK Dons but is sure to start if Arsenal opt to play a back four. Chambers, Mustafi, Mari and Martinelli are all still out with injuries.

Lacazette is also set to be named in the squad, but will in all likelihood appear from the bench later in the game. Özil and Guendouzi will miss out, having fallen out of favour under Arteta.

It is the perfect dress rehearsal for the league meeting between the two heavyweights, scheduled to take place just four weeks later on the 26th September.

If previous meetings between these two sides are anything to go by then goals in abundance should be expected.

Liverpool dominated proceedings at Anfield early in the season, beating the Gunners 3-1 at Anfield, before Arsenal got revenge after the restart, defeating the Reds 2-1 at the Emirates, converting the only two real chances they had in the game.

With both teams possessing clinical finishers up top and enjoying quick counterattacks and long periods of possession, it should be a highly intriguing encounter to kick off the 2020-21 campaign.

Liverpool no doubt go into the game as favourites after their terrific season last year, but as the Gunners have shown, they are a match for any top side on their day.

Kick off for this Saturday’s Community Shield Final at Wembley is 4:30 pm and the game is live on BT Sport.

Jordan Henderson Wins FWA Player of the Year

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson is the recipient of this year’s Football Writers Association Player of the Year award, after a stellar season with the Reds.

The England international fended off stiff competition from Man City’s Kevin De Bruyne, Man United’s Marcus Rashford and club teammates Virgil Van Dijk and Sadio Mané to scoop the prize, the oldest individual honour, which has been handed out each year since 1948.

Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alisson were also in the running, but Henderson won it comfortably, taking home almost a quarter of the votes.

Speaking to the FWA after the announcement, Henderson said:

“I’d like to say how appreciative I am of the support of those who voted for me and the Football Writers’ Association in general.

You only have to look at the past winners of it, a number of whom I’ve been blessed to play with here at Liverpool, like Stevie (Gerrard), Luis (Suarez) and Mo (Salah) to know how prestigious it is.”

Henderson added:

“I accept it on behalf of this whole squad, because without them I’m not in a position to be receiving this honour. These lads have made me a better player – a better leader and a better person.”

The award takes into consideration a player’s performance both on and off the pitch during the season. Overall, there is no doubt Henderson has played a significant role in both those categories.

On the pitch, Henderson has inspired Liverpool to Premier League glory, netting four goals and providing five assists, as the all conquering Reds left numerous records in their wake. Yet, his influence on the side is much more than stats.

He is the lynchpin of Jürgen Klopp’s midfield and exemplifies the high energy, all action philosophy that Klopp has instilled at Anfield. He is often deployed as a deep lying playmaker, or in the a scene of Fabinho, as a defensive midfielder. He breaks up opposition play before starting Liverpool counter attacks with his excellent passing ability.

His stamina and tenacity, are some more of his admirable qualities along with his exemplary leadership. Many players have lauded his professionalism, evident in each of the interviews he conducts after every game, while they also applaud the way he trains and carries himself.

His importance to the team cannot be underestimated. Liverpool have won 27 games in which he has played this season and in his absence a loss of drive and purpose is felt. This was evident in Liverpool’s draw with Burnley and loss against Arsenal.

Off the pitch, Henderson also gained nationwide plaudits, as the leader of the #PlayersTogether campaign. He contacted each of the 19 other Premier League club captains to explain his vision for setting up the campaign which would help to raise millions for the NHS and various other causes during the coronavirus pandemic.

The initiative has already made a £4 million donation to the NHS, and is firmly behind the Black Lives Matter campaign.

Bournemouth captain Simon Francis explained in an interview how Henderson spearheaded has spearheaded campaign, stating, “He’s effectively been the captain of this group of players involved in the initiative.”

FWA chair Carrie Brown followed that up by commenting:

“Jordan is a player his team-mates look to on the pitch and who his rivals look up to off it.

“The voting criteria for the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year is one who leads by precept and example and in this country’s darkest moment, Jordan, unprompted, personally rallied club captains to establish #PlayersTogether. He is a truly worthy winner of our award.”

Despite Henderson’s great achievements this year, it was one of the closest races for the award in recent years.

Kevin De Bruyne, Marcus Rashford, Virgil Van Dijk and Sadio Mané could all feel aggrieved not have scooped the gong after their terrific showings this campaign.

Runner up De Bruyne has scored 11 and provided a further 22 assists this term despite City’s struggles, whilst Marcus Rashford has enjoyed his best season in front of goal this campaign.

The striker has 17 Premier League goals to his name in 2019-20 and has also contributed significantly off the pitch.

He lobbied successfully to reverse the government decision to end free school meals to vulnerable children during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as teaming up with the charity Fareshare to provide thousands more children with free meals.

Last year’s PFA Player of the Year winner Virgil Van Dijk has largely slipped under the radar this season, although this is through no fault of his own. He consistently performs at such a high level that only his rare mistakes are ever really highlighted.

He rarely seems to break a sweat and is so calm and composed in possession. He has helped Liverpool to keep 15 clean sheets this season and makes the players around him feel more secure.

Sadio Mané, a sure fire front runner for this year’s PFA Player of the Year (which is announced later today) along with Henderson and De Bruyne, will also be disappointed to miss out.

He has been Liverpool’s talisman for most of the campaign, scoring 17 Premier League goals, which has won the Reds a staggering 18 points in their title winning season.

Mané was one of the best players in the league, tormenting defenders with his remarkable turn of pace, his expert first touch, and clinical finishing. He was one of Klopp’s most important signings and his finely getting the recognition his performances over the past few years has deserved. He would be my pick for PFA Player of the Year.

For the FWA Player of the Year award however, I do think it is difficult to look past Henderson for all that he has achieved both on and off the pitch. He is a true leader, a remarkable athlete and fantastic midfielder who will go down as a Liverpool legend and deserving recipient of the award.

After a 30 year wait, what has made Liverpool so special this season?

Well for Liverpool fans the long wait is over. Thirty years ago, they lifted the title, that was in the nineties-1990 to be precise but for Reds fans they have had to endure a very long wait until they can rightly be crowned Premier League Champions 2019-20.

They will always be remembered for winning the title in what has been a strange year for sport. Despite not winning the Championship at their beloved home Anfield in front of none of their fans, Chelsea did Jurgen Klopp’s side a favour by beating Manchester City 2-1 at the Bridge. Once Willian confidently despatched his spot kick past Ederson, Liverpool fans could start opening the champagne or whatever else they fancied to toast their heroes.

It is Liverpool’s 19th top-flight title and surely their most satisfying in their long history.  Klopp’s side have produced the most memorable campaigns in the history of the Premier League, having amassed 86 points already with 28 victories, two draws and only one loss- a 3-0 defeat to Watford- along with 16 consecutive wins at home.

Liverpool look on course to break Manchester City’s 100-point haul from last season and have also hit 70 goals to date from their 31 games played.

It isn’t just about the threat they pose in front of goal from their magnificent trio of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino- 40 goals between them but their solid defence, which has only conceded 21 goals in 31 games.

Such has been their dominance this season, at one stage leading the table by 25 points – a record gap between a side in first and second in English top-flight history.

This season it is fair to say it has been a stroll for Liverpool in the Premiership, in comparison to last season when they amassed a staggering 97 points and losing just a single game all season but still had to settle for second best behind Manchester City, who beat them to the title by the narrowest of margins- a single point.

The appointment of the German Klopp has been pivotal in Liverpool’s success story.

He arrived at Liverpool in October 2015 following the sacking of Brendan Rogers. He came to Merseyside having led Borussia Dortmund to two Bundesliga titles.

In his four seasons to date he has led Liverpool to first, second, and two fourth placed finishes in the Premiership along with the coveted title of Champions League winners in 2019.

Aside from the front three, who have scored an amazing 211 goals in three seasons, the addition of a world class goalkeeper in Alisson and centre back Virgil van Dijk were crucial.

He has also improved players including Captain Jordan Henderson- who must be a strong contender for player of the year- and young defender Trent Alexander- Arnold.

The hard work has been completed, but as Manchester City will remind Liverpool if you have waited 30 years to win a premiership title that is a great achievement but it is always harder to defend it.

Next season will be the big test for Liverpool as they start the season as Champions. In the next few months will they be tempted to add to an already impressive squad? Or, will Klopp be happy with this current side, who he feels can be successful for many years to come.

Who is Takumi Minamino and how will he fit in at Liverpool?

Takumi Minamino made history this week when he became Liverpool’s first Japanese signing in their history. 

The reds bought Minamino from Austrian side Red Bull Salzburg for just £7.25 million.

This is widely considered a bargain in today’s transfer market and he will arrive on Merseyside when the January transfer window officially opens on January 1st2020.

This in mind, 24/7 Football has decided to take a look at who he is and what he will bring to the Premier League leaders.

When did Liverpool become aware of Minamino

The Japanese international is just the latest Liverpool signing in recent times to have worked with high profile German coach Ralf Rangnick, the current RB Salzburg head of sport and development.

Rangnick had a hand in the development of Sadio Mane and Naby Keita, who had both played for the Austrian club.

The Merseyside club first became aware of Minamino’s talents when he played against them in the Group Stage in the Champions League this season, the reds full back Andy Robertson said:

“It was difficult to play against RB Salzburg full stop, but I thought he was their main man,” the Scottish international told the Liverpool Echo.

Robertson continued:

“He was the one, especially at Anfield, who caused us problems.

“When we went 3-0 up, he started to dictate the game. He started to run at us a wee bit and he got a goal and an assist.”

RB Salzburg would end up losing that game 4-3 but came back from 3-0 down in impressive fashion with the Japanese international very much at the heart of the Austrian club’s impressive showing.

Previous clubs and current form this season

Minamino began his career in the J League for Cerezo Osaka and became the league’s youngest ever scorer at the age of 18 back in 2013. In that season he was awarded the J League Rookie of the year prize.

In 2015 Minamino moved to RB Salzburg and has also been involved in more goals than any other player in the Austrian Bundesliga since his making his debut for the club.

During this campaign so far, Minamino has managed five goals and six assists in just 11 appearances this season despite having problems with injury.

While in the Champions League group stage he scored two goals and provided three assists, including scoring against Liverpool at Anfield.

Finally for his international side Japan, he has maintained his impressive form by scoring 11 goals in 22 games.

What is his best position?

Positionally Minamino is very adaptable however his regular position tends to be on the right wing.

The new Liverpool man has also played in an attacking midfield role, where he particularly impressed against Jurgen Klopp’s team in Austria.

Tom Middler, the host of the other Bundesliga podcast that is devoted to the Austrian league said:

“He naturally fits the three-up front style that Klopp plays.  He could be good cover for somebody like Roberto Firmino.”

German football expert, Raphael Honigstein said:

“I was probably expecting Liverpool to make a move for Leipzig’s Timo Werner.  Minamino is a lot cheaper but also perhaps has more value in terms of improvement and the places he can go.

“Again, Liverpool have learned as a club that you don’t buy the finished article for £100 million.”

 Summary

 If Minamino proves to be even half as good as the likes of Mane then Klopp would certainly be onto another winner.  

 The Premier league leaders will hope that the Japanese international will help ease the burden on the front three and give them another much needed attacking option.