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Power of negative thinking

Another great article by Daniel Storey regarding pre-season and how everyone frets over their ‘friendly’ results. Its probably a head and heart thing. Our heads say, just a pre-season game, our hearts say something else.

Liverpool’s game against Sevilla was hardly a friendly and possibly ruining a chance for a young player to make the squad for the season. Larouci needed to shine in all his outings, while remaining uninjured, to get a chance of being Robertson’s backup. And that has likely gone out the window. So sometimes there may be some hard impacts from pre-season beyond the fan expectations.

It is also wrapped up in all the transfer gossip. More so than ever before teams realise they need to spend just to stay still. If your competitor is already ahead of you and makes even one good buy, the pressure is on.

In some cases it results in some intense debate. A Liverpool oriented website recently labelling any fan who said Liverpool need to buy – dicks. Liverpool don’t need any new players. He can coach players to success. Injured players returning are like new. Trust in Klopp.

What this misses is that Klopp has altered his strategy before. From never buying expensive players, to filling a hole he just couldn’t coach with VVD and Allison. From out and out high pressing, heavy metal football to a more pragmatic, low error approach. Perhaps he read Bob Knight’s book the Power of Negative Thinking? The last coach to have gone unbeaten in US college basketball. One of the quotes he had on his office wall was “Victory favours the team who makes the fewest mistakes.’ Last year saw a Liverpool team that was able to grind out results often winning after an opponent’s mistake.

One thing that comes out of this books is that attacking tactics only have fleeting success. Which somewhat explains results in Europe where a Monaco, Dortmund, Spurs or Liverpool can shock the rest with a stunning offensive strategy. But that it can fail in future seasons – as other teams grapple with it. Hence the change in Klopp’s approach – a change he didn’t make at Dortmund.

This pre-season Liverpool go into a season with even higher expectations. Is that possible? With a squad that will be depleted to start the season due to the international commitments of their forward line. Given the machine that City have become, Liverpool can’t afford to drop (too many) points to start. Yet while we shouldn’t look at pre-season games as an indicator of future success, they have not looked great against the better opposition of Dortmund and Sevilla – with their second tier front line.

Without a full pre-season Salah, Mane and Firmino will come in half-baked, unless he doesn’t bring them in until much later. And we have that players returning from late stages in the WC last season ran out of steam in the spring.

Will Klopp continue to be pragmatic again and realise that in principle his injured returnees won’t likely hit their stride for a couple of months and to protect his front line from fatigue when hopefully Liverpool are still in the running for a few competitions later in he season? Or is this just reading too much from a pre-season game.

I am hoping Daniel is right.

Paul McDevitt

Pogba solution

Siddharth said this in one of yesterdays mails, and I completely agree with this. Why don’t Manchester United just propose a swap deal for £50 million or something and 3 Real Madrid players, such as Marco Asensio, Dani Ceballos, and someone like Isco or James Rodriguez. It solves lots of problems:

1) Real Madrid and Zidane get their Paul Pogba they have so publicly desired, without completely ruining their net spend so FFP doesn’t come after them.

2) Manchester United get the midfielders we desperately need, plus some cash to go towards our Bruno Fernandes fund, or our Harry Maguire fund (we should go for Alderweireld instead).

3) Paul Pogba can go play for a team he actually wants to play for, rather than spending his time lazing around on the pitch and complaining off of it.

4) In the future, if these players perform really well Madrid can just buy them back, which works for the players as they get to play for Madrid’s first team rather than their bench, it works for Madrid as they get their talents developed, and it works for United as no matter what we get a hefty profit from the free transfer.

Also in future times these players will only get better or hit their prime which will give us a chance to burst City and Liverpool’s bubble with some smart acquisitions in the future. Maybe even we could sign Milinkovic-Savic if we manage to offload Lukaku to Inter for £65 million which would be fantastic.

John, Manchester United

Grim up north?

Just read Johnny Nic’s latest piece and it’s about time somebody said it, couldn’t agree more.

There are some talented players up here but daring to watch that awful pub league is not something most English football fans would do. I watch the EPL because the quality is good and I’m a football fan, but some days you can watch some boring rubbish just like you sometimes see in Scotland.

I presume all the comments will disagree with Johnny from all the experts on top football but I cant bring myself to look.

Neil, Glasgow (never understood why anyone would waste their time commenting “pub league” on a post about scottish football)

…Johnny, The EPL is Waitrose: mostly premium, high-price products. Superbly marketed over the years and now the supermarket of choice for those with the moolah. Essentially though it’s a rip off and is slowly being reigned in.

The SPL is Aldi: some premium products but lower price and a large majority (zero market research whatsoever) of those with the money continue to shop at Waitrose. The brand is growing and so is the interest in their products.

To holler anti-Scottish bigotry is to continue down your current path of some kind of virtue-signalling ivory tower and, to be frank, it’s getting yawn inducing. Really used to enjoy your articles but they’re all a bit lecture like now.

Is Ligue Un demanding, in relative terms, lower prices a result of anti-French bigotry? Or the Belgian A League? Or Eredevisie? No. That would be daft wouldn’t it. It’s simply the fact that the product within Scotland is not as marketable therefore the teams are not as marketable therefore cannot charge the same prices for their players, for tickets, for merchandise as their revenue streams are so far apart from EPL teams.

It’s market forces Johnny, supply and demand, customer interaction. Nothing to do with bigotry and shame on you for trying to extol such nonsense.

Andy (this won’t be published because F365 hate me for some reason).

…In relation to John Nicholson’s article on the Kieren Tierney transfer:

‘I think you are confusing economic fundamentals with bigotry, John. Why would a club pay over the odds for a player based on where they come from when they can sign them for less? Would you pay the same for a cup of coffee in Cornwall as you would in London following a similar notion of parity? Would you pay the same sums for identical houses or properties in two completely different geographical locations?

Why does any inequality between England and Scotland have to be marked down to bigotry? I find it offensive to be described so. One might say that your haste to pigeon hole English football fans’ contempt for Scottish football is a more bigoted opinion based on sweeping generalisations than a club offering a transfer fee for a player that the recipients are free to accept or decline.

Matt (Mufc)

…I’m usually on board with John Nicholson’s opinions, but the Kieran Tierney stuff requires a bit of perspective. The SPFL isn’t the only league European league that Premier League clubs don’t rate as serious pre-Premier League experience. £25m for Tierney? That would be the largest incoming transfer fee ever recorded for most leagues in Europe. Scotland’s UEFA coefficient has it as the 20th best league on the continent.

For context, here are the record transfers to the Premier League for the leagues placed 19th to 15th:

19: Switzerland – Mohammed Elyounoussi to Southampton €18m

18. Serbia – Marko Grujic to Liverpool €5m

17. Croatia – Luka Modric to Spurs €21m

16. Greece – Konstantinos Mitroglou to Fulham €15.2m

15. Cyprus – Doneil Henry to West Ham €1.9m

No-one is moving to the Premier League for serious money from these five leagues that UEFA rates as better than the SPFL. The only outlier is the Championship, which despite being the second flight league has had five £20m plus transfers. Why? Well, mostly because the players being moved (Sissoko, Pickford, Bent and Wijnaldum) had already played successfully in the Premier League. James Maddison is the only exception to the rule and even he didn’t fetch £25m.

Transfer fees from the SPFL look pretty normal for the league’s stature and if anything, slightly inflated compared to Serbia and Cyprus!

Jack Saunders

…A couple of points on John Nicholson’s piece:

1. If a club (Scottish or otherwise) receives a below value bid for a player, they have the right to reject it.

2. Even if there is a perception of it being a “lower” league, I would expect England’s “money hungry” clubs would still try and pay £2.79m with add-ons as opposed to a higher amount if they could. That’s economics not greed, bigotry or disrespect.

3. Hand picking example of Scottish players who succeeded does not equal all Scottish players are good and should be signed more frequently for more money. I’d say liverpool took a risk on a defender signed from a club who were relegated, I didnt see any articles at the time saying what a steal it was.

4. Perhaps get into scouting/agency, combine your wealth of knowledge and the Wolves method. If there’s a gap in the market it’s there to be filled.

I wondered what the point of such a spurious article was, for someone so opposed to toxic masculinity and trolling, but the book plug (i said “book”) 3 paragraphs from the end made it all clear.


Angry Wolves

Ok, I’ll bite. I understand that clicks are king (despite f365 taking the high ground on this via Mediawatch). But why on earth is there no mention of Morgan Gibbs-White in the ‘five young players making a case in pre-season’? If Wolves Blog tweeted something absurd like “MGW just looks like he belongs. The ghosts of Wright, Richards and Bull do not haunt him. He sparkles in the glow of The Golden Palace and seems to grow stronger and wiser as the history of our great club infuses his every move making more powerful than people ever imagined” – would that help?

You say you’re better than this, it appears not.

John Collins, Wolves, London (Yes, I’m fully aware Bully and John Richards are still alive)

Predictions time

Right, Ian (this time next year Rodney) LFC, you absolute legend, I love pre-season predictions so I am weighing in. Nothing can go wrong here, nothing at all…

1) what does the top 6 look like. Loving this already. I am going for Man City, Liverpool, Man Utd (boo), Spurs, Everton and Wolves.

2) who will be relegated. Newcastle, absolutely definitely no doubt about it. Sheffield Utd probably and I will go for Brighton and Hove Albion as the third.

3) player of the season- Difficult to see past Virgil van Dijk for the actual best player. However, I see City winning the league easier than last season so de Bruyne won’t be far away and Bernardo Silva will just get better and better.

4) young player of the season. What counts for young these days? Let’s say eligible for the under 21s at the start of the season. Phil Foden will get plenty of game time, Rhian Brewster looks sharp in pre-season. However, it is Trent AA surely.

5) manager of the season. This is always tricky as it comes down to differing expectations and a belting cup run could tip it. If my tip of Everton for fifth is correct then Marco Silva could win this.

6) surprise team of the year – 2 allowed. Norwich to finish tenth and Leeds to romp the Championship.

7) surprise player of the year 2 allowed. Would Rhian Brewster be a surprise? If Arsenal sign Tierney he will be superb. At least one Utd youngster will step up- Greenwood?

8) biggest letdown of the season – 2 players allowed. Rashford won’t kick on and that is disappointing. Chelsea could be the place for this. I have them outside the top six so a number of their midfield and forward line are going to have stinkers.

9) biggest waste of money – 2 allowed. Pulisic, Dortmund only too happy to sell. AWB- £50m for someone who has never played in a high pressure game. Dong.

10) champions league finalists. Tricky, very tricky this one. Tricky, tricky, tricky. Juventus have recruited very well (awful shirts though), but no guarantees on the manager there. Madrid have spent mondo cash but don’t look a team. Hmmm, I am going to go for City and Liverpool. Either of them can beat Barcelona over two legs and that could be key.

11) 1st manager sacked. In the Prem I presume? The new fella at Brighton, Potter.

12) bargain of the season. Live streaming off Twitter.

I reckon I have nailed it there, not much point even watching, I will just assume all that happened.

Micki Attridge

…In response to Ian, LFC’s mail yesterday.

1) Top 6:

1st: Man City(it’s getting boring by this point but they’re too damn good)

2nd: Liverpool(not as close as last year, probably around 85 pts)

3rd: Spurs(they’ll be closer to Liverpool, and might win one of the cups)

4th: United(simply the best of a bad bunch, and might not be that bad, if we sign Maguire and a mid)

5th: Arsenal(looking unlikely they will make the starting cb signing they so desperately need, plus they’re broke)

6th: Chelsea(I did the math, without hazard’s goals/assists they would’ve finished 11th last year; expect pulisic and the others to pick up some of the slack, but not enough of it)

2) Relegated:

18th: Sheffield Utd(I think they’ll be better than people think, but I don’t think they’ve strengthened enough)

19th: Burnley(why are more people not talking about the effect VAR will have on a Sean Dyche side?)

20th: Newcastle(they’ll be atrocious this season, even though joelinton is a good signing)

3) Player of the season: Raheem Sterling(City seems to have a different player going supernova every year, and Sterling looks to be next)

4) Young player of the season: Gabriel Jesus(even though TAA might deserve it more, attackers usually win these, and Jesus might just resurrect his City career this season(sorry for the pun))

5) Manager of the season: Daniel Farke, for taking Norwich into a comfortable mid-table spot away from the relegation battle.

6) Surprise team of the year(since there are 2 allowed, I’ll do one good and one bad): good surprise: Norwich, playing attractive football and safely ensconced in mid-table

Bad surprise: Bournemouth, as they slide into a relegation battle before saving themselves at the death

7) Surprise player of the year(both good): surprise 1: Dan James terrorizing PL defenses, bagging 15 goal contributions in a breakout year

surprise 2: Gabriel Jesus bagging 15-20 goals and marking down his status as a future star

8) biggest letdown of the season(2 players): 1: The obligatory Alexis Sanchez cameo

2: Jamie Vardy losing his pace and starting spot(end of an era)

9) biggest waste of money(2 of them): 1: Tyrone Mings(£25 million! Seriously?!)

2: Ayoze Perez(£30 mil when you already have Maddison in attacking midfield? Why?)

10) Champs league finalists: Juve v City, Juve to win it

11) 1st manager sacked: Steve Bruce with no wins and a draw from the first 10 games

12) bargain of the season: Pablo Fornals, £24 mil for a top-6 quality(the lower end of the top 6) attacker is great business by West Ham.

Extra prediction: Arsene Wenger to take over at PSG after they sack Tuchel for not winning the CL

Seb, Berkeley, MUFC(quietly hopeful for the new season)

…1) Man City, Liverpool, Spurs, United, Chelsea, Leicester

2) Newcastle, Norwich, Sheffield United

3) Kevin De Bruyne

4) Trent Alexander-Arnold

5) Pep Guardiola

6) Leicester, Brighton

7) Pablo Fornals, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

8) Ravel Morrison, Mateo Kovacic

9) Joelinton (if it goes through), Sebastien Haller

7) Juventus, Man City

8) Chris Wilder

9) Che Adams

Owen (Cork) CFC

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