And you thought Garth Crooks forgetting who played for Liverpool against Tottenham was his silliest take…


All about the Mane
There must be something about Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp and his players that encourages some baffling reactions from sections of the media. And ‘baffling’ is Garth Crooks’ middle name. At least it should be. It’s actually Anthony. But still.

It was he who propagated the bizarre belief that Sadio Mane and Mo Salah have been locked in some sort of 20-month feud because the latter – a brilliant striker with plenty of assists – sometimes opts to shoot instead of passing to the former.

It is he who now has a warning for title-winning former European champion and incredibly successful manager Klopp: ‘Don’t mess Sadio Mane around’.

On this occasion it was Klopp substituting Mane against Crystal Palace that Crooks has taken umbrage with. The forward came off ‘muttering his frustrations’ in the 57th minute at 4-0 up, because obviously strikers should always be happy at getting replaced with half an hour to play in eventual 7-0 wins.

‘Klopp is deluding himself if he thinks such things don’t matter,’ Crooks adds in his BBC Sport team of the week. ‘And he should never think for one minute that the big European clubs aren’t watching his every move.’

So they should. He is a very good footballer. It would be weird if very good football teams were not interested. But a) he is contracted to Liverpool until 2023, b) they signed him for £34m and his value has sky-rocketed since, c) he probably won’t demand to leave in January because he was a bit frustrated that his manager substituted him after about an hour of a game during the busiest period of an already demanding season.

Mane, by the way, was not even selected for Crooks’ team. Of course he wasn’t. Salah was.


Joel in the head
As was Joel Matip, who ‘hasn’t found it easy to settle in at Liverpool’. That is literally the opposite of what 27 Premier League starts in his first season to 22 in his second, 17 in his third and eight in his fourth implies, but who’s counting?

He has had his injuries but also played 90 minutes of all but one knockout game en route to Liverpool winning the Champions League in 2019, even registering an assist in the final. Klopp once called him “outstanding” and “one of the best pieces of business we did” at Liverpool. It really does feel as though the bloke signed in summer 2016, who remains a valued first-team player in winter 2020, has settled.


Scary liquid
Mind you, that is a damn sight more accurate than what Crooks had said initially.

Ah mate.


Garth raider
Elsewhere, Crooks is…

1) ‘Convinced’ West Brom ‘would have got something’ out of their game against Aston Villa if Jake Livermore hadn’t been sent off – by which point they were already 1-0 down and had zero shots to four.

2) At pains to point out that Liverpool beating Palace 7-0 ‘was a better team performance’ than them beating Leeds 4-3. Cheers for that.

3) Taken aback by the identity of Everton’s recent skipper. ‘When did Sigurdsson assume the captain’s armband?’ When he was appointed vice-captain in August 2019 and took the role at any point since that Seamus Coleman was unavailable.


Bale bonds
Over at The Sun, Mark Irwin is being typically grumpy about Gareth Bale.

‘Jose Mourinho recently suggested now is the wrong time for Son Heung-min to press for a new contract because of the financial uncertainty facing football.

‘But try explaining that to the unstoppable South Korean when he sees Bale pocketing £32.5million-a-year from the subs’ bench.’

Except Spurs are covering about 40 per cent of Bale’s Real Madrid wages, so around £200,000 a week. And recent reports suggest Son is being paid £150,000 a week. ‘The unstoppable South Korean’ probably doesn’t need it explaining too much why the former most expensive player in the world, a multiple Champions League-winning Real Madrid loanee, is paid a little more than him by Tottenham when he signed his last contract in 2018.

Irwin dedicates the rest of his column to laying into Bale and wondering why someone who has played 668 minutes of club football since mid-February looks a little off the pace.

But this is what Mediawatch was waiting for…

‘Seven years in Spanish football have clearly had an effect as he struggles to reacquaint himself with the pace and physicality of the Premier League.

‘Mesut Ozil was a world-beater at the Bernabeu when the game was being played at a walking pace and he was allowed as much time as he needed to pick his passes.

‘But he didn’t find it quite so easy when opponents were constantly breathing down his neck and he was expected to track back as well as go forward.’

He assisted 19 Premier League goals in the 2015/16 season. If ‘he didn’t find it quite so easy’ then how many would he have got if ‘the game was being played at a walking pace’ like it definitely was in La Liga because Irwin absolutely watched more than a couple of random highlights?


Taking the Mik
On Monday, Mikel Arteta stated: “You have two types of people: fighters and victims.”

The Spaniard continued: “You need fighters and you don’t want any victims. Victims bring excuses, victims bring negativity and they start to blame anything that is happening around them or is not going their way.

“You need people who fight, people who contribute and people who are ready to give everything to the club in this moment.”

When asked whether he felt Arsenal had enough such “fighters” in his squad, he replied: “Yes we do.”

So honestly, credit to the Daily Mirror website for reading those quotes and deciding they constituted the following headline:

‘Mikel Arteta divides players into categories as he battles Arsenal dressing room split’

For a start, ‘dividing’ people does not sound like the best way of preventing a ‘split’ in a group. But also, that really doesn’t reflect his actual message all that accurately.


Mo problems
Back to Salah, though, who made the mistake of giving a dull, media-trained footballer answer to a question about his future recently.

“I think Madrid and Barcelona are two top clubs,” he said. “Who knows what will happen in the future, but right now I am focused on winning the Premier League and the Champions League with Liverpool again.”

Plenty of words. Almost no substance. Textbook. Mane will be delighted that his nemesis might finally be leaving.

It has fuelled the transfer speculation train just ahead of the January window and John Aldridge is happy to climb aboard for the Liverpool Echo.

‘Mohamed Salah should hate Real Madrid rather than leave Liverpool for them,’ is perhaps the least surprising headline in the history of everything ever.

‘Personally, I think after the experience of the Champions League final and the way Ramos treated him, I’d have had a hatred for Real Madrid if it was me, after that incident,’ Aldridge says.

It was in 2018. Salah has literally scored in and won a Champions League final since then. He has probably moved on. And by ‘the way Ramos treated him,’ do you mean the way he cynically tried to boost his team’s chances of winning an important football match? What a bastard.

Still, it is funny to see a 62-year-old, Liverpool-born Liverpool icon try and pretend a 28-year-old with no prior allegiance to the club should not even consider the prospect of ending the longest spell of his entire career at any one team to join one of the most famous clubs in the sport’s history because…he was once tackled and injured by one of their players in a big game.


‘Pot, kettle, black’ headline of the day
‘Neymar linked to stunning model Melodie Penalver – star of Temptation Island – after ‘being charmed by her Instagram” – The Sun website, who include ten pictures from said Instagram account in a 198-word article.


F365’s shithouse headline of the day
‘Gary Neville explains why Mo Salah ‘will leave Liverpool”

“I thought Salah would always leave Liverpool. I said it a couple of years ago but it was perhaps a bit premature” is not the same thing.


Recommended reading of the day
Jonathan Liew on concussion.

Miguel Delaney on Sheffield United.


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