The worst decision of the season so far was the ruling out of Henry Lansbury’s late potential equaliser for Aston Villa at Crystal Palace
LIVERPOOL can cope
with a little tiff
Sadio Mane’s stroppy reaction to being taken off late in Saturday’s 3-0 win over Burnley – almost certainly a reaction to Mohamed Salah’s failure to pass to him in a goalscoring position – inevitably grabbed plenty of media attention.
Manager Jurgen Klopp’s lighthearted reaction to questions about the incident was a textbook example of how to defuse a negative story, but it was much easier to pull off given that the German was not worried by the incident. If the biggest problem facing your team is one of your prolific strikers being a little greedy for a goal when you are 3-0 up, then things are going pretty smoothly.
The fact is that the trident of Mane, Salah and Roberto Firmino, is absolutely deadly and unique in the modern game. Plenty of teams play with two “narrow wingers” alongside a centre-forward but Liverpool’s trio are all genuine strikers, with brilliant ability in front of goal. Firmino became the first Brazilian to reach 50 goals in the Premier League and he showed why he is so fundamental to the way Liverpool play.
With no “number 10” creative midfielder in the Liverpool system, Firmino drifts deep into the space between the opposition defence and midfield and has the skill to deliver the killer balls as well as find openings for himself. When Firmino is not on the field, you realise his central importance to Klopp’s league leaders.
Leicester are back
Two wins out of four, including Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Bournemouth, have Leicester City in third place and it would be no surprise if they stay in or around the top four this season.
After their remarkable title win in 2016, the club lost its way with Claudio Ranieri, Craig Shakespeare and Claude Puel all failing to build upon that success. But former Liverpool and Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers has had an instant impact at the club and built a team which plays attractive and effective football.
It is a very different team, playing a different style, to the one which provided that astonishing season but there is at least one element that is the same – striker Jamie Vardy.
His opening goal, a long range lob, brought back memories of that campaign and with him on form then the Foxes are surely in the hunt for a Champions League spot.
VAR goes awol
The worst decision of the season so far was the ruling out of Henry Lansbury’s late potential equaliser for Aston Villa at Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Referee Kevin Friend got it all wrong when he penalised Jack Grealish for “simulation” and added insult to injury with a booking for the midfielder. Under VAR regulations, the video officials were not allowed to review the “goal” because the referee had blown his whistle before Lansbury fired home.
That is an error in the VAR protocol which is certainly “clear and obvious”.
Blades show more steel
Two of the three promoted teams, Villa and Norwich City, are already inside the relegation zone, another reminder of how tough it is to make the move up to Premier League level.
Sheffield United were the least fancied of the new arrivals but their five points, including the 2-2 comeback draw at Chelsea, showed that while Villa spent the money and Norwich have charmed the purists, it is the Yorkshire side, well led by Chris Wilder, who have found the more effective approach so far.
Serie A sweeping up
Italian clubs seem to be the favoured destination for those players no longer wanted by Manchester United, with Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez both heading for Inter Milan.
Joining the United exodus yesterday, Matteo Darmian returned to his homeland by joining Parma.