Or Thus Spake Ornstein. There was some evidence that eternal recurrence isn’t as far-fetched a notion as its’ critics would have you believe. Take the case of Ornstein. Another transfer window, another message that we’ve got no money. I’m certain we’ve heard that one before. It’s lunacy to expect the club to announce that we’re loaded; that just begs for the sharks to circle that much more aggressively.
However, it’s not much of a motif for a club which claims to be pushing for a return to the Champions League. The squad needs more than rejuvenating and we don’t have the Champions League income to invest. The longer we are absent from the top table, the harder it will be to return. If Enos doesn’t want to see the value of his investment fall, he needs to rethink his philosophy.
That’s to admit defeat before we’ve begun. The defeat at Anfield was a chastening experience, more so than in previous years. To see experienced defenders play so amateurishly – and that’s harsh on amateurs – shook an optimism about a top four finish from before our eyes. It’s one match against probably the best team in the country so should we be overly concerned?
This afternoon gives us some answers. It’s trite to say the players ‘owe us a performance’ but they need one for themselves, for their own self-belief. It’s been a month – nine matches – since we put in a good, strong performance: Tottenham. Across a range of competitions, we’ve stumbled until falling flat on our faces – or arses, whichever you prefer – at Anfield. If we’re going to progress in any of the competitions, we need to improve dramatically our performance levels and on a consistent basis.
Make no mistake, it’s a tall order for Unai Emery with this squad.
Welcome to the Bus Depot
Fulham are a different proposition to Liverpool. They won’t overwhelm or swarm around the ball; it’s very much a home match where we’ll see a lot of the ball and need to be inventive in our possession. It’s a game which is made for Mesut Ozil and I’m sure his knee will hold up to the rigours of it.
He is just one of a few changes I’d expect. Monreal, Bellerin and probably Koscielny into the starting line-up with Ramsey into midfield? Arsenal are not minded to sell him this winter, preferring to keep the player on the books. No reconciliation, however; he is leaving and Juventus reportedly offered him a deal worth £150k per week. Ivan’s was more generous by all accounts and those numbers certainly support the notion it was unrealistic.
The decision on financial grounds makes sense but less so in a footballing sense. As we transition from Wengerball to Emeryball, we’re crying out for a box-to-box midfielder. Ozil is unreliable and certainly from the outside looking in, being eased out of the club if we can. He, it’s claimed, isn’t leaving in January; next summer is a different story.
I’ve steered the conversation away from the defence quite deliberately because every time you come back to it, you see a back three formation which doesn’t work, principally because Mustafi is in it. His was a calamitous signing and if Anne Robinson were in charge, we’d have no argument declaring “You are the weakest link! Goodbye!”
The uncertainty he transmits is as big a problem as the rash penalty-area tackle. What triggers these panic stations in his mind? I wouldn’t mind if his response was to put the ball in row Z every time. That’s safety first, no-nonsense and not conceding goals kind of defending.
He Flies Through The Air With…
It’s ‘fight or flight’ with Mustafi. Sadly, we get the flight element, usually into an unnecessary challenge in the area. Or onto his arse.
There’s only so many times you can look at a player and think he isn’t good enough for this level. Sadly, we’ve done than that on 94 occasions. Which is 95 too many.
Which begs the question of whether we continue with a back three. If you don’t trust Mustafi, the answer is not with Lichtsteiner. Monreal adapts comfortably to the wide central defender role but the Swiss hates it more than biting too hard into Toblerone and getting the top of the triangle stuck in the roof of your mouth.
The photo of he and Mustafi berating each other at Anfield sums up their relationship on the pitch: one disaster followed by another.
So, Laurent Koscielny and Sokratis, it seems you are the answer. Hopefully the pair of you can calm Mustafi’s lunatic tendency and make a back three work. I say that because I don’t think we’re strong enough for a back four which leaves the line-up:
Leno; Mustafi, Sokratis, Koscielny; Bellerin, Torreira, Xhaka, Monreal; Ozil, Aubameyang, Lacazette
The reality is we need three points. United solved their crisis for the most part when they sacked Mourinho. Now, we can’t rely on them cocking it up to stay in fifth.
I hope Anfield was the wake-up call and that there’s been no marking it down as a ‘one-off’. It wasn’t; it had been coming. Now is the chance to make sure the message has been “it won’t happen again”.
Finally, thanks to you all for dropping in during 2018. I hope 2019 is as good a year as we want it to be.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.