What Liverpool-Man Utd rout means for Klopp and Ten Hag, Arsenal’s mental boost, more
What an incredible football weekend, huh? Liverpool put big rivals Manchester United under control with a historic 7-0 victory at Anfield, while Arsenal and Manchester City pulled off wildly different victories to stay in the title race Premier League champion. In La Liga, Barcelona triumphed over Valencia while Real Madrid lost to Real Betis, results that give Xavi and company some respite at the top of the table. (Oh, and Atlético Madrid scored six – six! – Sevilla.)
In the Bundesliga, Dortmund and Bayern won to keep the tension on the title chase, while in Serie A, the fates of Milan and Inter were different. Then there’s Kylian Mbappe making history (again) in Paris.
It’s Monday and Gab Marcotti is reacting to the most important moments in the world of football.
It’s not about 7-0, it’s about how you react to it… for both Liverpool and Manchester United.
Games such as Liverpool’s 7-0 victory over Manchester United on Sunday have different meanings for different stakeholders. This is United’s worst defeat since 1931 and will be the butt of songs and jokes for fans for years to come. However, the more interesting aspect is what the two managers, Jurgen Klopp and Erik ten Hag, learned from this.
And it’s not exactly an easy question, because until the first kick of Kodi Gakpo at 43 minutes, the game was relatively close and it seemed like she could go either way. Then three goals within 10 minutes on each side of the break effectively ended the game as a competitive affair. It’s not something you see often, and it makes it hard to interpret if you want to go beyond the cliched “Liverpool was great, United were trash”.
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If you are Klopp and Liverpool, this is obviously a huge boost. Win your game in the hand and you’ll be fourth in the table, something you wouldn’t have taken for granted not so long ago when they were ninth. Just like we’ve been here before. Liverpool won this match 4-0 last season and if anything it was a more dominant result with Klopp’s team scoring the expected 2.33 goals while United capped at just two shots and xG 0 .08. (They also raced home in the reverse leg, winning 5-0 at Old Trafford.)
On Sunday, Liverpool scored seven goals with xG 2.37. They had eight shots on goal and scored seven goals. It’s not something you see very often and it’s something you shouldn’t take for granted. Many of Liverpool’s goals came from defensive errors, some of them weren’t forced, and he’ll want to take that into account as well.
The second half was just weird and maybe not repeatable, which means he can learn from the first half. And while it was close, Liverpool continued to progress and, more importantly, they did it under “normal” conditions.
The back line looked cohesive and reactive, even the often criticized full-backs. The midfield, while lacking in inventiveness, offered a lot of intensity and often looked the way it did two or three years ago. And ahead, although it is clear that the trinity of Gakpo, Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez still needs to grow in terms of chemistry – and at the moment they will not match what Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino offered in their heyday. — all three provided speed, quality and enthusiasm. More than in the second half, you expect Liverpool to keep building.
As for United, obviously the first thing you want to diagnose is what happened after the break and how Ten Hag joined Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralph Rangnick as a butt hitter. Much depends on individual mistakes, but what happened before the mistakes also matters. For example, I would focus not so much on how everyone was out of position after Nunes’ header, but on how they managed to either pass the ball or not clear it three times leading up to that goal. Or third, of course, blame David De Gea for conceding a goal from this angle, but don’t ignore how Salah turned Lisandro Martinez inside out before setting up Gakpo. You can go through this on your own and do your own autopsy.
The point, however, is that individual errors can happen. It is the coach’s job to eradicate systemic errors and not put players in situations where individual errors or bad moments, such as the deviation that led to four zeros, become catastrophic.
More broadly, you also need to look at the attacking side. It’s normal for heads to drop after you’re down 3-0, but frankly it’s shocking that you only managed three shots on goal (total xG 0.13 from the 50th minute). And that’s part of the manager’s job – the hard part, but that’s why they get paid big money – to make sure that doesn’t happen. Some of his in-game decisions, like keeping Anthony in the game or keeping Jadon Sancho on the bench, definitely didn’t work out as planned.
It’s also obvious how you react. Ten Hag will have to convince his players that it was a trifle and not an opportunity to learn something: when players make mistakes like the ones on Sunday, they don’t need to be reminded that they screwed up.
Klopp may want to double down on what he said after the game when he noted that he thought such a game “doesn’t belong to Liverpool this season”. He’s right: it was a terrible campaign. But it happened, and this is an opportunity to channel that into a positive run to the top four.
Real Madrid’s large artillery mounts failed to fire back at Betis, leaving the La Liga title hanging in the balance.
Betis are fifth in the table, so it would be foolish for Real Madrid to go to Benito Villamarin and count on an easy three points. At the same time, Manuel Pellegrini was left without Nabil Fekir and Sergio Canales, perhaps two of the most talented players, and for Real Madrid it was a more important victory than for Betis.
And yet it seemed that the visitors began to really play only at the hour mark. Prior to this, Thibaut Courtois won twice (refusing Borja Iglesias and Ayoze Perez). Real have created enough chances – many of them late – but again, more through individual than collective action. And when two of the biggest stars, Karim Benzema and Vinicius, have a day off, it becomes very difficult to find a way out. Especially when Luka Modric, Real Madrid’s most trusted creative spark, is sidelined. (We may have a very different debate about whether the 37-year-old should be Madrid’s main creative force, but that’s another matter.)
It’s still too early to crown Barcelona and the Madrid players have said they still believe. But to score nine points against an opponent who will no longer play in European competition in the middle of the week is a lot.
Psychology is a funny thing as Arsenal’s buzzer is worth more than a smash
It’s funny how these things work. Logic dictates that a 4-0 win should inspire more confidence than the last win against league basement dwellers. But it didn’t work out for Arsenal after Reiss Nelson’s victory over Bournemouth.
Logic might tell you that fate doesn’t exist, but the fact that they celebrated like they won the league and the scratch card lottery at the same time says a lot. When your fifth best winger, having played all 65 minutes in the league this season, takes the field and scores the winning goal with his weaker foot in the seventh minute of injury time, allowing you to bounce back from two goals down all three points…yes, that’s will give you a boost. Irrational, but stimulating nonetheless.
Although, to be honest, even without the winner Nelson, the way Arsenal bounced back after conceding a goal within nine seconds, and another after their veteran midfield leader scored a goal, would be something to be proud of.
With Manchester City’s victory earlier in the day, everything was set for manager Mikel Arteta’s young guns to come crashing down. Except they didn’t. Will he accept a win like this rather than a 4-0 rout? I bet he would have done it. At least after the fact.
Mourinho’s huge Roma win and Keane’s silly moment
Before Sunday’s match between Roma and Juventus, it was quite obvious that the guests would have agreed to a draw, while Roma really needed a win to stay on track for a top four finish. Therefore, it was somewhat unexpected when José Mourinho chose to play without a striker, replacing him with Lorenzo Pellegrini and Gini Wijnaldum next to Paulo Dybala. It’s not the reason Roma won the game – Juventus hit the woodwork three times and Gianluca Mancini used an incredible long-range shot to win for Roma – but it speaks to Mourinho’s approach.
No, it’s not that Mourinho is necessarily defensive; the fact is that he is well versed in the city, the fan base and the climate around the team and is well aware of how expensive it would be to defeat, especially in the run-up to the Europa League. It wasn’t a very good game, but it turned into a blood and guts fight and his team didn’t let him down.
Juventus, on the other hand, felt the way they had for most of the season. That is, a side that is more talented than all but a handful of opponents, but that doesn’t always make the most of that talent. Of course, Paul Pogba and Federico Chiesa were injured, but the latter was back almost two months ago, and the former was back a week ago. What is the logic in giving them only half an hour and 15 minutes respectively? And why did Manuel Locatelli pull away, ahem, from Leandro Paredes?
Manager Massimiliano Allegri can point to the fact that without the points penalty (which can still be waived) they would have been second, and that they are in the Coppa Italia semi-finals and the Europa League round of 16. Great, but it’s not. change the fact that too often they don’t consider their talent.
And then there is Moise Keen. He entered the field and was sent off in the most stupid way in less than 40 seconds. He is fouled by Mancini and…