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How Liverpool Became Football Champions

During his seven-year role as manager for the Borussia Dortmund football club, Jurgen Klopp would frequently ask himself: what if?

What if Shini Kagawa, Robert Lewandowski, Mario Gotze, and Nuri Sahin remained within his team as opposed to being seduced by Manchester United and Real Madrid? What if that cohesive and young team with so much talent were able to develop together for a couple of years? This was quite natural for Klopp to ponder about because it would have allowed BVB to claim at least one Champions League trophy because they lost to Bayern Munich in 2013.

While the Liverpool manager has a larger-than-life approach to the chaos that was created by football due to its emotional pull and unpredictability, what Jurgen Klopp truly wants is continuity and consistency. At Anfield, these two factors are vital to a club that managed to accumulate a record 97 league points in the previous Premier League season before they claimed their 6th European Cup by defeating Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid. This was the first trophy that the team claimed under Klopp’s guidance.

Liverpool Powered Up

While BVB was never able to shelter themselves from the mega-spending predators in football, a levelled-up Liverpool team has been able to tie down significant assets comfortably.

Andy Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, and Mohamed Salah signed brand-new, extended contracts when it comes to the Liverpool club in the last 12 months. Virgil van Dijk is interested in a new deal, while Divock Origi has received new terms, with James Milner, Joel Matip, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain next in line.

While superior football clubs like Manchester United, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Real Madrid have focused on spending a considerable amount to reconstruct their clubs, Liverpool concentrates on retention. Each of the clubs mentioned here will happily trade places with The Reds. Liverpool is a squad that has stability during an era where everything is left in the air when it comes to European football.

How Liverpool Was Constructed Under Klopp

Since Jurgen Klopp was appointed in October 2015, he has made the job of Edwards far more simplistic and more comfortable thanks to his clear vision when it comes to the overall on-field product. The Reds boast with a stylistic profile, and Jurgen Klopp has managed to make the negotiation process and sales pitch much smoother than ever before. Klopp and Edwards have an open-door policy and mutual trust, allowing the club to benefit from a unified strategy.

You won’t find any agendas or competing egos in this squad where no coherent plan, flaws in structure, lack of transparency, and politics reign supreme at this elite level of football. Manchester United is a prime example of this. However, Liverpool only has one vision, and everyone adheres to it. If last season is any indication, and the team manages to provide the same performance as they did last year, Liverpool is going to fill their trophy cabinet in 2020.

The Smallest Nations That Qualify for the FIFA World Cup

The FIFA World Cup tournament is considered the most competitive and prestigious soccer tournament in the world that comprises of the most elite national teams in the world to compete against each other for the world-class title of being the best on the planet.

Since not all countries can compete, each continent will send their representatives. The national team needs to qualify on a continental level and must be considered the best before they can represent their continent. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the smallest nations that have played in the FIFA World Cup.

Iceland

After Croatia defeated them in the qualifications round of the FIFA World Cup in 2014, most people in the country lost all hope as they were under the impression that their World Cup dreams were over. However, during 2016 the team managed to bounce back when they reached the first significant event after they qualified for Euro 2016. This gave them tons of motivation to defeat Kosovo to secure their entry into the 2018 Russian World Cup finally. With only 334,000 citizens in the country, Iceland became the smallest nation that ever participated in the FIFA World Cup.

Paraguay

Even though they were unable to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, after they lost 8 of their matches and managed to finish 7th in South America, the country of Paraguay was considered the smallest nation to participate in a FIFA World Cup back in 1930. Back then, the state only had a population of 860,000 people. During the FIFA World Cup in 1930, Paraguay was defeated by the United States and claimed victory against Belgium. Since then, the country has managed to qualify for seven additional World Cup appearance, including 2010. During the FIFA World Cup in 2010, Paraguay managed to reach the quarterfinals and was eventually taken out by Spain.

Trinidad and Tobago

After attempting for several years, the country that is known as Trinidad and Tobago managed to qualify for the FIFA World Cup for the very first time back in 2006. In 2006, the country had a population of around 1.3 million and was considered the smallest nation to qualify for a World Cup during the 2006 FIFA World Cup. The country held this record until Iceland qualified in 2017. The nation only qualified once for the World Cup and lost eight matches during the qualification rounds for the 2018 campaign.

Northern Ireland

Even though they did not qualify for the most recent tournament, the country did make history back in 1958 when they became the smallest country on earth to be eligible for the 1958 World Cup. This is one record that was held by the country until 2006. During the 1958 World Cup, Northern Ireland managed to reach the quarterfinals after they claimed victory against Czechoslovakia. However, they were quickly dealt with once they faced France.

Was Unai Emery’s First Season Better Than Arsene Wenger’s Last Season with Arsenal?

This should be a relatively easy question to answer because sport often provides clarity. However, the pace of change at Arsenal is so different that we tend to read runes instead of making snap judgements. Fans of Arsenal are considered to be evolutionary biologists or climate change scientists as oppose to football fans, which means every microscopic shift in genes, temperature, and patterns are compared to come up with a possible theory.

Is Arsenal Better This Season Compared to the Last?

Is losing a Europa League final 4-1 better than losing a League Cup 3-0? Some would argue that it is cause Arsenal scored a goal and it was still 0-0 at half time during the Europa League final. However, most believe that letting in 4 goals in 20 minutes is far worse than letting in 3 goals in 90 minutes.

When you look at the overall statistics, you will see that Arsenal conceded 51 goals last season compared to 51 goals this season. So what about the attack? Well, Arsenal scored 73 this season compared to 74 goals last season. So it’s quite challenging to determine if this season is better than last season for Arsenal.

During the last autumn, following an away defeat against Chelsea and a home defeat against Manchester City, things felt quite different. Arsene Wenger was someone that never really stood up from the bench and only got up on rare occasions to discuss something with the 4th official.

However, Emery can be considered a blur of motion as his hands are always guiding the players and the ball. This felt quite reassuring at first, but then you start to realize that Juan Carlos Carcedo, his number two who is responsible for corners and free kicks, comes out to lead the team while Emery disappears back to the bench.

Is Unai Emery Doing Everything Possible to Lead His Team?

On 1 April 2019, any Arsenal fan would have told you that this season is far better than the last after their incredible 2-0 victory against Newcastle that placed them into top 3 of the Premier League. However, things took a drastic turn, and everyone is wondering whether Unai Emery was a good option for Arsenal. The manager lost a total of 10 games this season, only three defeats are less than last season. However, 4 of those defeats all occurred in April. If only one of those games were a win, Arsenal would have ended up in the top 3.

In the end, it seems like the club is suffering from some hereditary disease that is transferred from one generation to the next, regardless of who is coaching the team. It’s necessarily the players that will always let you down as opposed to the head coach. So, can Arsenal make the necessary changes in the team to lead them to glory?

How Do Goalkeepers Handle The Pressure?

Tim Howard has managed to experience both the lows and highs of being a goalkeeper. However, it’s the lows that seem to stick to your memory. He recently informed reporters that you have to go to some pretty dark places when you become a goalkeeper, especially for a team like Manchester United.

Goalkeeping – The Thankless Job

Howard was celebrated by Barack Obama, becoming a national hero following his remarkable display at the 2014 World Cup against Belgium where he made a total of 16 saves. However, his failure to hold the 90-minute free kick from Benni McCarthy during a second-round tie in the Champions League against Porto a decade earlier provided Costinha with a goal that managed to knock out Manchester United from the competition. It also led to convincing Sir Alex Ferguson that Tim Howard wasn’t the right man for the job.

To be a successful goalkeeper in England, you need to be phenomenal for at least 5 or 10 years. Tim Howard had an incredible season at Manchester United, and within an instant, he didn’t see a pitch for at least two years. So having one or two suitable matches is not enough.

Being a top-rated goalkeeper is seen as a thankless job, one that will require a certain kind of player brave enough to fit the number 1 jersey along with the gloves that come with it. You can make 100 excellent saves and only allow one to go past you into the back of the net. Guess what will be remembered?

Goalkeepers in Football

David De Gea is the number 1 goalkeeper for Manchester United as well as the number 1 goalkeeper in the world. However, he is one player that is well aware of the downside that comes with his position. In recent years, he has had a nightmare run when it comes to mistakes that date back to his World Cup performance last year for Spain. His enormous error on 29 April 2019 against Chelsea is the critical moment the slide happened for Manchester United.

Loris Karius is one goalkeeper that has had an even worse time when compared to De Gea. The goalkeeper from Germany made two huge mistakes, leading directly to the goals scored in the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool that ended 3-1 in Kyiv, Ukraine in 2018. Although he suffered from a concussion after he collided with Sergio Ramos earlier on in the match, he still became a subject of fierce criticism.

Both Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp defended Karius at the time. However, he hasn’t played for another club since. He was eventually shipped to Turkey where he is currently on load for Besiktas where he is battling to regain his confidence. He managed to make a fatal error on his debut for the team that led to a 1-1 draw for Besiktas. He also made another mistake during a Europa League game against Malmo.

The Uncertain Future of Gareth Bale

How do you resolve a concern like Gareth Bale? It’s something that no one has an answer to at the moment, including Florentino Perez as the Real Madrid club president and Zinedine Zidane as the manager of the team.

Gareth Bale’s Career

After six years with Real Madrid and a €100 million transfer in 2013 from Tottenham Hotspur, the Wales international has managed to make himself the most successful and popular British player in the world having won every major honour while playing for Real Madrid, including a total of 4 Champions Leagues. Bale took on the challenge to prove himself alongside Christiano Ronaldo and did a stellar job to ensure he has a place in the team.

However, it did not meet Zidane’s critique after Real Madrid was defeated 2-0 by Real Betis at home on Sunday, when the head coach questioned Bale’s attitude daily, to expose the player’s situation at the club. Zidane is not a fan of Gareth Bale’s qualities and could quickly offload the player to save a truckload of money and make space for other talents that are more to his liking, including Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappe, and Eden Hazard.

However, there’s one significant problem: Gareth Bale is going to be 30 in July and still has three years left on his contract with Real Madrid, which is worth around £15.5 million a year. This is good news for Gareth Bale as the finances are in his favour. However, it makes it quite impossible to find a club in Europe that will take him off Zidane’s hands.

Gareth Bale has made a total of 79 appearances from 151 La Liga games for Real Madrid in the last four seasons. This essentially means that he has either been on the bench or hasn’t been around for almost half the league games. Bale’s fitness issues in the last few years, when he suffered several muscular injuries, will not stop other clubs from making a move because, when he is fit and healthy, his capabilities and skills are well-worth the gambles.

However, there’s gambling on a player’s fitness, and then there’s gambling on a player’s eligibility who earns £300,000 a week. Manchester United learned this the hard way with Alexis Sanchez who only scored five times in 45 appearances.

Gareth Bale’s Future

Any football club that is considering a move on Bale need to weigh the reward and risk of gambling with his financials and fitness. This is the biggest problem that Real Madrid is facing at the moment. Bale is not keen on leaving Real Madrid. He managed to win Zidane over before and will try his best to succeed again even though his future at Real Madrid looks bleaker than ever.

If Zidane and Real Madrid want to let him go, they need to compensate him for the remaining years and make him affordable to any club that wants him.

Pochettino Is Approaching a Crossroads at Tottenham Hotspur

When you listen to the recent comments from Mauricio Pochettino, you will be forgiven for believing that the manager for Tottenham Hotspur is talking himself out of his job.

Let’s take you back to the end of the previous season. When the Tottenham Hotspur manager insisted that his team must take risks and be brave if they wish to be real contenders to claim trophies. This was something that didn’t get anyone’s attention. Tottenham is making no signings during the summer as they were more focused on moving to their brand-new stadium during September. We are currently in March, and the squad is still playing matches at Wembley.

Pochettino’s Cry for Help

Pochettino was repeating his call for a better and bolder approach earlier this season “If we wish to claim titles, we will be required to operate differently because, as it stands. We are operating in the same way as we did five years ago.” We are doing a brilliant job.

However, if we wish to be true contenders, we seriously need to consider operating in a different way going forward.” Once again, Pochettino’s cry for help went unnoticed as Tottenham once again couldn’t sign a player during the transfer window in January.

Fast forward to last week, where Tottenham lost 2-1 against Burnley in a match that managed to end their title dreams. The angry post-match confrontation from Pochettino with Mike Dean as the referee of the game. You’ll quickly realise that his claims are true and Tottenham is still a decade away from being the club that it should be.

Mauricio Pochettino

Pochettino is an intelligent man. He is well aware of the vacancy that is available at Manchester United along with the potential to transfer to Real Madrid during the summer as well. Also, with the uncertainty surrounding Maurizio Sarri, there could be a new opening at Chelsea too towards the end of the 2018/19 season.

So everything that was said by Pochettino could be designed to turn things around for the chairman of Spurs in a bid to get precisely what he needed. Where he can take a squad of players and transform them into winners. The chairman of Tottenham Hotspurs.

Daniel Levy is well aware that he could lose his prestigious manager to wealthier, more prosperous and bigger clubs as it stands, so he should listen to what the Hotspurs manager has to say. However, there’s also the possibility that the manager’s cry for help is not strategic at all. Perhaps he is merely stating the frustrations that might force him to look for a new challenge somewhere else.

Only time will be able to tell, and the much-needed answer is going to occur at the end of the current season, there’s no doubt about that. However, unless something changes at Tottenham, Pochettino is in grave danger to repeat the mistakes that were made by Everton and David Moyes.

Mesut Ozil Fails To Impress Unai Emery

There’s no denying that there’s a whiff of the undesired when you look at the Europa Leagues. During the early stages of the tournament before the dream of claiming victory to qualify for the prestigious Champions League, the implication could be that players requested to appear in a match are not in favor with the manager in terms of his first-choice of 11 players.

Mesut Ozil

With that in mind, it wasn’t unexpected that Mesut Ozil started for Arsenal after Unai Emery named him for the squad. This was the first time since the 26th of December 2018 during their 3-0 win when they faced BATE Borisov in the Europa League round of 32.

The never-ending saga of Mesut Ozil’s career at Arsenal remains intensely curious and is something that would make absolutely no sense to anyone that is unfamiliar with the inconsistent nature of football. A little over a year ago, Mesut Ozil signed an attractive new contract with Arsenal. However, since Unai Emery took over from Arsene Wenger, Ozil’s stock has fallen.

However, this match witnessed him back in the squad, taking the number 10 role, just behind Aubameyang. This provided the perfect chance for Unai Emery to give Mesut Ozil another opportunity on the field. The match was not as important as other games. However, after a 1-0 defeat at the hands of BATE during the first-leg, there was just enough danger to suggest that he was getting a serious opportunity.

“It was such an amazing feeling to walk on the pitch again,” Mesut Ozil stated on Twitter following the match. In an era where social media is analysed and over analysed thereafter, it was quite refreshing to see his words point to a statement that essentially said: “Great to be back in the game, it’s about time.”

Even if Unai Emery was not impressed, Ozil is still an immensely popular player in various quarters once his name was announced before kickoff. Ozil was greeted by welcoming cheers from his home fans, and it provided an extra layer of excitement to the game in the process.

The Match Against BATE

From the previous performances provided by Ozil in the last five years with Arsenal, perhaps the recent game where he was featured for a full 90 minutes proved why. Mesut Ozil is one of the best players in the world but had little impact in his recent game. This is the main reason why he is a frustration to fans and his manager.

Ozil was predominantly in the background for most of the match, occasionally making an appearance to provide a neat pass or pleasantly combining with Alex Iwobi. However, there was nothing more from him when he made his debut for the first time in 2019.

Ozil played well, and he was exceptional throughout the game. However, when you have a manager that is looking for more than just fine, it’s certainly not good enough.

How Borussia Dortmund Made It To The Top of the League

It was 2008 and Dortmund, who won the Champions League in 1997, the German champions in 2002, and the EUFA Cup runners-up in 2002, realised that they no longer had the potential to compete on the Bundesliga table.

In a recent interview, Michael Zorc, the sporting director for Borussia Dortmund stated “Everyone considered us as a Champions League club, and although we felt like one, we couldn’t deliver on the pitch anymore. We were asking ourselves: how on earth can we be successful without the necessary economic resources?”

Thirteenth, ninth, seventh, seventh, sixth. Borussia Dortmund had become a second-tier team within the German top-flight league and were unable to invest in the team due to not-so-distant sins from the past. Failure to qualify for the largest club competition within EUFA and wild over-spending during 2005 caused a huge dilemma for the team. 

The hiring of an innovative, young coach who coached a minor football club at second division was part of the answer, and his name was Jurgen Klopp. However, both the poor finances from Dortmund and the high-energy tactics from the new coach cried for a different team in the process, and this helped see transfer requirements change overnight.

How Borussia Dortmund Made a Comeback

Dortmund essentially stopped searching for mid-market, seasoned professionals and instead focused their efforts on young high potentials. So basically players that were starting their footballing careers that were also willing to learn and hungry for the game which also assisted with the balance sheet burdens that plagued the side for a very long time.

During 2007/08, the age average of new recruits were around 27. However, within 12 months, that averaged dropped down to 23 years of age and continued dropping from there. Since then, things have started to turn around in a positive light for the sensational football squad.

Within the last three years, Dortmund has managed to rake in a total of £427 million due to transfers, including Dembele for £103 million, Aubameyang for £57 million, and Pulisic for £57 million. However, the total that Dortmund spends to receive those players was a mere £24 million.

The primary danger for Dortmund as a stepping stone is that football players aren’t as committed to consistently perform well. However, this has not happened at the club as of yet. Dortmund has managed to win two cups and two championships since 2011 and only missed out on the Champions League once within the same period. The latest figures indicated that Dortmund has spent the least amount of money from the top 5 football clubs since 2008.

This is the primary reason why Dortmund has managed to improve over the last few years in terms of financial stability and another reason why the club is performing so well in the Bundesliga at the moment. They continue to make a profit from transfers and continue to find upcoming players at a low price.

Solskjaer’s Tactical Judgement Overcomes Tottenham Hotspur

With 2 minutes remaining on the clock and United leading Tottenham 1-0, Solskjaer was on the edge of the technical area and advised Diogo Dalot to move back from the touchline to congest space in the middle which restricted Tottenham from going through the centre of the football pitch.


Seconds later, the final whistle managed to ensure that Solskjaer successfully passed his first huge test as the caretaker manager for United in incredible fashion, while that small instruction managed to serve as a small-scale version of his day. By screaming instructions to Diogo Dalot, he showcased that he won’t allow his players to turn off and avoid the game plan until the very end.


Manchester United’s Visit to Tottenham


There are several reasons for The Red Devils’ victory at Wembley – the rejuvenated confidence of the fans is certainly a key factor – but this was a match where Solskjaer proved that he could take on a top-tier team and reign supreme in a tactical battle.


Until now, the feel-good factor and momentum managed to propel Manchester United to glorious victories against 5 opponents who, in all honesty, they should be able to defeat on each and every occasion. However, a visit to Tottenham was a completely different beast, especially due to the fact that their coach is the man that is most wanted at Old Trafford to become the permanent replacement for Jose Mourinho.


If would be quite naïve to believe that will change after this result. However, if Solskjaer wants a genuine opportunity to land this job, he will need to prove himself worthy against the best in the league, so this result against Tottenham is a huge tick on that box.


Obviously, there will be tougher and bigger challenges ahead. The Champions League next month against PSG is certainly one of them as well as United’s encounters with Chelsea, Manchester City, and Liverpool before the end of the season.


However, after his team managed to brush aside Reading, Newcastle, Bournemouth, Huddersfield, and Cardiff, Solskjaer was required to make an important statement against a big-six rival, and he achieved it by outfoxing Tottenham’s manager with a plan to deny Tottenham any chance of attacking through the middle.


Solskjaer’s Influence On Manchester United


While the tactical plan from Solskjaer was the foundation to the team’s victory, which allowed the team to move within 6 points of Chelsea in the fourth position, the personality of the 45-year-old has been just as vital in transforming the team for the better. Players were less motivated and down under Mourinho.


However, De Gea made it crystal clear that the gloom has finally lifted, stating that the new manager managed to bring some happiness with him at Old Trafford the moment he walked through the doors. Injecting players with belief and making them feel happy is the simple side of the football. However, when Solskjaer managed to beat Tottenham, he instantly became a serious contender for a permanent position at Old Trafford.

Can Firmino Compete with Kane or Salah in the Fantasy Premier League?


Last week, Roberto Firmino managed to become the highest-scoring Brazilian football player in the Premier League with a total of 44 goals which earned him the Samba Gold award in 2018 which is awarded to the best Brazilian player when it comes to European leagues. However, despite these recent awards, it’s still relatively easy for Firmino to get completely lost when it comes to fantasy soccer.

He is currently listed in the same tier as Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang, Harry Kane, and Mohamed Salah, but has fewer points than them at the same time. However, the hat-trick he scored in last weekend’s match was a clear reminder of how good this player actually is and will continue to be going forward.

Roberto Firmino’s Performance

Firmino’s performance while playing against Arsenal not only assisted Liverpool to secure a huge victory but also allowed him to score a staggering 45.9 points when it comes to fantasy soccer which is considered the highest single-match total this season. Although Firmino usually drifts behind other huge players in his tier when it comes to total points, it’s worth mentioning that fantasy soccer is a weekly game and Firmino just provided that he can be the best football player in any given week.

The most noticeable reason why Firmino is currently behind other football stars at his tier is due to the fact that he hasn’t managed to keep up in scoring goals. Although he scored 4 goals in the last two games, the player from Liverpool is still underperforming when it comes to expected goals. There isn’t a player in fantasy soccer with more goals that has been more unfortunate than Firmino in this statistic so far.

Another area where Firmino is struggling at the moment is assists. Firmino has never provided fewer assist than the 3 he is carrying into 2019. To give you some perspective, over the last 5 seasons Firmino has managed to average around 5 by this time. Although he is creating more opportunities when compared to the last 3 seasons, he is posting the lowest number of assists. Furthermore, his actual assists total is far behind his expected assists which simply means that Firmino has been exceptionally unlucky this year.

It’s not just assist and goal statistics where Firmino is lacking at the moment. He is also posting three-year lows when it comes to fouls drawn, accurate crosses, and shots for every 90 minutes played. While this could be seen as someone that is underperforming as oppose to being unlucky, these factors usually balance over when it comes to a 38-game season.

Thankfully, Klopp managed to experiment with Firmino’s position where he moved him back in his formation to play the role of an attacking midfielder. Firmino has only played 8 games in total in that position but has managed to score half of his goals since the experiment took place. He also managed to increase his passing rate since he was pushed back in Klopp’s formation.