LFC NEWS

Darwin Núñez has only delayed the inevitable at Liverpool as Jürgen Klopp forced to wait

Liverpool.com - Tue, 08/16/2022 - 19:00

Liverpool have developed a reputation for ruthlessness in front of goal under Jürgen Klopp. Over the years, the Reds have been clinical in the final third for the most part, through Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah in particular.

The former joined Bayern Munich this summer, with the Anfield recruitment team tasked with sourcing a replacement. Darwin Núñez was deemed to be the ideal candidate, and for good reason.

In addition to his relatively complete profile, the Uruguayan striker looked even more efficient than Mané based on his showings at Benfica. Liverpool were planning to enhance their clinical edge moving forward, with a proper striker added to their ranks.

READ MORE:Jürgen Klopp found wildcard Darwin Núñez fix in 10 minutes as Liverpool may unlock new 'striker'

READ MORE:Liverpool have given themselves double '76 per cent' issue Peter Krawietz knows must be reversed

Last season, Núñez converted 27.2 per cent of his shots into goals, which placed him top of the Portuguese Primeira Liga once compared with every other player to have posted at least 55 attempts on goal.

In fact, no player across Europe's top six leagues converted their shots into goals to a more efficient level than Núñez. He proved to be a real marksman, capable of seizing moments whenever they emerged.

For perspective, Mané posted a conversion rate in the Premier League of around 18 per cent last season, and Salah averaged marginally less. Diogo Jota converted roughly 17 per cent of his shots, which truly emphasises the 27.2 per cent posted by Núñez.

The large majority of offensive players tend to convert around 15 to 20 per cent of their shots into goals. Even the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Kane tend to follow the theme.

On top of his conversion, Núñez hit the target with great regularity. He posted a total of 85 shots in the Portuguese top-flight, hitting the target with 44 of them which equates to 51.8 per cent.

Mané, Salah, Jota and Luis Díaz all found the target with between 36.3 and 37.4 per cent of their shots in the Premier League. The numbers involved capture what Núñez is about, and they also offer an insight into the peculiar nature of Liverpool's start to the new season.

Through their first two Premier League matches this term, the Reds have conceded first in both games and delivered two disappointing draws against Fulham and Crystal Palace. Crucially, Liverpool generated six big chances across the two bouts, scoring just one of them.

Núñez in particular was presented with a few opportunities to convert against Crystal Palace on Monday night, but his end product wasn't as sharp as expected. His difficult night was epitomised by a red card around the hour mark after he attempted to headbutt Joachim Andersen, who had been engaging in mind games throughout the match.

Núñez will miss the next three fixtures through suspension but once he returns and plays his natural game at Anfield, the goals should flow as they did in Portugal and Liverpool's ruthless edge should return.

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Liverpool have given themselves double '76 per cent' issue Peter Krawietz knows must be reversed

Liverpool.com - Tue, 08/16/2022 - 17:30

Football is about control, according to Peter Krawietz. The long-term assistant of Jürgen Klopp knows the importance of making his beloved sport less random if positive results are to be secured.

"Every coach spends an incredible amount of time pondering about all the different factors," he once said (in Raphael Honigstein's book Bring The Noise). "The opponent, weather and so on, knowing full well that total control of the ball is unattainable."

During his time alongside Klopp at Liverpool, the pair have established an impressive degree of control over proceedings. The Reds have reached several European finals, while also accumulating over 90 points in three different Premier League campaigns.

READ MORE: Liverpool have a new transfer priority for Jürgen Klopp and it isn't a midfielder

READ MORE: Jürgen Klopp has seen enough as Liverpool midfield transfer question must have been answered

Their start to the new season has been less impressive, however, with Liverpool drawing two consecutive matches against Fulham and Crystal Palace, neither of whom are expected to finish near the top of the table after 38 games.

What is perhaps most surprising is how Klopp's players have made life difficult for themselves in both games. The Reds have been forced to swim against the tide because of their own mistakes.

In their first bout against Fulham, Virgil van Dijk gave away a penalty on the 72nd minute, making an uncharacteristic error by fouling Aleksandar Mitrović close to goal.

Penalties tend to be scored roughly 76 per cent of the time. Generating a shot worth the same amount in open play is extremely difficult, which is essentially why penalties are special and capable of dramatically impacting results.

They are almost free goals — and they are unfair — which explains why Liverpool tend to avoid conceding them. In fact, Klopp's side didn't give away a single penalty throughout the whole of last season, standing alone as the only team in the Premier League with a clean record.

If you wish to establish control over the play and the result, don't concede penalties.

Liverpool had a chance to right their wrongs from the previous week against Crystal Palace on Monday night but although the performance was stronger and penalties were avoided, Klopp's players once again shot themselves in the foot.

In the 57th minute, Darwin Núñez received a deserved red card for a moment of chaos, forcing the Reds to compete with a one-man disadvantage for the remainder of the clash.

Similar to penalties, red cards can change games in an instant and total control can be lost at the drop of a hat. Liverpool fought for three points with 10 men, but could only manage to secure a 1-1 draw.

In both of their games so far, Liverpool haven't let their performances decide the result, instead allowing extrinsic factors to have an influence. It is also worth noting that in each match, the Reds have conceded the first goal.

A study published in the magazine International Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport covered the topic in 2016. Based on every Premier League match played in 2014/15, 76 per cent of visiting sides who scored the first goal ended up winning the match.

The low-scoring nature of football can punish teams, even if they play well on the whole. Hard work can be undone by moments.

Overall, if Liverpool are to get back to winning ways, they must start letting their performances decide results — as they did last season — rather than being so open to the element of chance.

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Jürgen Klopp found wildcard Darwin Núñez fix in 10 minutes as Liverpool may unlock new 'striker'

Liverpool.com - Tue, 08/16/2022 - 16:00

To call it a crisis would be a little disingenuous yet, but Liverpool are certainly teetering on a precipice that has put them in a perilous situation alarmingly close to the beginning of the season.

Compounding existing and mounting injuries, Darwin Núñez's petulant red card has added to Liverpool's issues and dramatically scythed down Jürgen Klopp's options in attack for the Reds. It has also led to Liverpool collecting just two points from their opening two games and already opening up a gaping abyss of four points between themselves and first place in the Premier League.

The only top-six side that has endured a worse start is Manchester United, and it is the club's arch-rivals that Liverpool will face next on Monday night.

READ MORE: Liverpool have a new transfer priority for Jürgen Klopp and it isn't a midfielder

READ MORE: Jürgen Klopp has seen enough as Liverpool midfield transfer question must have been answered

Klopp will hope he will have some returnees with Roberto Firmino potentially available to feature. However, against Crystal Palace, the Liverpool boss may have found an alternative solution to solve the club's attacking line-up through his last substitution in the game.

Fábio Carvalho was brought on for the last 10 minutes against Crystal Palace to play on the left side of Liverpool's attack while interchanging with Luis Díaz to drift into the centre and play a false nine role, and while it was a brief cameo, there was plenty of promise in Carvalho's showing.

In fact, had he angled his powerful volley from just outside the box a whisker closer to the goal, it could have paid off as the perfect substitution for Klopp and with the press waxing lyrical about Carvalho after a last-gasp winner in front of the Kop.

Even though his introduction did not end on such a lofty high, Carvalho got in the right areas and he gave Liverpool a different outlet and most importantly a goalscoring threat, which is something Klopp needs to think about in the absence of Núñez for Liverpool's next three games.

Without, Diogo Jota and potentially Roberto Firmino, who missed Monday's game as a precaution, there are very few players in this Liverpool squad who have a knack for putting the ball into the back of the net, and Carvalho certainly has that ability.

He is a player who is capable of drifting into the right areas and getting a shot off towards the goal to trouble goalkeepers; it's one of the reasons he stood out as a midfielder for Fulham while coming through the ranks.

Last season he averaged 2.27 shots per 90 for Fulham in all competitions and ranked in third place for shots per 90 (2.37) in the Championship for midfielders, highlighting his goal threat. He made 19 goal contributions throughout the campaign.

Against Manchester United, that kind of threat will be necessary for Liverpool in order to get them through the game and Carvalho's knack for troubling the opponent with a high volume of shots could pay dividends.

But in truth, the Liverpool boss does not really have a choice. Klopp simply needs another finisher, and in Carvalho, he has a wildcard option for his forward line who may just be able to give him what he needs in a time of great need.

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Andersen involves police over online death threats after Liverpool draw

Liverpool FC on Sky Sports - Tue, 08/16/2022 - 15:25

Joachim Andersen has spoken to the police after he was bombarded by death threats and a torrent of abuse online following Crystal Palace's 1-1 draw at Liverpool.

The Eagles defender was headbutted by Darwin Nunez, who was red-carded by referee Paul Tierney and now faces a three-match ban for violent conduct.

Andersen was booked in the same incident, but took to Instagram to share what he said was a sample of hundreds of abusive messages he had received since the encounter.

Andersen says he has received 300 to 400 abusive messages after the incident on Monday Night Football.

Posting on his Instagram story, Andersen also included several examples of the abuse he suffered before ending it with a message hoping Instagram and the Premier League can do something.

New Liverpool forward Nunez was shown a straight red card on his full debut following the incident involving Andersen in Monday's 1-1 draw at Anfield.

Crystal Palace have spoken to the player to offer him their full support and the abuse will be reported to the police.

A spokesperson for Instagram's parent company, Meta, said the organisation are in contact with Andersen's representatives, as they cannot take action until the DMs are reported through their in-app tools.

The spokesperson said: "We have strict rules against bullying and harassment and we are in direct contact with Joachim's team on the issue.

"Because DMs are private spaces, we don't proactively look for hate speech or bullying in the same way we do in other places, and we need someone to report the message in app before we can take action. No one thing will fix this challenge overnight, but we're continuing our work with the industry and Government to help keep our community safe from abuse."

Sky Sports News has also sought a response from the Premier League.

Neville on Nunez red: It was a moment of madness

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Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher discuss Nunez's red card

Sky Sports' Gary Neville on Monday Night Football:

"It's a moment of madness. It's a proper butt, Andersen will feel that.

"We don't know why he's done it. I've done two or three things like this in my career. We don't know why we react. We have no idea. We go off and think, 'what did I just do' - honestly. I kicked a ball at a fan at Everton and did a similar thing in a game against Steve McManaman. It's that red mist. It comes over you.

"When you get sent off like that it's the loneliest place in the world. You might have a kit man with you but it's horrible. You are in that dressing room and your team-mates are out on the pitch. You've left them down and you feel so bad.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the 1-1 draw between Liverpool and Crystal Palace in the Premier League

"You don't need to say too much to a player that has been sent off as it's awful anyway and they take responsibility. I'm sure he'd have gone around the dressing room to apologise. The rest of the lads in that dressing room will pick him up as it's a good dressing room."

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Media baffled by Darwin Nunez’s “red mist” as Liverpool drop more points

ThisIsAnfield.com - Tue, 08/16/2022 - 09:00

Darwin Nunez‘s nightmare home debut for Liverpool was the clear talking point for the onlooking media, as the Reds could only draw 1-1 with Crystal Palace.

Jurgen Klopp‘s side were rarely at their best at Anfield, even though they created plenty of chances throughout the evening.

Wilfried Zaha and Luis Diaz traded goals, but it was Nunez’s senseless red card that proved to be the standout, and pivotal, moment.

The draw means Liverpool are already four points behind Man City after just two matches, adding early complexity to their Premier League title hopes.

Here’s how the media reacted to the Reds’ latest slip-up.

Nunez’s red card was criticised by many…

 Liverpool's Darwin Núñez reacts after being shown a red card and sent off during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Crystal Palace FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Goal‘s Neil Jones was left baffled by the striker’s moment of madness:

“Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. What was the Uruguayan thinking?

“With Liverpool 1-0 down, Anfield edgy and cool heads needed, Nunez did exactly what his side didn’t need him to do. He reacted to a bit of provocation from Joachim Andersen and left the Palace defender in a heap.

“Paul Tierney had no hesitation in showing the red card, and Nunez had to be escorted from the field by James Milner.

“It cost his side here, and it will cost them in the coming weeks. There will be no Nunez at Old Trafford next week, nor against Bournemouth or Newcastle after that. With resources already stretched, Klopp could well have done without a moment of sheer stupidity from his new big-money centre-forward.”

Andy Dunn of the Mirror rued Nunez’s costly error on the Premier League‘s 30th anniversary:

“After Darwin Nunez lost his head, it took him some considerable time to leave the field. It will be no consolation but maybe his eventual, ignominious departure somehow inspired Liverpool to a point.

[…]

“Nunez will now miss the next three matches and Jurgen Klopp’s side are scratching around for their top form.

“As a 30th birthday party for the Premier League, this was hardly a swish bash – more beer and sandwiches than champagne and caviar.”

 Liverpool's Darwin Núñez walks off after being shown a red card and sent off during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Crystal Palace FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

This Is Anfield‘s Mark Delgado was similarly unimpressed with what he saw from the Uruguayan:

“It was supposed to be Darwin’s day, his home debut and an expectant Anfield crowd after his big impact off the bench at Fulham.

“Fair to say it didn’t quite go to plan though, as Nunez missed a couple of early chances and then was shown a straight red before the hour mark, a stupid reaction seeing him throw out a headbutt in reaction to being pushed.

“Idiocy of it aside, it’s very, very not what this team has been about under Klopp when needing a big reaction to frustrating moments.

“He’ll need to learn that immediately.”

Liverpool were not at their best, regardless…

 Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha (R) takes on Liverpool's Nathaniel Phillips during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Crystal Palace FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Mirror‘s Nathan Ridley was critical of Liverpool’s newfound penchant for going behind:

“For the past three years, you’d be hard-pressed to find any damning statistics about Liverpool.

Jurgen Klopp‘s side have largely been imperious at home, rampant on the road and their players have come up trumps on countless occasions. But now the Reds boss has something seriously worrying staring him in the face.

“Rather surprisingly, Liverpool have now gone behind in their last six Premier League games, dating back to April.

“Having trailed against Tottenham Hotspur, Aston Villa, Southampton and Wolves at the back end of last season, Fulham and Palace’s bright starts mean that the Reds must get better at coming out of the blocks – or it’s going to be a nervy campaign at Anfield.”

The Liverpool Echo‘s Paul Gorst believes the Reds must now dip back into the transfer market:

“The Reds pride themselves on their stability and unwillingness to panic when it comes to recruitment, but on this evidence, something needs to be done to bolster the ranks.

“An injury crisis is already threatening to engulf them just two games in.

“After hearing demands for a new midfielder all summer, injuries to Konate and Matip have seen headaches at centre-half re-emerge.

“The sight of Nat Phillips making his first Premier League start since May 2021 said it all there. But it is up front where the most immediate concern is now.

“With Firmino potentially out injured and Jota still absent with a hamstring problem, just who will lead the line at Manchester United next week? It never rains but it pours.”

What does this mean for the title race?

 Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson applauds the supporters after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Crystal Palace FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Jones gave a fairly negative assessment of the situation:

“Two games in, four points dropped. It feels almost absurd to say, but that looks a long way back, given the standards set at the top of the Premier League in recent years.

“More worrying, however, is the fact that Liverpool don’t look anything like the team we’ve become so used to seeing, and the fact their injury list is longer than any other side in the league.

“Without the likes of Thiago Alcantara, Diogo Jota, Joel Matip and Ibrahima Konate, they are a far weaker proposition – and Manchester City will be delighted by what they’ve seen so far.”

Richard Jolly of the Independent was of a similar mindset, given Man City‘s brilliance:

“The title race may not be over but, even with 108 points to play for, it is hard to make up such a deficit to Pep Guardiola’s side, especially when the eventual winners end up around the 95-point mark.

[…]

“And so Liverpool head to Old Trafford next week when the two most successful clubs in the history of English football are both still looking for a first league victory of the season.

“The serial winners have become the winless.”

 Liverpool's Mohamed Salah during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Crystal Palace FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Finally, Gorst was another who was feeling negative after a poor start to the season for Liverpool:

“While there is some merit with how a depleted squad responded to going behind and Darwin Nunez‘s red card, there must already be serious questions of whether Liverpool are able to once more match Manchester City stride for stride at the summit of the English game.

“That might sound like foolish hyperbole to some at this early juncture, but given the slender margins that have kept Liverpool’s name off the Premier League trophy in 2019 and 2022, a four-point advantage is far from ideal already.”

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Julian Ward may have new scouting location after completed £17m transfer opened Liverpool link

Liverpool.com - Tue, 08/16/2022 - 08:30

The beginning of the Premier League is always full of excitement about the unknown. Who will be this season's break-out star? Who are the dark horses? And who will be the hits and the misses in the transfer window?

Much of that is a mystery even with the season already underway. After two rounds, it is difficult to predict what will happen for the remaining 36, not least because the transfer window is still open.

But what has been clear is that there has been an influx of exciting talent arriving in the Premier League yet again this summer, and that means there will be plenty to keep an eye on. Particularly as Liverpool often shop in the English market for new players.

READ MORE: Liverpool could pursue cheap Thiago Alcântara cover that meets Jürgen Klopp transfer criteria

READ MORE: Liverpool could discover another Aurélien Tchouaméni this season and repeat Fabinho transfer

One of the most active teams in the market, Nottingham Forest have enjoyed a particularly enticing transfer window, which has seen the likes of former Liverpool forward Taiwo Awoniyi arrive at the club, as well as the £17m transfer of Neco Williams from Anfield.

With the club's manager, Steve Cooper, having previously worked at Kirkby in Liverpool's academy, the links and ties are strong from a Liverpool perspective on the newly promoted club's return to England's top tier.

Naturally, Liverpool will be rooting for the club's former employees to do well. But with so many exciting imports, Nottingham Forest are also a team to keep an eye on with a vision for future transfers.

Moussa Niakhaté was one of the best up and coming centre-backs in the Bundesliga before his arrival at the club this summer, and he has already settled in well with a strong display against West Ham United.

Brennan Johnson caught the eye against Liverpool last season, and was one of the most exciting players in the Championship during the last campaign.

Orel Mangala is another one to watch, with the player possessing the energy and the pressing ability to suit Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool, while Emmanuel Dennis enjoyed a solid debut campaign in the Premier League at Watford. He is also someone we have written about as a potential back-up striker option at Anfield.

It will be fascinating to see how all these new arrivals, and exciting players gel together. Buying in bulk can be a risky approach, but with a manager who developed the likes of Raheem Sterling, Conor Coady and Suso at Liverpool, and brought the best out of Rhian Brewster at Swansea, Forest have a man who is well prepared for the job, and who could even emerge as a potential successor to take over at the helm at Liverpool when Klopp moves on.

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Liverpool 1-1 Crystal Palace: Player Ratings – What the media and statistics say

ThisIsAnfield.com - Tue, 08/16/2022 - 07:05

Darwin Nunez had a home debut to forget in Liverpool’s 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace, with only two Reds emerging from the performance with an above-average rating.

The Reds were held at home by the Eagles on Monday night, as two more early points were dropped in the Premier League.

Wilfried Zaha fired Palace in front with a precise finish, before Nunez was sent-off for a headbutt on his home debut.

Fortunately, Luis Diaz did at least manage to earn Liverpool a point with a wonderful solo strike, but Jurgen Klopp‘s men couldn’t find a winner.

So how did the media rate the Reds at Anfield?

Here we compare our player ratings with those of the Liverpool Echo, the Evening Standard, the i, WhoScored, FotMob and the This Is Anfield readers.

It was Diaz (7.6) who got the highest rating at Anfield, mainly because of his memorable goal.

The Colombian weaved past several Palace defenders before bending an inch-perfect finish into the Kop net, restoring some parity.

The Echo‘s Ian Doyle felt Diaz “came to life” after Nunez’s red card, almost as if he felt the need to drag his team out of the mire.

In second place was Harvey Elliott (7.2), who showed the other midfielders a thing or two about producing guile in the final third.

Michael Hincks of the i felt the 19-year-old enjoyed a “bright start with some sharp passing,” being at the centre of most of Liverpool’s good play.

Meanwhile, FotMob pointed out that Elliott had a 90 percent pass completion rate, as well as winning four out of five tackles.

 Liverpool's Mohamed Salah during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Crystal Palace FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Trent Alexander-Arnold (6.7) was up next after showcasing some of his passing magic at Anfield, often in a midfield role.

TIA’s Henry Jackson pointed out one “sublime dinked ball” that Mohamed Salah failed to make the most of, as he returned to form after a bad outing at Fulham.

As for the worst player, it wasn’t even close, as Nunez (3.1) let his side down with a braindead headbutt on Joachim Andersen.

Doyle described the actions of Liverpool’s big-money summer signing as “stupid,” while Hincks said he was “schooled” by Andersen.

Up next for Liverpool is next Monday’s crucial trip to Man United and there is a centre-forward issue to solve should Roberto Firmino not be fit for the occasion, with Klopp only revealing he “might be ready.”

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Liverpool could pursue cheap Thiago Alcântara cover that meets Jürgen Klopp transfer criteria

Liverpool.com - Tue, 08/16/2022 - 07:00

It’s called silly season for a reason. A four-to-six week absence for Thiago Alcântara is frustrating, but suggestions that this alone could prompt Liverpool into the transfer market are far-fetched. Jürgen Klopp will find ways to deal with it internally, just as he would at any other point in the season — if the window were not open, the levels of hysteria would be orders of magnitude lower.

Thankfully, there is no panic in Liverpool HQ, and there will be no ‘emergency signing’ who will find himself surplus to requirements in a few games’ time. Klopp has been very clear about his transfer criteria: any move has to make sense for the long term.

But what if there was someone who could cover for Thiago now while also providing a long-term succession plan? After all, regardless of injuries, the Spaniard is turning 32 later this season. Some people seem to think that Matheus Nunes could be that player, hence the links. But the Liverpool man has an unorthodox skillset to replicate, and another trip to Portugal might not get Julian Ward what he is after.

READ MORE: Liverpool could discover another Aurélien Tchouaméni this season and repeat Fabinho transfer

READ MORE: Jürgen Klopp must buck 10-game Liverpool trend as Crystal Palace exploit Champions League flaw

Instead, he could look to France, where a 22-year-old is slowly establishing his credentials as a silky but hard-working playmaker in the Thiago mould. WIth 73 top-flight games to his name, he offers a more mature solution than Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott or Fábio Carvalho, while also possessing plenty of room to develop as part of the next great Liverpool team.

The man in question is Enzo Le Fée of Lorient. The harbour town in north-western France is not the most obvious place to look for a Thiago heir, but the Breton side have just embarked upon their third successive season in Ligue 1. Their young general has been an increasingly important presence.

Le Fée took some time to adapt to the physical rigours of the French top flight. But in that sense, Ligue 1 is one of the better preparation divisions for the Premier League: it may lack the technical prowess of the rest of the so-called ‘top five’, but it certainly features plenty of strength.

The midfielder has come through this trial a better player. It is one thing to dictate proceedings with time and space, and quite another to do it amid the presence of powerful midfield destroyers. Le Fée’s influence has grown and grown, to the point where he has crept into the FBRef list of Thiago’s top 10 most similar players.

Two goals and three assists last season are hardly headline numbers, but then Lorient only scored 35 goals. Equally, Thiago has never been a goalscorer either; his role is hard to measure, and even harder to replicate. But Le Fée does a more than reasonable impression: he is a very strong creative and progressive presence, while also ranking well above average for pressures, tackles and interceptions.

He falls down in one significant area: passing. An accuracy of 78.7 per cent looks extremely poor when compared to Thiago’s staggering 90 per cent success rate, while Le Fée is also more reliant on carries than passes when it comes to progressing the ball.

But it must be remembered that he has been playing in a really quite poor Lorient team. A tally of 36 points and just eight wins last season could easily have seen them sucked into the relegation playoff, were it not for severe falls from grace for both Saint-Étienne and Bordeaux. Thiago, by contrast, has spent essentially his entire career picking out elite players in elite teams.

Despite this hindrance, Get Football News France described Le Fée as at his ‘balletic best’ to help keep his side in the division in the latter part of last season. Coupled with a ‘bolder, more persistent’ side to his game, he looks ready to step up.

The fee for Le Fée would probably not be exorbitant. He has not really come onto any major radars just yet, with Rennes and two unnamed German clubs the main links to emerge. As a guideline, the club’s record transfer fee received was £18m for Didier Ndong (nice one, Sunderland), so Liverpool could get something of a bargain.

With experience on the wings as well as in his midfield base, Le Fée would slot nicely into the upcoming set of Jones, Elliott and Carvalho. But with that extra bit of experience, and the profile aligning slightly more neatly with Thiago, he could give Klopp a convincing option in the here and now, while also becoming a part of the long-term plan.

Of course, a move like this would call into question where someone like Jude Bellingham could fit in next summer. This might be the real reason at the heart of Klopp’s reluctance. But if Liverpool are genuinely open to any midfield option who would make sense in the long term, then Le Fée could fit that bill.

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Brighton’s Adam Lallana: ‘I’m 34 and performing at the highest level in my career’

the Athletic - Tue, 08/16/2022 - 05:25

It’s a jolting statement from Adam Lallana that makes you sit up and take notice: “I’m 34 and arguably performing at the highest level that I have throughout my career.”

This is a decorated performer, a Premier League and Champions League winner with Liverpool, capped 34 times by England.

Lallana expands on the joy he’s getting out of playing for Graham Potter’s Brighton & Hove Albion.

“I feel like I’m contributing, I’ve got rhythm, I feel fit,” he says. “In the last couple of games, I’ve shown my fitness levels are high. I’m versatile, I can play in different positions, and I feel as though I’m contributing to the team. It’s exciting.”

Lallana, speaking exclusively to The Athletic following the 0-0 home draw against Newcastle, has gone back to his old position by moving further forward.

Potter has used him in an advanced role, behind former England team-mate Danny Welbeck, in the first two games of the season. With a spring in his step, he led the high press in the opening 2-1 win against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Against Newcastle, his classy touches embellished the contest before Potter, mindful of the near-30C (86F) heat at the Amex Stadium, withdrew him after 65 minutes.

A lay-off to Alexis Mac Allister on the half-volley, before giving way to Zambia international Enock Mwepu, was an example of the elite quality Lallana retains.

“You’ve only got to look at Luka Modric, who turns 37 next month,” says Lallana. “I look at players like that and see the longevity. I don’t see why I can’t emulate that, because I’ve never been blessed with pace in my whole career.

“But you can see the qualities that I have and what I bring to this team.”

Lallana first showed his attributes in the opposition’s third under Mauricio Pochettino at Southampton. Brendan Rodgers and Jurgen Klopp used him at Anfield primarily as a No 8, with the freedom to roam in a midfield three, although towards the end of his Liverpool career, he occasionally operated as a deep-lying midfielder.

That’s sometimes been the case at Brighton with Potter. Pep Guardiola remarked after Manchester City’s 4-1 win at the Amex last October: “Brighton build from Lallana. He can go left and right and start attacks, very good, very good.”

Lallana will have a part to play further away from the opponent’s goal at times this season following the departure of defensive midfielder Yves Bissouma to Tottenham.

He’s a perfect fit in that sense for Potter’s Brighton, an adaptable player for one of the most flexible coaches in the top flight.

“The manager is great with me,” says Lallana. “I can play anywhere in the midfield, whether it’s No 6, No 10. I’ve got a lot of belief to alter my attributes, depending on whether I’m playing deeper or forward.

“He’s brilliant. He gives us a lot of responsibility. He tells us how he wants to set up, but he lets us make decisions on the pitch, gives us the freedom to play. That’s all you want as a player.”

adam-lallana Lallana is in brilliant form for Graham Potter’s side (Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images)

That and an injury-free run. Lallana made 30 league appearances in his first season with Brighton after agreeing a three-year contract in July 2020. The number reduced to 24 league outings last season, due to a combination of niggles and the lingering impacts of COVID-19.

Lallana says: “It’s been the million-dollar question through most of my career — if it wasn’t for injuries… it’s hard to look at it like that. These things happen.

“I feel that I’ve achieved a lot in my career. I’m playing at a high level at the moment, a really high level. I’ve been fit all through pre-season.”

Although there have been setbacks, Lallana has averaged 30-plus appearances across his 16 completed seasons with Southampton, Bournemouth (loan), Liverpool and Brighton.

His 504th senior appearance, against Newcastle, would have included his 84th goal, a rare header, without the agility of ex-England colleague Nick Pope, whose diving one-handed stop denied Lallana in the second half.

“Pope was man of the match and that explains it all,” Lallana says. “He’s a world-class keeper, plays for England. He showed exactly why Newcastle bought him in the summer. I know him from my time with England. He’s a great lad and he’s a great shot-stopper.”

Lallana is part of exciting times at Brighton under Potter, who guided them to a club record-high finish of ninth last season.

Even without Bissouma, Marc Cucurella and Nottingham Forest-bound Neal Maupay, top scorer for the past three seasons, they outplayed Newcastle.

“The lads were disappointed, myself included,” Lallana says. “That feeling will pass with a bit of reflection because we were really brilliant in those conditions.

“We said at half-time we just wanted to back the quality of our decision-making when we retained the ball. We won the ball back well and then gave a couple of passes away, which led to their transition, but there was so much honesty and courage from the boys.

“The second half we ran all over them. We’ll keep going and keep working. It’s such an honest group. We’ll run and die for each other in conditions like that. That’s a big reason we’ve been so successful in the last couple of years.”

Along with his qualities on the ball, Lallana is a reassuring influence for Potter over a young team. His vocal input on the pitch became starkly apparent when grounds were empty during COVID-19 restrictions.

He is showing that he can continue to be an integral part of Brighton’s progress.

“He’s done really well in the last two games, playing at a really good level,” Potter says. “Sixty or 70 minutes of Adam Lallana at his best — which I think he’s getting close to — is really important for us.”

(Top photo: David Horton – CameraSport via Getty Images)

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Manchester United, the Glazers and why football is awash with debt

the Athletic - Tue, 08/16/2022 - 05:15

Phineas Taylor Barnum would have enjoyed the recent antics at two of today’s most famous circuses, Manchester United and Barcelona. After all, he loved high-wire acts and was not afraid to pay unprecedented wages for superstars.

But the famous American showman also had a note of caution for the great entertainers of our age: “There is scarcely anything that drags a person down like debt.”

Barcelona’s various IOUs have been the talk of football for over a year, and another false dawn at Old Trafford has reminded everyone that their crushingly unimaginative owners borrowed the cash they used to buy the club and United have been paying for the privilege ever since.

Despite the turmoil on the pitch, many supporters still point the finger of blame at those owners, the United States-based Glazer family. United’s net debt has increased drastically overall since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement as manager in the early summer of 2013 yet a first post-Fergie Premier League title seems ever further away.

Manchester United

However, United and Barcelona are not the most indebted clubs in football. Not by a long shot. That title — insert your own gag here — belongs to Tottenham Hotspur.

But there are many varieties of debt, and they range from scary to statistically irrelevant, stupid to smart.

For example, Barcelona’s total debts of about £1.1billion ($1.3bn) include some of the most frightening flavours, as a quarter of it is “short-term”, which means it must be repaid within 12 months. The Catalan club’s short-term debt is the highest in Europe, double that of United, who have the highest short-term debt in the Premier League.

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Barcelona, in fact, tick almost every box on the debt variety chart — they owe money this year and beyond to banks, other clubs, players, staff, the Spanish government and companies that supply them with goods and services. They are an equal opportunity borrower.

Tottenham’s £1.2billion debt, on the other hand, is largely made up of the most chilled-out variety — £854million in low-interest loans they do not need to repay until 2042.

The north London club borrowed that money to build their new stadium and the increased matchday revenue should comfortably cover the interest payments while also raising the value of the club.  For the big banks that did the loaning — Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and HSBC — this was a low-risk bet and the terms offered reflect that.

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium during construction in 2018 (Photo: Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

“Debt is not inherently bad,” explains Ian Clayden, the national head of professional sports at global financial services firm BDO.

“It’s all about the purpose of the debt. If you’re investing in growth, why is that bad? But if you’re pumping in desperate amounts of money just to fund losses, that’s downward-spiral behaviour.”

Roger Bell, co-founder of financial analysis firm Vysyble, agrees.

“Is debt a good or bad thing? Well, it depends what you’re using it for,” Bell explains.

“If you are using it to finance something that’s economically useful, (then) go for it, knock yourself out. You’re creating value. But if you’re using it just to shore something up, you’re destroying value.”

It is also hardly surprising that club debt has risen following a pandemic, with clubs of all sizes forced to fill holes in their accounts made by missing matchday revenue and broadcast rebates.

Debt, however, remains a four-letter word for most football fans, and it is easy to see why.

By the time Malcolm Glazer had completed his hostile takeover at Manchester United, the club had gained £660million of debt they had never had before.

Thanks to the bum-squeakingly expensive hedge-fund loans Glazer needed to close the deal in 2005, the club’s average annual interest payments between 2006 and 2010 were £95million, more than a third of their annual revenues.

Thankfully, they still had great players and manager Ferguson in the dugout, so the team kept winning and, in 2010, Glazer’s children were able to refinance those loans with far cheaper corporate bonds, taking the residual takeover debt to £500million.

Two years later, they floated a chunk of the club’s shares on the New York Stock Exchange, raising another £150million, half of which they used to reduce the takeover debt, half they pocketed.

But, a decade on, that takeover debt is still there, sat on the club’s balance sheet, going nowhere, kicking out interest payments. And now, thanks to COVID-19 effectively shuttering Old Trafford for 18 months, that Glazer debt is joined by an overdraft facility, taking the club’s gross debt close to £600million again.

Too much? Well, that goes back to what you think that debt is for.

The Glazers will tell you it was to invest in a business, help it grow and create value.

They will tell you the club’s revenues increased year on year — until the pandemic struck — reducing the impact of the interest payments until they were just another small and acceptable cost of business.

They will tell you their clever financial engineering has enabled the club’s managers to match their state-backed or oligarch-owned rivals pound for pound in the transfer market. They will tell you United are still the biggest club in British football and one of the world’s most valuable sports brands. They will tell you Old Trafford, the biggest club stadium in England, is packed for every home game.

The collective wisdom of the New York Stock Exchange, however, would appear to agree with what many United fans think about the Glazers: it’s time to go.

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As Vysyble’s Bell puts it: “Since 2015, Manchester United’s debt is up by £181million, which doesn’t sound great, and you can see what the market thinks of the decisions the club’s directors are making from the share price.

“It was $14 when the club floated, but it’s $11.55 now (Bell was speaking last Tuesday before the shares rallied by 10 per cent on the Wednesday, almost certainly because of renewed takeover speculation).

“The market is looking at Manchester United and saying, ‘We’re not that keen, thanks. We can see a team that needs a complete rebuild and a stadium that’s falling down’. But the takeover debt isn’t the issue. That’s ancient history. The share price is the problem.”

This chimes with what Kieran Maguire, the accountancy expert behind the Price Of Football blog, book and podcast, told The Athletic last year.

“United had £6million in the bank and no debt when the (Glazer takeover) took place,” Maguire explained.

“The lenders provided about £600million of the cost of the acquisition. The club is now worth, in my opinion, at least £2.6billion, and the debt is still £500million, which leaves more than £2billion for the shareholders and a 2,000 per cent return on investment.

“Initially, the interest rates were high, peaking at 16.25 per cent, which reflected the risk in the eyes of the bank. But as the revenues have increased, so the risk level has fallen and the debt is now a non-issue. The banks get a guaranteed £20million in interest every year and the Glazers can kick the can down the road in terms of the capital payments.”

Maguire has not changed his views about United’s takeover debt and agrees with Bell that the club’s real problems are long-term mismanagement and relative decline.

The Glazers have earned at least £500million in dividends, fees, share sales and soft loans from United since 2006 (Getty Images)

Speaking to The Athletic this week, Maguire says the recent increase in their debt is a “COVID-related finance solution”, with the Bank of America overdraft providing the cash lost from a season and a bit played without home crowds. With annual matchday income averaging between £100million and £110million before the 2019-20 season, the pandemic hit United hard.

But the Glazers’ failure to find love in Manchester has not put off their compatriots from taking similar punts. Far from it.

After all, the Glazers have earned at least £500million in dividends, fees, share sales and soft loans from United since 2006.

Clayden’s firm BDO has just published its annual survey of club finance directors in England and found that more than four in 10 owners are looking for a “full or partial exit”, and most of the interest is from US-based private equity firms or Americans who have made their fortunes in that world.

This should not come as a shock to anyone who has been paying attention to who has been buying European clubs recently, with this summer’s Chelsea takeover coming down to an auction between four different American syndicates, AC Milan being sold by one US private equity firm to another, and other American groups buying clubs or large stakes in clubs from Leeds to Spezia.

And all these deals have involved borrowed money in one form or another.

No sooner had the Chelsea takeover been completed than new chairman Todd Boehly and the other owners had raised £800million in debt for investing in the team and stadium.

Co-owner Todd Boehly watching Chelsea players train Chelsea chairman Todd Boehly watching the team train in Los Angeles during pre-season (Photo: Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Unlike the Glazers, Chelsea’s new owners are bearing this debt themselves, but it will all come out in the wash eventually — they will want a similar return on investment.

Chelsea, of course, are no strangers to debt. They were the most indebted club in Europe until a couple of months ago, as they owed previous owner Roman Abramovich £1.5billion, which was built up over nearly two decades of asset-appreciating over-spending.

“Fans don’t always get it, and I understand why,” Clayden says. “They instinctively see it as a negative, but debt is normal in the private-equity world, and that’s where most of today’s investors come from.

“For them, it’s simple: If you hope to grow the value of what you’re buying, you want to keep the growth for yourself, so you would always rather borrow money than give away equity. Debt gets interest, not equity. And, of course, we’ve just had a decade of historically low interest rates.”

Even now, with central banks trying to slow inflation by raising those rates, money is cheap providing you have the right credentials. And sports teams, of the right size and in the right leagues, are no longer immediately laughed out of meetings of investment committees.

“Sport is increasingly seen as an asset class now — it’s not just a hobby,” Clayden says. “And if that’s the case, we are going to see more of these sophisticated investors, many of them from the US, enter the market. And that means we’ll very probably see the amount of debt in the game go up.”

Maguire explains it like this.

“There is nothing wrong with debt per se, it’s the timings of cash flow that matter,” he says.

“Spurs have borrowings of £854million, but it’s the equivalent of an interest-only mortgage for the next 15-20 years, and they are paying about £25million in interest on a stadium that is bringing in £80million a year in additional revenues.

“An advantage of debt is that it is a fixed claim on a business, so that when inflation is high, borrowing at the rates Manchester United and Spurs have done actually saves money as the real cost of borrowing — interest rate minus inflation — is negative.”

Bell agrees.

“The rule of thumb, established over many years, is that equity is 1.5 to two times more expensive than debt,” he says.

“Now, this is partly because accountants don’t include the cost of capital in the books, but even if you do recognise the cost of capital — and we know there is a cost — debt is slightly cheaper because of the tax relief. And these are the things finance directors of any company are trying to work out when they look for capital — it’s a balance between debt and equity.”

So, while the leveraged buyouts we have seen at United in 2006 and up the road at Burnley last year remain controversial, they make sense financially. For the investors, that is.

“If we use a house analogy,” Maguire says, “you buy a house for £500,000, contribute £50,000 yourself and borrow the rest, so the bank is owed £450,000. A year later, the house is worth £600,000, so the value has increased by 20 per cent but the return to the shareholders is 200 per cent.”

As Clayden put it, these guys want to keep that growth for themselves.

When then UEFA president Michel Platini first announced his intention to introduce financial fair play (FFP) rules across Europe, he made it clear he thought clubs had become too indebted. They were chasing their losses at the roulette wheel and that had to stop.

That was in September 2009. Six months later, Portsmouth became the first, and so far only, Premier League club to enter administration. They would do so again two years later but by that time they were in the Championship, where insolvency is like a badge of honour. But around the same time as Portsmouth’s second dose of administration, Scottish giants Rangers were going bust, too. Fans of clubs big, small and every size in between were warned: in football’s lottery, it could be you.

But clubs and their owners still take on debt for a variety of reasons, not simply to avoid going to the wall.

Newcastle United’s debt, for example, raised some eyebrows last month when they announced a lending facility with HSBC.

At first glance, this seemed like a strange move for a club majority-owned by Saudi Arabia’s largest sovereign wealth fund. Why borrow money from a high-street bank when your owners can just wire it over?

But what Newcastle have done is simply business as usual for football clubs, where the money going out is steady — wage bills — but the money coming in — season-ticket sales, sponsorships and TV rights income — is lumpy. The move from Barclays to HSBC probably had more to do with co-owner Amanda Staveley’s falling-out with the former than the latter offering Newcastle a free moneybox or super saver’s badge.

Amanda Staveley, Bruno Guimaraes Newcastle United minority owner Amanda Staveley with Bruno Guimaraes, one of the signings made possible by the club’s takeover (Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images)

And unlike clubs further down the pyramid, Newcastle can still borrow from high-street banks at rates available to those banks’ other corporate customers.

“There isn’t much appetite among the high-street banks to offer commercial loans to clubs,” Clayden says.

“The big clubs can get them but that’s about it. They can leverage their central media rights income and transfer fees because those receivables offer a high level of security to lenders and the returns, in terms of interest, are good.

“The problem for most clubs comes when you are looking for a loan to rebuild your stadium, because banks just don’t want to deal with them. If things go bad, the banks think they won’t be able to call the loan in, otherwise 80,000 fans might turn up outside their headquarters.

“The other issue is most clubs just don’t meet a bank’s lending criteria — their investment and risk committees will be looking for positive cashflows and EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation). This is why more than half the clubs we spoke to took the EFL’s COVID-19 loans, but no Premier League club needed one.

The EFL clubs didn’t have much choice and the loans were interest-free, but they were pretty restrictive as they were effectively advances of central distributions and that limited cashflow further down the line. They also had to be repaid pretty quickly.”

Premier League clubs, or Championship ones in receipt of parachute payments, have more options.

For example, they can borrow from Macquarie, the Australian bank that has filled the gap vacated by its British counterparts. West Ham United are a recent example of a club who have chosen to sign over the transfer fee instalments they are owed for a player — Sebastien Haller, for example — in exchange for money upfront minus Macquarie’s commission in the shape of interest payments.

“Lenders like Macquarie have strong enough balance sheets to be comfortable with the risks, but they also know transfer receivables are protected by football’s preferred creditor rule, the Premier League’s creditworthiness is very high, and those broadcast contracts are rock solid,” says Clayden.

Maguire believes Macquarie and other lenders active in the cashflow-loan market are “providing a useful service, as the traditional banks are a bit wary of clubs.

“I did an investigation into a club many years ago following relegation and the local bank manager was terrified, as he thought fans would put his windows out and his kids would be bullied at school if the bank was seen to put the club into administration.”

So, should we all just chillax about football’s debts, then?

Bell is not so sure.

“When you look at the price Boehly and his partners paid for Chelsea, an awful lot of things have got to go right to justify it,” he says.

“Maybe they are right, but I wouldn’t want to take that chance. Good luck, though, because sooner or later, markets correct themselves.

“I remember when people thought the housing market in south east England would never contract, but then it did by about a third. I can’t say when — I wish I could — but all markets balance themselves in the end.

“When other sectors are faced with the conditions we are seeing in football, when economic profits are rarer than hens’ teeth, companies merge. But Manchester United and Manchester City aren’t going to do that, are they?”

Mark Gregory is a visiting professor of business economics at Staffordshire University and author of More Than A Game, a book about football’s increasingly complicated finances.

“Debt is creeping up,” he tells The Athletic. “All businesses use it, but it needs to be at a level a club can service from income. The risk now is rising interest rates make existing debt too expensive.

“The other side of it is the type of debt. Stoke City’s interest-free, owner-provided debt is different to expensive overdrafts or debt provided by owners dependent on another business. For example, it was not that long ago the debt profiles of Stoke and Derby County were similar, and we all know what happened at Derby. I’d be cautious about Spurs’ debt, as it is dependent on delivering the business plan.

Tottenham Hotspur stadium, NFL Part of Spurs’ business plan is to host big non-football events at their stadium, such as this NFL match between Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars in 2021 (Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

“Football is in a bit of a catch-22, as many clubs don’t want owner finance and this forces clubs to look at debt. A more sensible approach would allow investment, if it’s in the form of equity, as part of a more structured regime with salary caps and better monitoring.

“In the past, English football’s money used to flow around the system better, as money was shared between the divisions more evenly and big clubs would buy players from smaller ones. But that started to change as football became more international and money started to leak abroad.

“Now we have lots of clubs running at a loss and the only way you can fill the gap is with equity or debt, but the game has actually limited how much money owners can sink into their clubs via FFP rules. Surely we can find a model that would allow some more owner investment with limits and cost constraints?”.

For Gregory, debt is not the cause of football’s problems, it’s the symptom.

He thinks the financial model is broken and there are many who believe him, most notably the UK’s former sports minister Tracey Crouch, whose fan-led review into the game’s finances and governance has been sitting in the government’s in-tray for nine months. They have been rather distracted, though…

Will a new prime minister tell his/her sports minister to pull their finger out and come up with legislation to force football to share its money more evenly, stick to sensible cost controls and incentivise responsible ownership?

Another fabled Barnum adage might be applicable here.

“There’s a sucker born every minute.”

(Top photos: Getty Images; design: Kris Sheasby)

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Liverpool could discover another Aurélien Tchouaméni this season and repeat Fabinho transfer

Liverpool.com - Tue, 08/16/2022 - 05:00

For now it very much seems like things will be quiet around Anfield in what is left of the summer transfer window.

The decision to not purchase another midfielder feels like a slight risk given the rising injuries in midfield and a lack of depth in the department, particularly at holding midfield, where Fabinho is the sole specialist. However, Liverpool look like they are happy to take that risk, with Jürgen Klopp himself admitting Liverpool are unlikely to enter the market for another player.

"The thing is, it is easy for us to bring a midfielder in but it is not so easy to bring the right midfielder in," he told Sky Sports. "There are money reasons and contractual reasons which, most of the time, go hand-in-hand.

READ MORE: Jürgen Klopp must buck 10-game Liverpool trend as Crystal Palace exploit Champions League flaw

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"Now the situation has changed slightly: we have more injuries, that's true. But it can still only be about the right [player] and that is not easy. It is nothing to do with that it is now August already and at the end of August, the transfer window closes.

"It's just because it is 2022 and people have contracts until 2024, 2025 or 2026, that's the situation and that's why we have to be calm and sort our problems with the boys we have. It's all about solutions and only one of these solutions is the transfer market, all the other solutions are here."

The closest the Reds came to signing a midfielder was Aurélien Tchouaméni, who was coveted by Liverpool but in the end opted to move to Real Madrid instead of Anfield from AS Monaco.

Liverpool will have been disappointed to have missed out on the player, who would have been an ideal option to play in midfield with his ability to play both in a holding and number eight role.

Given Klopp's words it seems like missing out on him means Liverpool will hold out for a better option, potentially next summer, and that could lead the club's sporting director back towards AS Monaco once again.

The French giants signed Mohamed Camara from Red Bull Salzburg last week, and the exciting Malian midfielder who has caught the eye in the Champions League over the last few seasons is a similarly ideal profile for Liverpool's style of play, as we have written about in the past.

Still relatively young, Camara has come in as a direct replacement for Tchouaméni, and he will be looking to emulate his fellow midfielder by catching the eye at Monaco to put himself in the shop window at a club that has been a regular stepping stone for players into elite teams.

One such transfer was Fabinho to Liverpool, with the Brazilian first emerging as a star at Monaco before being lured to Anfield. While Julian Ward may have failed to repeat Michael Edwards' heroics with a similar transfer from the Principality this summer, perhaps next summer he may opt to make another attempt with Camara. He will hope for better luck if he does.

For now one thing is clear: Camara is a player to watch. Injuries or not, Liverpool still need cover for Fabinho, and the Tchouaméni successor may ultimately hold the answers.

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James Milner urges Liverpool to “rally” around Darwin Nunez

ThisIsAnfield.com - Mon, 08/15/2022 - 23:26

James Milner has noted Darwin Nunez‘s red card as a learning experience after Liverpool drew 1-1 with Crystal Palace, urging his team-mates to “get round him.”

Milner and Nunez both came into the side for the visit of Palace on Monday night, but after 57 minutes the striker walked having headbutted Joachim Andersen.

It was a moment of stupidity from Nunez, who Jurgen Klopp claims was “provoked” but failed to produce “the reaction you want to see,” and leaves Liverpool desperately short of options up front.

For the trip to Man United on August 22, there is a chance the Reds are without Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota along with Nunez, which hammers home the blow of an avoidable suspension.

But speaking to Sky Sports after the game, Milner backed his new team-mate and insisted it is “down to us” to support him.

“I didn’t see the incident. Obviously, he’s going to be disappointed with that,” the vice-captain said.

“It’s just down to us to get round him and rally. I’m sure he’ll learn from it.

“I think the reaction was the most important thing. The team reacted very, very well and the ground reacted very well, as they always do.

“They got right behind us and we could have nicked a winner. It wasn’t to be but we move on.”

 Liverpool's Luis Díaz celebrates after scoring his side's first equalising goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Crystal Palace FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

That was certainly the case as Luis Diaz picked up responsibility and struck a stunning equaliser just minutes after Nunez left the field, with Liverpool’s “team spirit” shining through.

“That’s what good teams do. You get together in disappointments and you stick together,” Milner continued.

“We’ve got a great team spirit at the club, and you don’t have to say too much about the fans here.

“They’re obviously incredible and they always get behind us, especially when things are tough. They did that and we rallied.

“It was disappointing not to get the winner, but I think the reaction was incredible from the boys, 10 men and kept pushing.

 Liverpool's Mohamed Salah looks dejected after during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Crystal Palace FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“Like I said, it’s not the ideal start [with two draws from two games], but you see the readiness for the season.

“It’s obviously a long, long season. It’s not the start we would want, but you see the fight there.

“We’ve had a week of tough things that have gone on and preparations haven’t been ideal.

“So I think it’s disappointing, but you see the fighting spirit was there and no one can deny that we fought until the end.”

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Nunez: Ugly attitude won't happen again | Nev: Red was a moment of madness

Liverpool FC on Sky Sports - Mon, 08/15/2022 - 23:09

Liverpool striker Darwin Nunez has expressed his remorse for his conduct in being sent off for headbutting an opponent on his Anfield debut.

The Uruguayan was involved in an altercation with Crystal Palace defender Joachim Andersen during his side's 1-1 draw on Monday Night Football.

It brought a premature end to his first Premier League appearance at Anfield - and less than 24 hours on from the incident which put Liverpool in danger of suffering defeat, the player has taken to social media to address supporters.

"I am aware of the ugly attitude I had," Nunez said in a post translated from Spanish. "I'm here to learn from my mistakes and it won't happen again."

Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville called Nunez's red card a "moment of madness" while Jamie Carragher deemed the situation a "nightmare" for Liverpool.

Luis Diaz salvaged a 1-1 draw for Liverpool after Wilfried Zaha's first-half goal had given Palace the lead against the run of play and when Nunez reacted foolishly to a push from Andersen.

Neville said Nunez could have no complaints about the red card but sympathised with the Uruguay striker for "his moment of madness" having been in that situation himself as a player when he completely lost his head.

He said: "It's a moment of madness. It's a proper butt, Andersen will feel that.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the 1-1 draw between Liverpool and Crystal Palace in the Premier League

"We don't know why he's done it. I've done two or three things like this in my career. We don't know why we react. We have no idea. We go off and think 'what did I just do' - honestly. I kicked a ball at a fan at Everton and did a similar thing in a game against Steve McManaman. It's that red mist. It comes over you.

"When you get sent off like that it's the loneliest place in the world. You might have a kit man with you but it's horrible. You are in that dressing room and your team-mates are out on the pitch.

"You've left them down and you feel so bad. You don't need to say too much to a player that has been sent off as it's awful anyway and they take responsibility. I'm sure he'd have gone around the dressing room to apologise. The rest of the lads in that dressing room will pick him up as it's a good dressing room."

Carragher: A nightmare for Liverpool and Klopp

Sky Sports' Jamie Carragher:

"It's a nightmare start for him as a player at Liverpool, it's a nightmare for Jurgen Klopp as he is trying to integrate him into a new team. The issue wasn't tonight, the problem is how long it will be until he is back in the team as he'll likely only be on the bench after the suspension to get up to speed so it could be five or six weeks until we see him back in the Liverpool starting XI."

Klopp: That's not how Nunez should behave

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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp believes Crystal Palace defender Joachim Anderson baited Darwin Nunez into getting sent off, but admitted Nunez's reaction was wrong

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp:

"I've seen it back, that's of course a red card. He was provoked all the time but that's not how he should behave.

"I will talk to him, it makes no sense when I talk too much about it in public. It's not the reaction you want to see. The centre-halves in the Premier League will do that to him, he's a handful himself."

'Nunez will learn from the red card'

Liverpool midfielder James Milner:

"I didn't see the incident [Nunez's red card]. He is going to be disappointed in that. We have to get around him and rally. He will learn from it. The team reacted well and the ground did and got behind us. We could have nicked it but it wasn't to be. Good teams react to disappointments and stick together. You see the readiness for the season and the fight. We have had a tough week and preparations have not been ideal. Nobody can deny we have fighting spirit.

"Sometimes you need a moment of brilliance and when you have players like Luis on the pitch, he can create something out of nothing. It was an incredible goal. Hopefully there will be many more."

What's next?

The next game for Liverpool is a huge one as they make the short trip to Old Trafford to face winless Manchester United on next week's Monday Night Football. Crystal Palace are in action before that as they host Aston Villa at Selhurst Park on Saturday.

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