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Reds have to stop the moaning

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Liverpool’s Divock Origi grimaces as he loses the ball in the defeat by Atalanta in the Champions League at Anfield

Liverpool’s Divock Origi grimaces as he loses the ball in the defeat by Atalanta in the Champions League at Anfield

Pool via REUTERS

Liverpool’s Divock Origi grimaces as he loses the ball in the defeat by Atalanta in the Champions League at Anfield

First it was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and then it was Jurgen Klopp's turn. Both have had a moan about the fixture list and having to play at 12.30 on a Saturday after being involved in Champions League action in midweek.

Managers need to stop complaining about their fixtures and kick-off times as it's only putting excuses into the heads of their players and, by extension, everyone else at the club.

Liverpool looked unassailable a few weeks ago but now, with the injuries and the Covid cases they have, they need to dig deep into their resources and rely on squad players for big games - hence the midweek loss in the Champions League.

That defeat has made things a bit more nervous for Liverpool than they should be, as Ajax at home next week is now a massive game for them.

The manager would hope that losing 2-0 to Atalanta is just a blip as they were very impressive in the previous game, the win over Leicester, given the players available to them. Klopp made five changes on Wednesday but with so many players already out, it was a weakened side and they have an understrength squad again for their trip to Brighton at lunchtime tomorrow.

I can never understand why managers moan so much about early kick-offs. If I was a player and I heard that, it would just plant an excuse in my head before we play the next game. Players don't blame the fixture list as all they want to do is play. But if you have a manager going on and on about it, how it's unfair and wrong, it sends out a message of negativity that infects you, gives you an excuse. You think in your own head 'maybe he has a point, I played on Wednesday night and I might not be recovered in time for Saturday.'

The league is about going out and playing games. That's how it works - you will always have awkward games. Yes, Liverpool are bearing the brunt right now as they have injuries, but that's part of the challenge of the Premier League.

The clubs all agreed to accept the TV money, so they can't take the cash and then moan about kick-off times that are designed to suit TV. Clubs need to take that responsibility: we all know, and have known for years, that 12.30 on a Saturday is part of the TV package, and that TV deals fund the Premier League.

But if all the teams who play in Europe midweek refuse to play in the early Saturday game, the overall package is not worth as much, and the TV revenue drops. So are clubs willing to sacrifice income for not having to pay in the lunchtime Saturday game?

You can't take the money and then moan about how it's not fair. That contract's been in place for years and they have to stop complaining.

Maybe next time the TV deal is up for negotiation, let the bigger clubs say at that stage that they don't want to play at 12.30 on Saturdays. We'll see then what the TV companies have to say.

You need to have a strong squad in the Premier League to take injuries into account. And one of the side effects of success is that you play in the Champions League and that could be followed a game at 12.30 on a Saturday. You know that when the season starts, so why display such anger in the middle of the season?

Liverpool have a strong squad, but with four or five out, it's a real stress test of how good they are. If you are going down to the 15th or 16th ranked player in the squad, it's still a decent player but not the same quality as the top men.

Divock Origi played on Wednesday night. He's only started two games this season as Jota has been ahead of him and Origi clearly lacked sharpness. So Liverpool are clearly weaker with someone like him in the side.

Sacrifice

It's not easy in the Covid era. I am sure Liverpool looked at the Atalanta game this week and thought to themselves 'we have nine points from three games, we'll pick up another win along the way in the group, with the early kick-off at Brighton on Saturday we can sacrifice this one'.

But the problem they have discovered is, the deeper you drill into the squad, the lower the quality of the players being used. So they need to buy in January and if it's going to be March, or even next season, before key players are back, they need to strengthen. They definitely need a centre back. If there is one player you didn't want to take out of that Liverpool side, it was Virgil van Dijk so they do need extra cover at the back and will need to invest to get that.

He needs to be replaced by a specialist central defender. Fabinho is a great player and can do ok there, but he's not the long-term solution and Joel Matip has his own injury problems. He drops in and out of games which means you don't have consistency.

Although Ajax will really test Liverpool next week, you'd expect Liverpool to get a win over the next two games in Europe, but you want to have it boxed off, have the knockout stages there for you well before Christmas. Now that Liverpool have to work for it, they'll probably have to pick their best side for Ajax next week.

Manchester United had things a bit easier in Europe in midweek, but I always fear they are one game away from going back to their old habits.

Apart from that defeat in Turkey, they have done well in Europe and put themselves in a good position, but they too still have work to do.

They also need to reproduce that European form in the Premier League. The performance against West Brom wasn't so impressive, though they got the win. But maybe they need to be able to win games while not playing well and start to build in that way, rather than everyone having expectations of free-flowing football.

United need to go on a run where they move up the Premier League table, and if they do that by winning but not being at top form so be it. But they need those wins, because you feel that the rug could be pulled from under their feet at any time.

This United side has shown many times that they are well able to produce a sub-par performance.


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