by Tanner Pruitt
Hello there, everyone! It’s Tanner here from Radio Tekkers, writing my first article for this wonderful website. Isn’t that just lovely? Now, forgive me, because I don’t have much experience in writing, particularly professionally. But what you can expect from me is that I’m going to do my absolute best to shoot it straight with you and give you my exact thoughts and opinions on what happens in the “Beautiful Game”. I don’t promise to be unbiased, I am a Liverpool fan, but I do promise nonetheless to be fair. Besides, who would want me to sit here and type away at my computer just for you to read what you’ve read at 10 other websites? That sounds boring…
Nevertheless, what I will bring to you here today are my thoughts on this week in World Football, summed up in 5 major points. Let’s get to is, shall we?
- Liverpool REALLY missed Alisson, like, ALOT
Have you ever had a favorite ice cream? Or a favorite beer? Or maybe even a favorite TV Show you enjoyed watching? I know for me, as a former smoker (don’t smoke kids, it’s terrible for you), smokers always had their favorite brand of cigarettes. Just like people have their favorite ice cream.
But from time to time you may visit the store and you are faced with a soul-crushing conundrum: your favorite brand is gone. And it’s not coming back for a long, long time.
You quickly go through the 5 stages of grief standing there in the aisle of the store. It’s cold. You’re looking at the other ice creams. The attendant tells you, “You know, if you like (insert favorite ice cream here), you probably like (insert alternative ice cream flavor/brand) too”. You look back at the attendant, sneering. “What did they just say”, you think to yourself, “have they gone mad?” But of course they haven’t. You have just been told to accept something you didn’t want in the first place. After all, something IS better than nothing after all, right?
Well, this is the problem us Liverpool fans faced recently. Our goalkeeper, Alisson Becker, the soul of the defense, the definitive person standing between victory and defeat for Liverpudlians everywhere had been out injured and it didn’t look good. “It could be 6-8 weeks” we were told. Of course like any other good Football team we had a backup goalkeeper, Adrian, who, all-due-respect, is a very fine goalkeeper but is very, very different. He had shone examples in prior occasions playing for Liverpool that he could have a lapse in concentration, that the defense was not as comfortable with him in goal as they were with Alisson, and to be quite honest, he’s a completely different type of goalkeeper.
We stuttered, even suffered a bit in Alisson’s absence. Even the media was going mental posing questions of whether Liverpool were going to try and find a way to pick up ANOTHER goalkeeper because of the general distrust of Adrian. It’s not Adrian’s fault, he never asked for any of this to happen. He just wanted to go out there and help the club to the best of his abilities. His only problem was that he wasn’t Alisson, and that made everyone very uncomfortable.
But, Alisson returned to training early and made a successful comeback starting in Liverpool’s game against Sheffield United. The fans rejoiced, the pundits rejoiced, Bleacher Report made a bunch of memes, and even Adrian, somewhere deep-down, also rejoiced. The defense, who is currently also missing centerback-stalwart Virgil Van Dijk felt so much more comfortable with Alisson back. You could see it in their eyes and in their movements. Midfielder Fabinho, who is working as a make-shift centerback in Van Dijk’s place, can breathe a sigh a relief as he has a fellow Brazilian watching over him and shouting orders, giving him the best chance to succeed in his new role. Young Joe Gomez is relieved as he is still learning his trade and showed greater improvement with Alisson leading the defense. And manager Jurgen Klopp, as the rest of us, are relieved because we got our man back.
We waited patiently. Good things come to those who wait.
2. Villa and Everton are still a Work-in-Progress
Every once in a while in the Premier League, you get a team that hits you like a bolt-of-lightning. Leicester City accomplished this in the 2015-16 season by capturing the imagination of everyone and the Premier Title with it. To say they were underdogs with 5000/1 title winning odds was an understatement. But they did it! And no one can take that away from them.
This year, teams like Everton, Aston Villa and even Leeds, who have been away from the Premier League due to relegation, have made this one of the most competitive years in recent memory. Had I asked an Everton supporter 3 months ago that they would find themselves fighting for the title with Liverpool at this stage of the year they would’ve have laughed me out of the room. And yet here we are. Same with Villa, who were on the brink of relegation last season. Two teams who are not traditionally known to be fighting for honors are not only mounting a major challenge, but are taking the spots of the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea.
But hold on to your rose-colored glasses, folks, we’re only getting started here. Everton and Aston Villa both suffered losses in this round of fixtures to Southampton and Leeds respectfully which has swung the door wide-open for defending champions Liverpool to re-assert themselves in the mix. Now, does that mean that Everton and Villa are not good or that we shouldn’t hype them. OF COURSE NOT! These are really good teams with REALLY good managers. Carlo Ancelloti, of course, has been the catalyst to drive the likes of AC Milan and Real Madrid to Champions League titles and multiple League titles in countries all around Europe. He’s even helped bring some trophies to Chelsea. Ancelloti is a HUGE positive for Everton. And whether I like it or not, his Everton team did muster up a 2-2 draw against my Liverpool Reds.
That said, would I put money on Everton and Villa. Absolutely not.
As good as these teams are, they don’t seem to be the finished article yet. They still seem to be a few pieces away from reaching their full potential. They are, however, making huge strides in the right direction, so don’t hate me too much, dear Everton and Villa fans. I still want you to be around to beat up on United and City.
3. VAR is a Sham
I think we can all agree that this is true and that we can move on, right?
Ok then, moving on…
Fine, you’re probably right. Tony wouldn’t like it if I just ended things there.
VAR, or Video Assistant Referee if you’re nasty, is a bit controversial for all the wrong reasons in the Premier League. But that’s not all it’s fault. It’s just a bunch of cameras positioned around the grounds trying to help get things right.
The BIG problem here lies in that there’s absolutely no consistency in it’s implementation. Why? Because the referees are so discretionary that they aren’t going to review the same issues the same way. Let’s take referee Mike Dean, for example, who is notorious enough to have his own Wikipedia page. Arsenal at one point even formally requested at one time to never have him referee their games after a series of incidents happen in games that he had overseen. During the Liverpool-Sheffield United game, Mike Dean called a foul on Fabinho, which was questionable enough as Fabinho won the ball before ever making contact with the Sheffield player. But due to the nature of the call, VAR had to determine whether or not the foul was going to result in a freekick or a penalty. Having Mike Dean as a referee is bad enough, I don’t need the VAR to make another controversial call as well!
Let’s look at a non-call that VAR should’ve assisted with. During the 0-0 draw between Chelsea and Manchester United, Harry Maguire rugby tackled César Azpilicueta (whom I’m told likes to be called “Dave”) as if Azpilicueta had stolen Maguire’s wallet. What did the referee do punish such a violent act on Maguire’s part? A bookable offense, surely? Nope. Nada. Nothing at all was done.
“But wait, Tanner” the huddled masses bleat, “surely VAR made the correction and the referee sorted everything out, right”?
Also no, my beloved readers.
The implementation a VAR is far too pick-and-choose for me. And that’s because so much of the game is down to the referee’s discretion and what they actually see on the pitch. Yes, there’s a rulebook, and yes, VAR is there to help. But now it seems like VAR just makes bad calls worse, takes away waaaay too much excitement because we have to check EVERY OTHER GOAL to make sure nothing fishy happened, or is completely unreliable when the referee misses a call completely.
So maybe it’s time we fundamentally rethink refereeing and the relationship between referees and VAR. It would only be fair to all of us fans regardless of club allegiance.
4. Ansu Fati is a Star in the Making
This weekend’s action also included El Clasico in La Liga between Real Madrid and Barcelona, the most heated rivalry in all of World Football. The divisions between Real Madrid and Barcelona supporters go all the way back to World War II and perhaps even further. Cultural differences and recent politics in Spain have intensified these feelings even further.
For Barcelona fans, they have clung on to Leo Messi for years as their Superman. The one to give them light in their darkest hours. A man who will arguably go down in history as the greatest human to kick a ball for a living. But this Summer was a bit different… Messi felt after years of service that it was time to move on. Rumors wildly swirled of him playing in Manchester, particularly under former manager and mentor Pep Guardiola. But after pleas from family, friends and Barca supporters world-wide, he decided to give it one more go.
Messi did well, but had to deal with the limitations that Ronald Koeman presented to him. Keeping striker Antoine Griezmann on the bench until the last 10 minutes of the game wasn’t too wise. Barcelona ultimately suffered defeat due to this tactical naivety, despite all of Messi’s hard work.
There was a bright-spot for Barcelona, however.
Wonderkid Ansu Fati, just 17 years of age, hooked up with Messi time and time again on the attack like he had been doing so for years. Since last season, Fati has broken records for Barcelona proving he’s not just a flash-in-the-pan but a youth talent on the ascendency. There is much debate over whether or not he is the youngest goal-scorer in El Clasico history, but one thing is for sure: Messi’s talent is much better suited to having like-minded individuals like Ansu Fati around. For Barcelona fans, they will hope that Messi can pass down his knowledge and talent to this heir-apparent.
5. Don’t Piss Off Ajax
Ajax suffered a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Liverpool last week that left me conflicted. On one hand, my undying love for Liverpool meant I wanted Liverpool to have taken Ajax behind the woodshed and made an example for other clubs to be frightened of. On the other hand, I have so much respect for Ajax as a club who regularly nurture and develop the best talent in the world from a very young age.
This lost must’ve gotten under Ajax’s skin a bit, too, it seems.
On Saturday, Ajax took fellow Eredivisie team down 13-0.
That’s right. 13-0.
This score line sets a new record in the Eredivisie and it’s something Ajax should be very proud of. Lassina Traore alone scored 5 goals, marking him as someone who every club in the world should be keeping an eye on.
We’ve witnessed great Ajax teams before, some better than others. And more often than not, they seem to sell their players to the wealthy clubs of the world, turning a nice little profit, and then reinvesting the funds back into the Youth Academy. There’s something so wonderful about that ethos.
Will this be another one of those teams? Only time will tell.
But man, did this team make a statement.