Liverpool 'racehorse' just earned Jürgen Klopp 'ticket' into the team and Cody Gakpo knows why

Liverpool.com - 17 hours 50 min ago

Since the first day in which Darwin Núñez set foot on English shores, he has been a threatening weapon for Liverpool to use, and a nightmare for opposition defenses. The Uruguayan striker is rapid, intense and physical, and he is a magnet for chances, having attracted a countless number of opportunities to score over the past 12 months.

Núñez arrived for a potential transfer fee of $106m (£86m/€100m) with Jürgen Klopp willing to spend the large majority of his summer budget on the South American striker in 2022. He would change the way in which Liverpool attacked in the final third, but upon inspection of his output, he seemed to be worth the investment.

Indeed, Manchester United legend Gary Neville recently described him as a 'handful' in his podcast, also stating that he would choose to play against Núñez last if he had the choice of facing him, Diogo Jota or Cody Gakpo as a defender. Nobody would question how menacing the 24-year-old can be at the business end of the field, but there is a reason he didn't start many games last season.

READ MORE: Alexis Mac Allister beating Rodri as disallowed Liverpool goal shows $117m Jürgen Klopp weapon

READ MORE: Darwin Núñez is already proving me right - but I want one more change from $106m Liverpool weapon

Overall, despite what he offered in an offensive sense, Núñez had to improve his presence on the defensive side of the game, as he contributed to Liverpool suddenly getting cut open on a regular basis last term, with Klopp's aging midfield department — which was revitalized this summer — also to blame.

He was labeled a 'racehorse' by his boss after his team's clash with Fulham earlier this year, and not in a good way. "Defending the center against Fulham is really important because João Palhinha is there and he is a connector, but [Núñez] was like a racehorse," said Klopp. "Go, go, go for everybody. We opened up and that is why we struggled slightly. Apart from that, he played a really good game."

His words offered an insight into what the Uruguayan international had to work on, with his competition for the number nine spot Gakpo praised for his defensive efforts. "He is a super footballer and a smart person," said Klopp (via the Mirror). "I never for a second thought that he was only 24. He eats football, each information we give him is so natural for him to put it on the pitch."

He later sent an indirect message to Núñez using the media, stating: "Counter-pressing is your ticket into this team."

Darwin Núñez has improved on his defensive work for Liverpool Darwin Núñez has improved on his defensive work for Liverpool (Image: Getty Images)

The chaotic striker is still getting to grips with life in England, but based on his early showings so far this term, it is reasonable to suggest that his defensive game is finally starting to catch up with what he offers in attack. He started against West Ham over the weekend and managed to find the net in an impressive 3-1 win.

After the contest, Klopp was eager to praise his work against the ball rather than focusing solely on his goal, stating (via Liverpool's official website): "Massive steps in the last few weeks. He is a threat. You all saw the goal, it was pretty good. He was always available for us. The defensive work he puts in now, that’s probably the main difference. He always wanted, but it was less coordinated. Now that looks much better and we found a way how we can do it around him. Really good, absolutely."

Throughout the course of the contest against the Hammers, Núñez showcased real industry without possession but, crucially, he closed down his opponents in a careful manner, making sure that he blocked passing lanes in the process while also curving his defensive runs to entice his opponents into making predictable passes in certain directions.

He looks stronger, smarter and more aligned with his teammates, while also being as dangerous as ever when Liverpool is attacking. It is still early days but so far this season, he is averaging a goal or an assist every 52 minutes, and he seems to have finally bought the ticket that Klopp referenced as he searched for a way into the team.

Whisper it, but after a full year of development, Liverpool's secret weapon now looks ready to be unleashed.

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Liverpool handed selection dilemma as Jurgen KIopp prepares to unleash three youngsters

LiverpoolEcho.co.uk - 18 hours 50 min ago
A look at how Liverpool might line up when they entertain Leicester in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night
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Liverpool handed selection dilemma as Jurgen KIopp prepares to unleash three youngsters

icLiverpool.co.uk - 18 hours 50 min ago
A look at how Liverpool might line up when they entertain Leicester in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night
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James Maddison injury update before Liverpool as Erik ten Hag slammed for Cristiano Ronaldo exit

Liverpool.com - Mon, 09/25/2023 - 20:00

Liverpool remains unbeaten this season, but the Reds could be in for their toughest test so far this week.

Jürgen Klopp’s side made it five wins out of six in the Premier League so far with victory over West Ham on Sunday, leaving them as Manchester City’s closest challengers at this early stage.

After Wednesday’s Carabao Cup tie against Leicester though, Liverpool travels to North London on Saturday to take on a resurgent Tottenham, with Ange Postecoglou’s side among the early pace-setters so far.

READ MORE: Liverpool injury latest before Leicester as Trent Alexander-Arnold update and changes coming

READ MORE: Liverpool transfer news as 'target' makes Chelsea admission and 'big' offer could be accepted

The Spurs boss though will be keeping his fingers crossed for some good news on the injury front, with one of his key players reportedly set to undergo a scan ahead of the weekend.

Meanwhile, Manchester United may have got back to winning ways at Burnley at the weekend, but Erik ten Hag still finds himself coming under attack — this time from a somewhat unexpected source.

Here, Liverpool.com takes a scan around the other big sides in the Premier League and around Europe to take a look at the news going on at the other clubs.

James Maddison set for scan ahead of Liverpool

James Maddison is set to undergo a scan on his knee ahead of Saturday’s game after picking up a knock during the North London derby, according to Football.London.

The issue arose after a clash with Jorginho against Arsenal, although Maddison is said to feel positive about his knee, meaning he currently looks likely to face Liverpool. Tottenham looks to have a doubt over Brennan Johnson, though, with the former Nottingham Forest forward pulling up with a tight hamstring during Sunday’s draw, with the problem set to be monitored throughout the week.

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Liverpool.com says: You certainly wouldn’t want to wish an injury on any player, but there’s no doubt Spurs being without Maddison would be a huge boost to Liverpool ahead of the weekend. It sounds like the former Leicester man will be okay though, so don’t get your hopes up on that one. Johnson’s injury though could open the door for Richarlison to return, which always adds a bit of spice.

Arturo Vidal slams Erik ten Hag for Cristiano Ronaldo exit

Arturo Vidal has slammed Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag for Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit from the club last season.

Ronaldo left Old Trafford after falling out of favor under Ten Hag, with the Portuguese having his contract terminated after saying he felt “betrayed” by the club and had “no respect” for the manager in an interview with Piers Morgan.

Ten Hag has now been criticized in a somewhat bizarre fashion by former Barcelona midfielder Vidal.

"That coach came in badly," Vidal said (via the Daily Mail). "How are you going to take out Cristiano Ronaldo? That's how these guys are. He was the scorer and he takes him out. The bald guys are very complicated."

Liverpool.com says: There are plenty of problems at United, and Ten Hag is certainly culpable for some of them, but the obsession with some people to turn it back to Ronaldo’s exit is really strange. The Portuguese brought it upon himself with his behavior, and cutting ties with him proved to be the right decision. Also, Arturo Vidal having a go at someone’s hairstyle (or lack of) is a bit rich…

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UEFA accused of giving “completely untrue” evidence in Paris final inquiry

ThisIsAnfield.com - Mon, 09/25/2023 - 19:23

UEFA have been accused of giving “completely untrue” evidence to the inquiry on the 2022 Champions League final, to protect senior figures.

After the near-fatal chaos of the 2022 Champions League final in Paris, UEFA set up an independent inquiry into the events at the Stade de France.

In a report by David Conn of the Guardian, UEFA have now been accused of presenting “completely untrue” evidence to the inquiry by their then operations director, Sharon Burkhalter-Lau.

The panel deemed the dangerous problems the fault of the events division, but Burkhalter-Lau thinks the blame lies elsewhere.

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The events management specialist said she could not accept that her events division held primary responsibility for the chaos, instead blaming the French police.

She also rejected the accusations against her team, in memos sent to UEFA officials including Theodore Theodoridis.

“The claim that Uefa Events … senior management marginalised the Uefa security unit is based on statements provided by Uefa that were untrue and concerted,” Burkhalter-Lau wrote.

In January, she also wrote: “Following the Paris final, we discussed that we must protect the security unit from the fallout.”

She added that UEFA’s evidence that head of security Zeljko Pavlica’s unit had been sidelined was “untrue.

“I understand now that there has been an agreed strategy to protect the security unit by stating that all safety and security matters would be communicated via project management, which places the blame for any perceived errors or omissions on Tiziano’s team,” she wrote in her memo.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin is having to deal with the coronavirus fallout (Niall Carson/PA)

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin is having to deal with the coronavirus fallout (Niall Carson/PA)

This was was referencing Tiziano Gaier, a UEFA official in Burkhalter-Lau’s division responsible for the final operations.

This shielding of Pavlica, who spent the evening in the VIP area and missed vital planning meetings, again calls into question the integrity of the organisation and its president, Aleksander Ceferin.

This is especially the case given Ceferin was Pavlica’s best man at his wedding and the security official was appointed to his position with no recruitment process to go through.

High-ranking figures at UEFA say they have changed and learnt from their failings. However, these accusations indicate there is still a culture of cronyism and a push to shift blame onto others.

Responding to the Guardian, UEFA said: “The group, and Uefa more broadly, had numerous discussions about the events in Paris, some of which reflected the different views internally on the events and actions of that night.

“Some of those differences were also reflected in the evidence given by various Uefa directors to the panel, evidence that was given in good faith and to the best of the individuals’ knowledge and recollection.”

You can read the full report from David Conn, in the Guardian, here.

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Liverpool injury latest before Leicester as Trent Alexander-Arnold update and changes coming

Liverpool.com - Mon, 09/25/2023 - 19:00

Liverpool has made a great start to the season in both competitions in which it has played so far. In the Premier League, only Manchester City has more points. In the Europa League, the Reds are already top of their group.

Now, the Carabao Cup is about to kick off, with Liverpool having been handed a home draw against Leicester City. The Foxes have made a decent start to life in the Championship (and beat Tranmere Rovers to reach this round of the competition) but Liverpool should be getting through and making sure its name is in the hat for round four.

As was the case against LASK, Jürgen Klopp is likely to make plenty of changes to his team. Ibrahima Konaté is back fit again even though he did not play against West Ham and he should come in, while several others could be handed another opportunity.

READ MORE: Liverpool transfer news as 'target' makes Chelsea admission and 'big' offer could be accepted

READ MORE: Jürgen Klopp's 'son' just announced himself vs West Ham as Liverpool finds 'spectacular' duo

Harvey Elliott, Wataru Endō and Stefan Bajčetić should be among those who get minutes, with Diogo Jota and Cody Gakpo also in contention given neither has started in either of the previous two fixtures.

Here, Liverpool.com brings you the latest injury updates after the win over West Ham and before the clash with Leicester at Anfield. Klopp (or perhaps Pep Lijnders) will likely offer an update during Tuesday's press conference.

Thiago Alcântara

Having not been seen since a season-ending hip issue in the final few weeks of last season, Thiago is yet to return. The decision was taken to try and solve the problem with a few matches of the last campaign to go, with the idea being for him to be back in time for pre-season, but the recovery has taken longer.

Klopp said around 10 days ago that he was back running but the Spaniard has not been seen in full training yet. It is a shame, as a home fixture with Leicester would be a decent one to ease him back into the fray.

Trent Alexander-Arnold

Because of the Europa League game being on Thursday night, Liverpool did not hold a traditional press conference ahead of West Ham. An injury update from the Reds boss was therefore not issued.

A proper update on Trent Alexander-Arnold will hopefully be given before Leicester City in Tuesday's press conference, though even if he is back available, it seems unlikely that the full-back would feature in the Carabao Cup.

If he could return in time to face Spurs at the weekend, that would be a major boost for Liverpool, though Joe Gomez did very well against West Ham on Sunday playing in that position.

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Liverpool transfer news as 'target' makes Chelsea admission and 'big' offer could be accepted

Liverpool.com - Mon, 09/25/2023 - 18:00

What a difference a year makes for Liverpool. This time 12 months ago, it was already looking as though the Reds were in for a long slog, having won just two of its opening six Premier League games. Now though, things are much improved.

Sunday’s 3-1 victory over West Ham continued its unbeaten start to the current season and made it five league wins in a row as Liverpool keeps in touch with early leaders Manchester City.

Having transformed his midfield during the summer, Jürgen Klopp’s efforts already look to have paid off. Nevertheless, there is still some work to do in January.

READ MORE: Jürgen Klopp's 'son' just announced himself vs West Ham as Liverpool finds 'spectacular' duo

READ MORE: Jürgen Klopp's 'Thanos' is leading Liverpool resurgence with unwritten Pep Guardiola rule

The Liverpool boss will no doubt be aware that a new defender is still needed, and one possible option may have just left the door open for a move.

Meanwhile, Klopp will have decisions to make on a couple of players in his squad as their contracts run down, although reports suggest he could be willing to let one of them go soon.

Here is the Liverpool.com verdict on the transfer gossip to emerge around the Reds today.

Patrick Dorgu (Lecce)

Patrick Dorgu has left the door open for a transfer to Liverpool, but has admitted to wanting a move to Chelsea.

The Lecce left-back is on the radar of both the Reds and Manchester City (the player's agent claims, at least, after he spoke to Danish outlet Bold earlier in the year), with Dorgu himself now seemingly talking up his chances of moving to one of the clubs.

"I really just take it as motivation, that when the big teams look at me, it is because I am doing the right thing and must continue. Then it’s just a matter of time before the big teams come knocking," Dorgu told Ekstra Bladet.

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The 18-year-old though also admitted he has his sights set on another team. "Chelsea is my dream to play for," he added. "I have been a fan of them for over 10 years, so it would be a huge dream to play for them."

Liverpool.com says: Here we go again. Another player that could seemingly secure a move to Anfield, but instead wants to go to Chelsea.

Moisés Caicedo and Roméo Lavia have both already proven that might not be the best idea. Hopefully, Dorgu is not as stubborn if Liverpool comes calling for him.

Thiago Alcântara (Liverpool)

Liverpool is willing to accept a big offer for Thiago Alcântara if one arrives in January, according to Football Insider.

The same outlet claimed last week that the club had opened talks with the midfielder over a possible extension of his contract. The new report though suggests Liverpool could be tempted to sell the 32-year-old before his deal expires next summer.

Liverpool.com says: Selling Thiago didn’t make much sense during the summer after the departures of Jordan Henderson and Fabinho. Liverpool is in a much stronger position now in midfield, and it’s hard to see a way back into the side for the Spaniard at the moment.

That would of course rely on him returning to fitness, and with his deal expiring next summer, it might suit Liverpool to take whatever fee it can in January. Thiago is a luxury player, but looks as though he might be left behind by the new-look engine room.

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Are Arsenal the main threat to Man City? How low will Chelsea go? – The Briefing

the Athletic - Mon, 09/25/2023 - 05:15

Welcome to The Briefing, where every Monday this season The Athletic will discuss three of the biggest questions to arise from the weekend’s football.

This time around, Manchester United won but didn’t convince many people they have fixed their problems, Manchester City looked like they were going to steamroll Nottingham Forest but were eventually made to sweat a little, and Luton Town collected their first point of the season.

We will ask what sort of shape the chasing pack are in, just how bad will things get for Chelsea this season, and whether sacking Paul Heckingbottom would make any difference for Sheffield United…

What did this weekend tell us about the chasing pack?

The thing that was most striking about the north London derby was how similar the two teams were.

Both looked incisive and thrilling in attack. Both had moments of defensive vulnerability. Both dealt with adversity, in their own way. And both showed that, after key men went off — Declan Rice for Arsenal; James Maddison and Son Heung-min for Spurs — their teams ultimately can be quite brittle.

But it was also striking how close they looked in terms of quality levels. Arsenal will (justifiably) argue they have a season or so of good form behind them, whereas Spurs have only six games. But on this evidence, it would be pretty tough to confidently say who is going to be better for the remainder of the season.

It’s a testament to just how quickly Ange Postecoglou has made sense of this very new and young set of players. The sample size is small but this game perhaps provided evidence that their hopeful start to the season isn’t just about good vibes and stirring oratory.

Maddison suggested as such, after the game: “Neutrals talk about Tottenham, they often say: soft, weak, bottle it, Spursy, all that rubbish. The last couple of weeks show we might be going in a slightly different direction.”



The Premier League's controversial handball incidents - analysed

This is not necessarily to suggest Arsenal are weaker than they were last season, when they pushed Manchester City until the last few weeks of the campaign. They had some key players out injured and are still trying to incorporate the new additions and new ideas that Mikel Arteta has brought in.

Spurs Son and Maddison impressed — but Spurs coped when they went off too (Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images)

Will they push City again? The season so far, and this weekend specifically, has suggested what we already knew: City are the heavy favourites to win the league again, but if anyone is going to push them then it won’t just be Arsenal this time.

Take Liverpool: their defeat of West Ham was their fifth league win in a row, the only points they have dropped this season coming in that slightly odd game against Chelsea on the opening weekend. They have managed to replace their entire midfield more effectively and efficiently than most could realistically have hoped. Their strikers are scoring. The defence remains a bit of a concern, but it is worth pointing out that only City have conceded fewer goals.

And then there’s Brighton and Aston Villa. Nobody legitimately expects either to seriously trouble City, but their victories this weekend showed, in different ways, why they are at least genuine contenders for the top four.

How bad is it going to get for Chelsea?

What words of comfort could you offer the Chelsea fan in your life?

The new home shirt is quite nice? How about all that clever amortisation, eh? At least Sheffield United, Luton and Burnley are all so bad you probably aren’t going to get relegated?

The most convincing version of this you could offer, before their defeat to Aston Villa, was that they had actually been playing quite well — or at least better than their results suggested. And even after the Villa game, you could just about continue that thread. Sure, they’re not winning games, but they’re creating chances and thus, in theory, the wins will come.



Jackson ban exposes Chelsea's grim reality - Pochettino is not getting his message across

The trouble is, there are only so many times you can say that before it starts becoming pretty hollow. Because this isn’t just a momentary loss of form: Chelsea haven’t been good for about 18 months now. They have collected 49 points from 44 games since the start of last season, and just 25 in 2023.

In the league table of this calendar year, they would be fifth from bottom, above only Everton on goal difference, and last season’s three relegated teams plus this season’s three promoted teams.

It’s not great.

We all know the caveats. It’s basically a brand new team, with the only starters from the Villa game that were around this time last year being Conor Gallagher, Raheem Sterling and Thiago Silva. All of the new players are very young, making the task of integrating them all even more difficult. There’s a new manager, who will need time to settle in himself.

“We are not the Chelsea that won the Champions League or Premier League,” said Mauricio Pochettino before the game. ”We need to accept that it’s a project. An idea, but that we are going to build something for the future with time.”

Which is all very well, and you wouldn’t expect Pochettino to say anything different, but the question is: how bad is this going to get? And how bad will Chelsea allow it to get before they do something about it?

We’ve all been working on the assumption that it’s going to come together at some point, that this disparate collection of talents, assembled for an astonishing amount of money, will click sooner or later. But what if they don’t? Should we accept that, for this season at least, Chelsea are just bad?

Would sacking Paul Heckingbottom make any difference?

It was difficult not to laugh when, with the score at 7-0 to Newcastle, Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom brought Chris Basham on in place of James McAtee. Shore it up, keep things tight, let’s win the last 15 minutes lads, what we have we hold.

In fairness, they only conceded one more goal after that, so maybe it worked.

It does feel quite churlish to focus on the losing team when a Premier League side has just scored eight times in a single game. Particularly when those eight goals came from eight different scorers, the first time that has ever happened in the Premier League era, and the first time it has happened in the top flight since Liverpool beat Crystal Palace 9-0 in 1989.

Newcastle were incredibly impressive and showed a ruthless streak by pressing on even when the game was already comprehensively won. And all of this after their first Champions League game in 20 years, in Milan on Tuesday night. It was a bit of a shame they didn’t push for double figures, given that hasn’t happened in England’s top division since 1963, but you can’t have everything.

This was the heaviest league defeat in Sheffield United’s history (Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images)

But this is shaping up to be a heroically bad intake of teams in the Premier League. The promoted trio have managed three points between them from a combined 16 games, Luton picking up their first at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday. Members of Derby County’s 2007-08 team, holders of the record low points total with 11, might be sitting up and taking notice, wondering: is this the year?

Sheffield United might be the worst of the three. Burnley play decent enough football and have a few genuinely exciting performers, and while Luton’s squad is basically a collection of Championship players, their style of play will also cause a few problems.

Admittedly, Sheffield United did push Manchester City and Tottenham pretty hard and without some late goals, it would all look quite different. But you can’t escape a defeat like this.

There was talk last week that Heckingbottom was on thin ice, with former manager and club hero Chris Wilder ready to return and take his place. The likelihood of that happening has surely increased after such a humiliation, but you have to ask: would it make a difference?

Heckingbottom is far from a perfect manager, but even if the perfect manager existed, they would have to do quite a job to make a competitive Premier League team from the resources available. It was impossible not to sympathise with him earlier in the season when he was bemoaning Sheffield United’s transfer activity; it is far from ideal when your club sells your two best players and does not replace them until after the season starts — and even then, only with players from the Championship.

Teams have recovered from similarly bad starts before and stayed up. Maybe Wilder (or someone else — Neil Warnock is available…) can discover some of that old magic from a few years back. But it would take one of life’s great optimists to think that it could happen with this Sheffield United team.

Coming up
  • If the Premier League is all just a bit glitzy for your tastes, then you’re in for a treat this week as the big boys rough it with the scruffy lot from the EFL. Or, to put it another way: it’s the Carabao Cup third round.
  • If it’s a giant killing you’re after, then what about Exeter City, paragons of fan-ownership virtue, facing Luton? Or maybe Ipswich Town, one of the most impressive teams in the Championship this season, hosting Wolves? Maybe Salford City vs Burnley, which is sort of, vaguely, nearly a derby (but not really)?
  • If it’s just all-Premier League affairs for you, Manchester City travel to face Newcastle, Brentford host Arsenal and Manchester United play Crystal Palace.
  • European football more your thing? Great news: there’s a full midweek round in both Spain and Italy, with a couple of games in France thrown in too.
  • Finally, without wishing to be the bearer of bad news, a word to the wise for next weekend, because there’s only one Premier League game televised next Sunday: Nottingham Forest vs Brentford. The reason? Apparently, it’s because the TV people want as much attention as possible on the denouement of the Ryder Cup. Golf! Honestly, it’s a scandal.

(Top photo: Getty Images)

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