Premier League Playback: Key questions for Klopp at Liverpool

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KLOPP’S INSTANT IMPACT

Whistling like a German kettle on the sidelines at White Hart Lane, Jurgen Klopp was full of that “full throttle” approach he expects from his players.

During his debut both in charge of Liverpool and in the Premier League, Klopp impressed with his passion on the sidelines as he gesticulated furiously in a circulations motion with his right hand while whistling ferociously every single time his side gave away the ball. The result? Liverpool’s players slotted straight back into their positions as if they were sheepdogs being controlled by a shepherds whistle. In just four days of training with his new squad, Klopp already seems to have got them on his side.

[ MORE: Three things we learned

Plenty of questions still remain following his first outing. Overall, a 0-0 draw away at Tottenham Hotspur probably won’t be the liveliest of his Liverpool career but Klopp will see it as a decent result at in-form Spurs. Missing Danny Ings (at least for six months), Daniel Sturridge, Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke (all likely to be back this week) from his lineup, Klopp placed Divock Origi in attack and the 20-year-old delivered a performance where his pace caused Spurs problems and he was unlucky to see his header come crashing off the crossbar and out after a blistering start to the game from Liverpool. Origi impressed Klopp, who revealed he tried to sign him for Borussia Dortmund in the past but how he uses him, Sturridge and Benteke remains to be seen. It’s a huge question as right now it seems to be a case of one striker from three.

[ MORE: Klopp cool, praises attackers ]

Keeping up that “full throttle” start for an entire 90-minutes will be tough but speaking to the media after the game, Klopp declared himself more than satisfied with his first point as Liverpool boss but did reveal some of the answers to how his team didn’t manage to get a win.

“The problem of the game was that when we had the ball we were not cool enough. We didn’t use our skills. We were a little too hectic or eager. Something like this,” Klopp said. “We didn’t see the option as much but it is normal. You start like this, you got the ball from this space and you should open your view and you can play it this side because Tottenham is a zonal defending team. We didn’t use these situations but we had our moments. A very good corner [Origi’s header against the bar] and some other situations where we could have been a little better but for today it is really okay. After three or four days it was brilliant. Now we have our own experience together and we can go on working.”

Klopp is renowned for having his team work hard and press high up the pitch. The 4-3-2-1 — Christmas Tree formation, as it’s commonly known — system worked well on Saturday with the players at his disposal. However, with key attackers set to return from injury you’d be hard-pressed to believe that Klopp won’t line up with two up front when Southampton come to Anfield next Sunday for his first home league game in charge of the Reds. In midfield the trio of James Milner, Lucas and Emre Can worked tirelessly, with Klopp yelling “Yaaaa. Come on!” when Can rattled into a challenge in the first half. He praised that narrow midfield three afterwards and during the game he was very positive and constantly cajoled his side and applauded even their mistakes. Let’s see if he does that in a few months from now

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Some pretty impressive stats emanated from Liverpool’s opening performance under Klopp. They became the only team to outrun Tottenham this season, as their boss Mauricio Pochettino is another fierce proponent of high-pressing. Liverpool also completed more sprints than Spurs, 50 more to be exact, and although they ran out of steam after their exhilarating opening 25-minute spell to the game, Klopp’s boys did gain a second wind in the second half after Simon Mignolet denied Harry Kane and Clinton N'Jie when Spurs were on top.

It will take Liverpool’s players some time to live up to the high-paced demands of Klopp, but Saturday proved that they are not too far off how he expects them to play and approach games. Their fitness levels will need to be worked on and that is not easy to implement midway through a season. Now is the time to be patient as there are plenty more hurdles for Liverpool and their new manager to negotiate and plenty more questions to be answered. We got a taster of what’s time to come from Klopp, and judging by the German-inspired flags proudly waved by their fans, they already approve of “The Normal One” during a rather normal first game in charge.

Premier League Schedule – Week 9

Result Recap & Highlights
Chelsea 2-0 A Villa Recap, watch here
C Palace 1-3 West Ham Recap, watch here
Everton 0-3 Man Utd Recap, watch here
Man City 5-1 B’mouth Recap, watch here
N’castle 6-2 Norwich Recap, watch here
Saints 2-2 Leicester Recap, watch here
Swansea 0-1 Stoke Recap, watch here
Tottenham 0-0 L’pool Recap, watch here
Watford 0-3 Arsenal Recap, watch here
WBA 1-0 Sunderland Recap, watch here

CITY’S OUTSIDERS STEP UP

Without leading scorer Sergio Aguero and chief creator David Silva for the next four weeks through injury, Manchester City’s second-string attackers were expected to step up and deliver the goods against Bournemouth on Saturday. They did. Impressively. Raheem Sterling scored his first senior hat trick in the first half and Wilfried Bony struck twice to humble Bournemouth 5-1 and keep City top of the Premier League with 21 points from a possible 27.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Going into a huge Manchester derby at Old Trafford on Sunday, big question marks were hanging over City and how the likes of Sterling, Bony and Kevin De Bruyne could handle the pressure in the absence of the two players many believe are the best attackers in the Premier League. The fact that summer acquisitions Sterling and De Bruyne cost City $150 million in transfer fees alone tells its own story. Their strength in-depth is greater this season which is a big reason why they are many people’s title favorites.

De Bruyne was particularly outstanding on Saturday, as the Belgian international is settling into life at City extremely well. His ability to run at players from a central position was fully utilized by Manuel Pellegrini at the weekend and with the pace of Sterling and the strength of Bony having the Cherries in a spin, City could have had eight or nine. In truth, they took their foot off the gas in the second half with a big UEFA Champions League game coming up against Sevilla on Wednesday in Group D play, then United to come next weekend in the 170th derby. Vincent Kompany is also likely to return after being an usused sub and rested against Bournemouth and it’s a big week for the Citizens to prove they now have the cover, especially in attack, to deal with the absence of Silva and Aguero. If they can get positive results against Sevilla and United, the early season PL leaders can feel very good about the months ahead. Plus, it’s always handy to have ‘Dav the Wizard’ and Kun Aguero to slot back in whenever they’re needed…

HAZARD’S BENCHING HARSH?

On Saturday Chelsea got back to winning ways, as Jose Mourinho’s side beat a lackluster Aston Villa outfit 2-0 at Stamford Bridge. Diego Costa bundled home the opener and his shot cannoned off Alan Hutton and past Brad Guzan for another in the second half to wrap things up. That was the game. It was pretty straightforward.

The main storyline to come out of the Bridge was not what happened on the field but more about who spent most of the game off of it. Mourinho raised plenty of eyebrows when Eden Hazard was left on the bench for the visit of Villa but afterwards he described exactly why the Belgian wizard, who is the reigning PL Player of the Year, was left on the bench.

“I left out Hazard because we are conceding lots of goals. We need to defend better,” Mourinho said. “When you don’t have the ball, quality means nothing and what means [thumps chest]… you have or you don’t have. It was just a tactical decision, leaving super quality on the bench, but bringing tactical discipline and hoping that the team could be solid. Willian and Pedro did amazing defensive work and allowed the midfield players to be very comfortable. I continue that way, or he comes in our direction and tries to replicate the same work that Willian and Pedro did.”

Tactical. Really?

In the games Chelsea have been been dreadful in this season, and that’s been plenty of them, Hazard has been the one player who has shown he can beat a man and has that extra bit of quality. Sure, Pedro and Willian deserve chances to shine but this is Eden Hazard, the man who tore apart opposition defenses in the PL at will last season. If anybody deserves an extended run in the team it is him. Mourinho may have got the desired defensive work out of Willian and Pedro — we all know Hazard struggles with tracking back, as it was proven when Chelsea lost to Atletico Madrid at home in the UEFA Champions League final in 2013-14 season — but by publicly ostracizing Hazard and calling out his work-rate, the latest mind game from Chelsea’s manager may have grave consequences and cost the Blues their best player in a season where they desperately need him to regain his best form and lead them back into the top fourth. This is either brilliant management or madness from Mourinho. I suspect the latter.

FOUR-MIDABLE WIJNALDUM; MAGPIES WARY

Georginio Wijnaldum smashed in four goals for Newcastle on Sunday, leading the Magpies to their first win of the season in a pulsating 6-2 victory over Norwich City. In his ninth PL game in charge of the club former England boss Steve McClaren finally got a win but he knows Wijnaldum’s clinical finishing can’t paper over the cracks. Newcastle scored with all six of their shots on target and Wijnaldum now has six PL goals for the season as the marauding Dutch midfielder is looking like one of the bargains of the summer as he’s perfectly timed runs from midfield are causing opponents havoc.

[ MORE: Standings | schedule | stats ]

In an incredible first half Newcastle went 1-0 up but Dieumerci Mbokani equalized, then they went 3-1 up but Nathan Redmond pulled another back to make it 3-2 at the break. Redmond hit the post in the second half and Newcastle kept dropping deeper and deeper. In truth, the scoreline flattered McClaren’s side. Apart from Moussa Sissoko and Wijnaldum’s brilliance, plus a thumping volley from Aleksandar Mitrovic in front of his adoring fans, Newcastle still have plenty of issues to resolve as they aim to get out of the relegation zone. At least McClaren knows it as he failed to lose sight of the bigger picture in the postgame press conference, which cannot be said for most managers when you score six goals in a much-needed win.

“It’s Newcastle, is it possible to make any sense?” McClaren told reporters. “That’s what we are fast discovering. But I think that was just reward. I’m so pleased for the players, so pleased for the fans. Like we have said all along not to get too down and after tonight, we are not going to get high. There’s a lot of work to do, but it shows today when it comes together what we are capable of doing.”

Next up for Newcastle, the small matter of facing a Tyne-Wear derby against the team who sits bottom of the PL table: Sunderland. Buckle up. With Sam Allardyce in charge for the Black Cats and narrowly losing his first game in charge away at West Brom in controversial fashion, this is going to be a rambunctious derby next Sunday with three points, momentum and local pride on the line at the Stadium of Light.

Premier League Playback comes out every week as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here. 

Transfer news: Kane to Real Madrid, Alexis Sanchez to West Ham

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The latest transfer news continues across the Premier League and here’s a look at some of the juiciest rumors.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

According to Sport, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has his sights set on signing Tottenham striker Harry Kane this summer.

With Luka Jovic failing to impress at the Santiago Bernabeu, Los Blancos are set to make some moves to consolidate the presence up top. Kane, 26, and Wolves striker Raul Jimenez are some of the few names to have been mentioned thus far.

Kane, who has a running contract with Spurs until 2024, recently mentioned that he wouldn’t rule out a move out of north London, if Tottenham were unable to capitalize on winning silverware.

“I’m an ambitious player, I want to improve, I want to get better, I want to become one of the top, top players,” Kane said earlier this month. “It all depends on what happens as a team and how we progress as a team. So it’s not a definite I’m going to stay there forever – but it’s not a no either.”

As far as transfers go, nothing gets bigger and more “ambitious” than a summer blockbuster move to Real Madrid. Kane has a promising project spearheaded by Jose Mourinho himself at his boyhood club, but the opportunity to represent Real Madrid – at such a prime age, with an astronomical amount of hype – may only come around once.


Alexis Sanchez’s time at Inter Milan is coming to a close, and his next destination may be a Premier League team not named Manchester United, according to FC Inter News.

The 31-year-old Chilean’s agent, Fernando Felicevich, has reportedly been inquired by West Ham, who are considering placing a bid to lure the winger out of Old Trafford.

Sanchez arrived at Inter last summer on loan but has failed to impress when healthy, recording a mere goal and three assist in 15 appearances this season. With the possibilities of Sanchez remaining at Manchester United past the summer getting slimmer by the day, the Hammers are hoping to land the South American at a reduced price.

Sanchez, one of United’s highest earners, is reportedly also gathering interest from other unnamed Premier League and Bundesliga sides.

Belarusian Premier League roundup: FC Energetik-BGU edge FC Minsk, moves to top of league

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The Belarusian Premier League – the only active European top-flight league at the moment – continued on Sunday despite the coronavirus pandemic.

FC Energetik-BGU 2-0 FC Minsk 

FC Energetik-BGU are the new leaders of the Belarusian Premier League, following a 2-0 victory over FC Minsk, who were atop of the table prior to Sunday’s bout.

Aleksey Nosko broke the deadlock in the 21st minute, while winger Jasurbek Yakhshiboev sealed the victory for the hosts in stoppage time.

With the victory, Energetik-BGU are the only unbeaten team in the league after three matchweeks, winning all three matches. The positive spell began with a 3-1 against Belarus giants BATE Boristov. Since, Energetik-BGU have scored three goals, while managing to concede none.

Slutsk, who also featured on Sunday, moved up to second on the table following a hard-earned 3-2 victory over Isloch, which saw them play the final minutes of the match with 10 players.

Elsewhere in Belarusian Premier League 

Smolevichi-STI 0-0 Vitebsk

Isloch 2-3 Slutsk

Spanish players criticize league’s call for furloughs

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MADRID (AP) Soccer players in Spain on Sunday criticized the Spanish league’s decision to ask clubs to put the footballers on government furloughs during the coronavirus crisis.

The league on Friday said the furloughs were needed because there was no agreement on the size of the salary cuts players must take to reduce the financial impact of the pandemic.

“It is strange that the Liga supports (the furloughs),” Spain’s players’ association said in a statement.

It said the league should have created a financial cushion for this period considering it always boasted about its “economic control measures” and the “well-balanced economy” of the Spanish clubs. The association said it also should be taken into account that the league has been temporarily suspended and not yet canceled.

The league and the players’ association have been in talks to try to find ways to mitigate losses that could reach nearly 1 billion euros ($1.08 billion) if the season cannot be restarted because of the pandemic.

The players said they agree with a salary reduction to help the clubs during the crisis, but not to the extent the league wants, which could amount to nearly half of the total losses if the competition is not resumed.

Players said they want to keep negotiating directly with the clubs instead of being forced into furloughs.

“The clubs and the players have been reaching agreements regarding the salaries,” the players’ association said. “What footballers are not going to do is relinquish labor rights.”

Barcelona and Atlético Madrid are among the Spanish clubs requesting furloughs, but both directly negotiated the amount of the salary reduction with players — 70% in both cases. Both clubs and their players are contributing to guarantee the wages of non-playing employees being furloughed.

The government furloughs help reduce the clubs’ labor costs while also guaranteeing players their jobs once the crisis is over.

Spain has more than 130,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with nearly 12,500 deaths. The nation is expected to remain in a lockdown until April 26.

There is no timetable for the return of the Spanish league.

Players maintained their position to only resume competing when health authorities deem it safe for everyone’s heath, a view also shared by the Spanish league.

The league has suggested it will recommend teams start mini-camp while the lockdown is still in place, if it’s possible to do so within the restrictions imposed by authorities.

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Brighton, Cincinnati prepare to discuss Locadia’s future

Jurgen Locadia
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Jurgen Locadia’s big MLS transfer has not gone as planned, through no fault of his, FC Cincinnati’s, or parent club Brighton and Hove Albion.

Locadia’s loan to Cincinnati was sealed Feb. 3, giving him just under five months to decide whether he had interesting in staying in the U.S. for the next part of his career.

The 26-year-old got all of two matches to feel it out, scoring once before MLS shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

The extremely small sample size has been kind to Locadia, who says that his agent had spoken to Brighton and that he’s open to making the move permanent. That’s a loaded statement given the money it might take to acquire a player who was Brighton’s transfer record signing just over a year ago.

“I like it here so far in Cincinnati and the league also,” Locadia told The Cincinnati Enquirer and Cincinnati.com: “I talk with my agent also and he said at the end of the day it’s my decision, and I told him I’m happy here, so if we can figure something out with Brighton and Cincinnati, which I understand is going to be difficult, we can try and fix the situation.”

FCC general manager Gerard Nijkamp said he’ll be talking with Brighton in the next few days, but that the situation is a massive challenge. Imagine the questions: What does Brighton want? When can the player move? Has the end of the loan window changed at all? And what reinforcements will Brighton be able to buy given the wildly unusual conclusion to this season (and their possible relegation)?

Locadia was also asked what he likes about MLS.

“I think here in the States, the fans enjoy the game more and in Europe I get the feeling that people are more judge-y about the game,” Locadia said. “Here in the States, they come to enjoy the game and see the players and drink beer. And in Europe it’s more like, we need to win and they’re gonna judge you. They don’t like when you play the ball back to the goalkeeper.”

Well, maybe wait on that one. There might be a bit more patience in Cincinnati given it’s their second year in MLS, but other clubs have plenty of fans amped up for victory.