Klopp blames forwards, Henderson ref, but Liverpool’s draw about depth

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Liverpool’s hopes of second and maybe third in the Premier League took a big hit on Saturday as the Reds drew their second-straight match, this one nil-nil versus Stoke City at Anfield.

A frustrated Jurgen Klopp “saw everything I wanted to see apart form fluency and fun and joy.”

[ RECAP: Liverpool 0-0 Stoke City ]

While the Reds could’ve easily won either match, its depth is proving a real challenge to competing in the top competitions available to clubs: the Premier League and UEFA Champions League.

Perhaps both draws versus West Brom and Stoke would best be put down to bounces, near misses, injuries, and — yes, largely — Champions League schedule congestion. Like Manchester United last season, Klopp’s men have drawn too often to compete for a higher table spot.

In fact, it’s interesting to speculate whether the Reds wouldn’t be contending for the Premier League crown with a deeper squad.

On matches touching a UCL matchweek, Liverpool has 11 wins, eight draws and three losses.

The Reds are 9W-4D-1L in all other match weeks.

While it’d be fair to submit that Liverpool’s straight-forward group and a first draw versus Porto allowed a certain amount of leeway, the Reds haven’t had the luxury of plugging in impact depth players and expecting a win.

Part of the problem was surely the Philippe Coutinho drama, the obvious need for a January arrival like Virgil Van Dijk, and new players meshing with the team — Mohamed Salah scored just five of his 31 goals through the first nine matches (As much as I advocated taking Barcelona’s millions and selling was the right call inside their financial culture, keeping him — in an atmosphere where it’s possible to keep him reasonably happy — probably converts some of those draws to wins).

Cite injuries? Sure, but mostly meh. Few of those came to stars, and plenty of megawatt men on PL powers missed time this season including one-name guys like Pogba, Sane, Kane (I keep wanting the last two to rhyme…).

And again, luck. There was the interfering equalizer from Watford on opening day, Sadio Mane‘s red card meaning he missed a visit from Burnley, and even this week Salah missing a breakaway in stunning fashion early in the game.

“It was always clear there would be a day when he missed chances,” Klopp said. “I told the boys at halftime they did not make much pressure on our passing players but we had no offers in between.”

And Jordan Henderson pointed out the handball block by Erik Pieters, where it was very questionable whether the ball played the hand or vice versa.

“It looked a clear penalty, on the TV it is blatant,” Henderson said. “If his hand isn’t there Alberto is there for a tap in, so it is a poor decision from the referee and the linesman and it has cost us three points.”

All that’s fair, but Liverpool doing better than 3-3 at Watford on Opening Day, drawing at Newcastle, and at Burnley, plus these two results (It’s tempting to throw in Oct. 14’s 0-0 home draw with Manchester United, but the Reds were on the road at Benfica a one day after Liverpool cruised at Maribor).

Perhaps when all’s said and done, the difference between Man City and the chasing pack is those extra million invested in depth (Though Chelsea has cared deeply about depth and disappointed). Maybe City was just the first team to account for this, and Liverpool and others will react to their standard. We shall see, because all the big boys are making a lot of money these days.

Man Utd set to add $20m Swans winger James

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Manchester United’s first signing of the summer will be a Welsh international forward, but not that one, presuming the clubs sort out the transfer fee.

Swansea City winger Daniel James has agreed to terms with United, according to Sky Sports.

The 21-year-old is expected to cost Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s men about $20 million.

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

James scored five times with 10 assists for Graham Potter in all competitions this season, totaling 2800 minutes for Swans.

Only Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish was fouled more per game than James, who was taken to the turf 2.7 times per match. He mostly played on the left wing this season.

Twice-capped by Wales, James turns 22 in November. How long will it take him to make the jump from Championship star to Premier League contributor?

Martinez names Kompany in Belgium squad

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Roberto Martinez is going to suit up a manager as Belgium fights to qualify for EURO 2020.

Okay, okay, that manager is Anderlecht player-manager Vincent Kompany, mere days removed from sealing a domestic treble for Manchester City.

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

Kompany, 33, has been called up by Belgium for the first time since November. He has 87 caps with four goals for the Red Devils, and perhaps the nickname will be a little less awkward now that he’s not a member of the Premier League’s “noisy neighbors.”

Here’s what Martinez had to say about Kompany’s inclusion.

“In modern football it is not easy to combine the job of player and coach,” Martinez added. “In England they have a tradition of that but less and less because the job of coach has become enormously demanding. We must give him time. We will support him in everything he does.”

Belgium is in a qualifying group with Russia, Cyprus, Scotland, Kazakhstan, and San Marino, and should waltz into the tournament.

USMNT dates to host Cuba, Canada revealed

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MIAMI (AP) The United States will host Cuba on Oct. 11 and Canada on Nov. 15 in the first CONCACAF Nations League.

CONCACAF said Tuesday that the Americans, seeded in Group A, will play at Canada on Oct. 15 and at Cuba on Nov. 19.

Sites have not been determined.

Other Nations League groups are:

B – Bermuda, Mexico, Panama

C – Martinique, Honduras, Trinidad and Tobago

D – Costa Rica, Curacao, Haiti

The top team in each League A group advances to the semifinals in March, and the last-place team is relegated to League B.

The U.S. intends to play exhibitions on the September FIFA dates for national teams.

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

Five players Man United should sign

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Manchester United need a massive rebuild this summer.

Everybody knows it.

Their manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward have both spoken publicly about their desire to strengthen the squad, with Solskjaer aiming to bring in young, hungry players to the club. Something drastic has to change.

But which five players should United make their top targets this summer as they aim to push their way back into the top four of the Premier League?

Even though United have been through struggles in recent seasons, the allure of playing for one of the most popular clubs on the planet and dragging them back to the top of the game will attract plenty of players. So too will the fact that United’s finances allows them to pay top dollar.

Here’s a look at five players they have to sign this summer to complete the dramatic rebuild they need.


Joao Felix (Benfica, release clause of $133 million)
The 19-year-old attacking midfielder will provide goals and assists and he has shone in Portugal. The last time United were off the pace a little in the PL, they plucked a bright young talent from Portugal called Cristiano Ronaldo. That worked out pretty well. Felix may never reach Ronaldo’s heights, but the fact Man City and Real Madrid want to sign him says it all.


Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham, release clause of $32 million)
Doesn’t really fit into the “young and hungry” category, but the Belgian defender would add a steadying influence to United’s defense. At 30 years old Alderweireld is set for one big final pay day in his career and that is why he has such a small release clause in his contract after Spurs had to trigger a one-year extension. His displays for Spurs over the past few years have been consistency excellent.


Harry Maguire (Leicester, valued at $100 million)
At 26 years old Maguire is still to enter his prime. That is wild considering how well he has played for Leicester and England over the past two seasons. He almost joined United last summer but decided to stay at Leicester, and another great season has soon his value rise by $25 million. Maguire and Alderweireld at center back would be a great partnership, but it is likely only one of them will arrive. Maguire is more expensive but would be a long-term purchase.


Declan Rice (West Ham, valued at $60 million)
His meteoric rise has seen him become a star for West Ham and make his England debut. Shows so much poise in the holding midfield role and if Rice, still just 20 years old, arrived then it could help Paul Pogba out as he will win the ball back and feed the Frenchman in good areas. West Ham will reluctantly sell, and Rice should be a top priority to shield United’s shaky defense.


Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Crystal Palace, valued at $60 million)
Ashley Young has been handed a one-year extension and Antonio Valencia is leaving, so United are looking a little weak at right back. Wan-Bissaka, 21, has been sublime for Crystal Palace and is a solid defender as well as adding an attacking presence. Palace will be reluctant to sell both AWB and Wilfried Zaha in the same summer, which could be an issue. Right back is an area where United need to strengthen. Now.