In his exclusive column for CaughtOffside, former Aston Villa and Liverpool striker Stan Collymore discusses some of football’s biggest talking points, including how Liverpool can fix their current problems, whether Trent Alexander-Arnold should have their chance for England and why so many players are shooting. out of the World Cup.
Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal: the race for the top four.
Todd Boehly’s plan with Graham Potter.
We are at the beginning of November and this weekend a very good and classic Super Sunday is coming up. Chelsea against Arsenal and Tottenham against Liverpool. Taking off my hat at Villa vs Manchester United, Unai Emery’s first game with Aston Villa. Southampton v Newcastle, Ralph Hassenhutl under pressure against Eddie Howe’s Magpies. West Ham against Crystal Palace, that could dictate how the season could go for both clubs as we head into the World Cup break.
A very important matchday, and if you’re looking at Chelsea against Arsenal, I went to see Graham Potter at Chelsea training ground last week. I had a great talk with him about what he wants to do, what he’s trying to do. It’s a huge job, we know it’s a huge job at Chelsea Football Club. It has been mostly good. He has won most of his games so far. A bloody nose against Brighton, but I think what we’ll see from Potter, because what we’ve seen from his time at Brighton, he made Leandro Trossard play extremely well, Dan Burn moved to Newcastle, I think we’ll see. much less star signings like Raheem Sterling.
I see Chelsea as a Christmas tree. At the base, an excellent youth academy, then the players they buy at a young age to try to develop and lend. You think of years past, Mohamed Salah, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku. Todd Boehly has a lot of money, let’s not hide in this. He may not have money from Roman Abramovich, but he does have significant amounts of money.
Two of Chelsea’s biggest names in the Premier League era are John Terry and Frank Lampard. Terry is a Chelsea fan, Jody Morris also worked as a manager under Lampard, so I think we will start to see fewer big-name signings and look to develop more players. Chelsea fans need to be patient at this point. There will be bumps in the road but they have to give Potter the time that Arsenal have given Mikel Arteta and I think Chelsea will thrive.
Do Arsenal have enough to compete for the title?
As for Arsenal, I feel they have a very good style of play, but I think even though Granit Xhaka is playing well, I don’t see a physically strong enough team. If they had a little more physicality, I might see them more as title contenders. Let’s see what happens after the World Cup. The European competitions are back, the FA Cup, the players will have been injured during the World Cup. The last ten games are huge. When you’re in a title race, it can play into your mind. Those who do the best will win. That’s why I think Manchester City will win the league.
That does not mean that Arteta has not done an excellent job. I think they need another striker next summer who will score 30 goals a season for you. An experienced midfielder, maybe a Thiago type, and yet another central defender. If you look at their team, they have some great players, but how many would Manchester City take for their team? I only care a little about his four defenses. If they start to fall apart, I want to see how they react.
Patience with Antonio Conte
I think that Antonio Conte has been the object of a lot of criticism and many of them unfairly. He has to follow a path at Tottenham where they have had very different managers with very different styles. Pochettino arrived and they had spent all of Gareth Bale’s money and got little value out of it. Tottenham thought Pochettino was doing well with Southampton bringing in young players, so they brought him in and he did well with what they had. Many Spurs fans are desperate for him to return. Then you go from the pressure and youth of him to José Mourinho, not a coach who plays a style to entertain people. That’s the Tottenham way if you go back through the years.
Spurs fans were excited in preseason to see how Conte worked with the players. They worked tremendously hard, a proper old-school preseason. Professionalism, desire and passion for the shirt. But he is also pragmatic. If he wins 1-0, he wins 1-0. When that philosophy loses a game or two, you’re in a position where the fans in the stadium are looking for Pochettino again. They are not like Manchester City or Arsenal playing fluid football, but I think you have to go with the Spurs fans. You have a winner and you need to be patient. I think I could go out and talk to the Tottenham supporter groups. That the fans know their plan is important.
How to fix Liverpool problems
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Liverpool is Klopp’s penultimate job, and if he leaves Liverpool I can see him go to Real Madrid or Bayern Munich. I don’t see him going to PSG to try to win the Champions League. I think he likes football clubs that have a soul. For me, there are three things that Liverpool must do.
First of all, target the aging players. Virgil van Dijk, Jordan Henderson, Thiago, Roberto Firmino, even Mohamed Salah. Where Manchester City had Vincent Kompany, Sergio Aguero, Fernandinho, they moved quickly when they knew they couldn’t reach the heights they used to. They had a plan with players ready to replace them and act immediately.
Secondly, you remember Pep Guardiola stopping Phil Foden. Drip feeding him, brought him in at the right time and bingo. You can’t do that at Liverpool at the moment due to injuries. Harvey Elliot has arrived, probably early. He had an injury last season that slowed him down and now he’s on the team. You see two young men in Foden and Elliot with similar abilities. Of course, Foden is way ahead, but that’s the difference in how young you are and the moment. Who does he come from? Fabio Carvalho is not ready, Luis Diaz is injured.
Then there is the elephant in the room for Liverpool Football Club, the owners. I think there is an easy solution and that is for FSG to sell a minority stake in the club to an outside buyer or sell the club to a buyer with the kind of resources that Newcastle and Manchester City have. Liverpool have a large fan base in Scandinavia and Norway in particular who fly to games. I think if Liverpool and FSG were smart, instead of saying they’re going to sell out to the Saudis, for example, go to countries that have a sovereign wealth fund but also have ethical ways of dealing with their politics, which they certainly do Norway, and ask if they want to buy Liverpool. Then Liverpool get the funding they need to move on and that’s how I think football clubs can match clubs with influence from the Middle East.
Gareth Southgate and his England team
I know Gareth Southgate very well. We were young together at Crystal Palace. We chatted the morning of the European Championship final, so I feel like I know the man and the character. He is not the yes-man that people think he is. He has revolutionized the way the England team approaches football, treats its players and communicates through the media. This is very important. Looking at the players, he has loyalties. Some say that this is his Achilles heel. Fans have claimed that Harry Maguire should be removed, but we don’t have many central defenders. I think Trent Alexander-Arnold should have had more playing time for England. He is a special footballer. The suggestion that teams would go to games and target Alexander-Arnold is ludicrous. He is one of the best in the world in his position.
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Southgate likes stability, he rewards consistency and players who have done well. Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker, for example. Mason Mount, although I think he could make way for Phil Foden. He would play the first Alexander-Arnold game, I think it would be exciting. His ability to change the game and I don’t see the poor defensive ability that others see. He gives you so much more to go on. He can put a cross right into the middle of the opposition that Walker and Trippier can’t. He would include Trent. Everyone will think that Trippier will start and I would start with Trent. We have a lot of injuries, but almost all the teams in the tournament are the same. I think it’s going to be a case of which nation limps over the line this tournament rather than which nation is the best in the world.
Why do so many players get injured before the World Cup?
I remind myself, players were careful on the day of getting injured before international duty. I remember a match between Manchester United and Liverpool. The match was played at almost a token pace because the players were worried about getting injured. The World Cup is the most important tournament in the world. It will be very interesting to make a comparison between how many players in each league have been injured, and I think the Premier League will be quite high. It’s hard. If players come in undercooked they can get a hamstring strain and the same if they come into a game and overcompensate if you are trying to make an impression.
The reality is, if you go into a game, there’s no right or wrong way to approach a game except having the right mindset, being physically fired up and giving your best shot. If you are Cristiano Ronaldo, for example, in the last match before the World Cup, it will be intense in front of thousands of fans. You won’t be worried about the ball getting to you and getting hurt, you’ll think the World Cup is coming up and people are looking at me, so I’ll go even harder. I don’t envy any of them.
I hope this is the first and last time the World Cup is in November. The Premier League is the toughest league in the world and you’re not going to have tournament preparation with your country going to a World Cup, which is unfortunate because of the temperature, the cultural aspect and so on. It will be interesting to see during the final games before the World Cup, with Gareth Southgate watching how the players will perform. With the injuries, I think the players are maybe trying too hard. One or two players might be thinking that I could have a little tactical hamstring injury and have a break for the World Cup and book myself for the next tournament in a soccer country like Germany, and focus on my longevity for myself. club career.