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Premier League Weekly: Should Liverpool have cashed in on Coutinho to fix their defence, and how will Roy Hodgson do at Crystal Palace?

Jurgen Klopp (Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Jurgen Klopp (Stu Forster/Getty Images)

IT’S back to domestic duty after the group stages of the Champions League and Europa League got under way in midweek.

We are only four games in, but Crystal Palace have already changed their manager with Frank De Boer losing his job after just 77 days. Events in South London dominate PREMIER LEAGUE WEEKLY along with Liverpool’s dodgy defence and a key man at West Ham.

 

Is there a case for Liverpool’s defence?

WITHOUT question, Liverpool are the most exciting team to watch at present in the Premier League. Matches involving the Reds are usually jam packed full of goals and incidents and it’s a struggle to note them all down. When their jet-heeled wingers Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane launch attacks from deep within their own half with the ball glued to their feet, there is no finer sight. Intricate moves played at lightning speed can open up any defence and even the best opposition cannot live with it.

But what about when Liverpool are not on the attack? Well, that is a case of covering your eyes at some of the mistakes that are made. Already this season, there were organisational problems in defending set-pieces at Watford in a 3-3 draw. There was the total absence of being able to defend as a team at Manchester City, as they caved in to a 5-0 defeat, albeit with ten men. And on Wednesday night, there was no defence for Dejan Lovren’s inexplicable air-kick which presented Sevilla with the opening goal in the 2-2 draw in the Champions League before the whole team fell asleep at a throw-in for the Spaniards’ second.

Alberto Moreno of Liverpool and Kyle Walker of Manchester City battle for possession (Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Alberto Moreno of Liverpool and Kyle Walker of Manchester City battle for possession (Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Football is all about goals. Scoring them at one end, and not conceding at the other. It is not even a question of defending OK for Liverpool. At the moment, they are defending very badly and if that continues, there is no way they can be considered as title contenders. The imbalance in the squad is incredible with A-list attackers and Z-list defenders. A back four of Joe Gomez, Lovren, Joel Matip and Alberto Moreno, with Ragnar Klavan and Andy Robertson in reserve is mid-table at best, let alone that of a team with aspirations of being Champions.

Philippe Coutinho could make his first start tomorrow at home to Burnley. But as fine a player as the creative midfielder is, his return won’t make a radical difference. What’s more, he cannot play at centre half! Would Jurgen Klopp have been better off in selling the little Brazilian and investing over £100 million in improving his defence? He couldn’t get Virgil van Dijk from Southampton, but surely the German should have found another central defender to improve things.

Liverpool’s attitude of trying to outscore the opposition is a reminder of Newcastle under Kevin Keegan, who thrilled the neutrals but won nothing. Maybe Klopp is something of a Keegan-like manager, but one thing is guaranteed, Liverpool won’t come as near to winning the league as Newcastle did with their current dodgy defence.

 

Can a manager be successful if he doesn’t fit the club’s DNA?

Frank de Boer (Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Frank de Boer (Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

THE biggest Premier League story of the week has been the sacking of Frank De Boer at Crystal Palace. The Dutchman lasted just four games, before he was shown the door following defeat at Burnley. No goals and no points is a sorry start and leaves the Eagles propping up the table already.

Four games is a ridiculously short period of time to be given, and only one game after the closing of the transfer window, but was De Boer doomed from the day he was appointed? As a former player at Ajax and Barcelona and manager of Ajax, it does not take much to work out the style of play he would have wanted to employ. Palace Chairman Steve Parish was happy to embrace that when he unveiled De Boer, but the biggest mistake had already been made.

By their nature, Palace will be never be an establishment club. Nor do they offer the type of environment where you expect the football to be pretty. You could imagine De Boer’s style working at Fulham with Craven Cottage in the corner and the Thames running alongside, but not gritty, ugly Selhurst Park. Palace have survived in the Premier League on the back of explosive football, moments of quality surrounded by resolution and plenty of attitude. Think of two of Selhurst Park’s most memorable nights – the 3-0 win over Arsenal in April or the comeback against Liverpool in 2014 from 3-0 down to draw 3-3. The football wasn’t pretty but it was mightily effective and had the Ultras rocking in the Holmesdale Road end.

Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish (Steven Paston/PA Wire)
Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish (Steven Paston/PA Wire)

Football clubs have their own DNA, which rarely changes. Finding a manager who fits into that is crucial. Of the current Premier League clubs, Jurgen Klopp is the sort of passionate and emotional man who strikes the right chord at Liverpool.  The no-nonsense option of Sean Dyche suits Burnley down to the ground. Slaven Bilic’s emotional connection to West Ham as a former player helps him to understand the ups, downs and melodramas of that particular club. Get it wrong as Palace did with De Boer and the fall-out can be dramatic. Sam Allardyce was never the right man for Newcastle’s fans and he lasted half a season, and it was the same for Roy Hodgson in his ill-fated spell at Liverpool.

Now Hodgson has taken over at Palace in his first job since that fateful night in Nice in June 2016 when England were humbled by Iceland. His reputation was battered by that, but after 40 years on the road as a manager, the 70-year-old has returned to the club nearest to his Croydon upbringing. He knows Palace and Palace know him. Pragmatism, organisation and drills on the training ground are Hodgson’s forte. And it will be those skills that the Eagles need to escape from their current predicament.

Roy Hodgson (Tim Goode/PA Wire)

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Player of the Day

EVERY club needs a talisman and West Ham recovered theirs on Monday night in the shape of Andy Carroll. Now there are countless better players in the Premier League, but at 6ft 4in tall, the striker offers defenders a very different challenge. The Hammers had lost their opening three games without him, but once he was fit, he was back in the team as they claimed a valuable win over Huddersfield on Monday night.

Andy Carroll in action (Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Andy Carroll in action (Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Keeping Carroll on the field remains West Ham’s biggest challenge. He is in and out of the team like the hokey-cokey because of injuries, but the difference is palpable. Last year, they struggled for three months without him. When he came back in December, they picked up six wins in nine games – their best run of the season, and he also scored that memorable goal against Crystal Palace.

The Englishman is a focal point for the Hammers and his presence might help the predatory instincts of Javier Hernandez alongside him and how West Ham fans would love to see a little-and-large combination in attack. But first of all, Carroll’s aerial prowess will come in useful at West Brom for his ability to win set-pieces in both boxes against Tony Pulis’ side.

 

 

Stat of the Day

7 – BOURNEMOUTH and Crystal Palace have lost four straight matches but there is still a little while to go to match Portsmouth, who began the 2009/10 season with seven defeats. The South Coast club were effectively doomed from that point and went into administration in March, suffering a nine-point deduction on their way to relegation.

 

 

Adam’s Friday and Saturday scores

Bournemouth 2 Brighton 0

Crystal Palace 1 Southampton 0

Huddersfield 0 Leicester 2

Liverpool 3 Burnley 1

Newcastle 0 Stoke 0

West Brom 2 West Ham 1

Tottenham 3 Swansea 0

Watford 1 Manchester City 2