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Highlights

Palace didn’t soil themselves like Man City, and other musings

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Palace avoided soiling themselves like Manchester City did, while there are also defences of Mikel Arteta and Mo Salah and Paul Pogba but not Kai Havertz.

Anything to add? Send your views to theeditor@football365.com

 

Palace Conclusions
I’m not going to insult anyone’s intelligence by pretending that Crystal Palace deserved to win, but it’s still disappointing that we lost.

*The build-up to the game seemed like one act of disrespect after another: the official sponsored FA Cup Twitter feed releasing a graphic of a combined semi-finalists XI featuring no Palace players; Chelsea fans responded to Saturday’s result with the arrogant assumption that it would be their team against Liverpool in the final. Someone should have probably told Patrick Vieira that he didn’t need to bother turning up on Sunday because the game had been awarded to Roman Abramovich’s side as a walkover. But that’s the thing about Palace: when it seems like they have no chance, that’s when it seems like they have the best chance.

You don’t get to an FA Cup semi-final by accident or by luck alone. However, it should be pointed out that only one of the four sides to get this far faced a non-league side and avoided Premier League opposition, and that was the Pensioners.

*The Palace supporters were one of the highlights of the weekend. They’re easy to sneer at but people who care about something will always be better people than those who say everything is shit in lieu of having a personality, or people who think displaying their support for a team is somehow gauche or beneath them. This game meant a lot to Palace fans, and so it should, because it’s an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley Stadium. Matt Woosnam of the Athletic tweeted a video of the Holmesdale Fanatics at London Bridge station, singing and generally in high spirits but not causing any trouble whatsoever. A far cry from the highest profile video of Chelsea supporters on public transport, because it didn’t involve being racist.

*The game itself took a while to get going, with both teams enjoying spells of possession and creating half chances. Vieira’s setup seemed to catch ITV unawares – they had suggested a 4-3-3 but in fact it was a 3-5-2, with Cheikhou Kouyate dropping onto the right of the central defence and Joel Ward pushing up so high he was almost in the forward line. This was a good idea but lacking in the execution – Ward is the dictionary definition of a dependable full-back, but someone with more speed would have reached some of the long passes sent his way.

For Chelsea, the commentators seemed surprised that the Pensioners had lined up Cesar Azpilicueta at wing-back and Reece James in the back three. Happy to help with this one: Azpilicueta is routinely terrible against Wilfried Zaha, whereas James is routinely excellent against him.

*The Eagles set out to frustrate their opponents with their diligence in defence – James McArthur was tremendous in midfield, but the players regularly hunted the ball in packs of three or four, leaving more confused Pensioners in 90 minutes than an entire series of Rip Off Britain. It was clearly working: before creating a chance of note through fair means, Kai Havertz decided to cheat, and was rightly cautioned for simulation. Andreas Christensen also appeared to injure himself fouling Zaha. You don’t like to see it, but you also don’t like to see teams consider fouling a legitimate part of their gameplan – 16, apparently, but it felt like a lot more.

*Ruben Loftus-Cheek opened the scoring in the second half, following a period where his side had pinned Palace in deep. A shame to concede, but nice to see the performative non-celebration has died a death, given how wildly he celebrated against his old team. Mason Mount, meanwhile, channelled his inner Harry Kane for his footballing Tim Henman celebration. Presumably the logical endgame of this is that we can look forward to Manchester City spending an entire summer failing to sign Mount.

*Even before the goals, it felt like it wasn’t going to be Palace’s day – too many of their best moments fell to the sort of players who, in a better team, wouldn’t be anywhere near those positions. Specifically, too many shooting opportunities fell to Kouyate, who has scored three times in 137 games, instead of someone more prolific. He did well to test Edouard Mendy a couple of times, but in an parallel universe any of Zaha, Jean-Philippe Mateta, or Eberechi Eze lashes them home. Oh well, if wishes were horses, we’d all get to ride.

*To give Vieira his due, he made substitutions and changed his side’s shape to give them a chance of getting back into the game. The trouble was, the players he brought on were largely ineffective; three of the four were the previous manager’s players and they don’t fit his system as well. He replaced Mateta with Jordan Ayew, presumably to redouble the pressing efforts, but he didn’t really get into the game. He then wanted a central target man, so replaced Jeffrey Schlupp with Christian Benteke, who barely touched the ball. In the inverse of the Kouyate situation, Eze was left as the outlet for passes out of defence, which isn’t yet his strongest role. To compensate for this, Luka Milivojevic came on for Kouyate; the Serbian’s two biggest contributions were causing a promising attack to break down by failing to find Michael Olise (the only substitute who did play well) with a simple pass, and conceding possession when he fell over dribbling out of defence.

*Losing 2-0 is disappointing after the first half, but a fair reflection at full-time. It’s also a great measure of how far Crystal Palace have come. Last season they were a team that didn’t give a toss about cup games, didn’t beat teams above them in the table and if they went behind, weren’t prepared to change things up to get back into the game. Now, we’re disappointed because they lost in an FA Cup semi-final against the Club World Cup winners. At least we didn’t publicly soil ourselves like Manchester City did.
Ed Quoththeraven

 

In defence of Arteta and Salah
I’m a little surprised by some of the Arsenal fans who are getting annoyed about Arteta. Ultimately he’s missing Tomiyasu, Tierney and Partey. The equivalent would be taking Robertson, Trent and Fabinho out of the Liverpool starting XI.

I totally appreciate the frustration with letting Aubamayang move to Barcelona but hindsight is 20/20 and it’s only really because he’s been banging them in since he moved. He clearly wasn’t happy at Arsenal and wasn’t playing well for you either. He strikes me as someone who plays according to his mood and I don’t think he was in the mood to be at Arsenal anymore. Had he stayed the complaints would be about £300k a week wasted on the old man I suspect.

I’m even more surprised by some of the Liverpool fans in the mailbox. Mihir Nair, Salah has carried this team through all of last season and at least a few games this year. If he wants to go for glory in the 91st minute of a game we are winning 3-2 I’m ok with it. Don’t get me wrong I was urging him to go to the corner flag, as were half of Wembley but that’s not the mindset that gets you 20+ goals a season year after year. In addition the last three minutes were nervy at 3-2 but had he scored it would’ve been a very relaxed ending. Ultimately he backed our defence to hold out so went for goal. If he’d passed or run to the corner, got tackled and we subsequently conceded then everyone would be full of criticism anyway so he was dammed unless he scored basically.

You also criticise Van Dijk. City are one of the best attacking teams in world football and so you have to expect to concede chances to a team like that. Our defence starts from the attackers so when we concede a goal you really need to wind the tape back 30 seconds more to see where the actual defensive failings were. Diaz, Robertson and Jota all deserve criticism for that goal as much as Fabinho and Van Dijk.

I also didn’t mention it in my own mail and neither did anyone else; how f**king great has Keita been these past few weeks? Yesterday especially was the player I thought we had bought when we first signed him and he looked worth every penny we paid (finally). Famous last words coming up; if he can just keep his fitness now he will be so important to Liverpool. He is proper box to box in a way that none of our other midfielders are and I love him.
Minty, LFC

 

Liverpool sympathiser
Liverpool fan here, who has recently taken to describing myself as Liverpool sympathiser. My dad, in his early 60s now, has been a fan most of his life. During the days of Roy Evans and Houllier he’d go on about the glory days of the 80s. As you can imagine, right now he’s a happy man. But I noticed that as time as gone on, he tends to enjoy the good times and shrug off the bad. The bitter, bitter disappointment of a loss, has given way to a more phlegmatic attitude.

I find myself going the same way which is why I wonder if fans like Mihir Nair, Mumbai actually like football. I do, so I stopped letting it wind me up. The zenith for me was when I was the only Liverpool fan in a Spanish bar when they lost to Barcelona before the corner-taken-quickly comeback. I ranted and raved, swore like a sailor and generally made a show of myself (or at least that’s how I felt). Since then, I’ve made a conscious effort to not get too upset about football (easy enough to do with this Liverpool team, obviously).

By contrast, when Liverpool lost to Atlético in 2020 and Real Madrid in 2021, I was again each time the only Liverpool fan in the bar, and I had great time bantering with the Spanish fans. It’s the same with the Irish national team. Of course we are never world beaters, but we try hard and get the odd result which was enough. But the recent low points under O’Neill and Keane were tough. I used to be so emotionally invested that my mood would be soured for days after a bad game, though things are looking up right now for the Boys in Green, thankfully. So, I just…stopped getting angry. I almost exclusively focus on the upsides now. I don’t know if this somehow makes me less of a fan but I don’t care.

I don’t mean to sound preachy but I genuinely do wonder why some people watch the game. If a 3-2 cup semi-final VICTORY makes you so upset, maybe you need to reconsider your hobbies or just re-evaluate your priorities.
Alan (all the above being said, if I were a Burnley fan, I’d be seething right now and scared for the club’s future)

 

In defence of Mihir
In response to the fella asking for Salah to be dropped…. I’m in complete agreement! I know it sounds like blasphemy, but hear me out.

Let me digress quickly by saying that we were incredible in that first half, City’s woes were known after being sh*thoused all over the shop in Madrid, and we did our best to exacerbate them. We pressed and irritated with fresher legs and took advantage of the absence of KdB. We hung on a bit at the end, but any team would against the brilliance of City. We just about deserved it in the end and it was another great day to be a red.

However, back to Mo, it’s completely understandable why he’s dropped off. I read on The Athletic that he’s played over 400 minutes more than most other top PL players and a couple hundred more than the rest of the LFC squad, he must be physically exhausted. I’d also like to throw in the fact that he’s suffered AfCon AND World Cup heartbreak recently, that stuff doesn’t just go away. His legs and his mind are worn out by often having to carry us and his country.

I’d like to see him rested for a couple of games and I think for the first time in Klopp’s reign, he finally has the backup to able to do that. Give him United and Everton off, and see if he can piece together some form for Villarreal. I’m sure this won’t happen, because sadly for his legs and mind he’s just too important for us, even more so at a stage of the season where the old cliché, ‘every game is a final’, is becoming more true than it has been for 21 years.
Chris T, LFC (Still not allowing myself to dream that big)

Pogba boos raise uncomfortable questions
Yesterday evening I saw the headlines that Pogba had been booed off the pitch and Rangnick had to defend him in his post-match interview, so naturally I thought maybe he had a bad game. When the highlights of the game started and I saw Pogba being placed at the base of the midfield, I thought “here’s a potential problem” because he’s not a defensive CM.

But lo and behold, he didn’t have a bad game. He wasn’t at fault for either of the goals, he didn’t give away possession leading to a goal and nor were Pukki or Dowell Pogba’s man that he let get away from him. He didn’t pick up a booking or let indiscipline impact the team. So fuck knows if there are any good reasons to boo him at the end of the game. Maybe he should have scored the hattrick from a position he is not known for, while ensuring we kept a clean sheet. Probably Steven Gerrard or Roy Keane would have done so back when men were men and football was full of Proper Football Men.

So it must come down to this. A minority (let’s be generous) of the fan base have a problem with an outrageously talented black man at the club “not pulling his weight” despite his transfer fee, despite him having down rather more for the club that club captain Harry Maguire who was only a few million pounds less (and of course neither of them had any say in what their transfer fee was). This isn’t an argument to say that we should also shit on Maguire but to juxtapose the differing treatment between a white player who was expensive and has cost us lots of goals this season vs a black player who was expensive and simply hasn’t performed as well as some fans expect based off of an arbitrary price tag.

Which leads me to the follow up. It may be a minority of a minority of the fan base that don’t like Pogba because of the colour of his skin, or who think he needs to work harder than white colleagues who are equally underperforming, but this has bled into the rest of the fanbase such that there is undeniably a large minority, possibly even a small majority of fans who go along with the narrative that Pogba is somehow the epitome of the problem and if we can get rid of him we’ll be a better club, or that Pogba is a toxic influence on the dressing room, or that somehow we’ve been hoodwinked and Pogba is actually shit and his performances for France and for Juve are somehow not actually Paul Labile Pogba but a clone or secret twin (in the age of anti-vaxxers and 5G conspiracists you never know). These seem to be the people that would condemn the actual Ron Atkinsons of the world (you know what I’m referring to) but privately might think “he’s got a point”.

And so it’s got to a point where I look at the Man Utd fanbase and I’m a bit embarrassed to say I’m a Man Utd fan, and it’s not because we’re a hot mess of a club playing clown football that can be brilliant one minute and absolutely schoolboy the next. It’s because so many of the fans seem so f*cking entitled that they think they have meaningful input on whether one member of a team is doing enough when they know next to nothing about the team dynamics, the training regimens, the tactics prepared for each game, the individual coaching received, the nutrion plan followed etc etc just because of an arbitrary price tag that Man Utd and Juventus chiefs negotiated between themselves, and a salary that Man Utd chiefs deemed fair to pay (and if you think Pogba should have accepted less be honest when you answer the question “would you request a pay cut if you thought the labour you provided was not worth what they’re paying you?”). They feel entitled to not just the loyalty of an employee – when they have shown none to the employee – but the dreams and hopes of that employee.

Pogba is disrespectful because he has hopes and dreams that don’t end with Man Utd? What a terrible man. Outrageous, doesn’t Pogba know that he has to die on the pitch for Man Utd if we insist? And we all know this professed loyalty is one way. If Pogba or any of our players were on the receiving end of a silly bid, let’s say £320 million for Maguire, the board would be laughing all the way to the bank. To spell it out to others, Pogba owes us nothing. We neither employ him as our own employee nor do we have any right to determine what he can and can’t hope for in his career.

We have no right to determine what hairstyle he chooses nor what car he drives. We can have an opinion on all these things for sure, but be aware that your knowledge of Pogba is through a lens and unless you actually know Pogba and his circumstances personally, your opinion is worth nothing and certainly isn’t good enough reason to send hate via the internet. We might genuinely have amongst the most toxic sports fans in the country and give Star Wars fans a run for their money.

You might disagree with me and feel compelled to write a response back to the mailbox. Before you do, and you’re welcome to, sleep on it. Have a good hard think about whether we as a fanbase have treated Pogba equitably with other players at the club, past and present. Think about whether Pogba really really does deserve all the hate he gets and set out to prove so with detailed examples that you have evidence for (i.e. not “he’s really disruptive in the dressing room” but “on 30th February 20never he punched Luke Shaw in the mouth for changing the music in the dressing room and called the manager a useless c*** because he defender Shaw, as evidenced by these photos and this news story”).
Daniel, Cambridge

 

Great expectations
I got thinking about the 2-2 draw at the Etihad, and I think realistically, that was Liverpool’s one shot to overhaul City in the league. Their final fixtures are a lot kinder than Liverpool’s, and although much has been made of Liverpool’s depth lately, you just feel City has just that bit more quality on the bench. Added to that, even if Liverpool did beat City the other week, I feel they still will drop points on the run in – United, Newcastle, Everton, Spurs, Villa, Wolves and a TBC game against Southampton – I would be absolutely gobsmacked if they completed that run without dropping a point!

Which brings me to expectations – I think if Liverpool fans are honest, it’s only in the past few years we’ve realistically expected them to challenge for the league, season in season out. Yes there were sporadic one off challenges under Houllier, Benitez and Rodgers, but this is the most sustained success we have experienced since the 1980s. Yes we won UEFA Cup in 2001 & the CL in 2005 but those were outliers and we never entered any of those competitions in the same breath as the favourites.

I put this to my fellow Liverpool supporters, if we added the CL & FA Cup to the League Cup and that was the trophy haul for the season – would you consider that a success? Would your expectations have been met? Or would it be a disappointment because we didn’t bag the league? Personally I haven’t allowed to get myself carried away too much with the league this season but I’d be chuffed to bits if we won either of the other two – it’s been too long between FA Cup wins!

Or would you trade away the CL & FA Cup for the league title and the carabao cup?
Peter, Auckland, Land of the Long White Cloud

 

Say what you see
It’s cheating, NOT ‘simulation’. Can the commentator and the game records show the player was booked for “cheating”, maybe it will stop this?

Havertz cheated and considering how often this occurs, I was surprised the ref actually booked him for it.
Sandra Smith

 

Foden? Meh
Going against the grain here but I don’t understand all the Phil Foden hype. He’s a decent player but I don’t see anything special in him. He’s 21 and if truth be told would not be in City strongest line up and also wouldn’t be in England starting team. As i said he’s a decent player but cant see him reaching same levels as say Gerard, Scholes, De Bruyne etc.
Ken, Cork, Ireland

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