Monday Morning quarterback: Victory means both little and lots

Daniel Storey on the weekend's big talking points.

Monday Morning quarterback: Victory means both little and lots

Daniel Storey on the weekend's big talking points.

Klopp now faces his next Liverpool challenge

Ordinarily, a point earned away at a Big Six rival would elicit general positivity. Liverpool have faced Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal — three of them away from home — and remain unbeaten in November. All is bright.

Yet, such is the pace that Manchester City have set, any missed opportunity to seal victory must cause a pang of regret. Liverpool have conceded goals at a rate of less than one every two league games, but their defensive redemption is not yet complete.

This is the problem for Jurgen Klopp, dealing with the expectation of a title challenge and yet pitched against perhaps the most dominant team in the Premier League history. There are few signs that Pep Guardiola’s team are weaker than last season.

Such is the life of an elite manager, where standing still is mis-sold as moving backwards; merely finishing third or fourth would be interpreted as Liverpool failure. We are counting on Klopp to manufacture a meaningful challenge to City’s crown. That creates finer margins than Liverpool’s manager would care for.

Sterling peaking at the right time

This week, Raheem Sterling closed in on signing of a new contract worth £300,000 a week. It allowed those within the media who delight in criticising the England international to take their potshots. One tabloid story made reference to a hat he wore to training. Imagine the horror.

By yesterday, Sterling was proving all over again why Pep Guardiola loves him so dearly. At the age of 23, he is one of the highest-performing players in the Premier League, just as he was last season. A list of players ranked by their total number of goals and assists sees only Mohamed Salah ahead of Sterling. It is a truly extraordinary redemption.

Benitez proves he is the man for Newcastle’s mission

The most significant aspect of Newcastle United’s first victory of the season is that Rafa Benitez barely offered a hint of post-match excitement. If treating disaster and triumph as the same is the mark of a man, Benitez can rightly stand tall.

There have been significant doubts about Benitez’s performance over the last few weeks. Nobody reasonable believes that this great club has not been trodden into the dirt by anyone but owner Mike Ashley, but the manager’s tactics and team selection had not been above criticism. Perhaps Benitez had lost the will to fight.

This was proof that there is no better manager for squeezing the most out of an undercooked squad than him. Newcastle fought with their backs to the wall, despite losing three of the starting XI to injuries. Ayoze Perez’s winner sparked cheers of relief that could have been heard several miles down the A1. While Benitez still believes, so should they.

Nobody is talking about Richarlison’s transfer fee now

Getting outraged about rising transfer fees is a distinctly modern phenomenon. When Everton paid an initial £40m for an uncapped 21-year-old Brazilian who had only shone for six months in the Premier League, it provoked an unhappy chorus of tuts and gasps. Game’s gone mad, you see.

Three months later, those who believed Everton guilty of gross overspending are conspicuous by their silence. Richarlison now has two goals in four senior Brazil caps and has become the leader of Everton’s attack despite his tender years. Against Brighton, he scored his fifth and sixth league goals of the season. He’s also had to learn to play as a central striker, having been used on the left at Watford.

Rather than £40m seeming excessive, it now looks cheap for a forward who might be worth half as much again were an elite club to come calling. It’s a lesson to those who judge a player’s worth before he has even kicked a ball for his new team.

Leicester victory means little, but also the world

How could three little points make anyone at Leicester City happy, after the week they have endured?

How could one victory erase such solemnity and sorrow?

The answer — to state the obvious — is that it couldn’t. Leicester have suffered a terrible loss that will take a long time to overcome. Shock tragedy creates a wound that reopens when you expect it least.

Sporting triumph is no consolation for loss.

But the best way for Leicester to recover is to rise up onto their feet and play. They could have postponed their trip to Cardiff City, particularly given that they are flying to Thailand to attend the funeral, but the decision was made to play on in the memory of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and those who lost their lives last Saturday night.

Winning — even playing — at Cardiff displayed the exact mental strength that will prove so invaluable in Leicester City’s recovery. They huddled in the centre-circle before kick-off and they steeled themselves to take the first steps in the right direction. Leicester’s players and staff should be proud of their resolve.

Burnley must improve to avoid trouble

It is a statistic that proves both Sean Dyche’s overachievement at Burnley and the significance of their current slump. Until the end of April, Burnley had gone a faintly ridiculous 62 games without conceding more than three times in a Premier League game. They did not always trouble the division’s strongest teams, but nor did they capitulate. Since then, Dyche’s side have conceded four or more goals in five of their 13 league matches. If heavy defeats against Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal can be excused, defensive calamity against Fulham and West Ham cannot.

A team’s whose success was founded upon a solid defensive platform has the second leakiest back line in the division. Worrying times at Turf Moor.

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