Notes on the 2018-19 title race with a different perspective. Writing with (and about) the enemy. By Sachin Nakrani and Simon Curtis
Liverpool 5 out of 5; City Strolling plus Merseyside Police With Smoke in their Eyes:
17th September 2018 – I do that Soccer Saturday Super 6 thing. You know the one - predict six scores correctly from six designated Saturday games that kick-off at 3pm and you could win a bundle of cash. It’s practically impossible to get right but also free to enter so, you know, might as well.
Manchester City versus Fulham was one of the six games on offer the Saturday just gone. I decided in 0.00000000000000001 seconds that City were going to win; all that was open to debate was by how many. Would it be six? Would it be seven? Could it be 10? In the end I went for 4-0 and absolutely fucking trust Pep’s boys to let me down.
3-0. Is that it? You lot serious? Frankly I don’t think you are?!
In all seriousness, this was the stroll most of us thought it was going to be and the only surprise was the margin of the triumph. Fulham arrived at the Etihad Stadium having conceded nine goals in their previous four games and no fewer than two in each of those. In other words, they’re not very good at defending and, as such, I expected City to well and truly put them to the sword. To rack up a hammering.
That appeared well and truly on when Leroy Sane scored after only two minutes, and while City continued to dominate they only scored two more, from David Silva and Raheem Sterling. “It could have been more than three goals,” Guardiola said afterwards - yes mate, it could have been four.
More than anything, Saturday’s win emphasised the depth of quality in City’s squad. Sane was making his first start of the season and simply picked up from where he left off last season while Bernardo Silva was magnificent, showing he absolutely has what it
takes to be David Silva’s long-term successor in east Manchester. The fact John Stones was able to have the afternoon off and Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus could come on for second-half cameos, stretching their legs but not having to exert themselves too much ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League opener against Lyon, told its own story.
It’s all going very nicely for City and it was certainly a nice touch making life-long fans Vera Cohen and Olga Halon mascots for the day. Aged 102 and 97 respectively they more than most appreciate just what a golden age this is for the club.
Vera and Olga will also know what a Liverpool title win looks like and, having been at Wembley on Saturday to see Jurgen’s boys make it five wins out of five with a commanding performance against Tottenham, I’m starting, for the first time this season, to believe. As Barney Ronay put it in the Guardian: “Get ready. It looks as though, this time, the Reds really are coming up the hill.”
God I hope so.
– Sachin Nakrani
14th September 2018 – Well, it took them a little while, but Mirror Sport in conjunction with Andrew Robertson have explained to us all how Liverpool can win the Premier League and Champions League this season. I'd been waiting for that. More on this shortly.
It took Merseyside Police a while too (really this time) but they have finally made their report on the disturbances before last spring’s Champions League quarter final at Anfield. As expected, It’s not exactly Wuthering Heights, but it does make for an intriguing read.
Liverpool Football Club will be relieved, if not wholly surprised, to find they have escaped further punishment. This on the grounds that the police were sadly unable - owing to the scarcity and poor quality of the mobile phone footage of the “event”, which lasted some 20 minutes, took place all along the length of the approach road to the ground and involved at its height a baying mob throwing bottles from a variety of prime positions, the best of which appeared to be the roof of several police vehicles – to glean clean footage of exactly what happened.
That is, there were youths throwing dangerous weapons at City’s bus from the roof of a police vehicle and they were neither apprehended, nor can they now be apprehended, for reasons outlined above.
What a relief it will be to the good people of Liverpool that they have no obvious reasons to start assuming they are living in a city that is open to complete anarchy and the perpetrators of said chaos can run off scot free into the woods, or any such similar growth that still exists between Widnes and the great rolling beyond that is the Irish Sea.
No, they can rest peacefully. Merseyside police were and are able to do their job to a satisfactory level. Only a month or so ago, to illustrate the point, the apprehension of no fewer than nine Italians, believed to be supporters of Roma, who caused affray in the first leg of the semi-final at the same venue, took place without fuss.
The Liverpool Echo brought us the good news thus: “Merseyside Police said the arrests were made in relation to various alleged offences - including attempted murder, affray, Section 47 assault, possession of offensive weapons, possession of a controlled drug, criminal damage and being drunk and disorderly”.
Perhaps they had been issued with heat-seeking binoculars on this occasion.
Pep Guardiola, seen exiting the bus on the big night and thanking Liverpool stewards and staff for their protection (the police were perhaps otherwise occupied trying to regain possession of their vehicles at the time), weighed in with his opinion, saying, “I’m not the police. The cameras were not good there”.
To put an end to an unseemly affair, there was a good deal of smoke wafting around Anfield on the aforementioned evening, making it very difficult to make out the difference between the real thing and tasteless cavorting about which, in its own way, is an apt enough metaphor for modern football itself. Take away the smoke, the mirrors and the hot words and sometimes what you have left is a shrivelled sausage and a slim-fit replica shirt.
Meanwhile, we were back to the action that matters after countless days of international friendlies and the unfathomable Nations League scrunching tediously into gear. Liverpool’s fifth consecutive win was only the third time in history they have managed such a feat from the Big Kick-off. Spurs, looking stretched, parched and short on ideas, were well beaten by Jurgen Klopp’s well organised side.
It is fair to say – and has already been said several times – that they look the real deal this season. How Liverpool square this excellent start with the fact it sees them only 2nd in the table is not clear. Take a look: New-look, vigorous Chelsea are top. City meanwhile are up to 3rd and strolling around like the season’s proper business is yet to begin.
It begins this week, in fact, with Champions League games beginning to clog up the fixture lists of the top sides. Liverpool face Paris St Germain, then, in four of the next five, Chelsea twice, Napoli and City. As Barney Ronay remarked enthusiastically in the Guardian “It looks as though, this time, the Reds really are coming up the hill. It was not that Liverpool played irresistibly well. This was not a performance to drive the imagination or a whirl of red pain for Tottenham. Instead this felt like something better”. Better even than red pain?
After the next five games, we will know for sure whether the Reds are coming up the hill or merely meandering over the bumps and troughs of yet another challenging Premier League campaign. In the same run of games, City will pit their wits against Lyon, Oxford, Cardiff, Brighton and Hoffenheim. When the two sides meet on Sunday 7th October, Liverpool may well be nursing one or two bruises from a very testing schedule, but Andrew Robertson will still be taking each game as it comes.
– Simon Curtis
Monday, September 17, 2018
DISPATCHES FROM THE OTHER SIDE 4
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