Jurgen Klopp is at the end of his tether with three particular Liverpool stars, while Donny van de Beek has not won over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Xherdan Shaqiri (Liverpool)
The sight of Shaqiri stripping off on 86 minutes just before Riyad Mahrez was about to take a potentially match-winning penalty against Liverpool in October 2018 just about sums up Jurgen Klopp’s attitude towards the player. Suffice it to say, when the Algerian blazed over Klopp told Shaqiri to sit down again. Klopp once dragged off the Swiss at half-time against Southampton after a virtuoso performance.
“The only problem was defensively. Offensively, it was a good idea, but, how I said, we have to work on that more often. But he was good and I liked it.” So good he got hooked at 3-0 up.
Michy Batshuayi (Crystal Palace)
After scoring for his country against Belarus in March, the Palace striker opened up on what he feels is a trust issue at Selhurst Park:
“The coach, the team members and the system are different from that at Palace. With the Red Devils, I feel a lot of trust from the coach; trust that I do not get there.”
Roy Hodgson wasn’t going to take comparisons to the progressive Robert Martinez lying down, suggesting with some justification that the quality of a Belarusian team who conceded eight goals from 15 on target was not helpful.
“I would advise people that when they do go away and say that to be a little bit careful,” he said, adding that “Michy still has goals in him.” Yeah. Just can’t get them out.
Tammy Abraham (Chelsea)
The new Chelsea Empire is enjoying a real grand opening but Tammy can’t get a seat at the Odeon VIP table. Thomas Tuchel has a cutting way with words to describe his angle: “If you just look at the data, you will say: ‘OK, he’s the top scorer.’ If you look at the data since we are here, it will maybe tell you a different story.”
Twice Abraham was substituted for tactical reasons and the manager admitted that the player was having a “rough” time in not being able to deliver in a Frankless environment. Lampard loved him. Thomas is lukewarm, to say the least.
“The squad has played very well without him, we’ve had a lot of results without him.” Ouch.
Gareth Bale (Tottenham)
“Same coach. Different players,” snorted Jose just before his exit. Now it’s a different coach with the same players. It’s a safe bet that the Portuguese wasn’t onside with the Gareth Bale project. After the Welshman put out a social media post on a ‘good’ training session, Mourinho roared back when given the opportunity: “It was a contradiction between the post and the reality.”
Everybody knows that Mourinho wants warriors rather than post-Galactico globetrotters. But after The Golfer scored a hat-trick against Sheffield United, Bale got his own back: “We’re playing football the Tottenham way.” Whether that is a good thing is a moot point.
Gabriel Martinelli (Arsenal)
Well, Martin Keown is pretty clear: “I’ve been concerned as to why that player is not playing.” When Martinelli came on against Villarreal in the first leg of the Europa League semi-final, some people got very excited. Freddie Ljungberg called him “amazing”. It was a useful cameo and at least the 19-year-old had a sense of urgency which the Gunners appeared to lack when they had the cigars out on Thursday. Arsenal fans are no doubt keen to include someone who looks hungry. However Mikel Arteta has already handed out candy to his favourite kids: Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith-Rowe.
Alex Iwobi (Everton)
It’s probably not a good idea to send cryptic messages about your favoured position when a) you are not playing that well and b) a three-time Champions League winner is managing your club. Still, Alex Iwobi couldn’t resist: ‘Always an honour to get a call up to my National Team. Hopefully, I get to play in my preferred position.’
Not very subtle. Ancelotti dead-batted: “If he has an idea of where he prefers to play, I have to know. I want to know.” Iwobi is not pulling the strings on the pitch enough to call the shots. Square pegs, round holes and one goal in 28 appearances don’t add up well.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain/Naby Keita (Liverpool)
While Naby Keita is the Top Gear car that doesn’t start, AOC is the Lightning McQueen that turned into a rust bucket at Liverpool. It’s the old Oxlade-Chamberlain that Klopp trusts. Remember the one that thrusts forward, scores against Manchester City and provides “the completely different dynamic”? These days, the Liverpool midfielder looks almost apologetic when getting a 10-minute run-around to see if his knees can take it. Keita routinely disappears from view with injury and then suddenly turns up in Madrid, only to disappear again during the game. It’s really not cool.
Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
Pep and Sergio are not exactly brothers in arms. “He will die scoring goals; there is no doubt about that,” the manager once said of City’s most supreme centre-forward. However, he won’t score sitting on the bench and their edgy relationship is almost done as the striker continues on his cameo farewell tour looking like an old hustler run out of town by the new breed. The problem with Aguero is that he was the true No. 9 that didn’t fit into the false role. And he scored too many goals to be dropped. If profligacy affects City and Chelsea in Istanbul, then even a half-fit Sergio might fancy one last hurrah.
Donny van de Beek (Manchester United)
Given that United are squeezing four games into eight days after the (non)events at Old Trafford last Sunday, there was no excuse to keep DVDB in storage. Solskjaer even insisted the midfielder “has been really good in training”. Wowzers. Must be moving up the trust scale like a snail on skis. The Dutchman didn’t exactly take his chance against Roma. With United’s big-game, look-at-me players taking centre-stage before the big day in Gdansk, Van de Beek continues to be the afterthought that OGS never really thought of in the first place. Donny, someone still might love you…
Ross Barkley (Aston Villa)
The Chelsea star has been drifting for a few years but his loan spell at Aston Villa showed some promise. At one stage, a permanent deal looked on the cards. Dean Smith beamed: “I look at the Premier League and you need legs in your midfield area because you’ve got to cover a lot of ground in a game. Ross does that. He brings us that added bit of quality that we needed.”
Following his return from a hamstring injury, the former Everton player just hasn’t looked mobile at all. Smith has gone cold, preferring to talk about John McGinn and Jacob Ramsey instead. It’s the dreaded ‘Ross is working hard to get back to full fitness’ downward spiral. Barkley has over a year left on his contract at Stamford Bridge but the chances of thriving in Tuchel’s finely-tuned crack force are limited.
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