Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Blues have Reds in their sights

TOFFEES SENSE A SHIFT ON MERSEYSIDE

TOFFEES SENSE A SHIFT ON MERSEYSIDE
Aston Villa hit 7

Liverpool's extraordinary 7-2 loss at Aston Villa brought back memories of Brazil's humiliating 7-1 defeat to Germany at the 2018 World Cup, a result so jaw-dropping it was like a familiar friend had acted completely out of character and shocked everyone.

Unlike the selecao, the Reds were playing away but they were reigning champions and were not facing the eventual World Cup winners but rather a side who scraped Premier League survival on the final day of last season.

To show us how far Liverpool have slipped, Jurgen Klopp's men won the corresponding fixture at Villa Park 2-1 last season.

Post-mortems are mulling over why Klopp's famous gegenpressing evaporated in Birmingham and why the managerial maestro, defensive rock Virgil Van Dijk, and the rest of the side did not try to change things once it was clear Villa had found their Achilles' heel of a vulnerable high line.

Liverpool's loss has let the other side of Merseyside revel for a change. Everton have won their first four games (five including the League Cup) for the first time in half a century and are top of the league.

TOFFEES SENSE A SHIFT ON MERSEYSIDE
A Bit of Colombia on Merseyside

For years I have wondered what the blue side of Merseyside needed to take it to the next level as they always seemed mean at home but crumbled on the road. Now it seems some shrewd summer shopping from Carlo Ancelotti has hauled them up there.

While purchases like James Rodriguez have taken to their new assignments like ducks to water, quite literally in last Saturday's deluge in Liverpool, Dominic Calvert-Lewin is on fire with six goals in four games. 

The 23-year-old has never played for England beyond the U-21s but a phone call from Gareth Southgate must be in the offing as he is leading the goalscoring charts along with Tottenham's flying Korean Son Heung-Min, an ever-ebullient attacker.

"Players with quality doesn't (sic) have problems to adapt," explained Carlo Ancelotti, talking of Rodriguez's three goals and starring performances in his first five games in England.

"Football is not so complicated," he went on. "I want to say the pitch is always the same. The opponent is always 11, the ball is the same, the goal doesn't move. So football is simple. It's not complicated."

Well yes and no. A foreign climate, food, language, and society can often trip up the talented, as can the lack of friends and family. Culture shock is a real thing many of us experience at some point in life and footballers are no different. In the past, British players routinely struggled to adapt overseas from Jimmy Greaves to Ian Rush, who lamented he could not find Rice Krispies in Turin.

South Americans have often found it tough in England too. For every Juninho Paulista, who thrived in Middlesbrough, there was an Angel Di Maria, who failed to adapt to Manchester. Diego Forlan and Juan Veron also struggled at Old Trafford yet were outstanding in other leagues.

For James, England is the sixth country outside Colombia he has played in so perhaps he is used to change by now. Still, one wonders what he made of his drizzly surroundings when he arrived, and if at some point during Saturday's monsoon he dreamed of his hot and humid home city of Cucuta, near Colombia's border with Venezuela.

The Merseyside derby at Goodison Park on the 17th of this month looks particularly tasty and a true measure of whether Everton's dream start is just that, a dream.

On current form the blue side of Liverpool are favourites - a most unexpected scenario. Klopp and Co. will doubtless be beavering away during the international break to ensure there is no changing of the guard at Goodison and the champions will surely bounce back, but right now in the city, blue is the colour.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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