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Running low on plates to spin & a breaking point for Klopp and VAR

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FC Midtjylland are not Norwegian. I know that deep down; I know they’re Danish, but my subconscious keeps trying to convince me that they’re Norwegian. I go around in circles with it.

It is a similar phenomenon to how, without even noticing, I speculate the careers of old school friends I’ve not seen in 30 years, when they pop up on Facebook. Once erroneously guessed, those ‘careers’ morph into being taken as gospel to be their genuine job.

It’s a quirk of being the owner of an esoteric mind. Nothing is as it seems and the impossible is infinitely possible.

Handed a keyboard and given the remit to write articles for human consumption, even I’m surprised sometimes, by the output when I read it back, once published.

On the back of my Wolves article a few days ago, the lovely Anders Svensson got in touch, via LinkedIn, to alert me that I’d slipped up once again, on the ‘Midtjylland are Norwegian’ thing.

Anders is Swedish, thus, I’d dragged another Scandinavian nation into this sorry tale. Just Finland, Iceland, the Faroe and Aland Islands to go and I’ll have confused an entire sub-region of Northern Europe.

 

V-A-Farce

HERNING, DENMARK - Wednesday, December 9, 2020: Liverpool's Rhys Williams (L) and captain Jordan Henderson during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between FC Midtjylland and Liverpool FC at the Herning Arena. (Pic by Lars Møller/Propaganda)

Of course, VAR was the hottest topic yet again on Wednesday evening; ambiguity ruled on Wednesday evening.

It felt like a night where nobody seemed to know how to operate the VAR system; it was a match where the dazed and confused operators of Stockley Park were made to look like the experts they most certainly aren’t.

If a game of football threatens the 100-minute mark, without bones being broken or ligaments being ruptured, then you know VAR has reached new levels of ineptitude. You know you’ve broken new ground in incredulity when a game leaves a VAR advocate like Jurgen Klopp reconsidering his support of the concept.

A penalty awarded, while ignoring an offside in the build-up, and a goal being denied, having initially been disallowed for an offside that never occurred, only to be ruled out for a handball that didn’t seem to happen.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. If you can’t make your mind up over a decision after 30 seconds of reviewing it, then there is no clear and obvious error to be overturned.

HERNING, DENMARK - Wednesday, December 9, 2020: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson (L) and manager Jürgen Klopp after the UEFA Champions League Group D match between FC Midtjylland and Liverpool FC at the Herning Arena. (Pic by Lars Møller/Propaganda)

As it was, it was a harmless night for this to erupt. Yet, we can’t move forward with any great sense of certainty that lessons will be learned by the powers that be; we can’t move forward with any great sense of confidence that common sense will prevail.

If supporters could return to stadiums in their droves, then they’d be taking to the streets in protest about what was happening in those stadiums. The theory of VAR will always be sound, but the application of the practical side seems too much for those operating it.

Perhaps VAR needs to be operated by specifically trained officials; perhaps VAR needs to be operated by former players. When it comes to career on-pitch officials stood watching TV screens, advising the on-pitch officials in the stadiums, then it is proving to be the blind leading the blind.

VAR needs to be viewed by people that observe the game through the eyes of the players. We might get greater consistency that way.

 

Starting questions

HERNING, DENMARK - Wednesday, December 9, 2020: Liverpool's Diogo Jota during the pre-match warm-up before the UEFA Champions League Group D match between FC Midtjylland and Liverpool FC at the Herning Arena. (Pic by Lars Møller/Propaganda)

Away from the travails of VAR, we took to the pitch with a line-up that made sense in some respects, and not in others. It was a genuine surprise to see Mo Salah on the team sheet, as it was Fabinho, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Diogo Jota, to an extent.

I mean, I understand that somebody must play on a night like Wednesday, in a game that Liverpool should want to win, and be organised and balanced enough to do so.

It made sense that Caoimhin Kelleher continued in goal, maintaining his momentum in the process, it also made sense that Rhys Williams got another game, which made 45 minutes for Fabinho understandable, if something of an irritant. Konstantinos Tsimikas getting the nod made complete sense, although picking up an injury was as unfortunate as it was unsurprising.

What made less sense was not opting for Joel Matip in for the second half, instead throwing Billy Koumetio in at the deep end, without the reassurance of an experienced central defensive partner.

Simultaneously, it made sense to protect Matip from any unnecessary risk, yet if you keep Matip out of harm’s way, surely you do the same with Fabinho

HERNING, DENMARK - Wednesday, December 9, 2020: Liverpool's Rhys Williams tackles FC Midtjylland's Sory Kaba (R) during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between FC Midtjylland and Liverpool FC at the Herning Arena. (Pic by Lars Møller/Propaganda)

I can find sense in Naby Keita stepping up his return to fitness, but less so Alexander-Arnold. The latter might have been out for a few weeks, but with no previous for injury, he can walk straight into the team on Sunday in the Premier League, without taking part on Wednesday night. Conversely, there was also sense in Neco Williams stepping down, after a run of games.

With so many players still out injured, the plate-spinning Klopp was required to do meant whoever he chose to hold back with one hand, loosened the grip when it came to others.

Salah tripped Liverpool’s goal in, in record time when it came to the Champions League, yet he should have had the night off, while Jota playing could have been predicted as soon as he found himself on the bench against his former club last Sunday.

Of those who likely don’t get a game at Craven Cottage at the weekend, Leighton Clarkson was undoubtedly the biggest plus point of the evening, but the alterations in approach to the deployment of Takumi Minamino were of interest.

Collectively, we produced a promising first half, followed by a second half of intense defending. Minamino’s winner looked fine, but Midtjylland would have been hard done by, had they suffered a late defeat.

 

London-bound

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 17, 2019: Fulham's caretaker manager Scott Parker arrives before the FA Premier League match between Fulham FC and Liverpool FC at Craven Cottage. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

All very black and white, when you take the plate-spinning and VAR out of the equation. You can’t take them out of the equation though.

When push comes to shove, five of the starting line-up in Norway (I jest) on Wednesday night will expect to play at Fulham, on Sunday.

Not ideal, when there is an incessant amount of football surrounding us.

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