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Liverpool v West Ham United

Filed: Friday, 9th December 2016
By: Preview Percy

..You know all that stuff about "peace and goodwill to all men?" Preview Percy doesn't. Here's his look at Sunday's visit to Anfield. There will be some useful statistical input from www.kickoff.co.uk just to sweeten the pill. And boy does it need sweetening....

Next up we travel to Liverpool where kick-off on Sunday is 4:30pm. What’s with the extra half hour guys? There’s no engineering work en route out of Euston, though if you’re making an early start from Essex have a gander at the lines in and out of Liverpool Street where replacement buses will be the order of the day first thing in the morning. They’ll probably reopen the lines five minutes after the last train that would have been any use has departed. They are like that.

So Liverpool then. The BBC’s favourite city and club. For some reason. They currently sit in third place on 30 points, four behind Chelsea and one behind Arsenal. Latest result was the hilarious 4-3 defeat at Bournemouth which they somehow contrived to lose despite the referee turning down the most stonewall of penalties for the home side, an error compounded by the astonishing number of times he “forgot” about the advantage law whenever Bournemouth drew a foul in promising territory.

The Work Experience Girl wearing a Paul McCartney & Wings t-shirt without knowing who they were (“only the band the Beatles could have been” – A. Partridge) tells me that they spent their summer in traditional style by nipping down to the south coast to pinch a player off Southampton. This time round it was Sadio Mane who took their fancy with £34m going in the opposite direction. With add-ons that could rise to £36m.

The Senegalese attacker/winger depending on mood started his football career at the Senegalese football academy “Academie Generation Foot” whose wonderful name wouldn’t be out of place in that Fast Show Channel 9 results section alongside FC Bombo Chipolata.

As a citizen of Francophone West Africa, France was always the most likely route into the European game for the player and so it was he ended up at Metz. It wasn’t long before Austrian moneybags Red Bull Salzburg picked him up and, finding that he wasn’t much of a driver, they stuck him in their football team instead.

31 goals in 63 league appearances was enough to attract attention from elsewhere in Europe though Red Bull appeared disinclined to let the player go. That wasn’t a problem for Mane who simply didn’t turn up for training and missed out on a so-called Champions League qualifier. Southampton won the race and shelled out £11.8m.

His spell in Hampshire was not entirely without incident – he was once dropped from the starting line-up for a match against Liverpool as punishment for turning up late. After his move to Merseyside he soon fell into “the Liverpool way” by picking up a reputation for what is euphemistically referred to as “simulation” by the newspapers and “bloody diabolical cheating” by most football supporters outside those in attendance at Anfield, Old Trafford, White Hart Lane, Stamford Bridge and the Etihad. The usual site has listed Mane as doubtful for this match with that mystery ailment “a knock”.

The next biggest fee was the £23m paid to Newcastle for Georginio Wijnaldum. Seems a a lot, though one suspects that the Liverpool negotiating team have toughened up a bit since the days of Ashley continually raising the fee for Andy Carroll out of curiosity to see how far they would go.

According to well-connected sources close to Preview Alastair (the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home for the Bewildered’s resident Geordie) the £35m paid for Carroll was something like double what Ashley was willing to take for the player. In Wijnaldum’s case the fee was moderated by Newcastle’s relegation. In the end Wijnaldum had to chose between Liverpool and Spurs or to put it another way, between the Tottenham of the North and the Liverpool of the South. Merseyside it was then.

As a kid born in Rotterdam he showed little interest in football, preferring to concentrate on gymnastics. Presumably including tumbling then. A Damascene conversion to “the beautiful game” occurred at the age of six and he started to play for the age group sides for Sparta up to the age of 14 when he figured his development would be better suited up the road at Feyenoord. He became Feyenoord’s youngest ever player making his debut as a 16 year-old. He racked up over 100 league appearances for Feyenoord before throwing his lot in with the electric razor works team at PSV.

He made his debut for the senior Netherlands national team at this point, having represented his country at various age group levels. Wait for it….. to date he has 36 Dutch Caps (hurrah!). £14m saw him cross the North Sea to Newcastle – a fee that, much to Preview Alastair’s disgust, is still the largest fee paid out since Ashley took over. The demise of the Geordies into the Championship meant that “Gini” (as his chums call him) wasn’t going to hang about and having made the all too easy decision that there wasn’t a barge pole long enough to get him to N17 he hopped across the Pennines to Scouseland.

They brought in a new ‘keeper during the close season. Klopp decided to stick with what he knows best and went back home to Deutschland. In return for £4.7m the good people of Mainz handed over Loris Karius. Karius had spent a while as a kid as part of the Man City youth system but returned home at the age of 18 without having troubled the first XI statisticians. Coming on as a sub for Mainz he became the Bundesliga’s youngest ever custodian of the onion bag at the age of 19. Although he was voted “second-best ‘keeper in the Bundesliga” last season, and Klopp announced that he was henceforth to be considered Liverpool’s no.1, I have to say that even before he spilled the shot that gave Bournemouth their deserved win there was an element of shakiness about him last weekend – I distinctly recall his handling looking a bit iffy on one shot that ended up going over the bar but could have gone anywhere.

In truth it’s not an area of strength for them. Mignolet has had his moments over the years after all. Which may be why they brought in veteran shot-stopper Alex Manninger on a free from Augsburg. At 39 the former Arsenal man looks to be there as cover, especially as Bogdan is out for the long term with knee ligament problems. Bogdan has the brightest red hair known to exist out of photoshop and I will forever remember the sight of him turning out for Bolton in a fluorescent pink shirt that clashed so violently with his hair matron had to turn the tv down to black & white to avoid inflicting further damage on the retinas of those of us in the rest home who still have them.

Aside from Mane, whose status isn’t certain at the time of writing, the biggest injury miss will be Coutinho, whose ankle will keep him away until the new year. Another useful player who lets himself down with the tumbling antics that the club has become so noted for. In fact one of his efforts against Spurs last season was being slated as the “worst dive ever” by some sources. It’s hard to argue with that – if even Jonathan Moss spots it it’s got to be pretty special.

In midfield they are will field Jordan Henderson who, inexplicably, has not only been capped by England but has also skippered the side. There was an intriguing headline online the other day which ran "Carragher slams Henderson for copying Gerrard's hated habit". This turned out to refer to Henderson's retreating to centre back after conceding a goal, rather than anything more lurid. Henderson's reaction wasn't recorded though if he had any presence of mind he might have pointed out that Carragher is probably about as good a pundit as he was a player.

Joining Coutinho on the sick list will be Daniel Surridge. He always seems to come back from long-term injury against us to score. But not this week. Liverpool have denied that the player will be off in January but given that his current calf injury is listed as "no return date" it's no real surprise we've been linked with him is it.

Ok I can’t put this off any longer. Us. What a shambles. I complained about the lack of backbone in the League Cup match up at Old Trafford. At least there was that underlying feeling of “it’s only the League Cup” to fall back on. However Saturday evening’s debacle eclipsed anything we’ve seen this season. Then if things weren’t bad enough at 4-1 the officials decided to give them a fifth. Yes lovely finish and all that but when there is daylight between the scorer and the last defender I think we’re entitled to some sort of explanation.

Few came out of it with any credit. Fletcher looked interested. Lanzini could, nay ought to have scored or at least fed a team-mate in the first half. Carroll’s return was marked by a poacher’s finish and he may be looking at a start this weekend if he's managed to get through the week uninjured.

However, the defence. Oh dear. Ok I understand losing a player vital to our usual system in Kouyate was gong to cause problems. I also understand that losing Collins after three minutes was never going to be anything other than disruptive. However, even allowing for that, if Arbeola had the slightest idea of where he was supposed to be playing he hid it bloody well.

The injury situation doesn’t look like improving any either. Cresswell and Antonio, who are key to playing with three at the back, both seem to have had their returns put back until midweek, though some sources suggest that both are possibles. I guess that extra half-hour might come in handy after all. With Masuaku and Arbeola the only wide defenders available we may have to start with a flat back four for this one.

That might cheer up Payet, who has been as miserable as sin since we’ve been playing with a three. Other than the injury doubts the team pretty much picks itself really given that we have so many injuries they will have to start clearing space in the Indian Burial Ground our new stadium seems to have been built on. I guess the main questions are whether to start Carroll and whether Zaza will be involved (only if they rotate the pitch through 90 degrees I’d suggest). Assuming he’s trained ok this week I’d give Carroll a start myself and let Fletcher provide the fresh legs later on.

Prediction? Do I have to? Ok yes we got something up there last time and we did turn them over three times last season. However, that involved a team that looked interested. The chances of lightning striking twice with our paper-thin resources look slim to non-existent from this angle.

Well as they used to say on “Through The Keyhole” (particularly in the days before before the “so unfunny he could be scouse” Keith ****ing Lemon took it over) let’s look at the evidence. A side low on confidence that has a habit of folding quicker than a rubbish poker player. Currently doing a good impersonation of one of the lower orders of invertebrates. Against a side that will be stung by its defeat to a side who played last weekend in exactly the same way as we didn’t and, apparently, can’t and, despite the hint, almost certainly won't this weekend. At a ground where the assistance given by referees to the home side is criminally embarrassing (see Noble’s sending off last season). With a notoriously untrustworthy referee involved.

Now I've perused the betting odds for this and other Premier League games but this is only going to go one way isn’t it? The usual £2.50, which this week I was going to not give to any carol singers still stupid enough to pitch up at the rest home after all these years of abuse, will therefore be delivered to Dolores behind the counter at Winstones the Turf Accountants with a betting slip containing the words 3-0 home win.

Enjoy the game!

When last we met at Anfield: Drew 0-0 (FA Cup 4th Round January 2016): They will point out how good a game Randolph had as goalkeeper. We will point out how good a game Stephen Caulker had as goalkeeper. Without actually being one. Yes it’s another example of the away side getting nothing from the officials at Anfield as the most blatant of penalty appeals was turned down by, yup Martin Atkinson. Justice prevailed in the replay as we went on to win 2-1 at the Boleyn. Unfortunately Atkinson was there again in the quarter final..

Referee: Mark Clattenburg. One of the self-styled celeb referees. PGMOL once tried to get shot of him due to debt problems he had relating to his electrical business. They failed. Which turned out to be a shame. If only they would put that sort of effort into ousting bad referees rather than the ones they just don't like.

Danger Man: Divok Origi – making the most of the opportunities afforded to him by the absence of Coutinho. Also Mark Clattenburg. Not the sharpest tool in the box he couldn’t tell a dive from a plate of chips and will almost certainly fall for every piece of “simulation” in the book.

Percy’s Poser: Last week we asked what prompted the mysterious and sudden disappearance of several Arsenal players either on loan or full transfer to European clubs back in 2001? The first correct answer out of the digital hat came from Mrs Hetty Cordwainer of Stifford Clays who said: “Those players all disappeared during the great fake passport scandal of 2001. Players from outside the EU had been playing within the EU based on passports either obtained from EU countries or, quite often obtained from people good at forging such documents. The Arsenal contingent disappeared shortly before the FA turned up for an unannounced inspection of documents. Which, I am sure was pure coincidence and had nothing to do with the fact that David Dein, the then Vice-Chairman of the club was also quite high up the FA pecking order at the time”. Hetty wins a copy of Arsene Wenger’s book “Improve Your Eyesight The Natural Way” Well done Hetty!

For this week’s Poser we have the biggest prize we have ever offered. An all expenses* return trip to the International Space Station! With such a big prize at stake we’ve had to make the question a toughie so, for your chance to follow in the steps of Helen Sharman, Tim Peake and Chris Waddle’s penalty in the 1990 World Cup, all you have to do is name a Liverpudlian “comedian” who is actually funny. Good luck!

*Winners must pay their own transport costs and be available for travel on 20 December 2026. Oyster cards are not valid for on Soyuz spacecraft. As travel date is a Sunday a replacement bus service may be in operation.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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