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West Ham United v Liverpool

Filed: Thursday, 2nd November 2017
By: Preview Percy

When we asked Preview Percy why he was so early with this week's look at Liverpool. He muttered something about laughing so much at what Jurgen Klopp said about Barcelona he needs hospital treatment. For further details enquire within. If you have nothing better to do....

Next up we return to the Olympic Stadium where we will host Liverpool. Kick-off is 5:30 which sounds ok until you consider that, due to the usual engineering works that they reserve for our home matches, you’ll probably need to take the extra two and a half hours to get to the ground.

So Liverpool then. 6th in the table with 16 points from the ten played so far. Should you require a microcosm of the love affair that referees and the media have for this club you need only look at last weekend’s defeat of Huddersfield. They were given an early leg up by referee Kevin Friend who saw a minor shirt tug by a Terriers defender result in a dramatic collapse to the floor by Firmino that even he was surprised resulted in a spot kick. Which Salah missed. Fair enough if you apply the laws of the game properly. However Firmino had a decent chunk of a defender’s shirt when scoring their second. Confirmation, as if it were needed, that the laws of the game depend on the colour of your shirt these days.

The previous week they got torn a new one by Spurs at Wembley, going down 4-1 in the battle of the deluded fans. Talking of the self-styled “best supporters in the world”, after the Spurs match, defender Loverin received death threats aimed at his own family, presumably from disgruntled Liverpool supporters dissatisfied with a performance that saw him substituted after little more than 30 minutes. Now I realise that Antonio has been the subject of major criticism after last weekend’s events (more of which later) but as far as I am aware nobody has actually been stupid enough to threaten the player. But there again we aren’t the “best supporters in the world” are we?

Talking of which, I am reminded of our trip to the Midlands to West Brom earlier this season where we entered an establishment which offered subsistence to the weary traveller, including a reasonably splendid selection of ales, wines and spirits in addition to fare of a more solid nature. It was a venue that we had used in the past on our travels in the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered’s minibus (which really does have a valid MOT despite all appearances to the contrary). However, on arrival we were informed that football supporters weren’t generally welcomed any more. As it happened Matron fluttered her eyelashes at the gentleman concerned and he was putty in her hands so we were able to enjoy our stay as planned. Later we enquired what had caused the change in football supporter policy. “Liverpool fans” we were told. “Last time they visited things went missing or broken and our regulars were hounded out. So we decided to ban supporters – the extra money isn’t worth the hassle”. Having counted his takings from our visit it is, thankfully, a policy that is under review, but it seemed a shame that one unruly shower might ruin a very pleasant stopping point for the rest of us.

On the pitch, the work-experience kid of as yet-to-be determined gender wearing a hoodie who seems only able to communicate with some strange grunting noises informs me that four new players arrived at Anfield during the close season. It was supposed to be five but in their usual manner they made an illegal approach for at least one of their targets in the form of Virgil Van Dyke. This cheesed off the good people of Southampton so much that they stood their ground and refused to sell, the implication being that were the player to actually sign for Liverpool Southampton would actually go through with a formal report to the authorities. With the club already under a ban from signing academy players over illegal payments made to a 12 year-old Stoke player (and then offering to pay the kid’s parents to lie about the payments) Liverpool were the ones to blink and withdrew from all interest in signing Van Dyke, presumably lest Southampton ask for all their transfers over the previous couple of years be taken into account.

So (ignoring the one that got away) the first arrival after the window opened was Mohamed Saleh. This is Saleh’s second spell in England having previously been with Chelsea for a few years. He actually picked up a Premier League winner’s medal whilst at Chelsea, though that owed more to club generosity than to any major contribution on the part of the player, who had played in three games that season. The end of 2014-15 saw the player signing a loan deal with Fiorentina on what was, ostensibly, an 18-month deal that would take him through to the end of 15-16. The player had other ideas about that and, despite Fiorentina reportedly activating a clause allowing them to buy the player outright the player was adamant that a return to Florence was a non-starter. Instead Saleh went to Roma, initially on a loan deal that was made permanent at the start of 2016-17 for a reported fee of €15m. One year later he left Tiberside for Merseyside for €42m (about £38m give or take), the fee potentially rising to €50m (about £45.5m give or take) with add-ons etc. A full international with Egypt with over 50 caps to his name, he was his country’s top scorer in their successful World Cup Qualification campaign and, injury permitting, will be off to Russia next season, unlike Scotland. Or Wales. He has been referred to as the “Egyptian Messi” which is not to be confused with our former loan signing Mido’s nickname of “The Messy Egyptian” which was derived from his habit of leaving his old burger cartons lying around the back of the team bus.

The fee of £35m paid for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain raised a few eyebrows. He is one of those players who you look at and are amazed to discover that somehow they have gleaned 30 England caps without really registering on the radar. Yes 30. The size of the fee equalled that they paid for Andy Carroll and makes one wonder if Arsenal employed the same tactics as had been employed by Mike Ashley in his negotiations with Liverpool all those years ago. You will recall the principle tactic was to take Liverpool’s opening bid and see how far above his default fee they would be willing to go. When Liverpool eventually doubled the fee that Ashley would have been willing to sell for he cashed-in. Other than that Oxlade-Chamberlain is best known for stepping out with somebody called Perrie Edwards (no, me neither) who I am reliably informed is some sort of chanteuse with “Little Mix” (no me neither), who I am reliably informed are a popular beat combo whose wax cylinders sell strongly enough to merit them a place in the hit parade from time to time, possibly alongside those of Dame Vera Lynn, Helen Shapiro and Kathy Kirby.

A much smaller fee was paid for former Chelsea player Dominic Solanke, though how much less isn’t known. Chelsea wanted something like £10m in compensation for the player. Liverpool (in an apparent reversal of their usual policy) offered something like £3m . This being a compensation deal rather than an out and out transfer, the deal went through anyway with a tribunal being required to settle matters. Damned if I can find the results of said tribunal which surely must have sat by now.

Solanke came to fame just over a year ago with newspaper headlines – later retracted with apology – suggesting that the player (who had yet to make a Premier League start remember) was looking for £50k a week. As mentioned, this figure wherever it came from, turned out to be to be complete and utter twaddle but however much he was after it was more than Chelsea were willing to pay so off he went claiming “first XI opportunities” as the prime mover for his departure.

£8m went on Hull left-back Andy Robertson. An unexpected signing to be sure given his CV which includes Queen’s Park and Dundee United as well as Hull. He’s been used sparingly this season, possibly as a disciplinary measure for calling his son “Rocco” something that Social Services have been alerted to and will deal with when it gets to the top of the caseworker’s pile some time in 2025.

It’s a bit of a surprise that talismanic midfielder Philipe Coutinho is still there. Actually it came as more of a surprise when I discovered that he signed nearly five years ago, arriving for what now looks like very small beer in the form of £8.5m. Was it really that long ago? It looked like that the Brazilian would be on his bike when Barcelona offered £72m for the player in the summer. When that initial bid was rejected the player submitted a transfer request and two more bids came in from Catalonia, both of which were also rejected. It was claimed by Barca that Liverpool were holding out for something like £185m (depending on the rate wherever you pick up your holiday Euros), a figure that Liverpool denied. Hilariously, with Barcelona taking time out from looking out of the window at people rioting in the streets to start making noises about how good Coutinho would look in red and blue, manager Klopp (the thinking man’s Brendan Rogers) went ballistic fuming that it was “disgraceful” that Barcelona were apparently in touch with the player without permission. Irony not their strong point up there then. Coutinho has been struggling with a “hip flexor strain” (no me neither) of late and may be a doubt for this one. Coutinho’s knock may well be genuine for all I know (though he would be far from the first person on Merseyside to throw a dubious sickie). However, as we are now less than a month before the transfer window opens you can start looking out for mysterious muscle strains appearing on players up and down the country which miraculously disappear just after a transfer or 1 February whichever is sooner.

OK us now. Time and time again I have bemoaned the fact that we have a habit of sitting back and letting things happen when we have a lead. We just sat back and invited pressure and it was only a combination of the fact that Joe Hart was on such good form and the fact that Crystal Palace are not very good (the blokes in Row Z at either end must have been taking it personally) that kept us in the lead for so long. Of course it didn’t help that Ogbonna was odds on to give away a penalty, especially given their propensity to fall over at every possible opportunity. So bad were Palace that their antics would have made this weekend’s visitors blush – and they invented it. The only point at which Zaha stayed on his feet in the 8th minute of stoppage time. The clumsiness of Oggie’s challenge on Townsend meant a spot-kick was inevitable, though the little dive at the end made sure.

Now a word about Antonio. Yes he cocked-up. Big time. But do you not think that’s occurred to him? Given that he has arguably won us any number of games in the past some of the stick he has been getting has been ludicrous. Mind you, the daftest thing to be heard came from Garth Crooks, whose comment that Antonio should spend the next month with the academy side was quite possibly the single most stupid thing ever uttered by a TV pundit not called Carragher. As a player Crooks would have spent most of his time with the under nines had he applied the same logic to his own career.

Lots of injuries at the moment, primarily in defence. Ginge (ankle) is still definitely out. Reid (calf) is a major doubt as is Fonte (foot). We will also be missing Zabaleta who picked up a suspension for his fifth yellow of the season at Palace. This led to his being withdrawn as Zaha kept falling over whenever he came within a yard of him in a rather blatant attempt to get the player dismissed. Young Rice played in the U21 side in midweek which, given our lack of cover at the back, seemed a bit risky to me perhaps.

Prediction? Can’t see us winning I’m afraid. Poor as their defence is at present (and I’ve sent a get well soon card to Loveren on the off chance) we don’t seem too hot in attack at present. Remember this lot as much as any club also have the might of officialdom on their side which puts us at a disadvantage from the start. So, much as I hate doing so, I will be placing the £2.50 I was going to spend on a West Ham – Officially Better Than Real Madrid T-shirt on a 3-1 away win down at Winstone the Turf Accountant if they can be bothered to take old fashioned betting slips while they still have those fixed-odds machines.

Enjoy the game!

When Last we met at the Olympic Stadium Lost 0-4 (Premier League May 2017)

Having guaranteed safety against Spurs the previous week anyone with the slightest of knocks was sent away to have their delayed operations. We had our chances in the first half when both Byram and Ayew ought to have scored, Ayew somehow managing to hit the post twice in two seconds from two yards out. Sturridge gave them the lead before the interval. Coutinho doubled the lead. The third came courtesy of the bent refereeing that they have benefited from for so many years. A blatant penalty was not given by Swarbrick. Not content with playing basketball Wijnaldum elbowed Reid just after. Swarbrick ignored the red card offence and the resulting head injury allowing the visitors to break away and make it 3-0 when it ought to have been 2-1 and 11 v 10…..

Referee: Neil Swarbrick

…..so they gave him the same match again this season. Unbelievable.

Danger Man: Philipe Coutinho

He is to the Tottenham of the North what Harry Kane is to the Liverpool of the South.

Percy’s Poser:

Last week we asked what is the connection between Croydon’s branch of Ikea and Brazil? The first correct answer out of the digital hat came from Mrs Constance Exoskeleton of Wivenhoe who informed us that the Ikea store is located on the site of an old power station which doubled as the exterior for the infamous Ministry Of information in Terry Gilliam’s 1985 masterpiece Brazil

For this week’s poser we ask you what happened to Sadio Mane and Dejan Lovren on Wednesday that used to be a regular feature of Liverpool European matches in the past? First correct answer out of the digital hat wins a DVD of the complete works of Cilla Black.

Good luck everyone!

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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