Palmer gives Guardiola reasons to regret, Salah remains irreplaceable – The Briefing

Welcome to The Briefing, where every Monday this season, The Athletic will discuss three of the biggest questions coming out of this weekend’s football.

This was the weekend when injuries began to hit Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United, when Manchester United almost escaped a home game against Luton Town with three points, and when Everton got another victory to keep them even further away from trouble.

Here we will ask whether Manchester City should have made an exception to their sales policy with a player, whether Liverpool should reject any approach to Mohamed Salah in January and what exactly Roberto De Zerbi’s comments about referees were intended…

Will Manchester City regret selling Cole Palmer to Chelsea?

It would be difficult to argue that Premier League leaders and treble champions Manchester City made a mistake in selling Raheem Sterling to Chelsea.

Their policy of being perfectly willing to sell a player who wants to leave as long as a reasonable offer comes in hasn’t exactly stopped them in recent years. Sterling was being phased out of the City team in his final season, so his departure made sense for everyone involved.

That he was at the heart of Chelsea’s multiple comebacks in Sunday’s crazy 4-4 draw against City probably won’t make Pep Guardiola or anyone else at the club think they made a mistake: he served City well, but he was replaced and if You never sold a player because you thought he could play a good game against you… well, you would never sell a player.

However, one wonders if they will regret, on some level, selling Cole Palmer. Sterling was with City for seven seasons, scoring 131 goals and winning four Premier League titles. There is no sense of “what he might have been” there: he fulfilled his purpose and then some.

Palmero is different. The 21-year-old had not yet become a regular starter for City when, according to Guardiola, he decided that he was not going to get much playing time, so he moved to Chelsea. He was all potential, an immensely talented prospect who clearly had the style and technical ability to fit into a few different positions. Guardiola wanted him to stay, presumably because he knew how good he was.

Guardiola knew it before Sunday’s game and he certainly knew it afterward. It wasn’t just Palmer’s magnificently taken penalty (by the way, who believes his claim that he doesn’t take them?), but the way he played throughout the game. It was enough to make you think that, for all of Chelsea’s lavish spending, he might just be a kid they bought on deadline day, almost as an afterthought, that they could end up building their team around.

Sterling was also exceptional, as he has been for most of the season, and there has been much understandable consternation at his omission from Gareth Southgate’s England squad. But if you were betting on whether it will be Palmer or Sterling in that squad for the European Championship next summer, the smart bet could be on the youngster, who has just earned his first senior call-up to the England squad ahead of the qualifiers. against Malta and North Macedonia.


Palmer and Lewis called up for the England team

Why would Liverpool consider selling Salah in January?

It’s easy to forget how quickly this Liverpool team has changed.

Of the six regular strikers who won the Champions League in 2019 and the Premier League a year later, only one remains. Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Roberto Firmino all left last summer, Sadio Mane a year before that and Georginio Wijnaldum the year before that.

This is, as Jurgen Klopp proclaimed, Liverpool 2.0, the reinvention of a team in style (more or less) and personnel. They have recruited new forwards well and done the best possible job of replacing an entire midfield in one summer.

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And yet, the one who remains is their best and most powerful player.

Salah’s two goals in Liverpool’s 3-0 win over Brentford represent his ninth and 10th of the season in the league, with another pair (in limited playing time) in the Europa League. You can also give four assists.

He is responsible for 37 percent of Liverpool’s goals in the Premier League this season, a percentage that is neither outrageous nor hugely unusual for a team’s best striker (Erling Haaland has 41 percent of Manchester City’s), but Next on Liverpool’s list is Darwin. Núñez (who has had one since September, although it is crucial to provide assists to his Egyptian teammate) and Diogo Jota, both with four.

This is an indirect way of saying that he is still Liverpool’s most important player and reiterating that they should not sell him, no matter how much money Al Ittihad or any Saudi Arabian team that wants the ultimate prize in that league offers them in January.

Apologies for including transfers in this while we’re still in November, but there’s only another 48 days of gossip left before the window opens and the wheels start turning.

There is a school of thought which, not without reason, says that Liverpool would be foolish to reject a £100 million ($122 million) offer for a 31-year-old player who has 18 months left on his contract. It would be a delicate business decision and would allow them to get ahead of the search for a replacement.

But without him, Liverpool could be on the verge of fighting for the Champions League places, not to mention the prospect of a convincing title bid.

That aside, Salah is one of the best players Liverpool will ever have – clubs shouldn’t necessarily make decisions like this based on feelings, but they almost owe it to their fans to make sure he plays for them for as long as possible.

What good are De Zerbi’s complaints about referees?

“I am honest and clear. I don’t like 80 percent of English referees. It’s not something new. I do not like.

“The behavior. I don’t like his behavior on the field.”

It will be interesting if in a couple of years De Zerbi succeeds Guardiola at Manchester City, as some believe will happen.

He is currently at Brighton & Hove Albion, a team that most neutral players quite like and where he receives almost universal praise for his exciting and progressive football. At a club that, to put it lightly, is not so universally popular and that plays many, many more high-profile games, we could see the first example of a manager really exploding on the touchline.

His comments after Brighton’s 1-1 draw with Sheffield United were extraordinary, particularly when he acknowledged that the match’s big refereeing decision was correct. “If I look at the new rules, it’s a red card, of course,” he said of Mahmoud Dahoud’s sending off for a foul on Ben Osborn. “But I was a player and the dynamic of the situation was not a red card.” It was a shame he didn’t explain what kind of “dynamic” would constitute a red in his mind, if not a player missing the ball by a meter and digging his studs into an opponent’s calf.

De Zerbi talks to John Brooks after the game (Steve Bardens/Getty Images)

We rarely go a weekend without at least one coach going crazy on the refs, but more often than not, they at least complain about decisions they don’t think are right.

What is the thinking here? Do you think referees don’t get enough criticism? They just take too easy a path for the decisions they make, so he thought about adding “I don’t know, I just don’t like his vibe” into the mix.

What are you trying to achieve here? Clubs and managers will say they only want to improve the standard of refereeing when they criticize, but how can this sort of thing be constructive? Presumably, De Zerbi is referring to the perception that some referees ‘peacock’ and try to make matches all about them. But even if this were true, who cares?

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It’s the kind of thing you’d expect to bother fans and neutral observers, but managers? Aside from the fact that they should probably have other things to worry about, managers need to understand that their words carry much more weight than those of fans, broadcasters or journalists. A comment like this adds more weight to an already intolerable burden placed on officials.

Coaches complaining about refereeing decisions is irritating and we could probably do without it, but at least it’s understandable if the decision is incorrect or questionable. When you admit that the referee did things right but still made some excuse to try… it’s just not understandable.

Going up

  • It’s international week, darling. But don’t worry, all you raucous national fans: there are still a few club games left to keep you happy before the nations start getting involved. The FA Cup first round is repeated, for example, as Isthmian League minnows Horsham get another chance at League One Barnsley before, even more unlikely, Cray Valley Paper Mills take on Charlton Athletic.
  • There’s also the Women’s Champions League, a bit light for the English teams but still with some interesting stuff: Emma Hayes’ quest to win the big one in what will be (for the moment) her last season at Chelsea begins with a trip to Real Madrid. , while the champion Barcelona begins its defense against Benfica and the previous eternal champion, Lyon, faces Slavia Prague.
  • Then come the internationals: England, who have already qualified for Euro 2024, will face Malta on Friday night at Wembley and then travel to North Macedonia on Monday. Scotland can also take it easy, having already secured their place, but Wales will go through if they beat both Armenia and Turkey.
  • Next Saturday’s Netherlands vs Ireland is worth keeping an eye on if you like the oddities/whimsies of UEFA qualifying rules because it will help Irish hopes if they lose (even if it would still take a few more things to break through) .
  • Elsewhere, Italy will need to beat both Ukraine and its old enemies, North Macedonia, to avoid another rather embarrassing failure; Everything is still to play for in Group E, where Albania, Czech Republic, Poland and Moldova compete for the two automatic places; Technically everything is up for grabs in Group G as well, but realistically Serbia and Hungary are probably through; while in Group J there is the delightful, if slightly unlikely, prospect of Luxembourg qualifying, but they will have to beat Lichtenstein and Bosnia and Herzegovina and hope Slovakia lose both games… but it could still happen…

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(Main photos: Getty Images)