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Best players, worst players, best goals- football fans give their clubs half term reports
The Modern Age asked fans on social media for their opinions on their club's season so far
We are around halfway through the Premier League season and I’ve asked everyone to submit a half-term report card for their clubs, with a list comprising of:
· Best player
· Worst player
· Most improved player
· Best signing
· Unsung hero
· Best goal
My report cards at school were usually poor from years 7-9, with teachers saying I had the potential to be a great student, but essentially, I couldn’t be arsed. They weren’t entirely wrong.
It’s a similar story with Liverpool, in that they aren’t playing anywhere near the high levels they’ve shown their capable of- albeit in school I didn’t have the excuse of being physically and mentally exhausted from a quadruple chase. Nor was I ageing and therefore unable to run- perhaps that analogy was a bit of a stretch.
I’ll give my thoughts on Liverpool at the end of the article.
We will start with Jurgen Klopp’s side, then move onto some of the other clubs.
Starting with the legend himself, my dad, who’s choices were:
· Best player: Alisson
· Worst player: Fabinho
· Most improved player: Alexander-Arnold
· Best signing: Nunez
· Unsung hero: Milner
· Best goal: Salah against City
He said: “Trent was awful before the World Cup. No assists but Brighton aside he has been much improved since his return and provided two outstanding assists against Brentford and Wolves which can easily be forgotten.”
I have to say I personally interpreted ‘most improved’ as in most improved from last season, but since the question doesn’t specify, and since it’s practically impossible to identify a Liverpool who is playing better than they did last season, I accepted the answer. And if we’re going by that interpretation, I agree.
My dad added on Salah’s goal: “Taking into account the context and importance of the game, it has to be Salah’s goal. It’s also rare to get such a great assist from a keeper. He was so quick to see Salah!”
Mason MacDonald, who I accidentally cropped when we played football on Friday, said:
· Best player: Alisson
· Worst player: Hendo
· Most improved: Konate
· Best signing: Nunez
· Unsung hero: Alisson
· Best goal: Salah vs City
Mason replied when I asked him what’s gone wrong for Liverpool’s skipper, saying: “Just age I think, and as everyone else isn’t performing he’s being highlighted more.”
He added on Salah’s goal: “Ali collects it from a City freekick and kicks it up the pitch to Salah who first touch spins him away from Cancelo beating the last man, putting him through on goal with the keeper to beat…. He scores and celebrates with the Kop!”
What a goal. I was there, in the Main Stand. I remember repeatedly screaming “You have to score. You HAVE to score. YOU HAVE TO SCORE!!’ He did score.
Jake Schembri followed the general pattern so far, but went for a different goal, saying:
· Best Player: Alisson
· Worst player: Oxlade-Chamberalin
· Most Improved: Ben Doak
· Best Signing: Nunez
· Unsung Hero: Alisson
· Best goal: Carvalho’s last-minute goal against Newcastle (not a great goal in particular, but it was a clutch moment)
Jake said: “Alisson has made some class saves this season and without him I doubt we'd even be in the top ten.”
On Ben Doak, Jake added: “We signed him in March last year I believe and the few games he’s played this year he's done nothing but impress. When I tuned in to the Carabao Cup against derby earlier this season, all I could hear was how well Ben Doak was performing!”
I like the Carvalho shout for the best goal; the build-up play (if you can call it that) was certainly scrappy, but the finish was actually very good. Perhaps not the best goal, but maybe the most satisfying goal I’ve ever seen go in; such a frustrating game, and that really was the last kick, against a team of time wasters; Anfield remains Newcastle’s only league defeat so far this season.
My good pal Giggsy famously messaged me when we were 1-0 down, trollingly asking: “How are you doing pal? How’s Liverpool?”
Soon after, we equalised. The rest is history.
Ollie Bray went for a slightly different flavour. He said:
· Best player: Thiago
· Worst: Oxlade-Chamberlain
· Most improved: Bajcetic
· Best signing: Nunez
· Unsung: Robertson
· Best goal: Diaz vs Palace
The Diaz goal was unbelievable. Spoiler alert, it’s also my choice for best goal. Describing the goal, Ollie said: “He picks up the ball on the left-hand side of just on the edge of the box, cuts infield going past three players and from the edge of the box wraps his foot around it to bend it into the top right-hand corner.”
On Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ollie said: “I think a lot [has gone wrong]. He’s stopped running at players; no drive or energy. He looks scared to go past a player.”
In Chamberlain’s defence, he’s been played out of position, and I think his injuries have caught up with him; he simply can’t offer what he used to. I actually think he’s been okay, but I can definitely see where fans are coming from. Anyway, it looks like Ox is definitely off at the end of the season. When the only player to have scored a league goal in 2023 so far is being voted as worst player of the season, you know things aren’t going well for Liverpool.
Onto some different teams now, and starting with the Ronaldo-less and consequently much improved Man United, Giggsy (my friend Giggsy, not to be confused with the hairy Welshman who shagged his brother’s wife) provided The Modern Age with his half-term report of Ten Haag’s side, opting for:
· Best player: Rashy
· Worst player: Ronaldo
· Most improved: Shaw
· Best signing: Lisandro Martinez
· Unsung hero: Malacia
· Best goal: Rashy vs Arsenal
Giggsy said: “Rashy been outstanding this whole season, but as for worst players, Ronaldo has been shite for the amount of noise he has created, he’s our legend and I can’t take that away from him but this season he’s been shite.
“Improved and unsung hero are correlated because Malacia pushed Shaw to be much better this season whilst himself putting some very good performances in, but he’s not seeing as much of the appreciation because of the levels Shaw has shown.
“Honourable mention to Varane’s improvement since last season, not only performance wise but being able to stay fit for most part. Best signing I gave to Lisandro because even though Casemiro has been more influential to our team being successful, Lisandro almost single handedly fixed our centre back pairing. He’s only 25 years old and can improve even further, which is scary.
“Rashy’s goal v Arsenal was simply sensational. Result of good midfield press by Eriksen, megs Partey and pinpoint shot into the bottom corner.”
A few weeks ago, I was debating the point that while Rashford is being lauded and Nunez is being slaughtered, the two have had similar seasons. Since then, Nunez has been injured, and Rashford has seemingly begun taking the same performance enhancing drugs as Erling Haaland. Speaking of report cards, I now look like a grade A muppet.
Liverpool have been poor, but on paper, not as poor as Chelsea. A couple of reports came in on Chelsea, from Tom Watkins and Joe Fram.
· Best player: Silva
· Worst player: Koulibaly
· Most improved: Kepa
· Best signing: Sterling by default
· Unsung hero: Kovacic
· Best goal: Gallagher against Palace
Tom knows his football and does not stand for any slander against his beloved Chelsea. On his choices, he said: “Koulibaly came with so much expectation and really hasn’t lived up to it. The whole team are not playing great which doesn’t help him out.
On Gallagher’s goal and Kepa’s improvement, Tom added: “Gallagher got the ball and just whipped it into the top corner against, his old club as well, and late in to win the game.”
“He [Kepa] has just come into the team after a long absence and has improved massively since he was last a regular. It’s especially impressive after all the opinions and negative comments made about him.”
Despite Chelsea’s struggles, Joe Fram is optimistic about the future of Graham Potter’s side. Joe’s choices were:
· Best player: Thiago Silva
· Worst player: Mount
· Most improved: 99% of them have been shit but if I was forced to pick I would say Kepa
· Best signing: Badiashile, but it will probably end up being Mudryk/Felix by the end of the year
· Unsung hero: Havertz
· Best goal: Gallagher vs Palace
Joe said: “It [Gallagher’s goal] wasn’t anything too insane, was just a nice curled shot from outside the box to win it in around the 88th minute.
“Mount just looks like he’s aged about 10 years since last year. I’ll be honest, he wasn’t great for a decent portion of last year but he was at least good for a lot of it; it’s like he has absolutely no confidence anymore, refuses to make any sort of risky passes and when he tries they never come off, he never gets his head up to try and spot runs, just looks devoid of ideas most of the time.
“It’s been a weird season for us, although on the pitch we’ve been nothing short of an eyesore, I haven’t been more excited for the future in a while.”
I can’t remember the last time I saw such a huge improvement in so little time when I think about how far Newcastle have come under Eddie Howe. They haven’t done their reputation any favours this season, but to me, they have the best defence in the league, making Will Hales’ half-term report no surprise at all:
· Best Player: Nick Pope
· Worst Player: Chris Wood)
· Most Improved Player: Miguel Almiron
· Best Signing: Sven Botman
· Unsung Hero: Joe Willock
· Best Goal: Miguel Almiron's 1st against Fulham
Jack Grealish is shuddering at the choice for most improved. Will said: “Pope has been phenomenal. I knew he was a good keeper at Burnley, but he's been on another level this season.
“With Wood it’s more just expectations because he was bought for 25 million and a lot of people only look at his goal scoring record (which is pretty poor) so I'd say he has been more unfortunate than anything else.
“Almiron’s goal was honestly sensational and it reduced me to silence initially because it was so good and so out of nowhere.”
I’ve got a bone to pick with Forest after their result against United the other night, but I’ve agreed to include Charley Young’s choices for Forest, especially as I would give him the award for most improved footballer at my society’s weekly football sessions. He said:
· Best player: Brennan Johnson
· Worst player: Emmanuel Dennis
· Most improved: Ryan Yates
· Best signing: Morgan Gibbs-White
· Unsung hero: Remo Freuler
· Best goal: Johnson’s second against Leicester
On Johnson’s goal, Charley said: “Gibbs white gets the ball after clearing it. Runs half the length of the pitch. Fizzes it into Johnson with a trivela. Great touch from Brennan and fires it into the corner.”
Dennis was signed from Watford in the summer, but hasn’t lived up to expectation, with one goal in ten appearances. Charley said: “I don’t actually know [what’s gone wrong]. I think it’s a mix of things. He’s not been the right fit for the system, and he hasn’t been able to have a set run of games because there’s been better performing players. and he just doesn’t seem that passionate about playing for the club.”
On Freuler, Charley added: “I think because he’s a very simple footballer he goes under the radar a lot. He doesn’t necessarily do anything special but doesn’t need to and Forest definitely miss that experience when he isn’t playing.”
For our only non-Premier League team, Ayrton Wijnands put forward his choices for Feyenoord. He said:
· Best: Orkun Kokcu
· Worst: Oussama Idrissi
· Most Improved (/most impossible first name to pronounce): Quilindschy Hartman
· Best signing: David Hancko
· Unsung hero: Marcus Pedersen
· Best Goal: Sebastian Szymansky vs Go ahead Eagles
Some tricky names there, if Ayrton Wijnands wasn’t tricky enough in itself. He said on the underperforming Idrissi: “This man just plays shit every time he steps on the pitch. I don’t know why our coach keeps trusting him.”
The goal, scored against the uniquely named “Go Ahead Eagles”, sounds like the goal I try to score every week, but end up hitting the bar. Ayrton described it to The Modern Age, saying: “Our player receives the ball around 30-35 meters away from goal with his back to the goal. He takes a touch and right out of his turn he shoots and it goes perfectly top corner with an opponent on his back.”
On Feyenoord’s best player this season, Ayrton said: “Kokcu has elevated his game to another level this season; he plays with a lot of maturity and passion, he is now our new captain and he’s perfect at it. The players listen to him and he takes control of every game he plays.”
The Modern Age’s Choices
So, with all that said, it’s time for my choices on Liverpool. I went for:
· Best player: Alisson
· Worst player: Fabinho
· Most improved player: Luis Diaz
· Best signing: Darwin Nunez
· Unsung hero: Andy Robertson
· Best goal: Luis Diaz vs Crystal Palace
At times, it’s been very difficult to find something to be positive about this season as a Liverpool fan, but going through this list did help me find some silver linings from the Red’s campaign so far.
It’s no surprise practically every Liverpool fan’s choice for best player is Alisson. When the whole team has been underperforming, Liverpool’s number one has kept his side in the game time after time. He’s made vital saves against West Ham, Newcastle, Southampton, Rangers, Everton, Chelsea, as well as a couple of penalty saves, and of course an assist against City. As Jake alluded to, without Alisson, Liverpool’s poor season would be a lot poorer right now. Personally, I think he is the best keeper in the world, and I’ve really felt for him at times.
Unfortunately, there are probably four or five reasonable contenders for worst player, but in terms of who has hurt the team the most, I’ve had to go with Fabinho. Liverpool’s number six (in a positional sense) has been so pivotal to the team’s success, but he’s now being dropped for a 17 year-old kid who had never made a first team appearance before this season. And deservedly so.
Too slow, poor anticipation, poor positionally, below par passing, and overall, just looks like he doesn’t have the legs for the position anymore. Stinker after stinker after stinker. This season could have been so different if Fabinho had been playing well; unfortunately, apart from Bajcetic, the only suitable replacement for the position is Henderson, who has arguably been equally shocking. It looks like someone with a Zimmer frame could go past Fabinho, and I’ve never known a drop off like it. I wrote this article before the Brighton game today, and am now editing it, but his cameo this afternoon has only made me feel more comfortable with my choice, I’ll say that.
Most improved was very difficult as practically every player has gotten worse, and certainly hardly any are playing better. I then remembered Luis Diaz’s form before he got injured; Diaz was brilliant last season but at times lacked end product, albeit he was mostly unfortunate. This season, not only has his overall game got even better, he has sharpened up on his finishing, scoring some great goals (we’ll get to his strike against Palace in a bit) and he was Liverpool’s best outfield player by some distance before his injury.
For all the stupid trolling and the silly reels, those who regularly watch Liverpool games know Darwin Nunez has been a successful signing. People will argue he hasn’t lived up to his price tag, but how can we be having that debate half way through the season? Liverpool didn’t spend 85 million for someone to play well for half a season. Nunez is still young and a long term investment, and so far he’s been one of Liverpool’s best players, and they’ve certainly missed him while he’s been out injured. That bodes well for the future. Best signing, all day, albeit it’s only between him and Fabio Carvalho.
So far the unsung hero has been Robertson. For all the criticism of the backline and the players lacking drive and legs, Robbo has been up and down the flank, giving it everything, as well as racking up several assists. It feels as though this has gone under the radar with so many of his teammates underperforming. He nearly always does interviews after a bad result, and says it how it is, which I really admire.
If we’re to look at goals in isolation, and exclude the occasion/ how big the goal was, for me, the best goal has to be Diaz against Palace. The Reds were losing 1-0 and down to ten men, and Lucho just decided to take matters into his own hands. They say a picture paints a thousand words, but I would say this goal painted eight words: “Screw you lot, this is how it’s done.”
From where he gets the ball, to where he shoots from, he has no right to score. Incredible run, incredible finish, outright best goal this season from anyone in a Liverpool shirt. We need Diaz back.
And that’s all for the half-term reports! I certainly hope I’m more spoilt for choice with good things to say about Liverpool at the end of season report and struggling for negatives, but at the moment, that seems unlikely. If I remember, I will be doing the same article at the end of the year, and asking for everyone’s opinions again. For now, enjoy the rest of the season (as long as you’re not enjoying Liverpool’s downfall!).