GRAEME SOUNESS: For a young man who hasn’t achieved ANYTHING in the game, Tyrone Mings has a hell of a lot to say… PLUS, why Jurgen Klopp needs a new craftsman in Liverpool’s midfield
- Tyrone Mings talks a good game but he still hasn’t achieved anything of note
- Steven Gerrard dropping him as Aston Villa captain says: ‘I just don’t fancy you’
- But if Villa don’t start winning games he may have to bring Mings back
- There is still room for a ‘craftsman’ like player to come into the Liverpool midfield
I won’t be joining the love-in for Tyrone Mings, the man Steven Gerrard has stripped of the Aston Villa captaincy in a move which, summed up in one sentence, says: ‘I just don’t fancy you.’
Mings is ‘well-loved in the dressing room’, apparently. Well, when he appeared a couple of times on Zoom for shows we were doing on Sky Sports during lockdown, I thought: ‘For a young man who’s not achieved anything in the game you’ve a hell of a lot to say.’
He’d been talking about how footballers were viewed as ‘commodities’ at the time and I asked him if he didn’t think players were incredibly fortunate to be doing their job. He had an answer for me, of course, but that encounter told me a lot.
Tyrone Mings has started the season out of favour under Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard
As captain of Liverpool aged 30, having won a great deal and captained my country, I could not have offered up an opinion in a team meeting. And if I had, there would have been Joe Fagan and Ronnie Moran shaking their heads and Bob Paisley pretending he didn’t hear me.
Times change. It’s fine being able to communicate and get your message across. But only so long as you can back it up. Mings is talking a good game without achieving anything and I include in that assessment some of his one-v-one contests against some of the Premier League’s stronger strikers. It wasn’t even a contest when he went up against Romelu Lukaku when Chelsea were at Villa Park last Christmas.
I can’t emphasise strongly enough the significance of what Steven has done here, though. It’s not like you’re just leaving a player out, or even subbing him after 10 minutes. This is you making a statement that there’s something about this guy that is fundamentally wrong. You’ve embarrassed him. He will think he’s been publicly humiliated and in that dressing room he will now have two or three allies who will agree he’s been treated incorrectly.
Mings was Gerrard’s captain last season but has been deposed of it coming into this campaign
Steven clearly believes that it’s something he has to be firm on and not pussyfoot about with. He had Mings on the bench in the defeat by Bournemouth last Saturday and said he’d only be back ‘when he looks me in the eye and shows he’s ready’. That was some statement. It’s not like the question has been sprung on him in a press conference. He’s known it’s coming, chosen his words carefully and they’re damning. He won’t have taken that decision lightly.
The difficulty for a manager is that he can’t say publicly all that he knows. I had very good captains when I was a manager. Ian Rush at Liverpool, Alan Shearer at Newcastle, Garry Flitcroft at Blackburn — proper men. But when Craig Bellamy was being difficult at Newcastle — we ended up squaring up in a meeting room — everyone seemed to take his side because he was such a hugely popular figure in that part of the world.
These days a manager has his press officer to sit down with prior to making this decision, to say, ‘How are we going to deal with this going forward?’ I never had any of that.
Gerrard has said he will only bring Mings back into the Aston Villa side when he is ready
Without Mings, Villa lost their opening Premier League game 2-0 away at Bournemouth
Steven has had all summer to think about this and make a judgment on how it will be interpreted. It could be that something has happened in pre-season — a straw that broke the camel’s back — which explains why it’s happening now.
Gerrard has put his neck on the block, made the big call and the big statement, and I can see why he might feel the need to do so. But it is fine to make those big calls for as long as you’re getting them right.
From here, Villa have to start winning games and improving because if they don’t and Steven has to bring Mings back, the player is seen to be winning the argument. Villa have spent money and Steven is facing questions about his capability for the first time in his career as either a player or manager.
If they win games, that pressure recedes and Tyrone Mings becomes an irrelevance, who no one even talks about. If he doesn’t, then the decision is going to be like a sore on his backside. Every time he sits down he’ll be aware of it.
Mings may have to come back into the Villa team if Gerrard cannot get results for his side
To call Arnautovic ‘dodgy’ is being polite!
Funny how the pundits who’d been demanding Cristiano Ronaldo be shown the door were also demanding that he be brought on at half-time after Manchester United’s lamentable first half against Brighton last Sunday.
And now United have been trying to buy Marko Arnautovic from Bologna. Oh dear. To call that guy ‘dodgy’ is being polite. And Adrien Rabiot from Juventus. No, no, no. It’s the same old story from United, desperately trying to buy players from a terrible negotiating position at the dog-end of the transfer window.
They bought Edinson Cavani on the last day of the window two years ago when they’d known for six months that he was leaving PSG. What a shambles.
Without the 18 Premier League goals Ronaldo scored last season, United would have finished 14th. So answer me this. Who do they seriously think they can now buy, with the premium they’ll have to pay, who can score them 18 Premier League goals this season?
Marko Arnautovic was linked with a Manchester United move before the club cooled interests
The small voice in Eriksen’s head will not go away
I remember the first team meeting I took when I returned to management at Liverpool after I’d had open heart surgery, 30 years ago. ‘If I fall over again I don’t want mouth-to-mouth from any of you. Just let me go,’ I told the players.
I was trying to break the ice but the year after that surgery was like nothing I’ve known before or since.
I was 38, still fit and athletic and had never previously felt ill in my life, yet I got a constant reminder of my own vulnerability every time I looked in the mirror and saw a big scar down my chest. It was a realisation of how fragile life is and emotionally it took me a good year to get back. There were times — two or three occasions — when I found myself sitting watching television with tears running down my cheeks.
The memory of that experience tells me that it’s been a lot harder for Christian Eriksen to get back into playing football than he has admitted publicly.
Yes, he will have had the best medical advice. But the nagging part of him will be thinking: ‘If I go back, it could happen again and if this time I don’t come out of it, I’ve got a young family, two young kids.’
I think Eriksen is a little maestro. You get him to play off the front and he will score goals, create goals because he’s got an eye for a goal and an eye for a pass. He’s an all-round really good football player.
Today, he’s back with Manchester United at Brentford, who gave him his way back in, and he deserves every bit of the ovation he will get.
He needed to find the courage to step back on the field when the small voice in his head will have been saying: ‘I’ve got a young family. Should I be doing this?’
Christian Eriksen showed courage in stepping back onto the field after his heart issues
Klopp needs craftsman in midfield
II know Jurgen Klopp has rejected the idea that Liverpool need another midfielder and detailed the young players they’ve got who can step up. But there’s a big jump at the club from the battle-hardened experienced midfielders like Thiago, who’s 31, Jordan Henderson, 32, and James Milner, 36, to the young ones like Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones.
Thiago was injured at Fulham. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain can’t keep himself fit. Older players are more prone to muscle injuries. I do think there is room for someone else in that midfield for a 24 or 25-year-old — and preferably a craftsman — who’s been round the block a few times.
This is a Liverpool who want to be winning the Champions League and Premier League.
Jurgen Klopp could still do with another midfielder to bridge the gap between his experienced and young stars following his side’s opening day draw against Fulham in the Premier League
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