The English FA has gone quiet when it comes to Patrice Evra, Luis Suarez, and allegations of racism, but with the case still theoretically open there's finally some new information to talk about. Plus Liverpool's inability to stick with Plan A even when it seems to be working and preparing for a public execution at Wembley in today's news and notes…
* Players around the globe are leaving their clubs to join up with national sides, and Luis Suarez is already in Uruguay preparing for a major World Cup qualifying match against Chile on Friday. With most of a week to go before the game itself, the Uruguayan players talked to the press in Montevideo on Monday. And as can often be the case when those who come from beyond England's shores talk to the press in their homeland—and in their native tongue—more information on the allegations of racial abuse levelled at Suarez by Manchester United's Patrice Evra came out in thirty minutes than in the past two weeks:
The FA will have to clarify things. There is no evidence I said anything racist to him. I said nothing of the sort. There were two parts of the discussion, one in Spanish, one in English. I did not insult him. It was just a way of expressing myself. I called him something his team-mates at Manchester call him, and even they were surprised by his reaction.
These things happen in football, in the heat of the moment. They leave someone looking bad. Now we have to see how the matter is decided and then, for him as much as me, we will have things clear. And wherever the fault lies, we are going to have to say sorry.
None of which especially clears things up, particularly with the FA continuing to drag out a case where there's no existing evidence of Suarez calling Evra a racist name ten or more times while the referee listened and did nothing, but here's hoping that this case will indeed end up having something resembling a clear resolution.
* Meanwhile, Oh You Beauty looks at Liverpool's deteriorating confidence on the ball, as the at times slick, pass and move football that has marked the openings of so many matches this season invariably ends in frantic and direct play after that early dominance doesn't lead to an advantage on the scoreboard. One could understand such an occurrence in the final minutes of a match, but this negative shift is clear long, long before then, and as such can be seen in chalkboards breaking play down into thirty minute segments. Moreover, even if such a trend did reflect a tendency to resort to desperate late pushes, the numbers suggest that the more cohesive short passing game employed by Liverpool in the early-going consistently leads to more chances on goal than when the squad begins to lose its collective nerve and begins to attempt more high risk passes.
When the first half onslaught fails, the team obviously tightens up, especially in front of its baying home crowd—as against Swansea, Norwich, and Sunderland. Confidence crashes, frustration mounts, and every player becomes noticeably more nervous. Which leads to more ambitious passes, less completed passes, and all the other 'bad' shown in the above chalkboards. And it's tangible for the opposition, leading to fight-backs like Swansea's, like Sunderland's, like Norwich's, and like Wolves almost succeeded in doing.
It's a pattern many will be familiar with simply from watching those disappointing draws so far this season, with early control becoming increasingly sloppy play with fewer chances as the club becomes more desperate—and with it often beginning before the end of the first half. It's easy to lament the missed early chances, but one could just as easily blame that inability to stick with a style of play that's so successful early on for allowing other clubs to fight back into the match in the end. Maybe if Andy Carroll puts away a sitter from six feet out on Saturday Liverpool goes on to win easily. But maybe too if Liverpool keeps their nerve and continues approaching the game as in the first thirty-odd minutes they eventually get that goal they're looking for.
* At least this time around the international break comes when Liverpool is struggling to find its collective feet, offering a brief respite and a chance for the coaching staff to search for answers where previously the breaks only seemed to rob the club of whatever momentum they'd built up in preceding weeks.
With no European games that mean anything for Liverpool players, the most talked about match in England is the meaningless prestige friendly/ritual slaughter when Spain makes the trip to Wembley on Saturday. For those who don't enjoy watching small, defenceless creatures being torn apart, the aftermath may have more potential to entertain than the match itself, with the portions of the media so thrilled by victories over the likes of Wales set to inevitably turn on a side that suddenly will have no hope at next year's Euros (which, to be fair, they don't).
But in the meantime there's still a match to play. And when it comes to that side of things, Pepe Reina has been called up to the Spanish side while Stewart Downing and Glen Johnson will be in the England squad. Andy Carroll wasn't able to find room on the bench over the likes of Darren Bent and Bobby Zamora, but then again, even if he's one of the few Liverpool players who could probably use a few minutes anywhere he can get them, at least this way it'll be harder for Fabio Capello to talk about his love for the demon liquor.
We'll be back with any breaking news as the day moves along, but in the meantime, try not to say anything too racist. Or if you find yourself talking to Patrice Evra, maybe try not to say too much of anything at all...