Saturday, 28 April 2018

Why we can't know why we are here

A P.S. to Why Are We Here? (22 March). Some weeks after pondering why on earth Stephen Hawking thought he could prove God doesn't exist I've just been reading a review of a book by John Gray called "Seven Types of Atheism". Gary notes that, in pagan times, there were many gods and you could worship whichever one you liked, though taking part in the rituals didn't mean you needed to believe in anything: in paganism "belief was irrelevant". However, Christianity changed that, bringing the culture of monotheism, the belief that there is only one true god. Gray thinks Christianity has a lot to answer for and he finds disturbing parallels in "atheistic religions" such as Bolshevism and Hitler's fascism. I found this a bit hard to swallow until I read that it was believed that Lenin's embalmed corpse would be resurrected and its clothes were regularly changed by KGB seamstresses in preparation for its miraculous awakening.

Gray is a professed atheist but he is disparaging of the "new" atheists such as Richard Dawkins, who put their faith in science. Their mistake, according to Gray is to believe that religion can be disproved, as if it were an obsolete scientific theory. They fail to see that science cannot close the gap between facts and values. Religion expresses a search for meaning, which would remain even if everything could be scientifically explained. The writer of the review I was reading, the commendable John Carey*, notes that the sharpness and clarity of that thought is typical of Gray's intellect and the power of his advocacy. These were the thoughts I was striving for when pondering why Hawking thought he could answer the question "why the universe exists at all". The best I could come up with was "After all, these are questions that people's belief and value sets intrude on. Where some scientists see the hand of god, others just see  the laws of science in action."  What I think can be concluded is that Hawking, while an outstanding scientist, had very modest talents as a philosopher.

*John Carey is the Emeritus Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford. Known for his anti-elitist views on high culture, he has twice chaired the Booker Prize committee and chaired the judging panel for the first Man Booker International Prize. His book reviews in the Sunday Times are always worth reading (many are probably better than the book reviewed!). His review of John Gray's book was published on 22 April.

Friday, 27 April 2018

The Midnight Runner

I played a golf match this week and it turned out one of our opponents, who I'll call Barry, played the saxophone together with a bit of clarinet and other wind instruments. He'd had a career teaching music, mainly peripatetically as he has also got in quite a few gigs over several decades. His current gig, which he's been doing for six years? Dexy's Midnight Runners!

This was a little bit of a surprise as Barry didn't look the fittest of chaps and he did admit that standing through a long gig was the toughest part. However, he clearly had a strong pair of lungs. Not long ago he had been given an asthma test and blew the end off machine, which the doctor had never seen anyone do before.

Famous front man Kevin Rowland appears with them some of the time - it sounded like he picked his gigs.

Barry said that the best musician he had played with was Neil Sedaka, for his remarkable voice - "He used amplification but didn't need it". He also said Sedaka was a fantastic bloke.

Somewhat surprisingly the least enjoyable musician he'd had the privilege of backing had been Petula Clark, who insisted on telling the drummer how to play rolls and fills and was generally an all round pain.

The sax piece he gets the biggest buzz from playing is Gerry Rafferty's Baker Street. (Now that's a very tasty blow on the sax!)

I asked him if he did that jazz player thing of playing two instruments at once (see Best Musicians I've Seen -3, 16 March 2018). "Yes, I can do that" he said. "Basically you need a big mouth".

So there you are then, from the horse's mouth or at least the golfing saxophone player's mouth!

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

A cartel won't be dynamic - why the EU is bound to fail

Europe, and the EU in particular, is set up to fail in the technologies that matter for the future. 

European society and industry are not ready for the big changes needed to make the transition to next-generation technologies. The EU continues to live off the dividends of the past. The biggest IT and biotech companies are all American, and it looks increasingly as though the battle for the next generation cars and the artificial intelligence industry in general is going to be one between the US and China. 

Who says so? Wolfgang Munchau on his pro-European website, Eurointelligence:

"...the political system is failing to provide the conditions for the EU to adjust to the new world. The EU was originally conceived as a producers' cartel. Protecting the likes of Volkswagen through golden shares and fake emission tests seemed at one time to be a good idea to bolster domestic industry against competition. But it does not look so good at a time when the car industry faces two simultaneous technological revolutions - from fuel-drive to electric, and from self-driven to driver-less. "

On artificial intelligence he notes top academics saying "Europe is not keeping up: most of the top labs, as well as the top places to do a PhD, are located in North America."

Munchau goes on to say "The problem is Europe's inability to organise an intersection between academia and the private sector. It is interesting that the two universities mentioned - Cambridge and ETH Zurich - are either outside the EU or will be will be soon. The scientists are advocating the creation of a pan-European research institute to which academics can contribute. They are saying the problem is not a lack of money but a lack of researchers doing work on systems with actual industrial potential."

Germany's economy is faltering - retail sales have "crashed" in the last six monthly reports and exports are flat** - so it is difficult to see the EU doing well in the short term. The structural problems Munchau describes are more serious long term strategic weaknesses. With some economists saying that the UK is already £100bn better off so far than the Project Fear estimates*** this would be a very,very bad time indeed for the UK to stay hitched to the EU cartel in a customs union.

*The Old World and the New, Eurointelligence, 25 April 2018

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Best musicians I've seen - 4.2 Richie Blackmore

Blackmore is at no 50 in the Rolling Stone list of 100 greatest guitarists*. I've seen Blackmore at least half a dozen times, the first in early 1970 at the Liverpool Phil. This was one of the first gigs I ever went to. A friend had picked up on the band, which had released four albums by then and I'd bought their first, Shades of Deep Purple. So off a bunch of us sixth-formers went to see them, not realising that Purple (as they were always known) had  modified their line up - to what would become known as the "classic" line up - and had shifted their sound from hard rock to something quite a bit heavier.

This was an interesting maneouvre, as the band's just released fourth album was Concerto for Group and Orhcestra, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Malcolm Arnold (later Sir Malcolm Arnold CBE) and recorded live at Bert's Barn, no less. Purple's keyboard player, Jon Lord, was heavily influenced by classical music and scored the concerto. But I hadn't realised Blackmore also had classical leanings, at least according to Rolling Stone. And blues. But he found the blues "too limiting" and classical "too disciplined", so decided to thrash and smash his guitars instead.

In early 1970 Purple were touring In Rock, which would come to be seen as their definitive album and which was released a few months later. (It was done that way round then kids, no risk of bootlegging from the audience as the technology didn't exist. Early bootleg albums came from tapes blagged by a dodgy engineer, usually from the less controlled environment of a live recording). The first song was Speed King. The reason I remember that is because, after seeing them four more times in the next 18 months, they started the set with this song for quite some time. But also because, after Ian Gillan had announced it, within a couple of minutes the guitar and vocals dropped out leaving bass and then just drums. A drum solo in the first song - weird man, what did he say the song was?

What had actually happened was a power failure, so eventually Ian Paice stopped his impromptu solo and there was a degree of milling around while the problem got fixed. Re-grouping in all senses of the word, Purple played safe and restarted with Hush, their best known song which had been a big hit in the States but which, with the In Rock tour, became an encore song, if played at all. (Yes, we got to know the set that intimately. Before the days of of course!)

Anyway, we were all highly impressed with Blackmore, who gave us a show of guitar pyrotechnics before, in the last song and with strobe lighting, he spectacularly trashed his guitar. Even us naive teenagers had spotted a roadie creep on to exchange the Strat he'd been using for a patched up one, which was presumably ritually trashed every gig. Townshend and others had been doing this for some time so it wasn't that novel, but we still found it more than entertaining. Interestingly, Blackmore started out playing a Gibson, but switched to the Strat in 1968 and stuck with it. But none of us thought we'd seen the best guitarist in the world. Or even the best guitarist I'd seen up to then, having seen the Floyd and Gilmour a few months earlier.

I read a critique of guitar players much more recently in which the author derided some big names for "widdling". You know, where they lapse into going "widdly-dee; widdly-dee" towards the end of their solos. Presumably, while sounding reasonably impressive, these runs are easy and, well, lazy. It must be said, Blackmore was a consummate widdler. But anyone who comes up with the riff from Smoke on the Water and the guitar runs in Highway Star knows what they are doing.

So yes, Richie Blackmore was a great guitarist and I really enjoyed watching him play. But, like Carlos Santana, he's not on my final shortlist either.


Monday, 16 April 2018

Wrong priorities

Nearly a billion people in Commonwealth countries alone suffer from poor vision but do not have spectacles, a 700 year old invention. This was pointed out in a letter to the press signed by luminaries such as Tony Blair, John Major, MPs from both sides of the house and luvvies such as Lenny Henry, Hugh Laurie and Eddie Izzard. Not unreasonably they ask how UN goals on health, education, poverty and gender equality can be achieved if a third of the world's population cannot see clearly. They called on Commonwealth leaders meeting this week, three quarters of whom will be using vision aids, to have the vision to do something about it in their countries.

It also left me wondering about our priorities for international aid. I've written previously about the bizarre international rules we decide to follow in allocating aid, making it hard for us to help hurricane victims because their countries aren't officially poor enough, for example. (Grand Turk and Chaos, 19 September 2017). It seems not only can't we help poor Commonwealth countries rebuild their devasted communities, we presumably can't help them see to do it. Or at least if we do, it doesn't "count" towards the 0.7% target that hardly any other country meets, even though it isn't even a penny in our pound as it were. (Still £14 billion, mind).

One of the young project managers at my last place of work used to say "they should look at their priorities" when he thought poor decisions were being taken, whether by individuals or groups. I make the same suggestion to our government - discard the rules on overseas aid and use some common sense. And to leaders of now relatively wealthy Commonwealth countries such as India, with its space programme: how many of your people, and those in neighbouring Commonwealth countries, need spectacles but don't have them?

Of course, spectacles aren't particularly expensive, especially for reading or other close tasks. No doubt the availability of opticians is critical. But the question of setting the right priorities remains.

I know there are some important preoccupations currently. But our International Give Away Secretary presumably isn't tied up with Brexit and Syria. Is the appropriately named Penny Mordaunt capable of sorting it out? Don't hold your breath.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Best musicians I've seen - 4.1: guitarists

Well, I never got to see Hendrix or Clapton, the latter not for the want of trying to get a ticket for the Cream reunion, though I doubt I would favour Clapton over all my other options. Nor did I see Mark Knopfler, another fine guitarist.

But I do have a shortlist and I've been comparing it with Rolling Stone magazine's list of its 100 greatest guitarists published in 2011*. This was an update of an earlier version, having the merit that, instead of the RS editor's choice, it was voted for by a panel including some of the most famous ever guitarists, including Richie Blackmore, Dave Davies, Robbie Kreiger, Brian May, Carlos Santana, Andy Summers and Mick Taylor. Which perhaps explains why all of the above are included.

Nevertheless, I've seen 7 of Rolling Stone's top 25 and 12 of the top 100. Indeed, all of my shortlisted guitarists but one figure in the RS top 100. One of those who does is Carlos Santana, who appears at number 20 in Rolling Stone's list.

Santana were a bit of a cult band when I started at University, based on their eponymous first album, er, Santana. I'd read about Santana saying his band was percussion driven, featuring multiple drummers (usually three). This hadn't made me want to go out of my way to listen to them. Which, youngsters, meant back in those days that you didn't hear them at all. Radio 2 might play Samba Pa Ti and Oye Como Va nowadays but the Beeb didn't play Santana much then. However, hearing Soul Sacrifice off Santana at a student party piqued my interest and the second album Abraxas, one of the classic albums of all time in my estimation, had me sold. Though it wasn't until a couple of albums later, with Caravanserai (also a seriously good album) that the band started getting nominated for awards. And it was more than 2 decades later, in 2000, when they cleaned up with 8 Grammy awards for the album Supernatural and songs on it, including album if the year, record of the year (for Smooth) and best pop and best rock instrumental performances, for El Farrol and The Calling.

Santana is officially a rock-latin american jazz fusion band, but even knowing that I didn't realise just how much the music was based on latin american dance rhythms. It took watching several seasons of Strictly and seeing Santana live rather belatedly in 2013 with, yes, three percussionists (lots of bongos and cymbals, only one full time on a normal drumkit) for me to appreciate how much the samba rhythm in particular permeates the music. With Carlos on lead, a bass player and a keyboards player, percussionists represented half the personnel on stage.

Carlos was, as you would expect, a very fluent player and the marvellous guitar runs on Black Magic Woman, Oye Como Va and Samba Pa Ti were done full justice. Though a couple of other things stuck in my memory.

The first was the Mexican, as Santana calls himself (he was born in Mexico, his family moving to San Francisco when he was young) shared some of his cod philosophy with the audience throughout the gig. I say cod because it was all rather simplistic, but "you are not responsible for your parents' baggage", while a rather odd thing for someone in their mid 60s to say to an audience with a similar average age, resonated for me and Mrs H, there having been a lot of baggage left for us to clear, both physical and metaphorical.  One of his other snippets of wisdom was to commend the importance and benefits of what he coyly termed "S - E - X". It made me wonder if he's been saying much the same thing since he started his band in the 1960s, but it did seem curiously apposite for his predominantly grey and balding audience.

Santana actually started out as a street busking band, performing endlessly long jams before graduating to the San Francisco club circuit. It got them a gig at Woodstock which led to a recording contract, though only after Columbia Records convinced the band that they needed to have some structured songs to record rather than jams. And the second point that appealed to me besides Carlos's sublime playing was the way the keyboard player would signal the end of an extemporised instrumental jam section to a song by raising his left arm and then letting it drop. In our own schoolboy "band" the keyboard player did just that and I hadn't seen anyone do it in a live performance for a very long time.

Anyway, Carlos is some player. But he's not in my final shortlist of three.....

(You didn't really think I was going to come clean on my guitarist in one post did you?)


Thursday, 5 April 2018

All this, it is fantastic: yesterday Liverpool, today the Masters

I quoted Claude Puel's comment about sport in my post of 20 March: "I like the competition. I like the story, I like the effort of the athletes to prepare the competition, how they live, their success, their defeats, their comebacks. All this, it is fantastic". 

Well, last night's Champions League tie between Liverpool and Manchester City was certainly that. I was watching out for cynical fouls by City to stop Liverpool breaking (see The Most Cynical Team In The Premier League, 3 April). However, unlike Everton, Liverpool were too fast - and, in the first half, often won the ball back too far up the pitch - for City to thwart them that way. Even when they won the ball back deep in their own half, they were out of reach and playing the ball forward before the City players could react. For the first goal, Liverpool intercepted a poorly placed diagonal pass. This is a tactic which football writers have noted City use a lot, so Liverpool had their striker Mane positioned deep to prevent it. He quickly freed Alexander-Arnold. The 19 year old full back was thought to be a potential weak link, up against Sane, who has been flying lately. But it was A-A who had the upper hand in that duel all evening. He passed briskly up the line to Cat Stevens (as Mrs H calls Mo Salah) before any City player could close him. Salah fed Firmino and the first goal followed. As we know, City (like Arsene Wenger's Arsenal) only have one way of playing. Not only do they have no plan B, they make defensive mistakes under the kind of pressure Liverpool exert, as shown in the Premier League match at Anfield. Firmino's weak shot was parried but Walker dallied instead of clearing his lines and the Brazilian disposessed him right in the classic danger zone (the edge of the six yard box), prodding it to Salah who converted. 

I've said before that City play too much football and take risks that give the other side a chance (Pep isn't All Right, 13 February). I predicted that, while they will win the Premier League with ease, Guardiola's stubborn determination to play football at all times could cost them in head to head games against strong teams in the Champions League. If you drill players to always try to play the ball out calmly, they just won't be balanced and ready to get rid quickly when it's required. So it was with Walker (he also cost City their F A Cup tie at Wigan, see As I said, Pep Isn't All Right, 20 February). The first goal set the tone and Liverpool gave City a nightmare first half. Worthy Premier League midfielders Milner, Henderson and Oxlade-Chamberlain wouldn't let their opposite numbers settle and made the much vaunted de Bruyne and Silva look comparatively ordinary, lightweight even. From Milner's strong challege the ball broke to the Ox, who unleashed a tremendous shot for the second goal. Liverpool were outstanding but, even when the third goal went in after half an hour, I was wondering if they could hang on. They looked tired even by half time. 

A phrase I remembered from my playing days came into my head. "What we have, we hold". Liverpool wouldn't be able to play the same way in the second half. Could they defend? They could, denying the runaway league leaders even a single shot on target.

So City weren't able to disrupt Liverpool by 'professional' fouls.  Yes, there were numerous yellow cards but some of these were for fouls borne simply of frustration. I can relate to thinking "I've had enough of you going past me, not this time, chum". I thought the referee, German Felix Brych, was superb. One could see why no British referees will be officiating at the World Cup, for the first time in 80 years.

Of course the tie is only at the half way stage. City will be sore and will play with more urgency in their home leg. It may yet come down to whether Liverpool can get an away goal at the Etihad to put it beyond City's reach.

Just time to catch my breath before the U. S. Masters teed off at Augusta. And what scope there is for drama. Puel's 'comebacks'? Well, what a story it would be if Tiger Woods were to win after being unable to stay in his seat for more than five minutes at a time due to back pain at the Masters Champions' dinner just a year ago in addition to the nadir of his highly publicised marriage break up a few years previously. I had thought that Woods could only earn redemption by using his 'brand' for good causes. It never occurred to me that he might do so, after coming through the most recent of several significant operations, by winning golf tournaments again. Or that a new, apparently socialised Woods would emerge: he even played a practice round with Phil Mickelson this week! Perhaps Woods has been humbled to realise that, despite everything, so many golf fans - and so many of his professional rivals - were still rooting for him. 

Mrs H's favourite golfer, Ian Poulter, also making a comeback from injury, is playing instead of commentating at Augusta after his heroics winning the Houston Open last weekend. Poulter needed to win the tournament to qualify, nothing else would do. But Poulter had never before in his long and succesful career won a stroke play event in the USA. After leading for most of the final round and playing beautifully, he found himself trailing by one shot at the last hole. He needed to hole a putt of 20 feet (measure it out in your living room!) to take it to sudden death extra holes, longer than any he had made that day. He nailed it and went on to win. His celebration on holing the putt was classically Poulteresque. Poulter has never won a major - could he this time?

Of course Rory McIroy has won majors - 4 of them. And he's in good form. Can he become only the sixth golfer in history to win a 'career grand slam' by winning at Augusta? Woods is the only golfer currently playing to have done it. Or could the entirely self taught, never had a golf lesson in his life, reputedly borderline autistic Bubba Watson join the select band of golfers to win three times at Augusta? Watson is also coming back from tough times, having reportedly considered quitting golf last year.

Of course there are plenty of other golfers in the field who are good enough to win it and it wouldn't be a great surprise if it was a first time winner (other than Poulter, that would surprise me). There is a hackneyed saying that the competition doesn't start in earnest until the back nine on the final day. We've certainly seen such drama many times. In recent years we've seen Mickelson's amazing shot to the 13th green from the trees in 2010, Spieth blowing up on the par 3 12th to let in Danny Willett in 2016 and Bubba Watson's remarkable improvised banana shot from the trees to win his first Masters on hole 10 in a play off in 2012 - a shot that many felt Watson was the only current generation player who could even attempt it. James Corrigan, writing in the Telegraph, had the Mickelson and Watson shots in his list of the best five shots ever at the Masters in the Telegraph yesterday. (The others were Larry Mize chipping in to win in a play off in 1987, the much shown Tiger Woods chip which hung on the edge of hole 16 before dropping as he "won on one leg" in 2005 before his knee operation and Sandy Lyle's shot from the fairway bunker on hole 18 when he won in 1988). 

All this is indeed fantastic. And I'm sure it will be on Sunday.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

The most cynical team in the Premier League?

Manchester City were awesomely good in their three goal exhibition first half at Goodison Park on Saturday. Their superiority (82% possession - the highest ever for an away game in the Premier League - that's embarrassing!) was made all the greater by an insipid Everton performance, aggravated by a lunatic team selection by manager Sam Allardyce.

I'd never thought of Allardyce as a gambler, but I was wrong. City played in their usual formation with a front three and a midfield three including two of the players of the season, de Bruyne and David Silva along with the useful Fernandinho. So Allardyce fielded a 4-4-2 line up with 2 wingers. This effectively left his two central midfield players - Rooney (not really a midfield player and slow these days) and Schneiderlin (also slow and not really a player of any kind in my book) up against City's three. If the result wasn't a foregone conclusion before the game - and it shouldn't have been, Everton beat City 4-0 at home last year and got a draw at the Etihad earlier in the season; City have big games coming up and probably wouldn't have bust a gut if the game had been heading for a draw - then pitching these two against those three made it pretty much inevitable.

Allardyce didn't have Idrissa Gueye available due to injury, who would otherwise have been a certain starter. Also out injured was Gylfi Sigurddson, but he is an attacking player of dubious defensive merit and so that's not really relevant. Allardyce did have Tom Davies available but chose to leave his youthful energy and grit on the bench until half time. And the youngster Baningime looked a better bet than the players Allardyce had picked when he came on. So Allardyce didn't have to pick the team he did.

I am guessing that Allardyce, recognising that Everton wouldn't have a lot of the ball, felt they had to be set up to play on the break. He selected an adventurous team with wingers Bolassie and Walcott in the midfield 4 and Calvert-Lewin supporting Tosun up front. Bar Tosun, that's a lot of pace. Now sometimes you can defend a threat by making the other team worry about you. If he really thought that he's dafter than the proverbial brush to attempt it against this confident City side.

Fortunately I had more to do than tear my hair out watching the game. The previous weekend the Sunday Times had a piece entitled "Man City - are they the Premier League's best ever?". Despite concluding that City are probably the fittest side to play in England, as well as the most choreographed, most prepared, most perfectly coached team in Premier League history, Jonathan Norcroft argued that they don't quite match up (yet) to the Champions League winning Manchester United team of 1998-99, which showed such belief in itself in all circumstances. This City side will no doubt have the opportunity to prove themselves too. But Norcroft went on to note that Guardiola's team, in addition to its collective football and superb individual skill, know all the arts, including the dark ones. He reported that the chairman of another Premier League club noted that his team had so little possession against City that their opportunities came down to eight or nine counter-attacks "but they fouled us on six of them, so what did we have left?" Fouls at three-quarters of the dangerous transitions in possession - wow.

So I specifically watched the game with that in mind. Not only did I not have to wait long for City's first goal - Sane scoring with a superb strike after 4 minutes - I also didn't have to wait much longer for City's first professional foul to stop Everton from breaking. Walker overran the ball near the corner of Everton's penalty area. Baines relieved him of it and immediately looked up to start a counter. As his momentum took him past Baines, Walker stretched his left boot out, nowhere near the ball, and clipped Baines's ankle, enough to make him go down immediately in obvious pain.

Now remember, Everton had three speed merchants on the pitch. I don't think this incident was remotely an accident or coincidence: I am convinced it was totally deliberate. The referee took no action as it was Walker's first foul of the match and, while cynical, did not endanger his opponent. But given the anonymous Premier League chairman's comment it looked to me about as sporting as the Maradona "hand of god".

Shortly before City's second goal, on 12 minutes, Everton built up their only sustained period of pressure in the first half. As Everton pinged the ball around with some purpose Sane, standing ten yards or so inside his own half, stretched out a hand to prevent a pass reaching its intended target. A quite deliberate handball, which is meant to be an automatic booking. But a card wasn't produced. Teams playing as well as City seem to get breaks from referees. Its just a fact. My club has benefited from it enough in the past. Think how often England captains like Steven Gerrard or Wayne Rooney have been cut some slack by a referee.

My problem with all of this is that in the modern game referees won't let teams get stuck in to a team like City; the cards would soon follow. I must emphasise I'm not talking about "tackles" like Roy Keane's career ending challenge on Alf-Inge Haland here, just going in hard and firm without hestitation, risking the odd late tackle. Surely then it is incumbent on referees to also ensure that City are not allowed to make a mockery of the contest, to the limited extent that this one was, by fouls which, while not aggressive or malicious, kill any chance the opposition has of making a game of it.

Sour grapes? Maybe. But I will be watching the Liverpool - Man City Champions League game tomorrow night with this point in mind, hoping that a continental referee will be more wise to this behaviour. After all, Liverpool are the only team in England at the moment that do not play as if they are scared of Manchester City.

Everton were architects of their own misfortune on Saturday, woefully unable to deliver Allardyce's hopelessly unrealistic game plan. Everton tried a high press at City's goal kick soon after the Sane handball and Bolassie's header which should have levelled the score, if only temporarily. Presumably following instructions, Everton lined up for the kick in 3-4-3 formation, man for man at the back. Ederson found Sane who flicked the ball over Jagielka's head. Jagielka, failing to follow the City approach, didn't pull his man down, maybe because he was left on his backside anyway. It left City, with de Bruyne joining the other three forwards far quicker than Rooney or Schneiderlin could track, with 4 attackers onto two defenders. They executed perfectly to pretty well make the game safe with 78 minutes still on the clock.

Liverpool are, of course, much better equipped to press City and, though it didn't work in the league game at the Etihad, it did in the return at Anfield.

Will I be counting goals or cynical fouls tomorrow night? We'll see. In the meantime I'm happy to join in with the praise for Manchester City's play when they have the ball. Just don't ask me to admire everything about their game. And count with me the game stopping fouls on players like Salah when Liverpool win the ball with City players mainly upfield.