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Football Thread 2021/2022


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Until Jurgen Klopp claimed after Liverpool’s FA Cup victory over Shrewsbury on Sunday, January 9 that his squad had registered a series of “false positive” COVID-19 test results, it was believed the club’s Carabao Cup semi-final first leg at Arsenal three days earlier had been postponed under normal circumstances.

Liverpool had suffered from a large outbreak of COVID-19 which had affected as many as 40 people on the playing and backroom staff, according to the EFL, the organisation who sanctioned the postponement. None of the affected players were involved against Shrewsbury and this led to Klopp claiming they were “not eligible”.

His words were a surprise to many in football, not least the authorities, who had not ruled the players ineligible for the fixture. Sources inside the club instead claim that Klopp left them out for fitness reasons.

By then, the tests in question had been discounted by football’s authorities because three other rounds of testing had not supported the positive results which clinched the Arsenal postponement. They were not “false positives”, as Klopp suggested, but a round of results discounted because of errors in the testing process.

Over the last ten days, The Athletic has been able to establish the following:

Liverpool decided to send their players for precautionary PCR tests using a laboratory called BioGrad after a round of negative lateral flow tests

Liverpool requested the postponement before knowing the results from this additional round of testing

Liverpool conducted this additional testing because they were fearful of a second outbreak at the club, but it went beyond what was needed to get the tie played

Positive results were then returned for 13 players

When these erroneous tests were discounted, neither the club or any of the other authorities in the process highlighted that development publicly

Klopp’s incorrect terminology triggered the EFL into thinking it might have to open an investigation. However it is clear that Liverpool had no motive to get the game called off

Some Liverpool players were unhappy and frustrated they were unable to play in two games and were forced into isolation, away from their families, despite not having COVID-19

Different sources, who are sympathetic towards Liverpool’s predicament, use similar terms when describing what happened that week – a mix of a monumental “fuck-up”, a whole dose of bad luck and a mess of a PR strategy – that for suspicious minds, at a time where there is a mood of paranoia around postponements, will inevitably lead to questions about the club’s intentions ahead of the Arsenal fixture.

The story, say sources at Liverpool, begins in the away dressing room at Stamford Bridge. It was in this space, which many Premier League clubs agree is very small, where the Liverpool players got changed before their game with Chelsea on Sunday, January 2.

In total, they spent around an hour in there; preparing for the match, then at half-time, before showering after the final whistle.

Earlier that day, a staff member was found to be positive for COVID-19 using a lateral flow test. He had not been on site when Liverpool drew 2-2 with Chelsea but had been a part of the travelling party – coming into close proximity with the rest of the staff, as well as players.

Liverpool travelled home and then the players went their separate ways. 

The following day, one of the players who started against Chelsea took a lateral flow test and tested positive. Klopp was already in isolation after testing positive on January 1 and he’d missed the Chelsea game, with Pep Lijnders stepping in for him. Between Monday and Tuesday, a few other staff members, including the Dutch coach, registered positive tests.

While Lijnders’ result came back through the NHS, the staff and players who used lateral flows at the gates of the training complex in Kirkby were negative. Despite this, Liverpool feared the virus had spread throughout their squad given the dynamics of the trip to Chelsea. They would only know for certain through further testing.

Liverpool played Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on January 2 (Photo: Getty Images)

Liverpool decided to make sure by testing their negative players once again, this time with PCR tests. Some sources have told The Athletic that Klopp asked for the additional testing though others insist it was the club’s doctor, Jim Moxon. 

At this point, the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg against Arsenal was two days away and the squad was due to travel again to London. This meant sharing the same bus, plane, hotel space and dressing room. They would be competing against Arsenal’s players, getting up close to them. 

The source claims the decision for extra testing was therefore in Arsenal’s interest as well – that other Premier League clubs have used independent testing laboratories because Prenetics, the company behind the Premier League’s COVID-19 testing programme, take too long for their liking.

Yet at no point was the additional round of testing required by the authorities in order for the fixture to be fulfilled. The round of negative lateral flow tests was sufficient for the Arsenal game to go ahead. Liverpool, then, acted out of an abundance of caution – but ultimately this caution caused a fixture to be postponed that could have been played.

The Athletic has established separately that the Merseyside-based lab Liverpool contracted to provide this additional, precautionary round of tests is called BioGrad. Neither the lab, nor its CEO, Dr Natalie Kenny, has responded to multiple requests for comment. 

Liverpool had used the BioGrad lab during another suspected outbreak in December, after Aston Villa’s visit to Anfield. Five days later, Liverpool were due to face Newcastle United and, in the period between the games, Villa suspected an outbreak of their own and this was reported in the press.

The morning after Steven Gerrard managed a team at Anfield for the first time, one Villa player tested positive at the club’s training ground but, by the end of that week, Villa had enough COVID-19 cases to get their game at Burnley postponed just a few hours before the kick-off. In a statement after Liverpool’s game at Arsenal was postponed, the club suggested they did not want this to happen because of the disruption it would cause travelling fans.

Before the match against Newcastle, Liverpool were concerned that some of their players and staff may have picked up the virus from contact with people from Villa. Once again, Liverpool did not have to commission a round of testing with BioGrad, but they did, and this led to the unavailability of two players for the game at Anfield the following Thursday. A game which – unlike the Arsenal semi-final – went ahead.

Another player missed the same game through separate testing, believed to have been taken by Prenetics. BioGrad, however, had been chosen because of their capacity to turn results around a lot quicker than Prenetics. While Prenetics take their samples to Milton Keynes by courier and the results can sometimes take up to 24 hours to come back, BioGrad are much quicker – between four and eight hours depending on the workload.

It has been suggested that Liverpool’s decision to use the independent lab was taken on that occasion not just because of their speed but also because of worries related to the welfare of the staff. The outbreak at Villa had ripped through the club’s Bodymoor Heath training ground. Omicron was more contagious than any of the other variants. Liverpool felt they could not afford to take the risk.

Liverpool, then, knew about the effectiveness of the BioGrad testing when a fortnight later, there were new concerns. This time Prenetics were on site at the training ground but their results would not come through until as late as Wednesday afternoon or evening – possibly by the time the Liverpool squad had travelled to London. Rather than set Prenetics aside, Liverpool used BioGrad to additionally test their players so that the squad could travel to London with peace of mind. 

That meant, however, that Liverpool decided to apply for the postponement of their match against Arsenal before either set of results had been returned. And before the club knew whether or not there was a large outbreak of COVID-19 at the club, which there wasn’t.

A source close to the situation suggests the club requested the postponement as a precaution. Meanwhile, the club responded to questions about rumours suggesting training on the Tuesday had been cancelled by saying that the Kirby facility was, in fact, open. But the club had voluntarily shut the place down before they were told to.

The club made the decision to shut their training ground on January 5 (Photo: Getty Images)

At this point, the club was in discussion with the Premier League and local public health officials, led by Merseyside director Matt Ashton. It is his view Liverpool went above and beyond what was expected in this process. Yet the club’s caution ultimately backfired because 13 players who were tested by BioGrad then came back positive. A source at Liverpool considered the development extraordinary. Only then did Ashton give the instruction to shut down the training ground officially for 48 hours before the resumption of training, when the remaining players would do another round of PCR screening.

By the time the EFL announced Liverpool’s game at Arsenal was postponed, they were aware that a round of results from Prenetics contradicted what had been found by BioGrad. The local public health authority’s advice, however, was that a negative test does not override a positive one. Though the EFL had suggested there had been as many as 40 cases at Liverpool, The Athletic understands that the number of match-day staff who also tested positive with BioGrad was in the low double figures and therefore the suspected number of cases relating to the Arsenal fixture was closer to 25.

Either way, it was enough to get the game postponed with no chance of reinstatement because the next batch of testing would not happen until after the fixture was due to be played. 

According to the UK Health Security Agency, the rules are clear and the game – no matter what – had to be called off. The EFL, therefore, could not afford to become embroiled in an argument over scientific interpretation and they followed a suitable course of action following checks made on the lab, analysis of the test certificates and a short board discussion.

Upon the return of the contradicting Prenetics results, however, Ashton was given enough reasonable doubt to think something had gone wrong with the independent lab testing. If a third round of PCRs came back clean 48 hours later, it was his advice to allow the affected players back to training. Yet the final decision rested with the Premier League and the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) and that was soon granted.

Almost all of the communication between Liverpool and the EFL had involved the club’s secretary, Danny Stanway, formerly a player administration assistant with the EFL more than a decade ago. A source at Liverpool says Stanway’s information was shared in real time with his former employers via telephone calls and messages. Senior sources at the EFL support that claim, although figures further down the food chain who were ultimately closer to the correspondence suggest the process was stressful and not quite so straightforward.

Until the postponement was announced, the EFL had responded to questions relating to uncertainty around the fixture by insisting it was going to go ahead as planned. Later, their reasoning related to thresholds at the time of Liverpool’s application: there were not enough players or, indeed, match-day support staff testing positive before the tests took place and nobody in a senior position expected the results from the independent lab to be so aggressive.

Once the results landed, irrespective of what Prenetics showed, it was relatively easy to conduct swift research and reach a decision. 

Klopp had operated throughout the week in isolation from his Formby home, because of his own positive test on January 1. He was able to return to the dugout for the visit of Shrewsbury on the Sunday, but was still isolating when a pre-match press conference for the FA Cup tie was held a day earlier.

Had the Arsenal game gone ahead, Peter Krawietz would most likely have stepped into a breach left by both Klopp and Lijnders’ absence. The German has been a long-serving senior member of Klopp’s staff, dating back to their days at Mainz where Krawietz was chief scout. Now Klopp’s assistant manager, it has usually been Lijnders stepping into Klopp’s duties for press conferences in the earliest rounds of domestic cup competitions because he is a more confident public speaker. He also holds aspirations of becoming a manager himself, so the experience is considered good for him.

By Saturday, a third round of thorough PCR testing after the initial BioGrad and Prenetics tests had returned a second set of negative results. This confirmed suspicions that something had gone wrong with BioGrad’s testing. Yet the club decided not to release this information. Sources say this would have been unfair on Krawietz, who is not used to fielding questions about issues that are way above his head and command of language.

Meanwhile, at some point over the weekend, the isolating players were cleared for release and began to train again, but initially only in bubbles. This happened, say sources at Liverpool, not because of concerns around the spread of COVID-19 but because Klopp wanted extra conditioning work done by players who hadn’t trained in almost a week. Klopp then decided not to use those players despite their availability for the Shrewsbury game for this reason.

Liverpool were now fully aware their game at Arsenal had been postponed because of a round of testing that had gone unsupported by three other rounds of testing. The BioGrad results had also been discounted – but all of those developments remained private until Klopp spoke about players being “not eligible” because of “false positive” tests in his post-match press conference following the 4-1 victory over Shrewsbury.

Klopp shuffled his pack for the FA Cup victory over Shrewsbury (Photo: Getty Images)

Klopp’s terminology was confusing and, ultimately, incorrect. The UK government defines “false positives” as valid PCR tests that “give a positive result for a person not infected with COVID-19”. The chances of a “false positive” PCR test are very small — the Office of National Statistics estimated a range of between 0.8% and 4.3% — meaning the odds of 13 simultaneous “false positive” outcomes are, in fact, infinitesimally small. BioGrad’s erroneous results had been completely discounted. 

Health experts with an appreciation of the testing process believe BioGrad over-interpreted their results through CT values, which measure what level of virus there is in any human body. It could also be possible that someone entering the data simply got a number wrong and suddenly, Liverpool had a serious problem.

Initially, Liverpool refused to answer The Athletic’s questions about what had happened on testing. The EFL were adamant that Liverpool had not recorded “false positive” tests and believed in BioGrad’s testing programme, one which – they had been informed – involved a lower threshold for a positive test. It remains the EFL’s firm belief that they reached the correct decision and that Liverpool had done everything correctly.

Klopp’s claims, however, led to complaints from other clubs, including Nottingham Forest – who, despite knocking Arsenal out of the FA Cup on the same day Liverpool beat Shrewsbury, felt the visiting team gained an unfair advantage in their preparations ahead of their trip to the City Ground. The uncertainty caused by Klopp’s comments could have led to an investigation, but the EFL decided within 12 hours that although the manager’s claims were erroneous, the information being sent their way before the postponement decision was accurate.

Internally, it has since been acknowledged that Klopp’s use of language was unfortunate. The Liverpool manager had made another error in his press conference. He described some of the players he had left out of the Shrewsbury victory as “not eligible” for the FA Cup tie. This was not the case as the discounted results and subsequent rounds of negative results meant the players found positive by BioGrad were free to play.

Instead, Klopp chose not to use these players, a decision which has the potential to invite suspicion around the potential for the club being seen to keep up appearances; knowing how it would look odd if suddenly, even some of the affected players were available for Shrewsbury. Yet sources at the club also think it should be remembered he was speaking in his second language – that to his mind, the process the players had been subjected to made them “not eligible” for his plans.

The same, it is argued, can be said for his “false positive” description. In a literal sense, the players tested positive. They then tested negative. Yet that is not a “false positive” – when you know all of the tests you are talking about were, eventually, disregarded because of fault lines and mathematic improbability.

From here, it is accepted internally that the club carried out a shambolic PR strategy led by the head of press, Matt McCann – who spent the summer of 2020 living with Klopp in a Liverpool apartment while the manager’s wife spent time in Germany. McCann, it is said, has taken responsibility for Liverpool allowing the story to get away from them.

Though one Liverpool source close to what happened admits the club – in conjunction with the EFL – could have been transparent about the subsequent test findings by releasing a statement, as the club has done on every other COVID-related development since the start of the pandemic as far as we know, it is fair to suggest at least one person involved in such a decision would have appreciated the optics if it became obvious a game was postponed because of a round of highly unusual test results that were later discounted.

Inside Liverpool, there is a recognition Klopp does not like his authority challenged. The club acknowledges his comments should have been explained when scepticism and confusion surfaced but reason he was not asked about his claims, despite the potential significance of them, in the Shrewsbury press conference.

Though the episode is viewed internally as a poorly-handled communications error, which has let down the medical staff and failed to protect the club’s manager in the aftermath of his own comments, when Klopp was asked to clarify what he meant by “false positives” the following Wednesday ahead of Arsenal’s first leg visit to Anfield, he did not admit his error even then. 

And still, the club did not seek to highlight the matter either inside or outside its own terms.

Klopp’s media appearances raised more questions than provided answers (Photo: Getty Images)

To a large extent, the almost forgotten party in the story are the players who were not allowed to play in two matches they should have been available for and, in turn, had to spend time away from their families.

Understandably, some of them were not happy about any of this, especially those who have been struggling for minutes on the pitch.

A club source who admits that has been the case also suggests that, deep down, any frustration amongst the players would have been washed away by the experiences they have had as professional footballers over the last two years, especially those who have been at Liverpool throughout that time – a club that started testing its players before it became mandatory.

Klopp, the club source says, had reason to speak to them upon their return but no reason to apologise despite other sources suggesting he had. There is obviously a reason why Klopp decided to mention “false positives”, even if his terminology was wrong, and that could be because he wants to show the affected players he is on their side.

His words, says a club source, were not planned – the press department had not expected it because the club was not under siege to explain itself (though it almost certainly would have been had there been transparency from the moment it realised a set of independent lab results had been scrubbed off by the authorities).

Klopp takes health very seriously and claims he always listens to the experts but there is a gap in his understanding over this issue. The local health authorities were satisfied by Liverpool’s submissions before the postponement but there was confusion over Klopp’s claims given the fact the positive results were ultimately discounted. It seems unusual they have not corrected him – perhaps his powerful contribution towards the vaccination programme now guarantees everything he says about medical processes means he cannot be reproached.

In December, just a few days before the club’s first outbreak of COVID-19 this season, Klopp called for more honesty from those working in football around the virus. “From my point of view I don’t know 100 per cent why we are not more open,” he said. “Why do we hide players? Nobody knows the number of players, it’s always like ‘some staff, some players’. 

“We are all in the same situation as human beings and I really think nobody should hide it. I think a bit more transparency would be helpful.”

But, at a time when suspicion around fixture postponements in football has never been higher, Liverpool and others did not heed that advice. Transparency was in short supply from the moment Liverpool first contacted the EFL, leading to a fixture being postponed that did not need to be, with players left frustrated and supporters kept in the dark. 

 

cba to format it, soz

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Read the start of it and seems like a whole load of nothing. LFC concerned about Covid and possible outbreak, not happy with LFTs which is understandable due to how inaccurate they can be, so decided to get PCR tests and act responsible. But as its Liverpool thats shocking and how dare they postpone the game to get the advantage of *checks notes* err playing the 2nd leg away from home... 

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Barcelona still basketcase then: 

 

Quote

Ousmane Dembélé has been told to leave Barcelona immediately. The Frenchman has been left out of the squad to face Athletic Club on Thursday night with the director of football, Mateu Alemany, announcing that they intend to move him on before the transfer window closes on 31 January and suggesting that he will not play for them again. That came after the coach Xavi Hernández delivered a public ultimatum on Wednesday night: renew or go.

Dembélé has six months remaining on his contract and has failed to reach an agreement on a new deal. The club have concluded that the 24-year-old has no intention of continuing beyond the summer, despite Xavi saying Dembélé had said he wanted to stay. Now they want to force a departure. If he does not leave now, he faces the prospect of spending the next six months left in the stands and the club have even investigated the possibility of rescinding his contract. Barcelona need to shed his salary if they are to bring in players.

(The Guardian)

 

 

Dembele might quietly be a bigger financial disaster than Couthinho or Griezmann who at least Barca have managed to get off their books somehow.  I know this "ultimatum" is a an English translation of something which would have been said in Spanish or Catalan, but what does Xavi expect to happen now he's said "renew or go" ?    Dembele holds all the cards here, I'm sure he's perfectly happy sitting in the stands on €1m a month until July before becoming a free agent at 25.  He's definitely going to get another club and while it might not be a club who have serious ambitions of winning the Champions League like Barcelona still had in 2017, he's going to have the pick and choose of pretty much any league in Europe and can go somewhere where he'll be the main man.   He's not fucked if he just decides to sit it out, but Barcelona are.   Maybe Barcelona just want to advertise the fact that Dembele is available and they'll basically take a deal on any terms no matter how unfavourable because they absolutely need to get him off the books before Jan 31st.   I wouldn't be surprised if he moves before deadline day, but this ultimatum will have fuck all to do with it. 

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3 minutes ago, Naysonymous said:

Barcelona still basketcase then: 

 

 

 

Dembele might quietly be a bigger financial disaster than Couthinho or Griezmann who at least Barca have managed to get off their books somehow.  I know this "ultimatum" is a an English translation of something which would have been said in Spanish or Catalan, but what does Xavi expect to happen now he's said "renew or go" ?    Dembele holds all the cards here, I'm sure he's perfectly happy sitting in the stands on €1m a month until July before becoming a free agent at 25.  He's definitely going to get another club and while it might not be a club who have serious ambitions of winning the Champions League like Barcelona still had in 2017, he's going to have the pick and choose of pretty much any league in Europe and can go somewhere where he'll be the main man.   He's not fucked if he just decides to sit it out, but Barcelona are.   Maybe Barcelona just want to advertise the fact that Dembele is available and they'll basically take a deal on any terms no matter how unfavourable because they absolutely need to get him off the books before Jan 31st.   I wouldn't be surprised if he moves before deadline day, but this ultimatum will have fuck all to do with it. 

It's a fucking stupid situation - they can either get rid of him now, or renew his contract because football accounting rules would allow them to amortise his ridiculous transfer fee over the rest of his new contract, crucially freeing up funds right now to be able to sign new players, even though they will have made a long term financial commitment that means they'll actually have less money in the long term. No doubt Dembele will be milking this for all it's worth, either getting a pay rise from Barca or a huge signing on fee in the summer.

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1 hour ago, The Fox said:
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Until Jurgen Klopp claimed after Liverpool’s FA Cup victory over Shrewsbury on Sunday, January 9 that his squad had registered a series of “false positive” COVID-19 test results, it was believed the club’s Carabao Cup semi-final first leg at Arsenal three days earlier had been postponed under normal circumstances.

Liverpool had suffered from a large outbreak of COVID-19 which had affected as many as 40 people on the playing and backroom staff, according to the EFL, the organisation who sanctioned the postponement. None of the affected players were involved against Shrewsbury and this led to Klopp claiming they were “not eligible”.

His words were a surprise to many in football, not least the authorities, who had not ruled the players ineligible for the fixture. Sources inside the club instead claim that Klopp left them out for fitness reasons.

By then, the tests in question had been discounted by football’s authorities because three other rounds of testing had not supported the positive results which clinched the Arsenal postponement. They were not “false positives”, as Klopp suggested, but a round of results discounted because of errors in the testing process.

Over the last ten days, The Athletic has been able to establish the following:

Liverpool decided to send their players for precautionary PCR tests using a laboratory called BioGrad after a round of negative lateral flow tests

Liverpool requested the postponement before knowing the results from this additional round of testing

Liverpool conducted this additional testing because they were fearful of a second outbreak at the club, but it went beyond what was needed to get the tie played

Positive results were then returned for 13 players

When these erroneous tests were discounted, neither the club or any of the other authorities in the process highlighted that development publicly

Klopp’s incorrect terminology triggered the EFL into thinking it might have to open an investigation. However it is clear that Liverpool had no motive to get the game called off

Some Liverpool players were unhappy and frustrated they were unable to play in two games and were forced into isolation, away from their families, despite not having COVID-19

Different sources, who are sympathetic towards Liverpool’s predicament, use similar terms when describing what happened that week – a mix of a monumental “fuck-up”, a whole dose of bad luck and a mess of a PR strategy – that for suspicious minds, at a time where there is a mood of paranoia around postponements, will inevitably lead to questions about the club’s intentions ahead of the Arsenal fixture.

The story, say sources at Liverpool, begins in the away dressing room at Stamford Bridge. It was in this space, which many Premier League clubs agree is very small, where the Liverpool players got changed before their game with Chelsea on Sunday, January 2.

In total, they spent around an hour in there; preparing for the match, then at half-time, before showering after the final whistle.

Earlier that day, a staff member was found to be positive for COVID-19 using a lateral flow test. He had not been on site when Liverpool drew 2-2 with Chelsea but had been a part of the travelling party – coming into close proximity with the rest of the staff, as well as players.

Liverpool travelled home and then the players went their separate ways. 

The following day, one of the players who started against Chelsea took a lateral flow test and tested positive. Klopp was already in isolation after testing positive on January 1 and he’d missed the Chelsea game, with Pep Lijnders stepping in for him. Between Monday and Tuesday, a few other staff members, including the Dutch coach, registered positive tests.

While Lijnders’ result came back through the NHS, the staff and players who used lateral flows at the gates of the training complex in Kirkby were negative. Despite this, Liverpool feared the virus had spread throughout their squad given the dynamics of the trip to Chelsea. They would only know for certain through further testing.

Liverpool played Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on January 2 (Photo: Getty Images)

Liverpool decided to make sure by testing their negative players once again, this time with PCR tests. Some sources have told The Athletic that Klopp asked for the additional testing though others insist it was the club’s doctor, Jim Moxon. 

At this point, the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg against Arsenal was two days away and the squad was due to travel again to London. This meant sharing the same bus, plane, hotel space and dressing room. They would be competing against Arsenal’s players, getting up close to them. 

The source claims the decision for extra testing was therefore in Arsenal’s interest as well – that other Premier League clubs have used independent testing laboratories because Prenetics, the company behind the Premier League’s COVID-19 testing programme, take too long for their liking.

Yet at no point was the additional round of testing required by the authorities in order for the fixture to be fulfilled. The round of negative lateral flow tests was sufficient for the Arsenal game to go ahead. Liverpool, then, acted out of an abundance of caution – but ultimately this caution caused a fixture to be postponed that could have been played.

The Athletic has established separately that the Merseyside-based lab Liverpool contracted to provide this additional, precautionary round of tests is called BioGrad. Neither the lab, nor its CEO, Dr Natalie Kenny, has responded to multiple requests for comment. 

Liverpool had used the BioGrad lab during another suspected outbreak in December, after Aston Villa’s visit to Anfield. Five days later, Liverpool were due to face Newcastle United and, in the period between the games, Villa suspected an outbreak of their own and this was reported in the press.

The morning after Steven Gerrard managed a team at Anfield for the first time, one Villa player tested positive at the club’s training ground but, by the end of that week, Villa had enough COVID-19 cases to get their game at Burnley postponed just a few hours before the kick-off. In a statement after Liverpool’s game at Arsenal was postponed, the club suggested they did not want this to happen because of the disruption it would cause travelling fans.

Before the match against Newcastle, Liverpool were concerned that some of their players and staff may have picked up the virus from contact with people from Villa. Once again, Liverpool did not have to commission a round of testing with BioGrad, but they did, and this led to the unavailability of two players for the game at Anfield the following Thursday. A game which – unlike the Arsenal semi-final – went ahead.

Another player missed the same game through separate testing, believed to have been taken by Prenetics. BioGrad, however, had been chosen because of their capacity to turn results around a lot quicker than Prenetics. While Prenetics take their samples to Milton Keynes by courier and the results can sometimes take up to 24 hours to come back, BioGrad are much quicker – between four and eight hours depending on the workload.

It has been suggested that Liverpool’s decision to use the independent lab was taken on that occasion not just because of their speed but also because of worries related to the welfare of the staff. The outbreak at Villa had ripped through the club’s Bodymoor Heath training ground. Omicron was more contagious than any of the other variants. Liverpool felt they could not afford to take the risk.

Liverpool, then, knew about the effectiveness of the BioGrad testing when a fortnight later, there were new concerns. This time Prenetics were on site at the training ground but their results would not come through until as late as Wednesday afternoon or evening – possibly by the time the Liverpool squad had travelled to London. Rather than set Prenetics aside, Liverpool used BioGrad to additionally test their players so that the squad could travel to London with peace of mind. 

That meant, however, that Liverpool decided to apply for the postponement of their match against Arsenal before either set of results had been returned. And before the club knew whether or not there was a large outbreak of COVID-19 at the club, which there wasn’t.

A source close to the situation suggests the club requested the postponement as a precaution. Meanwhile, the club responded to questions about rumours suggesting training on the Tuesday had been cancelled by saying that the Kirby facility was, in fact, open. But the club had voluntarily shut the place down before they were told to.

The club made the decision to shut their training ground on January 5 (Photo: Getty Images)

At this point, the club was in discussion with the Premier League and local public health officials, led by Merseyside director Matt Ashton. It is his view Liverpool went above and beyond what was expected in this process. Yet the club’s caution ultimately backfired because 13 players who were tested by BioGrad then came back positive. A source at Liverpool considered the development extraordinary. Only then did Ashton give the instruction to shut down the training ground officially for 48 hours before the resumption of training, when the remaining players would do another round of PCR screening.

By the time the EFL announced Liverpool’s game at Arsenal was postponed, they were aware that a round of results from Prenetics contradicted what had been found by BioGrad. The local public health authority’s advice, however, was that a negative test does not override a positive one. Though the EFL had suggested there had been as many as 40 cases at Liverpool, The Athletic understands that the number of match-day staff who also tested positive with BioGrad was in the low double figures and therefore the suspected number of cases relating to the Arsenal fixture was closer to 25.

Either way, it was enough to get the game postponed with no chance of reinstatement because the next batch of testing would not happen until after the fixture was due to be played. 

According to the UK Health Security Agency, the rules are clear and the game – no matter what – had to be called off. The EFL, therefore, could not afford to become embroiled in an argument over scientific interpretation and they followed a suitable course of action following checks made on the lab, analysis of the test certificates and a short board discussion.

Upon the return of the contradicting Prenetics results, however, Ashton was given enough reasonable doubt to think something had gone wrong with the independent lab testing. If a third round of PCRs came back clean 48 hours later, it was his advice to allow the affected players back to training. Yet the final decision rested with the Premier League and the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) and that was soon granted.

Almost all of the communication between Liverpool and the EFL had involved the club’s secretary, Danny Stanway, formerly a player administration assistant with the EFL more than a decade ago. A source at Liverpool says Stanway’s information was shared in real time with his former employers via telephone calls and messages. Senior sources at the EFL support that claim, although figures further down the food chain who were ultimately closer to the correspondence suggest the process was stressful and not quite so straightforward.

Until the postponement was announced, the EFL had responded to questions relating to uncertainty around the fixture by insisting it was going to go ahead as planned. Later, their reasoning related to thresholds at the time of Liverpool’s application: there were not enough players or, indeed, match-day support staff testing positive before the tests took place and nobody in a senior position expected the results from the independent lab to be so aggressive.

Once the results landed, irrespective of what Prenetics showed, it was relatively easy to conduct swift research and reach a decision. 

Klopp had operated throughout the week in isolation from his Formby home, because of his own positive test on January 1. He was able to return to the dugout for the visit of Shrewsbury on the Sunday, but was still isolating when a pre-match press conference for the FA Cup tie was held a day earlier.

Had the Arsenal game gone ahead, Peter Krawietz would most likely have stepped into a breach left by both Klopp and Lijnders’ absence. The German has been a long-serving senior member of Klopp’s staff, dating back to their days at Mainz where Krawietz was chief scout. Now Klopp’s assistant manager, it has usually been Lijnders stepping into Klopp’s duties for press conferences in the earliest rounds of domestic cup competitions because he is a more confident public speaker. He also holds aspirations of becoming a manager himself, so the experience is considered good for him.

By Saturday, a third round of thorough PCR testing after the initial BioGrad and Prenetics tests had returned a second set of negative results. This confirmed suspicions that something had gone wrong with BioGrad’s testing. Yet the club decided not to release this information. Sources say this would have been unfair on Krawietz, who is not used to fielding questions about issues that are way above his head and command of language.

Meanwhile, at some point over the weekend, the isolating players were cleared for release and began to train again, but initially only in bubbles. This happened, say sources at Liverpool, not because of concerns around the spread of COVID-19 but because Klopp wanted extra conditioning work done by players who hadn’t trained in almost a week. Klopp then decided not to use those players despite their availability for the Shrewsbury game for this reason.

Liverpool were now fully aware their game at Arsenal had been postponed because of a round of testing that had gone unsupported by three other rounds of testing. The BioGrad results had also been discounted – but all of those developments remained private until Klopp spoke about players being “not eligible” because of “false positive” tests in his post-match press conference following the 4-1 victory over Shrewsbury.

Klopp shuffled his pack for the FA Cup victory over Shrewsbury (Photo: Getty Images)

Klopp’s terminology was confusing and, ultimately, incorrect. The UK government defines “false positives” as valid PCR tests that “give a positive result for a person not infected with COVID-19”. The chances of a “false positive” PCR test are very small — the Office of National Statistics estimated a range of between 0.8% and 4.3% — meaning the odds of 13 simultaneous “false positive” outcomes are, in fact, infinitesimally small. BioGrad’s erroneous results had been completely discounted. 

Health experts with an appreciation of the testing process believe BioGrad over-interpreted their results through CT values, which measure what level of virus there is in any human body. It could also be possible that someone entering the data simply got a number wrong and suddenly, Liverpool had a serious problem.

Initially, Liverpool refused to answer The Athletic’s questions about what had happened on testing. The EFL were adamant that Liverpool had not recorded “false positive” tests and believed in BioGrad’s testing programme, one which – they had been informed – involved a lower threshold for a positive test. It remains the EFL’s firm belief that they reached the correct decision and that Liverpool had done everything correctly.

Klopp’s claims, however, led to complaints from other clubs, including Nottingham Forest – who, despite knocking Arsenal out of the FA Cup on the same day Liverpool beat Shrewsbury, felt the visiting team gained an unfair advantage in their preparations ahead of their trip to the City Ground. The uncertainty caused by Klopp’s comments could have led to an investigation, but the EFL decided within 12 hours that although the manager’s claims were erroneous, the information being sent their way before the postponement decision was accurate.

Internally, it has since been acknowledged that Klopp’s use of language was unfortunate. The Liverpool manager had made another error in his press conference. He described some of the players he had left out of the Shrewsbury victory as “not eligible” for the FA Cup tie. This was not the case as the discounted results and subsequent rounds of negative results meant the players found positive by BioGrad were free to play.

Instead, Klopp chose not to use these players, a decision which has the potential to invite suspicion around the potential for the club being seen to keep up appearances; knowing how it would look odd if suddenly, even some of the affected players were available for Shrewsbury. Yet sources at the club also think it should be remembered he was speaking in his second language – that to his mind, the process the players had been subjected to made them “not eligible” for his plans.

The same, it is argued, can be said for his “false positive” description. In a literal sense, the players tested positive. They then tested negative. Yet that is not a “false positive” – when you know all of the tests you are talking about were, eventually, disregarded because of fault lines and mathematic improbability.

From here, it is accepted internally that the club carried out a shambolic PR strategy led by the head of press, Matt McCann – who spent the summer of 2020 living with Klopp in a Liverpool apartment while the manager’s wife spent time in Germany. McCann, it is said, has taken responsibility for Liverpool allowing the story to get away from them.

Though one Liverpool source close to what happened admits the club – in conjunction with the EFL – could have been transparent about the subsequent test findings by releasing a statement, as the club has done on every other COVID-related development since the start of the pandemic as far as we know, it is fair to suggest at least one person involved in such a decision would have appreciated the optics if it became obvious a game was postponed because of a round of highly unusual test results that were later discounted.

Inside Liverpool, there is a recognition Klopp does not like his authority challenged. The club acknowledges his comments should have been explained when scepticism and confusion surfaced but reason he was not asked about his claims, despite the potential significance of them, in the Shrewsbury press conference.

Though the episode is viewed internally as a poorly-handled communications error, which has let down the medical staff and failed to protect the club’s manager in the aftermath of his own comments, when Klopp was asked to clarify what he meant by “false positives” the following Wednesday ahead of Arsenal’s first leg visit to Anfield, he did not admit his error even then. 

And still, the club did not seek to highlight the matter either inside or outside its own terms.

Klopp’s media appearances raised more questions than provided answers (Photo: Getty Images)

To a large extent, the almost forgotten party in the story are the players who were not allowed to play in two matches they should have been available for and, in turn, had to spend time away from their families.

Understandably, some of them were not happy about any of this, especially those who have been struggling for minutes on the pitch.

A club source who admits that has been the case also suggests that, deep down, any frustration amongst the players would have been washed away by the experiences they have had as professional footballers over the last two years, especially those who have been at Liverpool throughout that time – a club that started testing its players before it became mandatory.

Klopp, the club source says, had reason to speak to them upon their return but no reason to apologise despite other sources suggesting he had. There is obviously a reason why Klopp decided to mention “false positives”, even if his terminology was wrong, and that could be because he wants to show the affected players he is on their side.

His words, says a club source, were not planned – the press department had not expected it because the club was not under siege to explain itself (though it almost certainly would have been had there been transparency from the moment it realised a set of independent lab results had been scrubbed off by the authorities).

Klopp takes health very seriously and claims he always listens to the experts but there is a gap in his understanding over this issue. The local health authorities were satisfied by Liverpool’s submissions before the postponement but there was confusion over Klopp’s claims given the fact the positive results were ultimately discounted. It seems unusual they have not corrected him – perhaps his powerful contribution towards the vaccination programme now guarantees everything he says about medical processes means he cannot be reproached.

In December, just a few days before the club’s first outbreak of COVID-19 this season, Klopp called for more honesty from those working in football around the virus. “From my point of view I don’t know 100 per cent why we are not more open,” he said. “Why do we hide players? Nobody knows the number of players, it’s always like ‘some staff, some players’. 

“We are all in the same situation as human beings and I really think nobody should hide it. I think a bit more transparency would be helpful.”

But, at a time when suspicion around fixture postponements in football has never been higher, Liverpool and others did not heed that advice. Transparency was in short supply from the moment Liverpool first contacted the EFL, leading to a fixture being postponed that did not need to be, with players left frustrated and supporters kept in the dark. 

 

cba to format it, soz

I did read all of that and, actually, there's nowhere near the story there that the tweet made out. It even agrees near the start that Liverpool had no motive for wanting a postponement and offers why they were doing extra testing in the first place.

 

It's a bit of a PR mess, but not much more than that, especially as the EFL has already decided not to do anything.

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1 hour ago, The Fox said:
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Until Jurgen Klopp claimed after Liverpool’s FA Cup victory over Shrewsbury on Sunday, January 9 that his squad had registered a series of “false positive” COVID-19 test results, it was believed the club’s Carabao Cup semi-final first leg at Arsenal three days earlier had been postponed under normal circumstances.

Liverpool had suffered from a large outbreak of COVID-19 which had affected as many as 40 people on the playing and backroom staff, according to the EFL, the organisation who sanctioned the postponement. None of the affected players were involved against Shrewsbury and this led to Klopp claiming they were “not eligible”.

His words were a surprise to many in football, not least the authorities, who had not ruled the players ineligible for the fixture. Sources inside the club instead claim that Klopp left them out for fitness reasons.

By then, the tests in question had been discounted by football’s authorities because three other rounds of testing had not supported the positive results which clinched the Arsenal postponement. They were not “false positives”, as Klopp suggested, but a round of results discounted because of errors in the testing process.

Over the last ten days, The Athletic has been able to establish the following:

Liverpool decided to send their players for precautionary PCR tests using a laboratory called BioGrad after a round of negative lateral flow tests

Liverpool requested the postponement before knowing the results from this additional round of testing

Liverpool conducted this additional testing because they were fearful of a second outbreak at the club, but it went beyond what was needed to get the tie played

Positive results were then returned for 13 players

When these erroneous tests were discounted, neither the club or any of the other authorities in the process highlighted that development publicly

Klopp’s incorrect terminology triggered the EFL into thinking it might have to open an investigation. However it is clear that Liverpool had no motive to get the game called off

Some Liverpool players were unhappy and frustrated they were unable to play in two games and were forced into isolation, away from their families, despite not having COVID-19

Different sources, who are sympathetic towards Liverpool’s predicament, use similar terms when describing what happened that week – a mix of a monumental “fuck-up”, a whole dose of bad luck and a mess of a PR strategy – that for suspicious minds, at a time where there is a mood of paranoia around postponements, will inevitably lead to questions about the club’s intentions ahead of the Arsenal fixture.

The story, say sources at Liverpool, begins in the away dressing room at Stamford Bridge. It was in this space, which many Premier League clubs agree is very small, where the Liverpool players got changed before their game with Chelsea on Sunday, January 2.

In total, they spent around an hour in there; preparing for the match, then at half-time, before showering after the final whistle.

Earlier that day, a staff member was found to be positive for COVID-19 using a lateral flow test. He had not been on site when Liverpool drew 2-2 with Chelsea but had been a part of the travelling party – coming into close proximity with the rest of the staff, as well as players.

Liverpool travelled home and then the players went their separate ways. 

The following day, one of the players who started against Chelsea took a lateral flow test and tested positive. Klopp was already in isolation after testing positive on January 1 and he’d missed the Chelsea game, with Pep Lijnders stepping in for him. Between Monday and Tuesday, a few other staff members, including the Dutch coach, registered positive tests.

While Lijnders’ result came back through the NHS, the staff and players who used lateral flows at the gates of the training complex in Kirkby were negative. Despite this, Liverpool feared the virus had spread throughout their squad given the dynamics of the trip to Chelsea. They would only know for certain through further testing.

Liverpool played Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on January 2 (Photo: Getty Images)

Liverpool decided to make sure by testing their negative players once again, this time with PCR tests. Some sources have told The Athletic that Klopp asked for the additional testing though others insist it was the club’s doctor, Jim Moxon. 

At this point, the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg against Arsenal was two days away and the squad was due to travel again to London. This meant sharing the same bus, plane, hotel space and dressing room. They would be competing against Arsenal’s players, getting up close to them. 

The source claims the decision for extra testing was therefore in Arsenal’s interest as well – that other Premier League clubs have used independent testing laboratories because Prenetics, the company behind the Premier League’s COVID-19 testing programme, take too long for their liking.

Yet at no point was the additional round of testing required by the authorities in order for the fixture to be fulfilled. The round of negative lateral flow tests was sufficient for the Arsenal game to go ahead. Liverpool, then, acted out of an abundance of caution – but ultimately this caution caused a fixture to be postponed that could have been played.

The Athletic has established separately that the Merseyside-based lab Liverpool contracted to provide this additional, precautionary round of tests is called BioGrad. Neither the lab, nor its CEO, Dr Natalie Kenny, has responded to multiple requests for comment. 

Liverpool had used the BioGrad lab during another suspected outbreak in December, after Aston Villa’s visit to Anfield. Five days later, Liverpool were due to face Newcastle United and, in the period between the games, Villa suspected an outbreak of their own and this was reported in the press.

The morning after Steven Gerrard managed a team at Anfield for the first time, one Villa player tested positive at the club’s training ground but, by the end of that week, Villa had enough COVID-19 cases to get their game at Burnley postponed just a few hours before the kick-off. In a statement after Liverpool’s game at Arsenal was postponed, the club suggested they did not want this to happen because of the disruption it would cause travelling fans.

Before the match against Newcastle, Liverpool were concerned that some of their players and staff may have picked up the virus from contact with people from Villa. Once again, Liverpool did not have to commission a round of testing with BioGrad, but they did, and this led to the unavailability of two players for the game at Anfield the following Thursday. A game which – unlike the Arsenal semi-final – went ahead.

Another player missed the same game through separate testing, believed to have been taken by Prenetics. BioGrad, however, had been chosen because of their capacity to turn results around a lot quicker than Prenetics. While Prenetics take their samples to Milton Keynes by courier and the results can sometimes take up to 24 hours to come back, BioGrad are much quicker – between four and eight hours depending on the workload.

It has been suggested that Liverpool’s decision to use the independent lab was taken on that occasion not just because of their speed but also because of worries related to the welfare of the staff. The outbreak at Villa had ripped through the club’s Bodymoor Heath training ground. Omicron was more contagious than any of the other variants. Liverpool felt they could not afford to take the risk.

Liverpool, then, knew about the effectiveness of the BioGrad testing when a fortnight later, there were new concerns. This time Prenetics were on site at the training ground but their results would not come through until as late as Wednesday afternoon or evening – possibly by the time the Liverpool squad had travelled to London. Rather than set Prenetics aside, Liverpool used BioGrad to additionally test their players so that the squad could travel to London with peace of mind. 

That meant, however, that Liverpool decided to apply for the postponement of their match against Arsenal before either set of results had been returned. And before the club knew whether or not there was a large outbreak of COVID-19 at the club, which there wasn’t.

A source close to the situation suggests the club requested the postponement as a precaution. Meanwhile, the club responded to questions about rumours suggesting training on the Tuesday had been cancelled by saying that the Kirby facility was, in fact, open. But the club had voluntarily shut the place down before they were told to.

The club made the decision to shut their training ground on January 5 (Photo: Getty Images)

At this point, the club was in discussion with the Premier League and local public health officials, led by Merseyside director Matt Ashton. It is his view Liverpool went above and beyond what was expected in this process. Yet the club’s caution ultimately backfired because 13 players who were tested by BioGrad then came back positive. A source at Liverpool considered the development extraordinary. Only then did Ashton give the instruction to shut down the training ground officially for 48 hours before the resumption of training, when the remaining players would do another round of PCR screening.

By the time the EFL announced Liverpool’s game at Arsenal was postponed, they were aware that a round of results from Prenetics contradicted what had been found by BioGrad. The local public health authority’s advice, however, was that a negative test does not override a positive one. Though the EFL had suggested there had been as many as 40 cases at Liverpool, The Athletic understands that the number of match-day staff who also tested positive with BioGrad was in the low double figures and therefore the suspected number of cases relating to the Arsenal fixture was closer to 25.

Either way, it was enough to get the game postponed with no chance of reinstatement because the next batch of testing would not happen until after the fixture was due to be played. 

According to the UK Health Security Agency, the rules are clear and the game – no matter what – had to be called off. The EFL, therefore, could not afford to become embroiled in an argument over scientific interpretation and they followed a suitable course of action following checks made on the lab, analysis of the test certificates and a short board discussion.

Upon the return of the contradicting Prenetics results, however, Ashton was given enough reasonable doubt to think something had gone wrong with the independent lab testing. If a third round of PCRs came back clean 48 hours later, it was his advice to allow the affected players back to training. Yet the final decision rested with the Premier League and the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) and that was soon granted.

Almost all of the communication between Liverpool and the EFL had involved the club’s secretary, Danny Stanway, formerly a player administration assistant with the EFL more than a decade ago. A source at Liverpool says Stanway’s information was shared in real time with his former employers via telephone calls and messages. Senior sources at the EFL support that claim, although figures further down the food chain who were ultimately closer to the correspondence suggest the process was stressful and not quite so straightforward.

Until the postponement was announced, the EFL had responded to questions relating to uncertainty around the fixture by insisting it was going to go ahead as planned. Later, their reasoning related to thresholds at the time of Liverpool’s application: there were not enough players or, indeed, match-day support staff testing positive before the tests took place and nobody in a senior position expected the results from the independent lab to be so aggressive.

Once the results landed, irrespective of what Prenetics showed, it was relatively easy to conduct swift research and reach a decision. 

Klopp had operated throughout the week in isolation from his Formby home, because of his own positive test on January 1. He was able to return to the dugout for the visit of Shrewsbury on the Sunday, but was still isolating when a pre-match press conference for the FA Cup tie was held a day earlier.

Had the Arsenal game gone ahead, Peter Krawietz would most likely have stepped into a breach left by both Klopp and Lijnders’ absence. The German has been a long-serving senior member of Klopp’s staff, dating back to their days at Mainz where Krawietz was chief scout. Now Klopp’s assistant manager, it has usually been Lijnders stepping into Klopp’s duties for press conferences in the earliest rounds of domestic cup competitions because he is a more confident public speaker. He also holds aspirations of becoming a manager himself, so the experience is considered good for him.

By Saturday, a third round of thorough PCR testing after the initial BioGrad and Prenetics tests had returned a second set of negative results. This confirmed suspicions that something had gone wrong with BioGrad’s testing. Yet the club decided not to release this information. Sources say this would have been unfair on Krawietz, who is not used to fielding questions about issues that are way above his head and command of language.

Meanwhile, at some point over the weekend, the isolating players were cleared for release and began to train again, but initially only in bubbles. This happened, say sources at Liverpool, not because of concerns around the spread of COVID-19 but because Klopp wanted extra conditioning work done by players who hadn’t trained in almost a week. Klopp then decided not to use those players despite their availability for the Shrewsbury game for this reason.

Liverpool were now fully aware their game at Arsenal had been postponed because of a round of testing that had gone unsupported by three other rounds of testing. The BioGrad results had also been discounted – but all of those developments remained private until Klopp spoke about players being “not eligible” because of “false positive” tests in his post-match press conference following the 4-1 victory over Shrewsbury.

Klopp shuffled his pack for the FA Cup victory over Shrewsbury (Photo: Getty Images)

Klopp’s terminology was confusing and, ultimately, incorrect. The UK government defines “false positives” as valid PCR tests that “give a positive result for a person not infected with COVID-19”. The chances of a “false positive” PCR test are very small — the Office of National Statistics estimated a range of between 0.8% and 4.3% — meaning the odds of 13 simultaneous “false positive” outcomes are, in fact, infinitesimally small. BioGrad’s erroneous results had been completely discounted. 

Health experts with an appreciation of the testing process believe BioGrad over-interpreted their results through CT values, which measure what level of virus there is in any human body. It could also be possible that someone entering the data simply got a number wrong and suddenly, Liverpool had a serious problem.

Initially, Liverpool refused to answer The Athletic’s questions about what had happened on testing. The EFL were adamant that Liverpool had not recorded “false positive” tests and believed in BioGrad’s testing programme, one which – they had been informed – involved a lower threshold for a positive test. It remains the EFL’s firm belief that they reached the correct decision and that Liverpool had done everything correctly.

Klopp’s claims, however, led to complaints from other clubs, including Nottingham Forest – who, despite knocking Arsenal out of the FA Cup on the same day Liverpool beat Shrewsbury, felt the visiting team gained an unfair advantage in their preparations ahead of their trip to the City Ground. The uncertainty caused by Klopp’s comments could have led to an investigation, but the EFL decided within 12 hours that although the manager’s claims were erroneous, the information being sent their way before the postponement decision was accurate.

Internally, it has since been acknowledged that Klopp’s use of language was unfortunate. The Liverpool manager had made another error in his press conference. He described some of the players he had left out of the Shrewsbury victory as “not eligible” for the FA Cup tie. This was not the case as the discounted results and subsequent rounds of negative results meant the players found positive by BioGrad were free to play.

Instead, Klopp chose not to use these players, a decision which has the potential to invite suspicion around the potential for the club being seen to keep up appearances; knowing how it would look odd if suddenly, even some of the affected players were available for Shrewsbury. Yet sources at the club also think it should be remembered he was speaking in his second language – that to his mind, the process the players had been subjected to made them “not eligible” for his plans.

The same, it is argued, can be said for his “false positive” description. In a literal sense, the players tested positive. They then tested negative. Yet that is not a “false positive” – when you know all of the tests you are talking about were, eventually, disregarded because of fault lines and mathematic improbability.

From here, it is accepted internally that the club carried out a shambolic PR strategy led by the head of press, Matt McCann – who spent the summer of 2020 living with Klopp in a Liverpool apartment while the manager’s wife spent time in Germany. McCann, it is said, has taken responsibility for Liverpool allowing the story to get away from them.

Though one Liverpool source close to what happened admits the club – in conjunction with the EFL – could have been transparent about the subsequent test findings by releasing a statement, as the club has done on every other COVID-related development since the start of the pandemic as far as we know, it is fair to suggest at least one person involved in such a decision would have appreciated the optics if it became obvious a game was postponed because of a round of highly unusual test results that were later discounted.

Inside Liverpool, there is a recognition Klopp does not like his authority challenged. The club acknowledges his comments should have been explained when scepticism and confusion surfaced but reason he was not asked about his claims, despite the potential significance of them, in the Shrewsbury press conference.

Though the episode is viewed internally as a poorly-handled communications error, which has let down the medical staff and failed to protect the club’s manager in the aftermath of his own comments, when Klopp was asked to clarify what he meant by “false positives” the following Wednesday ahead of Arsenal’s first leg visit to Anfield, he did not admit his error even then. 

And still, the club did not seek to highlight the matter either inside or outside its own terms.

Klopp’s media appearances raised more questions than provided answers (Photo: Getty Images)

To a large extent, the almost forgotten party in the story are the players who were not allowed to play in two matches they should have been available for and, in turn, had to spend time away from their families.

Understandably, some of them were not happy about any of this, especially those who have been struggling for minutes on the pitch.

A club source who admits that has been the case also suggests that, deep down, any frustration amongst the players would have been washed away by the experiences they have had as professional footballers over the last two years, especially those who have been at Liverpool throughout that time – a club that started testing its players before it became mandatory.

Klopp, the club source says, had reason to speak to them upon their return but no reason to apologise despite other sources suggesting he had. There is obviously a reason why Klopp decided to mention “false positives”, even if his terminology was wrong, and that could be because he wants to show the affected players he is on their side.

His words, says a club source, were not planned – the press department had not expected it because the club was not under siege to explain itself (though it almost certainly would have been had there been transparency from the moment it realised a set of independent lab results had been scrubbed off by the authorities).

Klopp takes health very seriously and claims he always listens to the experts but there is a gap in his understanding over this issue. The local health authorities were satisfied by Liverpool’s submissions before the postponement but there was confusion over Klopp’s claims given the fact the positive results were ultimately discounted. It seems unusual they have not corrected him – perhaps his powerful contribution towards the vaccination programme now guarantees everything he says about medical processes means he cannot be reproached.

In December, just a few days before the club’s first outbreak of COVID-19 this season, Klopp called for more honesty from those working in football around the virus. “From my point of view I don’t know 100 per cent why we are not more open,” he said. “Why do we hide players? Nobody knows the number of players, it’s always like ‘some staff, some players’. 

“We are all in the same situation as human beings and I really think nobody should hide it. I think a bit more transparency would be helpful.”

But, at a time when suspicion around fixture postponements in football has never been higher, Liverpool and others did not heed that advice. Transparency was in short supply from the moment Liverpool first contacted the EFL, leading to a fixture being postponed that did not need to be, with players left frustrated and supporters kept in the dark. 

 

cba to format it, soz

Cheers.

 

That was a long read of nothingness.  It's like they wanted to make a big deal about it but what they wrote sort of had the opposite effect.

 

I do love the fact Nottingham Forest apparently complained that Arsenal had an unfair advantage over them for their FA Cup tie because they didn't play the league cup fixture🤣

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3 hours ago, Fry Crayola said:

Can't be arsed to read it, sorry.

 

Me, everytime someone posts a wall of text from The Athletic.

 

I wouldnt be surprised if there was a recipe for banana bread at the end of their articles.

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2 hours ago, glb said:

The Athletic is rank tabloid, clickbait shite these days.

Whilst I think they're heading that way more generally, I'm not having it about Simon Hughes, who is very good. I think the headline is very clickbaity, but it's probably the case that the editorial team choose that in any case.

 

From reading (some of) it, it seems like a fuck up from an independent test centre, mixed with confused messaging from Klopp, has lead to a bunch of conspiracy theories from Arsenal fans that then don't see a problem with having the Tottenham game postponed because Xhaka had a suspension.

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2 minutes ago, Keiths_Dad said:

Whilst I think they're heading that way more generally, I'm not having it about Simon Hughes, who is very good. I think the headline is very clickbaity, but it's probably the case that the editorial team choose that in any case.

 

From reading (some of) it, it seems like a fuck up from an independent test centre, mixed with confused messaging from Klopp, has lead to a bunch of conspiracy theories from Arsenal fans that then don't see a problem with having the Tottenham game postponed because Xhaka had a suspension.

 

To be fair, if Xhaka being suspended was the deciding factor, Arsenal would be applying for games to be postponed far more regularly

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Xhaka's suspension was never part of Arsenal's request or the league's decision making process, as suspensions don't count in this context. Arteta was pretty fired up in his presser offering to hand out MRIs and failed tests and all sorts earlier, he's certainly not having it. 

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36 minutes ago, Art Vandelay said:

Xhaka's suspension was never part of Arsenal's request or the league's decision making process, as suspensions don't count in this context. Arteta was pretty fired up in his presser offering to hand out MRIs and failed tests and all sorts earlier, he's certainly not having it. 

Not sure that means much when he already said that they postponed as they couldn't put out a team to compete. Nor can Newcastle every week, but they still play. 

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I wouldn't trust Arteta to have understood the situation anyway.  These suspensions are supposed to be for Covid outbreaks, not injuries. The reason being that we don't want Covid spreading from team to team.  It's a safety issue, not something to make it easier for teams to win games.  What do MRI scans have to do with Covid? I'm not a doctor, but I don't think muscle strains and call-ups to the African Cup of Nations are contagious.

 

It's scandalous that Arsenal managed to get a suspension for injuries with no (or was it just one player, from memory?) Covid cases. If you could get suspensions for injuries, how come Leeds and Leicester haven't had most of their games suspended?  How come Liverpool had to play half of last season with no recognised central defenders? This is one of the reasons that youth players don't have to be registered in the Premier League squad to play.  Arsenal should have picked a couple of youth players and got on with it.  I don't particularly blame Arsenal - they just made the request. I blame the Premier League for accepting it.  It has undermined the whole process and set a precedent that teams who are missing a few key players for a big match can get them postponed.  

 

 

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21 minutes ago, ChewMagma said:

Strong team that considering Arsenal allegedly couldn't put one out on Sunday 🤔

 

I think that we can all be glad that they all made a full recovery.  They even get their star striker freshly back from the AFCON and available to play on Sunday, which is nice.

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1 hour ago, Plissken said:

 

I think that we can all be glad that they all made a full recovery.  They even get their star striker freshly back from the AFCON and available to play on Sunday, which is nice.

Yeah his 'heart lesions' have cleared up a treat. It's a belated Christmas miracle. 

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Just now, paulie12 said:

Hillsborough chants? Poverty shaming? 

 

Arsenal.

Arsenal FC 

We are by far the greatest team the world has ever seen. 

 

It's all I hear from them. 

 

I don't really recall hearing those poverty and Hillsborough chants from them in the past either. Maybe the odd few fans but not en masse like some other fanbases

 

 

 

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Just now, bradigor said:

 

Arsenal.

Arsenal FC 

We are by far the greatest team the world has ever seen. 

 

It's all I hear from them. 

 

I don't really recall hearing those poverty and Hillsborough chants from them in the past either. Maybe the odd few fans but not en masse like some other fanbases

 

 

 

At the home game the vast majority were doing the “self pity city” chant. Wankers.

 

But………..Turns out the Arsenal fans singing 'we're all going to Wembley' at Anfield was the biggest false positive of all

 

🤣

 

 

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On 19/01/2022 at 10:13, dizogg said:

No.

 

They don’t.

 

Not really.

 

What is most amazing about Chelsea is Tuchel moaning like a little bitch about injuries and the schedule.

 

Buddy, Chelsea spent all the money. You don't hear half as much complaining from other teams.

 

They just cancel their games instead.

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