James Sharman Q&A: Wijnaldum an unheralded hero for Liverpool

Premier League Matchweek 35 preview, kicking off with a honey of a matchup, and rematch of the Champions League quarter finals between Manchester City and Tottenham.

Every week, Sportsnet.ca will chat with soccer commentator James Sharman about the big stories and issues surrounding the Premier League.

SN: You and Craig Forrest had an interesting chat about Neil Warnock during Sportsnet’s Premier League broadcast last week. Do you think calls went against Cardiff City this season because of Warnock’s past issues with the officials?

SHARMAN: I understand Warnock’s frustration following the Chelsea match; after all his team was robbed. However, Cardiff won three points just a few weeks prior to that game by scoring at the death against Brighton & Hove Albion, a goal that should never have stood. So, was he being rewarded for this past good behavior in that instance?

I understand referees and officials often make bad mistakes, but I have never thought any have shown a bias for or against a club. It would take an incredibly cynical mind to truly believe this could be the case.

Let’s just agree that over the course of the season a referee’s blunder is going to cost your teams points, and also win your team points.

What did you make of Southampton’s recent decision to part ways with chairman Ralph Krueger?

I am not privy to any particular issues that would have forced Krueger out at Southampton. I suspect this is more a case of an executive serving a company for five years, and feeling it was time for a new challenge, while the company probably feels it is in a good position, and that new, fresh ideas are needed.

Perhaps the big question is what now for Krueger, a native of Winnipeg and the most interesting man in sports? I mean, this guy played professional hockey, coached an NHL team, and was a chairman in the Premier League. How many sports people have seen them go from the Calgary Wranglers to Southampton?

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Pep Guardiola criticised the Premier League for scheduling Manchester City‘s fixture against Crystal Palace just three days before its UEFA Champions League match against Totteham. Does he have a point?

Yes, the Premier League needs to help its clubs the same way the other top European leagues do. Friday or an early Saturday kickoff works wonders for team’s recovery ahead of a big Champions League tilt.

However, the Premier League is guided by television and money, and it is usually the networks who demand certain slots for certain matches, so I would blame TV more than anything. All that being said, it doesn’t seem as though the English teams suffered too badly with scheduling this season, does it?

Liverpool visits Cardiff City on Sunday. Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane get a lot of attention. But who do you think has been an unheralded hero for the Reds this season?

It’s easy to confuse unsung hero with surprise of the season, in which case Andy Robertson’s rise to the status of top class fullback has been amazing to watch. I want to give James “Mr. Versatile” Milner the nod as Liverpool’s unsung hero, but I won’t because he’s been doing that job for a few years now.

Instead, I’ll go with midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum. Now, in fairness he has been less involved the last couple of weeks as Jurgen Klopp has rested some players, and rewarded others, but for much of this season I would suggest Wijnaldum was one of the first names on the team sheet. He’s such a clever player, and so calm, either with or without the ball.

Often you never even hear his name mentioned for much of a match, but just as often he has been the conscience of the team, and really ran the midfield. An attacking midfielder for much of his career, he has evolved into “Mr. Everything” at Anfield. He wins balls, he keeps possession, and he has a creative mind and ability to pick a pass out. No wonder he is becoming a Kop favourite.

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