Symposium #8 – Is Our Squad Overrated?

Symposium #8 – Is Our Squad Overrated?
February 18, 2013 Paul Tomkins

This week we asked our panel a simple question concealing a complex topic – do you think our current squad is overrated? This is what they had to say:

By Martin McLaughlin:

Yes. When you keep finishing 6th-9th, when does the reality dawn that that is simply as good as you are? When does consistently poor finishing, bad defending and “errors” come down to player ability, not luck or bad form?

I feel we overrate Reina, Skrtel, Agger and Sterling, even Lucas to a lesser extent. When do the good days start to look like the outliers and the bad days the norm? Skrtel and Reina have been error strewn for some time. Does Agger’s cultured ball playing reputation make up for his lack of mobility and tendancy to be outmuscled by forwards? Do we simply need unfancy, robust, reliable defenders?

Shelvey, Suso and Sterling are all hype and no delivery (yet), they lack consistency and end product as would be expected of their age (3Gs and 2As in 35 combined games).

We have until recently had only two difference-makers in Suarez and Gerrard. Not much above the difference Lukaku adds to WBA and Michu at Swansea. Now we have Sturridge too and the impact is clear for all to see. Adding one quality player can make all the difference in football, but then when one player makes up 9% of the team that’s not so surprising.

By Dave Cronin:

I believe this team’s performance is less than the sum of its parts.

After four disappointing seasons, I understand people questioning whether mid-table mediocrity is our players’ true level but many of those players previously operated at higher levels and have done on the international stage or for us in spells over that period. Agger and Skrtel looked great last season but poor this. Henderson, Downing and Enrique look better this season than last. No current player has been consistently poor for four years.

The telling issue is that different groups of players have looked better under certain managers but not all have looked their best under the same manager. The question is not whether these players are good enough but whether they are compatible with (a) the manager’s approach or (b) each other as a group under any approach. It’s like having putting together four corners from different jigsaws. There’s nothing wrong with each corner in itself but slotting them together to form a coherent picture might be difficult or impossible.

The question is: would we be better trading quality players for players who better fit the manager’s playing style or can the current or a different manager implement a playing style that will get the best out of enough current players to make the team at minimum the sum of its parts if not more.

By Chris Rowland:

I do think many of our players are under-performing from what I perceive to be their best. Several have Top 4 or 5 peak levels, but too often undershoot. In other words there’s a consistency issue,  compounded on those occasions when several undershoot at the same time, such as West Brom. I have to at least consider the possibility that that may be because my perception of their abilities is inaccurate, ie too high.

Much of this squad has been around for the last four seasons, during which we’ve finished 7th, 6th, 8th and currently 9th.  Upper mid-table. Benitez, Hodgson, Dalglish and Rodgers have shared the tiller during that time, so it’s not something we can lay at the door of a single culprit manager. There’s only so long that sort of run continues before you run out of extenuating circumstances and start testing your evaluation of the players, that they just be upper mid-table players after all.

A casual observer, watching your ‘better’ players be outperformed quite often over four seasons, might want to ask you why you cling obstinately to your distorted belief that they are better players just having another off day. Better players deliver, regularly. Not unfailingly – everyone can have an off day -but consistently. That’s what makes them better players.

In conclusion, even stripping away the natural inclination to overrate your players and undervalue your opponents’, I think there is some truth in the suggestion that some are overrated.  My prime concern is what they deliver, not what they cost. They need to be as good as we – and they- think they are much more often. Whichever Liverpool manager they’re playing for.

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