Comment of the Month – June 2016

Comment of the Month – June 2016
July 1, 2016 Chris Rowland

By Chris Rowland and Daniel Rhodes.

Here’s the first of our new monthly competition to reward the best comment from a selected shortlist of brilliant comments that appeared on TTT during the month.

Vote below – the winner gets a glittering trophy to raise aloft before their adoring fans, and a £20 electronic voucher.

Comments:

Mik D on Coutinho compared to players in similar positions:

Unless we bring in someone as good as Coutinho or better, selling him almost certainly weakens the side. Everyone has their price but what does that actually mean? If we get £60m but can’t attract a suitable replacement to improve the starting XI and finish 7th or 8th again, it was bad business.

Very few 23 year old attacking midfielders can turn it on every game. Hazard was largely woeful this season. The celebrated Ross Barkley is 22 and no where near Coutinho’s level. Bale doesn’t turn it on every time for Real and he’s 26, soon 27. Ozil blows hot and cold and he’s 27 and playing in a better side currently. What do we realistically expect from Coutinho and what do we realistically expect to happen if we sell him? Klopp unearths another Polish gem who can come in and offer the same standard of play Coutinho does, and this mystery player is not also being tracked by other clubs offering European football. It’s possible, but unlikely.

Coutinho turns up in many big games, but like every player, not all. He scored in the LC final, scored a crucial goal at home to Dortmund, scored the critical goal at OT that sent utd out of the EL, scored against Spurs, got the amazing winner in that high pressure 1st game of the season away at Stoke after we got thumped 1:6 last season and he’s just scored the most goals in any season he’s been with us. What impact would selling Coutinho have on Firmino? Would he follow in Jan or next summer? We are trying to build under Klopp, not continue spinning plates.

We should only sell if we benefit, meaning we can sign better in time for the new season and how easy is that going to be? “Everyone has their price” implies we have no choice. We do I hope and I’m pretty confident that unless Coutinho himself demands to leave, Klopp will not be entertaining him going anywhere this summer.

MadchenKliop on our scouting and coaching in recent years:

I think we do have an idea of how good the scouts and the coaches are already.  For me, last season showed there was a lot of joined up thinking at the different levels and this was shown by the performances of the youngsters in the FA cup run.

Alex Inglethorpe was brought in partly as a scout I reckon and his influence, in line with club policy, has been to make astute judgement calls about players in his orbit. His job is, not so much to discover unknown talent, but to scrutinise that extensive pool of players who are already on the radar, but for whatever reason are not being maximised; recognised for their specific gifts and usefulness to Liverpool.

The progress of Kev Stewart is a great example.  He is someone that Inglethorpe knew about at Tottenham, but who was, for whatever reason, not recognised as indispensable there.  The way he’s been managed and coached since his arrival at LFC is truly exceptional in my opinion. He started off playing full-back/ wing back and a number of positions for the U21s and you could see his tactical understanding developing.  Then he was sent out on the Swindon loan which clearly helped his resilience and fearlessness in the physical side of the game. Then, since he returned, there has been conspicuous evidence of his being trained as an understudy to Emre Can in the DM position.  I find it really interesting the way he shields the ball and turns to use  the full range of passing angles is so similar to Can’s style.  There is clearly a well thought out strategy in the training right through from U21s to Klopp and I’m fairly certain that Pep Lijnders’ creative methods are instrumental in making the transition possible having worked at both Academy and Senior levels. The cohesive and positive way the B teams approached those cup games cannot have been achieved by Klopp alone and for me, it’s a strong indicator that we have a really excellent coaching set up at the moment too.

On June 6th Tony Mckenna (macattack) explored in this epic comment, here reproduced in its entirety, the benefits of giving a manager enough time:

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Liverpool Local Radio Announcement July 1972:

“We interrupt this programme to bring you breaking news. Liverpool Football Club have decided to end their long standing relationship with Bill Shankly… sacking the Manager with immediate effect. The Club has thanked Mr Shankly for his contribution and service, but now feel that after seven years without a major trophy a different direction is needed prior to the start of the new season. It is not yet known what will be the fate of his backroom staff…there has been no announcement in relation to Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan or Ronnie Moran…(Fading) we are on the streets of Liverpool getting the reaction of local fans…”.

No one can say emphatically what makes a good manager. Some believe, in fact, that they actually have no influence on success at all. Others claim that they do; at least to some degree. These are just the polar views within football fan-bases with no definitive sanction for either.

Unfortunately, there is no cast iron guidance from experts and researchers. Despite drawing on evidence bases they replicate the same debate of attrition. This renders the task of further exploratory research.

The explosion of Big Data in football means we have grown more knowledgeable about how the game works. Statistics may have caused schisms within the football fan-base with Luddite extremism represented by those who refuse to engage in statistics at all. Nonetheless, even at a basic level, none could deny that if you want to buy a new striker, it is kind of useful to know what his current goals per game ratio is. But, on the issue of managers, could the proliferation of data have also distracted us from what have, historically, been other key measures of success? This commentary proposes to raise those entities to prominence so that they may receive due consideration.

Yet, there seems to be a preventative and wholly misguided obstacle to the realisation of such entities. Short-termism is football’s undiagnosed disease.  What is more, where success is concerned, a prevailing culture is based on a shocking inability to apply the basics of probability on the part of football owners and fans. A mathematical misinterpretation that even primary school children would not make.

Soccernomics Versus The Numbers Game:

The publication of ‘The Numbers Game’, (Anderson and Sally) was a refreshing entry into the football debate arena. It meant that Soccernomics, (Kuper and Szymanski) would no longer hog the floor. Amongst other matters addressed the authors have all wrestled with the question about whether football managers matter. And they differed. Quite significantly.  The former argue for at least a 15% edge on what good managers can effect, whilst the latter see no relevant contribution at all. Backing their hypothesis, Anderson and Sally highlighted the previously debunked ‘Great Person Theory’, reviving the notion that individuals have, and still can, change history directly as a result of their personal influence. They apportion this attribute to football managers drawing a parallel with top Chief Executive Officers (C.E.O.s) in business organisations.

Kuper and Szymanski are proven vigilantes when it comes to their work being challenged. True to form, the updated version of Soccernomics went head to head with the authors of the Numbers Game:

“They say that managers matter rather more than we say; and they point to studies of chief executives making a difference in other industries. However, football isn’t like most other industries. For a start, CEOs in other industries tend to stay in their jobs much longer. In 2011 the average tenure of chief executives of companies ranked in the S&P 500…was 8.4 years.”

True. But stop right there and ask the question. Is it not the case that football should be like other industries?

Bill Shankly was not sacked in 1972 despite the fabricated News bulletin at the head of this article. Thankfully. We all know what happened subsequent to July 1972. It was the best of times. But in today’s modern game, seven years without a trophy would certainly see a manager being sacked. It is frightening to think of the trophy haul that potentially may have been scrubbed from Liverpool’s Honours list if Shankly had incurred that fate. Of course, we would never have known.

That said, with the benefit of hindsight, we may have an opportunity to reflect upon important precursors for success; ones that are currently omitted from the debate agenda: stability and longevity…which, in turn, help to foster communication.

Stability and Longevity:

Stability is an often quoted word without due diligence paid to the extent of the significance it plays in life itself. That is before we even speak about the role it plays in group formations and, by association, within organisations.

Coming into the world as utterly helpless infants, totally dependent on others for our needs, stability is supremely necessary for our successful development towards maturation. Disruption and disharmony will serve to undermine that development. We rely heavily on prime carers for our existence; how we interact and communicate with those people is crucial if we are to thrive. Moreover, the stability needs to prevail for lengthy duration. This may offer a suitable analogy for the development of Football Clubs.

Four pillars prop up Football Clubs: the Owners; the Players; the Manager; and the fans. Only one of these is a constant. If the fanbase is steadfast and loyal, change is inevitable in all other aspects. Who owns your Football Club is subject to change in any fan’s lifetime. Players age, move on, or retire. Managers are sacked, and also move on, or retire. And if managers are sacked, the central tenet of this piece is that maybe they are sacked too lightly, too early and too hastily.

People do have to be adaptable to change in organisations. However, too much change in a space of short time can be debilitating, especially with a constant churn of personnel. Chelsea’s success may not have been derailed after Mourinho’s first sacking; subsequent managers held the reins successfully. But they did retain the same owner and, more crucially, the consistent unit of playing personnel; the group that Mourinho christened his ‘Untouchables’: Terry; Lampard;Cole; Cech and Drogba. This matters. Eventually, and as we now see, the challenge is to replace them.

The lull in Shankly’s silverware acquisition also needs to be viewed in light of the fact that the previous ’60s team was being broken and a rebuild was necessary. The process is beautifully illustrated in Steve Horton’s ‘Ending the Seven-Year Itch’.  This book is criminally underappreciated; not just in relation to Liverpool, but in the business of football clubs in general. Here we see the talent Shankly had for recruiting superior players with the ability to relate to them in terms of forging excellent working relationships.

On this note, The Soccernomics authors provide a second riposte to the Numbers Game. The claim, however, that individual talent is more crucial in football than it is in other type of organisation is suspect; being undermined by one single word:

“…individual talent probably matters more in football than it does at, say, Tesco.”

Probably? – The wind careens in a direction far away from the realms of corroborating evidence bases. This is unhelpful to the ordinary fan who relies on respected researchers and writers to provide direction. Moreover, the hypothesis that an organisation, like Tesco, can rely less on individual talent smacks of artistic assumption. To be fair, it is something that only Tesco can comment upon.

The authors are referring to the talent of individual players where the best cost more money as a prerequisite for success. This notion is widely accepted but it says nothing about the ability of a manager who helps to source the best players; in short, a talent for optimum selection. Indeed, both Szymanski and Kuper already allude to the virtues of Brian Clough and Peter Taylor’s recruitment strategy whereby they gleaned an edge in the marketplace. Another ingredient could be added to the mix: the emotional intelligence of managers to be able to relate to players and get the best performances out of them; here, communication and a talent for such may be key.

Ex-players who played under Clough and Shankly, for instance, have gone on the record to cite the charisma of both men; with respect, empathy and admiration clearly evident. An aptitude for man management is also often enthused and relayed. For example, Keegan recalled that Shankly was like a father figure to him. It takes great interpersonal skill to earn such respect from another human being. The connectivity may have an explicable context.

Communication:

Deloitte and Touche Human Capital surveyed American CEOs to determine the most significant HR issues for successful organisations. A resounding 95% cited “effective internal communication”. However, a mere 22% believed that it was being delivered effectively. This figures.

There is a classic scene in the movie, Cool Hand Luke, where Paul Newman shouts to law enforcers: “What we have here is a failure to communicate!” Then, they shoot him. Metaphorically speaking, this is what also happens in organisations.

Inevitably, organisations posit people in a hierarchal structure where power increases with each echelon higher up the scale. For those lower down it usually pays to accord with the viewpoint espoused by seniority. Even if it is wrong. Refusal to tow the company line makes employees vulnerable. This too often applies even when the oppositional view has validity. The first law of any organisation: if it makes sense, it won’t get done.

And it usually won’t get done because the dissenter has contravened the belief system of Senior Management. This cannot be.

Power is an aphrodisiac that all too often makes people dizzy, flushed with endorphins, and detached from mortal reality. Being wrong is unthinkable for those with a god complex. Listening to alternative viewpoints is not an option; or even accepting a hypothesis for critical analysis; and bigwigs will especially recoil from the notion of consulting, on an equal basis, with staff who are junior to their own lofty positions.

Conversely, the employee who contrives to sanction company policy, flattering the egos of management in the process, will often enhance their own career prospects. Workplaces have uncouth parlance for this practice: brown-nosing; sucking; creeping; and arse licking. Meritocracy is not the usual order in organisations. This detracts from the essential openness required for constructive debate with people who may actually have much to contribute. Progress misses an opportunity.

Rafa’s greatest achievement at Liverpool was possibly not the obvious happening in 2005; but rather what he achieved, in totality, under the working conditions of the club. There has never been a greater breakdown in communication, at Liverpool Football Club, than during the Hicks & Gillett era. Not only were both not in sync with Rafa himself, the escapade was elevated to ridiculous heights when the two Americans even refused to sit together. How Rafa must have suffered.

None of the above was the status quo when Shankly managed Liverpool Football Club. Great he was, but certainly no elitist being flexible towards consultation and listening to others. These qualities would bear fruit in a hugely historical sense. In 1973, Liverpool suffered a crushing defeat on the European stage, to the crack Yugoslavian team, Red Star Belgrade; a team who played a short passing game not yet adopted at Anfield. Shankly pondered the style but was consumed with self-doubt. Nor was it a unilateral consideration. Jonathan Wilson, (Inverting the Pyramid) singles out the seminal juncture in Liverpool’s history citing the Boot Room meeting that, along with Shankly, included Paisley, Joe Fagan, Ronnie Moran, Tom Saunders and Reuben Bennett. It was a collaborative process; and one where effective communication led to decision-making of the most supreme kind.  And so it came to Pass…and Move.

In the same book, Wilson comments on observations made by Szymanski and Kupers about the Boot Room and its importance to Liverpool’s overall success:

“…the economist Stefan Szymanski and the Business Consultant Tim Kuypers claimed Liverpool’s success in the seventies and eighties was a result of their organisational structure, of which the boot-room was a key part.  ‘The ‘boot-room,’ they wrote appears to have some kind of database for the club, not merely of facts and figures, but a record of the club’s spirit, its attitudes and philosophy”.

If the Soccernomics guys eulogise the effectiveness of such a unit, one wonders if they may re-consider the longevity of the personnel who comprised it. Revisiting the question: maybe football should be like other industries and that managerial staff should remain in their jobs longer? After all, those facts and figures, the club’s spirit, attitudes and philosophy, all run the risk of being discontinued, changed and lost, as new people arrive at the helm. Such a loss is symbiotically dependent on what the definition of success is.

Was Wenger Right?

Wenger has been under siege this season from many disgruntled supporters. But it is not just recently, the discontent has been brewing for some time. The angst has been based on a lack of trophies, particularly the hiatus regarding a title win, since a brace of FA Cups has done little to mollify the ‘Wenger Out’ brigade. At one point the beleaguered manager defensibly stated that a fourth place finish was equivalent to winning silverware; this was met with laughable disdain from many of his detractors.

But was he right? Clearly, Wenger has a remarkable record in terms of consecutive top 4 finishes; something that has surpassed the achievement of the other troika making up the one-time cited ‘top 4 clubs’: United, Chelsea and Liverpool. Respect should be due for that alone. Certainly, most fans would desire that same consistency since it has led to regular Champions League qualification.

Then there is the revenue gained. The most important aspect of any football club is its economic viability and sound financial affairs. Disagree with that, then consider Rangers, Leeds, Coventry, Bolton et al. Liverpool fans can also easily forget the situation under Hicks and Gillett because the worse outcome did not actually happen. But we were standing on a potential sink hole with the collapse only being averted once repair endeavours responded to the emerging cracks. We were already hovering precariously above the relegation zone with reportage of possible point deduction as penalty for the toxic mix of financial shenanigans.

Not only do Arsenal boast a luxurious new stadium, they are also the top London club in terms of revenue earned, eclipsing that of Chelsea who have recently declared retrograde outcome with revenues down on the previous year. Arsenal’s enviable position has been achieved under Wenger’s tenure. It should count for something but obviously it has not; many fans perpetuate a fixed focus on trophy accumulation; or lack of. Now here is the blind spot in football’s wing mirror.

Improbable Probability:

Ask a group of primary school children can you share two sweets between 30 people. A bellowing ‘no’ will follow. However, this is a simple illustration of what football owners and fans fail to consider; and the former supposedly being astute business people at that.

Let’s face it, the big clubs at least, will tend to prioritise the Premier League and Champions League. But if success is measured in just two arenas it means a complete ignorance of the amount of competitors all espying the same allure. Truthfully, the probability of attaining either of those trophies should be divided by the sum total of all the other clubs chasing the same thing. The complexity mutates if one was to factor in the incidence of injuries or suspensions for key players at crucial times. Not to mention the bad luck that can occur during games: players sent off; players slipping at the wrong time; missed penalties; poor refereeing decisions etc. None of these occurrences can be blamed on the manager. It is not too difficult to appreciate that the measure of success in football is terribly flawed.

But this is how football clubs set the barometer. It will usually differ from club to club depending on the size of the organisation. For United, City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal, a serious challenge for the title is desirable. Failing that, a top 4 finish. Already we see a problem. Mathematically, those five clubs cannot all win the league nor finish in the top 4. That is with having failed to include Spurs, or even mentioning Leicester, and an ambitious West Ham for that matter.

Whatever the barometer, if it is not met then the manager usually walks. But removing the perceived problem is not necessarily a solution-focused approach. Despatching Moyes in favour of Van Gaal is a clear and very recent example. In turn, the risk is then the issue of a new guy familiarising himself with the squad and all the other personnel that staff a football club. The communication dial is back to zero and needs to be built upon with all the uncertainty this brings. And, with Van Gaal, we have learnt that he was not the best communicator United could have sourced.

Wenger’s achievements at Arsenal should probably be considered as huge. Historically, the amount of trophies won, though fans may be unwilling to concede, is probably more than can be expected of most clubs in the time frame the Frenchman has been at the helm. Chelsea’s resurgence may not have helped Wenger, as a capital rival, but then this was a club that had been waiting half a century for a another title win. Wenger has also had the misfortune of a contemporary in Ferguson, an outlier; but even this outlier bears an historical caveat: recall how long it was before the Scot attained success at United. Due, in large part, to the incidence of the Class of `92.

Klopp the Kommunikator:

It is not the case of lowering expectations; but rather the need for realistic expectations. Take Klopp: two titles over the next 10 years would be better than none with four different Managers in the same time frame. This managerial guestimate is a convenient one should Klopp be sacked if he fails to finish top 4 for the next two seasons; ditto for his replacement; and then the guy subsequent to that; and so on.

If a decision ever did loom about the German’s future then, hopefully, consideration will be given to his personal qualities, as well as his knowledge about the game itself.

When it comes to communication Klopp may be on a branch higher up the tree of life. He is rich in emotional intelligence and peerless in that regard. Most misunderstand him. Consider the guffaw when millions harked at him for ‘celebrating a draw’. Except he wasn’t. Rather, he was ensuring that he and his team paid tribute to the Liverpool fans; in short, communicating gratitude with the attendant connectivity that this implies. This is Shanklyesque.

Likewise, consider how his players have responded to him. The game against Norwich, following Lallana’s winner, saw a touchline dash as celebratory players gravitated towards Klopp, knocking the German’s glasses askance in the process. This is a guy who has not even had command of that group for a full season. Factor in also, a player who is no longer even resident at Anfield:  Steve Gerrard has publicly stated that he would have loved to play for him.

If not play for him, then maybe he can work with him in an understudy managerial capacity. Add Carragher, and others, in similar fashion emulating the tried and tested efficacy of the unit that was the famous ‘Boot Room’. Hopefully, Klopp will retire from Liverpool one day as opposed to being sacked or purloined by some other predator club. In that event, we have a readily available backlog of managerial replacements already schooled in the clockwork mechanics of what makes Liverpool tick.

The skill of Communication begins with Klopp; the affinity with the fans is cemented giving a foundation on which the ex-players can build should they accede to the helm. Communication…reinforced by stability and longevity. Not to be broken.

In any case, the current model for choosing a manager is merely a game of international musical chairs, whereby managers can never really establish a lasting rapport with fans if they are never in one particular seat for long. A journeyman may beat his chest pledging loyalty and undying love, stroking the club’s crest. Then he pops up at a bitter rival. That is just describing Mourinho’s travails en route to United. Now there is a person by no means flawless in the communication department. We shall see.

A New Statistic:

If communication is important in organisations, and there is evidence that it is, then its preserve through stability and longevity in personnel may be crucial. This is important enough for football clubs to consider at least. As we have seen, organisations do prize the value of communication but they dramatically fail to practise its virtue; sometimes what passes for communication is just a semblance of the genuine article. At Liverpool, in Klopp, we currently have a bona fide proponent of the art. He should be given time to implement its influence.

Where success is concerned we may need to be more realistic. We may even need a new statistic. The statistic that arrives at the following equation: the number of trophies won by a team alongside the following variables: length of time a club was under the same ownership; the same manager was in post; and the percentage of appearances by the same key players.

It is all hypothetical. Until someone builds the appropriate database and applies it. But if they do, it does, at least take us away from everything else that has already been applied. For the time being, football clubs may be doing it all wrong. Maybe at Liverpool Football Club we could start a trend of doing things differently? Above all, appreciate that progress is not a smooth trajectory. Meantime…managers may actually matter to significant enough percentage degree. Let`s hang on to what we’ve Klopp.  ????

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

George Bernard Shaw, Leadership Skills for Managers.

Jeff argued the importance to LFC of acquiring and developing promising young players as possible:

General statements always get people into trouble but sometimes they are worthwhile to get discussions going. The standard size of Liverpool’s first team is 25 players. In today’s football world, a player who manages to play for a club such as Liverpool as a regular member of the starting 11 for a decade will be said to have an outstanding career. In today’s football world, there are very few teenagers who make it as regular players in a club such as Liverpool and most players break through in a club such as Liverpool in their early 20s and become quality players in their mid 20s. Paul has noted that the late great Bob Paisley tended to buy players before they reached their mid 20s.

Therefore, it seems to me that Liverpool should be looking to start employing players in the first team who break through into the first team in their early 20s and become quality of better players by by the time they reach the mid 20s or 23 or 24.

Now where are Liverpool going to get such players. One way is to build through the academy and other youth programs. This being said, one must recognise 2 realities. First, in the past 20 or more years, Liverpool have only produced a handful of players who came from this world and only 1 Steven Gerrard who became by everyone’s standard a great Liverpool player. There have been a few such as Carragher but homegrown players are scare. Now, Liverpool have had a bit more luck looking around to bring in young players from other clubs and while Sterling left, it does look like Joe Gomez will be a find.

Now I have seen the few clips of Bastien and Mor and have no idea how they look. I have seen Grujic on a few occasions and he does look promising. However, one must recognise that in the world of young players, the more you bring in the higher the possibility of actually finding a gem increases. Simply put, it is a numbers game and it is a numbers game that Liverpool have to play. What I am saying is that Liverpool need to find as many players as the scouts believe MIGHT become players as possible because this is the only way to actually find players.

Now bringing in promising players is only the first step in the process. One needs to find a way to get them into the first team. Now this is seemingly in today’s world an almost impossible task. While in the recent past clubs such as Bayern and Barcelona were famous for bringing players from their youth ranks, it may be that those days are long gone. For example, the last players Barcelona developed were Pedro and Busquets and there are a whole bunch of promising kids there who simply are not developing. Will if they move become players? Who knows but I hope Liverpool take a chance of them. The same of course can be said about Bayern. A couple of years ago Sinan Kunt was considered a cannot miss player and he is gone and last summer Bayern brought in Joshua Kimmich who was considered the best young player in Germany and he had a rocky year under Guardiola and he may well leave this year. My point is that at the top the really rich clubs are not developing players but buying them and in this world while Liverpool is a rich club it does not have the money some clubs have.

Therefore, one way or another Liverpool have to develop young players and since it has had for many years spotty record in regard to local talent, it needs to buy young players and develop them. While there is some evidence that this is happening, one must take a hard look at the magnitude of the task. If you have a team of 25 players and you say that a player has a 10 year shelf life, it means that you must bring in 2 or 3 players each and every year to replace someone who has past their sell by date. If you are trying to build the way Liverpool is by developing their own players or buying players before they become established pros, the ability of the scouts to find prospects and the ability of the teams coaches on all levels to develop players will be the key to whatever success Liverpool will have in the future if Liverpool are to follow the blueprint favoured by FSG.

If one goes back to the glory days of Bob Paisley, one will quickly realise how big a challenge this is and I wish people would comprehend this reality. It is to put is bluntly darn hard to make the plan of FSG work. Now I will acknowledge that FSG will spend money to fill positions that need filling because young players cannot be found but if Livepool want to compete at the highest level of football how many top end players or in other words players today that will cost at least 40 million can Liverpool buy and at the same time be spending say 5 to 10 million on young players and be buying enough of them to make the numbers work.

I have in a too long winded manner tried to put forward the scale of the challenge faced by Liverpool and the only reason I am optimistic that it can work is Klopp has already shown that he can make it work.

Assif on various issues including the season ahead:

My feeling is all managers need time, but only the right manager, showing the right kind of progress deserves an extended period of time at the helm. That in itself can be a difficult thing to gauge. Hodgson was a bad fit from day one and I dread to think of the depths we would have plummeted under him.

I think in today’s age of instant success the fanbase also hold great sway and that if they are dissatisfied then owners need to listen carefully. Take the Anfield crowd for example. While it may have it’s faults it’s also a very knowledgeable one in footballing terms. Once BR lost his way it became clear there was no way back and large parts of the crowd made that known.

Same for LVG although for slightly different reasons. I’m one of the few who felt LVG deserved more time at Man United. He’d already shown in his work in Holland that he isable to work with youth and build a team. He can also be a pragmatist as he showed in the last World Cup. In that regard I felt he was taking baby steps to building a United team for the future, notwithstanding all the marquee signings being hoisted upon him. In many ways he was a better fit than Mourinho but once he lost the crowd it was game over for LVG. The question is can Mourinho give the OT faithful the kind of attacking football they long for? I haven’t seen any evidence that he’s the right man to do this.

Wenger’s an interesting one. He has done a tremendous job but I feel Arsenal have now grown stale. I think the football world has probably seen all that Wenger has to offer. I sense the longer they keep him on, the longer they are denying themselves the opportunity of seeing how good they might be. I’m not saying that the next manager will come in and do wonders, but there are more modern thinkers out there that could finally show the pragmatism to land the title, at least.

I feel Wenger fluffed his best chance to win it last season but given his ability to prove people wrong, I still wouldn’t bet against him going one better this following campaign. I doubt it though, based on the body of evidence thus far and I would guess Wenger will fail to buy the centre back and striker he needs to push Arsenal to that next level (even though that’s a slightly facile way of looking at it). Whatever happens, I think the time he was afforded was an excellent decision overall.

Next season promises to be an absolutely fascinating one and in many ways unprecedented. New managers at key rivals, the TV money, new and varied tactical ideas. As Tony alludes to, expectations have to be realistic as things are in flux. An intriguing European Championships lies in wait with no clear favourite. Players will emerge or underwhelm and the tournament may influence LFC’s own transfer activity.

So many questions….

Can Mourinho deliver attractive winning football? Can Conte (the pragmatist and control freak) adapt to English football and get a relatively soft bunch of players playing with the intensity he demands? What is Pep’s ceiling for next season? He has a huge rebuild ahead, I’d be amazed if he lands the title next season.

The question is what will Klopp deliver?

Perhaps the uniqueness of Klopp is that he energises players in a way many managers cannot. Does he possess the finest motivational skills since Shanks?

One thing is for sure, in order to win the league Klopp will need a huge slice of luck and a number of things to work out perfectly for him. What is clear is that the team will be the star and he won’t alienate players. This gives me confidence that he will be able to retain players even if the likes of Coutinho leave. Rafa’s best LFC team already had some stars in it. IMO if Klopp is successful he will be the first LFC manager in recent times to truly do so without a team of stars.

How will Karius, Matip, Grujic and others settle in? Will it be existing players that step up to take us to new heights? For example, my feeling is that it will take an experiment or two before we find the calibre keeper we need to be Mignolet’s long term successor. Grujic may struggle to cope with the EPL pace and power in his first season but will start to blossom if given enough game time.  My point is that we shouldn’t expect new signings to be the panacea to all our ills. They will need time but hopefully they will show that they are upgrades given game time and patience.

Another of Klopp’s challenges is to play the right blend of attacking players that enables the team to unpick the lock of the parked bus. My own gut feel, based on nothing at all, is that we will finish 3rd. We’re sure to be able to expect the unexpected.

It’s far from a formality that Klopp will be successful but if anyone has shown he deserves time it’s him. And I for one look forward to Project Klopp as he finally starts to build for the future with his own brand of player.

Whatever happens Klopp will guarantee that the journey is fun…

Krishaldo on the FA, coaching and their new development plan:

There’s something called the EPPP (Elite Player Performance Plan).

Essentially copying the Belgian example, setting out what the training should be like for each age group and what should be learnt. Was until recently kids were playing 11 a side games with full size footballs. How does a left back get enough touches of the ball in a match to improve their game?

The plan looks very good. Smaller games, smaller goals, smaller balls, emphasis on first touch and passing, etc.

Then they fuck it all up.

Each academy is rated on the number of staff, funding, education, facilities etc.

The lower the rating, the less players you are allowed to train. And the very lowest rated academies aren’t allowed to train players under a certain age.

Also, if you are a category 2 academy for example, you can give any other category 2 or lower academy less than 24 hrs notice to say you are coming to scout their players and they can’t stop you. And you can there and then sign their players for a nominal fee. Off the top of my head, the best academy players will be rated at about £200k fee, with addons for league apps and int caps. The max being around £5m.

So the WBA chairman recently said he was thinking of closing theirs down as what would be the point of spending £10m a season developing the new Messi for a bigger club to poach him for £200k?

Lower down the food chain, clubs are shutting down their academies because they can’t afford to reach the standards set by the FA (and many of these clubs used their academies to produce players for the first team).

Why would the Football League almost unanimously vote in favour of a system that hamstrings them? Because the PL said they would reduce payments to the lower leagues if they didn’t agree.

Makes you all warm and fuzzy inside doesn’t it? Knowing that the FA who are ‘custodians’ of the game pander to the money in the PL as opposed to making it as open to all as possible.

The biggest loss will be the young kids who now have no where to play football if the academy at their local club shuts down.

It’s a fucking farce and infuriates me.

I actually wrote a TTT piece on it a while back:

https://tomkinstimes.com/2014/07/strengthening-the-strong-weakening-the-weak/

Anthony Stanley on Joe Allen:

Joe Allen’s a tough one.

I’ve always liked Joe, always thought he was a cultured footballer, a natural recycler who can make things tick but also help to shut down a game.  His game and tactical intelligence are so impressive, his appreciation of space and how a game is going on around him, how quickly he can actually tune into a match, as if he’s been studying from the sidelines before coming on (which I’ve no doubt he has).

Right now, and since roughly the turn of the year, there’s a huge swelling of appreciation for Joe Allen.  In my opinion there’s also a faint whiff of patronising about it – certainly tongue in cheek – with the the Welsh [insert playmaker here] and Jesus anaologies.  Frankly, if he was that good; if he played to a massively high standard on a regular basis, there wouldn’t be this slight air of condescension juxtaposed with messianic fervour. Maybe I’m not putting that right; he is good but, thanks to various factors – not least some vital late season perfomances and a goal against Arsenal – he’s become a cult figure.

Similtaneously, he both doesn’t deserve that moniker while also deserving better.

Yep, a strange one for me.

Completely agree with MikD: Allen’s stock has never been higher, nor, you’d imagine, will the public consensus of his talents reach such a deafening crescendo again (until he scores the winning goal in the final of the European Championship).  But why are so many credible journalists claiming that he’s on his way.

My feelings on Allen from a Liverpool perspective are that he’s a brilliant squad player and we’d be mad to let him go for the relative peanuts that are being mentioned (half the fee of a Deeney, what crazy, bonkers brave new footballing world are we living in) but that he may now want to go.  He’s at a stage in his career where he has to play on a more regular basis and you’d fancy he’d walk into any team outside the top six (I know, we finished 8th but that’s another story).  He needs a team that plays to his strenghts and – save for the occassional ten minutes at the end of a game – I just don’t see Klopp’s Liverpool being that side.

I can understand him wanting to leave and, if the rumours of a Sevilla move are true, he’d be a genuine hit in Spain.  I’ll be sorry to see him go and always lament the lack of height that ultimately, in my opinion, made him a squad player at the Reds.

Mekokrasum on England’s exit and Iceland’s achievement:

Have we all forgotten who the Iceland coach is…?! Lars Lagerback is a legendary coach who guided Sweden during one of their most successful periods. He is totally fixated with set pieces and mastered this with Sweden. This was a tactical guru vs a blundering neanderthal. The Swede played an English 4-4-2 with hard men just pressing and crunching. It was very basic traditional stuff with a modern twist. As we have been saying since the beginning, Hodgson is a very overrated football coach but a reasonable man manager. He was a PR appointment who wouldn’t rock the boat or insult people with disabilities.

The England formation was terrible and I think he made a political decision to play an ‘attacking’ pacy front three rather than simply using patience and smart build up behind a front two. We would have been more comfortable as a 4-1-3-2/4-4-1-1. The game required injections of pace mixed with subtlety and guile. If ever there was a game for Lallana drifting and Sturridge playing the 9.5 this was one. Rooney could have played off the top for 50-55 minutes and been asked to run his socks off behind Kane, rather than this midfield cameo that Hodge dreamt up. Alternatively bring Sturridge off the bench at half time if Rooney not working as a 10? I would have dropped Dele Alli to the bench and brought him on for Rooney early or pushed the captain back instead of bringing the diminutive Wilshere in for Dier. With Rashford coming on at around 70-75 as Kane tired this could have put the willies up Lagerback.

This defeat was predictable and I don’t buy into the usual clichés of “disgrace…gutless…overpaid…shame…only a small country”. The Premier league does not produce quality English players and there is a dearth of real talent. The British coaching system does not bring through enough footballers with game intelligence. Most of our superstar players are lightning quick midfielders or strikers. We continually struggle to produce the Hoddle, Pirlo, Xabi Alonso, Kroos type of footballer There are too many Ruel Fox and Kieron Dyer clones rather than cerebral footballers with pace like John Barnes and Steve McManaman! Vardy and Kyle Walker are honest players but the modern example of this endless disease. I cannot hate them for their effort but the two of them are out of their depth in the chess game that is international tournament football… Sterling believed his own hype and if he doesn’t find a good coach his career will stall like many before him. Rashford needs to be careful too and keep his head down and learn the game. It is a perennial problem which has been magnified by the obscene wealth of the Sky/BT/Barclays bloated Premier League. In Hodge Podge’s defence (I know that some on TTT will grudgingly agree ???? ) most of the England players were jaded both mentally and physically after yet another punishing EPL and Champions/Europa League season. Until this major issue of excessive playing time is addressed there is absolutely no point in worrying about England progressing in a tournament….


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