Free Friday: A Football Romance, Penalty Droughts & Being Saved by a Man City Fan!

Free Friday: A Football Romance, Penalty Droughts & Being Saved by a Man City Fan!
April 6, 2018 Daniel Rhodes
In Free, Free Friday


This week’s posts selected by Chris Rowland and Daniel Rhodes.

This gives you some idea of the range of debate on the site and the type of articles published. If you’d like to be part of our troll-free community, there’s a ‘Subscribe’ tab at the top of the page. 

Once again, the subject of poor punditry cropped up:

1 – Responding to JoeA’s excellent original post, Tony Mckenna had this to say:

A good Post Joe. And it does answer the conundrum as to why pundits can appear so lacking in knowledge when they have been inside  the game for so long. But, of course, whilst playing it, they have never been engaged in studying the mechanics of the game, or how it actually works. In that scenario, they are not literally inside the game so to speak.

I think this is where the notion of experience  becomes confused. Take a car mechanic, or surgeon, working in their respective industry for years. Therein, we defer to their superior knowledge because that has been experience related to the inner workings of a car, or the human body. However, we can make the mistake of transferring that assumption to a veteran, or ex-player, especially of legendary status, with the illogical conclusion that they must know about the intricacies of the game itself. (On that note, I still wince at comments Gary Mac once made about not attempting enough shots from outside the box).

Or rather, it is the mistake made by television chiefs when looking to employ a pundit: Hansen and Lawrenson winning football C.V.`s being the clincher. Not personal knowledge about the game itself.

Yet, the distinction is that, a car mechanic or surgeon, has been involved in work that involves so much conscious thought, and study, relating to pre-set guidelines and procedures. It is not something you can venture into purely on instinct. (Or really, you should not). Whereas playing a game of football has huge examples of unconscious endeavour; and boys and girls can play the game, rather well, quite instinctively from young ages – even without formal coaching. There is no need to reference tedious text books or manuals.

Of course, there are some ex-players noted for their punditry analysis: Gary Neville for instance. But, in his example, you suspect he has gone to great lengths to study and understand the mechanics of the game. Not that this necessarily implies success when in the Manager’s seat; as well, he does know.

Having said all this, there is one other important observation to make. This current crop of ex-players are still mostly behind the ‘statistical generations’ for want of a better phrase. Now that stats have gone mainstream – albeit clumsily so at times, as Beez (TTT subscriber, author and data guru Andrew Beasley) has pointed out – one anticipates future improvement. Years from now we may well see some ex-players analysing games, applying statistical interpretation, with consummate skill.

2 – Another regular topic, refereeing and penalty awards (or lack of) also cropped up again in this comment by Graeme Riley:

This season is certainly an outlier for penalties in Liverpool matches.

Under normal circumstances it would be expected that the number of penalties awarded (nb – not necessarily converted) would proportionately follow the number of goals scored. If we strip out the number of penalties scored from the total scored, we would have 73 non-penalty goals in the league but just 3 penalties awarded. This ratio, 4.1% is remarkably low when compared to previous campaigns, indeed apart from a 3.3% ratio in 2015-16, this is the worst return from penalties since 1997.

However, not only are we being denied penalties, we are conceding them at a remarkably high rate at the other end. There have been 31 non-penalty goals conceded compared to 6 penalties, for a ratio of 19.4%. This is the worst ever ratio for penalties compared to non-penalties in the club’s history, beating the 19.0% in a second division championship winning season in 1904-05.

It’s just as concerning if we take the difference between the for and against ratios, a figure that should rationally be close to zero if penalties for and against follow the pattern of goals scored and conceded. This season has a difference of -15.2%, again the worst and only closely matched by that 1904-05 season. For comparison purposes, the 2013-14 season saw us awarded 12 pens, at a ratio of 12.0% of non-penalty goals, but we conceded heavily as well, 4 of 47 non penalty goals at a rate of 8.5%, giving a positive difference of only 3.5%. The most favorable season was 2003-04 where the ratio was 12.5% positive, thanks largely to 10 penalties compared to 47 non-penalty goals. Interesting to note that our centre forward was an Englishman…..

3 – MikeH responding to Liverpool’s growing injury problems ahead of the City match:

The financial mismatch between us is huge. For all the plaudits that Guardiola receives, his life is made significantly easier by their ludicrous spending.

Pep needs a right back-buys the England right back. Job done, nothing more to think about.

Klopp needs a right back-a job share between the 2 youngest fullbacks in the league. Both need developing, both have tactical considerations that need considering as a result.

Shall I play Jesus or Aguero? Shall I play Silva, Sane, B Silva, Sterling etc etc

For all the brilliance of their play, Guardiola gets to focus on one thing alone playing great football. A wave of a chequebook and any issues are made to disappear. Get me Sanchez, Sane out for a month, get me Mahrez.

No wonder they have less injury problems. Their squad is huge. They have spent 200m on their last 4 centre backs alone-let that just sink in! They can rotate and just buy whenever they please. I hope we smash them. Despite some of the negativity on here for Spurs, it’s in football’s best interests that Liverpool or Spurs show they can compete, they can win without financial nuclear weaponry, by being well run, developing youth etc.

Guardiola pretty much always has the best hand to play wherever he has been. That is why I find it increasingly easy to dislike City. It’s also why I admire Klopp so much. He doesn’t shirk challenges. He doesn’t need to have the best hand. I have no doubt he could have the Bayern, Real, Psg, Utd jobs etc etc but I truly believe they have no appeal for him.

Despite our mounting injuries, our star man is still good. He’s sitting in the dugout. One door closes, another one opens. In 2005, the miracle was right through the tournament. Carson, Kirkland,  Traore, Biscan, Josemi, Mellor, Baros, Le Tallec, Pongolle..I can’t remember who else got a game but at various points most of those players made a difference and boy is that some list!

Time for everyone to stand up and be counted, glory awaits!

4 – Andrew in Australia finding the romance in football:

Just about to head to bed down here in Melbourne for a ridiculous 4am wakeup and several coffees before the 4:45am kickoff. And I have to say, I doubt whether I’ll get much sleep tonight. I’m absolutely pumped about tomorrow.

It feels a lifetime ago that I got up at the same ungodly hour before my high school exams to watch us capitulate, rally and ultimately triumph in the most unlikely of circumstances in Istanbul. That season I remember the whole European journey so clearly (in those days, the price of pay tv was a lot more prohibitive, and that was the only way you could follow the EPL down here. But one of the government funded tv channels would show the European games, so I’ve always had special attachment to the Champions League). A combination of the European adventure of our unfancied team and a romantic phase of my life created a few months of pure joy. The nights before those games, including sleepovers with my best mate who also happened to be a Red, felt like Christmas Eve every time. There was just a pure excitement. No sky-high expectations. No fear of failure. No concerns that we wouldn’t turn up.

The rest of the Rafa years, as glorious as they were in their way, could never reach those heights for me. It was like the passionate beginnings of a deeply loving romantic relationship, compared with the dependable and satisfying but often unspectacular years that come after that initial whirlwind phase. That constant excitement and wonder was stymied by expectation and a knowledge that we’d already scaled the ultimate heights (in Europe). (again, it was perhaps largely influenced by where I was in my life more than an accurate reflection of the actual mood at the time).

When we arrived back at the top table in 14/15, the feeling simply wasn’t there. To extend the relationship analogy, perhaps the 7-year itch had set in. It didn’t feel like we belonged. Those mornings I often woke with expectation of a worse kind – an expectation of disappointment.

Tonight, I feel like I am 17 years old again. I’m filled with a boyish giddiness about tomorrow’s match, and about the trajectory of this team. I’m a young man that’s fallen (back) in love. In the 13 years since that fateful night against Milan, I’ve not been quite as excited about a particular match, a moment in the club’s history, or the uncapped heights a team of ours could potentially reach. For me it feels like, after a long slumber, this is the moment that we can definitively say “we are back!” Come on you bloody Reds!

5 – Jennifer on beating Man City, and the experience inside the stadium:

What a night!  We were inside when all the bus nonsense was going on and only heard about it later.  Inside the ground was something to remember.  The noise, the scarf waving, the play -oh the play.  I have been anxious about TAA as I thought he was being targeted in recent games.  The opposition clearly thought his inexperience made him the weak point and too much play was going down his side.  City tried the same- balls to Sané for him to bring into the box.  But TAA just dealt with him.  He learns quickly.  It was a consummate team performance with everyone, including the subs playing their part.  The second half start was a little tentative and the anxiety of the team and crowd when Salah went off was palpable.  The pace dropped and there was a spell when I wondered if we would concede.  But this was only brief.  The defending in the second half was exemplary.  How dare they bang on about Liverpool’s suspect defence? Lovren rose to the occasion,  VVD was majestic and Andy Robertson yet again showed why he is the bargain; of the season.

Firmino is astonishing in many ways, so I shall concentrate on just one.  The way he leaps up in the air, brings a ball down with his foot and kills it dead.  Amazing control and athleticism.  Milner had probably the best game I have seen, particularly as he had De Bruyne to deal with.   Pity Henderson is out for the next game.

6 – Grouse675 on how controlled we looked against the Citizens:

I remember many relatively recent european nights, both home and away against great teams, where we were hanging on by our fingernails. I remember many in one season under Gérard in the UEFA Cup (as it was then, was it? I can’t remember, that 5-4!) and under Rafa.

But this … this wasn’t hanging on. We looked controlled, composed, tight at the back. I was nervous for every (of many) corners, but without cause, nervous for many runs into the penalty area, which became fewer and fewer. The introduction of VVD has made everyone grow up together. As I posted on the US Liverpool supporters group on FB, ‘Boys to Men’.

That’s what happened tonight. Under sustained pressure from one of the best teams in the world, we grew up, came together, trusted each other and calmed it all the fuck down.

Beyond impressive.*

*(who knows what will happen in Manchester, but as Paul says, let’s enjoy this complete performance).

7 – Ginger Elvis on almost missing the game in Tenerife, but being saved by … a Man City fan:

On family hols in Tenerife booked a year ago and has resigned myself to missing the game. Spotted a small telly on the corner of one of the pool bars and asked the waiter if the game was on – he said yes , everybody loves Barca over here so of course!

Chance gone I thought but a citeh fan nearby seemed to know one of the managers  and found the game on bein sports. Hightailed it to the kiddie disco to convince the missus that my lads (9 and 10) needed to see the game  ‘it’s unfair on THEM if they miss a game of such importance!’

Some promises to get up with the Babbie for the night feed later and we squirrelled around the telly with whispered Spanish commentary and by now a good thirty or so others in the same boat.

Sat next to said citeh fan who was a regular at the etihad and, if lacking a little hubris initially, turned out to be a top bloke.( he had his own tale of woe as had been due to come on hols in February but was postponed to this week due to a family illness so all his mates were at anfield without him (but he was flying back early to get to the Man U match!)

Even in our little corner of a little bar in a(big) hotel in the canaries, the atmosphere was tangible. The game was, well, you’ve seen. Words fail.

Citeh fan bought me a pint at at the end and just said ‘fair dos’. I wished him luck for Saturday (but not Tuesday)!

Articles published on The Tomkins Times this week:

Monday April 2nd:

Klopp’s Current Liverpool: One of the Best Premier League Teams Since 2009?, by Daniel Rhodes.

Tuesday April 3rd:

Almost Half Liverpool’s Outfield Players Would Get Into This Marvellous Man City Side, by Paul Tomkins.

17/18 Champions League Quarter-Final | 1st Leg Preview | Man City (H), by Gary Fulcher.

Wednesday April 4th:

The Power of the Klopp Meets The Power of The Kop! Boom! By Paul Tomkins

Thursday April 5th: 

Why Liverpool Can Win the Big Prizes Under Klopp By Paul Tomkins

Friday April 6th:

My Day At The Champions League Match: BUMPER EDITION By Anfield Iron, Grover and Glasgow Red