Posts selected by Chris Rowland and Daniel Rhodes.
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1 – Mobykidz in the aftermath of the draw at West Ham:
Today and last week were disappointing in the context of Tottenham’s late shows and our “missed” opportunity to grasp a bigger advantage over Man City. It’s a very difficult thing to play with this sort of pressure for the first time. Apart from James Milner nobody else has a Premier League winning campaign under their belt. This is virgin territory for the whole squad and fans alike. But no media house or opposition fan will give us any slack and why should they. Did we when Tottenham tried and failed to chase down Leicester or Chelsea? Of course not.
But so much of a PL title campaign is froth. What matters are points and to keep moving forward. Did we really expect this Liverpool team to improve by 30+ points in just one season? Drawing two games is not a disaster as long as we hold our nerve and have confidence in continuing the work we’ve done already to get us this lead. I’m not ignoring the last week. It’s a set back. But our current body of work means we need to stick to our game plan.
And its correct to say draws are not ideal in a high point scoring season. But what first time title challenger, which the bulk of this squad is, do you know won’t draw games in a season? If we had lost the last two games we’d still be in the mix but it would have dealt us a huge blow. However we drew two games without playing very well and losing our defensive discipline. Now do I think we’re in a slump? No. Do I think we’ve got away with two poor performances? Yes. Were there signs this season that our front three struggled at times? Yes. But winning allows us to move on – but after Leicester and West Ham we have to move on again otherwise we let that doubt settle in and get comfortable. The key is to get back to work and trust the method.
Klopp has a definite game plan this season. We need to stick to that plan as best we can barring more injuries and maintain our nerve and discipline. That’s what a title race is about – to get to March and be in the mix. Whether we are top or not its to keep it close enough. If you think the last week was “awful” imagine getting through March and April. And then imagine stepping on to that pitch and playing with that new pressure and be expected to perform like before. Any human being adapts to that new scenario.
I think what we are seeing is Liverpool players learning to play with that pressure that warm weather training cannot replicate. It was always the elephant in the room – what would happen…and it did but rather than lose games we’ve drawn them. Tough medicine to swallow but at least two points sweetened that bitter pill.
However this learning had to happen at some point in a season but does that mean we will get worse or better? All the evidence suggests it will make us a better team and Klopp a better manager. Yes we drew but at least we put some points on the board and not capitulate. And we have to trust our management to analyse these games and like after every game this season get back on the training pitch and not panic, find solutions and keep our nerve and discipline. And it is critical we stay in this race until the end – because this squad whether they taste victory or defeat in the end need to do this for pushing again next season.
We have a tough February but every month will be tough. The key is does Klopp’s system and his players have the ability and discipline to work their way through this month and still be in the hunt? I hope so. For me the reality is having three teams remaining in the mix are three pressure points a week you need to cope with. Man City have the experience. Tottenham have challenged but each time fallen apart in the end. For Liverpool we don’t know. And the last week makes it crappy in rebutting the media and oppo fan hysteria – but these groups are like sharks and consume you today and come back for more tomorrow. So stay out da water!
But over the next month or two we will find out. What I know is we’re very close and we must stick to the plan and stick together because it’s got us this far. I am confident we will be close come the last couple of games.
2 – Kris Patterson passing on a telling Twitter post:
I saw a post on Twitter that really resonated with me: “Perception is a funny thing in football isn’t it?
In the last 10 games, City have dropped 12 points, Liverpool have dropped 7.
City have lost to 3 teams outside of the ‘Top 6’, Liverpool have drawn against 2 of them.
However, it’s Liverpool that are being perceived as ‘bottling it’.”
I realise the talk at the minute is more about short term form than the rest of the season so far. However, it does prove that we all need to take a breath and recognise just how good this season has been so far. This is just a blip, we’re still top of the league and I believe we’ve still got the best chance we’ve had in years. IN KLOPP WE TRUST!
3 – Taskin/Tash is strongly of the opinion that the title is a marathon not a sprint:
I remember a lot of people said this in the season of Rodgers’ great title push;
As fans, we’ve largely forgotten how to handle the pressure of a title race.
Its still true today. And add to that the army of fuckwits online (and opposition fans who will be masquerading as Reds with the sole purpose of trolling us) and its very easy to get caught up in the doom and gloom and think that, suddenly, its all over. We’ve crashed and burned. Thrown the title away.
If its gone was it really so much in our hands? We had a big lead for a brief time in December/January. That’s not the same as having the lead in late April or May. It was never won or lost. It still isn’t.
We hadn’t won the league when City went down to Newcastle and we haven’t lost it now. Look back further and we hadn’t won it when City lost to Palace or Leicester either. And they hadn’t won it when they beat us. It’s a title race. We landed some blows.They did too. They stumbled. We stumbled. It’s maybe due to injuries or to pressure or to mental lethargy or, more likely, to a bit of everything. It’s a marathon remember. Loads can and often does go wrong along the way.
In the last 2 games we have 2 from a possible 6. They have 3 from. Slightly better, but not exactly reeling in our lead either. They’ve edged back. Just as we edged forward before. This is a title race. We’ll both lose more points before the season is up. Often – like the 3 City games I’ve mentioned above – when we least expect it.
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in the last 29 years whilst waiting for number 19 its the the title is not won in January, February, March or even (more often than not) in April. Prior to that I often had the title won in my head before the Charity Shield kicked off. Times have changed. This will go to the wire. And if the team are prepared to go to the wire then, fuck, we better be ready too.
If this was our stumble – a stumble we were always going to have at some point or other – then I’ll take it. We’re still top and its still only the start of Feb. Lots of time to hit some form again. If the stumble is to continue, again, its the start of Feb. Lots of time to hit some form again. Lots of time for City to fuck up again.
In short, there’s a long, long way to go and there are many twists and turns to come. I wasn’t celebrating the title last week and I’m not giving it up as a lost cause this week. It’s not won till its mathematically impossible for anyone to catch us and its not lost until its mathematically impossible to catch the opposition.
Time to stand up and be counted. Players and fans alike. Come on Redmen!!!
4 – Anthony Stanley on the best 12 months following Liverpool:
Excellent as ever Paul. I don’t post much lately but usually try to read the articles and they’re typically a balm to a troubled spirit.
Not that there’s been much need of balm this season but the past week – from the euphoria of catching City’s result against Newcastle – to last night’s almost inevitable anticlimax has probably tested us all to a degree. You can cast the inner chimp aside, or at least do your best, but from telling ourselves we’d be 7 points clear of City (less then seven days ago), to looking at the league table and feeling their breath on our necks, uncomfortably close and stifling, causing us to jump at the shadows of our own minds, it’s been a tough few days.
Last night was one of those occasions as I paced the floors that I told myself that I’m not doing it right and I’m sure a lot on here found themselves in a similar predicament. We obviously all want this so much, and it would taste so good, so pure and virtuous if we could win the league this way. Without a veritable lottery win. I’ve long thought about Mephistophelian deals and would I want our club to sell their souls in return for the prospect of seeing us lift the Premier League title at the end of every Saturday and Sunday Match of the Day credits. I’ve oscillated hugely in this regard but I always thought that the Faustian deal was the only way it was going to happen.
Right up until last week.
I started to really believe that it could be our year at 9.45 last Tuesday night. I went against my rationalistic leanings and started to speculate that it’s just written in the stars (how I hate that phrase). Maybe, if not some form of divine predestination, it’s just the stars aligning in a particular way. Origi’s mad moment in the derby and countless other episodes that have piled up in this campaign – both for us and our rivals. I was thinking of Townsend screamers and Benitez masterclasses and Alison blinders. I was thinking of Virgil and how – as someone said on The Anfield Wrap YouTube show – they watch videos of him before they go asleep. I was thinking of that magical night in Anfield when we felt slightly cheated at only beaten the Gunners 5-1 and opening up a seven point lead.
The whole calendar year – from the end of last January to now – has been quite possibly the best twelve months I can remember supporting Liverpool. Sustained quality, beautiful moments, cherished memories. We’ve been fucking brilliant, we really have and the last week is ok. A blip, it happens. City – the best team of all time according to many who all think that football started in 1992 – lost twice in the space of a few days. We ground out draws, either of which could be absolutely vital.
It may get better this week, probably will. We need some kind of soft reboot, something to get us back on the horse and, as you wrote (and did my heart hammer a bit when I read the words) ‘go again’. Going again is what we do though. We’ve been doing it for so long that it’s in our DNA. We are no bottlers, never have been. That lazy and trite musing of the main stream media, of Merson and his cohort of clowns, can fuck off. We will clamber back up and we will fight on. I have no doubt about that. We may suffer blows, there may be outrageous slings and arrows coming are way. There be more glorious highs and moments of huge luck.
That’s called being relevant and I am just going to enjoy the relevance, the significance of a title charge. I’m trying to convince myself that the dénouement is, I don’t know. Is it as huge as we make out? Kiev was rough and I’ve almost brushed the whole week from my memory but I wouldn’t change those feelings, that pride and joy, for anything. That build up and the relevance, of the whole footballing world talking about us; some with hatred, some in hushed tones, some with forced jocularity. Some with a sense of awe.
Exactly a week after I prematurely convinced myself that number 19 was on the way, I’m trying to come to terms with that fact that it might well not be. I’m saying it probably won’t happen to myself at this stage, even if I still think we’re slight favourites. If it happens, there will be probably no one celebrating like myself. If it doesn’t, well that’s footie isn’t it.
I honestly think the vast majority of our fan base have forgotten, or are at least overlooking, how far we have come. It’s barely credible really. The club and Klopp are not getting the credit they deserve, to my mind. Our progression has been exhilarating, scintillating, but also tangible and demonstrable. It is sustainable and is not the mirage of a tortured soul, ephemeral and ethereal, shining and bright but fleeting and ultimately hollow, which much of the last few months of 13/14 strike me as being from this vantage point.
We might not win it this year, but we can dream of doing it at some stage. We won’t just go again, we’ll keep going.
5 – James asked this Question of the Day, about whether ethics should have a part to play in football:
In 1862 Lancashire mill workers, at great personal cost, refused to touch any cotton picked by slaves in America. Abe Lincoln wrote to them to praise their heroism which he said “has not been surpassed in any age or any country”.
Arguably the people behind Manchester City FC would have had them maced and thrown in jail.
Possibly they would have come up with something equally unpleasant for Emmeline Pankhurst who began her suffragette movement at her home in Manchester.
I am under no illusions about the backers of Manchester City, essentially the UAE. It is regarded as a sinister, cruel regime whose tentacles are spreading to include global football.
It is unlikely they are penetrating the game primarily for financial gain (losses so far +£750m) but for the PR and influence.
The appropriateness of their ownership and as a corollary the financial power the clubs gain are a hot topic at present.
The question occupying my mind is twofold. Is the ownership issue a valid stick with which to beat the club and it’s fans, and secondly does the financial clout it brings damage the game in terms of competitiveness in the longer term.
I thought that the title winning exploits of Man City last season were worthy of great praise. They set records and played great footy.
Confession needed here. I cannot bring myself to decry or denigrate the achievements of other clubs and their players. At an individual level the players strive hard for their success. In some cases they suffer abuses eg., Raheem Sterling who seems a decent lad to me and has worked for his achievements.
A goodly number of years ago I was at OT as a guest and saw Man U beat Everton 5-1. Man U were majestic that day with Cantona, Giggs and Kanchelskis in full flow.Of course the day was made better by the fact the Toffees were the oppo and got thrashed 🙂
The dominance of Man U under Sir Alex was hard to bear but that takes nothing away from their achievements.
Getting back to the main argument, Manchester City must be making a significant contribution to the local economy. I doubt the canteen staff, the ground staff and others working there are too worried about the big picture. Should they do as their forebears did and strike, or resign in protest?
I don’t think verbal abuse of the fans and club can be easily justified and surely to do so on the basis of the ownership is ludicrous. Some fans will have been supporting the club through thick and very seriously thin times if memory serves and certainly well before the Arab wealth came in. Should they have jumped ship?
Should non-City fans not be boycotting all the games against City home and away?
Maybe we are driving cars and flying in aircraft fuelled by equally dodgy suppliers. Should we stop driving or flying?
Maybe our smartphones or trainers are made using slave labour. Should we boycott these too?
I’m not saying unsatisfactory ownership by the UAE shouldn’t be criticised and lobbied against but there are some pretty blurry lines.
LFC has developed into a very valuable business in the past while. It’s flying! To predatory eyes it must be a juicy prey. Whilst the chances of the ownership changing in the foreseeable future are unthinkable, who knows. There is an adage ‘everything has a price’. Who’s to say the mind set of the owners won’t change?
I’m hypothesising but say ownership did change and we were acquired by someone we felt uncomfortable with. Would we boycott the club if suddenly the sky were the limit financially? Or might we turn a blind eye like Manchester City’s fan base?
Whilst I have a good handle on the UAE skullduggery I know nothing about our owners and sponsors. Never felt a need to enquire. They may be squeaky clean. That said, there aren’t many big corporations with clean hands.
So where exactly do we draw the lines? How enforceable are they?
Lastly there is the matter of how financial power affects the game, illegitimate or otherwise. Of course, the impact is the same whatever the source.
It’s argued that Man City have an unfair advantage, Agreed. It’s proposed they will hoover up all the prizes. Maybe. Personally i think it unlikely. I cannot see them killing off the competition and rendering the likes of LFC and Man U as also rans. There is already in place a virtual hegemony of six, but I can’t visualise there being a big ‘one’.
There has to be a point where the gains slow and even regress. It may be already happening. We’ve overtaken ‘em!
History is littered with examples of one entity having superiority of resources but failing to prevail. I give you the ‘happy few’ at Agincourt!
I’m in a quandary here so any views from TTTers that would help me reach a balanced assessment would be very welcome.
Articles published on the site this week, with samples:
Monday February 4th:
TTT Player of the Month for January 2019: Fabinho, by Andrew Beasley.
The former Monaco man began 2019 on the bench at the Etihad though. Despite only getting 33 minutes on the pitch after replacing James Milner, Fabinho finished fourth in the post-match poll. Virtually every mention of him in the comments on the match thread stated he should’ve started the match, that Liverpool improved once he came on, and so on.
Both the eye test and the numbers back those thoughts up too. He may have benefited from coming on to face a tired team, but he had to help one too, and one which was behind for 25 of his 33 minutes on the pitch. Fabinho was key in beating the press of the champions, and his use of the ball was superb; the Brazilian misplaced just one of his 23 passes in the first two thirds of the field.
The break to Dubai appears to have been a disaster if the food poisoning stories are true. (Edit: I see that Klopp has confirmed post-match that both Milner and van Dijk have been very ill this past week.)
But the next 10-day break, from the 9th to the 19th, could be the chance to break out of what feels like a negative cycle, especially if Bournemouth can’t be beaten. While I don’t see it as momentum, form does come and go, and can turn on small things. (The bizarre pitch conditions in midweek were hard to plan for.) Even the best teams have sticky spells.
The enforced changes to the side – the defence in particular – has derailed the confidence in that aspect of the team’s game, that was making teams fear playing the Reds. Now chances are being given up. But there’s still time to turn it around, and City and Spurs have to play each other on the penultimate week of the season – when Liverpool play Rafa’s Newcastle (who will field the kids, I’m hoping). Spurs have some hellish fixtures left, but of course, you can always come unstuck in the “easier” games and get points in the tough ones.
Tuesday February 5th:
Post-Match Analysis: West Ham 1 – 1 Liverpool, by Daniel Rhodes.
Virtually every team metric points to a draw. West Ham edged the total shots 13 to 11, but only managed to get two on target compared to the Reds’ six. Both sides had seven inside the penalty area, and one big chance each (Mane scored his, whereas Rice missed his).
The same story is true of the expected goals data, with Michael Caley scoring it 1.2 apiece, while Liverpool edged most of the other models.
My Night at the London Stadium. Foul Language and Foul Attitudes., by Tricia Hill.
It’s a strange place to watch football. Either you’re close-ish to the action but low down so you can hardly see anything at the other end of the pitch, or you’re high enough up to see what’s going on but you’re miles away. Plus the action is shown on the big screen, but about a second behind what’s happening on the pitch. It’s very disconcerting and I can understand why the West Ham fans don’t like it. But then I remembered what a criminally good deal the West Ham owners got for the stadium at the taxpayers’ expense and realised I really don’t care.
Wednesday February 6th:
Tactical Analysis: Why Klopp Switched To 4-2-3-1, by Benjamin Magnusson.
In my analysis of the Manchester City game, I also briefly touched upon these positional rotations and how they created space out wide for Liverpool’s full-backs. The principle is exactly the same as against Arsenal: overload the midfield through positional rotations (having Mané, Firmino, and Wijnaldum drop deep into midfield), thus creating the same problem for Sané and Sterling that Iwobi was faced with: move infield to mark Liverpool’s wingers, which would in turn open up space in the wide areas, or leave them and allow Liverpool to gain numerical superiority in the central areas? Naturally, they often chose to cover the central areas, which gave Liverpool control over the wide areas.
With these positional rotations in mind, it is not strange to see a greater emphasis on the full-backs during Liverpool’s attacking phases. As Andrew Beasley also noted some time ago (which I also mentioned in the Manchester City analysis): “TAA has passed to Robertson a total of 11 times in the last three games – something that he had only done nine times in this season up until and including Napoli game”. Naturally, this is the result of more crosses due to the time and space each full-back has following these positional rotations. The importance of full-backs in the attacking phase might also be one of the deciding factors in the sale of Clyne, as he simply does not possess the attacking ability needed in such a system. One thing to note though: while these positional rotations facilitate a smoother build-up, which often happens by creating space out wide, it is not necessarily a good thing to rely that much on your full-backs in the attacking phase – something I will touch upon later in this article.
Thursday February 7th:
Given Man City’s “remarkable” results in the last week or so – a defeat at Newcastle, a victory over injury-ravaged Arsenal and winning their additional game against Everton – it really is amazing how they’ve managed to claw back the gap. Blink and you might miss that Liverpool have a game in hand, or that City have dropped more points than the Reds since the start of December. As TTT subscriber “Michelle” noted, Liverpool are now in “false 2nd”.
Remember, Liverpool still have the 4th best start to a season after 25 games in the entire Premier League era, and still one of the club’s three best ever starts since 1992; and if that pace is unsustainable then it may be because it was just too damned amazing.
Keeping the run going hasn’t been helped by half a dozen injuries and half a dozen bouts of food poisoning and flu this past fortnight (as well as a bizarrely frozen pitch that proved a leveller against Leicester). The Reds have won 19 of 25 league games and only lost once. Those are elite figures. But City are an elite team too.
If the Reds drop points against Bournemouth then this free piece is there for people to refer back to, if in need of a dose of sanity. Of course, even a draw would put the Reds back on top, with both teams having played 26 games – although you’d expect the Reds to be bang-up for this one.
This could now go one of two ways: the pressure, as favourites, could shift back to Man City, and Liverpool get freed up again; or the Reds suffer a sense of falling, and panic sets in.
Liverpool will either rise to the challenge, or fall under the weight of expectations; but then that’s the challenge any Liverpool manager faces – the club has a history that money cannot buy, but unlike other clubs, doesn’t have the money to buy a new history.
Equally, Man City have a tough season ahead: Chelsea at the weekend in the league, then again in the League Cup final. They have had the easiest cup fixtures imaginable this season – and their Champions League draw is yet more luck (albeit partly due to winning their admittedly easier group) – but the more cup games they play the more it increases the chances of taking its toll on the older members of the squad and/or those who went a long way in the World Cup, which was twice as many players as the Reds had.
In addition, Man City and Spurs play each other in the final weeks of the season; so if it’s still tight, that will mean that one of those teams – and possibly both – will drop points.