Free Friday: City ‘Fan’ Flip-Flop, Free Solo & Watching the Reds on Everest

Free Friday: City ‘Fan’ Flip-Flop, Free Solo & Watching the Reds on Everest
March 21, 2019 Daniel Rhodes
In Free, Free Friday


Posts selected by Chris Rowland and Daniel Rhodes.

The idea of this weekly round-up is to give you all some idea of the range of debate on the site and the articles we publish. If you’d like to be part of our troll-free community, there’s a ‘Subscribe’ tab at the very bottom of the page.

1 – Alan reflecting on the Fulham game:

Well it is Monday morning in the middle of March and we are top of the league, nice!!

I watched the game in Upper Lyme yesterday, we are on holiday in Lyme Regis and no pub had the game on due to the prices Sky charge, interesting.

There were only 3 people in our pub with my lad and me, one was an alleged City fan about my age. He came from a small place near Warrington, he used to be a red, (our kind), and now he supports City!! I was very restrained according to my son, he was expecting me to give him a verbal lashing. However, I kind of felt sad for him. First he was missing half of his front teeth and the second, if he was the same ageish as me he had been totally blessed to have been an LFC supporter, so to move to the money rich, human rights light, half empty stadium, atmosphere free zone that is Citeh must, I guessed, mean that he had just escaped from the care home opposite the pub.

Anyway a relaxed place to watch the game. As we all know it was another game played in the four seasons in one game scenario that is becoming the norm. Climate change or is this some bizarre test set up to test our warriors? Whatever, we passed the test and for good measure had 3 of our coolest players make a serial cock up one would only associate with, well Fulham!

The really interesting thing from my perspective, is that at no point did I get anxious, this is from someone who traditionally had liquefied bowels before big games for nigh on 60 years. Why am I so relaxed?  Is it that I’m losing the plot, having a breakdown, or suddenly stopped caring? No, none of these, it can only be that I just realise how good we are as a team. I think the, ‘cool as you like,’ song for Virgil is somehow removing my anxieties about the Reds and inducing a drug like Karma to my football life.

This team could do the most amazing things this year, and if not this year, it will be next year. There is no way that this team, with  our club behind it, is not going to be a force for some time.

Back to my new friend :), at the end of the game I wished him all of the best and said I thought Fulham would batter City in their next game. He didn’t respond and then his carers arrived.

2 – 5537will assessing City’s need to win the CL and the pressures that will put on:

At this point it’s literally all psychological.

Citeh are in an incredible position fighting for four trophies. Yeah there’s the physical factor-  that’s a lot of games –  but they have such depth to that squad and they’ll all be expertly motivated.

They are however, very unlikely to win every game until the end of the season. They’ve needed some bad refereeing to get through a couple of their last games and despite the media narrative that they’re some kind of unstoppable juggernaut, they’ve not been playing well by their standards. They needed an offside, injury time goal to beat Swansea. Given league form, Liverpool have been far more consistent over the season, if marginally less spectacular.

City don’t have Champions League pedigree. They’re unused to being at that stage of the competition and they can feel the desperation to win a CL from everyone at the club. That’s pressure. Winning Champions Leagues sets you out as a legitimate top tier club. Until you’ve done it, you don’t belong at the top table. That’s why Chelsea were so desperate to win one and that’s why Citeh NEED one more than anything. More than the league. That’ll be their priority. The issue is that all these competitions are linked.

I expect I’m not alone in saying that May 25th 2005 was a night that will flash before my eyes when I die. It was one of the greatest thing’s I’ve ever seen. I lost my voice for three days, my mate had to tell the cabbie where to go when we got home because I literally couldn’t get a sound out. The greatest comeback in football history, yadda yadda. We’ve all heard the stories. Though obviously Liverpool were great, the truth of the matter is that Milan fucked up. Big time. When that second goal from Smicer went in, you could see their shoulders sag. They were overtaken with the fear of WHAT IF. Their horror and collective paranoia at being the first team to concede 3 goals in the second half of a CL final, literally physically manifested itself. By the time they came to take their penalties, they were done. Mentally gone.

That Milan team were some of the best players to ever play the game. The majority were in their 30’s. They’d won the CL two years previously and they’d win it again against us, two years later. They were not mentally fragile. Their collapse showed that it can happen to literally anyone.

We’re the chasing team now. In a way, the pressure’s off. We ride a wave of optimism, but no-one EXPECTS us to win either the league or the CL. That’s “City’s to lose”.

It will take one result. Could be anywhere, but I’m hoping that first leg away in the CL against Spurs at their new stadium. Spurs can do it at this level. All it needs is one result, to get that little phrase revolving in the back of their heads:

“IMAGINE if we fucked this up”

In cricket they call it a case of the yips. It can happen to anyone at all. It has happened to some of the best players to play the game. I’m not saying that it will happen, but a bad result could very easily prompt a two, three game wobble, which at this stage of the season, given the margins for error, would be absolutely fatal.

Who knows. They may steamroller everything in their path, but form and a great deal of history says they won’t. All I do know is it’s gonna be quite a ride.

3 – Paul Tomkins questioning whether Liverpool are now targeting player sales:

If one has a read on the latest Liverpool accounts from Swiss Ramble, one would have read the conclusion that Liverpool are now targeting player sales as a way to balance the books.

I don’t think that’s the correct conclusion.

Philippe Coutinho wanted desperately to leave for Barca. We got £142m for him, and then used that money to spend on new players. If Coutinho hadn’t left we wouldn’t have spent as much money. We made a massive profit last season because of Coutinho’s sale, and then we spent the money this season. I don’t think it was LFC looking to sell Coutinho but Coutinho being tapped up constantly by Barca.

We will raise money by selling fringe players, like we did with Solanke, who want out (but in his case where we have a buyback clause).

We are balancing the books now by being more competitive, and earning a lot in the CL and from doing well in the PL.

I don’t think we’re looking to sell any of our key players. But as ever, if they want out, that’s different. Then we can charge what we feel they are worth or no deal takes place.

4 – Thundyr discussing the some of issues surrounding the Reds’ chance creation:

Own goals are generally the result of pressure. It’s very rare that a defender puts through his own net on purpose or by taking a silly risk – most often it’s an unfortunate deflection or an awkward bounce that comes off the wrong part of the body that sees the ball go across that line. The point is that the ball had to have been directed towards that specific point by the attacking side, and the defender generally had to be under pressure to make the play he did rather than leave the ball for another, better placed player, for example.

The same goes for ‘luck’ in the form of deflections into the path of our attackers, as opposed to going directly into the net. This season, and particularly since December, it’s been notable that my statement that “Nobody needs to beat Liverpool, so few clubs will try,” which was invented near the start of Klopp’s tenure when it became clear that the best way to get points off us was to refuse to attack, has become increasingly true. The result? More defenders getting in the way of our passes and shots. It isn’t hard to imagine that we’ll get fewer assists against a packed defence, and have more ‘lucky’ deflections that find our players in scoring positions because people are throwing themselves at balls struck goal-wards at speed more frequently thanks a surplus of Liverpool possession. Mane being grappled after the Fulham keeper dropped the ball to set up a penalty last time out is a good example of a high xG chance created by a defensive error – one created by attacking pressure rather than an attacking, on-the-ball event, but one created by Liverpool, not by luck. “You make your own luck,” they say.

I don’t think we’re any more lucky than most this season, except maybe for those penalties in front of the Kop. Given how much the officials interfered with our results last season, I’d be tempted to say that our ‘unluckiness’ has regressed to the mean! On the whole, I think this high non-assisted xG result is merely a symptom of the ‘natural order’ of playing most of our games against teams that aren’t trying to win. Our patterns of play, where we clog the centre of the pitch with hard-working midfielders, play a high line, and leave the creativity to our full backs and front three, is another symptom of this malaise.

I wouldn’t read too much into it, to be honest. So it’s a good thing Beez did all the reading into it for us!

5 – Arab Adventurer describing the places where he’s watched Liverpool play across the globe:

I loved reading this article! It reminded me of the numerous times that I have had to find some way of following LFC in unusual circumstances. I think I have watched LFC play live on TV in 39 countries, and on 6 continents. The only continent I am missing is Antarctica, and I followed the games I missed by messages relayed to my satellite phone. I also used the same method while rowing across the Atlantic…

A few games were particularly noteworthy for the obstacles I had to overcome… in the Arctic circle, I managed to stream the Newcastle game, which we won 3-0 I think, but I was more pre-occupied with eating everything I could see and keeping warm, after spending the last 5 weeks outdoors in minus 40 degrees, walking 650 km and losing 10 kilos in body weight. In Russia, in the foothills of the Caucuses, I had to go around a village asking residents, in my non existent Russian, if they were going to watch the Europa Cup final, and whether I could join them…with all the violence in the region, I figured it was 50/50 I would be attacked or welcomed first.

But, the toughest game I have ever watched was when I was in the Himalayas trekking to base camp to attempt Everest. I left our night stop to walk to Namache Bazaar, which was the biggest village on the route. Just walking from the bottom of the village to the top of the village was exhausting, as the oxygen levels at that altitude are equivalent to about 60% the oxygen saturation at sea level. There were some bars, but they were not showing the Europa Cup semi final. In the end I found an internet cafe, and tried to stream it. Half the time I felt I was going to fall asleep from exhaustion, and the other half I was so oxygen deprived, I was having trouble following the game. I recall Ryan Babel getting fouled and then being sent off after he retaliated, and getting knocked out by a team that beat Fulham in the final…but I might have hallucinated some parts of that!

Anyway, I would love to do a match report at some stage. It might just be a game from Oman with the Oman Reds…although 6 of us are flying to Anfield for the international supporters black tie dinner and the Huddersfield game in April, so I could do that too…

Articles published since last Friday, with samples:

Saturday March 16th:

Fantastic Liverpool Going “Free Solo” – Climbing the Mother of All Mountains, by Paul Tomkins.

And this Liverpool team is better than at least half of the English champions in the past 29 years. It just happens to be up against a far richer club, with far more title-winning experience, and a world-class manager; and allegedly aided by financial doping.

Liverpool are trying to climb a mountain, against the steep backdrop of Man City’s myriad advantages. To lose out would not be failure; but maybe some superhuman effort (and a bit of luck) might make this a season we’ll never forget. Rather than moan about any dropped point here or there, appreciate the ride; feel the feelings. In time these will be seen as the good old days, so don’t miss it while it’s happening right before your very eyes.

Monday March 18th:

Post-Match Analysis: Fulham 1 Liverpool 2by Daniel Rhodes.

Liverpool attempted three big chances, including the penalty, which is usually more than enough in an away game to take the points – and it proved to be the case here too, just with an extra dose of “here you go Fulham, have yourselves a free goal” syndrome.

Sixteen shots to seven, eleven to two inside the penalty area. On most days, that’s a thrashing. Six shots on target to two is also dominant on our travels. In fact, looking at Understat’s xG timeline, before Van Dijk and Alisson handed them a goal on a plate, they had created 0.22 xG. After their equaliser, they failed to create anything else. Basically, they failed to create anything all game. The range on the xG models was 1.9 (excluding the penalty) up to 3 (including the penalty).

From Where I Was Watching: Bayern Munich (A), by Andrew Potter.

The Syrians love their football. But it’s not easy for them. The average salary for a teacher or mechanic would be maybe $100 a month. A Bein Sports subscription is $250 a year. Is that cost something for the new CEO of the Premier League will ponder when the next bidding round starts? Doubtful. Even if you consider that for $250 a year, you get Jose Mourinho’s punditry and Ramos advertising Nivia for free (and let me tell you, it’s almost as bad as the advert that had Skrtel and Lallana in it), it’s hellishly expensive. Hardly surprising that illegal feeds are so prevalent.

The second problem is power. Public electricity in Damascus currently goes off for three hours in every six due to general energy shortages. So if you are going to watch a game, best to find somewhere with a generator – fortunately these tend to include the bars and restaurants.

So tonight at 10pm, 12 people from the office walked through the dark streets to a hotel that has Bein, power and beer.

Tuesday March 19th:

Who’s Now a Key Cornerstone of Liverpool FC? Data Viz Round Up: Episode Sixby Andrew Beasley.

There has recently been debate on the site regarding whether Liverpool’s midfield is creative enough, and I’ll be looking into that in my next article. But perhaps a bigger concern is the lack of assists kept within the Reds’ regular front three – just eight so far this season, after 24 in 2017/18. Neither Mané nor Salah has assisted Firmino yet, which just seems odd.

Thursday March 21st: 

How Much of the Reds’ Chance Creation Has Been Lucky This Season? by Andrew Beasley.

So there we are. It doesn’t matter that the midfielders create very little as they allow the full-backs to be some of the most creative players in the Premier League. Move along, folks, the show’s over. Nothing to see here. Liverpool don’t have a problem with creativity.

Except that they might. Sorry.

In 2018/19, Liverpool’s expected assists tally is a long way behind Manchester City’s, a shade short of Arsenal’s, and at least five ahead of the other sides from the top six. The Reds’ average of 1.39 xA per game is down from 1.51 in 2017/18, but it is ahead of their figures from the three seasons prior to that. It’s a decent state of affairs, while also containing room for improvement.

Expected assists do not account for all of a team’s expected goals either. Penalties account for a big chunk of the difference, but lots of chances aren’t created as such. Rebounds, deflections, defensive errors, winning the ball by pressing… there are lots of ways to generate a chance without passing the ball between two of your players, and there’s no doubt Liverpool benefit from a lot of them.