Free Friday: Wanton, Unabashed Lust for Us & the Width of an Aspirin Away

Free Friday: Wanton, Unabashed Lust for Us & the Width of an Aspirin Away
May 17, 2019 Daniel Rhodes
In Free, Free Friday


Posts selected by Chris Rowland and Daniel Rhodes.

This week’s round-up brings you some of the best comments on the site, together with some samples of the articles we’ve published.

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1 – Marc Binsfield, May 12th:

It’s an incredible achievement what Liverpool did this season. And now, what I said a week ago is official, we were the best team this season if you just count the 36 games, City and Liverpool played against all the other 18 clubs. We there got 96 points and City got 94 points.

All the supporters of the other clubs which are happy about City winning the league and are celebrating that Liverpool just got into second place, should have a look at these figures and understand that it’s not because of their lousy clubs that we didn’t win the title.

We got an incredible amount of 96 points out of 108 possible points from these 36 games.

In our direct confrontation City got 4 points and we got just 1 point, that’s what made the difference or as we know the difference was just a few inches and a catastrophic referee decision. If we draw at the Etihad we have 98 points and City have 96.

Everybody should be thankful to Liverpool that there was a real suspense until the last day of the League. Without Liverpool the title would have been decided for City weeks ago because of the poor season of the other, so called, contenders which are once again out of reach by 26 points and more.

But the best of all for me is, that we have an authentic team with authentic players, where success is built on hard work, on pain, on a fantastic team spirit and fighting spirit. What a brave attitude our team has showed all over the PL and CL season. We are so proud of them!

Let’s finish it with the 6th CL trophy!

2 – Stevenson1988, May 13th:

Is it just me, or do you find that you can only have a rational conversation with fans from other clubs as long as you constantly bite your tongue? I’ve just been on a golf break organised by a big City fan. I say a big fan, but he very rarely goes – apart from the odd big game where he has no problem getting a ticket – funny that. He’s going to the FA Cup final as well. We had a bust up early on in the holiday when discussing FFP rules – he didn’t like it. 4 investigations but apparently it’s all bollocks – jealousy etc. I watched Kompany score that fcuking goal in the same bar as him – as well as Iheanacho miss a bloody sitter. He left the bar the following night to go and eat whilst I watched one of the greatest European performances ever – from anyone. Funnily enough he watched the whole of the Spurs game the following night though.

We landed at Manchester Airport when it was already 3-1 to City so I knew the game was up and we then ended up sitting alongside each other for the coach journey home. We discussed football, funnily enough. He was gracious enough about the ball not crossing the line for us against them, but crossing the line for them against Burnley. In his opinion Kompany’s goal was clearly going to be goal of the season, he didn’t even realise how sensational our goal was at their place when we pulled them all over the pitch. But the icing on the cake, when I told him Kompany was one lucky bastard not to be sent off – bollocks, rubbish, sour grapes etc. So I backed off because we’re pals, golfing partners and I didn’t want to end our tour on a sour note; but inside I felt pretty sour. He’s an intelligent bloke, former RAF Wing Commander or Squadron Leader or something, but like so many other fans, he is incapable of acknowledging the truth, of seeing an alternative viewpoint and doing anything other than belittling the opposition. I have no doubt that Desmond Morris could shed some light on this aspect of human behaviour, but I find it quite ridiculous.

We all know that the outcome of the various enquiries will be a form of whitewash. There will undoubtedly be fines (that will hurt them won’t it?!), maybe even the threat of being barred from the CL. The problem is that the club has so much financial muscle behind it that they will bully, threaten and buy their way out of trouble with a token slap on the wrist – like last time. There certainly won’t be any retrospective action taken – certainly nothing meaningful like being stripped of titles because, let’s be honest, that would be a very brave decision and as Sir Humphrey used to say, Ministers who take brave decisions don’t last long. It’s the same for football administrators: don’t rock the boat, look the other way when necessary and agree a suitable compromise before telling all and sundry what a great club City are and how well they’re run – pass me the sick bag please.

So we bite our tongue lest we be accused of sour grapes. We sit and listen to fans from other clubs crowing at our misfortunes – despite us getting as many points as Spurs and Fulham combined. We finish more than 8 wins ahead of the sides in 3rd and 4th – one of whom we meet in the CL final. We wake up at night with the dreaded image of Harry bleeding Klaime holding the CL trophy aloft and just pray it ain’t so. Yet amongst all of that, there is this deep, overwhelming sense of pride. Pride at the way the team has performed, pride at the way the club is run within its means. Pride at the dignity of our truly exceptional manager – clearly Bill Shankly’s love child. A man who “gets’ it. He understands just what it all means to us. Utd fans bang on about playing the Utd way, well listen up boys, you can only ever aspire to playing the Liverpool way, the Jurgen way, the right fcuking way.

This club, this team and this man have rewritten the history books and have done it with style and panache. No slagging off the opposition, respect on all sides and a brand of attacking football that brings a shiver to the spine, allied to the best defence in the PL. Two of our players (and an ex Klopp player) have shared the golden boot and our keeper has won the golden gloves. We have the player of the year, the leading assist makers and we have lost once in the league all season. Given where we’ve come from and the fact we’ve generated all the money ourselves, we are head and bloody shoulders above City in our achievements this season. They may have the PL trophy, we may end the season with nothing tangible to show for it, but we have the memories and we have the sure and certain knowledge that things can only get better – can you imagine how good that is going to be?! As Jurgen (and somebody else) said – we go again!

3 – Ding, May 14th:

I applaud UEFA, or at least some of its officials. My reading of this article is that it was placed in the NYT by UEFA officials to bolster their internal position and stiffen the spines of the top management to sanction City. With the Times’ global standing, the article will now percolate down to European national papers.

That seems to be a possible reading of an article that highlights officials saying that UEFA’s credibility would be undermined by a lack of action. It could also be a trial balloon, to see the public reaction to the idea that City would only be banned for a year.

Besides the NYT article, I have several thoughts on this whole saga.

(1) It may show the value of a softer approach to the authorities, such as that taken by PSG, to the pugnacious attitude of City. City’s attempts in previous years to scare off the authorities may have worked in the past but have only limited value now – in fact, it could just have pissed them off even further. Qatar, in contrast, is more quiet in its response, all the while making itself indispensable to UEFA through the media rights acquired by its beIN channel.

(2) As the article itself notes, City aren’t even denying the veracity of the documents – probably because they can’t – and their ire is solely based on the fact that the documents were hacked. I’m not sure this would be an adequate defence even for the supine FA and EPL.

(3) If the English authorities do act, then the most likely sanction would be a points deficit at the beginning of next season. Trying to impose a retroactive points deduction (though I would LOVE it), just opens up a can of worms. As someone pointed out above, what about those teams who were relegated who lost points to them? Or those on the brink of qualifying for Europe?

(4) Ultimately whether UEFA’s proposed UCL ban makes sense depends on whether it actually changes City’s behaviour. Can City rectify all FFP issues within one year? I doubt so, given how fundamental that cheating was to propping up its finances. The moment it tries to reform, it could actually find itself in a bigger financial hole. For example, not being in the UCL will conservatively cost it ~£40-50m. How will it replace that revenue, if it now has to get Etihad to pay the market rate for sponsorship and not have backdoor access to Abu Dhabi’s state funds anymore? Can even Etihad, which has a core business to run, afford to stump up so much more money?

But what will UEFA do if no reform is forthcoming? It can’t let City back into the competition, unless it decides that some tokenism on City’s part is adequate.

(5) This could actually set off a downward spiral. If they can’t comply they will be banned from the UCL, but if they do try to comply the state of their finances may deteriorate significantly, both affecting their ability to compete but also trigger further penalties under FFP in Europe and England.

(6) The key question for me is not whether UEFA bans City – after reading this piece I’m fairly certain they will – but whether they will let the ban stand in lieu of City’s inevitable appeal to various courts. I think we have seen with Chelsea that UEFA are prepared to do that. If they do the same with City, then City will effectively be out of the UCL next season, as even if the Court of Arbitration finds in their favour (probably around 6-9 months later) it will come too late for them to be reinstated in the competition.

Then we’ll see whether this media love in with them still continues. It would have been made official – City are cheats – and everyone commenting on how wonderful City have been would need to put that front and centre.

4 – Mark Cohen on May 14th, after a video emerged of Man City players and staff singing about Liverpool again, with their Allez Allez song, as they returned from Brighton:

Wow, just wow.

That video is astonishing.

I think it’s time for all these club’s players and fans to come clean and just admit how hopelessly in love with us they are… I mean, for fuck sake, they just cannot stop talking about us.

Take Mourinho’s ‘Wenger voyeur’ jibe, and times it by twenty and you still aren’t close.

I mean, I’m instantly transported back to high school, where we all used to sit and make fun and crude jokes about the hottest girl in the class because we knew we had fuck all chance of getting her.

Don’t really understand City’s gripe, I mean dozens of local fans turned up to their trophy parade, why not fall in love with them? Why do they have to chase us so relentlessly? Why can’t they see? We just. Aren’t. Interested.

City come on, grow up and find a girl you can get, there are plenty of fish in the sea and all that…

And I know it’s tough for City’s fans, they were so rubbish for so many years and once the miracle happened and they finally get what they wanted, victory after victory after victory and title after title, only then did they realise what they really wanted – that red shirt draped around their necks at night whilst they lay snug in their beds, caressed by the warmth and love that only a 120 year old community club which really has conquered all of Europe and the world can provide.

In fact, now that I think about it, it’s All of you who are at fault. Don’t be so horrible to City, can’t you understand the pain they are in? They’ve won all these titles with their magnificent manager and their shiny blue kit, and all they and anybody else can discuss is how brilliant/shit Liverpool are. All day, every fucking day.

You only ever think of yourselves don’t you? How do you think City felt
Last week hey? Their £1bn pound squad chucked out by little Spurs whilst Liverpool destroyed the truly greatest club side ever with the greatest player of all times on their books in a match that captured the world’s imagination in a way they can only dream about?

Whilst Anfield rocked, Sterling et al sat there sobbing about what they can never do, regardless of how many trinkets he and his dollary pals can bludgeon.

Yes they can be winning footballers, of course, but only Anfield has living Gods.

For fuck sake guys, have a heart man!

I think a bit of patience and compassion for City is in order here. They can never be us, they can never be close, and yet you all sit here and shout them down and knock them and call them names when all they need is a bit of the old Liverpool love that they crave so badly.

So to City and anybody else with a wanton unabashed lust for us, I want to tell you, ‘I’m so sorry loves, I’m truly sorry. It’s not you, beautiful sweet City, it’s us, we have this problem you see, we Know your heart aches for us, daily, nightly and always, but we are just not that in to you, and it’s probably best for you to move on.’ La.

5 – Eddie with a tremendous round-up of our potential finances going into the upcoming transfer window:

I am not ITK – actually I am dubious anyone is other than those who are on Liverpools transfer committee. However I do believe it is possible to develop a framework for future transfers. This needs to reflect and balance 3 factors – all of which are estimates, but ones reflecting what we know. The first is what resources the club likely has has available; secondly the needs of the squad; and finally the desires / aspirations of individual players.

I did this in May of 2018, with expectations for 2018 / 19. Back then I believed our gross budget would be close to £ 160 million – we actually spent £ 164 million according to Transfermarkt (which is what I have looked at as a source, but happy to be redirected if someone has better data). I thought we would use this for Keita (my banker prediction); a DM / DLP for £ 40 million (Fabinho arrived a few weeks later); a CAM for £ 50 million (I was about to declare victory with the unveiling of Fekir). With the collapse of the Fekir deal we bought Shaq (for £ 13 million), and then bought a much better / more expensive GK than I had assumed would be funded.

Last year was in many ways easier than this – my estimate of funds reflected a ‘normal’ transfer budget, plus the carry forward from Coutinho, plus player sales). I did not really consider operating costs (wages and player registration fee amortization), which I think will be more important this year. Also we had needs with our starting eleven, now it is more how the squad is developed. So take this for what it is – an attempt to provide a lens through which to view the cascade of rumors already starting to surface.

So lets look at resources. Over the last two years Liverpool have spent £ 320 million gross, offset by £ 210 million in sales – an average net spend of £ 55 million per season. That is around 12% of revenue for the time; and that % is consistent with earlier years spend. In this I estimate our revenue for FY 19 (ending May 31st 2019) to be just over £ 500 million. FY 18 was £ 455 million; we will earn an extra £ 5 million by coming 2nd in the EPL, and around an extra £ 25 million when we win the UCL – although most of that is locked in already due to the new ECL TV contract; and commercial revenue has been increasing by £ 15 – 20 million annually of late. So probably a net spend of £ 60 million is available based on this. That assumes the cash is there – cash is difficult to forecast, but our last accounts showed limited debt (except for the £ 100 million loan for the new main stand).

But another question is what can we afford in terms of operating costs. Despite the huge revenue growth of £ 90 million from FY 17 to FY 18, wages and salaries stayed constant at around 57% / 58% revenue (so too did players amortization costs at 16% / 17%). And we have the costs of FY 19 player purchases (half a year of VVD, Keita, Fabinho, Shaq, Allison) to add, and much less came off. The full year wages for those purchases are around £ 20 million. We only made a very small operating profit in FY 17 and FY18 – all our profit in those years came essentially from player sales. I very much suspect FY 19 will be similar, although with the higher amortization costs of player registrations it would not surprise me if we had a small operating loss. Basically we have a fully committed cost structure, and I expect the club will want to manage wages in particular carefully.

And we already have essentially ‘two teams’ in our squad. So in looking at this years possible player purchases the best place to start is who is likely to leave or be sold; then whether they will be replaced by an existing player or someone will be bought is.

In attack we have 6 players, but very much a starting 3 / second 3. You can see this from the minutes played. In the EPL Firmino has played 77% of available minutes, with Mane at 90% and Mo at 95%! Origi / Sturridge / Shaq have played less than 60% between the 3 of them. Quite simply JK has been unable to rotate as he has with the midfield. So how might this play out. Well Sturridge is out of contract and will almost certainly leave (releasing £ 6 million / annum of wages); and Brewster will be added to the first team squad (as JK has said, although I suspect he will mainly be used in cup games next year). Origi will probably be addressed next, with the club at least trying to see if a new contract can be negotiated and sold if not. Even if Origi stays I suspect we will add a forward, and that will be our main purchase (£ 40 – 60 million). But Origi staying or not may well influence the type of player we go for (a Timo Werner / Maxi Gomez type striker, or a Neres type winger who can cover for both Mane and Mo. The club are rumored to have been looking for a suitable EPL side for a Harry Wilson loan which may well make sense for all, and would allow him to show (or not) whether he has the all round game (beyond his quite spectacular dead ball ability) for the EPL .

By contrast JK has been able to rotate significantly in midfield. Only Gini (at 80%) has played more than 60% of available minutes. With AOC coming back, and if none leave, we have 7 players. While there are different reports, it seems like Milners contract has another year to run, and the fairy tale for Leeds is over for another year. So I assume he will stay with us, but possibly not Lallana – who is 31, with only 1 year on his contract, only played 14% of available minutes this year, and is on £ 65k / week. If he were sold, you could see the club bringing in a player (young with potential in that skill set) to be brought through over time. We always used to do it, and you could argue with Fabinho we did it this year. Not sure if the club feels Grujic could fulfill that role; again I suspect it may work for everyone if he has another loan year in Germany.

Defense is a tale of two sides. On the left Robertson and VVD have averaged 97% of available minutes between them, also TAA has 72%; whereas Matip / Lovren / Gomez are all around 30%. With Moreno (only 5% available minutes, and on £ 40 k / week)leaving we need cover on the left for Robertson. Again I suspect this may be a young player with potential (so more limited in price) – Lloyd Kelly of Bristol City has been mentioned in dispatches, but who knows.

According to Transfermarkt Matip has only one year remaining on his contract, which I hope we renew if correct. Lovren has 2 years left. And Transfermarkt has many of our key players with contracts through 30.06.2023 (Firmino / Shaq / Mo / Mane / Hendo / Naby / Fab / VVD) with Robertson / TAA / Allison through 30.06.2024. Excellent job if accurate.

For GK’s I suspect Mignolet (2 years on his contract at £ 60k per week) will leave, and be replaced with a younger keeper for a similar fee.

In sales I would include Ings (his £ 18 million fee is due in July), Clyne (£ 10 – 15 million), Mignolet (as for Clyne), Adekanye & Kent (£ 20 million between the two). So £ 60 + million, and that does not include Camacho (hopefully he signs an extension), nor Lallana.

So even though this may be a ‘quiet’ window for us JK may well have in the region of £ 100 – 120 million available should the players he wants be available. I see this used to fund one significant addition to the attack, a defender to rotate with Robertson, and a GK cover for Allison. Possibly that is all, but maybe there is also a CAM for the future.

They will all be young and meet JK’s criteria for players (skills, flexibility, attitude, attackers who defend, defenders who attack). None will yet be fully established – all will have upward potential in terms of value.

Ah well, sit back now and see what happens. but the above guides which rumors i look at and which ones I pass over quickly.

Articles published since last Friday, with excerpts:

Saturday May 11th:

New Book On Liverpool FC’s Rise Under Klopp 2015-2019 By Paul Tomkins, by Paul Tomkins.

For the past several months I’ve been working on a new book about the staggering progress made my Liverpool football club, on and off the pitch, since 2015. Even if Liverpool end up empty-handed this season, the transformation from mid-table Europa League also-rans to Champions League and Premier League title contenders is astonishing.

In the book I cover a whole range of issues behind this resurgence. Like a reputable massage parlour I can’t guarantee the happiest of endings, but I can assure an interesting and well-researched read on the developments the club has made at all levels since the final six months of Brendan Rodgers’ tenure, when Liverpool won just five of their 17 league games and racked up a -11 goal difference in that time – with Klopp inherited a team lacking goals at one and and shipping like crazy at the other. The club is utterly transformed. If nothing else it will be a celebration of good football and undoubted progression seen in the past three and a half years.

Monday May 13th:

Post-Match Analysis: Liverpool 2 – 0 Wolvesby Daniel Rhodes.

Nearly twice the amount of shots as Wolves (13-7); five shots on target to two and nine shots in the box to seven. You might have noticed that the visitors didn’t shoot from outside the box once! The big chances for both teams was much closer though: Liverpool three, Wolves two. Alisson continues to rescue us at just the right moment by making two crucial saves.

The expected goal models are all in the Reds’ favour, often with double to total of our opponents. The average across all the models: 1.73 – 0.89

Don’t Laugh At Us! Don’t Pity Us! Klopp’s Liverpool One of the Greatest Teams Ever, by Paul Tomkins.

Liverpool spent big last summer by selling big the winter before; Jürgen Klopp making a very good player look like an excellent player, and the Reds pocketing £142m in the process. With Kloppian fitness and preparation, Philippe Coutinho was an instant hit in Barcelona, arriving mid-season. But in his second season, without Kloppian fitness, he has bombed and been booed. Meanwhile, players bought by Liverpool from clubs like Southampton, Hoffenheim, Charlton, Lille, Schalke, Stoke (when relegated), Newcastle (when relegated) and Hull City (when relegated), and rejects from bigger clubs – flops who would never make it in England – are at the pinnacle of the European game. Coutinho has his medals, and the Spanish sun; but Coutinho has no joy. Would you rather be Mo Salah or Sadio Mané right now, or Philippe Coutinho? 

If you can’t see that the coaching, attention to tactical detail, astonishing fitness work and man-management/motivation isn’t a big reason why these players look so good at Liverpool, then you’re missing something. 

Tuesday May 14th:

Missing the Title By the Width of an Aspirin?by Chris Rowland.

“Luck evens itself out over the season.”

One of those football phrases trotted out by the unanalytical, uncritical, unimaginative, unthinking. Imagine a season when all the things that went for you and all the things that went against you actually did balance out. Such a mythical dead heat would be utterly freakish. Does your bit of luck when you’re already 3-0 up (or 3-0 down) equate to a piece of luck when the game is finely poised? When it leads to the opening goal, even in what may have turned out later to be a stroll? Every team must be a net winner or net loser over the course of a season. But that’s not so catchy …

That some things go our way and some don’t is inevitable. You benefit from some decisions and suffer from others. But for the ‘luck’ factor to have neutral net impact would be beyond weird. So what impact did good and ill fortune, officiating mistakes and marginal moments have on Liverpool’s points tally and position?

Wednesday May 15th:

Review of Alisson Becker’s First Seasonby Andrew Beasley.

I’ve compiled the figures for this season, and Becker has stopped 53.9% of the xG he has faced from going past him, which is a very decent return. Looking at our old friend clear-cut chances, Alisson has saved 14 of the 25 that opposition players have put on target. This gives him a CCC save percentage of 56%, against a historic league average of 38%, so that’s a definite tick.

But are there any concerns with the goals he has conceded? Much like any stat, xG is troublesome in small doses, and looking at the value of an individual shot is fraught with issues. I’ve therefore split the shots into three roughly equal samples, and the results won’t surprise you.