Unbelievable Results For Liverpool – But Store the Pain to Use As Fuel to Go Again

Unbelievable Results For Liverpool – But Store the Pain to Use As Fuel to Go Again
February 13, 2021 Paul Tomkins


I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. And I’ve seen English officiating – purblind middle-aged men waddling on lush turf as their cronies fiddle awkwardly with the tech – with offside goals given as onside, and onside goals given as offside, week after week.

Indeed, I’ve seen too much. For now, at least. I would cancel all my sports’ TV subscriptions, were it not my job to write about this stuff.

So, a quick note on this site, and a message to underline what it’s all about.

I have never wanted this site to be just another football site, and I want it to stay that way, even if it ends up being just me and three other people.

TTT exists to analyse football, and to examine all the context and nuance that surrounds Liverpool’s results: good luck and bad luck.

We can be happy with a lucky win and unhappy with an unlucky defeat, but we need to understand what underlies both: the effort, the underlying numbers, the injuries, and the realities – and ups and downs – of elite sport, where there need not be any major issues underscoring a string of bad results or any genius responsible for a win; just as, when Liverpool beat Chelsea 2-0 under Roy Hodgson just over a decade ago, you could see the Reds playing a flat back six that only hoofed the ball upfield, and think “this isn’t right”. Hodgson had nothing in the bank with Liverpool, and yet still he acted like a bandit trying to get away with a big heist.

In the past few years, Liverpool have reached a Champions League final, and returned to win it – after suffering crushing disappointment the first time – a year later. We’ve seen Liverpool finish as runners-up with more points than all but one champion in the history of English football, and come back and win it with two extra points, after the best first three-quarters of a season seen in the entire 130 years of league football in this country, which meant the title was wrapped up earlier than ever before (in terms of games, if not actual time, as the season was locked-down for months).

We have seen Liverpool rise to be ranked the 4th-best team in history based on the Elo Index, but all achieved without an insane injury crisis, and in the days when there was a crowd at Anfield. (And mostly before VAR, which I thought would help, but has instead merely quadrupled the bad officiating.)

Now, with a clear injury crisis (all season long), no fans at games, and with the manager unable to even attend his own mother’s funeral due to the bizarre state of the world’s health, we would be utter fucking arseholes to not offer leeway.

To start talking about tactics when the goalkeeper has just had a terrible week (after missing a game through illness, with his deputy absent) and gifted the opposition game-changing goals, seems insane to me. Tactics play a role, but if your confidence is crushed, 10 players are injured and others are carrying knocks and fatigue, the tactics – whatever they are – are less likely to be effective.

When, week after week, borderline or just plain incorrect calls are given against your team (often at key moments), you will probably struggle. As things start to go wrong, you may make additional mistakes that wouldn’t occur had you got fair decisions, especially as tiredness sets in. Once players make mistakes, their effects will linger, until enough time has passed.

Indeed, if you don’t buy into the “underlying numbers”, then Jürgen Klopp would never have become Liverpool manager in the first place, and none of this amazing ride – which was mostly a case of flying high, up to the time Covid struck and altered the course of the world – would have happened. The underlying numbers are not everything, but they are a big part of the equation.

We do not ignore our own eyes on TTT, but we need to know if we can trust what we see. I’ve lambasted Liverpool’s managers and players in the past, when they’ve merited it. But we are not allowed short memories, as we are not goldfish. The world may grow increasingly impatient, but good things still take time; as can fixing issues, many of which simply need nothing more than time (i.e. several key players to be fit again).

Some other manager – someone riding a lucky crest of a wave – might have been appointed instead had Liverpool’s key men not mined the data, and trusted both Klopp’s recent record (after they proved that terrible bad luck blighted his final campaign with Borussia Dortmund) and his more obvious longer-term success in Germany. Had those same people not worked with him to build a world-conquering squad on a merely mid-sized budget (that was part-funded by selling a “vital” player), then you would not have been so spoilt for three seasons in a row.

Constructive criticism, when valid, is helpful almost all of the time in life (albeit the timing can be off). But so much criticism is mindless, baseless, and comes swinging from a point of ignorance and gut-based irrationality. It’s designed to make the moaner feel better, and to me, it seems like someone dropping a turd in the swimming pool, and leaving other people to deal with the mess.

Fortunes change quickly in football, as they can in all sports. Sometimes it’s for the better, and sometimes for the worse. To be any kind of participant in sport – to play and to support – you need to accept the good times and the bad; the ups and downs; the ebbs and flows. But if judging, you also go on the biggest sample sizes possible, and for Klopp and these players that’s one of unprecedented achievement. You also need to appreciate the context.

If there were no extenuating circumstances, that might be different – although after the last few years, I would genuinely forgive anything this season. But rather than “excuses”, Liverpool have faced situations that almost no team could overcome. As I said last week, a sprinter whose hamstring pops after 70 metres is not making an “excuse” when they can only crawl over the line. Anyone who would argue that it was would likely be the kind of person who has achieved nothing in life.

Liverpool have the most injuries (and the most key players absent) for most of the season, with 6-12 for almost the entire campaign; have had the most VAR overturns by far, and the most borderline calls go against them when they could just as easily have been given for them; have been underprepared for the season due to the lack of a proper preseason to give them their usual stamina, that in part defines their play in contrast to slower teams; have been going full-tilt for several seasons with no proper break, riding an emotional rollercoaster that can take its toll; and have no fans in games to add that special something extra, during a time of darkness.

Liverpool were constructed – designed – to play fast, passionate football in front of big crowds, with a spine that was supposed to be on the pitch and not on crutches.

If you want to rant and moan about the very people who provided the best few years for decades and decades (and by some metrics, the best seasons ever), that’s your right – I can’t stop you. But please, don’t join this site. Save your money. I don’t want a penny from you. I just don’t want to encounter your sourness, when life it tough enough right now. If you’re frustrated, I get it – we all are. But we don’t need to be pathetic about it. To be frank, I don’t need you to shit in my pool.

This is a site for supporters of the football club, and not for people who can’t see when it’s their time to contribute their side of the bargain, and not just take, take, take, as some might have done when Liverpool won 97 and 99 points and reached two Champions League finals, across just three seasons, when becoming champions of England, Europe and the world. Now is the time to stand together, not to walk out at half-time because you’re some fickle prick.

The final third of this article is for subscribers only. (As long as you’re not douchebags.)