Free Friday: Against All The Odds & Corrupt PGMOL Charlatans

Free Friday: Against All The Odds & Corrupt PGMOL Charlatans
May 28, 2021 Daniel Rhodes
In Free, Free Friday

 

Best posts of the week, as chosen by Chris Rowland and Daniel Rhodes.

1. Tony Mc gives us his season review:

I only joined the TTT community in the January 2021 transfer window from an inferior LFC website so forgive me if I am jumping the gun here. I thought I would get my Liverpool FC end of season awards in before you all jet off to exotic climes for your post-season recuperation or, if you live in the UK, to Rhyl or Skegness or Margate.

Performance of the season

Winner : Manchester United 2 v Liverpool 4. Any win at Old Trafford is to be treasured, but this one particularly so. It was one of those five-in-row “must win” games at the end of the Premier League season; they had rested their entire first 11 for the game against Leicester two days before in order to be ready for us; and we absolutely battered them and should have won by 4 or 5 goals and would have done but for the intervention of another corrupt VAR.

Runner Up : Atalanta 0 Liverpool 5. A wonderful hattrick from Diogo Jota signalled the arrival of a new goal scoring kid on the Liverpool block in a great counter-attacking display.

Player of the season

Winner : Mohamed Salah. 31 goals in 51 games for Mr Reliable Goal Scorer. He was a virtual ever-present and maintained his goal-scoring form when Sadio Mane and Bobby Firmino were firing blanks and Jota was injured.

Runner Up : Nat Phillips. If he had played the full season he would probably have pipped Salah. A great example of listening to and learning from your coaches and maximising your talent for the good of your team.

Goal of the season

Winner : Mohamed Salah’s incomparable breakaway goal against West Ham away. From our penalty area to theirs in 3 passes and 13 seconds and a stunning first touch and ice-cool finish from the Egyptian King.

Runner up : Trent Alexander-Arnold’s thunderbastard of a shot into the Kop goal in added time against Aston Villa, through a throng of defenders and into the smallest of spaces, to turn a disappointing home draw into a much needed win.

Moment of the season

Winner : ALISSSSSSSOOOOONNNNNN BECKEEEEEEEEERRRRRR!

Runner up : Alisson Becker’s beautiful post match television interview after providing the moment of the season.

Result of the season

Winner : Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 7. The game when seemingly every shot we hit turned into a goal. This win kept Liverpool top of the Premier League at Christmas 2020. Honestly, it did.

Runner up : Everton 0 Sheffield United 1. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

*Bounder of the season

* There was a recent TTT debate on the use of the ‘C’ word so in deference to those (like me) who do not like using it except in the most extreme of situations, I have substituted the word ‘Bounder’ in this award – but you know what it means.

Winner: Short Arms Pickford. He knew exactly what he was doing when he committed that violent assault on Virgil van Dijk and should have been prosecuted, never mind red carded. Despicable character.

Runner up : Big Fat Corrupt Sam Allardyce. His whinging, self-pitying, self-serving, borderline deranged post match interview after WBA lost to Liverpool, especially coming immediately after the heartfelt, moving Alisson Becker interview, brought about something I thought impossible – he went down further in my estimation.

Personality of the season

Winner : Jurgen Klopp. In the most trying of circumstances, professional and private, Klopp remained calm (mostly) and dignified in the face of the usual inane, and sometimes deliberately provocative, questions from some of the media scumbags. He also gritted his teeth and kept his counsel when witnessing outrageous cheating against his team by the corrupt PGMOL charlatans. Through immense mental strength and peerless leadership skills, he pulled Liverpool out of a nosedive and led us to a scarcely believable 3rd place finish in the Premier League. One to stand alongside Bill Shankly.

Runner up : Gini Wijnaldum. The whole football world seemed to know he was leaving Liverpool at the end of the season but he turned up and turned out every match day, megawatt smile on full beam, and dealt with all questions about his future in a dignified and respectful manner. Legend.

2 – Beez with some penalty analysis:

“Liverpool had to dig themselves out of a hole without a single penalty after early February, which was itself the only penalty since December 13th…”

I hadn’t thought about it before, but that line made me think of last season, as I remembered it was similar. So naturally I did some digging.

Liverpool didn’t get a Premier League penalty after 29th January last season. The year before was a little better, but still only two after 12th January.

They got none after 30th January in 2017/18, and only two after 15th January the season before.

It’s obviously worth noting that after a crazy winter, the matches dry up after the new year, so fewer pens are to be expected to some extent.

However, in the last six seasons (the Klopp years), here’s Liverpool’s penalty breakdown:
August – 4
September – 4
October – 5
November – 3
December – 5
January – 4
February – 1
March – 3
April – 1
May – 1

A cynic would say that refs are trying to prevent Liverpool from succeeding at the business end of the season, but I couldn’t possibly comment 😉

And the biggest issue remains there only being 31 penalties in six years anyway.

3 – Paul replies to the above comment and how referees prefer to award penalties to mid table sides:

One of my theories is that refs start to bottle decisions in league title races and perhaps other battles (top four, relegation). So, do they do this with other clubs? I did notice a couple of years ago that over a five-year period mid-table teams got more penalties than anyone else, bar a few top four exceptions. Then, the lower in the table, the fewer penalties you can expect, in a clear descending order. Watford and Fulham bucked that trend recently, of course.

Earlier in a season, decisions don’t seem to matter as much. In the run-in, obviously it can tilt things massively, even though it’s still the same outcome in terms of it being a penalty.

There are so many weird stats around refereeing that make it seem – to me, at least – that it’s all about the optics and the politics, and rarely about cold-blooded, accurate decisions. The perception is that Liverpool get too many big decisions (just read the BBC match threads), so refs try to correct for that, even though it’s untrue. The perception is that our players dive, so even when they’re fouled, and VAR can see that, they don’t get the decisions. Even when Jamie Vardy clearly dives, he still gets the decisions. Most refs don’t like giving obvious decisions early in a game (particularly sendings off), and ignore a second yellow card if it’s convenient for them. They are managing reactions rather than making decisions. They are shielding themselves from the greater criticisms that unpopular (but correct) decisions may bring. All kinds of hoops of cognitive distortion are jumped through.

But then none of this makes sense regarding 2013/14, when we got TWELVE penalties. Rodgers, of course, is generously treated, so is it that refs hate Klopp for being too abrasive and found Rafa cold and distant? Obviously it’s about British/English players vs foreign, too, and British managers often pick British players. But I bet some British managers are pally with referees. At the very least, they are more likely to know the refs from years in the game, whereas foreign managers will have spent less time in England.

My mistake was thinking VAR would correct for mistakes, but instead it has confirmed that the decisions are about optics and politics. If the aim was to just get to the correct decision, we’d see very different outcomes. When I watch Michael Oliver, he tends to give the decisions. He calls it as he sees it. The rest tend to pander to the optics.

4 – Tony Mckenna after we won and finished third:

“…an assessment of superhuman powers of recovery –”

I look forward to that. There is a huge lesson in there for all of us, as fans. Whilst it looked an extreme long-shot, at junctures, and we wavered, the psychology of our players was clearly far superior. Exactly what we would wish for; but could never hope to emulate, personally. It`s humbling to know what kind of a football team we are witnessing in our life time.

And, to emphasise, there were copious stand in players, due to injuries; and those asked to play out of position. That is just utterly fucking incredible. Think about it. Whilst we don`t have the depth of talent that City have, there is depth per se. Psychologically, especially. I can`t begin to imagine the sense of responsibility and burden that some of our players absorbed. They were being asked to step up to a team that was the reigning PL Champions, and very recent CL winners. The sheer trepidation of it all.

They finished third: just 5 points behind United: the team oft eulogised as having made progress. Even title contenders. I also understand that we fared joint worse off, in terms of VAR decisions, whilst United were not impacted, at all. In that case, our injury ravaged, battered and improvised team could have even eclipsed them. And how many penalties did the PL darlings get? Blimey, we even incurred 2 of our front 3 dipping in terms of form.

Our team/squad, is far better than the season 2020/21 would suggest on paper. Particularly, when people glance at league tables, in time to come. Let us not forget the context in which it occurred. Not everything that matters, in history, is reflected in a league table.

What we have just lived through, we experienced through our senses and emotions. Against all odds. Future generations will never know that first hand, vicariously, experienced journey. For the record: 2020/21 was a fucking fantastic season. We were carried on the shoulders of giants. Those great, big mentality monsters. You mighty, mighty reds.

“On ne voit bien qu`avec le coeur, l`essential est invisible pour les yeux” (Le Petit Prince – Antoine de Saint Exupery).

“It is only with the heart that one sees rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye”.

5 – Mike looked back at the winners of the Fair Play League:

Here’s another observation on the ridiculous penalty disparity we keep seeing.

Liverpool were top of the Fair Play League this year, eight points (i.e. eight yellow cards) ahead of the closest challenger, Burnley.

We were also top in 2019/20, eleven points ahead of Leicester.

We were also top in 2018/19, eight points ahead of Man City.

We were also top in 2017/18, seven points ahead of Swansea.

We were also top in 2016/17, albeit only by two ponts ahead of Swansea.

Incredibly, you have to go all the way back to 2015/16 to find a season where Liverpool did not top the Fair Play League, before the arrival of Jurgen Klopp.

Putting it all together, it’s clear that Liverpool have been BY FAR the cleanest team in the Premier League over the last five years. And yet we keep getting penalties awarded against us, and don’t get them awarded in our favour. Something is very very wrong, isn’t it?

Fair Play League tables at https://www.transfermarkt.co.uk/premier-league/fairnesstabelle/wettbewerb/GB1/plus/?saison_id=2020 for anyone who thinks I must be making this up.

Articles published since last Friday, with excerpts:

My Day At The Match: The Final! (With Added Fans) by Allen & Tony

My Day At The Match began way before the 23rd May, it began when I got a season ticket in my name, for the first time in 60 years of going to Anfield, that was at the end of last season. To underline what a weird season this has been reflect on this, I go into the season with a ticket for every game and at the end of the season, for the very last game I get to go to the match! Yet I am the lucky one, well me and 9,999 others.

I had successfully negotiated the online assault course to navigate my way through the LFC website to first get my season ticket confirmed, then again to get into the ballot, then to pass all the hurdles to fully qualify, part of which involved sticking an implement up my nose and down my throat and waiting 30 minutes to confirm that my two vaccinations have worked so far!

The Match Day Diary of Tony Mc

0700 hours: Wake up with that “first game of the season” feeling although it is the last match of the mostly ghastly 2020/21 season. But it is the first time I will have been to Anfield since the Liverpool v Atletico Madrid match on 11 March 2020 so the feeling is understandable. One more victory and we have salvaged something worthwhile from what only 3 weeks ago looked like a hopeless cause. Mentality Midgets? I really hope I bump into Carragher at the match.

1000 hours: Nurse Ratched (aka Mrs Mc) administers a home COVID Lateral Flow Test which is negative. I’m all clear for the game. I attempt a Firmino-like karate kick and Klopp-like fist pump in celebration as Mrs Mc shakes her head pityingly for the millionth time.

1315 hours: I have been allocated a timeframe of 1415-1445 hours to enter the stadium. My usual match-day routine is to rock up at Anfield about 40 minutes before kickoff (and that has nothing to do with a pre-match pint, I am teetotal) so this is quite a change. After completing my official 6-point checklist, I leave home ultra-early, taking with me something to read while I wait for the 1600 hours kickoff. It has to be “Perched” by that aspiring young football writer hasn’t it? For the first time that I can remember, I am going to the match alone as my match-going mates have opted to watch it on Sky Sports (with the sound on mute, of course). Lightweights.

Exploding Cars, Friendships, and Seeing Liverpool vs Palace in the Flesh by Paul Tomkins

While this will not be the most heralded achievement of Jürgen Klopp’s career – it will not light up his CV, nor will it go on the honours board – it ended up feeling like the greatest possible escape act, considering that the season evoked the metaphor of being wrapped in chains and padlocks and shackles, blindfolded and kneecapped, and then dumped in a giant tank of water, topped off by the deluge of two tons of quick-drying aquatic cement.

Yet Liverpool got out. No tricks, no cheating, no penalties from referees or VAR, on the run-in that turned a season we all wanted over into a season of scarcely believable success. Ten, sometimes eleven players out injured, including almost all of the established leaders and set-piece demigods, in the process of digging out eight wins and two draws in the final ten games, with a centre-back pairing so raw that, by the turn of the year, they hand’t even played ten top-level games between them.

This week I’ll be trying to write what was always intended to be a detailed season postmortem (as we dissect a few black swans), but which will now turn into an assessment of superhuman powers of recovery – as Klopp’s team unchained themselves underwater and clawed their way through several feet of cement. Seriously, Houdini had nothing on these guys (or, once again, these Mentality Monsters…). From a 50-1 chance of finishing in the top three after a hideous winter, the Reds made it happen.

For now, however, I’ll be writing about my experience in Liverpool yesterday for our My Day At The Match series (it’s been a while), on a midwinter’s day that was almost in June. A Siberian wind mixed with dark clouds, topped by a deluge of November rain (sans Axl Rose), left it feeling even colder than when I saw Mo Salah dancing through the Watford defence time and again in the snow a few winters ago.

How the Autopsy of LFC’s Black Swans Became a Celebration of Overcoming the Odds by Paul Tomkins

The “Black Swan”: that event so freakishly rare you rarely see them.

As I’ve noted throughout the season, pretty much the only swans seen at Liverpool Football Club in 2020/21 were of the jet-black variety (with all the sheep mysteriously that variety too). In this bizarro world, perhaps there has been a proliferation of white widow spiders, white crows and white jaguars; and of course, throw in some pink giraffes and green elephants, just to make it all the more trippy.

I had been preparing to point out how these Black Swans killed Liverpool’s Champions League qualification hopes, and yet despite more setbacks than you’d probably expect in 20 seasons, the Reds clawed their way back from the brink of mid-table, to finish 3rd. They did so minus all their senior centre-backs – fielding their 7th and 8th choices – and their leader and captain, amongst other absentees in the run-in; having had long-term injuries to various other players.

It will never be Jürgen Klopp’s most celebrated achievement, but it could be his most impressive.

Indeed, as the corpses of Black Swans littered the Anfield area in this era of plague and pestilence, we got to see something even rarer: a flying Golden Griffin, complete with gloved talons, as Alisson Becker channeled his inner mythic beast to head home the goal that potentially earned the Reds in excess of £50m and, more importantly, the cachet of elite football – and most vital of all, the chance to win next year’s Champions League (or, to at least enjoy some big Anfield nights that transcend the “ropey” league).

The Golden Griffin swooped, and for the first time in nearly 6,000 games of football in Liverpool’s history, and perhaps getting close to 100,000 top-flight games in England since the inception of league football in Victorian times, a goalkeeper scored the winning goal in a game (as well as, I believe, becoming the first to score at that level with a header – most of them have been long clearances that caught the wind).

In that moment the last living Black Swans fell from the sky, dropping dead to the ground.

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