Free Friday, June 4th 2021: Media Controversy Magnets & England Wanting Tractors Not Ferraris!

Free Friday, June 4th 2021: Media Controversy Magnets & England Wanting Tractors Not Ferraris!
June 4, 2021 Daniel Rhodes
In Free, Free Friday


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

1 – Serpico on the importance of Alisson ‘he scores when he wants’ Becker’s goal at West Brom:

“That was the moment when I felt like we were going to play in the Champions League next season.”

I just read this statement, from Salah, in an Echo article explaining the striker’s reaction to Alisson’s goal. I like how it encapsulates something that is very often intangible: the way mentality on the field can shift in response to specific events, with direct cause and effect.

There was, let’s not forget, still a lot to do after Alisson’s goal and the win against WBA. Salah’s belief, shared surely by others in the team was probably tied to the fact that a goal from a goalie is not anything they have ever seen before in their professional careers. In a sense, it was a galvanising event that, figuratively speaking, tells a team that the stars have aligned. Destiny does not exist. But a sense of destiny does – and the collective experience of witnessing and celebrating Alisson’s goal probably defined the remaining run-in for all involved in the Liverpool set up.

It is interesting for me that after he scores that goal Liverpool transform. We were obviously good against United and WBA to win both games – but in both instances we had to come back from behind. After Alisson’s goal, however? Smooth sailing. Scoring five goals and conceding none in the two remaining games.

The narrative I am presenting is not flawless, and should be questioned critically. Consider, for example, that Townsend’s shot could have gone in on another day. Or Wood could have made better connection to score for Burnley. There are weaknesses to any thesis that puts emphasis on intangible elements. This is why I like Salah’s statement: it is a form of expression that gives us insight to the narrative that the team was telling itself. Seeing as sports psychology is taken seriously, and for good reasons – it is impossible to dismiss the tangible benefits that calmness, belief, and a sense of destination (CL qualification) within grasp can do to a team.

And they made sure we get there.

2 – Paul Tomkins responding to the suggestion that Trent Alexander-Arnold should play right midfield:

The thing is, TAA already tops a ton of creative PL metrics. If he’s doing that now, why change? Why do you assume he’ll create more in midfield if he’s already creating more than anyone else?

Maybe you’re right and he would be even better, but it’s like saying Alisson is too good at football to be a keeper. Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard were great goalscorers but that doesn’t mean they’d have suited playing as no.9s. Maybe they would have done that well, too. But we don’t know. And we don’t need to experiment with Trent (yet) because Trent is off the charts already in his current role. He finds the space of a midfielder already.

At Liverpool, Trent suits the team and the team suits Trent. With England it’s different – maybe there he should be a midfielder, because he’s not valued as a “right-back”. Currently he’s not suiting the England team and the team is not suiting him, in certain senses. It’s not built around him. He’s a Ferrari and England want a tractor!


Paul, after the news emerged that Trent will miss the Euros: 

A blessing in disguise, in some senses, after all the nonsense about his inclusion. He would be under too much scrutiny, and get the blame for any errors or defeats. This also gives him time to get ready for preseason.

Beez mentions Gerrard, and I wanted to focus on that. Earlier this past season, Trent had Covid and injuries, and looked so lethargic and leggy. He looked physically shot.

But in the final two months of the season he was absolutely incredible. I started to see more and more Gerrard-like qualities in his pace and power, allied to the talent both had with the ball. I still don’t think that means we should move TAA to a different position (yet), because he does so much damage from the right. But he also seemed to be roving a lot more in the final third, rather than just looking to get out wide and put crosses in, or occasionally cut infield with the ball. He was infield *off the ball*. He was floating like someone like Coutinho being played nominally as a wide man but then drifting into the space inside.

Did I imagine all that? He seemed a bit sturdier, a bit quicker, and he seemed (to me) to be more frequently in those central positions, looking to play like a central midfielder at times, but also still doing most of his work from his traditional flank role.

It felt like he absolutely owned the entire right-flank, and while he’s had spells like that before, he also seemed to wander infield off the ball. Maybe I just happened to notice his different positions more, and that he always had movements into the centre of the pitch to find the ball, but most of what I can recall is of him and Robbo being on opposite flanks after defending a corner, rather than Trent wandering like a playmaker with licence to roam.

I’m interested to see what people think? As I said, I still don’t think that means we should move him, but if we could find another elite right-back (and I had high hopes for Neco Williams in his first few games before his confidence collapsed), then it becomes an option in one, two, three – or however many years. As he’s only 22, he’s gonna have the power and stamina for years to come, barring injury and illness.

Equally, I don’t think he’d necessarily get more space as a midfielder in our current system (especially if the aim is to recycle the ball), but with tweaks it could be a future option.

Until then, he’s arguably the most creative player in the PL, and as he’s doing that from “right-back”, it could be that the nature of the position also enables him to do that, and a different position may come with unforeseen drawbacks (just as some attacking full-backs are useless as wingers, because of the different positioning required, and the different way space is found, and burst into). It’s not like he’s starved of touches, is it?!

I could imagine him being Gerrard-like in central midfield, but that’s my imagination; whereas the reality is he’s already Gerrard-like in his current bespoke role!

3 – Jeff with a stark warning about football club finances across Europe post-Covid:

I do not claim to know the full impact of covid-19 on the finances of all the professional football clubs in England and Europe and I do not claim to fully know the full impact of covid-19 on the clubs in the major football leagues in Europe whether we are talking about the Premier League or Seria A or on and on. These clubs have not yet fully released the information that would begin to give a full accounting of the damage done to their finances. This being said, I have been doing some of the on the back of an envelope calculations on the losses suffered by the major league in Europe including the Premier League in an attempt to take a guess at the losses suffered since the outbreak of covid-19. The problem with even make a sound estimation of the losses suffered by clubs is that I have to make guess after guess in regard to the ability of clubs to decrease their expenses and I cannot get accurate estimates of loss of income in areas such as sponsorship deals. This being said, I am confident that the major European football leagues including the Premier League have collectively lost at least 7 billion dollars are more likely than not have lost somewhere around 10 billion dollars and possibly as much as 12 or 13 billion dollars.

To me the question I have asked time and time again on TTT how are football clubs going to be able to service the debts they have almost certainly acquired during the covid-19 pandemic going forward and pay down the debts they have acquired during the covid-19 pandemic and oh yes remain viable clubs going forward? To date I have not seen the thinking on how to deal with reality that will be needed by football clubs in the major European Leagues. Now, if what I have written about the major European football leagues is correct the financial reality in the lesser leagues is almost if not certainly more dire.

Football as we have known it is dead and not coming back due to the reality of bad management before the covid-19 shut down hit football and to me the covid-19 shutdown means that any number of clubs all over Europe simply have no way to survive as viable businesses which means the ability to pay their debts, pay their players and employees, and to pay the tax man.

To me the scary reality in regard to football is that football authorities, clubs, and supporters, and various government entities are refusing to see the financial reality football is in and even begin to discuss how the game can be saved and what reforms will be needed to save the game

I am aware that supporters, many clubs, and various governments oppose the Super League but I am waiting for supporters, many clubs, and various governments to propose solutions to the reality of the fact football is a business that has failed.

If you oppose the Super League, you need to at least propose a financial lifeline for the game.

4 – David on the relentless nature of the sports media:

What a fucking week! On Monday I’m thinking, what is this strange peaceful silence? Has the circus actually left town for real? No more football for at least a month. Maybe a bit of peaceful cricket…

A couple of days later we have; Naomi Osaka pulling out of the French Open due to mental health issues seemingly caused by media pressure; England’s new young fast bowler on trial for historical racist and sexist tweets; fans at an England warm up game booing their heroes for taking a knee; and then Trent limping off with TV cameras thrust under his nose. The circus has most definitely not left town.

So what links these events? What is this circus? It’s the media. The cameras, the pundits and opinionators and the other vital ingredient – us, the audience. In this unusual reflective moment (which I thought was LFC free until the TAA incident!) and where I was beginning to appreciate how good it would be to have a period of fasting – from ‘content’, it suddenly became glaringly evident that the difficulty with doing this is that the media is out of control. With the airwaves and the internet being just about everywhere you just can’t avoid the controversy magnet. We’re all to blame, clicking away in our bubbles, but who is going to stop this madness?

If the situation was an adult (the media) and a kid (the public) who wanted something badly, i.e. sweets, there is received human wisdom handed down through the generations that it’s not always good to give in to demands. Otherwise you create a brat. But we live in a world where demand is God. Just by turning on your TV, computer or radio you have apparently signalled an urgent need to be fed. And yet there is no responsible adult in the room to regulate your diet. Of course – a lot of us are not kids and there’s a notional idea that we can control ourselves – but if we’re honest about it as a society, a lot of our problems are because this expectation is neither realistic or facilitated by any of sense of responsibility from the ‘adults’ offering the ‘sweets’. Some may be able to cope, possibly even a majority, but much of the free for all market is geared towards exploiting weaknesses so it’s no wonder all these ugly symptoms keep popping up.

It’s self inflicted pressure: unnecessary, invasive microphone up the nose interviews before athletes (many speaking in their second or third language) have even caught their breath; forensic examinations of school playground conversations; other embarrassing public displays by badly educated members of society (England fans) about a protest about bad education and ignorance (the knee); and to top it all, a completely unnecessary, high profile televised, extra football game in which a situation is contrived whereby an already exhausted right back gets overplayed and injured. It was the media that created all this. For what? To feed the brat.

I’m aware of most of this stuff because all the above mentioned sporting events are on free to air TV in the UK (Cricket highlights and radio) and even though I’ll risk streaming for LfC, I regulate the rest of my intake ‘content’ by what’s available on public broadcast. I can’t resist a freebie so I have the England footy game on in the background – not because I need it or want it, but because its nice to be included and able to watch good quality pictures (and I always like to watch TAA.) But really – I’m a brat and this logic is fucked up. I don’t need this game and obviously, nor do the players after a long season. To be honest do we really need a whole month of Euros either? Or the interviews? Or to know that Ollie Robinson was a twat when he was 18?

(Incidentally, my view on this is that it is worth talking about how young Ollie’s views came to be, but only in the context of what is going on in conversations between school age children throughout the land and also on the terraces. Its not that this conversation should be avoided at sporting occasions, but we don’t need random opinions from Micheal Vaughan (who seemed mostly concerned about avoiding embarrassment) or grave announcements from Isa Gupta as if someone has died. A proper adult needs to come on and say yes, we need to educate people on why the specific tweets were offensive, but please not pundits and frowning peers! The main concern is that the out of control element of the media will get hold of it and it will be whipped into a storm, with all the attendant divisive clickbait side taking. And surely it doesn’t help that most of the media- including Vaughn, encouraged by the current UK government and other deep thinkers like Trump, have done so much to push the anti-woke agenda. The real issue is that instead of proper adults who say ‘no, you can’t have that’ , we get opinionators like circus performer, Pierce Morgan who feed the controversy and masquerade as adults. It’s the pressure to have strong opinions and open your gob which gives rise to the problem in the first place.)

So who’s going to stand up and say ”ENOUGH!” ? Klopp is one of the very few characters who is brave enough to do so and at considerable risk to his reputation, because the media don’t like it when their control is challenged. We have democracy, but unfortunately, people don’t recognise when they are being brainwashed and politicians use the media in a disingenuous way to manipulate voters. Parties with invested interests even pass laws to stop people voting. There just seems to be nobody out there who will stand up and say this is TOO MUCH! Just Stop already. Be quiet! Have a rest!

5 – Benjamin replies underneath Beez’s look in the Reds’ stats this season:

Superb delve into the underlying numbers. For the footballing philistines amongst us, I’d sum up the drop off in three categories, in terms of importance:

1) Lack of available players
2) Lack of fans
3) Lack of motivation

These are ordered in importance, but of course they all intertwine over the course of the season. In terms of presence, I’d rank them like this:

1) Lack of fans
2) Lack of available players
3) Lack of motivation

The home record went from 55/57 points in 19-20 and (at one point during the season) 68 games unbeaten to 33/57 points going eight without a win between December and March with an unthinkable six straight defeats thrown in for good measure. Given we started the season with 7 straight home wins amidst a growing injury crisis, the muscle memory of yesteryear dissipated once West Brom stole a point and the entire ‘fortress’ collapsed. Having said all that, I feel there’s barely any distinction between home and away this season without fans and the lack thereof does not affect all teams equally. Anfield is hugely influential to the result and for Liverpool to gain more away points than home for the first time in its history points to this, in the season with no fans. With fans back next year (hopefully from the first match) we’ll add double figures at least to our home points tally.

Nothing needs adding about the injuries. Simply the worst injury crisis we’ve had certainly in the PL-era only abetted by the fact we entered the season with the strongest squad we’ve had in said era. We’d be incredibly unfortunate to suffer the same fate again. The squad will be stronger with new additions.

As for the motivation, the team had scaled Everest, become Champions of Everything, it was always going to be hard to retain the league but once that became a distant fantasy the wheels really fell off. There was no way we were going to win the CL either with that CB partnership, as well as they did against some of the cloggers towards the end. Given the hand we were dealt getting 3rd was the best possible outcome, limits any long term damage of a season like this and allows us to go again and try and regain our titles lost.

Onwards and upwards.

Articles published since last Friday, with excerpts:

Monday May 31st:

Telling The Tale of Liverpool’s 2020/21 Season Through Data Viz, by Andrew Beasley.

We can talk about a lack of penalties, the worst VAR record in the division and a failure to convert expected goals to actual ones (and we will), but it will forever be remembered as the season in which the Reds’ treatment room got shut down by the police for overcrowding.