Free Friday, November 12th 2021: Magical History Tour, Mo’s Goals & Gerrard Taking Over at Aston Villa

Free Friday, November 12th 2021: Magical History Tour, Mo’s Goals & Gerrard Taking Over at Aston Villa
November 12, 2021 Daniel Rhodes
In Free, Free Friday


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

1 – Grover on the controversy surrounding West Ham’s first goal on Sunday:

I do feel there is an element of the underdog getting these decisions around goalkeepers being fouled. Klopp referenced the Brentford v Arsenal opening game of the season last night after the game and at the time too. Looked like Leno was fouled there but the goal stood. I remember Klopp mentioning it at the time as he is always about protecting all players.

De Gea was the underdog that day against Van Dijk. Brentford were the plucky newly promoted team against Arsenal. Yesterday Alisson is considered one of the best goalkeepers in the world playing in a team on an unbeaten 25 match run with the world’s best player. West Ham were the plucky underdogs. The narrative then becomes “Alisson should be stronger there”. This is the stuff the pundits say, which refs take on board as they watch football on tv too. I am pretty sure if Van Dijk had done that against Fabianski yesterday and we scored, it would have been chalked off.

We know from what Clattenburg has said recently that refs make decisions based on the context of the game way too much and it is probably very difficult to not do so. However I believe European refs seem to do this better than our lot. This is why the decisions are inconsistent as they are often applied differently to different teams.

2 – Proudred on Antonio’s post-match comments:

Antonio has said that they targeted Alison deliberately, give it a shot and if you get away with it so be it. If the referee doesn’t like it then they have at least tried. This is what they trained for last week and did get away with it, another day another referee and different outcome. Welcome to the Premier League.

3 – Madchenkliop examines Liverpool’s formation and the reasons for their recent defensive frailties:

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about this 1 -2 formation and have rewatched the match. I think it’s an orange herring. There’s something in it – in that someone, usually Hendo, is invariably upfield on the occasions when the opposition ‘cut us open’. The oppo have noticed that there’s a likelihood that there will be space to run into where TAA/ Hendo/ Salah would normally be patrolling because we attack so high.

But for me, the point is (and Klopp would say this too) if we’re going to operate this kind of formation you can’t give the ball away cheaply and unecessarily. This is the problem. JK will not set up his teams on the basis that they are going to play crap and so he shouldn’t. Virgil said post match that we were a bit ‘rash’ in the 2nd half and JK described it, (as he often has this season) as impatient. I like Gary Gillespie’s description best who described it as a bit ‘flicky, flicky, flicky’.

Basically, what’s happening is someone – and the mistakes seem fairly evenly spread round predominantly the attacking members of the team, but I’d include Robbo’s crossing in that – but someone is being ‘rash’ in a situation where we can’t afford to lose the ball. You could say this is because of the 1 – 2 set up, but really it’s down to poor, over-ambitious decision-making.

Obviously, Mané’s losing the ball when turning, blindsided, into traffic before the second goal instead of simply passing the ball back from where it came, to Fabinho, was a classic example. Mané was just doing what Mané does, but normally he’s out in a less dangerous area on the left rather than central. Still, it was a moving violation and you get punished for those – you should know better not to take that risk. Especially when you are actually looking back downfield at the acres of space that will be available if you fuck up.

This was a particularly ugly example, but there were loads of others where we were playing low percentage hopeful crosses or throughballs across or into the canopy of defenders who were set up for the quick transition pass, runners at the ready or worse, we were trying audacious flicks to divert the ball through the eye of a needle. If it works we call it sublime, but when it doesn’t it’s like giving candy to the other side.

The simple truth is (and I feel certain this is what JK will say), the team has to be more patient and canny in those situations. As far as I can see, the 2nd and probably their 3rd goals were down to impatience with us needlessly giving away the ball.

I think it’s a really important point that Fabinho isn’t fully fit and Ox and Hendo have been overplayed because of our midfield problems and that Thiago is rusty. Our worst passage of play coincided with Fabinho and Ox being substituted, presumably because they were considered to be knackered and losing focus.

I guess that you could argue that the management need to mitigate these problems by changing the set-up and tactics and that would be true, especially for different phases of matches. The players themselves could also be more canny about how and when to move through the gears. Hendo himself could initiate a 2 – 1 when he senses danger, (which in fact he was doing for periods of the 2nd half.)

However, I think Klopp is committed to playing this exciting attacking style and as ever with him, he just wants his players to be more precise in how they execute the plan. Our success is built on this attitude and belief. He’s not going to switch tactics. They’ve just got to play better. Keep the faith I say!

Besides, at the end of the day, I don’t think Klopp or us fans have that much choice but to rely on the talents we have in our squad. It’s not like you can just buy a super reliable Gini off the shelf and even if you do, with the quality we’ve already got, you’re likely to gain in some areas and lose in others. It’s always worth looking for that world-class midfielder, but for this season, I think I’m going to settle for watching and hoping that the talent we’ve already got produce what they are capable of. Sit back and enjoy the flicky, flicky, flickys do their thing!

4 – Michelle on the appointment of Gerrard at Aston Villa:

I think that expecting Steven Gerrard to make the step up from Aston Villa to Liverpool is unrealistic. Stevie would have to do more than just “okay.” After all, Dean Smith did (arguably) better than okay at Villa and I don’t see anyone pushing for him to be the next Liverpool manager. Let Gerrard survive in the school of hard knocks that is the Premier League, manage Villa to mid table (that would be success), and move on to coach a Champions League regular in Europe. Then and only then will he be in the running for Liverpool.

Liverpool is at the top of the heap as a desirable club to manage. Klopp has positioned us so that we can get the very best in the world. The question is getting the right personality and a coach who embraces the analytics, recruitment, and youth development that have brought Liverpool so far in the modern era.

If Stevie manages to make Villa a Champions League regular and develops an effective coaching and recruitment and youth development team, sure, he would be a candidate to manage Liverpool next. But such a high bar kind of sets him up for failure. Who really expects Villa to qualify and compete in the Europa League in the next 3 years, to say nothing of the Champions League?

5 – Tash on whether Gerrard could take over at Liverpool in the future:

Gerrard has done as well as anyone could have reasonably expected in Scotland. He may well have profited from Celtic simply reaching the end of a cycle of prolonged success – or he may have not. Whatever the case, he did extremely well with the hand he was dealt and he’s been very sensible in surrounding himself with good staff – and in listening to them.

A move to Villa is, on paper, a perfect next step. They have the potential, just as Gerrard does. Now we have a great opportunity to see if that potential can be fulfilled.

As far as the manager’s role at Liverpool, I think provided he does above average at Villa, the job will be his one day. I get that FSG are a very analytical and emotion-free group, but I think they also recognise the little extra something that comes with having a connection to the club. Dalglish wasn’t chosen because he was the best managerial option after Hodgson. He was chosen because he was the best for Liverpool at precisely that moment in time. The right choice. Almost the only choice under those circumstances, acting as both a healer as awell as a manager.

If Gerrard comes directly post-Klopp then ideally it would be with keeping some, if not all, of the backroom staff (a la Shankly) so that we benefit from the kind of continuity that served us so well in the past. Wether Gerrad would want them and whether the German contingent would stay on without Jurgen and whether Pep would accept continuing to play a supporting role rather than be the main man is of course all very miuch open to question. I think the German backroom staff would follow Jurgen if, as is most likely, he takes a short break and then takes on a new role, be it with Bayern, the German national team or elsewhere. (On a selfish note, I’d love to see him retire so that there is more likelihood the backroom staff stay and because I wouldn’t have to watch him manage elsewhere. I suspect Pep will want the job himself and is likely to walk if he’s overlooked.

But that’s all for another day. For now, lets enjoy what we have and enjoy seeing how Stevie gets on.

6 – Beez on the Reds’ upcoming fixtures with former Liverpool managers and players:

So Liverpool will face Benitez, Gerrard and Rodgers (twice) in opposing dugouts next month. A magical history tour, indeed.

Articles published since last Friday, with excerpts:

Sun. Nov. 7th:

*Bumper* Post-Match Analysis: West Ham 3-2 Liverpool, by Andrew Beasley, Paul Tomkins and various.

Paul Tomkins: But the team balance still seems all wrong. Even when winning games and scoring goals, the midfield formation of 1-2 has seemed too open. Pep Lijnders challenged opposition teams to work out what the Reds have changed, and so far, it seems that they have (in the league, at least, to a degree that seems a little concerning).

Again, it was a great unbeaten record, but the last two league games have been really poor (especially the second halves), with the Brighton collapse starting when the game looked over at 3-0, and then VAR chalked it off.

Worryingly today, Alisson was Boltoned, like watching Pepe Reina being shithoused 15 years ago. He spent the set-pieces being blocked, but then also began focusing too much on the blocker. I do wonder if this is surely obstruction in every case, as the player is only looking to block the keeper – but it’s not something that gets punished a lot in general, and it’s something the Reds do from time to time at the other end. This weakness needs addressing, as West Ham could have scored three from corners, and other teams will try and follow suit.

Tues. Nov 9th:

Mo! Mo! Mo! Liverpool’s October Goals Were Salah All Over, by Andrew Beasley.

Salah had three touches in total for his hat-trick goal at Old Trafford, six in Madrid, seven at Watford and nine against Manchester City. To be clear: there’s no publicly available data for this, I had to watch the footage and count the touches, and for the latter two goals I viewed them from multiple angles and I’m still not entirely certain about how many times the Egyptian’s magic feet made contact with the ball.

Not that it matters too much. Most mere mortals need a chance to be suitably easy that they can hit it first time and leave the goalkeeper less time to save it, but not our Mo. He will twist and turn and dance past some of the most expensive players in the world (and Craig Cathcart) with an elegant grace before firing the ball home with ease.

Wed. Nov. 10th:

Huge Change At Liverpool – But Michael Edwards Leaves His Hand-Picked Legacy With Julian Ward, by Paul Tomkins.

Edwards himself believes that the “FSG way” in football was left in his hands to create; with the help of Mike Gordon, the most football-savvy of the owners, and obviously the super-smart analysts that includes Ian Graham, who also arrived a decade ago. After all, FSG are not football experts; but they found Edwards and Graham, via Damien Comolli, and then trusted Edwards to shape the way things were done.

You may dislike some of their ownership ideas, but Edwards leaving is not something that the owners can be blamed for. (Of course, they will be, as that’s the way a certain portion of the fanbase operates.)

The “Edwards way” can continue in Edwards’ absence; indeed, it has been designed to. Vital members of the brains’ trust, like Ian Graham, remain in place. The methods won’t change. The same would be true of hiring a new manager (albeit Jürgen Klopp is obviously unique, in being one of the “all-bases” managers who also have the gravitas to be taken seriously by even world-class players).

Edwards has no doubt that, in Julian Ward, he’s handing over to an ideal candidate; a man who has mirrored his own career from modest playing days and moving up through the different levels of behind-the-scenes work in scouting, analytical and personnel specialties; a man he has had shadowing him, and learning the ropes, over what will eventually be an 18-month period by the time the changeover happens.

Thursday. Nov. 11th:

Liverpool’s Attacking Numbers This Season – Heading for the Hundred in the Premier League Alone! by Mizgan Masani

In their recent game against West Ham, even though the result was a disappointing defeat, it was another occasion where the Reds managed to score two goals. Out of the 11 league and four Champions League games, there has been only one occasion where they have scored fewer than two goals in a game – that was against Chelsea in September. They even scored three and two in their League Cup games, both away from home and despite shadow starting XIs.

It suggests Liverpool’s attacking play this season has been on a different level, irrespective of whether you compare it with other teams or just juxtapose their own attacking outputs from past seasons under Jürgen Klopp. And the numbers back that conclusion up.

If we just concentrate on the league games to get a sample size to analyse the outputs, Klopp’s men have amassed 31 goals in 11 league games at an average of 2.81. If this is to continue like this, they could end up scoring 107 league goals this season – that’s just plain crazy! I will not be surprised if they at least hit the 100-goal mark this season in the league alone, considering the way they have tweaked their style of attack. To put this into context, the highest number of goals Klopp’s Liverpool have scored in a single 38-game league season is 89 in 2018/19.