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In all the furore over Liverpool's truly remarkable title challenge, one thing is being over-looked. As a side which has gone from seventh last year to within four games of winning the damn thing, they are putting the lie to one of football's greatest cop outs - the concept of a team in transition, or to give it a comedy acronym, T.I.T.
Every club that isn't doing well is always said to be in transition. It's usually proffered as an excuse for poor form. Somehow, Manchester United went from title winners to a team in transition - the transition in their case being from good to average, presumably. Chelsea's lack of strikers apparently mean they are in transition, Wenger has been passing off Arsenal as permanently in transition for years, Spurs likewise. We hear it all the time from many clubs.
It bears no scrutiny because to be in transition you have to be going from one place or state to another. Well, that's always the case, existence is not static and there is certainly no fixed point in football for you to move from or to. It is a game played on constantly shifting sands. Similarly there is no end point to reach. Teams perpetually evolve and any project is never done, it is only in its latest stage of development. Football is a journey with no destination. The gig is the journey.
But of course, the term is designed to give the impression that progress is being made, a plan is in place and all will be well in the future. It is a promise of jam tomorrow. If you have fallen for this in the past, you should never do so again. If anyone at your club tries to pull off the T.I.T. defence, just point in the direction of Merseyside and say 'but what about Liverpool?
There is an unwritten assumption that the 'T' word means that a side are going from the current state of not being good enough to a state of being good enough at some unspecified point. But football abhors a vacuum and fills it at every opportunity. As David Moyes discovered, while you're busy making your transition excuses, others are getting on with winning. Just trying to make out it's a project which will take time to build no longer holds water, especially for a top club. Liverpool were a project which needed more time to build to challenge for honours. Except, as it turns out, they didn't.
The T.I.T. concept is a debilitating one because it gives players, managers and clubs a get-out clause, but no one should ever use that excuse again after the season Liverpool have had. You don't need all the best players, you don't need someone brilliant in every position, you don't need a massive, deep squad. Liverpool have proven this. Their side has functioned all season with an often creaky defence and occasionally dodgy goalkeeper but Liverpool have demonstrated that not having a well-balanced squad stocked with great talent need not prevent you doing really bloody well.
The problem is the T.I.T. defence relies on seeing football teams as though they are a jigsaw with two or three missing pieces. They try to pretend that once those are in place, the project is completed and all will be well. But football doesn't work like that. Once you get those two or three pieces, you lose a couple more under the sofa, one stops fitting properly, one that looked right turns out to be wrong, and then one morning you come down to find the dog has eaten it all.
In other words, this level of calculation and assessment is ridiculous and Liverpool have shown it to be so. On paper they are nowhere near being a title-winning side even with the genius of Luis Suarez. Their achievement should humble other managers and clubs who moan about not having the right balance to the squad or not enough strength in depth. It should ridicule those who push the idea of a 'rebuilding project' as some sort of high-brow footballing concept that we might find it hard to comprehend. Managers who do that need to be taken to task for their own failures.
Brendan Rodgers has proven that if you're good enough, flexible enough, can properly motivate, train and organize a side, it can be greater than the sum of its parts by quite some margin. You might argue that Roberto Martinez has done likewise. This is bad news for Moyes and Wenger and any other manager who needs to find a reason for their teams failure to deflect from their own inadequacy.
A team is always in transition. It is always in flux. All of modern football happens in an unstable, fast-moving environment. Waiting around for some vague, notional transition to take place is a nonsense and after the season Liverpool have had, if you fall for it again, you really are a T.I.T.
Johnny now writes superb northern crime novels. We love them. Check them out here: www.johnnicholsonwriter.com