Five reasons Liverpool are not on an ‘irreparable downward spiral’

Date published: Wednesday 10th February 2021 2:27 - Editor F365

Jordan Henderson Mo Salah Liverpool

Thank you for your mails on Liverpool, Donny Van De Beek and more. Send your views to theeditor@football365.com

 

Liverpool optimism
I can’t claim to have read every mailbox in the last couple of weeks, but a brief read this morning gives the impression Liverpool are already in kind of irreparable downward spiral to relegation and/or another 30 years without a title. Just for balance, maybe a few points of optimism about this season’s final outcome being ‘satisfactory’, with better to come next season, as opposed to nailed on for some kind of mind-bending disaster:

– They now have a fit actual international centre back in the squad (for those that want to downplay the CB injuries, a useful benchmark is the team currently in second. They have had to play one game with their fourth choice CB alongside their first choice. They lost that game at home to the worst team in the league).

– Liverpool are still 4th. On Saturday lunchtime, after 6 days’ rest, they are the bookies’ favourites to beat the team in 3rd, who play in the FA Cup tonight and so will have very little rest. If they do that, they will be 3rd.

– In the congested remainder of the season, they don’t have FA Cup games to worry about. The teams in 2nd and 3rd are still in it and also have Thursdays in the Europa League to think about.

– They are the only team in the top half that do not have to play Man City again. Everton have to play them twice (which puts their two games in hand in a different light).

– Jota will return from injury for the last 10 or so games of the season.

While not finishing in the top 4 might be something approaching disastrous (not least financially), maybe these are some of the reasons Liverpool are still heavily odds on to manage it. Those that genuinely believe the ‘Jurgen Flopp’ narrative can make a lot of easy money with the bookies – I trust they will put their money where their mouths are.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but if you’d told me at the start of the season we’d get a grand total of 18 premier league games combined from VVD, Gomez and Matip and still finish in the top 4, I’m pretty sure I’d have taken that. Clearly it’s not guaranteed (despite the bookies’ view), but if we can do that and move on to starting next season with what is likely to be a deeper squad, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be challenging for the league again (although the African Cup of Nations does loom large in Jan 2022…).

One last thing – despite what Liverpool fans might have said or hoped for, Liverpool have not been favourites to win the premier league at the start of any of the last three seasons, including this one. So in the mix for 2nd or 3rd would actually be meeting expectations, not falling short.
Shappo

 

Any similar title defences?
OK it’s getting silly now. All these in-depth discussions at why Liverpool are having a bad season. Mutterings about imagined parallels between Klopp’s Mainz and Dortmund days. Peak athletes being ‘tired’, teams ‘figuring them out’ and most stupid of all being ‘bad champions’. There’s one reason why the Reds are struggling and a blinding obvious crocked CBs shaped one at that. The season where United had to play Roy Keane and Paul Ince at CB because Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister and whoever was their 3rd choice CB were all out long term seems to have slipped my memory. I cannot recall a single other team having to defend their title under these circumstances. Criticising a team and manager that has won the title and CL in the past two seasons makes you look a little dim and a lot bitter.
Jo (nothing more to say on the matter) Kent

 

This team is far from finished…
Well they’re all coming out today aren’t they?

Bryan and his ‘peaked for 18 months’ and narrative about last season being amazing till January 2020.  I’ll be generous and assume that you meant up to and including January where we won 5 out of 5 league games including vs. Spurs and Man U.  But that still means you’re discounting February where we won 3 out of 4.  Also, ‘limped over the finish line’? Results after lockdown included the following victories: 4-0 Crystal Palace, 2-0 Aston Villa, 3-1 Brighton, 5-3 Chelsea, 3-1 Newcastle).  I reckon the 18 month peak needs to be extended forwards somewhat despite being fallible and losing a couple of cup matches missing key players.

Finally, finished 4th on the last day of 2018?  Impressive feat considering the fact that we finished 5 points ahead of Chelsea in 5th.  We also reached the Champions League final so perhaps our 18 month peak needs to be extended back as well.

Fred I’m just bored of.  Ok mate, we’re a lucky outfit.  Whatever helps you process your hatred of the team that kept you at arm’s length and then broke you in the biggest match in your club’s history.

Is Dave Manchester really going there with the ‘Liverpool spent more than £65m twice and City haven’t’?  Let me list the players they’ve spent more than €50m on:

Dias, Cancelo, Rodri, Mahrez, Laporte, Mendy, Walker, Silva, Stones, Sane, De Bruyne, Sterling

Let’s look at the same criteria for Liverpool:

Alisson, Keita, VVD

Seems legit.

A quick look at the respective substitutes bench for Sunday’s match and you might see why some people might be citing a difference in spend as to why this Liverpool team isn’t coping particularly well with an unprecedented injury crisis.  City’s bench included players bought for €65m, €57m, €40m, €32m, €23m.  Liverpool’s top 5 value subs?  AOC €38m,  Shaqiri €14m, Tsimikas €13m, Origi €12m, Kabak €1.1m loan fee).  Maybe there’s something in it after all?

Ryan, MCFC Liverpool’s owners were big advocates of FFP from the outset.  That they’ve tried to build a sustainable entity whilst improving the ground (not one gifted us by the council) and all the while working within the means of the income/expenditure generated by the club and within the rules of FFP is to be applauded not ridiculed.

Things have clearly been in a bit of a decline for the past few weeks but some of the sh!te being spouted by the haters really needs calling out.  This team is far from finished.
James Outram, Wirral

 

It could still be a great season for Liverpool
The ongoing back-and-forth about Liverpool’s greatness/fraudulence, and Matt Stead’s piece on Monday, reminds me of the old “AC/DC rule” in music – where a band’s album that first hit the Billboard #1 was the one immediately after their actual best/most successful album, and so the point where the decline was already happening. (It’s the AC/DC rule because Back In Black is the definitive example of an album never reaching #1, yet being so much better and more successful than the follow-up album that did.)  And in his book Zonal Marking, Michael Cox (himself citing Jonathan Wilson, I think) points out that even the greatest teams, those with a largely fixed and definitive XI, generally only had three excellent seasons in them at best; Saachi’s Milan, 87/88-89/90, being the standout example. I would agree that this Liverpool team has passed its peak but that’s perfectly ok, and any disappointment this season doesn’t mean the previous two need to be reassessed as being lucky or overrated.

In normal circumstances, I would’ve been confident that this would’ve been this Liverpool’s third great season – and it still could be; a CL win would keep to the theory – but I agree that any ‘Pool fans dreaming of 10 years’ unbroken dominance were perhaps getting ahead of themselves, given it’s literally unprecedented; even Ferguson’s United had their off-years. (Bob Paisley went closest, going 8 consecutive seasons winning at least the League or European Cup with one club, but is the exception that proves the rule, as he’s arguably not associated with one particular XI.) Debating the minutiae, luck, net spend, annual turnover, fraudulence, the rest of it, is all kinda besides the point – those trophies were won (and pretty convincingly overall), and a lull was inevitable, especially if we end up needing to replace multiple key players at the same time, as looks likely. The best we can reasonably hope for is that the lull is only one or two seasons, and Klopp has more than earned the right to try and build that second great team.
Craig, LFC

 

Donny = Shinji
The #freedonny movement reminded me of its predecessor, #freeshinji.

There are many similarities between Donny and Shinji.

Both came from progressive sides who took Europe by storm with their exciting brand of football. Both are technically excellent, with the innate ability to make football look simple, yet elegant. But unfortunately, it looks like Donny will share another similarity with Shinji; failure to succeed at United.

It’s a shame because both players play the game with such elegance, its an absolute joy to watch them. But it seems that their style of play is entirely unsuitable to the brand of football United play. Shinji and Donny are two players who came, saw but failed to conquer in recent times. But other players including Veron and Berbatov (to a certain extent) have also failed to reach the heights many expected them to.

I celebrated when United managed to sign Shinji just as I celebrated Donny’s arrival. I wish very much for him to succeed but it seems like, if you love somebody you gotta set them free. For now, it seems like that’s the only option for Donny.

#freedonny
Ming Kiat Tan

 

 

Van de Beek
Am I alone in thinking that Van de Beek’s situation is being blown completely out of proportion.

He’d hardly be the first player to not hit the ground running in his first season in a new country if he then went on to be a great success. He could be the next…erm…Fred…

Add to that, he’s 23 years old, living in a new country during Covid lockdown. The fact that he’s not yet lighting up the league is forgivable…

Above all that though, I can’t be alone in thinking that he’s presumably been pre-emptively signed to replace Pogba – who one imagines will be off at the end of this season or next. In the meantime, Pogba has to start ahead of him for two reasons: (i) to keep Pogba in the shop window to maximise any potential sale price; and (ii) on current form, Pogba’s objectively the better choice.

If Pogba ends up changing his mind and staying, fine. Van de Beek then just needs to work harder and prove he’s the better choice, or prove that he has the attributes to start regularly ahead of Fred and/or McTominay.

Van de Beek had come to a huge club that has ambitions of competing for the big prizes (stop laughing at the back). He came knowing which other players they had competing in his position  and their qualities. He came knowing that at big clubs they want a full squad of quality players to offer depth and compete on multiple fronts. For goodness sake – he almost went to Real – did he think it was Casemiro, Toni Kroos or Modric who was going to meekly give him their position in the first 11? If he looked at the players United have in similar positions to him and thought he would waltz into the team, he’s misjudged it.

Personally, I’m thrilled that United have their Van de Beek “problem”. His recruitment shows foresight. Provided that United didn’t spend their budget that should otherwise be spent on their awful defence when the right players are available, I think his signing is a good bit of forward planning. After all, you need depth. Otherwise, in the unlikely event your two first choice players in a given position, say centre back, were injured, you could be forced to play another player out of position, and your form could completely collapse…
Andy (MUFC)

 

Nobody is in the wrong but us
First time writing in, I felt compelled because I fear that the media and sections of the fans (not Ole) could end up destroying this young player’s confidence at Utd.

First things first, lets just clear up this issue, Solskjaer hasn’t really been unfair to Donny. He may have been a new and exciting acquisition but was by no means a statement signing, a player who was clearly destined to go straight into the starting 11 like say Maguire clearly was (regardless of how you feel about that). He was brought in for a reasonable fee, no doubt knowing himself that he was going have to work his way in to the first team. Yes, there are probably a few games this season that I felt Donny could have come into the side, but the idea suggested in the mailbox earlier that OGS should have been putting him in immediately and working tactics around his inclusion is just wrong. If anything, it would be unfair on McTominay/Fred that they are displaced in spite of their increasingly good form over the past 12 months. It is right that Donny should need to wait for his chance and take it. Perhaps the only decision that I would deem a little unfair was the reintroduction of Pogba ahead of him, considering his long-term underperformance and his anal wart of an agent. But it happened, and to Pogba/Solskjaer’s credit, to massive effect.

Remember, Solskjaer has added pressure this year. After clear progress last season, this is the time for Utd to really kick on and start genuinely competing for trophies. Whether he sees huge potential, whether he was Ole’s transfer target or not, he cannot afford to play Van De Beek if he doesn’t have the confidence in him at this stage. Ole needs results this year, possibly a trophy and without doubt he needs to move Utd forward again.

Equally, its not really Donny’s fault either. He hasn’t really grabbed hold of his opportunities but equally he probably hasn’t had enough of those so far. I must admit, the cameos with 5 minutes to go have been a little ridiculous. But to reiterate, the opportunities he has had, he hasn’t shown enough so far to warrant inclusion in the starting 11.

But fans and the media need to simply get off everyone’s back. Given time, Solskjaer will hand him more chances (he has literally said this). And with that time, there is no doubt the player has the quality to put himself in to the managers plans. Equally, Solskjaer has time to find the way to unlock the best of him. He has done this with other players already. With this in mind, there is a silver lining. The best thing that happened for Donny this year was Utd dropping out of the Champions League. Solksjaer has always rotated for the Europa and I suspect his comments on giving Donny more opportunities are alluding to the fact he will be a regular starter in that competition. It’s a long run of games against decent enough quality opposition to really improve your status. Fred is the precedent for this, and by that I mean if you show enough quality, desire and consistency across the games you feature in, you can work your way in to the managers plans. And remember, Van De Beek cost what, £20m or so less than Fred. He could still end up being an absolute bargain of a buy.

In closing, please everybody, chill. The more we all bang on about how it’s not working, the more likely it is that it won’t work.
CDog (took longer to try and think of something clever for the brackets than to write the mail, still failed) 

 

We need to talk about Scott and Donny
Scott McTominay got a fair bit of stick in 2018 for winning the inaugural and impromptu ‘Managers player of the year’ award. In classic Jose fashion it seemed more a slight on his teammates than any reflection on the boy himself. 3 years later, it seems like Jose was onto something after all.

That boy has now grown into one of the most reliable midfielders in the league. Primarily known for his athleticism and high energy pressing. He has this season been showing off an improved passing range, clean and accurate shooting, and has picked up a knack for timing his runs into the box. He is also just 24years old, and hasn’t even come close to his ceiling.

The thing that has most impressed me however, is his recent reaction to going 9 goals up against Southampton in extra time. While the rest of the team celebrates a record equalling goal, Scott wants double figures. This, more than anything else makes him a Manchester United Player.

I also believe that this is exactly what we are missing from Donny at the moment. He’s got obvious quality and intelligence, but needs to find that fire. He will come good, and should ignore any further assertions that Man UTD and him are a rotten match. Playing him alongside Scott in some of the games where we can expect high possession would give him the platform to excel. Signing a pacy centre back (or fixing Eric Bailly) would further solidify this.

Keep your chin up Donny. Stop doubting and start fighting.
Akeel (Malawi)

 

Don’t judge Donny and Thiago so soon
Van De Beek is a failure? Thiago is the antithesis of Liverpool? I feel like we are all too quick to pass judgement on two signings who have been at their respective clubs for about half a season. Let’s not lower ourselves to the level of The S*n.

Time may prove both points to be right, but I think we’re quick to forget that the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Diego Jota are very much the exceptions to the rule with regards to new signings.

Though maybe the trick is to sign Portuguese players…
Den Norris, LFC (Gmail’s suggested mail subject – Diego Jota is a Beek)

 

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