Liverpool’s biggest strength is now their biggest weakness…

Date published: Monday 15th February 2021 2:28 - Joe Williams

Jordan Henderson Liverpool

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Mentality Monsters to Moshi Miniatures
They say that writing can be cathartic, so hopefully this will make me feel better. Lord knows it is needed at the moment – Liverpool have gone from the only bright spot in the unremitting doom of covid existence, to an anchor dragging me deeper and deeper into the abyss. But enough whining, I don’t want to sound like just another Pool fan looking for excuses – VAR is the worst thing that has been intentionally done to football EVER, but is equally appalling for everybody eventually, it’s just Liverpool’s (and Southampton’s) turn to suffer every game at the moment. It’s not a conspiracy, it’s just making a difficult job (refereeing) impossible, and multiplied the potential for subjective error exponentially.

It is pretty clear that this Liverpool team are currently incapable of recovering their confidence, composure, resilience and poise. Maddison and Rodgers both mentioned in the post-match interviews that they knew specifically which weaknesses to go after – Thiago and Liverpool’s propensity to capitulate in the last 20 minutes respectively. In addition to this, Leicester kept attacking down Liverpool’s right knowing that TAA’s defending isn’t worthy of even an out of position Djimi Traore. Credit to Leicester and Rodgers for devising and executing such a devastatingly effective game plan, to go with the low block / wait for a mistake method as guaranteed ways to beat Liverpool in this form.

Why have Liverpool dropped off so far? They are no longer even a shadow of their former selves, but the weird stain on the wall that might have been something once, but now just looks faintly disgusting. It is impossible to describe this season as a title ‘defence’ – it is nothing of the sort, Liverpool are actively helping other teams achieve their own objectives, whilst beating themselves twice a week. What has happened to turn one of the strongest outfits mentally into one of the weakest? Robbo said that they hadn’t become bad players over night, but that is in fact exactly what has happened. But why?

I believe this is down to what was Liverpool’s biggest strength, but has now become our biggest weakness – emotion. Klopp has always drawn on emotion as a tool – ‘become believers’, ‘mentality monsters’ etc etc – this is how he was able to draw such insane levels of performance out of this group for so long. However, it is a double-edged sword – if you use positive emotion as the foundation for over-performance, it shouldn’t be a surprise that when that emotion turns negative, you get disastrous under-performance. The following evidence supports this theory:

  • It is why Klopp’s excuses are so corrosive, they prick the balloon of self-confidence and replace it with victimhood
  • It is why VAR decisions going against Liverpool have such a negative effect – it feels so much more unjust and unfair, rather than just something to be moved on from
  • It explains why Liverpool have suffered so much with empty stands – the Anfield crowd were a fundamental fuel for the team’s emotion and confidence
  • It is why the team can collapse from untroubled control to complete and utter disaster and calamity at the first sign of anything going against them
  • It is why the collapses happen so quickly and are so devastating – we are basically a bipolar team – from calm to despair in minutes
  • It is why injuries have more impact – you can swap out cogs in a machine relatively easily, it is harder to change around fundamental elements to an emotional heartbeat
  • This Means More = this is exactly the problem, it really shouldn’t

The bad news is that the above makes it much more difficult, and take much longer, to turn this situation around – you are talking about rebuilding the emotional currency built up over 3 years, in a few weeks. Aint going to happen. I mentioned in a recent email that it is time to rest the first 11 for next season, I’m now more sure than ever that this is the right thing to do – otherwise the cycle will not be broken, and we will spin further and further out of contention.
Morgan (is there a ‘get rid of VAR’ petition we can all sign somewhere?) Goford

 

The Solskjaer dilemma
Complain about United within earshot of fans of other teams and they would tell you to “stop moaning, you’re top” a few weeks ago, “oh woe is me, you’re second, boohoo” now, and needless to say, probably “well you made top 4, stop whingeing” when the season is over.  Ole’s United tend to just do enough to ensure he stays in the job, whilst the team never really and truly progresses.  Sure, we can absolutely smash teams and normally in spells of 15-20 minutes or so (Southampton aside) we can be frightening.  These stat padding glimpses of brilliance, however, take away from what you witness the rest of the time.  A ponderous, overly defensive, slow, lethargic snoozefest and you cannot help but think that a squad containing Bruno, Cavani, Greenwood, Martial, Rashford, Pogba, VDB et al should be capable of much, much more.

Ole is a lucky manager (and that is not a criticism, who wouldn’t want a manager who seems to get the rub of the green a lot more often than not?) which can lead to statistics and tables being deceiving.  The table never lies, they say, well it is just now and most realistic United fans have been saying this for months.  There is only so long that you can see games being won or turned around based on getting the rub of the green: be it penalties (which although they’ve dried up a bit recently have been given to us in record numbers), Brighton hitting the woodwork 5 times and United getting a penalty after full time to win, surviving a West Ham onslaught only for the game to be changed when the ball seemingly goes out for a throw in and the refs miss it, 86 minutes of drab against Newcastle followed by 3 quickfire goals and a 4-1 convincing (!) win, the Fulham keeper dropping the ball to get us back in the game, the Everton keeper slipping on his line to give us a lead which we’d ultimately throw away, the list goes on.

We’re approaching the anniversary of our last open play goal against a “big 6” side, which given the attacking talent mentioned previously is appalling, so you can say we’re no good against the big boys.  Then we go to the relegation fodder where we scrape a win against Fulham, lose to Sheffield United and draw with a West Brom side who concede goals for fun, just not against United it seems.  An xG of 0.48 is grim against the worst defence in the league.

But in spite of all of the above, we’re sitting second in the table (for now) in a very peculiar season, but that being said we will probably be ten points behind City very soon.  That’s nowhere close to the leaders realistically.  So what direction are we going under Ole?  It’s actually been a baffling ride, you can see the capability when conditions are almost perfect for how he sets his team up, and we can be truly devastating, but the rest of the time we’re just abject and getting by.  But he retains a loyal base of people who cannot separate Ole the player from Ole the manager, and therefore their love is undying (and I get that).  But when you look at performance levels, United under Ole just don’t pass the “eye test”.  The recent run of form was a predictable as it was avoidable.  I can’t help but think under a proven manager who has been there and done it in a top league, who has a track record of implementing a clear style and direction in a top league, and who has a track record of getting the most out of a wealth of attacking talent that we’d be a lot closer to the leaders and making clear and real progress as a team.

I’m not even going to start on him spending £150m on the defence, almost always protecting them with 2 defensive midfielders, and conceding as many goals as Fulham and more than an error riddled Spurs defence because I’ll be here all day.
AngryDots

 

Who is too big to fail?
Youth. Courage. Success. Relentlessness. Belief.

You would be forgiven for thinking I am talking about many a club today. But for the longest period, these were words synonymous with Manchester United. A place that has accepted mediocrity, bereftness of ideas, and has allowed a malaise to seep through everything.

The management, the coaches, the players, the supporters, and the ex-players as pundits are all to blame to varying degrees. We criticize Madridistas when they jeer and moan, we look in awe at the ruthlessness of Bayern Munich when it comes to organizational strategy (at the expense of the league’s competitiveness at the top). I don’t even have to look that far and point at numerous examples in the English league of long-term planning and execution in the Top 8 and outside it.

It does not take a rocket scientist to see problems that have developed for years. Nor does it take one to see that some of the problems could have been avoided in the first place, or that some have an obvious fix -cough- football director -cough-.

There is little to no ruthlessness when it comes to putting teams away or dropping underperforming players. This is a team that has a good squad on paper but is at the same points tally as Leicester (not to say that they’re a bad team).

As we have seen with other football clubs, and businesses in other sectors: there is no such as too big to fail. The current and next generation of youngsters will grow supporting other teams. Those from Manchester might say that only the true fans will remain, but objectively, it’s those glory hunters that feed the commercial engine that the club built, and now needs, to cover its on the pitch failures.

I think the club would make an interesting case study for succession planning, and what NOT to do.

I love United, but it’s breaking my heart.
Edson

 

Championship winners should get Champions League berth
The issues at Manchester United go far deeper than what is visible to the outside world. I have supported the club for 52 years and what I have witnessed in the last 7 years has been nothing less than outrageous.

The issues are, in my opinion, caused by two things:

Number 1……   FIFA.     The only people in the world now who relishes their team winning the league is the fans, The Board, The CEO, the manager, the staff and the players are all geared up for finishing from fourth upwards. Champions League football is what clubs strive for and the revenue that it brings. That, ultimately is what will save Solksjaer. In my opinion if there are four slots available then give them to the following:
a).   THE WINNERS of the Premiership,
b),   THE WINNERS of the Championship. They will be a Premier league when the new season starts and the revenue they get even from the league stage would end the “yo-yo” effect we see all too often.
c).   THE WINNERS of the FA cup. This would give every team a fantastic opportunity to venture into a financial system that they could maybe only dream of.
d).   THE WINNERS of the league cup. For reasons stated in option c.

Number 2…….. When Manchester United were at their most formidable they were based on a solid back five….. Schmiecal, Irwin, Bruce, Pallister, Neville…… we lose Schmiecal and he is replaced with Van Der Sar.  We lose Irwin and he is replaced with Evra. We lose Bruce and Pallister and in walks Vidic and Ferdinand. We lose Van Der Sar and in come DeGea.
Etc etc etc

What we have now, and have had for at least five years is a team where you goalkeeper is “man of the match” week in week out.. This says one thing and one thing only……. WE HAVE NO DEFENCE.

I am 55 years of age and one or two stone overweight but McGuire and Lindleoft could not mark me for 90 minutes. They are not good enough.
Liverpool won the league mainly due to the purchase of one player……. A CENTRAL DEFENDER.

Wake up Woodward and smell the coffee…….. SECOND, THIRD OR FOURTH POSITION IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR THE FANS THAT PAY THEIR WAGES

Regards
Geoff Hunt

 

More passion, energy and emotion…
There are times on business when things aren’t going well that the manager needs to take a reality check on the teams. Nothing new in that as corporates have been doing it for years with blindingly great results. When I look at Man U I see a team with very little ambition to win with a few exceptions like Fernandes ,Cavani and McTomminay. How many times have we conceded a goal in the first few minutes , how many times do I see both Martial and Rashford with a glazed downbeat expression. The side needs to adopt a winning mentality that expresses it not in the media but on the field where the work rate is visibly consistent and for 90 minutes.

Does Solskjær have the right credentials to push that through I’m not sure he does and the way in which he sits in his chair for most of the matches supports that. I think strategically he is out of his depth which could be why he takes that approach or is that just his way of dealing with it? Certainly with over 50 years of business experience in managing teams they have responded well to a bit of fire and brimstone when needed!
Pete the red

 

A case for keeping Solskjaer
Man United do not need a new manager. Many of the players are under performing and overrated, and that is true for both ends of the field. They lack creativity in and/or around the box, they are not shooting and, therefore, not scoring. The defence is in shambles, error prone and poorly handle fast running forwards.  The need to sign a clinical finisher and a quality CB has been known since Sir Alex left. The other key reason to keep OGS is the unwillingness of the club to release funds and do so quickly. A ne Manager will have the same frustration. Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City act quickly to buy when they identify players they want. This assertion is clearly evident in the frustration  our post Sir Alex Managers had faced and consequently left. Sacking OGS will not change the poor results,acting quickly to sign identified players will. It is becoming increasingly imperative for United to spend on top players in the Summer. The club should refrain from signing players who come and sit on the bench or the bad results on the field would continue unabated.
Professor (Dr) David Achanfuo Yeboah

 

West Brom 1-1 Man Utd
Couple of thoughts regarding the United game yesterday.

As much as people won’t like to admit it, over the last few weeks Man United have been extremely unfortunate with VAR decisions – 2 x incorrect calls v Shef United, Maguire V Burnley, Fred non pen v Fulham & now Lindelof v West Brom. That’s probably cost us 5 points.

I do find it a bit bizarre this narrative that United have been the beneficiaries of VAR this season.  I get that everyone other than Man United fans absolutely hate them, but I’d expect at least a bit of balance from journalists.

I often wonder about the amount of articles that would be written if United got the offside decision that City got v Villa. Seemingly the Bruno pen v Villa last season is the one that opposition fans hold onto & judge us by.  Obviously that one was never in a million years a pen & I still cant see how VAR came to that decision.

On to the game, yeah it was a foul on Lindelöf, but the truth is, we started slow again & De Gea should have come to claim the cross.  His reluctance to leave his line is costing us on a regular basis now, as teams look to drop the ball into the area between the penalty spot & the 6 yard box knowing that he wont come & claim it.

Rashford & Martial don’t work together in the same team if starting on the wings, both slow the ball down too much giving the opposition chance to regroup.  Greenwood seems far more willing to take a man on or get an early cross in.  Ole should move Rashford back to the left & play Greenwood right for the next few games, this should hopefully give Cavani a bit more service.

Overall, really poor result & 4 points dropped in two games means the focus should now be solely on securing a top 4 finish.  We can then address the GK, defensive & right wing situation in the summer.

Final & most important point.  Imagine being Martial after the game. Yes he played poorly, but to then have to read racist comments directed at you is just awful.  The really sad part is that it was so predictable.

Everyone knows something has to be done, but social media firms aren’t going to act until it starts to affect their bottom line.  My suggestion would be that, in an act of solidarity, that all clubs & footballers come off all social platforms till the end of the season/until social platforms but in some meaningful protective measures against racist posts – classing the monkey emoji as a racist act would be a start.

This can’t go on, it has to be addressed & there has to be implications for these racist acts
Mike

 

 

Would you trust Ole in the transfer market considering his record?
Think Brendan Rodgers could actually do a fantastic job with this United team (something I never thought I’d say but credit where it’s due), but only if he brings along Ndidi or gets a better DM. Not to keep banging the Fred being shit drum (he really is), but when your slow, lumbering centre back is better at progressing the ball up the pitch that your so-called defensive midfielder you have a real problem. It’s not like he helps that much defensively either – he’s so easy to dribble past and I’m sure if you check the stats he’s not top 10 at interceptions either.

(This is Deeney on Fred btw. Watford got relegated and this is how little they thought of his abilities on the ball)

So that is the absolute key area United need to strengthen in, along with a top-quality centre half, and a right winger. We need a striker and someone to compete with AWB at right back, but we’ve scored a lot of goals this season, and strikers don’t come cheap, especially when you have so many other areas to improve.

My question is, is the double act of Woodward and Ole worth trusting with transfers? There’s this myth that Ole has bought well, but has he really? Of his signings so far we have 80m Maguire, 40m Donny who he doesn’t know how to use, and 35m on James and Telles who both haven’t shown enough yet. AWB cost 50m, and he’s improving, but once again, not an elite player yet. The only unmitigated success has been Bruno, and it’s evident he would’ve succeeded with or without the manager.

Ole isn’t totally to blame of course, he’s had players thrust on him by Woodward, and his first choices have either been too expensive (120m for Sancho is ridiculous in any market) or unavailable and that’s unfortunate, but he hasn’t worked wonders with the players he’s bought.

I’ll say the same thing as I did when Jose was in charge, you can’t just wait for new and better players, you have to improve the ones you have and find tactical solutions that mask the deficiencies of the weaker/dumber (we have A LOT of these) players in your team. Credit to Ole, he has led to improvements in individuals and the squad but changing formation every couple of games doesn’t make you a tactical genius, your team has to understand how to play the system – which United clearly don’t. It’s why they keep making the same errors every week, being caught out of position when defending, not being proactive, and being predictable in attack (give the ball to Bruno).
IP (Not even going to touch on his consistent selection of Lindelof and De Gea)

 

Where to start…
Can’t decide whether to slate the attack or defence so… I’ll start at the back.

Defensively we’re a catastrophe. Even for the WWE finish, as soon as West Brom are in our half Maguire sprints back on top of his goalkeeper, Lindelof has to go with him and the wing backs don’t have a clue what to do.

Because Maguire and Lindelof are so deep Dave doesn’t come for the cross. Yet at set pieces, Maguire is put in the same place between De Gea and the penalty spot every single time, usually with a forward on the near post so teams know we’re weakest there – cba evidencing this as it happens every week. And, now the Sky lot have decided Dave is out of form, opposition players get on top/molest him and we never think of putting a player anywhere nearby to intervene?

It’s boring to go at the individuals, we know Maguire has slow feet, Wan Bissaka can’t play football, Eric is a danger to himself and Victor can’t head a ball through an eye gouge… but Pep Guardiola’s merry band  of midgets beat us with two set pieces.

Oh – And THIS SHIT STILL HAPPENS WITH TWO HOLDING MIDFIELDERS AGAINST WEST BROM.

Can guarantee Bailly will come in, we’ll win a couple of easy games, get spanked, Lindelof comes back, win a couple…

Also really didn’t like Maguire’s little “Vic’s gotta do better” x20  interview.
When the same player ran at Harry he shat himself and jumped on the floor. Without De Gea he costs us that game, he was directly responsible for two goals last week.
If the squad are going to slate each other in the media then that prick deserves more than anyone. He’s awful.

Cheers
Simon MUFC

 

Talking about Willian
Willian – a topic of conversation in the (too) many Arsenal blogs but not really a talking point for the tv pundits. I’m surprised by this because the situation with Willian is rather weird and unusual. Can anyone remember such a talented, experienced player transferring clubs in the same league and having such a drop-off in performances? The worst I can think of is Torres when he moved to Chelsea but Willian is another level. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a worse player in an Arsenal shirt. He runs… but that’s pretty much it. His stats are so bad it’s bizarre.

I get why Arteta keeps playing him – he pushed to sign someone in his 30s for 3 years on big wages (£220kpw apparently) and so he’s desperate for him to be a success. Otherwise it will work out as a £34m mistake.

But why isn’t his absurdly huge drop-off talked about more? Are pundits worried to call it out for what it looks like? A player that signed his golden ticket and now lacks any motivation to actually perform?
Ben, London

 

A throwback to the Wenger days
Watching Arsenal against Leeds (who play a lovely entertaining brand of football, let’s get that out the way up top) with a three of Saka, Odegaard and Smith Rowe behind Aubameyang was a delightful throwback to ‘peak’ Wenger days (not best Wenger days) of the late 00s where a number of technical, smart passers with excellent movement buzz around a centre forward who need just time the right run or collect the right ball to be given a chance.

Before the game, Souness was saying he hasn’t bothered watching Arsenal and they don’t interest him (which, can we just flag is the laziest shite ever, stop hiring a man who doesn’t do basic legwork to watch a team he comments on multiple times a season, my god). Obviously I am biased as a fan (and I know other teams have gone on very interesting tactical journeys this season) but Arsenal really have been a fascinating watch simply for the mad variation in play, quality, formation and results this season and whilst it will probably not get a top 6 finish, it is at least interesting.

So the last 1/3 of this season really is going to be wild. We could finish 11th or 5th. We could burn out in the next week and half in Europa League or go all the way. But it’s fun to watch Arsenal again when they play well and chaotically varied when they play badly. Just like peak Wenger days.

Excellent.
Tom (I hate referee conspiracy chat, but Luiz red card followed by Saka penalty being overturned is simply farcical) Walthamstow

 

Thank you, Daniel…
A simple thank you to Daniel Storey for his comments on Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool in his winners and losers column today.

This Covid malarkey is really hard, and even though football is the most important of the least important things as football fans if our team is going through a tough spell that does make life seem worse, less charitable and less hopeful.

Allayed to this it sometimes seems like the only voices to be heard in football land are those that want to drag you down further, telling you your team are useless, your manager a fraud, your players overrated. And those voices never stop, as if their entire raison d’etre is just to make you feel bad, to spread hatred, lies and unhappiness.

But sometimes you just need to truth and a little bit of humanity to get you through and Daniel have me that today, in fact maybe enough to get me through the rest of the season so thank you Daniel. Life suddenly feels a little less bleak. And I know it’s only football but it still hurts when it hurts.

Thoughts with Jurgen, his family and all those who have lost loved ones to this terrible disease.
Dave LFC

 

Everton
It’s 4am here in Texas and it’s snowing….in southern Texas.  Can’t sleep so my first thought was to read Winners and Losers.  Go figure.

I felt Everton deserved to lead the losers column after that “performance.”  I’ve not seen us play like that poorly in awhile but let’s be clear, as bad as we were, Fulham were fantastic with Lookman clearly meeting the objective of “making Everton regret selling him.”  We couldn’t stop them from the off.

(Pause for attractive weather girl giving update)

Everton’s main issue is its mentality.  We’ll continue to have these types of games and continue our usual 8th place finishes until Ancelotti beats this out of us.  We can talk a good game.  But can we consistently play a good game?  The answer now is a resounding no.
TX Bill (City are gonna smash us Wednesday which means we’ll somehow find a way to draw) EFC

 

Mourinho and the break clause
Just read your article about Mourinho and a lack of a break clause.

So if Spurs do sack him, he may very well earn more money from being sacked as a manager than by actually managing!
Tim Royall GFC

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