The Mailbox begins with a comparison between Liverpool managers and ends quite miserably really with talk of pitch invasions and racism.
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Liverpool’s greatest managers countdown
Jurgen Klopp becoming the first Liverpool manager to win all four trophies is a genuinely surprising statistic and it does sort of beg the question as to where he sits in the all-time Liverpool pantheon. Happily – for us – we have some very successful managers to rank and while such a list is inevitably highly subjective, I don’t think the end result is ridiculously controversial.
5) Joe Fagan – I struggled a little with this, considering he only managed us for two seasons. But the first involved winning a League / League Cup / European Cup treble – possibly our greatest ever season before this one. And the second would have involved retaining the European Cup without the horrors of Heysel during the final.
4) Kenny Dalglish – Our greatest ever player is also our first and only manager to win the Double. A Double that we came very close to repeating a good few times in the rest of the decade. Europe only remained unconquered because of the ban – the team he built was phenomenal to watch, playing beautiful, attacking football.
3) Jurgen Klopp – Our first league title in three decades gains him seriously major points obviously and 3 Champions League finals in 5 years – including one potential and one actual victory – is an incredible record. This season has been the first he’s taken the domestic cups seriously and he’s won them both. All of this while playing wonderful football would have been good enough, but he’s such an inspiring, amazing character that he’ll be literally impossible to replace when he eventually (in the very distant future ) leaves. He’ll need a few more Leagues to overtake the man in second, but it’s very far from impossible. You wouldn’t want to be the guy who replaces Klopp at all, even if your name was Steven.
2) Bob Paisley – This is very tricky as his record is insanely good, possibly the greatest in British football history. Lots of League cups, heaps of League titles and 3 European Cups is damn near impossible to beat. If he boasted about himself as much as his contemporary Brian Clough, perhaps he wouldn’t remain the ridiculously underrated character he still is. Even in this list. No-one will ever win as much in such a short period of time as Bob Paisley and he even managed to follow the man who came in first and not be subsumed by his legend.
1) Bill Shankly – But Shanks was something else. Liverpool became the club they still are because of Bill Shankly. Everything else is built on his shoulders, he was a messianic figure who remains the single most inspirational character in our history. He won the League, he won the FA Cup when it still mattered as much as anything else and only fell short in Europe due to typical Italian bought off refereeing corruption. Anyone who ever played for him had an amazing story or ten to tell about the man and he created the legendary Boot Room that contained 2 other managers from this list. You can’t say enough good things about what he did for us.
And in an absolutely crazy quirk of footballing fate, Bill Shankly came from the same tiny Scottish part of the world that produced Jock Stein and Matt Busby – arguably the two greatest figures in Celtic and Manchester United history.
In the history of Liverpool FC, everyone else walks in his shadow.
What’s harder to win?
So the spin begins. Pep is out again saying that’s it’s harder to win the league than the Champions League. It’s easy but I can’t do it Pep states over and over again, oh yeah that makes perfect sense, but is he right?
The spin goes that there are more games in the league and therefore it is harder. It ignores the fact that as the strongest team in the league most of those teams are significantly worse than you.
The Champions League is by definition a higher standard. Pep has claimed that it is a lottery. It is not.
In the Champions League you to pit your wits against a higher standard of opposition, against serial winners and champions, the best coaches and players in Europe and therefore the world.
If Pep was right Champions league victories would be plentiful. They obviously aren’t, they are rare and rightly celebrated above all other club trophies. All the major clubs have won at best a quarter to a third the amount of champions league ad domestic leagues. Man Utd only 3/20. Man City SFA.
I admire Pep as a coach but guiding the richest most powerful club in the land to the title while admirable is not the same as winning the champions league.
Since leaving Barca he has taken the richest and most powerful club in a country and created devastating flat track bullies but like all bullies when someone of similar stature stands up to his teams in Europe they crumble, and the excuse is always ready.
Winning the league is a great achievement for City especially against Klopps Liverpool but harder than the Champions league? Common sense, logic and the numbers would suggest that is a load of twaddle Pep.
Celebrate your victory by all means but own your failure too, because that is what you are in Europe Pep, a failure.
The data is (re)analysed
This is half a response for Calum, MUFC, Wokingham…
He seems a bit upset that his analysis got criticised but, with all due respect, it’s not very strong analysis and using statistics poorly to draw incorrect conclusions isn’t really factual analysis as he suggests. It also doesn’t matter what his job may or may not be but to suggest football can be simplified to a few key statistics simply doesn’t work because it’s not like cricket or baseball where there is a series of single shot instances as opposed to a continuous flowing game. He’s trying to apply Bill James style analysis to football but without the mathematical rigour.
Let’s think about Diogo Jota for a second. His scoring record at Wolves was ok and he was scoring 1 goal every 3 games. Since joining Liverpool he’s been scoring 1 in 2. If the Liverpool analysts had looked only at his goal scoring rate then they wouldn’t have signed him but they probably bashed their heads together and saw a few things that us mere mortals miss. They probably worried more about what he did with the ball when he got it rather than worrying about the gross number of goals he really scored which makes sense because Liverpool create more chances to score than Wolves so you can’t really assess it solely based on simple numbers. If Wolves play a whole game defensively and create once chance which Jota scores that’s quite good, even if Harry Kane gets 20 chances the other end and scores three in the same game.
In the same respect it’s a bit over simplified to try and judge Trent’s defensive ability based solely on his individual numbers. He follows a coaches instructions about his own positioning and the majority of goals scored in football aren’t the result of a clear individual error so to suggest he’s a great or awful defender based on how many tackles/clearances he makes is just an overly simple take on football in general.
I don’t really know if Trent is or isn’t a great defender and, frankly, I don’t care. What I do know is that he fits our system and the way we play perfectly. If you don’t fancy him and don’t want him in your team I am totally good with that.
…Calum, I would imagine that you were said to have claimed to be a data analysis because (a) that’s all any reader can say, not stalking you in real life, and (b) you made the typical basic mistakes that people who don’t understand how statistics work make.
There’s a well known phrase in maths and computer science: Garbage in, garbage out.
You were looking at garbage stats, and thus produced garbage conclusions.
Data analysis isn’t about raw number crunching. Anyone can boot up a website with football stats and see what number position a given footballer holds in a given list of statistics. It’s about understanding the numbers that you are crunching, and using them in context to give a more informed position on a greater whole.
If ‘tackles made’ could tell you anything about the ability of a defender on their own, then the only good defender would be one that plays for a side battling relegation. Some of the very best defenders in history have described making a challenge as meaning that they have failed – essentially because good reading of the game means that you will rarely have to make a challenge (particularly sliding tackles). Wait… MUFC… data analysis… Aaron Wan Bissaka… you weren’t one of the scouting team that thought he was the best full back around, were you?!
Whilst the mail you were responding to wasn’t exactly chock-a-block of stats being used correctly (they weren’t), at least they were trying to compare like with like – players who play in teams with similar styles (lots of the ball, high press, etc.).
I’m not saying you aren’t a data analyst. Presumably you are. But that being the case, you clearly don’t understand the relevant contexts of football statistics. Stats are really, really easy to use out of their proper context, both intentionally and accidentally. Thus, the phrase: Lies, damn lies, and statistics. That’s what you are doing here.
And yes, I do have a relevant background in mathematics, for what it is worth.
Just to respond to Lampard apologists… in an objective fashion.
Nothing against Lampard, don’t like him particularly much (Liverpool arrogance you’re having a laff), but don’t hate him either.
His track record is one unblemished successful run of …. maintaining the status quo. Through any challenges or changes. The archetypal status quo manager.
And some of his squads have been loaded.
Everton are free to stick with Lampard for as long as they wish to maintain their status quo!
Does the Premier League want Burnley gone?
As I have no real dog in the fight I thought I would offer you my thoughts on Burnley, looking at their last two games it seems to me Burnley fans could feel aggrieved at their treatment by the Premier League and officials. Starting with the penalty in the Spurs game, my lord if that was a penalty then god help the rest of us, then on to last night’s game Burnley have a player harshly sent off and denied a penalty which was more blatant than the Spurs claim. I have taken these two games as a microcosm of what has happened to Burnley throughout the season it seems the Premier League would rather have Everton (£370m loses in 3 years swept under the carpet) and Leeds (Historically big club) than little old Burnley in the League next season. I may sound like a conspiracy nut to some but its all there for you too see if you care to look, Burnley have had some terribly harsh treatment throughout the season that smacks of more than just incompetence.
Paul Murphy, Manchester
Penalty shoot-out suggestions ahoy
One thing that has always puzzled me with penalty shootouts is why we rotate round all 11 players – including the keeper – for taking penalties, but the best player at saving them is in goal for them all. It’s a team game, surely it would be fairer (and way more tactical and potentially hilarious) if you had to rotate both positions until everyone has had a go at both.
Imagine the tactics – you’d have to submit your order for both to the ref and it cannot be changed – presumably you would want to put your keeper up against their weakest of the first 5, but will that be the 5th taker, or are they switching the order round. If you had a spare sub et the end of the game, you could bring a second keeper on even.
…Surely the solution to penalty shootouts is just to play next goal wins
Always worked out ok on the school field.
…I think golden goal is the best way to settle a game in extra time. However, if it goes to penalties, forget about nominating takers.
Instead, give each team’s manager / head coach 5 penalties each. To make it even better, both managers also play keeper for the shootout.
Tension and hilarity. Everyone’s a winner-except the side that loses, but you see my point.
…I could not agree more and less that we must end the lottery of shoot-outs.
We need to get rid of penalty shoot outs, but the method suggested IMO seems cruel and artificial.
What you want to do is increase the chances of breaking the draw and deciding a game whilst at the same time changing the game as little as possible. That is the objectives and tactics of the game should remain as unchanged as possible, so making it more likely that the best football team wins, which is the fairest result.
I have had an idea of how to do this for a long time now and I can’t find a fault with it.
Whilst your idea is to take players off, my idea is to effectively make the goals bigger, virtually not physically. I call my idea “The closest goal scoring attempt” or CGSA or Nearest goal of near goal.
1. After ET, if the scores are level, the team that has come closest to scoring without scoring wins (a sequence of play cannot result in a “near goal” and a goal). I haven’t decided if this should cover normal time as well as ET or just ET. If it was just ET, each qualifying goal scoring attempt could be shown to the crowd in real time.
2. Because (barring tied near goals) only the closest goal scoring attempt or near goal counts, it is never in the interests of either team to attempt to score a “near goal” in preference to a goal. In other words a team cannot be multiple near goals up on another.
3. Shots over the crossbar, that don’t touch the crossbar, don’t count as the goalkeepers or defenders don’t have as much chance of saving them as a shot which, if it had been on target or wide, could easily be prevented from being a goal or near goal by the defending side.
4. If one team is short sided ( due to a sending off in the first half ) they are allowed to use a substitute (or perhaps a player substituted after the sending off) to make the sides even. This is optional, but it allows for a team to tactically play for ET. I make the distinction between 1st half sendings off and 2nd half sendings off, because the team has been disadvantaged for longer, I might allow 2nd half sendings off to be equalised after 45min, so a player sent off in the 60th minute could be subbed for in the second half of ET for example. But this is not the essential part of my idea, but it would make ET something to look forward to and not dread.
It is that simple, however the detail is how to determine what is the closest to a goal. My suggestion is:
1. Own goals do not count, so the last touch should be off an attacker not a defender. This allows a defender or a goalkeeper to clear or deflect the ball wide, without worrying if they come close to scoring a near goal.
2. If both teams have hit the woodwork, then the winning goal will be the ball which was closest from either crossbar of post to the aperture of the goal.
3. If neither side have it the woodwork, the winning goal will be the ball that has completely crossed the goal line closest to the post (not the crossbar). There might be a maximum qualifying distance, (20cm?) above which it doesn’t count. So if neither side get the ball within the maximum qualifying distance, it will have to go to penalties. Also there may be some threshold for a tie (1cm) for example if team A’s closest effort is 3.4 cm from the post and team B’s is 4.3, it could be tied and the next closest effort for each side is compared.
In my mind this encourages both teams to try to score at all times during ET (at least) and the team that comes closest to doing that will win unless a real goal is scored. I am convinced this will interfere with the tactics and objectives as minimally as possible and make a result more likely. This could be done very accurately and efficiently with existing goal line technology – with maybe some slight adaptions and VAR to check for the last touch, Obviously if team A shaves or hit the post in ET, they might decided they have the winning near goal and get defensive, but this could be a big mistake as if team B score a real goal they will be behind, So a team who have hit the woodwork in ET will be advised to continue to score a goal until quite late on.
If you think the idea has merit, and would like to campaign for a rule change. I would like to claim credit and any benefits accrued to it, if possible.
Why are they suddenly a lottery?
Why do penalties only become a ‘lottery’ after extra time? Fairly sure that during a game, when a penalty is given, no-one has ever said ‘Shame he didn’t get a shot off, this is such a lottery’ We all think it’s a nailed on goal.
I know that shoot outs need a min of 5 takers but all teams have at least 3-4 players that would fight each other to be the main penalty taker and I should hope that the others have practiced a couple of times so why the sudden change in attitude?
Martin, LFC (granted when it gets to the keepers..)
Two wrongs don’t make a right
Tom Reed’s piece is the classic slight of hand trick frequently adopted to deflect blame from one group of people onto another group of people based on the other group doing something equally as bad or perhaps even worse.
‘Hey! Why be angry at the football fans headbutting football players when you can be angry at the financial behemoths exploiting the whole of football.’
There is of course justifiable reason to be angry at the commercialisation of football. Its escalating season tickets and subscription services. The extortionate wages and greedy agents. All of these things rather soils the beautiful game, but despite what Johnny Nic might have you believe, it is perhaps not the only thing which should concern us.
In fact, some would say there are myriad issues within the game and ignoring one, just because it is not the preeminent issue, is illogical and simply guarantee’s it will continue to blight the game or even escalate to a more significant problem.
And that’s the issue here, isn’t it? People have always run on the pitch to celebrate and it didn’t always seem to cause such consternation. That sudden concern stems from an alarming change in the attitude of people running onto the pitch. Instead of celebrating with their fans and players at what they have achieved, it’s now an excuse to abuse/attack/insult a celebrity football player or manager. And this violence is then broadcast all around the world.
But what’s that you say? ‘They can’t invade what they already own’.
Everybody can take a breath. Panic over. Good spot, Tom. They aren’t technically invading. They’re just running on the pitch and attacking people or waving two fingers an inch from the eye of a rival manager*. Good point, well made. Why be concerned about this violence, this new risk for football players and their support staff when Coca Cola gets two hundred corporate tickets for the Champions League…
*It goes without saying Pat shouldn’t have booted him. Regardless of whether the guy was being a douche.
It’s all about the ‘gram
There’s been a lot of discussion, including at F365 Towers, about pitch invasions of late, and the moral right and wrongs and what it says about fan culture.
The thing I haven’t heard discussed, but struck me immediately upon seeing the footage from Goodison, is that nearly every pitch invader is filming what they’re doing. They’re all, pretty much to a man, phone-in-hand and filming.
A pitch invasion used to be the manifestation of either the very pinnacle or the very depth of emotion one feels following one’s club; but is it now just a facsimile of that emotion with the real intent of saying “look at me, I was there” to one’s 427 Insta followers?
The invention of the internet, now in its ubiquity through the smartphone, has changed everything, including fan culture and probably, by extension, pitch invasions.
Lewis, Busby Way
How much lower can it go?
With each passing week I am becoming less of a football fan. Perhaps that is because I am now in my early 40s and I see the world differently than I used to. I actually even cancelled my Sky subscription at the start of the season, a move that I haven’t regretted for a second. The tipping point for me was the Super League debacle last year. It wasn’t so much that this was the inevitable culmination of the fans being put last and money being put first. It was more Sky and Gary Nevilles’ reactions – hitching their skirts up claiming that money was ruining football. Hypocrisy of the highest order since they started it all.
It’s been whilst following some of the press coverage of football stories this week that has led me to think how much lower can the game sink? It’s almost like the game and the media coverage of it can’t see the wood for the trees of the moral vacuum it has now become.
Blackpool player Jake Daniels “bravely” coming out? Why should that be brave? Because in 2022 a huge number of football fans see shouting homophobic abuse as acceptable and the game turns a blind eye. One 17-year-old lad is willing to stand up to these morons where nobody else has ever been willing to. Absolutely disgraceful that it is down to someone so young to do this and all football fans should be ashamed of this fact.
Everton Fans racially abuse Brentford players family at a match? A tiny minority, nothing to do with that toxicity at the heart of the sport at all.
Forest fan invades the pitch and headbutts Billy Sharpe leaving him with stitches. Isolated incident, nothing to do with the toxicity of the sport.
Everton fans (again) invade the pitch abusing Vieira who reacts. Isolated incident, not a reflection of the fans or the sport. Pitch invasions are fine apparently.
Saudi Arabian owners make Newcastle third kit the same as their national kit despite the connotations. Move along, nothing to see here because they’re loaded. Gary Neville is an ambassador for the manufacturer by the way – I’m sure he’s fine with that one.
I could go on but I won’t. Take it from me, the game is not going from strength to strength, it’s sinking into its own cesspit. And you don’t need to keep watching, it’s pretty easy to cancel it all and claim your lives back, you will feel so much cleaner not funding it.
And really, what else is there to see? We have now seen proof that Vieira is harder than Keane.
Good luck Lawro
With all the furore over the concluding games of the season, an end of an era is happening but largely unnoticed. This weekend is Mark Lawrenson’s last ever Premier League predictions for the BBC.
Now I understand he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I’ve always been a big fan. He gets a lot of predictions wrong of course! However, as he said himself, if he was better at them he’d be sunbathing in Barbados by now.
One of his more famous predictions is having Liverpool on an undefeated 159 game streak. Although they only lost 16 times so he wasn’t so far off!
For me, Mark Lawrenson’s predictions herald the weekend. It’s among the first sign that the football is about to start and I can’t fail to get excited about the games that’s going to be played.
So I wish Lawrenson all the best for his retirement. I’m fairly sure all our predictions are just as random as his!
Peter, somewhere in Namibia