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SOMETHING’S BREWING

by Roy Henderson // 7 April 2014 // 4 Comments

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THE England rugby squad that won the World Cup in 2003 had a team shout they used at pressure moments in games. Eventually it grew and became second nature for them, but early on, they’d all say, “TCUP”. It stood for “Think Correctly Under Pressure”.

Football - FA Premier League - West Ham United FC v Liverpool FC

When the pressure’s on in big sporting tests, you see, and when fine margins decide ties, the ability to stay calm and think about a. what the problem is, and b. how to solve it, is often what sets teams aside. The first time they realised it was working was an away game in a howling gale against the All Blacks. They’d had two men sent off, with ten minutes to go, and they were penned in their own defensive third, with set piece after set piece putting on the squeeze, layering on the pressure. They won.

Later, they reached a world cup final, turning two games from scary half time deficits on the way, and played the home side on their own turf plus a partisan referee who ruled almost everything he could in the Aussies’ favour in the final. They won. When it came to the crunch, they were able to think correctly under pressure.

The point of all this? Liverpool are starting to do that.

In the space of two weeks, we’ve seen two pretty shocking refereeing performances (Sunderland, West Ham) where the side’s been given plenty of excuses to roll over and accept its fate. Plenty of scope for the players to feel sorry for themselves. Plenty of chances to deflect responsibility from themselves, and to blame others for their inability to solve the problems in front of them.

At Upton Park, Steve Peters was clearly visible in the tunnel before kick off again. But while we never saw him again in the flesh, he was just as visible when the boys came out again after half time. Rodgers brought on Lucas, calm settled over the side and its approach, and once again, they solved the problems in front of them.

At the end of the game, Gerrard said, “I think if you go back a couple of years, you would have found a side that would have felt sorry for themselves and sulked and that would have affected them in the second half. But the manager was fantastic – he told us to forget about it and that there was nothing we could change.”

Football - FA Premier League - West Ham United FC v Liverpool FC

He was right. That’s pure Steve Peters, and that’s thinking correctly under pressure. They put the incident behind them and collectively moved on. When you nail that ability, it’s a special, rare quality – the kind the early 80s side boasted maybe more than any other domestic side in history. They went to Rome, where they paid off referees, and they won the European Cup in their house.

We’re starting to show that quality. I say ‘starting to’. It’ll take time to develop. But the side’s really starting to show patience and calculation when it matters.

West Ham did the one thing that’s thrown Liverpool more than anything else in recent times. They discarded all notion of actual Association Football and wholly ceded the midfield in favour of players who could lob a floated ball into the six yard box or thereabouts, and others who could throw limb and body in the general direction of the ball. Australian Rules Football. But we dealt with it. We’re increasingly able to deal with it, and with anything else we’re faced with. We have a problem, and we think, and we solve it, be it via calm and patient precision and skill, or a blitzkrieg of power and physicality.

Forget the league for a minute. That’s a foundation that’ll carry us to challenge after challenge in the coming seasons if the club does the right things around it.

Pics: David Rawcliffe / Propaganda

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4 Comments

  1. We seem to be learning something new about this team on a weekly basis. This week we learned they can adapt to any style, last week we learned we can handle pressure, Prior to that we saw 2 games against Sunderland and Cardiff that would probably have ended in a defeat and a draw in other seasons. Sometimes I think it hasn’t really hit me how good this team is. If it was City or Chelsea I’d be saying they’re untouchable. I’m intrigued enough about this season but I can’t help wondering how our play / results will pan out next season. The football we play, alone, should answer that question but I feel it’s our mentality that makes me confident that we can improve even more. I just hope all the other teams don’t jump on the bandwagon and hire Steve Peters. It’s clearly benefiting the players and the team.

    • Am reasonably certain he has a non-compete clause in his contract. When he was signed up to work with England in the summer they said something about “Liverpool giving permission”. Hopefully Dr Peters is with us for a long time!

      The change in mentality is everything to this club. It’s what separated Man Utd from the rest during their dominant period. It’s knowing you are going to win and if you don’t not dwelling on it. Compare that to 2 years ago when Suarez wouldn’t setup a team mate because he didn’t trust them to score, or Gerrard would try to do everything for everyone and it’s an amazing turnaround.

      The other key aspect is how we approach big games. You sense that we turn up seeing 3 points and ignoring who we are playing. The media and the fans big up games against our closest rivals, but the best thing the players can do is treat it as any other game that they have to win. That’s how they approached Man U, Arsenal etc.

  2. It’ll become a trend, most likely, but it doesn’t really matter – he’ll be happy working with a group of people that buy into his approach, and the staff will learn to apply it as if it’s second nature. I reckon so anyway Robin.

  3. I don’t quite buy in to this “solving a problem” idea. It sort of suggests that the team is a thinking entity when, in fact, it’s a collection of thinking individuals. The “team” cannot solve anything. It’s the individuals in the team that react to their current situation and the result flows on from that.

    What appears to be happening is that there is a growing confidence in the players that they can cope with what’s in front of them. No doubt Steve Peters is using his “Chimp” metaphor to help each player to ignore the negative thoughts and to give of their best.

    Long may it continue.

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