“And he huffed and he puffed and he huffed and he puffed, and eventually he blew the house in.”
Narrator – The Three Little Pigs
WE all trudged home or switched off our streams in the wake of the weekend game with West Brom, and immediately on gauging the mood online, it was reassuring to see one or two of the wiser heads making suitably ‘wise’ comments. In amongst the ocean of blert-based panic, that is.
Watching the game, and seeing chance after chance, and save after save, and more of the now customary abuse of the Anfield woodwork, in amongst the despair and panic (the usual), a reassuring minority seemed to feel that there was a pattern to it all. And as an analyst, when you’re looking for solutions to your problems, it’s always nice when there’s a clear pattern you can get to grips with.
We have three clear issues to address.
2. Decision making in the build up.
3. Concentration (basic tasks and basic defensive common sense).
And guess what? They’re nice problems to have. Do you know why?
They’re not systemic.
Say we’d stuck with Roy Hodgson as our manager? We’d have retreated further into our new mode of football to the extent that what you saw today from West Bromwich Albion might have been all we had in our locker, save for a little more quality at our disposal in various positions. If that doesn’t frighten you, it should.
Set a low block and buy players who lack in both quality and pace, and you find yourself in a spot that, when you harbour ambitions of successful, let alone trophy-winning football, may take years to address (short of a Graham Carr style revamp of your first team squad). To win things, you have to be capable, at least when the big tests come, of imposing your game on the opposing side. When you’re passive and you’re timid – when your balance is tentative in any way – you’re sunk. Say goodbye to any notion of trophies for a few years.
It doesn’t matter if Kenny loses his job or gets the bump elsewhere in the summer – we should be thankful our playing squad has something approaching an offensive balance in its locker. Why? Because when the peripheral details aren’t quite right, they’re relatively easy to address. You don’t have to re-establish the whole thing from the ground up.
Slot in the right personnel in the midfield, and a side that seemingly makes stupid decisions and dissipates defensive pressure becomes something a little more relentless – a little less likely to relent. In that context, you build on the already cornucopic generation of chances, and ideally add to their quality. But most of all, you make life less and less easy for the defence in front of you. Wear them down, and the pressure tells. If we can add finishing prowess to that mix, we’ve truly struck upon a stucture we can build on.
People shouldn’t panic – the result could easily have been 4-1 in Liverpool’s favour today – and the fact we’ve all felt that way about the majority of games this season means something.
Stick with it, and integrate it, but most of all, prune and add quality.
The building blocks are almost in place – it’s not like the days when Rafa was scraping a Kromkamp in a swap for a Josemi – the squad is getting close.
It was a gutting result yesterday, there’s no hiding from it.
But the side’s not far off the right blend.