The modern day Liverpool supporter is not unlike Private Joker in Full Metal Jacket. Born to fight for the collective cause, but with a peace sign on the side of his helmet. We want Liverpool to grow, and to win, and to dominate, but we’re not so sure we want to go through what it takes to make that happen.
It’s an unfortunate metaphor, maybe, but there’s no escaping it right now. We might not be aware of it, but we have a difficult decision to make. A cold hard dillemma to address. There’s no easy choice, and both options will involve sacrifice, patience and pain.
What we saw yesterday was one symptom of a game that’s founded on collective belief. When you hear Brendan Rodgers talk about the game, you hear that kind of rhetoric a lot, don’t you?
“I like my players to show their character, and their belief, and their charisma, and their imagination, and I want them to be brave on the ball, and I’ll fight for my life for…”
OK, so I lapsed into a little B-Rod Bingo at the end there, but it’s true, isn’t it? If you’re building a game based on ‘tiki-taka’, or ‘pass and move’, or ‘circulation football’ – whatever you call it – the ability to make the play is going to wholly depend on your belief as a group that you can pull it off. The belief that you can do it yourself, and that when you give your team mates the ball, they can do it too.
That’s why the Barca coaches insist on them warming up using the Rondo, the Rondo, the Rondo, talking of it as the barometer of their mood before any given tie. If the pre-match Rondo is tight, light-hearted, quick, sharp, and full of energy and audacity, then all is well with their world. Their team is replete with confidence, and each team member believes in his team mates, trusting them with the ball. If it’s not working well, on the other hand…
Building that belief generally takes time, graft, and a fair wind. It’s impossible without support. But here we are just after our third competitive game of the season, and many fans are wringing their hands, while prominent media figures are drawing all sorts of definitive conclusions about the so-called inadequacies of Rodgers’ work to date. Hansen wants the centre halves to launch it, counter-intuitively enough. The Sunday Supplement boys feel the defence is all at sea. Yeah, so much so that we’ve had to fight off megabucks bids from Manchester City for two of them. The team lacks heart, the team lacks fight, the same old same old finishing problem, the ‘glaring need for a striker’.
It’s all cobblers. It barely even matters which players we end up with. OK, it would have been nice had we nicked Sahin, because in terms of collective confidence, the squad needs as many archetypal midfield cogs for the Rodgers mechanism as it can reasonably muster – all upgrades are welcome. But even then, given time, the game plan will bed in, and the level of fundamental belief will grow. It takes commitment and patience, but with time consistent levels of performance will come, and they’ll come as a by-product of the group’s collective belief, integration, and empathy. Things that will grow. But only with sustenance and time.
Barca’s rondo has tended to work very well for most of the last few seasons, hasn’t it? It’s taken time and investment, as well as patience. Of course their starting point and the resources at their disposal were somewhat different when they started out under Guardiola; but the point stands. with time their belief grew. Even when the wheels came off from time to time, they played and played, passing from the back when under pressure (that’s right Alan Hansen, even when you might not have done), even when having a man sent off, even away from home against Hiddink’s Chelsea in the dying seconds of a European Cup semi 2nd leg.
It’s why little old Rodgers, with his side 1-0 down to Man Utd at home in the early part of last season, asked them at half time if they’d swapped their shirts with the big stars in the other side yet, because if they had, maybe they could get back to playing their own game again. If you don’t believe in your right to do it yet, you need a jolt to remind you of it.
When the wheels come off, a playmaking style of game can really take a knock, because suddenly you’re looking around and you don’t feel secure in the knowledge that your team mate’s gonna do what he should with the ball. Things go wrong. Wondergoals fly in. Referees make questionable decisions. Bewildered stares abound. And it takes a little reassurance and calm to restore order.
So be calm. Rest assured it’ll come. Allen has shown what he will add. He’s a wonderful little player. Lucas is almost back fully fit.
Do you love your football club?
Then how ‘bout getting with the program? Why don’t you jump on the team and come on in for the big win?