CONTROL. Control’s fascinating. We’ve fetishised control. I’ve fetishised control. Run a football match and everything will follow. Liverpool today took control. They chose control. A lovely shape in the first half out of possession. Allen and Henderson not just ahead of Gerrard but, out of possession both were ahead of Sterling and Coutinho.
We’ve been here before. Football is massively about choices. The choices made by the managers before and during and the choices made by players during it. They are all good players but they have their choices to make, though they’ll have been educated and programmed during the week.
Liverpool chose control when so often last season they seemed to eschew it in favour of chaos, in favour of tidal waves of red. So often. Southampton away, United away, maybe not. But mostly a noticeable difference. Including in the corresponding fixture last season.
What this does to the contest is turn it less from fencing into something more like sumo wrestling. Two strong forces, waiting for a mistake rather than speed looking to constantly penetrate. (I recognise I have probably just patronised both these sports).
It’s difficult to see many of these players in the context of control. Coutinho, Sturridge and Gerrard all struggled in different senses. Coutinho looked a player shorn of options. Choices limited by choices. Sturridge looked a man imprisoned outside the game, sacrificed at the alter of control. Gerrard’s left not probing, not winning, holding on toast. It doesn’t suit him and out of possession he seemed very much out of sorts. Rushian recently pointed out to me on Twitter Gerrard has started the last two seasons slowly. It may not be a luxury we have. He’s not plugging holes.
Currently to my left I hear talk of small details. I know there is talk of fine margins. Gary Neville at half time “You don’t get many chances in games like this.”
The realm of fine margins is something Liverpool rocketed out of, exploded out of, last season. Fine margins were everyone else’s business. Wide margins were ours.
Prior, tonight felt like a free game to me. It felt like a game which was a bonus if you stop City from winning and the jackpot if you win. What control does is change your mind after 30. Matt next to me said he’d have loved a point before a ball kicked but…, but… And then…
It remains a free game. And there’s no evidence whatsoever that any change in approach would have seen a better result. Or that there aren’t fine margins between these approaches. And so.
And so. Moreno is poor for the opener. He’ll learn and otherwise impressed. The second is a goal taking the piss out of the choices we’ve made, everyone in the wrong position bar Johnson who then can’t do what he should perhaps still have a chance of doing. The third’s dreadful from the new signing and worse from the goalkeeper. Lambert should unleash at 3-1 and it is very concerning he doesn’t. The weight of the shirt.
The shirt isn’t heavy. It really isn’t. Last year those lads cut a swathe and the shirt was light. The approach made the shirt lighter. The grey bearded call, the reasonable call for more sanity, for more sense weighs the shirt down. If Liverpool become a sumo wrestler they’ll find themselves against lads bigger, stronger and wiser.
Last season Manchester City were sensible and sane. They accrued more points than anybody else and scored a load of goals in doing it. Liverpool aren’t going to suddenly do it better. I’ve fetishised control. I was wrong. I was wrong.
No backward steps. Seriously. No backward steps.
Pics: David Rawcliffe
Nailed it Neil.
I should have chosen to stop reading after the first sentence…
At a risk of sounding like a 70s comic, this is a genuine conversation:
I said to the Mrs the other day, “You know you can get vagina deodorant!”
She replied, “What are you trying to tell me”.
I agree with the second person. What a load of tosh. “I should have chosen to stop reading after the first sentence…”
Shackles came off at 3-0, and the team looked liberated. Moreno opened his legs, Sturridge was getting more meaningful touches in increasingly dangerous areas. Before this, two much of the play was safe and fearful. Fearful of what City may do to us, instead of what we could inflict on them. Sure, as a team, you should be weary of this City side (and what their bench can do, too), but we level the gulf in buying-power, experience and greater number of match winners that the likes of City and Chelsea possess, by playing crazy, in your face, “fuck off” football. It’s what brought success last year and hopefully it will be present against Spurs, in what could be a “laying down a marker” game. Manquillo in for the lame (in all senses) Johnson, more time on the pitch for Markovic, mad Mario rocking up and Lallana (maybe) and option, the ties loosened and we’ve got ourselves a pivotal, season defining game once again at the Lane. Defining in terms of the playing style going forward, rather than deciding our final league table position. A mad bastard style of play and regardless of the result, I’ll be happier. More of this “control” limiting nonsense, and I’ll be mildly concerned. Still, not many will get a bean at the Eithad this season and I’m still drooling at our squad, it’s youthful age, it’s immense talent and it’s limitless potential. We had subs that made a difference today (Aspas, who?!) . I’m still chipper. By the way, how piss poor were those City fans? Mute, but for singing knobhead songs about our players. And that leaving early shite when winning 3-0, really yanks my chain. Bathe in the glory of beating a rival, rub it in, glorify it, let everyone know about it. Don’t just sod off to your car so you can listen to ballbags on Talksport radio giving it what for and the chance to make it home early, for a quick one off the palm to some tart on Babestation, before getting your head down for work in the morning. That league title meant fuck all to them, it did really! Expected better from City fans, I did really. By and large they’re sound…for Mancs. Let’s see Brendan’s tricky reds at Spurs, not this muted half arsed mockery.
Quite possibly the best paragraph I’ve read all day. I too share your enthusiasm for the squad we have put together this season. If The vast improvement of Sterling Is something to go on over the last 2 seasons, it proves Rodgers management of our new youthful players such as Markovic and even the 24 year old super mario will be something to savour. But I agree, the game at the lane will be one where the lads will need to release the shackles a bit and trust in the quick passing style and clinical finishing of yerster season to put a statement out to the league that we’re to be feared this season even without our 30 goal and 12 assist Man Suarez.
We don’t look like a team…that needs to change swiftish really. Quick setting concrete comes to mind.
It was always going to take some time and can’t be rushed. We just got a bit screwed by the FA’s “automated” fixture selector to have all these tough games at the start.
Absolutely. Liverpool can’t go toe to toe with the sumo wrestlers of this league. I hope BR goes back to the diamond with two up top. Disappointed to have lost, but encouraged by the stretches of the game Liverpool controlled. Its still August. We will be okay….
It’s only our 2nd game of of season and we lost away at the champions.
Overall at what I saw Iam very optimistic of the season ahead with some near and tidy passing just lacking that killer pass which will come .
Plus we are still 3 points better after playing the same fixtures last year
Not a single mention of Lovren being at fault in each of the three goals. Pathetic positioning on all three. He’s been at fault in all 4 goals we’ve conceded this season. Dreadful stuff.
And 8 fools vote him as our best player! HAHAHAHAHA
“The third’s dreadful from the new signing…”
Did we watch the same game ? Lovren and Mignolet at fault for the 3rd, Gerrard let Silva go for the first and then Moreno is sleep walking and the 2nd was a good move but again it wasn’t just Lovren at fault.
Yeah, I have no idea what you are on about here. Sure the third (although he won’t be the last defender who Aguero does that to this season), but there was nothing wrong with the knock down to Moreno in the lead up to the first except he hand’t realised yet that Moreno doesn’t have a right foot. It was also excellent anticipation and power by Jovetic (I had been quietly hoping that Neil’s prediction of Jovetic being the last signing after the City game would come true but that looks unlikely now to say the least). I can’t even begin to think about what you are talking about for the second, again it was a good bit of play by Jovetic but he shouldn’t have been afforded that much space for the back heel flick and someone needed to track his run to the back post, both not Lovren’s fault. (same for last week, no tracking of runners into the box).
We’re all disappointed but there’s still positives to take out of the game. We looked pretty good for the first 40 minutes, at the home of the champions. There were some excellent flashes from Moreno and Markovich, with Coutinho and Sterling again reminding us of their talents. Let’s not forget 2 out of 4 in the defense are brand new and haven’t trained with the rest for long (Lovren didn’t make the US tour in July).
And before Moreno gets torn to pieces, let’s bear in mind that for the second game running, Gerrard didn’t track the runner in the build up.
The bottom line is this, however, if we continue to have such a soft centre, we’re toast this season.
Our young, naïve defence were schooled by some of the best attacking footballers in the world. Other than that, and the gut wrenchingly bad performance of Glen Johnson, we put up a decent fight tonight.
Adebayor and Soldado don’t frighten me. But I’m sure the prospect of a smarting Liverpool, led by Sturridge and Sterling, waiting to unleash Balotelli will be worrying Spurs quite a lot. It’s early days. I’m calm.
Great article Neil,
Last night reminded me of a match under Roy Evans, we had the ball, but we kept on going down the middle doing impossible little passes to people marked by 3 good defenders. At no point did it feel like we were going to score. We created half chances and made the best of them. When we did score itwas a surprise
Last year it felt like everytime we had the ball we were going to score. Hopefully Mario will fill the void because it looks like our players are looking to give it to Luis and he not there anymore and we don’t know what plan B looks like yet in the final third.
Until the goal I thought we looked better at the back then after the goal everybody remembered that we are not good at defending yet.
Half the defence is new and one of the old guard is simply past it to put it nicely,
Hopefully it will get better with games and the defending amnesia will be slowly remedied,
On another note is anyone very worried about Emre Cans lack of mobility??
The boy simply cannot run or turn.
Football matches between two really good sides – and make no mistake, these are two of the three best sides in the country – hinge on tiny moments. Anyone’s game for 40 minutes. LFC arguably the better side. Mix up between the two new lads playing at the back, Moreno brain fade, multimillion pound attacking talent nips in to seize the moment.
After that, we struggled. Who wouldn’t at 1-0 down and chasing the game at the Etihad? Two things about the second goal that killed the game:
1 – City worked out that they could leave Johnson alone and let him just give the ball away. Silva and Nasri doubled up in the inside right channel, where Coutinho wasn’t having his best game, let’s say.
2 – We didn’t need to chase it as much as we did at 1-0. We could – should – have kept plugging away like in the first half and seen what chances fell our way. Opting for Chaosball just seemed needless in this situation.
Ultimately, we were closer than the scoreline suggested. Lambert should just bury it at 3-1 but seemed reticent. Then it’s 10 minutes of madness.
Anyways, still 3 points better off than last season…
Maybe this team needs to do some sumo before they try out the fencing thingy,
We played worse in some of our victories at the start of last season
than we did in last nights defeat,
First goals change everything in these games…usually anyway. We blinked first, even though we played with a great maturity for the first 35-40 minutes.
But, most teams will lose there so you can brush the result off quite easily. As long as we are more water tight and more creative vs Spurs on Sunday. Big test.
My thoughts exactly
Good piece Neil, but until Jordan Henderson stops constantly playing with his back to goal (70% of his time spend on the ball he could turn and push forward but never does) we won’t win these games. At important times in the match it’s down to him and he can’t do it. I hope he learns to, I’m a big fan of everything else he does and if he learns to then he will be on course to being a monster of a midfielder. If you don’t believe me watch back that game or watch him in the next game, he’ll do the same.
Brilliant piece Neil, you’ve nailed exactly what was happening last night especially the nuances between chaos and control. The MOM ballot highlights the players who benefitted from this approach and those [the majority?] who just didn’t.
Despite it all we had chances to leave there with at least a draw, City were clinical where it counted, we squandered so much. We were in “control” for the majority of the first half and maybe a little less trickiness and more simplicity in that final third would have produced the goal we needed and deserved before half time, but is that what we want to see? In the end we did neither, we were sort of in-between chaos and control at times, chaos that brought so much last season.
I would have taken the draw before the game, along with a few lessons learnt. Well we have the latter but also a tremendous amount of promise with the new signings. It’s probably better to make those mistakes now in the 2nd game of the season against the champions and learn from them rather than away to Hull later in the season.
Now on Sunday, do we try and “control” free-flowing Spurs or go head-head and choose chaos? I know what we did last year!
It was death by numbers, for me. City just had the edge everywhere. Every contested run, header, tackle, whatever, it was just like flipping a bent coin that comes down one their side 55% of the time and 45% on ours. They are really going to take some stopping. The truth is that we are just in the early phase of what will probably be remembered as the Manchester City era. Manchester United are being destroyed by it. Our owners deserve credit for at least making us competitive, at this time.
Johnson should never play for us again though, after that. We score a goal and had a fantastic chance of a second, immediately after that. We suddenly had an outside chance of fighting back for a draw. Not much of a chance, but maybe 10-15% if had kept the momentum up.
Johnson gets injured, decides he’s had enough and takes an early shower – even though we have no subs left. The starkness of his betrayal is masked by the sheer banality of the act, but we should not be fooled into thinking that it was anything else.
With Balotelli coming in, we just cannot have players with that sort of attitude around the first team. If an easy option is available to Mario, he will probably take it. If Johnson is allowed to get away with that, then it increases the likelihood that Mario will follow suit when the chips are down. He might still do that anyway, but its vital that he’s amongst players who will all fight to the end – even if that means hobbling through the last few minutes of a game and risking worsening the injury, when the tie is as important as this one.
That was probably the defining moment of Johnson’s career, last night. I would rather we put a full-back on the pitch that we knew wasn’t as gifted as Johnson, so long as he had courage and the will to win at all costs.
Jesus, what is everyone’s problem with Johnson? Sure he may not be in the best of form but I didn’t see anything warranting the torrent of abuse he is been getting. Where did he let us down for any of the goals, don’t you think it is telling that City targeted our left side? Accusing Johnson of not playing on when he is injured is just mad, he would be more of a liability than a help if he can’t run.
Liverpool should make one more signing before the window closes, and his name is Steve Clarke. Yes, BR would have to cede a little of his control, but that man did wonders for our defence. Bring him back in!
He had a fit and in the form of his career Lucas covering in front of the back four though didn’t he?
True. But I think Hendo could do that job. He’s the best presser we’ve got.
In my opinion, Hendo is much better deployed where he is now so he can press on the front foot and use his legs to cover a lot of open ground. What we need from a defensive midfielder is someone with good positional sense who can spot dangerous situations developing and close down the space/angles.
And Song is available on a free from Barcelona. Good option to strengthen def-midfield.
I think everyone needs to take a big deep breath. There is no shame in losing to City at the Etihad at this stage of the season when we are stilling working out our combinations. Sure it puts a small dent early on in our title aspirations but it was just the luck of the draw to get them this early. They have a ridiculous squad full of quality players all over the park, in particular I thought their defense was rock solid. Maybe Balotelli could have helped, but our long term plan is to buy young players and let them grow and knit together into a team that will start to peak at the same time City’s and Chelsea’s are on the wane (if FFP ever truly kicks in).
It is kind of obvious with hindsight, but the chaos of last season was down to Suarez, or more accurately, Suarez made the chaos of last season the “pragmatic” way to win. Suarez is a force of nature and to try and tame him does just not work as all his discipline goes out the window when the games get tight and his overpowering urge to win kicks in (the same too for Gerrard to a lesser extent). So instead of fighting this, Rodgers embraced it and set the team up to play exciting expansive football in the knowledge that when it comes to a shoot out we were holding the bigger guns. This season, the equation has shifted slightly and the pragmatic way to win is probably not going to be the thrilling chaos of last season. It was an amazing season, one to write books about and tell tales of to your grandchildren and I still can’t believe that we didn’t win it as it seemed written in the stars, but I think we need to let it go and embrace the salsa dancing Rodgers is going for this season instead of pining for the disco boogie of last year (although if Balotelli turns up ready to play then maybe the equation will shift again).
The only problem with this is that Rodgers needs to pull another inspired bit of management to fit Gerrard back into the team again. In the full-frontal attack of last year his long balls played into our fearsome front-line outweighed his lack of experience/legs playing the deepest lying midfielder. However, if we are going to be a bit more cagey this season then the equation may well shift against him. I don’t have any answers, but I still think back to the Allen/Lucas/Henderson midfield that took it right up to City and blew away Tottenham last season and wonder.
By the way, your analogy is terrible, have you never seen sumo? Those guys are incredibly fast and straight at each others throats. If anything you have it round backwards as there are no backward steps in sumo unlike in fencing (you should really watch some sumo as it is pretty incredible to see how balanced and quick these huge guys are!).
Moreno blew the clearance because, like Riise, and Coates, he only has one foot for football, and one for standing on. That needs to change.
Yeah, opposing teams are going to be onto it very quick. I didn’t think anyone could be as one-sided as Enrique but that Moreno didn’t even want to use his right foot to hoof it clear is a bit of a worry in an otherwise quite impressive debut.
We have had a clear need of a competent defence coach for a few seasons, this has to be an urgent appointment and need to sort it sooner than later. Neil, have a think about your future articles, your previous one have been great but please don’t do the comparative stuff again especially with Sumo. As to the game, we looked uncertain in final third as no Suarez to go crashing through defences, he was equally creative as destructive going forward and with the current squad we don’t have this and may settle in the dust to where we are……..in the top 6.
So,that’s it then?Game over?Load of dunces Can’t kick a ball to save their lives?
What shall we do now?
I know;let’s all go and find somebody else to watch.
I might be a bit thick but I saw some good play out there.Just a little more momentum and a bit of one or two players getting used to who goes for which ball and who stays back.
But maybe you’re right.The season’s over before it’s begun!
Lovren and others seemed to be pulled out of position at times because SG was giving up the center.Choices begat choices