POST-Arsenal, heads had gone. Everywhere I looked, heads had gone.
Not quite everywhere. Everywhere’s harsh. And the madness has been tempered slightly by victory at Blackburn. But one of the ways you know heads have gone is because Paul Tomkins writes something very sensible about how heads shouldn’t go, about how hard it is to be Liverpool and how hard it is to genuinely compete in a recurring manner for Liverpool and has been since around 2005.
Paul’s right. He is very right. It’s really hard.
What happens is Paul writes something and because we all comment on the same events I tend to then write something which references Paul as I like his work and think it is important but then puts a bit of a rallying cry on and argues we should reject failure and push for success. Yeah? Yeah. Nah. Not this time.
We need to embrace failure. Only one man wins the 100m at the Olympics. Only one side wins the league.
We need to make failure our friend. We need to acknowledge that we will fail over and over and over again. In all aspects of what Liverpool FC do, we need to acknowledge that to compete is to fail.
But we need to be crystal clear — we should never fail to compete.
There’s an idea around, one very popular among Liverpool supporters; a hangover from a reality which appeared midway through the previous decade. It appears Liverpool made this idea club policy in the summer gone. It is this:
You can play for and plan for a top four finish and not genuinely try to win the league — not try to genuinely compete. This is now almost certainly wrong, if it was ever right.
Last season, in among all of our excitement, we missed the fact that while Manchester City won the league with 86 points. Arsenal came fourth with 79. If Arsenal had won at Anfield and the Etihad they would have had 85 while Liverpool and City would have had 81 and 83 respectively. In short, two different results from all the games played last season would have (theoretically) flipped Arsenal from fourth to first.
This season currently three sides are going along at more than two points per game. The other is Manchester City, the reigning champions with a ton of good players, who are going at 1.96 points per game. Two points per game with a surge somewhere is potential title-winning form. Season before last Arsenal came fourth with 73 points. To feel certain you are going to be a top four side for the next few seasons you are going to have to average out at the pace that is the springboard for a title challenge.
Playing for the top four is over. The logical thing to now do is to try to win the whole bloody thing; aim for a title challenge. It’s purer. Cleaner. And it has the added convenience of being reality.
So that has to be the mindset. In the face of everything Paul argues, that has to be the mindset because without it Liverpool won’t be able to compete. Circumstances dictate it is the only viable mindset left. It has to inform every decision Liverpool make at all levels of the football club. There is no gentle progression to that mindset, no staged process with marker points along the way. No five-year plans, not now. They are a luxury of a bygone age.
It should inform every decision. Every day, every decision has to be a championship decision. Every day we have to strive for excellence. Every day. Every game we go to we have to support these players like potential champions. If we can’t think of them like champions elect, like the ultimate success is just around the corner, then it never will be and nor will its consolation prize be.
And therefore we have to set ourselves up to fail. Because most, if not all, seasons we will fail. Most, if not all, seasons, however we go about this, we will fall short. Our skin needs to be thicker. Our heads need to not go.
Only one man wins the 100m at the Olympics. Only one side wins the league. But the second fastest man in the world is still dead fast. And he still competed. He still tried to be the fastest man in the world. He woke up one morning and decided that he was going to try to be the fastest man in the world and he devoted everything to that aim. He still had the adventure of trying to be the fastest man in the world.
The first way you compete is that you decide — every day — that you are going to compete. Competition is self-selective but, as Paul argues, it is harder for Liverpool than for those other sides we are competing with because we cannot have their depth and quality combined at this stage. For us to compete at the level we need to be at, we need to make hard choices.
Take our approach to other competitions. If we decide to challenge — genuinely challenge, challenge as a life choice — then we need to sacrifice the other competitions we compete in while we remain at the disadvantage Paul describes. We need to, as a football club, make a difficult decision: We need to decide that we aren’t going to take the League Cup, the FA Cup and the Europa League seriously.
Or rather, that they are almost exclusively for our young players. We need to acknowledge that all of our energy and focus goes into 38 games, our playing style goes into 38 games, our entire approach is dominated by 38 games; 38 cup finals.
This doesn’t need to be a negative decision. The League Cup run in 2004-5 was a fantastic adventure and the Europa League was hugely useful in Rodgers’s first season in terms of getting young players time on the pitch. But it does need to be made and made openly and definitively. And therefore tickets for those games should be markedly priced accordingly.
On Monday Tony Evans wrote an excellent, fair-minded piece in The Times in which he references me and my argument that I would rather win a league game 12-0 than win the League Cup:
“A friend who is a child of the beautiful game dreams about his team winning 12-0. He believes that it would be better than winning a trophy; certainly more pleasurable than a plain, dull League Cup final. “It would be lovely,” he said.”
Tony is a scamp. What underpins my desire to win a league game 12-0 over a League Cup is most definitely not about the beautiful game, but instead about setting down a marker of sheer dominance and absolute threat against the poorer sides in the league and putting the absolute fear of God into them and their peers before they come to Anfield. It’s about goal difference — practically worth four points, not three — and confidence and swagger. It’s about a ton of things before we get to beauty.
This goes further than just the League Cup and even a conversation around team selections and rotation. Look at Arsenal. Let’s all laugh at Arsenal as they go out of the European Cup in the last 16 again. There are many reasons why this happens but one key underlying reason is that Arsenal have set a squad and a season-long approach around doing as well as they can domestically.
They have built a football philosophy around getting results against the Premier League’s bottom 13 sides. This finds itself too easily dismantled when they come up against Europe’s elite. But they have made a decision where and how they must be able to compete when Chelsea, City and United’s pockets are far deeper.
Decisions like these are ones that need to be made and, from our point of view, they need to be made against the backdrop of “Liverpool FC exists to win trophies”, a quote often attributed to Bill Shankly but one which I think comes from David Moores. If it was Shankly then surely he’d have taken the League Cup a bit more seriously himself.
Regardless, the decision to challenge, not to aim for top four, but to challenge for the title over everything else, to try and win the title, to compete, at the cost of everything else, including that mantra, needs to be communicated not by the manager but by those above him. A decision needs to be made that everything falls away and we focus only on our bread and butter with the express notion of winning it.
That’s a dream which can be sold. The aim is winning the league. Nothing else, just that. The people who run Liverpool can push that dream and if they can be seen to commit to it then the supporters will come with them. But decide as a collective we are now committed to only one thing. Genuinely competing for the title. Then act accordingly. Plan accordingly. Acknowledge we’ll fail much more often than we succeed. Acknowledge we will have to make unorthodox and perhaps even unpopular decisions. Acknowledge that Paul is right, that it is dead hard and there is no easy solution but sell the dream, talk the talk and do so repeatedly.
There’s this notion, and it happens as soon as heads go, that the solution, whether easy or otherwise, is perfection or as near as dammit in the transfer market. That if only we never made a signing that failed, got all of our signings right last summer or the summer before, nailed the net spend, whatever, that if we just did that bit then we’d be flying.
Transfers are the bit of running a football club almost everyone who doesn’t work in football is convinced they could do. Everyone thinks they can spot a player. Everyone thinks they can see value. Everyone has a hobby horse. Very few of us seriously think we could run a creative, engaging coaching drill for elite footballers. But we’ve got transfers nailed. Why haven’t they got transfers nailed?
We’re kidding ourselves.
Transfers fail. It’s what they do. Every football professional has made bad buys. Some succeed. Some fail. We can obviously be better at it, every side in the country can be better at it as well. Everyone is striving to be better at it, but it is isn’t easy. Where we’ve gone wrong, what the issues Paul outlines tell us, is that we have less room to be bad at it than our rivals. We need to be closer to perfect than our rivals. They find it easier to absorb their failures both financially and in an in-game sense. They come from a starting point of more money and more good players. Someone fails they feel the impact less than we do.
And so Liverpool strive for perfection. They strive for value. They try to buy today for tomorrow but need players today as well. And so, because in some deep sense we know they need perfection and value we watch on, our heads going, our tempers fraying, because they cannot reach perfection. Because we can see that the players aren’t quite as good as we need them to be now and may never be and surely that was obvious all along. Who is buying these players? Can we sack somebody?
The act of transferring footballers is human. It is done by humans to humans. It is flawed. Humans are flawed. It is difficult to predict how individuals will react when they move, difficult to have certainty about how they will fit, into a playing style, a dressing room, a city. When Paul hits with the reality that only 40 per cent of transfers can be deemed a success it should be a warning, not a target to match or surpass.
Lots of transfers don’t work. Ways Liverpool can compete? Write this on the backs of all our hands. Lots of transfers don’t work. So plan for failure. Mitigate at all stages.
Plan for the fact they fail in two ways. The first is to plan for the fact that they fail by not taking flyers where you don’t have to. Look at players in your squad and wonder about the value of not keeping them happy or trying to improve upon them. I suspect we are on the cusp of a summer where the future of both Raheem Sterling and Lucas Leiva are discussed in quite different ways. The former wants a big deal but could command a large fee which could perhaps replace him with two or three players around as good. The latter will be discussed as someone who can be “easily” improved upon. And so we can easily think:
“Sell Sterling and Leiva and replace them with Depay and Pjanic and change and we will be well better.”
We can think that. It is a reasonable point of view, we could do it and it could prove to be correct. But before we do anything we should always remember tons of transfers just don’t work. For reasons that sometimes defy explanation, they just don’t work. We might buy Pjanic and loads of people who think he’s good might be proven right or might be proven wrong. Realistically, he is good. He is really good. But is he worth the risk? The risk of the money, the risk of shipping Lucas out? And would he make that much of a difference? At the moment we have a sure thing and so how great is the potential benefit of any change to our side? Moreno looks to me to be an empirically better left back than Cissokho and Flanagan with a higher ceiling than both. But what’s the benefit been in real terms? The fewer transfers you make, the less likely you are to make a mistake in the market.
Which leads us on to the second way we should start to plan for failure in the market. But a word of warning — our editor Gareth asked me to write about this but he said “don’t bang on about goals”.
This is the bit where I bang on about goals.
Two ex-players. Michael Owen. Dirk Kuyt. Michael Owen looked born to score goals. He made it look like second nature from the minute he arrived on the scene at Liverpool. As a 17-year-old he made goalscoring look like the easiest thing in the world. All the goals. Except when he came back from injury. Then he’d often have patches where he couldn’t get going. Didn’t matter who partnered him, what a manager did, he’d struggle. Then suddenly, he’d look pure Michael Owen.
Dirk Kuyt arrived having scored 20 in Holland. Looking the part. But he never looked natural as a goalscorer at Anfield, never looked like a Michael Owen despite scoring poachers’ goals. And he’d come alive in tight games, play the percentages, show composure. Didn’t matter what a manager did with him, who he played with, he was stuck being Dirk Kuyt in front of goal for better or worse.
Two very different players, two clear sets of strengths and weaknesses, two insoluble problems for coaches, two clear assets. Goalscorers are football’s eternal mystery.
In attack, the act of getting the ball between the sticks, managers are at their least effective. Managers can do loads once a player crosses the white line. They can do loads in preparing a side. But goalscoring is where the nearest thing to magic happens. Raheem Sterling versus Manchester United, Raheem Sterling versus Bournemouth. All Brendan Rodgers can do is set his side up to create the chances for the lad. Four days between these games and presentable chances are taken in two very different ways.
Manager can set sides up to be attacking. They can set sides up to be defensive. They can be good managers, bad managers, somewhere in-between managers. But goalscorers are goalscorers. You can help them, help young players, find circumstances, show patience, but you struggle to just create them. You buy them or they emerge. At whatever level you are, however you approach the game you need goals on the pitch. Brendan Rodgers is a far more attacking manager than Gerard Houllier. Yet Houllier’s treble winning side scored 127 goals across all competitions, scoring 77 league goals. Fowler, Owen, Heskey, Litmanen. Goalscorers, one and all. And in turn that helps the players behind them. Gerrard, Murphy, Barmby, Smicer, Berger. Goals on the pitch.
There’s a maxim. Buy cheap, buy twice. We love that around Liverpool in the transfer market. Well when you have the clear issue Liverpool have in comparison to the budget of their rivals, combined with the transfer market issues outlined above, the maxim should be “buy expensive, buy twice.” Plan for the failure in advance. To ensure you have goals, overcommit on attackers because you will invariably fail.
If that means you need to make do and mend on other areas of the pitch, use loanees, use young players, use limited footballers, do it. Make compromises everywhere else. But make sure you have the most firepower in the country. In attack you tend to get what you pay for and if you want to compete, if you need to compete, you need to do so with goals on the pitch. To consistently compete, this league, this time, you can’t compromise on it. Tevez, Rooney, Ronaldo and Berbatov versus Torres, half a Robbie Keane and N’Gog. A wonder they came as close as they did 08-09.
Before any other transfer business is done at Anfield, every summer, there should be a checklist. Have we boxed the goals off? However we approach games, have we boxed the goals off? If not, we keep working, trying, failing until we are done and until we have four strikers with goals. Another good thing about buying goals is that you can always find a way to sell goals. Actual football teams were prepared to pay eight figures for Fabio Borini last summer.
If you always have goals and movement and threat, you terrify the bottom 13. They are scared of you. You can play poorly and find a way. You can be mostly average but goals can save the day. Not always, as Manchester City are currently finding out. Nothing is a panacea, nothing at all — it is football after all — but with goals you can genuinely compete. Without them you’ll struggle to do more than cope.
What we need to engage with is what we are doing is changing reality, fighting against logic. Logically, the Tomkins argument holds. The house always wins because its pockets are far deeper and the game is rigged. We need to be a bit mad, we need to be cracked in some way. We need to be delusional and not accede to reality and instead strive to create our own. I’m suspicious of established, long held thought around football in this context. The football club needs to have key personnel who don’t want to be the same as everyone else and play to the same rules as everyone else both on and off the pitch. Because if we do the house will always win. Only by being radical can Liverpool compete.
In short the football club needs its peers to think it very unorthodox, on and off the pitch. This is difficult in any industry, certainly in any industry with huge weight of media around it, because it puts careers on the line — still now look at how collectively unpopular Rafa Benitez is in most circles including elements of our own support, and he wasn’t even that radical a football man, just portrayed as one.
To be radical requires an effort of will. It is an effort of will because the forces of convention never stop banging on the door and they take every opportunity to do so when you weaken. When you fail. Look at the Champions, whoever they are. Just do what they do. If you don’t then who do you think you are? How will you ever be Champions if you aren’t like the Champions? “Brendan Rodgers thinks he is a good manager and Liverpool a good team but look how many goals they conceded? You can never…”
You need to be brave and stand against forces of convention. When you are up against people whose budgets dwarf yours you need to find your own way to play the game, the whole game. Not their version-lite.
Whatever that is — and I can talk more about goals if you want — it comes back to the choice. If you want to compete right now as Liverpool Football Club are you prepared to risk everything? Are we prepared to risk everything? Are we prepared to fail, are we prepared to sometimes go badly wrong, are we prepared to forgive mistakes as part of a greater course, are we prepared to acknowledge the reality Tomkins writes about while committing wholeheartedly to smashing that reality?
Paul’s right. It’s dead hard. Dead, dead hard. So we can accept that it is hard and be timid and be fifth or we can strike out with purpose.
All I want is Liverpool Football Club to roll its sleeves up and commit wholeheartedly to chronic failure, to consistent, crushing disappointment. That’s genuine competition. Nothing else will do.
Read: Mamadou Sakho: What’s the problem?
Read: Liverpool: Who is in the director’s chair?
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda-Photo/PA Images
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Neil, I’m a convert! Loved that article – I hope it (as well as Paul’s) finds a way to Rodgers, Ayre and Henry. Ferguson knew this all too well and I think it was one of the biggest reasons he was successful for so long.
If we blow our entire transfer budget on 2 forwards (we’ve got Origi coming in as well obviously) I’ll be over the moon. There’s also a lot of top attacking talent out there at the moment as well (including Depay, Lacazette, Vietto, Anderson, Firmino, Dybala, Ings (?!)) – the ‘top clubs’ can’t buy them all!
Great work mate
Wholeheartedly agree that our single mentality should be winning the league. Every decision we make from top to bottom in the club should centre around winning the league. Every time we enter a new season or transfer window the sole focus should be “what do we need to do here to win the league”!
As a fan I would be extremely happy if we adopted this approach because at the min it feels like the club makes decisions based on where we are roughly right now. Fuck that!
If we don’t win then at least I know we’ve fucking tried and if you finish 2/3/4th then in practical terms that leaves you in the CL with finances that go along with that and the ability to attract a better calibre of player. Having those finances and that attractiveness then gives you a better platform the following year to challenge for the title again. And so on.
We don’t have to win the title for me to be happy as a fan (I’d be fucking ecstatic) but challenging for it on a consistent basis would suffice. It’s only then we will actually win it some day. Nobody’s came from consistently being 5/6/7th to winning the title. That’s not how it works!! I suppose that why I’m so fucking disappointed with this season.
On the goals thing. Yes goals wins games. Wins leagues as we nearly saw last season. Nearly. We still need to have a solid platform in order to get those goals. I believe we lost the league last yr because of our defensive record. We scored bucketloads and still list it. But we also conceded bucketloads. We’re not gonna score many more goals than we did last season but we can sure as shit not concede as many.
Don’t get me wrong. We should priortise our money on goal scorers but don’t neglect the defence. It is possible to strike a balance.
Loved this post. I just hope the club adopts this mentality because I feel all to often the hierarchy are just settling!
Look, I completely agree about the goals thing but I feel earlier in the piece you miss the point, as do many others, when you go on about the importance of top 4.
I want Liverpool to win the league. It’s what I live for. If I’m being realistic I won’t back us to win it any time soon. We need to build still. Tomkins is right in his appraisal about where we are and the consequences of being where we are. To use Arsenal as an example as everyone seems to do is wrong in my opinion. They’re a club who seem content to finish 4th.
If Liverpool win the FA Cup and come 5th then it’s great for one day but long term it means nothing. For people like me who put finishing fourth before an FA Cup win it’s because, like you, I aim higher. It’s all about winning the league for me too.
I look at it in 2 ways. Firstly, and most importantly, like I say we’re not that close to winning the league. We need a sustained run of finishing in the top 4. That way, and here’s the point, we can attract better players. With FFP now firmly in force we can get more money by being in the CL which again can be used to buy better players. Without top 4 we’re just gambling, as is everyone, but we’re gambling in a tougher market trying to spot potential earlier than others. 40% of our transfers will certainly fail but Chelsea and Utd will have a lower failure rate. Secondly, and this may sound contradictory to my belief of where we’re at currently, but the gap between 1st and 4th is not that great as the Arsenal winning 2 more games scenario shows.
So, for me, it’s not about finishing fourth and feeling content as Arsenal do. It’s about Liverpool building, getting better players by being an attractive team to play for. Once we’ve got these better players and finish in the top 4 regularly the league will follow. Anyone firmly established in the top 4 can win the league including Arsenal. Finish outside the top 4 and it becomes a distant dream.
To summarise, I’m not content with 4th place, far from it, but until we do that regularly then we’ll be this disadvantaged team Tomkins talks about. We’ll find it harder to buy these goals you talk about and ultimately we’ll find it harder to win the league. I’m not even content to win the league last season and finish 5th this season. I think we should be more successful than Chelsea and City. Once we get to their level then I’ll be expecting us to compete in all competitions as Chelsea do, until then an FA Cup is nice for the day but I’m thinking long term. To get to where I want us to be we need to take the next step which is consistent top 4 finishes which is why I’d take fourth over the FA Cup any day. Admittedly, it’s a slightly different point to your overall point but please don’t assume we want 4th place because we like being in the CL and that’s it. There’s a far bigger picture.
**Apologies, there’s a bit of repetition in this comment but I’m coming on top at work and have to think and write quickly to avoid people knowing I’m spending my days messing about on here. I think you’ll get the point though. Top 4 is everything but winning the league is the ultimate goal. They go hand in hand.
From where I’m sitting, you’re making the exact same point as Neil in the article. Aim for the league title, year after year. Yes, we will fail year after year, but eventually (and, as you point out, with the help of the wealth and attractiveness to players that come from finishing top 4) we just might do it.
Well, I may have to re-read it but at a quick glance I thought Neil was saying don’t aim for top 4, aim for the league. I’m saying aim for top 4 and the league will follow. Fuck it, maybe I am making the same point. I just don’t like this criticism of aiming for top 4. It’s part of the building process towards the ultimate goal.
My thing is there is *no point* aiming for the top four. If you need 76 points, if you can get 76 points then you are three results away from 85. Last season’s champions currently 4th going at effectively 2 points a game.
Back when Rafa could 3rd with 68 then there’s value with this argument. But now you might as well try and come first.
Thanks as ever for the comments to you and everyone.
Considering we came so close to winning the league last year when we had basically nothing to aim for but the league, then there could be method in your madness.
But if we went three or four years in a row getting knocked out early in cups, or embarrassed again in Europe, and still didn’t win the league then I think fans would become even more frustrated.
Hmmmmm. I really enjoyed this article, I love the enthusiasm, and for the most part I agree with the sentiments. But…
I don’t think most of what’s suggested is practical. For example:
– Is it even permissible to play obviously weakened teams in the League Cup, FA Cup and Europa League? I agree that at least two of those three should be sacrificed each year in favour of the Premier League, at least until we have the money and squad to compete in all competitions, but I don’t know if we’re allowed to. Certainly punishments are meted out if you field a weakened team in the Premier League.
– Rightly or wrongly, managers are judged primarily on the silverware they win. I happen to think that this is mostly the fault of the press and is wilfully ignorant of the fact that football has changed and these days coming 4th in the Premier League is not only more beneficial to a club but also more difficult than winning a trophy, especially a domestic one. But the fact remains that if a manager goes season after season without winning a trophy, the press get on his back, the pressure grows, he’s increasingly labelled as a failure. Just look at Arsene Wenger before last year’s FA success. It takes a VERY strong, sensible board to ignore all the criticism of their manager in the press and buy into his prioritisation of the league.
– Buying twice as many strikers or attacking players as you think you need to mitigate for more than half of them being a flop seems like a logical plan mathematically, but it’s not as simple as that. Even if you’ve got six world-class strikers, probably only three can play at a time, at most. So how do you know which three to play? The best three, you say. The ones who have shown themselves to fall into the bracket of successful transfers, whilst the other three ‘failures’ sit on the bench and wait to be sold on. But how do you know that one of those ‘failures’ wouldn’t be your star striker, given a run in the team? Do you drop your 15-goal-a-season striker for a 5-goal-a-season striker in the hope that the latter proves to be a 25-goal-a-season striker? It’s rare for a striker to come into a new team and hit the ground running, immediately performing to his full potential. So how do you determine which of your plethora of strikers are the successes? And, whilst you’re figuring it out, how do you keep those that aren’t getting played happy enough to stick around?
– As Paul has also pointed out, scoring goals doesn’t guarantee you anything. You can always concede more than you score. But keeping clean sheets guarantees you points. If you don’t concede, you’re going to at least get a point from a game.
All of those things said, I’d love to see us forget about the cups for a few seasons, go for broke in the league, see how far we can go, smash goals in for fun, and give Brendan some kind of reassurance that, barring relegation, the job is his for x years regardless, since we’re trying something bold and new and it may fail before it succeeds.
This article is spot on. It couldn’t be more spot on. #WTRWWAW
Great article Neil, and so was Paul’s. The only thing I think is worth mentioning in addition is that although Rodgers has previously stated he wants this summer to have smaller movement than last summer and largely I agree with that, I think we are underestimating how many senior players (whether good or bad) are likely to leave. A quick glance at the squad and it would not be surprising if the following left: Gerrard, Johnson, Enrique, Lambert, Coates, Manquillo, Toure, Lucas, Borini, Mario, Jones, Alberto and Aspas. I really hope Toure and Lucas stay but lots of rumours that with Rodgers seemingly happy to let Lucas go last season that he is ready to move this summer regardless of playing time and Toure has been on record saying he wants to play more. I could see Manquillo staying another season, particularly if we move back to 4 at the back. The point I’m making is this leaves us with a very young team and possibly less strength in depth compared to this season, which Rodgers has pointed towards as a development on previous seasons. Mind you, it would be fine to have a smaller, higher quality squad if like you suggest, we concentrated on the league.
The flip side is that this frees up wages and creates opportunities for others. I personally would love to see Rodgers adopt a 6 new players to the 1st team squad approach each year (on average dependant on need), 2 or 3 1st team starters bought in expected to immediately go into the first 11 , 2 players returning from loan to be in the squad, play cup games and be first cover (the likes of Wisdom, Teixeira), and 2 players into the squad from the U21s who we highlight during pre-season as being part of the 1st team set up for the next season (e.g. Rossiter and Williams). We can also have the flexible approach of players being promoted from Melwood throughout the season. Clearly this will be based around what positions we need players in but seems a healthier way forward both financially but also from a progression within. Would be an advert for the loan system as well rather than traditionally it being a sign that a player hasn’t made the grade (Ibe as a rare exception). As I tend to say to my mates every year, a big summer ahead!
I just don’t see why competing in the league and winning cups have to be mutually exclusive. What’s the point of it all if we’re not going to try and win things. If that’s going to be the mentality of this club then maybe supporting football isn’t for me anymore. I just want to see us win trophies don’t care if it’s the league or the league cup just win something
Another fantastic article and I agree with Neil’s sentiment. Goals are crucial and whilst we can make improvements on our defending (as we’ve seen since mid-December), if we haven’t got that extra gear from knowing you’ve got goals on the pitch / bench, you’re always a mistake away from dropping points in winnable matches.
The critical part is buying a guarantee of goals. I heard an interesting interview with Damian Commolli during the January transfer window on News Talk’s ‘Off the Ball’ programme, where he talked about how some clubs assess the worth of goals scored from other leagues in comparison to the EPL. He gave a couple of examples and the ratio by which the goals in each league are compared. For example, the ratio for the Eredivisie is 10:1 but La Liga is 1:1. He didn’t name the clubs that use it in the EPL, but given his role at Spurs and Liverpool, I could well imagine it’s a tool that’s been used at both clubs in one form or another.
It got me thinking. If we want to guarantee goals in the EPL, where should we source our potential strikers in the summer? If money were no object, Benzema would presumably be top of most people’s shopping list, but knowing that’s unlikely, which leagues offer us the best value for money? Lacazette is the name on most fan’s lips, but how does the goals ratio for Ligue 1 compare to the EPL? Perhaps Giroud is the comparator here, as his gpg in France was 0.4 and Lacazette’s is currently 0.4 and Giroud’s gpg in the EPL is currently 0.5. I know they’re not the same type of player, but it may provide pointers as to what a player from that league might achieve in the EPL. Incidentially, Origi’s is currently 0.2…
Buying goals sounds easy, but it comes at a risk if that player isn’t capable of converting his form in one league to another, or from one club to another even in the same league. However, as Neil says, it should be THE priority for LFC’s transfer committee right now, as that title won’t win itself next season ;)
Bang on about goals and keep doing it.
Under Houllier we nearly had it, we said we needed 5 strikers and he was correct, Owen Heskey Fowler, Jari Lit but we should have bought Anelka not to replace Fowler but to join him, then work out who plays best with who and how you score goals.
They said that you need a strong 11 but that was in the day of 1 sub and LFC greatest sub the 12th man was Fairclough, a striker because if you need to change anything you need goals.
Every year we should aim for 120 league goals just over 3 per game and within the squad you need players that can
1 score from free kicks
2 score from penalties
3 score from corners
Each year you want
15 goals from free kicks around the box
15 goals from pens
15 goals from corners
All these goals should be scored by non strikers
So if you want to buy a defensive mid find one that takes pens,
free kicks and corners, this is what Gerrard did last year
If you are going to break the bank on a defensive mid then make
sure he scores 20 goals from pens and/or free kicks, but, imagine if Can or even Lucas in the summer were told to take pens and free kicks and practice
every day until they got it right, what sort of player could they develop into?
Like wise if Henderson, Couthino, Markovik, Lallana could score from free kicks or whip them in, they would provide so much extra value. Beckham made a career out of this!
The bulk of goals need to come from strikers from open play and if you have 5 thats 15 each,
Sturridge, Sterling, Origi need to do this, if you add Two more world class strikers my choice would be two from Cavani, Benzema or Lacazetta.
You then set your team up to make your strikers score goals and this is something Rodgers seems able to do, if you have two pairs or strikers per game and look to bring on a new pair with 20 to 30 to go they all get to play and rest and all the time the opposition are trying to stop you and you are asking bucket loads of questions.
You score 120 goals you win the league or you go close, and you do that every year. As supporters we get loads of fun and loads of goals but also you are able to attrack attacking players because no other team is so goal focused.
Regarding defense, we have learned how to defend this year but at the expense of goals. We have enough defenders just buy 2 quality strikers and this squad is not far away
Fuck yeah. Brilliant, Neil. We’ll never get anywhere by continuing to think and act as we do. Want different results? Then make changes, bold changes, and keep doing that. I can’t stand this timid approach we’ve taken collectively as Liverpool Football Club. No thanks. I’d rather show some bollocks & prove we are better than most. And this will only happen once we start believing that. And if it doesn’t work, keep going. Frighten others with this approach. They can all eat our dust.
Neil, thanks for yet another well written and thought provoking article.
I agree wholeheartedly with the vast majority of what you say, however
I find the title of the article and a small section of the subsequent content contradictory. The title of the article states ‘Never Fail to Compete’. I feel that the emphasis of this statement lies in the word ‘Never’. If, as you suggest they should, Liverpool Football Club fail to take domestic cup competitions and the Europa League seriously, then surely they are failing to compete and therefore the word ‘Never’ is made somewhat redundant.
Are you suggesting that if we draw Everton in a domestic cup competition we should play a weakened side and not take the game seriously, knowing full well that they will be doing everything in their power to beat us, because we only want to try and win the 38 games that ‘may’ win us the league title? If that’s the case then this would constitute a massive failure to compete, and, dare I say it, an act of gross misconduct. I use the auld enemy as an extreme example, but we should be doing everything in our power to beat every team that is put in front of us regardless of what the competition is.
Don’t get me wrong, I want to see Liverpool win the league title as much as anyone, but suggesting that we only compete in league games and not take other competitive matches seriously is an idea that conflicts with much of what our club stands for. I for one buy in to that romantic notion that Liverpool Football Club exists to win silverware. The holy grail is, and always has been, the league title. However I am always happy, ecstatic even, if Liverpool win any trophy. You see, I also buy in to the notion that winning is a habit. An old fashioned and over used cliche you might say, but one i firmly believe in. Lets just say we manage to win the FA Cup this season. Those players will have had the experience of being the centre of the nation’s attention for the day, walking out on to the Wembley turf to be received by the travelling Kop and of ascending the steps to take it in turns to lift the famous trophy in front of their adoring fans. The players involved should hopefully feel happy, exhilarated and proud that their efforts have led to something tangible – a trophy that will be recorded on Liverpool’s honours list for eternity. These are feelings and achievements that the players, club and supporters should want to strive towards again and again, every time we take to the field, in every competition in which we are involved. Could you imagine that all we achieved in the next ten years was Champions League qualification, which if we were to go down the ‘we’re only arsed about the league route’, is a distinct possibility? I certainly can’t. This football club, it’s fans and the city thrive on big occasions. Big occasions that galvanise and inspire. Big occasions that give us a common purpose. Finishing in the top four and getting knocked out of the cups because we didn’t take them seriously just doesn’t cut it for me.
I firmly believe that Liverpool Football Club, or any other football club for that matter, is duty bound to try their best to win each and every game they play in. The management should select the best available players and the players should give their all for the shirt and the supporters. Winning may be almost an impossibility in some instances, but they should try their best nontheless. I am all for giving younger/fringe players a chance to make their mark, but this should not be done to the detriment of the the club as a whole, and losing ANY game is detrimental.
It may be viewed as an old fashioned and unrealistic opinion, but i firmly believe that if Liverpool Football Club strive for perfection in EVERY game they play and everything they do the rest will surely fall in to place.
Even the likes of City and Chelsea with their massive, hughely expensive squads still have trouble competing on all 4 fronts.
Even they prioritise the league and CL over the domestic cup competitions.
Fucking A. I could bang on about how and why Is aggregate but the bottom line is you sir are on the money.
The more we win the better we become ,no brainer
The more we win the better we become
What an article. Looms like a mission statement to follow forever, rate it and pin it up in the dressing room.
I agree with the two essential points, being its all about winning the league (btw if you are going for the title, the top 4 business takes care of itself)
I agree goals win games. I always felt we were competitive in the mid nineties just cause we had fowler and collymore despite the rest of the team being average. If you have a man or better still two men to put it in the net you have a chance.
I forgot about the third point of the article. Don’t fail to compete and plan that you will fail. I love the spirit of this. In football failure is inevitable. What is not inevitable is failing all of the time. You only have to succeed once and its all worth it.
.. Last comment on this… When he says fail I presume he is describing more a journey of wins and losses rather than the true meaning of the word failure. If we can embrace that we have already won. Whether we ultimately win the league or not.
love it Neil
I’ve read Paul’s excellent book on transfers and his recent logically correct and depressing post confirms your point.
We must think unconventionally.
Or we will never win the league.