APPEARANCES can be deceptive.
In The Empire Strikes Back Boba Fett becomes a mystical cult hero. The bounty hunter utters the immortal line “He’s no good to me dead” as he stalks Darth Vader, and not much else. A lot of standing, a lot of walking, hands invariably glued to his blaster. Mystery, intrigue, villainy. The silent assassin. All the ingredients for a memorable character in an overblown space opera.
After promising so much in such a short cameo role, big things are expected in Return of the Jedi before he is unceremoniously bumped off, his jet pack malfunctioning as he careers into the side of Jabba the Hutt’s barge and slides miserably to his doom in the Pit of Sarlacc.
You’re tempted to ask what the fuss is all about. Boba Fett may look the part, and he may be eulogised and glorified by fanatics, but there’s not much substance in the Star Wars films to suggest he deserves the adulation. All the gear, but no idea.
Appearances can be deceptive. You can look the part. You can walk the walk. You can exude a calm confidence, walking tall and strong. Looking impenetrable. “Walk around him”, as Neil Atkinson has oft said. But if there’s nothing to back it up, it’s all bluff and bluster.
When Dejan Lovren signed for Liverpool 12 months ago, a picture accompanied the welcoming tweet showing the Croat standing, arms folded, bulging biceps covered in tattoo ink and wearing a club tank top. He looked the part; the very manifestation of the long-term successor to Daniel Agger.
He looked pretty content with his lot – and why shouldn’t he have been? He’d worked hard to make it here. Little known is the centre-back’s early struggles in life. Born to Croatian parents in Yugoslavia, present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina, the family escaped to Munich as the Bosnian War raged in the 1990s when Lovren was only three. After seven years in Germany, when Lovren admitted to being “a happy boy”, the family were forced to return to Croatia when the government deemed the young country safe.
In an interview with the Guardian in 2013, a few months after the move to Southampton, Lovren described the difficulty of returning to a home he barely knew:
“It was two or three years before I was happy again. It was horrible at the beginning because the guys at school were laughing at me because I didn’t speak Croatian well. I was speaking but they didn’t understand anything I said.”
It’s a telling insight into the now 26 year-old Croat, not just as a person but as a footballer too. The constant desire to be first to the ball, to be winning his individual battles, derives from these experiences of having to fight for yourself. The thirst to prove himself has dominated his time at Liverpool.
He’d forced his move from Southampton, he was desperate to make the step up in his career to where he clearly felt he belonged. At one stage he was willing to go on strike. That desperation informed his playing style in his first season; desperate to impress, desperate to lead, desperate to show his worth.
Brendan Rodgers tasked Lovren with being the leader of the Liverpool defence and spoke glowingly of him from the off. Speaking in August last year the manager said:
“He is exactly what I’ve been looking for since Jamie Carragher left. He is a dominant, No 1 centre-half, who reads the game well, offers good guidance to the back four and the rest of the team – and shows his qualities of range of passing too.”
Was Dejan doomed to fail or did circumstances go against him? After the 4-0 battering of Borussia Dortmund in a friendly at Anfield, the week before the campaign began, he looked athletic, dominant, good in the air and crunching in the tackle. Much like the Reds’ season, it was never to be seen again.
The command and dominance Rodgers spoke of became erratic naivety. The range of passing non-existent. Positionally ill-disciplined and easily bullied by opposition strikers. The abiding image of his first season could well be that of him falling on his arse as he attempts to beat Yannick Bolasie to the ball, while the Crystal Palace midfielder pirouettes away and sprints into the acres of space vacated by Lovren’s brainless burst forwards.
Strangely the Croat’s confidence never seemed to dip as his form plummeted through the autumn. If anything that confidence, bordering on arrogance, became the standout feature of his play. The worse he got, the more urgency he put into winning his headers and tackles. It’s a remarkable trait given that mental fragility can be the undoing of many out-of-form footballers. Instead of not doing the things that got him into trouble, he would do them more often in an apparent thirst to prove he could get them right.
How this season pans out for Liverpool rests in part on the role of Dejan Lovren. Bound to feature in a minority of supporters’ preferred starting elevens, he will inevitably feature more than people want. The cynical would cite political reasons, because Rodgers wants his £20m signing to prove his worth. But the simple fact is that Mamadou Sakho, much like Daniel Sturridge, can not be relied upon over a season.
Sakho should be the starting left-sided centre-back, and he may well be after Rodgers’ careful management of him over pre-season – if a player has a history of muscle injuries, don’t over-play him on a 30,000 mile three-week tour. It is important to keep Lovren playing, to build his understanding with Martin Skrtel, Simon Mignolet and the rest of the back line, simply because he will play in the bulk of the club’s fixtures this season.
He will benefit this year from a more settled line-up; a goalkeeper sure of himself and his position, and a midfield duo in James Milner and Jordan Henderson that will offer him more protection than a 34 year-old Steven Gerrard ever could. There can be no excuses for Lovren this year, he will know surely that this represents his final opportunity at a big club after his career at Lyon so limply fizzled out.
That brash confidence, reminiscent of an excitable puppy, has been part of the problem for Lovren, but can he harness it properly? At 26 can he significantly improve? He will be determined to prove that last year was a blip, but history suggests that his successful year at Southampton was the real anomaly. The sheer volume of individual errors, basic mistakes, stray passes and mistimed tackles left Liverpool fans waking up in a cold sweat last season; “£20million for that?” He became the first name to look for on the team sheet, but for all the wrong reasons.
Appearances can be deceptive – Lovren needs to walk as well as he talks next year, to earn the swagger that he plays with. His Liverpool future, nay his footballing career, depends on it. Just don’t take a penalty again.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo
Like The Anfield Wrap on Facebook
Lovren was outstanding in a well coached well drilled Southampton side but this is a Bodgers run defence, truth is the Brodge couldn’t organise a defense if his life depended on it. All our defenders have made horrendous individual errors in the three years of Bodgers keystone cops style coaching. Fact is he’s a cheque book manager, he cannot fix it so he’ll just buy more players every transfer window to try and solve it. Going into his fourth year now I expect more of the same.
The only other person I have ever heard call him ‘the Brodge’ is Noel Gallagher.
Be careful the company you keep!
Why an “alleged” supporter of any football club would consistently use a derogatory and insulting nickname for their clubs manager is beyond me.
It say’s a lot more about you than it does about Rodgers.
We get that you don’t like Rodgers and want him replaced. You’re certainly not the only one. I personally think he’s been poor in some areas and he’s clearly made mistakes over the last three seasons.
However, I would certainly rather that the club (and by default Rodgers) have a successful season and achieve the objectives they’ve set for themselves this time round. Rather than have a repeat of last season, just to bathe in the glory of being able to tell everyone I told you so.
Idiotic schoolyard name calling just detracts from the point you’re trying to make.
I actually don’t see Lovren as a confident player at all. If anything I think he is unsure of himself. Excitable he is certainly. He seems to have got it into his head that he needs to attack every ball, be decisive and steam into tackles. The quote within the article from Brendan maybe gives an insight into what Lovren’s been told he needs to be – i.e. this player that tries to win every ball and clear everything in dramatic fashion. I blame Brendan for that. He needs to be told to seriously calm down. Even with that advice he’d be a limited player and his presence is a truly worrying prospect coming in to the season.
You blame Rodgers for that yeah?!
Perhaps, just perhaps, that’s Rodgers assessment of who Lovren is as a player and NOT what Rodgers has told him to be.
Maybe instead of using baseless accusations as a stick to beat Rodgers with you actually read what’s been printed!
I’m no major fan of Rodgers and god knows there’s plenty to criticise him over but fuck me, using the most ridiculous things to criticise is just fucking retarded!
Calm down. Brendan has done a lot of things well but regarding lovren he can be justifiably criticised. Of course I don’t know what lovren has been told he should do on the pitch. I mentioned that the mentioned quote may give in an insight to the brief that he’s been given. What is undeniable is that his form at the early part of last season was awful and that he should have been removed from the starting 11 much earlier. Avoid the insults and concentrate on the substance of the argument
As I said there’s plenty to rightly criticise Rodgers about and I’ll be one of the first in line if he starts Lovren instead of the much more accomplished Sakho but to blame Rodgers for Lovrens style of play is simply a pathetic attempt to attack an already under pressure manager. Your accusations are baseless!
Lovren only plays as long as Rodgers is still manager. Thats what Ive been telling myself to keep myself calm, as Lovren will play a major role in us conceding many more goals and dropping points we shouldn’t have.
His decision making, his positioning, his tackling and his passing are all a joke. He isnt as strong as he looks, something he has in common with Skrtel, and he isn’t that quick. Athletically, as well as in footballing ability, he has nothing on Sakho.
Sakho might have a dodgy pass in him every now and then, but that’s because he tries a riskier pass which he more often than not gets right. The speared 20 yard daisy cutter into Coutinho starts a lot of attacks. Lovren meanwhile tries 30 yard floaters to wide men that continually result in a loss of possession.
Look at the defensive errors stats from last season. Lovren at one time had more than the rest of the teams in the league. He ended with 6 – half of our total 12 errors. The other 6 were spread out between Moreno, Skrtel, Manquillo and Sakho. And Lovren only stopped at 6 because he got dropped. Yet Rodgers still believes him worthy of a start now. As Mike said on the latest pod, its not as if Lovren was slightly poor for a few games and Rodgers decided to try Sakho – Lovren had to be a disgrace who actually got worse game on game for 19 games in a row for Rodgers to pull him.
Where the fuck is the meritocracy Rodgers spoke about when he came to the club?
People trying to defend this decision are repulsive. They are the same creatures who defended Rodgers throughout last season, regardless of his many mistakes and wont not to learn from them. They went very quiet in April, May and June. I can’t even understand trying to come up with possible reasons for the managers thinking – its clear he wants Lovren to work out because he is his man. He spent £20m on him. He didn’t buy Sakho. He doesn’t like Sakho. He hates that Sakho has outperformed Lovren at all, never mind by such a distance. No other excuses will wash, not that there are many.
The only one Ive seen Rodgers defenders cling to is the injury argument. Its bullshit. You play your best players when they are fit. Sakho is not only better than Lovren, but the best centre back at the club. He is fit. Play him.
I said I’d not get angry, but there I go. Urgh. Must remember I’ve already accepted this season will be a wasted one and not get upset when the same shit from last season happens this. Must remember this season will help us get rid of those not good enough to do their jobs and put in place far superior personnel.
Whats next for Lovren? Out on his fucking ear this time next summer at a huge loss, both in terms of transfer money but a golden handshake to make sure he fucks off. I just hope Sakho hasn’t been sickened to the point he has had to leave before then.
You certainly make a lot of assumptions as to why Rodgers makes decisions.
The fact is you have absolutely no idea what goes into them and as such you’re just presenting speculation as fact.
You’re also criticizing a decision that hasn’t even been made yet. How do you actually know 100% that Lovren will start on Sunday? It may look like that from the pre-season and it may fit you’re preferred narrative but you actually have no idea as to why Lovren has started more games than Sakho thus far. I’m not going to pretend that I know but there is more than one interpretation of why that’s happened. Yours is just one, and that’s it.
And the end of the day no one outside of the club will know until the team sheet is released on Sunday. After that point, if Lovren does start I will certainly be one of the first to criticize Rodgers for what I see as choosing the weaker of the two options. How about you let him make the decision before you start criticizing him for it?
And before you try to disregard my opinion as being from another ‘Rodgers defender’, I was actually all for Klopp at the end of the season. I don’t hate Rodgers like some. I think he’s done some things well and can actually bring myself to give him some credit for the 13/14 season. However, there have been a lot of mistakes and some have been very costly. For me Klopp would have been a step up and I would have liked the club to have gone for him. Rodgers has had a fair crack and shown his limitations.
That being said, as I have commented above, I’d rather this season the club are successful than a repeat of last year; just so I can gloat about poor performances and tell everyone I told you so.
Finally, having spoken to a few Red Sock fans I’ve met and reading some detailed analysis of FSG’s work at Fenway Park, I wouldn’t be so sure that poor results at the start of the season would lead them to sack Rodgers at/by Christmas. It certainly doesn’t fit with the model they have applied in the States. And yes, the sacking of Kenny does, for different reasons.
You may have to put up with him far longer than you think and it’s unlikely that a fan revolt (or your fuming) will have much impact on whether or not he does go.
How much do you want to bet Lovren starts on Sunday thus making your rant at my assumption and the assumption of Rodgers’ mate James Pearce who knows these things, completely irrelevant?
Give me an amount of money at evens and we have a deal.
This use of “narrative” again. Thats what the morons who couldnt see his fuck ups all last season would say. Was only in the last few months of the season they opened their eyes. But with time over the summer it seems the eyes are closed again.
By the way, you obviously missed the fact Im judging Rodgers by his own words, not mine or anyone elses. He specifically set out meritocracy as one of his guiding principles, but is conveniently ignoring this (as you did in your response) when it comes to Lovren & Sakho. It would have been bad enough if he didnt say anything about meritocracy, but he did.
Im not judging Rodgers by standards I want. Im not judging Rodgers by the standards of the 5 or 6 top managers we could get. Im judging Rodgers using his own standards.
“Judge me after three years”
“If you spend more than £100m you expect to challenge for the title”
As for FSG and fans – they didnt want to sack Hodgson but our fury made it so they had to. If Rodgers performs as he did last season, he gets sacked. Its that simple. FSG have removed any & all possible mitigating circumstances and excuses for his failures. Im willing to wait until June if need be but can easily see him gone by December.
The sad thing is it now appears Klopp is no longer available. Guardiola to City & Klopp to Munich in June 2016. We missed our chance. We’ll still end up with someone vastly superior to Rodgers though. I’ll take solace in that. And in the fact idiots who barracked people like me will have their tail between their legs and have to admit their faith & defence of Rodgers was an embarrassment. And of course in the fact footballers like Lovren will be fucked out.
Seriously, you’re trying to assert yourself by betting on it? Oh how disconcerting. You must be right then because you’re so sure you’re prepared to make bets with random strangers over the internet.
Wind in your head a second and consider what I said. You have no idea whether or not Lovren will start. You think you know but that’s just your brain confusing what you believe with what you know.
I don’t know either. From what I’ve seen I think odds are Lovren will start. It doesn’t mean I’m going to start ranting about something that’s not even happened yet. What’s the point?
And yes, you have a narrative. That’s evident by the fact you are fuming about something that’s not happened because you believe it will, the very definition of narrative. In fact, you have the entire season played out in your head before the first kickoff. Look at your last paragraph ffs.
Are you the only person qualified to have an opinion? Anyone who disagrees with you is a moron right? Well, I think there’s probably quite a few people who would consider you one too. Only most people don’t feel the need to denigrate opinions just because they are counter to theirs.
If you’re going to judge Rodgers by his own words try to make sure he actually said them as well. That judge me in three years quote was made up by a mirror journo in a piece on 26 May THIS YEAR!
Check if you don’t believe me, supply one direct quote from 2012. Hell, I’ll even throw in 2013 for you.
What he did say was. “It is going to take time for how I want to play and the philosophy I want to introduce, but we will make our first steps and, hopefully over the next couple of years, we will be ready to challenge and ready to compete.” – Not quite the same though hey?
As for your comment on Hodgson and NESV as they were in 2010. Yet again your making wild speculation. You have absolutely no idea whether they would have sacked him or not. Clearly they wouldn’t have wished to sack their manager mid-season, less than 3 months after they’d bought the club but that’s a fairly logical business decision. You’d want to wait till the closed season and make an assessment then, when also you would have more options to replace him. Of course though, you KNOW the decision was made only because of the reaction of fans and nothing to do with NESV’s assessment of the situation. The things you don’t know just aren’t worth knowing are they?
You think you’ve got all the answers and everything you say will come to pass. Fact is most of what you write is your own little fantasy and you have no idea whether or not it will happen. Whether Rodgers stays or goes I will have nothing to be embarrassed about because I’ve made no impassioned defense and have no misplaced faith in him.
All I’ve done is point out that you can pretend, day in, day out, that you have some greater knowledge of what will or won’t happen at the club but the fact is you don’t.
What we’re all wondering is, if you’ll have the balls to turn up here and apologise to all the people you’ve called morons and idiots if your prophecies don’t actually come to pass. Well?
We don’t know if the Sun will rise tomorrow but Im pretty sure it will.
Ranting about Lovren over Sakho now saves me ranting about it on Sunday. Its more efficient. On Sunday I’ll be more interested in talking about the overall performance and result, as will everyone else.
And no, you don’t have to be a moron to disagree with me. But you have to be a moron to say “narrative” multiple times and not address my actual points. You have to be a moron to continually defend a manager who makes the same mistakes over and over, then expect him not to repeat a mistake.
On to his quotes: funny you only pick one. What about the others? Were his quotes on Tottenham & Southampton made up too? Why don’t you want to talk about them? Rather strange and convenient for you is it not? Or is it because you know if you mention more than one you’ll prove my point for me? Is it ok with you if I use those quotes, the ones you bottled talking about, directly from Rodgers, to judge Rodgers? You know, doing what I said I’d do?
Is it ok if I use these quotes too:
“I want the club to win the big trophies again. That’s what I said to the players. The expectancy this season is continual improvement. We want to win. To be successful is winning trophies.” July 2014
“There is no depression here, there hasn’t been a hangover. I wasn’t lying on a sun lounger on a beach over the summer crying and fretting over the fact that we lost the league. There is only an excitement and a belief inside the club that we can challenge again for the title this time.” August 2014
“We were never going to challenge for the league this year. The reality for us this season was, could we finish in the top four? With so many changes we weren’t going to challenge for the league. Come the summer time, the period of integration should be complete and we can challenge for the title like we did last season.” January 2015
“Absolutely (we can challenge for the title next season) We have great hope we can really push on again. I have absolutely no doubt it will happen.” April 2015
So the aim in 14/15 was to win a trophy and challenge for the title. His own words. He failed. Then he moved the goal posts and said the aim was top 4. His own words. He failed.
For 15/16 he was in no doubt a title challenge will happen then. Lets see shall we?
If you want to play a game with me on Rodgers quotes lets do that. Theres only going to be one winner.
As for the rest – I write what I think will happen with what relatively little we do know. I don’t claim to know everything – I piece together lots of little pieces of evidence. I mean we don’t know if Rodgers doesn’t like or rate Sakho do we? Unless we see them interact & hear Rodgers speak about Sakho in an unguarded moment, we can’t know. But I think instead of being a boring bastard and repeating “we don’t know” to every possible thought ecery LFC fan has, I’ll look at things like selection and quotes/lack of quotes regarding Sakho and put 2 & 2 together. We also don’t know if Rodgers doesn’t rate Balotelli. There could be other reasons for his non selection, right?
So what I choose to do is show some balls and not be a boring cunt. I actually put down not only what I think won’t happen, but specifically what will, knowing they’ll be open to scrutiny for anyone remotely interested. Its easy to know what you are against, another matter to know what you are for. Where are your thoughts on what will happen? I seem to have missed them. If you don’t want to give them this means that if my predictions aren’t true you have no right to criticise because its easy to do what you have done. We can all do the following:
“I think Benteke will fit our system perfectly and score 20 goals”
“But we don’t know!”
“I think Rodgers doesnt learn from his mistakes and will be sacked within the next 10 months”
“But we don’t know!”
We don’t know! But we don’t know!” How exciting conversations with you must be. Whats the point of even talking about anything, sure none of us really know anything concrete.
Then again we do know we have quotes that say if you spend 100 mill you should challenge for the league, don’t we? But as you can’t say we don’t know, you pretend they don’t exist and choose not to address it.
None of us have any great insight into the workings of LFC. To that extent a lot of what is said about the club and assessments of the manager’s performance are based on speculation.
However, you can use the known facts to reach certain conclusions. Lovren’s style has not altered while he has played for the club. He continually does his bull in a china shop impression. What can you deduce from that? 1. That he is being encouraged to be a defender who attacks every ball (and maybe is also told to exercise some judgement as to what balls to go for) and hasn’t got the sense to pick and choose what balls he is going to attack. Or 2., that he is being told to keep a lid on it and ignores that advice. In either scenario his continued selection doesn’t speak well of the mana
…. The manager
His second half of the season was okay. Certainly the last half-dozen games he played I can’t think of him making any more egregious errors than Skrtel or Sakho. True, the baseline for improvement was pretty low, but nonetheless. We’ve seen players come back from worse seasons than that (allowing for the overall context of a season in which nothing much functioned the way it should have done). Henderson, Lucas and Skrtel himself all spring to mind. I’m not writing his obituary just yet.