Football - FA Premier League - Liverpool FC v AFC Bournemouth FC“REPORTS that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our football team and other football teams, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.”

FORMER US Secretary Of Defence and Bolton Wanderers manager Donald Rumsfeld there. Quoted in this year’s Rothmans Football Yearbook.

As ever, big Don is salient in his football analysis and at his most salient when we cast our eye ahead at Liverpool vs Bournemouth this Wednesday night at Anfield. What are the known knowns for this fixture?

  • That a long time ago a relatively first-choice Liverpool side beat a relatively first-choice Bournemouth side in a tight game by the solitary goal.
  • That in the third round of the Capital One Cup Liverpool, managed by Brendan Rodgers, played a stronger side than you might expect before labouring to a penalty shoot out win over Carlisle.
  • That Jürgen Klopp played a stronger side than you might expect against Kazan in the Europa League before Liverpool laboured to a draw.
  • That Bournemouth have lost their last two games by five goals to one. Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur dominating both occasions.
  • That while both of these sides would hope to be higher up the league table, both of them are pretty high on the injury table, sitting pretty in joint second with six.
  • That Jürgen Klopp mentioned that Liverpool had had three tough games in a week after their draw against Southampton.

European Football - UEFA Europa League - Group Stage Group B - Liverpool FC v FC Rubin Kazan

  • That since Klopp’s arrival Liverpool’s U21s have been made up massively of U18s. I asked John Gibbons about this. He said the following have been missing – Cameron Brannagan, Joao Carlos Teixeira, Connor Randall, Jerome Sinclair and Pedro Chirivella. Further, he added, the U21s and the U18s both play this weekend. Who on earth will play for the U18s, he asked; he can’t wait to find out.
  • That James Milner is suspended.
  • That in the third round of the Capital One Cup Bournemouth, managed by Eddie Howe, changed three of their back five and all of their front six between the league game they won against Sunderland and the league game they lost against Stoke.
  • That while everyone expected Liverpool to play a 4-2-3-1 under Klopp they are playing 4-3-2-1 as per the evidence of our eyes and big Pep Ljinders today. I also wrote about that here.
  • That a win helps. A win always helps.

What are the known unknowns for this fixture?

  • How strong a side will Jürgen Klopp want to play in this game? There is silverware at the end of the competition obviously.
  • How strong a side will Eddie Howe want to play in this game? With Bournemouth on the slide he could feel a win at Anfield will galvanise his troops, yet he might believe legs are more important with the South Coast Derby (33 miles separate them, 33 miles worth of cultural significance) on the horizon.
  • Under practically any circumstance, who plays left back for Liverpool? We will come back to this.
  • How will young players thrown in at the deep end cope playing for Liverpool?
  • What physical and mental state are the usual first team players for both of these clubs in. One set has just drawn their 438th game of the season. The other have been smashed 5-1 back to back. They could well do with a week off.

Football - FA Premier League - Liverpool FC v AFC Bournemouth FCLastly, we have the unknown unknowns about this game. We don’t know what they are yet. There are things we don’t know we don’t know about football. It could be that Teixiera has a strain, that Lovren’s lost his boots or that the ref gets lost on his way to Anfield. We don’t know about the unknown unknowns and as Donald Rumsfeld goes on to say in the Rothmans, it is this which makes football such a great, coquettish, ineffable mistress.

What a guy.

So in among all of this, what remains is to ask what would you do? What would I do? I’d take a flyer that Eddie Howe is going to rotate and I’d reckon he has good, sensible players to come in, players who have been at Bournemouth a while and who know what Eddie and that football team is about. I’d argue this isn’t going to be an easy game but that Liverpool can make significant changes aimed at resting legs for the weekend while giving themselves an excellent chance of winning the game and getting to know a bit more about these young players who haven’t been playing for the Under 21s.

I’d start Bogdan, Randall at right back, Toure and Lovren at the heart of the defence. I’d play Branagan, Chirivella and Allen in Liverpool’s midfield and give Ibe and Firmino time on the pitch behind Origi. Regardless of how the game is going I’d hook Firmino for Teixiera on 60 minutes with a view to starting Firmino at Stamford Bridge. I’d be careful with the other subs as well. Benteke, Lallana and Skrtel all make sense to sit on the bench. Sakho, Lucas and Coutinho would all be watching this on the telly, getting their head down, having a nice drink before bed.

The question is who plays left back. Could Enrique emerge like a phoenix from the flames ready to cover the position until the end of the season? This seems unlikely given the extent to which he has gone off the radar. Is there a young prospect ready to grab an opportunity? We’re not even sure who that could be – Joe Maguire is only just coming back from injury.

Could Moreno give it one more go? Perhaps so but at some point the lad will run out of legs. I’d consider putting Emre Can there as I wouldn’t start both Milner and Can at Stamford Bridge; if Milner wasn’t suspended, I’d possibly put Milner there. But we know he is. So…

Football - FA Premier League - Liverpool FC v Queens Park Rangers FCLet’s go with Emre Can just to see what that looks like. May as well learn something.

There is a school of thought put about by philosopher and magician of a left mid Slavoj Žižek that there is a fourth category – the Unknown Known – that which we know which we try to ignore. Quite often in football, the Unknown Known is important. The consequences of a failure to win can lead to fear spreading through a football club which can lead to big decisions being shied away from. Like, for instance, making a large number of changes for the Capital One Cup. We know Liverpool supporters love this competition and there are endless conversations around silverware. We need to find a way to put these into the Unknown Known camp.

Further, being able to ignore shortcomings is important; it is how you become delusional. Delusion is the state in which football clubs must operate at times. Delusion fed can become hope. Hope fed can become belief. Belief can make anything happen in football. It is OK to be delusional about football, because football is only a game. It is only a game and it is to be enjoyed by those who play it and those who watch it and those who support it.

Klopp: “It’s only a goal, only a game of football. It’s like it’s the last thing in your life and we have to calm this down.”

Football isn’t war. It isn’t Middle East politics. It is there to be a delight, a distraction.

Let’s roar on some young lads on Wednesday knowing that fact. Let’s care less and love more. Let’s need less and want more. Let’s know this is a pleasure, this is a privilege, this isn’t pressure. Let’s all enjoy it. It’s later than you think.

Up the Reds.

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Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda-Photo

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