ROBBO’s article for Mirror Football caused quite the stir yesterday. Apparently suggesting that a football team should sacrifice the battle for sixth place in a bid to win a cup is quite controversial. Someone even tweeted him telling him to hang himself. Have a word with yourselves, lads. It’s someone writing about footie.
On the balance I’m much closer to Gareth than I am to Rob Gutmann’s view that league position is everything.
I used to be able to reel off Liverpool’s honours list as a boy (I’ve probably slipped on this now, but I reckon I could nail 16 of the 18 league wins by year). This was because I used to stare at the roll call of successful years in football annuals as a child, imagining all the sides that had won the trophies, dreaming what it must have been like to be part of those impossibly large crowds.
I bet kids still do the same now.
As we get older we get less romantic, of course. We obsess over progression, we want all the numbers to go up.
League form is the easiest thing to monitor — the constant that we can measure each season by.
This week has seen statistics pointing to a 1.46 points average for Jürgen Klopp this season, compared with 1.50 for the sacked Brendan Rodgers. Little consideration is given to circumstances, or indeed cup runs, as they are tricky to quantify. What we see is not enough improvement.
For Rodgers, stating fifth was “par” was seen as criminal by fans who never thought it was acceptable for Liverpool to finish so low. That he then missed this target was seen as a sackable offence, despite there being no difference between finishing fifth and sixth in practical terms, just our obsession over ranking.
We want Liverpool as high as possible, even if there is no obvious gain. I get that, to an extent.
Klopp is in something of a honeymoon period at the moment, no doubt helped by a League Cup final on the horizon, but people are already getting twitchy about final league positions.
Liverpool’s lowest Premier League finish is eighth, one place below where the Reds reside currently. If Liverpool equalled, or indeed dipped below that spot you can guarantee fans will be asking questions about the manager’s ability to adapt to English football, regardless of how well we do in other competitors.
The last league manager to finish in eighth was Kenny Dalglish.
The King is the most-loved figure in this club’s history. He won the League Cup that season and was sacked.
If you asked Dalglish now if he had any regrets, I wonder if it would be that he rested players in league games in favour of an ultimately doomed FA Cup campaign that he mistakenly thought those running the football club cared about
Ian Ayre later commented that Kenny would have been removed from the manager’s office even if Liverpool had put a first FA Cup in the Anfield trophy room since 2006.
These are the problems a manager of Liverpool Football Club faces.
We cover the walls of Melwood with Bill Shankly quotes about Liverpool Football Club existing “to win trophies” and then sack managers who deliver them without Champions League football.
Klopp might think he has a season to get to know his players and any trophy is a bonus, but fans and owners will get very twitchy if league results don’t improve. The owners will get very twitchy if league attendances start to drop as there is nothing to play for. Especially when they are trying to sell corporate tickets for a great big new stand.
This is what did for Dalglish and for the current England manager before him. Nothing makes investment groups more nervous than income going down.
FSG looked like they were going to stick with Roy Hodgson for the season, at least until they got their feet under the table and knew a bit more about the game. Then 35,000 people turned up to his last league home game against Bolton Wanderers and he was quickly out the door.
It was similar for Kenny. The writing was on the wall as soon as home attendance dwindled away with the league campaign. Even the arrival of Chelsea for the last home game of the season could only attract barely 40,000 people in, and the manager was gone soon after.
As a football fan who doesn’t think we will finish top four, I would prefer if Klopp focused the rest of the season on the cups. But the reality is he should probably ignore that advice.
In the crazy world of what fans value, and how owners judge success, he would be wise to get as many points as possible in the league to get the highest finish possible and ensure the stadium keeps selling out, regardless of how that impacts the FA Cup and Europe.
It doesn’t make much sense to me. But I don’t make the rules.
Ten years of top four and no trophies? No thank you. Wembley, Cardiff, Istanbul, yes please.
nice article but feel you’re unnecessarily hung up on the either/or…as a fan im awash with pragmatic optimism and still believe we can make 3 cup finals and have a real charge for third!coyr!
Just think of the long run of really strong performances and winning we’d have to suddenly be capable of from now until the end of the season playing twice a week… Never happening in a month of Sundays.
As we sit here in early Feb, if Klopp and the players get even close to 2001ing this season from where we stand currently it’ll be one of the maddest, out-of-nowhere achievements of a season we’ve ever had, never mind one of his. Like, Mignolet and Benteke would have to find a way to magic themselves great and not rubbish for starters.
I’m not being funny but we’ve just had a window there where the only player we’ve brought in is Caulker on loan from QPR to cover an aged Kolo and an until recently injured Lovren. We’re shite.
You can’t be seriously suggesting Klopp should be fearful of his job if he wins a cup but we fall away in the league?! Absolutely no chance. It’s not his team…if he can get any silverware out of this team the vast majority of fans will be made up. If in a few years, after wasting money, we have a poor league position with no signs of progress and we were to prioritise a cup then yes, it may then be a risk but not this season.
Fans like cups but owners like cash. Trophies all the way for me but Klopp knows he’ll be judged on league position.
As said above “we’re shite”, the sooner people come to terms with reality the better.
The sooner people march up Walton Breck the better
FSG need to go. Soon.
Great article but tbh I’m not sure what I’d rather have, it has to be put in context and after tonight’s result I’d say it’s easy now to say the cups are a much better focus as fourth looks all but lost, I agree with Peter though I’d much rather us winning silverware than finishing fourth and not having the squad to compete, give Klopp this season to get to know what he needs going forward..
League finishes depends on consistency.
We are consistently inconsistent.
Therefore our only hope for success for the remainder of this season will be the cups.
It’s really quite simple.
Lets take a look at the Cups.
League cup final versus City, yes we beat them in the league but we are certainly 70-30 underdogs in the final. FA Cup versus West Ham at Upton Park 80-20 chance of winning that game. Europa cup vs Augsburg who are currently in very good form and going by previous results of England vs Germany we are mostly likely to lose that too.
We might as well concentrate on the top 10.
We’ll know the plan when the team for West Ham is announced.
After losing to Leicester all but put the fire out on any top 4 position, the cups are not so much a choice but an almost necessity in terms of focus now.
If Klopp goes full strength at West Ham I think he’ll believe that as well.
“Apparently suggesting that a football team should sacrifice the battle for sixth place in a bid to win a cup is quite controversial”
And John Henry siad in his open letter:
“We are still in the process of reversing the errors of previous regimes. It will not happen overnight. It has been compounded by our own mistakes in a difficult first two years of ownership. It has been a harsh education, but make no mistake, the club is healthier today than when we took over”
Ever get the feeling you’ve been had?
We are very mid table. Very Average. And very profitable.
This is the worst squad I have ever seen.
We haven’t finished lower than eighth since we were promoted in 1962. To do so this season would feel like a real watershed for me
“Klopp might think he has a season to get to know his players and any trophy is a bonus, but fans and owners will get very twitchy if league results don’t improve.”
A lot of fans will get twitchy, and it’ll be embarrassing to witness. If the owners do the right thing and hold out then I have no doubt he’ll achieve the things we’re after. I’m just surprised that the negativity has become apparent so soon, given the issues he’s faced in his bedding in period. There’s fickle; then there’s our fans.
I’m not sure about the league attendance being a reason for Kenny’s departure though, although I’m open to being told differently. The Chelsea game was moved to a Tuesday night as a result of us reaching the FA Cup Final – against Chelsea. At the league match it felt like a wake; our fans knew it was the end of something, and the Chelsea fans were (deservedly) gloating about the FA Cup and the match coming up. It was a dead-rubber for us, and they went for the (ultimately) more realistic way of qualifying for the Champions League by winning the bloody thing. They focused on the finals ahead of the league, and walked away with them and European qualification.
Maybe the Europa League makes sense now.
Great article John. Klopp is in even more danger, from dwindling attendances, should fans decide that the domestic campaign is over, than Kenny was.
Ticket prices are higher than during Kenny’s second spell in charge. The local economy has gotten worse since then, with many more people feeling the squeeze financially.
Even if you have a season ticket, it’s still a lot cheaper to stay at home rather than going to the match (food, booze, travel, etc.). Empty seats will soon start to appear, once top-4 becomes mathematically out of reach (not long now!).