I’VE decided that, from now on, I’m going to rotate my views on rotation, and on footie in general, just to annoy everyone who hates rotation, especially all of my uncles and anyone old enough to be my uncle.
At this stage, I think it’s possible to rotate my view so much that I can end up giving all uncles twisted blood which, I’ll be honest, I’ll settle for at this stage. If I could twist the blood of most of the Anfield crowd to the extent that they stop coming to the match it would be a great end to 2017, and set us up for a real league challenge next season while we hopefully replace loads of old, moaning bastards with young lads and girls who just want to sing and support their team, without giving their own goalie a heart attack by screaming at him like raving banshees whenever he catches the ball.
I mean, you’ve got to play your best team against Everton, haven’t you? You’d definitely win then. But then you’ve got to play your best team against Spartak Moscow to make sure you qualify for the Champions League knockout stages, and dropping your best lads away at Brighton is only going to lead to dropped points.
What about when they get tired and the medical team says they’ll get injured if you play them? Well, then you should rest them unless, of course, you believe “there’s too much science in the game these days” (an actual quote from one of my uncles) and you think we should just inject our players like cattle and keep sending them out to run 15 kilometres every three days until they die or need their legs cutting off.
To top it all off, you do play your “Fab Four” (I hate that by the way) against the shittest side to play at Anfield since the last shittest side on Sunday, and you still don’t win, so where the fuck does that leave you?
Well, then there’s an argument about momentum and whether that is actually a thing anyway and, if it is, why you can’t keep it going while rotating like we have in the past and like Manchester City are doing to great effect literally right now.
Sadio Mane, who hasn’t had a break, scored two against Spartak and was shit against Everton and West Brom, so did he just give up his momentum out of sympathy for Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho not starting the derby? And didn’t they only not start because they’d been missing training and the medical team said if they played they were at high risk of injury and, therefore, of missing loads of other really important games at the most hectic time of the season?
Has your blood started twisting yet or should I keep going?
Ultimately, we can all scream at the players, the referees or Jürgen Klopp all we like, but the truth is that we should have won both of the last two games by at least one goal, which is not against the rules despite what it’s starting to look like.
Games against West Brom on a freezing cold, wet and windy December night are never going to be classics, and while playing a gang of lads in red that looked simultaneously knackered, like they needed to play more to keep their rhythm and, let’s face it, were generally shit, we created enough clear-cut opportunities to win the game easily.
Firmino and his wonderful dress sense missed a glorious chance first half and the King of Egypt, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Dominic Solanke all missed clear chances to win it second half. As with the derby, we weren’t clinical enough which has led in both games to the post-mortems being that mistakes were made in team selections.
An extra goal scored in each game, however, would have led to us all lauding the management team and the players for grinding out two professional wins against teams who had no intention of engaging in games of football and, instead, played for yardage and repeatedly gained a few seconds of respite by literally kicking the ball into our half towards none of their own players.
These are, and always will be, the fine margins that dictate the direction in which a football team travels. Man City will not play like 1970s Brazil all season and, without having ever watched them play, I’ll say confidently that 1970s Brazil didn’t even always play like 1970s Brazil. No football team does.
The fact that it’s mainly the older supporters (and I consider myself in that category now as I approach 40) who grumble, groan and leave the match 10 minutes early to be the traffic (that’s “be” not “beat”), is reflective of rose-tinted memories of Graeme Souness never giving the ball away and Bill Shankly never drawing at home to a shit team. Our collective memories of the past tend to be dictated by the moments we are shown on TV over and over again, rather than the shit, boring bits that are left out.
The moaning is also reflective of an entire generation of fans who conveniently forget that the game has changed so much since their heyday that it’s barely comparable.
I was explaining to my 10-year-old nephew before the game last night how in old football the players could pass back to their goalkeeper who could pick the ball up, hold it for as long as he wanted then roll it back out to the same player to go through the same routine again to waste time during a game. He couldn’t comprehend it.
He could, however, comprehend that players can’t run 15 kilometres every three days all season and expect their legs to remain at full power, even though they’re now fuelled on personalised diets specifying the perfect amounts of micronutrients for their athletic bodies to thrive, rather than the chippy dinners and Saturday night pints that the old school used to live on.
That’s just common sense to anyone who believes remotely in science or anyone who’s ever become tired from doing anything, ever.
The argument against rotation still baffles me because it basically says that players should always be able to play just one more game. It always seems to tie in with people saying, as Gary Lineker did last January, something along the lines of “but you can’t be tired now because you weren’t playing loads three months ago/you’re not playing next week”.
If you’re reading this and are one of the people who believe that argument, try this as an experiment. Go for a run, as far as you possibly can, then, when you physically can’t run any more through tiredness, immediately try to do the same run again at the same intensity and just tell yourself that you can do it because you didn’t do that run last week and you won’t be doing it next week.
It’s a fucking mental argument that stands up to no form of reasonable scrutiny.
Can we argue whether the coaching staff got the selections wrong over the past 10 days and we’d have picked up more points had it been done differently? Of course we can, that’s one of the beauties of being a fan and not sitting in the hot seat — we can say whatever we want and no one ever tests it.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you’re one of the people who basically calls Liverpool’s manager (whoever it happens to be) a stupid bastard at Anfield or from the comfort of your own home on a regular basis, you should definitely be applying for his job. He gets paid millions of pounds every year if you are so certain that you know better, unless you have a cushier number than that on the go already, you’re wasting your talents driving that Uber.
By the way, if you do take up that role, good luck trying to sort Emre Can’s contract out – if you can decide what a reasonable deal is for him you’re a better man than me. I’ve got his weekly wage alternating between £150,000 and a couple of bags of Haribo, usually changing by the week and, more often than not, it’s at the Haribo end of the scale and sometimes only one bag.
For what it’s worth, I think the management team’s calculated gamble was that Brighton away was a harder game to win than Everton at home, so they thought that they could pick up the most points over this last period by going full strength against Brighton and Spartak and resting some players against Everton. On paper, at least, I also think that is clearly right. Everton were absolutely shit.
What they couldn’t have predicted was that Mane would have an absolute stinker against them, which helped to blunt our attack, and that we’d miss clear opportunities to wrap up the game despite being on an amazing run of goalscoring form.
We should have won that game which would have led us into the game against The Baggies maintaining our form and confidence and, maybe, with the Anfield crowd in a slighter better mood (although I very much doubt we’ll see the crowd in a better mood until the sands of time pass sufficiently to clear some seats and start allowing younger fans into the ground).
The surprising thing for me given his emotional approach to the game is that the manager treated the Everton game like any other game, without taking into account the peculiarities of derbies and the effect Sam Allardyce might have on them. It also surprised me that we didn’t see our star men withdrawn at lightning speed once we were 4-0 up against a Spartak team that had no way back, allowing them more rest before the derby.
“…very frustrating. It’s probably our worst performance of the season.” 😩
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) 13 December 2017
It’s worth remembering, though, that the manager’s job isn’t to win any single game of football more than any other, it’s to win as many games and pick up as many points as possible over the course of an entire season. We might not like that as fans, but it’s true. If you don’t believe me, have a look back over Manchester United’s league winning seasons and check how many times they were battered by their main rivals, defeats that were soon forgotten when they were lifting the main prize in May.
At the end of the day, though, our biggest problem is still that our squad isn’t as strong as the two Manchester clubs. When our main centre forward needs a break or we need to add firepower to the attack, we’re relying on a rookie without a senior goal to his name or a memory of a brilliant player who once was dazzlingly brilliant but is now a shadow of his former self.
City, meanwhile, alternate between one of the greatest Premier League strikers of all time and a super-talented Brazilian with a fantastic record since arriving on these shores last season. United have a plethora of options, all of whom have scored regularly in the league for a few seasons. Even Arsenal have Olivier Giroud to call on, Chelsea a £30million goalscorer as backup and Tottenham Hotspur have Fernando Llorente and Heung-Min Son.
As much as I think we all acknowledge Solanke’s potential, I think if any of our rivals’ backup strikers had played in the last two games we would have won them both (which is another statement that can never be tested…). People can moan about the handball goal last night all they want, but a few minutes later we had two bites of a cherry to score right in front of The Kop and completely fluffed our lines. Our rivals’ subs would have been more likely to bury that chance.
Whatever the arguments this season, though, I’m comforting myself with the fact that at least we know that even if we’d gotten our act together, we would only have been destined to repeat 2013-14 and coincide our league challenge with a City team on absolute fire, finishing in a frustrating second place, again.
At least this way we can plot our way to a top four finish while trying to win a shiny trophy in the second half of the season, telling ourselves all along that this season was always going to be another step in the development of the side before winning the league next season.
I might as well try to find a positive, it’s nearly Christmas.