I ENJOY an unlikely part of the internet.
Not the mad 4chan, alt-right, hate the world stuff. But the lighter madness. Flat earthers on YouTube, teenagers writing fan fiction about popstars, vloggers with millions of followers for no obvious reason. That sort of thing.
It has recently come to my attention that there is also a part of the internet reserved for the Zeljko Buvac fan club. Well I say recently, it first came to my attention a few weeks ago now. When we’d ask for topics for our Wildcards show on TAW Player and people kept saying Buvac. He’d become the new season tickets versus members as the hot topic of the internet for Liverpool fans.
I couldn’t really understand what anyone wanted me to say. I’d never heard him speak about football, only had a mild idea about what the specifics of his job were at Liverpool and had no idea why he had left. And, just to remind everyone, Liverpool had also just won their first seven games of football. So I really didn’t give a hoot who was sat next to Jürgen Klopp in the dugout.
But then we started winning less games, although again to remind everyone, we still haven’t lost in the Premier League, and the “bring Buvac back” campaign went into full force. It is now everywhere. Don’t believe me? Go onto Liverpool’s Facebook page and find the announcement that the club will have a poppy on their shirt this weekend to mark Remembrance Sunday and then look at the replies. “FUCK POPPIES, WHERE IS OUR BOSNIAN NUMBER TWO?”
I think it is the “where is he?” element that is feeding a fair amount of it. We love a mystery, adore the chance for conspiracy theories and gossip. My favourite is that their wives fell out. Just because it is a throw back to the Kenny Dalglish times (first time around) when wives were said to be responsible for half the decisions Liverpool Football Club made. They were the original super agents. Wheeling and dealing AOTS.
But they are also genuine feelings, it seems, so let’s have a look at the evidence. The stat trotted out the most is that Liverpool have lost four of their last six Champions League games since Buvac left. Although true, it should be said that this includes an away trip to Roma where a narrow defeat was fine, and a Champions League final, which is hard to win at the best of times, but especially when your goalkeeper basically decides to throw two in. This season, in a tough group, we have won two lost two. Not brilliant, but certainly not a crisis.
“We’re not asking them to make a magical step into the unknown… we’re just asking for them play like they did six months ago.”
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) November 7, 2018
The other criticism is that all our attacking fluency has been lost. But again we are dealing with the specifics of a role we don’t normally know. From the limited amount of Liverpool training I have seen it seems to be Pep Ljinders running the attacking drills, with Klopp overseeing. Wouldn’t it be more likely that the man Klopp described as his “brain” was more involved in shape, tactics and opposition analysis? Again I am guessing, but so is everyone else.
Regardless, are we not in danger of judging the difference unfairly? Like an old summer romance or the one who got away, we are just choosing to remember the good times but none of the bad.
Yes, Buvac was there when we were ripping teams apart offensively and beating Manchester City 5 -1 on aggregate in the Champions League. But he was also there when we were struggling to get results against the big sides in the Premier League last season, including thumpings at City and Spurs.
A fair comparison would be the same period last season. Where Premier League results were nowhere near as good and the attacking play wasn’t as scintillating as we remember either. By this time last season we had scored four or more goals in the Premier League twice. Exactly the same as this season. It was only in December when we suddenly did it three times in a month, as well as a 7-0 demolition of Spartak Moscow in the Champions League.
The mind can play tricks, and what Man City are doing doesn’t help. I understand that. But if Liverpool don’t win the league this season it is very unlikely it is because we changed our assistant manager in the summer.
Besides, if this season is like the last one, the real fun and games are still to come. And unlike last season, we are in a much better position to capitalise.
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Nice one 👊
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) November 6, 2018