I had to take a few days to cool down and calmly assess the game, after what felt like yet another awful display. And it felt awful sitting watching a bunch of overpaid poseurs pretend to be footballers, whilst the TVs adjacent were showing City demolish Wolves the way we should be dispatching lower ranked teams. To add insult to injury, we had Uncle Woy come back and act as if winning was some kind of vindication of his abilities as a top class manager, and garner further sympathy from the UK media for his harsh treatment by the LFC fans. (lest you forget he failed at Inter, and he followed King Kenny at Blackburn and helped them go from champions to relegation. This time Kenny is clearing up his mess, but don’t let the facts divert you from your media agenda)
Back to LFC. There is something very wrong with the team/play this season, and it is becoming frustrating in its predictable ability to disappoint. But what is ACTUALLY wrong, and how is it fixed? I am not an apologist for King Kenny, and I am not trying to put a positive spin. I cant even write or think about the current LFC situation without disagreeing with myself on every other point, so the following points are random and debatable.
As this will probably be my most contentious analysis so far, I expect a lot of pressure testing of my hypotheses, but I hope not to see the knee jerk reactions of “Carroll is shit”, type of statement. Whilst it may be true, and an emotionally valid argument, I am trying to cut through the subjective, to see where the verifiable truth lies. As ever, this leads us to stats, something that the American baseball fans love, and has started to come into its own in football, especially with OptaStats, and every club employing a bunch of statisticians to try and work out the golden ratios…
As Churchill said, there are lies, damn lies and statistics, and the toughest part is trying to tease out which metrics are actually meaningful.
Are we just unlucky? We hit the woodwork again twice, which makes it 30 (although I saw another stat saying 33) times this season…and not one has gone in! By rough estimates 2 in 6 strikes of the woodwork results in a goal. It is like trying to roll a dice 30 times and never getting a 5 or 6. It is almost impossible. That has got to be bad luck. People have claimed that we are inaccurate in our shooting, and not clinical enough, but 30 is a large enough sample size to say that is bad luck. The goalie spilled 5 chances and even saved a few that he didn’t know about. One effort off the crossbar, bounced down and hit his leg and spun away from the follow up striker. Sometimes they go your way, and sometimes they don’t. But they never do this season! That is bad luck. It is supposed to even itself out over the course of the season, but it doesn’t seem to this year. (unless we suddenly score 100 in the last 4 games!)
But are we a bad attacking team? I think LFC have had more shots than any other team except Man City, and yet we have one of the worst goal scoring records. That really does prove we are inaccurate or wasteful, and that is nothing to do with luck. Teams vary between scoring with a clinical 1 in 3 (Utd) attempts on goal to a wasteful 1 in 30 LFC attempts, with the average being around 8. We should have scored over 80 if we had just followed the average trend. That is not luck. It cant be. We are just awful in front of goal, and need some real goalscorers up front…but that cant be true either. Last season Carroll, Suarez, Downing, Adam, Kuyt, Gerrard, Henderson, Maxi, Bellamy, etc were all double figure goal scorers! So they are not bad strikers. It has to be something else.
Are we badly drilled on the training ground? LFC have taken the highest number of corners in the EPL with 267. A rough rule of thumb is you score 1 goal for every 10 corners (I think it is nearer 9) and yet until recently we had not scored any, and still have only scored a couple until now. With Downing, Adam, Bellars, Henderson etc all “expert” crossers, and Carroll, Agger, Gerrard, Skrtel great in the air, how are we nearer 1 in 100 than 1 in 10? And then compare to Stoke who score most of their goals from set pieces…
Is our league position a problem? This is a question of pride. Meritocracy. And finances. Pride is definitely taking a beating, and being below Newcastle, Spurs, City, Utd, Chelsea and Arse stings. But who really cares where you are placed outside the top 4…only the European places count. 7th or 15th makes no difference except to pride…and finances. But what are the actual financial figures. For every place higher in the league, you get nearly GBP 1 million. The same as the prize money for winning the FA Cup…so is it better to be one place higher in the league or win the cup? Being in the Champions League will get another GBP 30 million. The same as the money LFC are getting from our new sponsorship deals. So missing out on the top 4 wont mean we miss out on money as our commercial team have been scoring world class deals off the pitch. If the argument for Champions league is money, then we have already got that. Something that King Kenny mentioned, and was lampooned by the UK press.
Would it be better to get 4th than win a cup? Question: who scored the goal in 2005-06 that secured their team fourth spot in the Premier League? Give up?
It was Thierry Henry. A hat-trick for Arsenal against Wigan on the final day as a food-poisoned Spurs lost to West Ham.
Now try this one: which player lifted the FA Cup in the same year? Too easy, I know.
It was Steven Gerrard, after the most engrossing domestic showpiece of the modern era.
The point being that the Champions League may be football’s promised land, but nobody remembers a triumphant march to fourth spot.
Financially, entry into Europe’s premier club competition is important – of course it is but that can be mitigated by bigger sponsorship deals, and better commercial deals.
But why do we follow football? Is it to brag about our team’s bank balance, or is it to enjoy days like May 13, 2006? or May 25 2005?
I have no answers to the big question of what is wrong, but I hope that I have shown that some of what we assume to be wrong is actually not borne out by the facts, and once we see what is working, we can at least look at other areas of deficiency…and there must be some or we would be facing Barca in the Champions league final!