So Many Questions But Do We Have The Answers

So Many Questions But Do We Have The Answers

All of a sudden it looks like the wheels are well and truly falling off. Or is that a slight exaggeration? One thing is for sure, results and performances are well below par. Even more so considering that we are the defending champions. The early season roar of us not just defending our title but we will be attacking it, is now more of a whimper than a roar. So why is that? There are so many questions, but do we have the answers? If you look at last night’s performance against Brighton, the short answer is, no we don’t.

But, as I said, there are so many questions. To answer the question as to why we were so dismal last night, the simple answer to that is, we weren’t good enough. Brighton were so much better in every way. I think that stark reality should also serve us all with a big reality check. The current squad is not good enough. The results don’t lie. Also, the league table doesn’t lie.

So Many Questions But Do We Have The Answers

So Many Questions But Do We Have The Answers
So Many Questions But Do We Have The Answers

Yes, there are so many questions. And I think last night has given us the perfect opportunity to address some of those questions. While at the same time, eliminating others. I mentioned marginal refereeing decisions going against us in my last post. I also said that in some respects it was possibly something of a blessing that the marginal decisions didn’t go our way in that an elevated league position and more points on the board may paper over some cracks.

Cracks that now look as though were starting to appear some months ago. As far back as the last few games of last season maybe? But there again, maybe not, as we were all of the belief that our sketchy form was as a result of us having clinched the title. And, as a result, we had taken our foot off the pedal. That may still be the case. But, as time goes on and you can look back over a longer period, certain spells of form may not be explained away by individual, seemingly unrelated circumstances.

One Off Reasons Or A Form Indicator?

There may be a deeper undercurrent? After clinching the title last season our last 7 games read: Played 7; Won 4; Drawn 1; Lost 2. A total of 13 out of 21 points. Fair enough as was said, we’d won the league, so foot off the pedal. These set of fixtures have been viewed in isolation and put in the box labelled “Meaningless.”

If however, a more problematic situation was beginning to unfold, maybe these seven fixtures could be added to this season’s 22 games. This may give an indication of a truer level of performances and form over a longer period. After all footballers never like not winning games. Irrespective of the reasons. And that includes foot off the pedal after clinching the title. If so then, the last 29 league games read: Played 29; Won 15; Drawn 8; Lost 6.

That’s not title winning form. And nor is this season’s; Played 22; Won 11; Drawn 7; Lost 4. Yes, we can, and should cling onto the adage of, “it ain’t over until the fat lady sings.” That’s what makes us supporters. Until it is mathematically impossible and all that. Or, heart ruling head maybe?

And of course the “In Jurgen We Trust” mantra still stands. After what he has achieved for us why wouldn’t it. He has performed some remarkable results. We are blessed with one of, if not, the best manager in the world.

But, football being football, I’ve just touched on the biggest factor that governs football and how football clubs operate. It’s a results business.

In Jurgen We Trust

Yes, of course we still trust Jurgen. Even more so if we know that he has been given all the tools required to do the job. But, a couple of weeks ago, we were made aware of a possibility that he didn’t have all the tools he required. The issue regarding our centre back situation came up. Klopp suggested that he wanted a centre back but his hands were tied. Ah, now that puts a different spin on things.

As we now know, we did get, not one but two, centre backs a few days ago. But it seems that the recognition of such a requirement was already flagged up well before the 30th or the 31st January when we signed Kabak and Davies. If that is the case, why wait until the end of the month? It seems that the long term injury to Joel Matip was the tipping point. But Klopp then went on to say that Matip has been struggling all season with a variety of injuries. If that is so, were we really placing our trust in an injury prone player (no disrespect to Matip) possibly staying fit between now and the end of the season?

In a way then we were fortunate, if that’s the right word, that Matip broke down again before the window shut. If he was injured in, say, last night’s game, where would we be then? As I say, so many questions.

So Many Questions – Let’s Move Away From The External Influences

We all know that we have been on the receiving end of some very questionable VAR decisions. Yes, other clubs have as well, but we have suffered more than any other. As Rafa would say. Fact!! But let’s move away from this as the main reason, or one of the main reasons, for our current run of poor results.

Also under the banner of “so many questions” is the situation of five substitutes. Has this been a major contributing factor? Maybe so. But, as it is an external influence and applies to all other clubs, let’s not factor that in either.

What about TV kick off times? Playing on a Saturday at 12:30pm for instance after playing on a Wednesday night. A contributing factor no doubt, but a major factor? Put it this way, if we were good enough to beat Brighton, Burnley, Southampton (who haven’t won since beating us), West Brom, Fulham and Newcastle to name just six opponents we have dropped points to this season, strange kick off times wouldn’t get a mention. The teams mentioned by the way are teams that in previous seasons, the “Mentality Monsters” would have been expected to beat (no disrespect to those teams by the way).

But here’s another thing that Klopp has mentioned. First it was the desire to get a centre back, then last night he mentioned mental fatigue. Now that is a worry. He did further clarify though what he exactly meant by that and suggested that a general mental malaise wasn’t a problem. But on the other hand it seemed to be last night for that game. Which, of course, resulted in another three points being lost. Was last night another one-off? Or is it another indication of something a bit more deep rooted going on?

So Many Questions – A Simple Answer Could Be

Some reading this may well be screaming, “he’s missing the obvious problem.” And of course we know what that is. So many injuries throughout the season to so many key players. Yes, our hearts say we are still in a title race. But as the weeks go by, are our heads saying the same? It wasn’t that long ago that many pundits – and some Liverpool fans – were saying we were nailed on to defend our title. Especially after the 7-0 away win at Crystal Palace, which was only about six weeks ago by the way.

Then a bit of a wobble, but the battlecry was, no worries, the title race will still only be between Manchester City and ourselves. Now what seems like a blink of an eye, there is so much talk that we are now struggling to battle for a top 4 place and that the title race is now between the two Manchester clubs. So many questions – how exactly did this unfold?

I’ve already suggested the real answer. So many injuries. Even though our hearts were saying we were still in the race, a sobering reality is now popping into our heads with each passing dull performance and result. I said in my previous post from yesterday, we have lost the spine to our team. A team without a strong spine will not win titles. As much as our hearts may argue, history tells us otherwise. And again to quote Rafa – Fact!!!

So Many Questions – Why So Many Injuries?

So, having established that our injuries have had such a devastating effect on our season, let’s ask the question. Why so many injuries? The simple answer would be, bad luck. Pure and simple. Or, to refer back to the mention of external influences, the fact that the games are coming so thick and fast, players bodies are creaking. Not only our players. Harry Kane for instance is out for a spell. As is Jamie Vardy. And no doubt many others.

But, fact time again, no team has suffered as many. I read somewhere yesterday that we have had between 6 to 8 key players missing for two thirds of our games this season. So, a reality check again for the doom merchants, this is significant. Of that there is no doubt. No team can lose so many key players and challenge for the title. Unless of course – and here’s another of the ‘so many questions’ checklist – your squad is packed with top drawer players.

And, as is evidently the case, our squad isn’t. If it was, would you expect Brighton to outplay us at Anfield? While suffering with so many injuries, it is understandable why we’ve had so many poor performances and poor results. Firstly, the depth of the squad isn’t good enough. And secondly, so many injuries one after the other, will disrupt the rhythm of any team in the short term.

But a big question for me though is why so many injuries between games? We all remember Virgil Van Dijk having to go off injured during a game. But what of some of the others?

Injuries Between Games?

When you look at so many occasions where players are not carried off during a game, complete the 90 minutes, then just before the next game, there’s an announcement of a ‘slight muscle strain’ type of thing. Or something more serious – like Diogo Jota. That injury announcement came as a big surprise.

More recently we’ve had Naby Keita, Fabinho, Sadio Mane and, as recently as last night, Alisson Becker. Add these to Trent Alexander-Arnold, Thiago Alcantara, Kostas Tsimikas, Xherdan Shaqiri and you begin to wonder how unlucky can we be? On top of the long terms that we know about – Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip and you are looking at one decimated squad.

Or, is it something to do with the training? I know Thiago was almost cut in half by Richarlison’s disgraceful tackle, but at the time he actually completed the game. And after it was announced that he did in fact sustain an injury, it wasn’t seen to be an injury to keep him out for as long as it subsequently did keep him out for.

Did he sustain another injury during training on the road to his comeback?

What’s wrong with Naby Keita? He played against Crystal Palace the week before Christmas. And played well. But he’s disappeared with a “how long’s a piece of string” slight muscle strain” or injury. Any specific injury news on Fabinho or Sadio Mane? Will they play on Sunday against Manchester City? All very mysterious.

So Many Questions – Is The Squad Good Enough?

With so many injuries we are down to the bare bones in terms of the quantity of the squad. But what about the quality? Many fans have questioned the quality of the squad at times. As it has been said before, our first XI are as good as any in the country. If not the best first XI in the country. But aside from that? We can maybe say, we have a strong 15 or so squad. A team and a half basically. Compare that with Manchester City.

We all know we can’t compete with them financially and deep down we all know we don’t want to be a club like them. I’m only mentioning in Rafa – fact!! – terms. No jealousy of the riches they have but their squad is so much deeper than ours.

Even so, as strong and as deep as their squad is, one supposed justification for them falling short last season was because of an injury to their centre back, Laporte. That’s only one. We’ve had all three of our senior centre backs stricken down with long term injuries. So, examine your head and not your heart. Can we realistically mount a title challenge.

Yes, we now have two new centre back recruits. But we’re already hearing that they need time to bed in. Fair enough I suppose. But, that is understandable in the knowledge that there will again probably be a price to pay for having no senior centre backs. A quick note on Nat Phillips though. Hasn’t he done brilliantly since coming in in such difficult circumstances.

A Different Season Maybe Needs A Different Approach?

This is such a strange and different season as we all well know. Games coming thick and fast played in empty stadiums for instance. Over the years we have so much to thanks owners, FSG, for. And yes they have a successful and robust strategy in place. No one can ever knock them for that.

But turning the current pandemic world we are currently living in into a question. Has the FSG model been tweaked for the strange situation we find ourselves in? In other words, does the ideal model, for the ideal world include any contingency plans (or Plan B etc) for such unique strange circumstances?

Take the centre back situation. We only seemed to sign a centre back because circumstances forced us into action. In the ideal world we wouldn’t have so many players out injured – whether these injuries have come about as result of bad luck, too many games, bad tackles or training methods – and we wouldn’t need to be reactive instead of proactive. But, as already mentioned, we are in a unique world right now.

Given that these strange times have already demonstrated that we have been stripped of so many players for possibly a combination of all those factors mentioned in the paragraph above, should we have – or do we have – a “strange circumstances off the field and on the field Plan B” I wonder?

Annie Road Plans On Hold?

I’m guessing we must have something in place in terms of long term stadium investment. Quite understandably there isn’t talk of expanding the Annie Road End currently. And that makes sense. No fans, no immediate need for increased capacity. But what of playing squad plans? Any short-term, needs must, short term contingency plans for the squad?

Looking again at the quality in the squad and yes, a fully fit squad are more than capable of mounting a challenge. But, with all that has happened, we have struggled for goals and creativity at times. Diogo Jota may well help resolve that significantly. But when? He’s out injured. Since early December in fact. When is he back? We don’t know.

As thin as we are in the striking options, we have let Minamino go. That is a strange decision if he is rated by the manager. But not so if he isn’t. But again in terms of numbers, we are now one attacking player light. Yes, we need to balance the numbers for the squads and also consider whether or not home grown, but have we explored a short-term goal scoring fix?

Attacking Options

Did we consider it last summer before any of the injuries? Knowing the season would be a strange one, should we have looked for a quick fix, short term option as a back up or a first team regular option? Considering Barcelona still owe us a shedload of money for Coutinho, should we maybe have thought about maybe taking him back on loan? Or, what about a guaranteed 20+ goals a season short term option? As it happened Luis Suarez was going on a free and as a seasoned Premier League striker who never really gets injured, was it an opportunity missed?

Imagine him coming off the bench, or resting Bobby and starting with Suarez? As it happens he signed for Atletico Madrid and replaced another experienced striker. Diego Costa, who has had his contract terminated by Atletico. Would he be a good short term option? I’ll let you decide. As we were looking for a goal last night to get back into the game against Brighton, would we prefer to see the substitutions that were made, or maybe a Suarez or a Costa get thrown on.

Have We Run Out Of Gas?

With the intensity of this season and the combination of all the injuries and players off form, is it reasonable to say that we may have run out of gas? That is a possibility especially as we have just witnessed such an intense 3 years. But, wouldn’t this have been factored in to the bigger picture plans?

So Many Questions – So Many Small Windows

Football goes in cycles they say. We had so many great halcyon days in the 80’s and the 90’s. It took us 30 years to climb back to the summit. So many thought that this finally heralded a new period of a Liverpool dynasty. It is so important to do whatever it takes to stay at the top once you get there. As well as the importance of stadium investment and new, off the field marketing opportunities, this should also include a well structured player investment strategy. Both long term and, if need be, short term.

In this (hopefully) short window of opportunity during the pandemic, we have seen the negative effects of this strange season as discussed above. Have we missed opportunities to stay top of the pile with a too rigid, long term outlook? After all what will be the long term financial impact of losing out on either the title or a top four place compared with a short term “special season transfer contingency Plan B?” A lot more than a Coutinho one year loan, or a one year Suarez contract, or a six month Costa contract no doubt.

We all know that Michael Edwards can work his magic. Maybe he should have been given a longer leash if he wasn’t given one already.

Hindsight is a great thing. But the thing is, because of the weirdness of this season, it could be suggested that because it was always going to be weird we should have considered a short term weird Plan B anyway.

Quite a long post I see. I got a bit carried away there. Thanks for reading my “So Many Questions But Do We Have The Answers” latest blog post if you have made it this far.

So Many Questions – In Conclusion

Now I’m not necessarily saying that signing any of those players above would be the answer. But, if the ideas were considered and dismissed, I hope they were dismissed for the right reasons. And that’s for footballing reasons only. Mind you looking at our ‘game changing’ options on the bench last night, it looks like the idea may not have been considered at all.

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