Understanding Football: A Professional’s Perspective
The thing that talking to people in football does for you is make you realise how little you know about the game. Many professionals see things in an instant that take us lesser mortals ages to work out.
The Insider’s View: Tony Adams and Match Reporting
I’ll give you a couple of examples. Tony Adams asked me about the mechanics of writing a match report. I got to the part where I had to set out the teams in formation. It would take me the first five minutes of the match to work out the system because I liked to see each side’s set-up when attacking and defending.
Adams spat his (non-alcoholic) drink all over the table. “You can’t tell immediately when you see the teamsheet?” He was incredulous. He spent the rest of the night shaking his head, like a slightly sad, bemused parent. I felt I’d disappointed the former England captain.
Scouting Insights: Quick Judgments in Football
One scout told me a story. He went to watch a prospect and, before the warm-up was over, he’d decided the player was not worth the journey. As he left the ground, another top-flight scout was entering. “Did I get the wrong kick-off time?” the new arrival asked. “Nah, he just shite,” came the answer.
The point is that football people know their stuff. It’s their job. More than that, it’s a lifestyle choice. They know more than we’ll ever know – even the likes of me, who speak to owners, players, manager, staff and administrators on a daily basis. And, screw it, there’s no point in false modesty: I know more than most people reading this.
Questioning Klopp’s Strategies: A Misguided Approach
I tell these stories for this reason: the number of people who second-guess Jurgen Klopp astounds me. There’s a small but vocal school of thought that believes his handling of the cups is somehow damaging efforts to win the title.
Yeah, let’s question a man with a proven record of success who has access to the best physical analytics data about the condition of players. Reg Grunt off Twitter could clearly come up with a better strategy.
Should he have played Trent Alexander-Arnold at the Emirates? Maybe, maybe not. Yet no one was in a better position to make that choice than Klopp.
Hindsight Harrys have been pulling their hair out instead of celebrating a splendid win – a result that not only put the team in the fourth round of the FA Cup but delivered another blow to Arsenal’s self-esteem.
It’s football, people. We’re meant to enjoy it. Especially when Liverpool are winning. Stop digging through victories looking for shards of defeat. It doesn’t make you look clever.
Back a decade ago, I had a reputation for being a miserable and negative fan. I wasn’t. There were reasons to be concerned and skeptical about what was happening at the club. When things go well, accept it and give praise. When they are going badly and there are structural issues, point them out and moan.
There is never a good time for a player to be injured but Trent could not have pulled up lame at a more fortuitous point. If things go to plan, he should miss a minimal amount of football. Plus, it gives Conor Bradley a chance to show what he can do.
The short winter break has worked out in Liverpool’s favour. January hasn’t been Klopp’s favourite month over the years but it’s going well so far.
Football Wisdom: Harry Redknapp’s Anecdote
Talking of football knowledge, there’s a story Harry Redknapp tells. He was sitting in the directors’ box at Queens Park Rangers in 1983. Joe Fagan was nearby. The young coach had a conversation with the 62-year-old before the game and watched Smokin’ Joe keenly once the action started.
Except Joe didn’t pay attention to his team. Just before kick-off, he spotted an old friend from the Royal Navy, called him over and the pair spent the entire match talking about their adventures during the second world war.
With about 10 minutes to go, Fagan disengaged from his mate, nudged Redknapp and said, “we’ll score in a minute.” He then went back to discussing the 1940s.
Less than five minutes later, Steve Nicol banged in the winner. The Liverpool manager didn’t seem to notice. We did in the away end.
Magnificent. No wonder our rivals used to think ‘the Liverpool Way’ was some kind of juju.
The Curious Case of Darwin Nunez
I don’t want to say much more about Darwin Nunez because I seem to write a paragraph about him every week. It’s getting boring. So this is my final verdict.
He’s a dope. I enjoy the comedy aspect of his game when we win. It annoys me when we drop points.
At some juncture, he’ll score a clutch of goals. For now, though, he’s a handful for defenders and frees up a ton of space for the others.
If he was the sole attacking option at Anfield, I’d probably take a harsher view on him and the club. But he’s not. As part of a platoon of forwards whose skillset ranges from razor sharp finishing to blunt instrument power, he’s a great fit.
He’s making things happen.
Assessing Ryan Gravenberch
Ryan Gravenberch hasn’t had the best time of it. Most players take a while to adjust to the pace and physicality of the Premier League and he is just 21.
He didn’t settle at Bayern Munich and his attitude was questioned. Now he’s keen to get his career back on track.
The other complication – at least from a player’s point of view – are the demands that Klopp puts on newcomers. It takes a while to adjust to the system and training. Just ask the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Andy Robertson, both of whom arrived at Anfield knowing the demands and stresses of the English game.
He’s worth giving a bit of time. There’s definitely a player in there. If anyone can get it out of him, Jurgen can.