Whenever Liverpool Football Club does anything that supporters don’t like, you’ll hear the refrain that it’s ‘Not what big clubs do’. It’s an easy criticism to make and is vague enough to mean that it can be bandied about whenever those that like to use such phrases feel like it. When the owners attempted to raise ticket prices, that’s not what big clubs do. When Philippe Coutinho was sold it was a sign that we’re ‘not acting like a big club’. It goes without saying, of course, that ‘big clubs spend money’. Now don’t misunderstand me, I’m not suggesting that every criticism of the club and owners is unfair or unwarranted. Yet it’s easy for supporters to criticise the club for not behaving in a way that they deem to be palatable whilst also behaving pretty poorly themselves. That’s a difficult thing to say, mind. I certainly don’t have the right to dictate how a fan should or shouldn’t behave or react in any given situation. It occurs to me, though, that some sections of the fan base aren’t really acting as though we’re a big club a lot of the time.
Liverpool are going nowhere with their current transfer policy. Top 4 is our biggest expectation maximum while FSG and Klopp continue this strategy. We are not a big club at all.
— Oliver West (@OliverWest100) January 30, 2018
I’ve explained elsewhere on this site why I don’t think Fenway Sports Group are bad owners, so I’m not going to go over that again here. This is about why I think certain Liverpool supporters aren’t doing the club any favours with the way they’re acting and behaving. As I just said, I don’t have the ‘right’ to claim I know what the right way to behave is, so none of this is definitive. It’s all just my opinion, my observation of how things have been recently and the sort of thing I think needs to change moving forward. You might disagree and you’d be perfectly entitled to. The only thing I want to do is draw attention to the fact that the accusing Liverpool of ‘not acting like a big club’ is all well and good, but the supporters need to make sure that they don’t act small time too often if they want to have a leg to stand on when trying to make their argument. Feel free to leave your dissenting opinions in the comment box or by tweeting @andcouldheplay7 and, provided you’re not rude, I’ll be happy to engage in a debate on the matter!
Every Team Loses Matches
In the history of the Premier League, no team has ever won every single match that they’ve played across a season. Arsenal are the team that came the closest to this in recent times, lasting the entirety of the 2003-2004 campaign without losing. Yet when I look back at that accomplishment, I can’t help wondering how some Liverpool supporters would react today at draws they stumbled to against the likes of Portsmouth (twice), Charlton, Fulham, Bolton Wanderers and Birmingham City.
Oh by the point the title had been won they’d undoubtedly be the first to say what a strong team it was. Likewise when the unbeaten record had been established they’d just right in and say that they always knew that they could do it. But in the aftermath of the full-time whistle, plenty would be straight onto Twitter to declare that ‘You can’t drop points at home to the likes of Bournemouth’, or that we were ‘lucky it wasn’t a better side than Birmingham City’. For that is the attitude of swathes of supporters nowadays. They’re constantly critiquing in the bizarre hope that they’ll be able to say ‘I told you so’ further down the line.
The reality is that every single team in world football loses matches. It’s how they respond to those losses that dictates how things go in the future and Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool is very, very good at responding. If I remember correctly, they’re yet to lose two league matches in a row. That’s the sort of strong mentality that many critics suggest this side doesn’t have. We as supporters could do well to learn how to respond to losses much better than we currently do.
Sometimes, as with at the Etihad, you get a refereeing decision that goes against you and leaves you with an uphill struggle. Sometimes, like against Spurs at Wembley, the team suffers from a freak combination of a poor period of play and very good opposition. Other times you get what happened against Swansea and West Brom, when you just have a really bad day at the office and the opposition perform as they haven’t done at any point prior to that. Yet whether you’re completely outplayed, suffer misfortune or just have one of those days, it’s the same sort of thing that can befall any other team in the division.
Other Sides Drop Points Too
This season, one of the things that has frustrated me the most is the sense that no team other than Liverpool drops points. Whenever we draw or, as has happened just three times in the Premier League so far, lose, some people seem to react as if that’s any hope of finishing in the top four gone. You’d think that a season was eight games long, not thirty-eight. Talking of bad days at the office, I’d be intrigued to know how Tottenham supporters reacted to their club’s loss to Leicester City, for example, or their draws with the likes of West Brom, Watford and Southampton.
Likewise, how did Manchester United fans respond when the Red Devils lost away to Huddersfield earlier in the season, or when Rafa Benitez once again got one over on his old foe? If either of those games had been Liverpool losses there would be people taking to Twitter or calling up 5 live to declare that Klopp doesn’t know what he’s doing and should be binned off as soon as possible. The majority of fans seem happier to trust José Mourinho than their Liverpool equivalents seem to be to trust our German manager.
The obvious reply to those that would criticise Klopp is that Mourinho has ‘won stuff’ and it’s a fair point. Yet they look just as fair off being title challengers right now as well do, with the obvious difference being that we actually get to watch good football. Since Alex Ferguson left the club, United have spent well over half a billion trying to get the club back to the top and have failed. Liverpool haven’t spent anywhere near that much, yet personally I’d fancy our chances of challenging City more than United next season. We’re building towards something whilst playing football that is based on how things will be in the future, not how they’ve been in the past.
We could easily go between now and the end of the season without losing another league game. If we do lose, though, let’s wait and see how the team responds before heads fall off and we call every player in the team a ‘disgrace’. The only competition that is defined by one result is a cup. In leagues there’s always another game, another chance to respond. We lost heavily away to Spurs and drew to them at home, but we’re two point above them as I write this. Our season has not been defined by those two games, nor the loss to Manchester City. The manager is building towards something, we’re not yet the finished article.
Past Errors Shouldn’t Be Held Against This Team
If you haven’t yet read Andrew Beasley’s piece on negative psychology then I implore you to do so. It talks about how the ‘Typical Liverpool’ mentality has now become folklore, in spite of the fact that a lot of the criticisms levelled at the club have long since ceased to be the case. My theory about why this is the case is that we’ve all been hurt so many times that we’re now relating anything and everything that happens to those previous moments of hurt. Making statements about what this defence ‘always does’ is a bit daft, given that the defence has changed completely from the start of the season to now, let alone when it was made up of a fading Daniel Agger and a long-since decent Martin Skrtel.
There seems to be an odd desire to look at things as they have been in the past rather than as they are right now. That can be seen most markedly in the shout from some quarters for a ‘proper centre forward’. In my opinion, there is no striker in the Premier League that would suit this team and this manager’s way of playing better than Roberto Firmino. Harry Kane has proven himself to be an exceptional striker but if you offered me in place of our Brazilian I’d laugh at you. Likewise Sergio Agüero and, to a lesser extent, Romelu Lukaku. If we go a game without scoring that isn’t because we lack a ‘proper’ striker. Liverpool teams in the past might well have needed one, such as Brendan Rodgers’s team when Luis Suarez left and Daniel Sturridge was injured, but that’s not reflective of how we play now.
Our Players Are Really Very Good
One of the worst habits of some Liverpool supporters at the moment is to grossly under-estimate just how good this team is. People are so desperate to have their straw man that they comment about how they perceive a player, rather than how that player truly is. There are two members of the current squad to whom that applies. Both Jordan Henderson and Dejan Lovren have been routinely called such things as ‘horrendous’, ‘abysmal’ and ‘the worst player in the league’. It doesn’t take a particularly sensible footballing mind to figure out that those labels do not fit either of them. They are both capable of excellent performances, adding a huge amount to the team when they’re on their game.
The problem is that such performances are never acknowledged. Good matches from them (and others that people don’t like, take your pick) are simply ignored whilst even the slightest dip in performance is jumped upon as ‘proof’ that they’re ‘terrible’. It’s also frustrating that no amount of thought is given to the particular circumstance when they’re not at their best. Lovren, for example, is a very good defender when he only has to think about his own game. That’s why he’s suddenly looking so much better with van Dijk alongside him and a full-back that won’t go disappearing up the pitch willy-nilly. When he plays with players he feels he has to keep an eye on, he’s not at his best.
Likewise there are things that Jordan Henderson is excellent at, such as rotating possession. Yet to his critics that’s simply him ‘not passing forward’ without any thought to how what he’s doing might be helping the team and under instruction from his manager. Give him someone to work alongside rather than isolate him and he’ll look a markedly better player. This team isn’t yet the finished article that Jürgen Klopp wants it to be, but it’s on its way there. If was the complete package then we’d be at the top of the table. A gradual build will always be better than a one-shot at the title type situation as we’ve had in years gone by.
As I said at the start, I have no right to criticise anyone for the way that they behave. I’m also not entirely convinced that I’ve articulated my feelings on the matter particularly well. Yet I can’t help but feel as though we’d be in a much better position as a club if the fanbase was more united. I absolutely understand that the wait for a title is driving people absolutely bonkers, but that doesn’t mean that if we’re not in with a shot when the New Year comes around that the entire season is a bust.
Some people seem to believed that Tottenham is this fully complete team that we should all be in awe of, despite the fact that they’re in no more competitions than us and sit behind us in the league table. When I mentioned that to a Liverpool fan recently, they responded that ‘they’ll be above us at the end of the season’. Is that the mentality of a ‘big team’? Do ‘big teams’ get on their own players’s backs during home matches more than they do the referee or the opposition? I’m not so sure. This team is going places. Let’s sit back and enjoy the ride, not complain that the journey’s a little bit bumpy.